By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — In the mid-1970s, young Trent Miles served as a ballboy for coach Tom Harp and the Indiana State University football team.
When not on the ISU sidelines, Miles played for his father, the late Chuck Miles, in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) football. He later played for Mike Kennedy at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, Bob Clements at Terre Haute South High School and four seasons as a wide receiver for Dennis Raetz at ISU, back when the Sycamores often finished with a winning record.
Trent Miles earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from ISU in 1987, then took his football knowledge all over the country as an assistant coach with well-known teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Stanford, Notre Dame and the University of Washington.
Now, he’s returned home.
On Tuesday afternoon, Indiana State director of athletics Ron Prettyman introduced 44-year-old Miles as the university’s football coach at a news conference.
“This is an exciting day,” Prettyman said. “Trent was in Hawaii [coming back from a Washington game there] 24 hours ago and now he’s in Terre Haute. We’re glad to have him home.”
This is Miles’ first head-coaching job at any level. His yearly salary was not disclosed, but Prettyman said they’ve reached a four-year agreement and both parties hope a contract can be signed soon.
“I’ve been training for this every day of my life, so I’m ready,” Miles emphasized. “I’ve covered about every aspect of the coaching spectrum as far as responsibilities, so I’m ready.”
The Sycamores are coming off a 0-11 campaign in 2007 during which Prettyman asked Dennis Raetz to replace Lou West, who was reassigned to a different position at the university, on an interim basis. In the last three seasons, ISU has compiled a 1-32 record.
So Miles realizes a huge challenge awaits him, but he welcomes it with open arms.
“I take great pride in being here because I am from Terre Haute and I love it,” he told a room full of supporters, including several current ISU players and assistant coaches. “I’m glad I’m back here, and I’m looking forward to being involved as much as I can with Terre Haute and every aspect of Indiana State, not just in football.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to come home. I’m very thrilled about this opportunity. And I want you to know that while we’re here, we are going to develop young men that are extremely dedicated to being the best that they can be and not just on the football field, but in the classroom, in the community and definitely on the football field.”
Miles didn’t stop there, mentioning the words “excellent” and “disciplined” more than once when discussing the future of the Sycamores’ much-maligned program.
“The things that we’re going to do here at Indiana State are going to be excellent as far as schemes,” he stressed. “They’re going to be excellent as far as the development of the total student-athlete. And that’s what we’re dedicated to. It’s not just about winning games. It’s about doing things the right way. It’s about putting these young men in position to succeed in life — academically, socially and athletically. Those are some of the things that this program is going to stand for.
“We’re going to be a disciplined unit. We’re going to be very disciplined, we’re going to be smart and we’re going to be good people. We’re going to be very involved in the community, not just the Indiana State community, but the Terre Haute community.”
Asked when recruiting for 2008 starts, Miles did not hesitate to answer.
“Recruiting starts right now,” he said firmly. “And the first people that you have to recruit are the people that are already here on the team.”
Miles thinks that competing in the difficult Gateway Football Conference can be used as a recruiting advantage.
“Anytime you’re playing in a conference with really good football teams [such as] Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and Youngstown State, just to name a few of them, it can’t do anything but help you,” he insisted. “It’s going to make you better. Competition makes you better. It oughta be able to help recruiting. If you’re an athlete and you really want to compete, you’re going to go to the best level you can get to.”
Having recently the 2007 season as running-backs coach at Washington over the weekend, Miles was questioned about his philosophies of offensive football.
“Win,” he replied, drawing respectful laughter from the crowd. “Score more points than the defense.”
Then Miles turned serious.
“You have to evaluate the talent that you have,” he explained. “You have to see what you’re playing with first. You can’t make a person fit a system. You make the system fit the people. That’s the challenge that we have.”
On a personal note, Miles said he hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps as far as being a community leader. Chuck Miles, a Terre Haute city councilman, died April 18 at the age of 74.
“I was a ballboy in 1974 for Indiana State when Tom Harp was the head coach, so I’ve been involved with Indiana State football for many a years,” he reflected.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing that and kinda picking up where my dad left off in the community. We’re difference makers. We’re here to help people. We’re educators. I’d like to come back here and do that.”
Miles admitted that he’s tired of watching ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and seeing Indiana State on the losing end of scores that flash across the bottom of his television screen. Community support will help change that, he mentioned.
“We need not just Indiana State University to support us, but we also need the Terre Haute community to support us because it can be successful here,” he said.
“We can win. We won’t settle for anything less. I’m not a moral-victory guy. I don’t settle for those. The expectation level here needs to raise. From this moment right here, we expect to win. I’m not going to come in here and say we’re going to win in five years, four years. I’m not going to put a time on it, but we expect to win from this moment right now.”