Miles Could Be a Person of Interest for Wyoming Basketball -- But at What Cost?

Tracy Ringolsby

These are far from the best of times for Cowboys basketball.

Coming off an 8-24 2018-19 season, in which the Cowboys were 4-14 in the Mountain West, Wyoming saw it's record slip to 5-12 -- winless six Mountain West games after dropping an overtime decision to UNLV at home last Saturday and by one point at Nevada on Wednesday.

After back-to-back seasons of 20-plus wins in his first two years as the Cowboys coach, Allen Edwards saw the team decimated by injuries last season, limited to only seven scholarship players in uniform. The Cowboys stumbled to an 8-24 record (4-14 in the Mountain West), and athletic director Tom Burman willing to give Edwards the benefit of the doubt, but made it clear the Cowboys had to show "substantial" improvement his year.

The view hasn't been pretty.

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Burman has said he will wait until the season is over before he evaluates the next move.

Allen is an easy man to like, and Burman didn't waiver in feeling Allen deserved another year as the Cowboys coach, much to the chagrin of the portion of the fan base that ignored the back-to-back 20-win seasons, and the injury problems of a year ago

The growing number of empty seats and silence that has overtaken the Double-A has made a very loud noise of unrest.

On fan boards, and among the slim fan base still observing Cowboys home games in person a popular name for the possible opening in Tim Miles, who revived a dead program at Colorado State. He went from a winless conference season in his CSU debut to three years later, having built the Rams into one of the Mountain West elite, and was lured by Nebraska.

After back-to-back winning seasons in 2017-18 (22-11) and and 2018-19 (19-17), his term at Nebraska ended after seven years. With two years of a salary of $2 million annually still owed him, Miles took on a job on a television commentator for the Big 10 Network, and the Fox Sports family.

He does have a respect for the Cowboys that could work in Wyoming's favor. Burman, after all, did call Miles when Wyoming was looking for a football coach, and asked Miles if he would talk to his old North Dakota State cohort, Craig Bohl, about the Wyoming athletic program.

Miles gladly accepted the request, and reportedly, at one point, explained to Bohl that not only was a Wyoming a school he would enjoy, but that Miles himself would have welcomed the opportunity when he was took the CSU job.

The question is would Miles, given his time at a Power 5 school in Nebraska, take that step back to the non-power five level?

Odds are -- maybe.

The competitor in Miles would seemingly crave another chance with a Power 5 school, to prove he belonged at that level, even if Nebraska didn't feel that way. And don't overlook the salary spread. His salary at Nebraska had reached $2.5 million before parting ways.

What could work in the Cowboys favor, if Miles does not receive a Power 5 offer, is his buyout from Nebraska called for him to be paid 24 installments at $105,000 a month, which means he would earn him $1.26 million next year. 

Anything he earned from another job would be taken off that amount, which could set the stage for a lower-valued deal at Wyoming -- but just for the first year. Whatever they would pay Miles would be subtracted from what Nebraska owes him.

But what about subsequent seasons?

Bohl is coming off his sixth year at Wyoming. The team has been bowl eligible each of the last four seasons, and has played in a bowl three of the last four seasons. With a win over Georgia State in the Arizona Bowl on New Years Eve, Bohl became the first coach in Cowboys history to win two bowl games. The Cowboys also beat Central Michigan in the Potator Bowl in December of 2017, and lost to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2016.

After the 2016 season, his third with the Cowboys, Bohl's original contract was revamped to extend for seven more seasons with a base salary that maximizes in 2023, its final year, at $1.7 million.

It is hard to imagine that the Cowboys paying a basketball coach as much -- if not more -- than Bohl.

That's no knock on Miles or any other basketball coach. It is just the truth of the economics at a school the size of Wyoming.

When Larry Shyatt returned for a second tour as the Cowboys coach he had a base salary of $750,000. Edwards, an assistant to Shyatt who took over the head job when Shyatt stepped down, has a guaranteed of $510,009 this year, including a base salary of $220,008 and 290,001 in guaranteed benefits. The contract extends through the 2020-21 season, and would carrying a $220,008 payoff for the agreed to base salary if he isn't retained.

Miles has given indications to associates that Wyoming is a job that would interest him, but the bottom line will be the bottom line on the contract, which will depend in part on what other interest schools show in Miles.

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