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This is what I currently believe is going on, tenuously. Extreme caveat: this is nuts.
Seriously, people, the Jim Harbaugh boat has sailed. The latest awesome conspiracy theory is that Miami is going to bid Harbaugh up into the stratosphere so the 49ers hire someone else. Then Stephen Ross is going to say "whoops I apparently still have this Sparano guy around" and cackle his way to Ann Arbor with a contrite Harbaugh in tow. This is truly an awesome conspiracy theory. It's not happening:
Ross had dialogue with University of Michigan officials to ensure that he would not be competing for Harbaugh's services with his alma mater, sources said. Ross, who is one of Michigan's largest benefactors, was assured by a Michigan official that Harbaugh was not reciprocating interest in the college's now-vacant head coaching position.
"But that's what they want you to think!" Yes. Yes, that. Apparently we don't have to rename the school of business The Jerk Store, so we've got that going for us. That and nothing else.
…Unless it hasn't (but it probably has). I do have some stuff in the inbox second-hand from Harbaugh friends that says he's "likely to be coach by the end of the week" and that in mid-December he was asking people close to him in Ann Arbor about schools and whatnot. Given everything public—most prominently Dave Brandon all but screaming "JIM HARBAUGH WILL NOT BE COACHING MICHIGAN NEXT YEAR" during the press conference—I think the former is inaccurate but it does cite something I've heard from a reliable source: that the big issue was always going to be the amount of Harbaugh's buyout for the NFL in case he wanted to pull a Spurrier at some point. So there's at least some credence there.
The latter would indicate that Harbaugh did indeed change course recently, thus spurring the somewhat bitter/smarmy "NFL challenge" routine from Brandon yesterday and potentially explaining why we're at sea three weeks from Signing Day. An established source says "something terrible happened in the last two days"—those being Monday and Tuesday—that caused Rodriguez to go from 100% gone to possibly back if he can assure Brandon things are going in the right direction back to gone. Terrible thing seems likely to be Harbaugh backing out, no?
FWIW, that last source is still holding out hope that Brandon and Harbaugh can work something out. Dim hope, but hope.
Les Miles? Do I need to say this about a grass-eating nutcase pushing 60 who can't count to 85? In case I do: Les Miles should not be happening.
Yes, I have a crazy fourth-hand rumor that one of the assistant's wives says "Hoke and Miles" are the current the focus, but even the emailer says he's not sure why on earth a just-fired-assistant's wife would know that. Welcome to a coaching search. I also have a second-hand source saying someone you've heard of lists him as one of three main candidates along with Hoke and…
One mid-major P may be in play. An emailer from outside the Michigan fanbase who I've known a while is connected to one of those firms that conducts coaching searches and relates that Boise State's Chris Petersen "doesn't even return exploratory phone calls"—which is probably why he's never rumored to be a candidate anywhere outside of blogger lists. You can write him off if you haven't already.
On the other hand, there is a "sense that the TCU boys were finally ready to move on," though this was before they got the Big East bid. There is obviously a vast chasm between this and Michigan actually talking to Patterson and company, but the aforementioned person you've heard of says Patterson is the third name on the list.
Fitzgerald buzz continues to seem real. If you were listening to WTKA this morning you heard Craig Ross cite a couple of sources within the department saying Michigan was going to look at Fitzgerald, which makes something like a half-dozen independent corroborations that Michigan is interested. This is not on par with the Hoke stuff but it's obvious people would be pushing Hoke because of their personal relationship with him even if San Diego State had gone 0-12 this year. Fitzgerald does not have any in-house friends.
As to the question hanging over any discussion of Fitzgerald—will he leave Northwestern?—a second-hand source says Northwestern has a wealthy alum willing to fork over serious cash to keep him. However, while in the past personal conversations with Fitzgerald led the source to believe he would "never" leave Northwestern, recently that stance has softened and "he can't say that anymore." Still… that's going to be a tough guy to pull. Money won't be the reason Fitz leaves if he does.
There's a decent chance Scot Loeffler returns. Loeffler may or may not be out of a job in the aftermath of Florida's coaching search. Even if he's still the QB coach in Gainesville if the new coach wants him he will come back to Ann Arbor. This would make the recruitment of FL QB Jeff Driskel (who is kind of good) interesting. Since Loeffler is one of two Carr assistants to actually land comparable jobs at other schools (Eric Campbell is the WR coach at Iowa) and he's still carrying around that ability to recruit awesome quarterbacks anyone with pro-style inclinations should definitely hire him.
Mike Barwis may be staying long-term. Unlike everyone else who got the broom, Mike Barwis was kept on as S&C coach, "really likes Michigan," and may retain that job if someone amenable to keeping him is hired. Hoke might keep him; Miles—who seems incredibly implausible—would not.
Keeping Barwis would go a long way towards minimizing transfers, FWIW.
Dave Brandon did a good job with the players yesterday. Reports from the meeting with the players are reassuring after what was a very wobbly press conference. One anonymous player: "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders." It sounded like there were plans bigger than "one of the usual suspects," but if it was a usual suspect it would be because he's earned the job.
Note: New banner thanks to Six Zero.
I didn't think we'd be here. I thought Rodriguez would get year four or we'd be having a press conference introducing Jim Harbaugh today, but the bowl game happened and Harbaugh spurned us, apparently to coach mercenaries at AT&T PNC Citi Invesco Parkfield because all that stuff about bleeding maize and blue turned out to be so much bullshit. But we're here.
It's either this or self-pity. I already binned all the Smiths songs yesterday and am all out of high-concept emo posts. So. Contrary to what you may have heard, there are people other than Brady Hoke coaching college football and some of them also win games. A brief list of people a "national search" might turn up as people to kick the tires on:
The Same Mid-Major Names That Come Up Every Year For Naught
The Ps currently dominating wack (get it) leagues: Chris Petersen at Boise State and Gary Patterson at TCU, plus Utah's Kyle Wittingham. The latter two will be in BCS conferences next year.
Chris Petersen, Boise State
Record: 61-5 in five years with the Broncos.
PROS: 61-5 in five years as a head coach. Relatively young. Trick-play happy and ballsy. Runs a passing spread that seems adaptable to Michigan's current offensive talent. Nice-seeming dude who would not throw the local media into a conniption fit.
CONS: Both previous Boise State head coaches to light out for greener pastures have been miserable failures as they go from way more resources than the competition to less. Petersen took over a monster program already and has had it humming along just fine but did not build it. No recruiting ties to the Midwest.
ACQUIRABILITY: Michigan could more than double the 1.5 million he's currently making. Would it matter? Petersen's had his name up for dozens of jobs and seems content in Boise.
Gary Patterson, TCU
Record: 98-28 in ten years
PROS: Took over for TCU in 2001 and has had a decade at the helm of the Horned Frogs. After a 6-6 start his teams have won ten games in seven of nine years and just finished an ass-kicking 13-0 campaign that ended with a Rose Bowl win against Wisconsin. Turns out awesome defenses on the regular. Runs passing spread like Boise and should be able to adapt to Robinson and company.
CONS: Also took over a team that was already pretty good at 10-2 the year before. No Midwest recruiting ties.
ACQUIRABILITY: Salary unknown since TCU is private but certainly Michigan could offer a major bump. TCU is moving to an auto-bid conference next year and is poised to own it, but it's the Big East, AKA "probably no better than the Mountain West." Like Petersen, obviously should have gotten a bigger job already but has not, suggesting he is in for the long haul at TCU.
Kyle Wittingham, Utah
Record: 58-20 in six years.
PROS: Slightly less awesome record than Patterson but did put together that 13-0 team in 2008 that beat Michigan and stomped Alabama in the BCS. Team fell off slightly to 10-3 the last two years. Was the DC for a decade before his move to the top job. Nice guy. Runs same passing spread the two guys above do.
CONS: Same story: took over a program with many advantages relative to its peers already poised at the top of the heap. Urban Meyer came in and the Utes went 10-2, then 12-0 when Wittingham took over.
ACQUIRABILITY: Wittingham makes 1.2 million a year, though entry into the Pac-12 will give Utah the funds to greatly increase that. Same story with the guys above: if he's still at Utah it seems like that's because he is not inclined to leave.
Guys We Would Instantly Make Villains By Hiring Them
Charlie Strong, Louisville
Record: 7-6 in one year
PROS: Architect of killer Florida defenses for almost a decade and annual subject of "why on earth won't anyone hire this guy" posts because he's also an awesome recruiter—Louisville picked up Teddy Bridgewater after he decommitted from Miami—and an all-around nice guy. Good shot at keeping and properly deploying Denard.
CONS: Bolting Louisville after one season would seriously damage his rep and give folks the same old story about how Michigan's coach has the audacity to change jobs. And oh by the way has only one season under his belt. No Midwest connections.
ACQUIRABILITY: Makes $1.6 million a year, so Michigan could pay the man. Unfortunately the conventional wisdom says there's little chance Michigan (or anyone) could pry him from Louisville given his long struggle to find a head job and Louisville's willingness to finally give it to him.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Record: 14-11 in two years.
PROS: Dismantled Michigan with rushing-based option spread 'n' shred and would make Denard at home. Hot young name seems to be large chunk of Florida's monster run under Meyer since the offense took a huge step back after he left despite returning the Tebow Child. Found Manny Diaz and deployed him as the defensive ying to his yang.
CONS: Brief track record as a head coach. Only two years under his belt, so a lesser version of the Strong issue.
ACQUIRABILITY: Born in PA and went to school on Staten Island(!) so not exactly a born-and-bred Southerner. Hadn't ever coached in the South until Meyer went to Florida. Just got a large contract from MSU that now pays him 2.65 million, however, bumping him from last to sixth in the SEC.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Record: 33-29 in five years
PROS: Young, enthusiastic former Northwestern legend sits next to "football" in the dictionary. Personal acquaintances describe him as "model of excellence." If it works out, could work out for a very long time indeed. Runs spread 'n' shred based on Randy Walker's that fits Denard like a glove.
CONS: Ripping someone away from their alma mater again would get things off on the wrong foot. Hasn't actually, you know, won that much. Even if you forgive him for his 4-8 opener because he was thrust into a terrible situation, since he's gone 6-6, 9-4, 8-5, and 7-6, and that was with epic buckets of luck on his side. He has outperformed his predecessor, FWIW.
ACQUIRABILITY: Salary is unknown because Northwestern is private. Michigan could add a lot to it. Even so, Fitzgerald is a NU icon and the CW is that he "hates" the rest of the Big Ten schools. Since a large portion of that hate rests in the fact he's never experienced what it's like to be at a Big Ten game where the majority of people are rooting for you I think he'd have to consider a move.
Guys Who Would Definitely Move And Not Be Villains
In Order Of Preference
- Dan Mullen – youth, experience in tough conference, fantastic track record as assistant, excellent DC hire, offensive continuity.
- Pat Fitzgerald – youth, Big Ten and Midwest ties galore, spotless media image, offensive continuity.
- Gary Patterson – most accomplished of the mid-major guys, should provide access to Texas recruiting.
- Charlie Strong – would rather roll the dice on him than the other two; DC experience in SEC seems at least as indicative of future success as HCs at massively advantaged schools.
- Chris Petersen – somewhat leery of Boise State's track record elsewhere..
- Kyle Wittingham – Wouldn't be displeased with anyone but I'd rather have other guys on the list.
Does Hoke approach any of these guys? Absolutely not. If he'd been a Michigan State assistant no one would have ever brought him up.
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If you didn't submit yourself to the press conference in which Rich Rodriguez was raptured up, you need to know these things:
- Rich Rodriguez is fired.
- Dave Brandon all but said Harbaugh would not be the next coach.
- A "national search" is about to be embarked on. Yes, on January 5th.
- The recruiting weekend is cancelled.
- Michigan's paid in the middle of the pack in the past and Brandon says that is "not appropriate."
Brady Hoke was not mentioned by name, nor was anyone save Harbaugh.
Here's the official presser:
Rodriguez Dismissed as Michigan Football Coach
ANN ARBOR -- University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced today (Jan. 5) that football coach Rich Rodriguez has been relieved of his coaching duties with the football program.
“I have completed a systematic and thorough review of our football program and believe that a change in leadership is necessary,” said Brandon. “We have not achieved at the level that I expect.”
Rodriguez compiled a 15-22 overall record and 6-18 mark in Big Ten play during his three seasons at Michigan (2008-10). He had an 11-11 record at Michigan Stadium, a 4-10 road record and lost his only bowl game vs. Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator Bowl. U-M was 3-9 in 2008, 5-7 in 2009 and went 7-6 this season.
Rodriguez became the 18th head coach in Michigan history on Dec. 17, 2007, replacing Lloyd Carr who announced his retirement following the 2007 regular season.
“Rich is a good person and coach,” added Brandon. “It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out at Michigan, but I’m sure that Rich and his staff will find opportunities at other institutions. I wish Rich and his family all the best in the future.”
Brandon will immediately begin a national search for a replacement.
This is a total failure on Brandon's part and he has about a week to prevent this program from becoming Notre Dame. He probably won't.
Angelique Chengelis and Joe Schad are saying Rodriguez is—surprise!—fired, along with the rest of the world. Chengelis cites a direct conversation with a Michigan assistant and Michigan has scheduled a 12:30 press conference, so this time it's no false start. It is not Peanut Butter Jelly Time.
Now we'll see if Michigan's timeline for a new hire is still as rapid as was suggested yesterday.
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All right, to recap what you've probably already read: Fox and the Free Press jumped the proverbial gun and there has been no official word that Rodriguez is done for yet. Insert condescending clucking about legacy media's insatiable desire to be first at the expense of being right. The 7 PM meeting tonight has been moved to 4 tomorrow.
What does it mean? Eh… probably not much. Sources very close to the AD are incredibly tight-lipped and most of the information out there is coming from outside the department (or, if within the department, may not be that close to the decision-making process), but if we've learned one thing it's that no decisions will ever be made.
Except they probably will. The massive favorite in the rumormongering is none other than Brady Hoke, which goddammit. I'm not writing things about it now because all of it could or would get thrown back in my face in the event Brady Hoke is not a complete failure but rest assured I'm thinking all of them and how.
Items you probably haven't read elsewhere yet:
- A parent of a Michigan player had a chance run-in with John Saunders, Craig James, and some other ESPN folk who said Harbaugh is "still in it," for whatever that means.
- Players are shooting the news(?) back and forth to each other on twitter. Whether they're all basing it off apparently not-quite-founded news reports or they've got something more to go on is unknown.
- Excellent source that provided the Hoke "not an option" quote has been forced to backtrack, unfortunately, and says he is "in play potentially" now even if he wasn't on the list of viable candidates to start. Also an announcement of the new guy is "likely within 24 hours," but no idea on his end as to who that might be. As always this stuff shifts with the wind so take it for what it's worth.
I still cling to the belief that Michigan would not look at a 53-year-old with one decent season and one undefeated MAC campaign (undefeated until Ball State played Buffalo in the championship game, anyway, and then imploded against Tulsa, and then the mighty foundation Hoke had wrought imploded in a pile of balsawood splinters) after Indiana and Minnesota had both said "thanks, but no thanks" to the same guy, let alone make him their head coach. Especially if the inane rumor that Hoke's first hire is going to be his brother—we've had plenty of virtual nepotism already without the real thing intruding—is true and blah blah blah.
Unfortunately, I don't have much information and am relying on the common sense and logical deduction that have
served me so well mocked and haunted me the last three years. I promise you this: if Brady Hoke is actually hired small children should not read the site for a week following because every other word will be swearing. This is in no way a joke.