Interviewing a high-profile head coach after a game is nothing new to Smacker Miles. She’s done it for many years. Ever since she was a kid, she’s always had her own one-on-one time to ask the head coach at Oklahoma State, LSU and now, Kansas, anything she’s ever wanted to know about the game. Graciously, even though the questions were, at times, as basic as possible, the head coach has always treated each one with respect and given a thorough answer.
Les Miles is that head coach and Smacker is his daughter.
At the age of 10, Smacker Miles dressed up as a sports reporter for Halloween. Wearing her mom’s blazer and some random pants while holding a microphone, it was clear from an early age what her dream job was. Though she grew up with her father being in a high-pressure career field that often saw criticism from the media, Smacker Miles has never let negative attention deter her desire to pursue sports reporting as a career. For as long as she can remember, she’s always wanted to be where she grew up – standing on a football field.
But even when you grow up with certain aspirations in life, there’s always a moment where you find your reasoning as to why you truly want to do something. Smacker Miles had that exact experience during the 2016 football season. It just so happens it came from someone who’s now a role model.
“I’ll never forget what Maria Taylor did in 2016,” said Smacker Miles. ”She came to cover the LSU vs. Texas A&M game and it was when people were talking about my dad’s job. It was a very tough week for us. Maria came to town and on the sideline before the game, she said she really wanted to be here because she wanted to make sure that things were done right and that this story was told the right way. I remember that moment very clearly and being like, I know this is what I want to do and that’s why I want to do it.”
Though her full-time job is with a digital content company, Smacker Miles’ sports media career is quickly gaining steam. Since her dad took the head coaching job at Kansas last November, she followed him and the rest of the family to Lawrence where she now does freelance work for Jayhawk Insider through IMG. Smacker Miles can routinely be seen hosting videos through the official Kansas Football Twitter account with a Smack Talk feature that takes fans inside the football program with breakdowns and special access. It’s not standing on the sidelines as a reporter for the ABC Saturday Night Game of the Week but it’s still a good start for the 25-year-old.
But as great as it is for Smacker Miles to be able to do what she loves around her dad’s football team, there’s the obvious question of dealing with KU’s losses as a media professional. She’s not doing a postgame radio show or writing a column for the newspaper that has to be unbiased, but it’s still an interesting line to walk.
Sure, she’s seen her dad lose football games before but never as a member of the media covering the team he coaches. When Coastal Carolina left Lawrence last Saturday with a 12-7 win over the Jayhawks, it was the first instance of that exact scenario. So, with the unique situation, was it one of the tougher losses she’s had to endure?
“Honestly, no,” Smacker Miles said. “I’ve always been pretty involved with the teams, because when we were little, we would be forced to go to recruiting events even if we didn’t want to. So I’ve always seen the guys all the way from Junior Day to when they graduate or go to the NFL. The level of investment that you have in the game is obviously going to reflect your joy or disappointment from that game. I would say I’ve always been very bonded with the teams, so this one hurts but I think they all hurt very similarly.”
It’s situations such as these that make having a front row seat to your father’s job tough to deal with. But though there can be a small amount of bad, Smacker Miles has seen the good make up for it tremendously. It’s no surprise that it helps to be Les Miles’ daughter, especially when you have dreams and aspirations of being in sports media. Since her dad has coached in several high-profile games, it’s meant an opportunity to meet and interact with the best sideline reporters in the industry.
“I’ve come across so many inspiring women in that role and I don’t have a negative thing to say about a single one of them,” said Smacker Miles. “I’ve met Erin Andrews and she was strong, bold, inspiring and quick witted. She stood up for my little brother one time because he ran on the field when they were painting it. Someone yelled at him and she said, ‘stop yelling at him, he’s a little kid.’ She was awesome.
“Then there’s Holly Rowe, with the way she just lives her life. She’s just unbelievable. Every interaction with her, you have a story about, wow, she said this, or, she did that. She’s so humble.
“Recently I’ve made a connection with Lauren Sisler, who’s now with ESPN. I met her two years ago and she asked me for my number and then texted me. I just remember thinking, wow, I looked up to you so much and you want nothing from me and there’s only stuff that I can gain from you and you’re still looking out for me.
“And Sam Ponder. She had little Scout with her and I just remember looking at my mom and telling her this is what I want.”
The sideline reporter position has changed so much, in a positive way, over the past decade. What was once another male dominated position on the broadcast team, talented women such as Erin Andrews have helped pave the way in the sports media industry. Currently, the sideline reporter position is filled with more talented women than it’s ever seen.
Smacker Miles is just one of the many names that represents the next generation of talented women in sports media. To her, it’s not about the fame or the money. It never has been. It’s the challenge and the dream that keeps her pushing.
“I like the idea of preparing all week,” Smacker Miles said. “You’re not performing like I did athletically but still it’s the challenge and the motivation of knowing your stuff to be able to do well during the game. I did high school football last fall and that was the first time I actually got to try to do what I thought I wanted to do. You can’t say you want to do it until you’ve actually really done it, you don’t know. But I loved it and it was a great experience. It was a great level to start at because there’s a lot less ego involved in high school sports. Plus, the critics aren’t out too harshly when it’s local and its high school. To take in a game and be in a stadium and be paid to do it, that’s a dream.”
With media experience at The Longhorn Network during her college days at Texas and an internship with the Dallas Cowboys as a production assistant, for now, it’s about Smacker Miles waiting her turn and improving as a talent. Going back to having the advantage of being Les Miles’ daughter, her growth could be sped up due to the talented names in the industry she’s already formed a connection with.
“I like when people are very direct with me,” said Smacker Miles. “Tim Brando gave me a great reel critique in the sense that he was very direct, uplifting and kind, but also helped me make changes to it. If you can’t get better from talking to someone, then it’s just a conversation. It’s not a step in the right direction.”
From the outside, it seems Les and Smacker Miles have a unique father-daughter relationship. This was really evident when the two hosted the Les is More podcast with The Players Tribune during last football season. You usually don’t see a father and daughter hosting a college football podcast together, but the admiration and respect they have for one another really flowed and made for a great listen.
Though one is trying to resurrect a football program and the other is trying to reach the sidelines with a microphone in hand, it seems the two are working together to help achieve both of their goals. Smacker is not afraid to ask Les in-depth football questions and Les is not afraid to tell Smacker how to better use Twitter or get the media perspective on things.
Growing up in a house with a dad that’s won a national championship and two brothers who have played college football at Power 5 schools is only a blessing for Smacker Miles. That life experience has put her well-ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge of the game and will only help when her opportunity arises. Many have paved the way before her, but don’t be surprised to see another Miles in the spotlight of college football in the not-so-distant future.
“People would think, that, as a female, I would be competitive with the other females,” said Smacker Miles. “But I find myself literally cheering for the girls. If there’s an all-male crew I’ll be like, mom, they have three guys in the booth and one on the sideline (Laughs). I wouldn’t even say that I’m like really mad about it, but it’s just like, I find myself cheering for any female, even if it’s one that I’ve never seen before, because I know how nervous you are to be down there. But when there’s an all-male crew, I’m like, c’mon, I know there’s a girl somewhere that knows football.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.