By Andrew Bagnato
NEW ORLEANS - Flanked by his team's four gleaming national championship trophies, LSU coach Les Miles was already looking for more.
"I have the next year plan right here," Miles said, drawing laughs from reporters and LSU hangers-on at a morning news conference. "The next year plan, OK, first of all, we expect to be a very strong football team."
Next year can wait. On Tuesday, Miles and most of this city celebrated LSU's second Bowl Championship Series title, earned the night before in a decisive 38-24 victory over previously top-ranked Ohio State in the Superdome.
At an early morning celebration, Miles stood on the balcony of a French Quarter hotel and raised a replica of the BCS trophy to delirious fans on Bourbon Street.
At about 9 a.m., Miles answered his cell phone and heard an unfamiliar female voice.
"She said, 'Please hold for the president of the United States,'" Miles said. "I went, 'OK.'
"He was just very kind, very complimentary of our team. He just said, 'I watched your team, your team overcame hurdles.'"
Miles will soon be making a few important calls of his own. He'll be on the recruiting trail, looking for talent to keep the Tigers among the national elite.
"I can promise you that it's a little early to say we have it all figured out," Miles said. "But the goals will be the same. The goals will be 100 percent graduation rate and a national championship. And I suspect this team will fight like heck to get that done."
LSU's passionate legions expect the Tigers to win the national title every year. Reality is harsher, but LSU (12-2) has become the first two-time champion in the 10-year history of the BCS and the first to lose two games in a championship season.
There are many reasons to believe the Tigers will be in the hunt again in 2008. Although they lose quarterback Matt Flynn, tailback Jacob Hester and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, the Tigers have plenty of players eager to step in.
A trio of sophomores helped lead the charge against Ohio State - tight end Richard Dickson, who caught two touchdown passes; wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who also caught a touchdown pass; and defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, named the game's Most Outstanding Defensive Player after blocking an Ohio State field goal attempt.
The Tigers overcame an early 10-0 deficit, reeling off 31 unanswered points in a little more than 23 minutes.
"They understand what being pinned down means," Miles said. "They understand what it takes to come back and fight and overcome hurdles. I think this game was not unlike other games we played all year long."
Some would say the Tigers have taken on the coach's feistiness. Miles is the new king of the bayou, a position held by Nick Saban after he led the Tigers to the 2003 BCS title.
Saban became reviled among many LSU followers when he bolted for the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Miles' stature grew when he passed on a chance to coach at Michigan, his alma mater.
Now he's given LSU fans another reason to revere him.
"I have to be honest, it's not sunk in yet," Miles said.
Miles replaced Saban after the 2004 season. In his first two years at LSU, Miles thought the Tigers were good enough to contend for the national title. Both times they went 11-2 and fell short.
LSU lost two games again this year. But as a wild college football season played out and other contenders fell, the Tigers found themselves with an unexpected shot at the national title, and they didn't waste it.
Miles brushed aside talk that other teams - including USC and Georgia - also deserved a chance to play for the title.
University of Georgia president Michael Adams released a proposal for an eight-team college football playoff on Tuesday. Miles said he thought his team would fare well in such a scheme, but he didn't have to indulge in what-ifs. He had plenty of actual hardware to tote back to Baton Rouge.
"It's nice that there's no indecision," Miles said. "There's one national champion.
"I don't know if there's not more talented teams. But I can promise you this: this by far and away is the finest football team this year."