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Friday, October 16, 2020

Les Miles to skip WVU trip in wake of COVID-19 diagnosis

KU coach Les Miles joins his team on the field during KU's 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

KU coach Les Miles joins his team on the field during KU's 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

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After contracting COVID-19 more than a week ago, Les Miles won’t be coaching the Kansas football team at West Virginia after all.

KU announced Friday morning that Miles received clearance from Kansas Team Health to travel with the Jayhawks, as was the plan all along. But in a statement Miles released he said conversations with medical professionals, the coaching staff and KU athletic department administrators led him to stay home instead.

“While my 10-day isolation window was completed this morning,” Miles said, “there is too much still unknown about this virus for me to feel 100 percent confident that I won’t transmit it to someone who comes into close contact with me on the team charter, hotel or at the game Saturday.”

In Miles’ absence, tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Josh Eargle will act as KU’s head coach.

“I know he will represent us well,” Miles said. “I have full trust in my coaching staff and know our (players) are in great hands. I look forward to rejoining the team in person on Sunday.”

Eargle is in his first year as a full-time assistant at KU. Before joining the Jayhawks as a senior analyst in 2019, Eargle worked as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Austin Peay, where he also served as an interim head coach in 2018.

When KU announced Miles’ diagnosis on Oct. 8, during the team’s bye week, Athletic Director Jeff Long said the plan was for the 66-year-old Miles to return for the WVU game. That remained KU’s public stance on the matter through Wednesday of this week, when Long reiterated that approach on KU’s “Hawk Talk” radio show.

Dr. Larry Magee of Kansas Team Health said in a KU release that Miles is “doing well” in his recovery and only experienced “minor symptoms” after receiving a positive COVID-19 test result on Oct. 8. Magee stated though Miles was medially cleared to leave, the short amount of time between the end of Miles’ isolation and the football team’s trip led to the new plan for KU’s head coach “out of concern for the safety of his staff and players.”

Miles, too, noted the health of other members of the KU football program was at the heart of the decision.

“As the head coach, it is up to me to set the right example for our (players),” Miles stated, “and that is what I am doing with this decision by not traveling with the team.”

According to Miles, he met with players and staff members Friday morning to inform them about his revised plans to stay home.

“This was a difficult thing for me to communicate with them, but we have had to make a lot of tough decisions throughout this pandemic and I feel that this is the best decision for the health and safety of our players and staff,” Miles said. “As a head coach, I always want to put my players in position to play with confidence and I feel that by making this decision I am doing that.”

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