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Smacker Wants To Be The Next Miles On The Sideline

“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.”

Tyler McComas

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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. 

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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? 

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“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. 

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“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. 

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“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. 

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“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.”

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

Jason Barrett

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Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.

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BSM Writers

Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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