mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
The critical bit:
"I'm told that we will speak, that time and place has not been identified," said Miles, a former Wolverines assistant coach and player. "It's hard for me to speculate to the substance of the meeting."
That is a deeply weird statement, but this is Les Miles after all.
ALERT THE MEDIA… Er. Nevermind. I see you're on top of that.
Hello. How are you? Getting used to the idea that limbo is you permanent home? Thinking about buying a couch?
Miles-date. The Louisiana media details what they know about Miles's movements over the past couple days and where he'll be in the next couple:
Saturday morning, Miles flew from Dallas to Baton Rouge with the LSU team and official party, and was seen entering the LSU football complex.
Vincent said Miles is scheduled to fly back to Dallas on Tuesday, where he is slated to deliver a speech during the American Football Coaches Association convention. Miles is then scheduled to fly immediately back to Baton Rouge, Vincent said.
This would seem to blow up the rumor that Miles was actually in Ann Arbor over the weekend. Miles showing up in Dallas would be a convenient place for the Dominos plane edition of David Brandon* to interview Miles, if he hasn't already, and the News says they will talk then.
Local folk are asserting the end result is likely to be similar to last time according to the proverbial "person close to the situation":
"My impression is that he'd like to say 'No,' without saying 'No,'" he said. "He doesn't want to be on the list of people who turned him (Brandon) down."
Former Michigan recruit and LSU commit Trai Turner was pinged by the RBs coach, who told him "there wasn't anything to worry about" and added that "from everything else I hear, Coach Miles is staying," but they're always staying until they aren't. Miles is currently being battered by questions he won't answer at a press conference assembled to announce Patrick Peterson's departure for the NFL, so expect word of some evasive non-denials shortly.
Plane-date. So the plane above went to Baton Rouge and people said it was carrying organs and should not be paid attention to, then it went a bunch of places seemingly relevant to key players in the Michigan coaching search and then it went back to Baton Rouge and people were like "dude, this plane should be paid attention to." FWIW, I'm getting more emails about who or what is on that plane that say it shouldn't be paid attention to because its owner rented it out for three months. (Whoever rented it out must really love screwing with Michigan fans on the internet.)
It's uncertain if the thing actually is doing anything other than providing Baton Rouge TV stations with gold, Jerry, gold. The coincidence is a little much, but on the other hand if you were flying around the country trying to have clandestine conversations with a currently-employed college head coach you'd have to be epically stupid to do so in your blinged-out winged helmet learjet.
A not quite entirely pointless Gruden update. I'd completely forgotten about this but an emailer pinged me back in early December, stating that he was close to someone in the Gruden loop and that Michigan had contacted him to gauge interest in the job. The result was "strong" interest. I decided not to mention something seemingly so off the wall since Gruden comes up in literally every coaching search that happens and Rodriguez seemed like he'd have a job in 2011. But here we are.
That source updates by saying he can confirm Gruden has spoken with Brandon and there is still "interest." I'm not sure if this is Gruden's MO or a genuine candidacy. But he is the guy with the second-most buzz at the moment, behind Miles but seemingly ahead of Hoke or anyone else. As Jennifer Hammond suggested, take it with a grain of salt.
*[Ablauf on Brandon's location: "That's a good question. I'm on a need-to-know basis."]
I know you're here today to find out who Michigan's next coach will be. I don't know. This is mostly eulogizing the last guy.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Ohio State game, I left Craig James and rivalry week results on the flickering telly and moved to my computer to post one of my first-ever diaries, a short train of thought called "Cue the Coping Mechanisms." The relevant pieces:
Now is the time for coping mechanisms. If you have the ability to cry, take this opportunity to lock yourself in a closet with your favorite Sheridan throwing chart and let it all out. If you're more Type A, head to the gym and repeat "3 AND 9" until you break your max rate.
Or if you're like me, find the woman you love, sit her down, and see how long you can try to explain why this losing won't be permanent before her level of really not caring or understanding what the hell you're talking about overpowers her concern for your mental health.
Probably because Misopogal and I bought the DVD of Across the Universe the night before, the whole time I was writing that, other than utter despair, my internal DJ was filling my head with "Strawberry Fields Forever."
The fields: Ohio Stadium. The bleeding strawberries: Ohio State's uniforms and the smeared and splattered plasma of once great Michigan left twitching amongst a five-year losing streak that seemed, at the time, destined to go to at least six.
We knew there was something terrible going on the world, where George Lucas could ruin Star Wars, where Henne and Hart could graduate without beating Ohio State, where a man from the land of Yost with Crisler's offense and Bo's will was greeted by the establishment of our side with contempt and disdain for not having the transitional loyalty of Kipke, or the eloquence, affability, and talent of Lloyd Carr. 2008 had ended 3-9, and somewhere Mike Valenti was giddily preparing for months of grave-stomping, and somewhere Drew Sharp was rubbing his hands at the glorious opportunity it provided to piss good people off.
At least there was solace:
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.
It's just sports, right? Everyone's alive. Everyone has their health. Except that doesn't work, because in 2008 I felt real despair, and in 2009 I felt real disappointment, and in 2010 I felt real shame, and a quick glance at my browser history will make the panic of 2011 immediately apparent. So if we are to get hung about this stuff, it'd be well to have some justification. The best I've heard yet is the following, from Brian's masterful eulogy of Bo/preview of the most important Michigan game ever:
And then you try to figure out why the stakes are so high in the first place. Why this entire week you haven't been able to concentrate on anything by war by proxy. Fake war by proxy. Meaningless war by proxy. You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area. It's ridiculous. Intelligent people do not spend a goodly swath of their life pouring emotion and precious time into a contest that affects no one and changes nothing except some inky scribbles in media guides.
You wonder why. It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?
The answer seems clear.
Now the man who took that rudderless program and gave it -- gave you -- all the things you like and don't like is dead. In 1969, it all started with a victory over #1 Ohio State.
…and ended with a loss to it. I posit that sports is not just war by proxy, but also politics by proxy, and value judgment by proxy, a binary system to serve as metaphor for any argument which in life is never resolved to any one side's satisfaction. A Michigan football game is won or lost. A recruit commits or doesn't. A coach is fired or retained, hired or left to pursue other opportunities.
In that battle, the aforementioned traits held dear – loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory – were defeated on the strawberry fields of Columbus, and Pasadena, and finally brought home in the twin horrors of early 2007. Those traits, adopted from Bo to represent the conference, were too drowned amidst the raucous choruses of "S-E-C."
That year went out with Lloyd carried upon the shoulders of star receivers and forgettable trenchmen, followed by a first overall NFL draft pick, and Robo QB, and led by a running back who was more Jamie Morris than Jamie Morris. But the most lasting image of 2007, in my mind, is neither the exeunt nor the scoreboard of the Horror, but a cold, sleeting day in Michigan Stadium when Henne's shoulder and Mike Hart's ankle and justice itself abandoned us, and Tressel Corp. made it four.
The years since have seen the rewarding of the villainous. It witnessed the rise of the Alabama and the SEC, a school and conference predicated on the concept of professionalizing college football, and witnessed the apogee of USC, the unapologetic Hollywood party. And it witnessed the continuing reign of Ohio State.
To view Michigan as the paragon of collegiate virtue is so much sanctimonious bunk, but to discount it entirely is to ignore sport's appeal as argument by proxy. This is what we believe about ourselves, why probation for a clerical error is a big deal here while Buckeyes can drive around in "borrowed" vehicles for a decade before someone bats an eyebrow, and schools, conferences, bowls and NCAA officials can excuse anything short of murder by its moneymakers to protect a BCS bowl and a Heisman run.
Right or wrong, we look at a Spartan and wonder how they can claim association with Dantonio without the shame. Our credulity is sincere when a Bama fan defends Saban's blatant ethical violations. We wonder how Ohioans can tune into the Sugar Bowl knowing most of their own conference is rooting against them, or at least that we see little difference between a Buckeye and the conference that's given them their widely publicized fits.
It's real because we make it so. And so, it follows, are the expectations of our head coach. Many of us naively believed that the Rodriguez hire was a chance for a new Bo to redefine Michigan in his own image and traits, some familiar, others not: honesty, hard work, openness, building a greater whole through the sum of specified parts. We saw ourselves beaten by Wildcats and Ducks and worse, and said "howcome we don't get one of those guys?" Well we got one of those guys, and we ran him out of town.
Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see..
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me.
So if you don't really think about what's going on in college football, if you take your platitudes with your visuals of man-beasts rumbling up and down a televised rectangle of gridded turf, then this is fine. The local papers, the talking heads, much of the fanbase, living easy with eyes closed, will bring up the values instilled by Bo, describe how Rodriguez didn't measure up, and conclude a "Michigan Man" is required to coach Michigan. This is a script, and it is misleading, for it supposes that the first three values of Bo – loyalty, honesty, tradition – were RR's greatest transgressions. That's because they're writing for a fanbase that believes our program, unlike the field, cares as much about that trio as for the fourth, victory.
Rich Rod was fired for two reasons: he didn't win, and Michigan fans were irreparably split over him. The first is mostly on him, but since he only had three years to accomplish a dramatic shift, it's not absolute. Most of the fault can be found in his handling of the defense, which fell far below even our modest expectations from '07. Shafer's apparent resurgence as a viable DC, and GERG's obvious inadequacies and unfamiliarity with the 3-3-5 put the defense in this position. To that you can add recruiting, which RR used his short '08 recruiting time to bring in a fine offensive class but merely held onto some Lloyd defenders. The defense he inherited was short on underclassmen and in desperate need of new blood and player development; instead we witnessed upperclassmen making freshmen mistakes and freshmen put in position to fail.
The split in the fanbase comes back to the winning – put it this way: Spartan fans aren't enamored with Dantonio because he's a good person, ye kennit? But this was also stoked by local media. Most notoriously, the Free Press published a total hit job that led to NCAA "major violations" that will never be severed from the Legend of Rich Rodriguez. Perhaps exoneration is in the future (probably when he turns whichever school hires him into a national power in four years); then again, "Remember the Maine…" remained a rallying cry against Spanish atrocities for half a century.
Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder can take personal responsibility for a part of Rich Rodriguez's failure, and by accounts of facial expressions and the atmosphere at Dave Brandon's press conference/execution, at the end they did. The investigation and sanctions created a cloud that hung over recruiting and the program. How big a cloud is difficult to say. What's fair to say is that it would be hard to find a coach given less of a benefit of the doubt from Year 1 by the prevailing local media than Rich Rodriguez. Rosenberg may have disliked the hick from West Virginia from the start, but really it was going 3-9 in 2008 that opened the door. Forget the early snafus over the No. 1 jersey and team captains – if you take away the practice scandal that has made Rosenberg, onetime alum, a disgrace to my profession and enemy to the University of Michigan, it was about the wins; it was always about the wins.
No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.
It's December 2008 and I can't wait for it to be 2011, because that's when Rich Rod would finally have a few upperclassmen on the two deep, and the prospect of getting better for a third year in a row would be enough to get some of the glibslingers to back off. But Craig James is still talking. Michigan State has forward momentum. Ohio State has consolidated its evil grip on the galaxy and unleashed its most monstrous creation, an erstwhile Jedi named Terrelle Vader.
In retrospect, we knew Anakin Pryor had some inclinations toward the dark side – driving a car borrowed from a Columbus dealership to Jeanettte, murdering younglings (but everybody murders), etc. Truth be told, the Emperor must have been rather disappointed with young Vader's inability to live up to his lofty expectations, that he would turn out to have serious personality problems, his loyalty to the Empire only going so far as the power and notoriety it brought him. In what was meant to be his great coming out party, the young Sith lord went and got his arms and legs chopped off and his torso burned. The Emperor would thereafter deploy his great weapon in a debilitating suit; keeping up the pretense that the guy is anything but evil would be all but impossible.
Still, for the duration of Vader's career, the Jedi came out far worse.
It's hard to find a more appropriate metaphor for the opposite directions taken by Michigan and Ohio State since Pryor's late decision day than Pryor himself. The unlikeable quarterback did finally exorcise the demon of SEC dominance over the perennial Big Ten Champion, but only after the NCAA passed down an utterly indefensible decision to let Pryor and a who's who of his hyped classmates defer their suspensions until next season. In typical fashion, Senator Tressel offered promises from Pryor and his teammates that they would come back next season to accept their punishment.
Meanwhile, Michigan left one of its most important players, Tate Forcier, at home for a bowl game about as important to the Rich Rodriguez project as any game prior, because of grades. That would hardly have fixed the entirely theoretical defensive effort, but it's emblematic of decisions consistent with the expectations of the Michigan fanbase. There are very few schools in our tree. Stanford is one, which was a big reason Harbaugh's success there had Michigan fans looking wistfully westward. Others are BYU, Notre Dame, and Penn State. That's not a conclusive list, but it does make a coaching search at Michigan exponentially more difficult, since outside of a small and shrinking minority of schools, which side of the force you use – unless it results in suspensions/violations – isn't a big deal.
Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know when it's a dream.
I think I know I mean a 'Yes' but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree.
When "Strawberry Fields Forever" was recorded in '66, it prefaced the most visible shift in the Beatles' musical direction, the unveiling of Tate before the Sgt. Pepper's of Denard. It was also pre-"Revolution" adjuration from John to the Great Society/Lord Wilson establishment that the young and liberal were moving away from their patronizing Democrat/Labor leaders.
Two years later the split was a fait accompli, or mostly. The potential for reunification came in the guise of Robert Kennedy, the right hand man of the last unifying figure, credible to both the elder and younger factions of the party. For years the spectre of Bobby was a kind of increasingly valued insurance policy should LBJ go sour. Then they killed Bobby.
What followed was a mess of a convention, a one-side-pleasing candidate, and Nixon. If you're an RR-hater smile now because if you take the analogy to its logical conclusion, Rodriguez is probably LBJ and the spread transition is the Vietnam War. I make no such assertion, mostly because I don't believe it one bit. What I do believe is that Michigan, internally and externally, has been functioning for the last several years with a mindset of "if Rich doesn't make it, at least we have Jim." This might even have been entirely true until last week, when the blood was spattered.
Absent Harbaugh, we're now thrown into a '68 scenario in one of the most critical times in our program's history, with only a vague hope of emerging with a candidate who can reverse the decade of the damned. Our best shot to unseat Ohio State in 2011 was the baby tossed with the bathwater of Rodriguez, and even a best-case scenario imagines Michigan just a middle of the conference team next year, with another exodus-enabled 3-9 the floor. The only way this isn't another rebuild is if they find a spread guy who's better than Rich Rodriguez (unlikely) and a defensive staff that can work miracles. Whatever name next comes out of Dave Brandon's lips, he'll at least be the first Michigan coach since 2008 to hit the trail without the cloud of "will he be here?" I wish I could say that Michigan gives you four years out of hand, but that's obviously no longer true. Among the plausible, I'm personally rooting for Tom Bradley, provided he agrees to a "no return" clause in his policy. If it's Les Miles, I'll do my best not to Rosenberg him until something more real than 20 minutes of practice materializes; FTR I'm not sure I like the combination of a man who weekly plays the Devil's odds and Michigan's consistently terrible luck.
Meanwhile, it's 321 days until the counter either goes to eight in a row, or I release the most jubilant noise in human history (yes, over the outcome of a sporting event!). Given the tenor of all things recently, you can forgive me if my expectations are more Strawberry Fields forever.
The diaries after the jump.
…but they apparently didn't make it. Meanwhile, the other plane that may or may not have Dave Brandon aboard is in Dallas, where a coaching convention is going on. So either Les Miles is approaching done or Brandon is in Dallas interviewing anyone who looks at him funny and the winged helmet plane heading to Baton Rouge every hour on the hour is just a bizarre coincidence.
Or both. It's likely that UM reps of some variety are in both places, so Les Miles is in play and they're talking but nothing is certain so they're trying to scout out backup plans.
Wait, there's something happening outside of football right now? Who knew?
|WHAT||Michigan v. #3 Kansas|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
4:30 PM EST
January 9th, 2011
|THE LINE||Michigan +10.5|
Though the victory over Harvard now gives Michigan a top-50 victim in RPI, Kansas is the Wolverines' last chance for a marquee victory in the non-conference - well, their last chance for another non-conference win at all. It won't be an easy task, as Kansas is one of the top teams in the country with a 14-0 record.
On the bright side for Michigan, the Jayhawks haven't been tested on the road much, with a single game at an opponent's home court. On the not-so-bright side, that was a 15-point win over a Cal team with approximately the same Kenpom rating as Michigan.
Kansas comes in with a stacked roster including the Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus) in the frontcourt, along with super freshman Josh Selby, who has emerged as a serious threat in the past five games (he was ineligible for the first nine) - and was described as possessing a "killer instinct" by onetime camp teammate Darius Morris. Add in a number of role players who would start at almost any other program in the country,
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Kansas: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Kansas Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. KU Def eFG%||83||7||K|
|Mich Def eFG% v. KU eFG%||72||1||K|
|Mich TO% v. KU Def TO%||32||38||-|
|Mich Def TO% v. KU TO%||261||96||KK|
|Mich OReb% v. KU DReb%||277||54||KKK|
|Mich DReb% v. KU OReb%||27||22||-|
|Mich FTR v. KU Opp FTR||331||53||KKK|
|Mich Opp FTR v. KU FTR||17||142||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. KU AdjD||74||1||K|
|Mich AdjD v. KU AdjO||66||8||K|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
OMG Rebounds and free throw rate are racists. Other than that, uh... gulp?
By any measure, Kansas should be able to run Michigan off the floor. Though Michigan can claim statistical stalemates in a couple areas, the Jayhawks have a huge edge in some of them.
Michigan has been able to scheme well against teams that have a good outside game or a good inside game so far this year, but they don't have the defensive firepower to handle a squad that has both. Kansas, the best-shooting team in the country on the basis of Marcus Morris pounding inside, and a number of outside shooters. Shutting down both will be the toughest task so far this season.
Then again, that was the case last year, too. Michigan had a much worse team (despite Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims's absence, I think there's no arguing otherwise at this point) and was playing on the road, but managed to hold the final margin to just eleven points.
That said, I'll be surprised if the Wolverines are able to pull this one off. This is a young team that has faced some adversity this year (and responded well to some of it), but no test as serious this one. Expect the Morris twins to each hit double-digits, and at least three Jayhawks to connect on at least four long-range shots.
On the other side, Darius Morris will struggle to get his offense, with strong perimeter defense preventing him from getting his jumpers, and a trio of the country's top 500 shot blockers patroling the lane (the Morrises along with sophomore Thomas Robinson). Zack Novak, not Morris, will be the Wolverine to notch a double-double. Jordan Morgan will struggle offensively, but do surprisingly well on D.
In the end though, Kansas has way too much talent for Michigan to overcome. They'll use the fastbreak to score more on Michigan than any team has so far this year, emerging with the 82-64 victory.
Les pun barrage avoided. The mandarins at LSU are sticking to their story that no one's talking to them about talking to Les Miles. The chancellor's version of yesterday's statement by the AD:
“No one has said anything to me,” Martin said. “But of course a lot of these things are done with agents now, behind the scenes.”
Just like LSU's recruiting. Hey-o!
It's contagious. Jennifer Hammond was patient zero in the Michigan edition of Fruitless Jon Gruden Naming but it's spreading: I have more than one account from actual sources indicating Michigan did interview him yesterday. With Gruden an interview is usually a brief conversation about how this guy makes more money than God by saying generic things on Monday Night Football, so don't get excited. I can't believe I'm actually relaying information about Gruden and Michigan but I guess if we've deployed flight tracking Gruden couldn't have been far behind.
If, like me, you've become inured to the constant Gruden-to-everywhere speculation that seems like it's been a major feature of American culture for the last fifty years you may be surprised to find out that he's a youthful 47 and could actually be plausible in a Pete Carroll sort of way.
Speaking of flights. So the winged helmet plane that touched down in Baton Rouge when Miles was in Dallas was there for all of two hours, then took off for South Carolina. What's in South Carolina? Um… well… a few days ago it was relayed to me that Lloyd Carr was in South Carolina. He supposedly has a vacation home at Hilton Head (restaurant to the stars!). The plane flew to… Hilton Head. It then went to a regional airport in Georgia, back to Hilton Head, headed out to Westchester County, and then went back to Hilton Head.
Ironically, Carr lit out for South Carolina because he was sick of people claiming he was the nefarious power behind the throne and just wanted to get away from everything and now a plane with a winged helmet painted on it is using his location as a hub. This is either
- an amazing coincidence, or
- David Brandon smoothing over Les Miles with Lloyd Carr and random incredibly wealthy NYC-based booster who is probably Stephen Ross.
Since a good source says Brandon actually is using the winged helmet plane—Dominos was a ruse!—I lean towards the latter; this seems like a fact corroborating the Les Miles buzz. I may have to apologize to Tiger Droppings.