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It's the holidays. Friends and family are in town. They know that you pay heavy attention to this kind of stuff, and expect that you'll have some bit of information, some bit of inside dope, some general sense of the way things are going.
You are sick of answering these people. Let your shirt do the talking.
Of course if there's a crowd of people hugging you and jumping for joy you still may need to vocalize it. Or maybe they'll figure it out.
80% might be low
IT IS HAPPENING. Okay. I don't have a picture of a signed contract, or word from Harbaugh himself that it's happening.
But it's happening. I have not put a number on Harbaugh to Michigan yet, preferring words since it's impossible to put a number on something like this. I'll do this now: 99%.
I have gotten so much independent stuff from so many different sources; 247 and Scout and Bacon are all on board, with Rivals only lagging seemingly because they buy the 2011 story that Harbaugh backed out "at the last minute," something that just can't be true given the timelines. I would be utterly shocked if Jim Harbaugh was not announced as Michigan's coach by December 30th.
It's all over but the pointless rush to be the first to report that water is wet.
HAPPENING BITS.I've heard word that there's a large event on Tuesday night that the catering staff has been asked to keep secret—something that they've never been asked about before.
A son of a current coach is telling co-workers that it's happening and his dad is being retained.
1201 South State Street is getting mail addressed like this from NFL compounds:
I checked the tracking number; it's legit.
If I had to guess I'd bet that's a young-go-getter overnighting his resume and interest. Blind hope? Maybe. Probably not.
More numbers: Webb increments to 80, pending today's 85. Lorenz says it's "when, not if" and puts it at 85%. Pequeno doesn't have a number but does say Michigan boots are on the ground in San Francisco.
THE DURKIN PROPHECY. Harbaugh to Michigan is now unofficially official enough that a coaching staff seems to be in the process of being assembled in earnest. Further confirmation of DJ Durkin's presence on the new staff comes from the message board:
So, I am from Youngstown, OH. This morning, I went to my gym for a little early morning workout, and another member of my gym is the father of Chris Durkin … they are close cousins with D.J. Durkin. … he said he would starting rooting for Michigan football next season (after giving me shit for wearing Michigan shirts in the past). I asked why, and he said he has a cousin who would be coaching there next season, and when I asked if it was D.J. Durkin, he said it was.
Conversation stopped there, but basically we can infer from this that Harbaugh is coming, and D.J. Durkin knows it and will be joining him.
That's a user with only 214 points but he is a guy who signed up over a year ago, FWIW. If it wasn't obvious already since Durkin didn't take the A&M job that could have been his a week ago, it should be now.
ANOTHER NFL PERSON SAYS MICHIGAN IS A TINY FAVORITE. SI's Don Banks runs down the NFL coaching carousel, touching on Harbaugh during the Oakland section:
Most league sources I talked to believe it’s down to either Oakland or Michigan for Harbaugh, and while his preference is to stay in the NFL, the lure of Ann Arbor and being able to resurrect the struggling program at his alma mater might be too tempting an opportunity to say no to. If there’s a possession arrow at the moment, indications are it has begun to slightly point in the direction of the Wolverines. …
Or as one source told me: “He can go there and be God, and never get fired. That’s a home he can live in and stay at. It’ll be like [Nick] Saban in Alabama. He’ll do whatever he wants there. I’d call that the logical place for him.’’
The Raiders will try, but they're still the Raiders—perpetually moribund and possibly on the move.
Banks later dismisses Harbaugh as an option in Chicago, saying if he's leaving the West Coast it's for Michigan. That seems like a flimsy assumption to me, but local reporters continually say that Harbaugh's too pricey for the penny-pinching Bears owners. There's been little indication that Chicago will step in.
WHY IS THIS XXIX? Searchbits XXVIII was this for anyone who just had to check to see if anything was happening on Christmas.
New MGoPost: SEARCHBITS XXVIII: DON'T READ THIS, IT'S CHRISTMAS http://t.co/bqRjIOs0ZA
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) December 25, 2014
I regret nothing, even the old meme. That's what you get for obsessively checking this webs…
…actually this may have been a bad idea.
I'M NOT SURE YOU CAN SPEAK FOR EVERBODY. John Harbaugh denies the Schefter report that Jim's family is encouraging him to take the Michigan job:
"The report that says that his family is encouraging him to go to Michigan by Adam Schefter is absolutely incorrect," John Harbaugh said. "There's been no family that I know of that has given him any advice at all. That's a personal decision, that's his to make. And that's just absolutely false."
I think that's not entirely true; even if it is, Schefter's report seemed to be addressing the wife-won't-leave meme, not John and Jack. And as I mentioned before I'm confident that Jack has been a major part of the Harbaugh acquisition process. It's Jim's decision of course, it's just that your mom and I have always dreamed… etc etc etc.
HARBECHLER HALL!!!!! pic.twitter.com/4cvLTUMz2q
— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) December 24, 2014
All right, there's enough stuff. We're all degenerates.
THE CONFERENCE CALL. It happened, it was coy and positive. Not much of substance was related except an expectation that the next call might be unnecessary. There was a brief flutter of positive tweets from players, most of which were vague and quickly deleted. It was made clear that things are not signed($); the overall feeling from the meeting was highly positive.
Durkin is holding off on his plans
THIS IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL. Texas A&M has been trying to name a new defensive coordinator for a couple weeks now, and DJ Durkin is a—the—prime contender. He's not going to stay at Florida after McElwain poached the Mississippi State YOU'RE A BALLER guy, so why isn't he going for a good job in the SEC?
Texas A&M’s slow movement toward hiring a defensive coordinator appears to be tied to Jim Harbaugh.
One of the Aggies’ candidates, Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, is waiting to see whether Harbaugh takes the open Michigan head coaching job, according to a source close to the situation. If Harbaugh, currently at odds with the San Francisco 49ers, were to go back to coach his alma mater, Durkin could get reunited with his former Stanford boss.
If Durkin is willing to stall on a job as good as A&M DC, that "could" is almost certainly a "would." And Harbaugh's arrival at Michigan seems highly probable as well. Nobody's going to keep a job like that waiting based on a vague hope.
Interestingly, Greg Mattison was also a part of these rumors. Sometimes he's mentioned as a possible "co-DC"; sometimes his potential role is unlisted. With current speculation leaning towards a Mattison/Durkin partnership at Michigan, that also signals a shift. Mattison reportedly cleared out his office with authority when Hoke was axed.
NUSSMEIER OUT. Doug Nussmeier takes the Florida OC job as the first half of a potential coordinator trade. There had been a little chatter that Michigan might keep him on that's obviously done now.
HACKETT'S APPROACH. Heard from someone close to the search that Hackett's first approach to Harbaugh was to ask him what were the five things that he needed if he was going to come back to Michigan. These included top-five college money and disciplinary autonomy. A lot of it seemed like reassurances he wasn't going to have a Baalke or Brandon in his life.
Hackett is very tight-lipped. Even folks on the regent level aren't getting every detail; Hackett prefers to keep people informed on a high level but keep details private so that things don't get screwed up. He's been impressive to everyone I've heard who has come in contact with him.
THE JETS ARE NOT IMPRESSED. Okay, Jets owner, that's cool.
Told today the Jets are unlikely landing spot for Jim Harbaugh. They interviewed him when they hired Rex. Woody wasn't impressed.
— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) December 23, 2014
With the Dolphins out and the Jets apparently not enthralled, NFL options appear to come down to the cheapskate Bears and basket-case Raiders, with the potential addition of the Falcons if they don't make the playoffs.
I THINK WE HAVE FORGOTTEN SOMETHING ABOUT THE RAIDERS. Hey, look, Football Scoop is bringing up something a lot of people seem to have forgotten when talk turns to Harbaugh with the Oakland Raiders:
If he were to leave for another NFL job, however, the 49ers would supposedly ask for "a king's ransom" in exchange for releasing him, as the potential for embarrassment is much higher if Harbaugh remains in the NFL, especially if it's with the Oakland Raiders.
Harbaugh is under contract. York and Baalke would be reviled in the Bay Area if Harbaugh went to the disaster zone that is the Raiders and turned them around, especially if the 49ers struggled. (They're already moving towards reviled if the comment sections of 49ers articles are any indication.) It is unlikely they are going to let that happen unless the Raiders pay an exorbitant fee in draft picks, which makes the Raiders job even sketchier.
Congratulations to FS for finally saying something reasonable about this search. It was something I mentioned on December second(!) in the same post bombing their ridiculous "Harbaugh is not a candidate and Michigan is struggling" post, but better three weeks late and after a pile of complete bollocks than never at all.
ROONEY RULIN'. Another thing that makes Michigan a good bet as a landing spot: if the 49ers do cut ties with Harbaugh within 48 hours of the season's end that heavily implies Michigan: NFL teams have to comply with the Rooney Rule, which might be tough when hypothetical black candidates feel they're wasting their time. They would have to figure out a trade and a contract. Michigan has a big head start, and can act quicker.
ACT LIKE A CLOWN, GET TREATED LIKE A CLOWN PART II. Greg Gabriel, the fringe NFL writer who called Michigan's search "embarrassing" on December 12th and followed that up with gems such as "just laughing at you" and "if you want to dream go to Disneyland" amongst a number of other tweets he's deleted, has thrown a hissy on the National Football Post.
My fondness for the school ended this week through no fault of the University, but rather their asinine fans.
Two weeks ago I tweeted that in all likelihood, Jim Harbaugh would not become the next head coach at Michigan. Two weeks ago that was a very true statement, as Harbaugh wanted to coach nowhere but in the NFL. That was reported in various places by some very credible people. Harbaugh was done with the college game and wanted to coach only in the professional ranks.
Soon after my tweet, I started receiving several threatening, vulgar and obscene tweets from Michigan fans. In simple words, they said I didn’t know what I was talking about and that my sources were worthless.
The few replies he got to his tweet include an assertion he's a senile idiot… and that's it. Behold the asinine Michigan fanbase.
— Matt (@UMich38) December 12, 2014
I get worse than that from random LSU fans without even talking about LSU. And of course Gabriel didn't know what he was talking about and his sources were useless. Meanwhile he approached the inherently unknowable fiasco that is a coaching search with a supremely unwarranted arrogance.
That's been par for the course for a bunch of supposed NFL insiders who have been cocky and wrong—bad combination—while the Michigan side of things has consistently said things like "Michigan is in this," not "Michigan is a lock" (until recently, as Harbaugh moves close enough to being a lock that even previously dismissive NFL people are admitting that it's probably happening).
There are ways to communicate your point of view without bringing the wrath of the internet down on you. Step one is not being an asshat, something Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport understand. Kawakami and this guy not so much.
MEANWHILE. Gabriel's sources remain useless. He asserts that the thing that makes Michigan an option is the money that's easily matched by NFL teams flush with cash and asserts that Harbaugh will be fired by the 49ers. More "heart in the NFL" stuff from people who promised up and down that Michigan was never happening.
PLAN B. I don't think we'll need one. Continue hearing that Dan Mullen is a strong possibility if things go pear-shaped. He may not be the #2 option outright, but he or Miles is the #1 guy they know would take the job. Depending on who you talk to, Miles is the #2 option or way down the board. I think it's the latter but can't be sure.
NO SEARCHBITS TOMORROW, YOU DEGENERATES. Probably.
Michigan won this game, I believe (source)
Your Weekly B1G Hoops Column
*[I failed to post the draft correctly yesterday and I wasn’t able to correct it while traveling. My apologies. None of this data should be dated much. Nebraska has not yet played Hawaii at the time of my submission early Tuesday morning EST – Alex]
Table of Contents:
Team’s don’t change much during conference play
Hopeful precedent? (Battle!)
Hoops (and not NBA hoops) over Christmas
Talkin’ bout the Shockers
Key B1G wins in the past week
Saturday was a bad day
A SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT TO MICHIGAN STATE
Best and worst losses thus far
Poll: which team is second-best in the B1G?
1. Teams don’t change much during conference play
In data provided to me by From the Barn’s Jonathan Foster, there’s generally insignificant differences between the Kenpom rank of a team after non-conference play and that same team’s rank at the end of the season. The data only covers the last four seasons, but a team is twice as likely to have a change from –19 < [rank] < +10 than it is to worsen by more than nineteen or improve by more than ten, rank-wise:
This bodes poorly for Michigan and similarly floundering teams – Pomeroy’s rankings attempt to assess the objective quality of a team (not its potential, nor how good its resume is) and, according to this data, right now, that metric – his “pythag” rating – is usually within range of how good a team winds up being over the course of the season. As the scatterplots below show, the highest change in ranking comes from very bad teams:
Click image to enlarge
Sample size caveats apply, but I’d hazard a guess that this group of teams is generally representative of an intuitive hypothesis: teams don’t became far better or far worse (statistically speaking) after December. Or perhaps better stated: teams don’t (or can’t) prove that they’re far better or far worse after December.
2. Hopeful precedent? (Battle!)
Foster gave me the conference-wide data from 2011-2014; in that time, only Penn State (2011) managed to accomplish something Michigan will find itself hoping to do – rise from roughly the 75th-best team in Kenpom to eventually make the NCAA Tournament.
That Penn State team’s non-conference season was quite similar to Michigan’s past few weeks. The Nittany Lions lost two home games – one to a mediocre Maryland outfit by 23 points, one to a dreadfully bad Maine team that finished ranked 209th in Kenpom. Additionally, Penn State lost road contests to Ole Miss and Virginia Tech, neither of which were particularly good squads. Their best win in non-conference play was a narrow home win over #60 Duquesne; they rode a 9-9 conference record, two wins over a great Wisconsin team, and three wins in the Big Ten Tournament to a bid as a ten-seed. The Big Ten was the best conference in the country that year.
Mid-season ranking data only goes back to 2011 on Pomeroy’s site. I checked from 2005-2010 and there were only a few potentially analogous situations: in 2007, Purdue lost two tough non-conference games and dropped a bad one (to #150 Indiana State on the road) and lost to #170 Minnesota to open Big Ten play – they recovered to be a nine-seed; in 2005, Minnesota lost to two top-20 outfits and lost at home to #97 Florida State in the span of less than a week – they finished non-conference play at 10-3 and were an eight-seed.
Penn State 2011 might be the best blueprint for Michigan to follow. It was Talor Battle’s senior year* and Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones, and sophomore Tim Frazier formed a potent (by PSU standards) nucleus: they had a terrible non-conference season but were consistent enough in Big Ten play – winning the games they absolutely had to win – notched a few notable wins, both against Wisconsin, and did quite well in the Big Ten Tournament to sneak into the NCAA Tourney.
Since the conference is weaker now, I’d say Michigan might need 10 or 11 wins (and a Big Ten Tournament win), depending on who they win or lose to, to be right on the edge of the bubble. Right now, Pomeroy projects just 8 conference wins. Blerg.
In any case, improving to the point where the bubble is a legitimate discussion is objectively unlikely.
*Talor Battle was one of my favorite non-Michigan Big Ten players in recent memory. He was like a prelude to Trey Burke: undersized do-it-all point guard whose high usage was excused by a stellar assist rate. Trey was obviously better, but it was certainly something to watch Battle drag his teammates along and elevate their play in front of a seemingly indifferent PSU fanbase. Something impressive and tragic in that. Anyways, I digress.
[AFTER THE JUMP: … But Beilein? and other non-Michigan stuff, of course]
3. But Beilein?
Bryan Fuller / MGoBlog
Maize n Brew’s Drew Hallett passed this along to me and, yes, there is proof that Beilein teams generally improve over the course of the season (some empirical proof that runs parallel to the “well, they aren’t that great now, but look out for that Izzo team come March!” narrative in East Lansing). This article is from December last year:
If you are looking for a coach whose team typically does get better later in the year, look no further than Michigan head coach John Beilein. In 8 of the last 10 seasons and for six straight years, Beilein’s teams have seen their Pyth. Winning Percentage improve after the opening two months.
Michigan has been extremely underwhelming in its marquee games this year. But in the past John Beilein has been able to solve his team’s weaknesses, and based on his track record, it is fair to expect significant improvement.
Of course, that Michigan team rebounded from a lackadaisical non-conference showing to torch the Big Ten en route to a runaway conference title and eventual two-seed in the NCAA Tournament. To expect that again is nonsense.
It’s reasonable to assume that, with a young team, Michigan is bound to improve. The current coaching staff has earned the benefit of the doubt – that’s another point in Michigan’s favor. Still, there’s a ways to go. Michigan doesn’t just need to improve, they need to improve a lot. Right now, in Kenpom, Michigan is #75 nationally; in Sagarin, they’re #125 – 12th in the Big Ten.
The offense actually grades out worse than the defense, which is paradoxically a positive: I trust that Beilein – an offensive whiz – will fix the offense more than I trust him to fix the defense. There’s plenty of room for improvement – the big men have the dual problem of not setting screens properly and failing to move decisively after them; the shooters aren’t shooting well (which will regress to the mean over time); guards and wings aren’t getting enough looks at the rim. Whatever the problems, they need to be fixed soon; Michigan needs to put down the shovel and stop digging a hole that’s looking more insurmountable with each successive loss.
4. Hoops (and not NBA hoops) over Christmas
If you’re not into NBA hoops – I am, but that’s something that’s neither here nor there – there are a few college basketball games around Christmas: The Diamond Head Classic takes place on the 22nd, the 23rd, and the 25th and features Nebraska, who’s fell short of expectations thus far this season.
The Huskers won’t be home for Christmas...
— Ali Farokhmanesh (@farokhmanesh5) December 21, 2014
...but I don't feel bad for them.
It's a weird field – there are eight teams: one is a top-ten type team (Wichita State), three are rather weak major-conference teams, and four are pretty much non-conference cupcake caliber. Nebraska draws the hosts, Hawaii, and then these are their chances of facing any two of the other six teams:
Aside from Wisconsin’s game at Cal tonight [Ed: Wisconsin won] and a neutral site matchup between Indiana and Georgetown later this week, these games might be the Big Ten’s last significant non-conference matchups before conference play starts. Facing Wichita State – a game with no downside in case of a loss (but with obvious potential benefit) – is contingent on Nebraska beating Hawaii.
The ‘Bows rank 193rd in Sagarin and 194th in Kenpom; Nebraska shouldn’t have much of a problem with them. It’s easy to foresee Nebraska’s stingy defense suffocating a feeble Hawaii offense, and the Huskers should manage enough points between Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields to win comfortably.
5. Talkin’ bout the Shockers
Wichita State exists as a possible resume win for Nebraska – the Huskers’ current record isn’t great (any benefit from a home win against Cincinnati is erased, and then some, by home losses to Creighton and Incarnate Word) and, even though the computers don’t view them favorably – 82nd in Kenpom and 93rd in Sagarin – they’re close to the same team that mounted a surprise run to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Assuming a win against Hawaii, Nebraska would likely face Wichita State and, using Ken Pomeroy’s methodology, would only have a 9% chance of winning. Though the Shockers lost standout combo forward Cleanthony Early from last year’s undefeated regular-season squad (Early is now a teammate of Tim Hardaway’s on the Knicks), they return Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, possibly the best backcourt in all of college hoops.
Credit goes to their awesome, traditional uniform (source)
At this point, Wichita State has to be the premier mid-major in the country – they’re the myth of Gonzaga and they’re probably in a better three-year stretch than Gonzaga’s ever had (though the Bulldogs are great this year). They’ve played the part of a major program in the wrong clothes – they aren’t a stereotypical overachieving underdog that relies on guile and three-point shooting: the Shockers are athletic, well-run by the steady VanVleet, and capable of standing toe-to-toe with nearly anyone. It would be a big test for Nebraska.
Data from Kenpom.com
A potential upset would be reliant on Nebraska’s offense and unfortunately, it seems as if their weaknesses overlap with the Shockers’ strengths:
Wichita State forces turnovers on 23.8% of opponents’ possessions (30th nationally) and Nebraska’s turnover rate is 21.5% – 260th nationally.
WSU’s defensive rebounding rate ranks 22nd nationally, Nebraska’s offensive rebounding rate is 259th.
Tekele Cotton is one of the best individual stoppers in college basketball; he should be able to leverage Terran Petteway into another high-volume, low-efficiency performance. Petteway will shoot regardless of outside circumstance, but Cotton would affect those shots.
A win here would be great for Nebraska’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but it looks unlikely.
6. Key B1G wins in the past week
A few thoughts:
Aside from that home loss to E. Washington, Indiana has looked pretty decent this season. This game from Troy Williams was a welcome sign of his development – with his athleticism, he should be able to affect the game in most every statistical category. Butler isn’t an elite team by any stretch, but they’re pretty defense and it was nice to see the Hoosier defense turn in a good performance against quality opposition.
Maryland may quietly be the second-best team in the Big Ten; even though they’ve been playing without Dez Wells and even though they’re breaking in a mostly new roster, the Terps have put together some very solid wins and their only loss comes against an excellent Virginia squad. Between precocious star freshman Melo Trimble, standout forward Jake Layman, and Wells, Maryland has plenty of talent and could be a darkhorse contender for a Big Ten title in their first year in the league. Beating Oklahoma State on the road was very impressive.
7. Saturday was a bad day
…but today was a good day (NSFW lyrics)
A few thoughts:
- Iowa’s loss to Northern Iowa was the ugliest loss of the day aesthetically speaking, but the Panthers are quite good this year and their only loss came in double OT on the road against VCU. Still, the type of loss is concerning: Iowa’s terrible shooting from the field wasn’t mitigated by their normally excellent ability to get points from the free throw line – as a result, their offense totally stagnated and put in their worst performance this year. The transformation from an offense-first, defense-second team to the inverse is complete.
- Purdue got its doors blown off at a neutral site against Notre Dame, which isn’t exactly the end of the world. The Irish are simply on a different tier than the Boilermakers – who are a hard team to assess right now – but if Purdue is an NCAA-caliber team, they definitely didn’t show it against Notre Dame on either end of the floor. As a perfect microcosm of the game, point guard Demetrius Jackson posterized 7’2 Isaac Haas.
- Michigan again played well enough defensively to win, but their offense completely failed again. It’s not often that a team takes a full two-thirds of its shots from behind the arc and even though it felt like the Wolverines were getting good looks, they missed 28 of 36 three-point attempts. Michigan’s now just 34.6% from behind the arc this season – in the past two years, that number was 40.2% and 37.9%. If Michigan keeps taking this many threes, they clearly have to start making them.
- Ohio State lost to North Carolina in a largely unsuspenseful game that doesn’t really say much about the Buckeyes: UNC is a team that can dominate on the interior unlike any Big Ten team, and did so against Ohio State. The Buckeyes will conclude non-conference play at 0-for-2 in games with much significance – a home win over a very mediocre Marquette team stands as OSU’s best result; they lost at Louisville and to North Carolina in Chicago.
8. A SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT TO MICHIGAN STATE
Oh, you lost to NJIT? ANYTHING YOU CAN DO WE CAN DO BETTER (source)
Entering this game, Texas Southern – then 1-8 and ranked 283rd nationally by Kenpom – had a 2% chance of winning. Mike Davis, who had never won in East Lansing during his stint at Indiana, pulled off the gigantic upset as TSU prevailed in overtime over Michigan State.
I don’t think that it tells us a whole lot about Michigan State – the chances that Texas Southern shoots an effective FG% of 57.4 is incredibly slim (much like NJIT’s shooting performance was an anomaly). State had been the best three-point shooting team in the country entering this game; the Spartans just shot 4-of-21 from outside the arc against TSU on mostly good looks. This loss in and of itself isn’t a glaring indictment on Michigan State’s quality overall: State is still ranked 20th by Kenpom and 24th by Sagarin.
The biggest point is that MSU’s resume is severely lacking now. Much like Ohio State, the Spartans only had a few chances at solid non-conference wins – against Duke, Kansas, and at Notre Dame – and they lost all of them; like Ohio State, their best win is a victory over Marquette (106th in Kenpom, 84th in Sagarin). This loss will be a huge anchor on their record without a few very good wins to balance it out – State isn’t in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament if it does as well as it should in conference play, but with a few more bad losses, the Spartans could really be concerned come Selection Sunday.
Misery loves company, Spartan bros.
9. Best and worst losses thus far
Rankings via Kenpom
The NJIT loss is still the worst. By a lot. NJIT is much worse than a SWAC team that’s 2-8. I THOUGHT BASKETBALL WAS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.
10. Poll: which team is second-best in the B1G?
For something I’m working on for next week:
This seems in poor taste. I mean, the Cowboys? [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
TICK TOCK. Sam goes to 70% and says he'd be at 99% if San Francisco's season ended today. Joe Pequeno says it's Harbaugh barring one of them last minute change of heart things. Bacon says 85%, also citing last minute change of heart. Bacon also says that Michigan made a pass at Harbaugh last time, "but a weak one."
Heck, even Adam Schefter continued inching towards "it's happening," twice saying that "the pendulum has swung to Michigan" on ESPN's mid-day NFL shows on ESPN2.
WHY? Webb reports that Hackett was "in the Pacific Time Zone($)" yesterday, with the possibility of major movement today. Those Who Stay reported movement on the agent side of things, with Harbaugh/Dunn meeting at which things are just about hammered out but not quite signed. Clearly something happened yesterday to create another wave of IT'S HAPPENING, and that's a plausible reason.
DONE DEAL? I don't think it's quite that, but I think it's just about pen-to-paper time. Reports filtering down from the big baller donors certainly think it is done—we had one on the site yesterday that we had to scrub because the poster made an unwise decision to spill, and the inbox has a couple more. This is very much a situation in which the game of telephone would turn "it's about to be done" into "it's done," though.
WHEN? Still hearing that things won't be official until the 49ers are done. Michigan appears to be assembling a press conference on or around the 30th. That certainly implies they think it's done.
A CATCH? Did get a report that at least some people in the 49ers organization think the pendulum is swinging back to the NFL; hard to square that with everything else I've heard. FWIW; that would be a potential reason the NFL insider types are so dismissive.
WELL, THAT'S ALL OUT IN THE OPEN THEN. 49ers GM Trent Baalke was on the radio yesterday, and when asked about Harbaugh he confirmed that Michigan had reached out to the 49ers directly:
"I don't know that it's been offered to him. I don't know that it's been offered at all," Baalke said on his weekly segment on 95.7 The Game. "I haven't seen a report that the contract has been handed to him and he's mulling it over." …
Fox Sports reported Sunday that Michigan relayed its interest to the 49ers, and he reportedly told them he was undecided on his future.
"I think the University of Michigan, in reaching out, did handle it correctly," Baalke said. "As I look at it, guys, it's very simple: He's the head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers."
So that helps confirm the chatter that Michigan was trying to work out the details with the 49ers because they were so confident they'd locked down Harbaugh their attention was turning to details like extracting him from his contract. Somewhat odd that Baalke says he hasn't "seen a report" that he's been considering a contract when he is capable of walking into Harbaugh's office and asking, but maybe the two guys don't talk much anymore.
MAYBE IT'S ALL IN RUBLES. Sam says he's got an unconfirmed number($) for the assistant pool that is just about about on par with LSU and amongst the tops in the country. I am hearing some rumblings that Sam's weird suggestion (Mattison might stay on as a LB or DL coach with additional title frippery to be determined) is on point, which would explain some of that pool.
HOW NOT TO BACKTRACK. Adam Schefter has been walking his no-way stance back gradually, and that's fine. I think he got some bad information early, but he's reporting what he hears and moving away from Protect The Shield more than most other people in his profession.
On the other hand, you could pretend that you're defending Schefter when you opened your coverage of this coaching search with "Harbaugh turned Michigan down" and tripled-down on that assertion when it became clear it wasn't anywhere near true. If you guessed Scott Roussel was that guy, you get a cookie:
Guys complaining to me on twitter “Scheffer has changed his story on Harbaugh a lot”. Truth is facts change. We just report them
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) December 23, 2014
HOW TO CORPO-TWITTER. Well done, whoever:
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) December 23, 2014
#BUTTHOLE. Former Jack Harbaugh QB and Jim staff member Willie Taggart on the man:
"A lot of people think he's a butthole," Taggart says, matter-of-factly. "But he's not. Some people want things the easy way, sometimes people want others to bow down and just give in and do things the easy way. It's never like that with Jim.
"He's going to give it to you how he sees it. It's not to demean anyone, but it's how he sees it. He always does what he thinks is right. And, nine times out of 10, he is."
If Taggart doesn't make it at USF (he's gone 2-10 and 4-8 in his first two seasons) I wouldn't be surprised to see him join a hypothetical Michigan staff in the event of an opening.
CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE. Normally we take a week off around this time of year, but with Michigan's coaching search still ongoing I'll be around more. I'm going to get in a car right now and be in it for most of the rest of the day. I don't plan on posting anything the 24th or 25th unless it is literally happening. If there is enough stuff there may be a searchbits or two on the 26th and/or 27th.
The 28th is when things will start rolling in earnest as the 49ers finish up their season.
ETC.: Narduzzi the favorite at Pitt. John Harbaugh says some boilerplate stuff about his brother. Harbaugh with photoshopped bread? Okay. Wetzel on why getting rid of Harbaugh is a bad idea. Brian Dohn on possible contractual trip-ups.
I write this column every year: a plea for humans of the college football world to use clear language instead of the names they have for bowl games. Truthfully, a brand name for a bowl game communicates something, but think how much more accurately we could communicate if things like geographical location, history, traditions, and common, relatable experiences were more important than who pays the most.
I realize not everybody enjoys the ability to elegantly express ideas to other humans as much as I do, and that mercantile interests can be human interests as well. But since I started using language in my communication, I've experienced a 1000% improvement in comprehension, and I wanted to share that success story with you. Don't believe me? Here are some other humans who've benefited from this same extraordinary device:
: "Hello, I'm Steve, a relatable middle aged white man with the body, hairline, and lifestyle that other middle aged white men envy. My wife Janet and I are proud Bowling Green graduates and big fans of the Falcons. I wanted to get Janet a trip to BGSU's bowl game for Christmas, but when I triumphantly announced "We're going to the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl!" she was very confused. Then I discovered Talking Like a Human Being™, which taught me to tell Janet it's the "Camellia Bowl in Montgomery." Janet was thrilled, because the name communicated to her that we were going to a bowl game in Montgomery, and the flower association made it memorable!"
: "I'm Lewis, a non-threatening yet sexy young African-American businessman with perfect skin. My in-laws are coming to visit our tasteful suburban Atlanta home over Christmas, but they asked me to drive them to the airport the afternoon of December 31st. When I tried to explain that we would have to leave very early because of "Chick-fil-A Bowl" traffic, they thought I meant the South is just that insane over a fast food restaurant. But when I called it the "Peach Bowl," suddenly they could recognize the name of a big traditional football game that they've heard about since the late 1960s, and even offered to order a taxi so that I could stay home and watch it! Thanks, Talking Like a Human Being™!"
: "I'm Krista, a cute and friendly Minnesota undergrad. Men find me very attractive in an approachable way, and women want to be my friend because they wish they looked this good while rocking a knit scarf, high wool socks, and "" stickers on my cheeks. I was so totally stoked by my Gophers' great season, but when I told my girls we were going to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl they were like "that's a crappy one" because until recently that meant the old Copper Bowl. So then I said it was "the old Capital One Bowl," but then they got even more confused because that's now the name of the Orange Bowl—you know, the BCS bowl in Miami that Big East teams used to go to. Then I discovered Talking Like a Human Being™. And once I said "Citrus Bowl" my friends knew that meant the bowl that 2nd place Big Ten teams go to, and they were more excited than that one time our sorority went ice skating with Goldy!"
: "I'm Batman. Specifically, I'm Batman from that 1990s Tim Burton movie with Jack Nicholson that hits all the nerd-nostalgia buttons for men between 25 and 40. When I say 'I'm Batman', people know that I'm Batman, because I've been calling myself Batman since 1939. Could you imagine if I was like: 'I'm Batman, presented by Vizio?' I'm sure I could make some money by doing that but to be honest I'm already filthy rich, and while Alfred assures me I could always use more money, I feel like the incremental revenue wouldn't be worth cheapening 75 years worth of brand equity. So I turned them down and went with Talking Like a Human Being™ instead. Because I'm Batman!"
[After the jump: bowl games in a human language, bowl logos without sponsors on them, and discussion on the whole title sponsorship business]
Click each logo to get the full size. Use however you like. A couple bowls have higher payouts for one team; I used the highest amount.
They've gotten better
Yes they have! They absolutely have! Some of the really ridiculous names are gone now, or relegated to ignorable prefaces or suffixes; no coach or player to my knowledge this season announced their goal is to get to the [Name of Credit Card] Championship Game.
Degrees of Annoyance
The Peach Bowl's peach logo was slowly devoured until it was nothing.
Now it is back… as a robo-peach.
There are few major offenders left. The Detroit one should always be the Motor City Bowl, and likewise Queen City and Music City—nicknames for cities are representative of those cities. The Gator Bowl will always be the Gator Bowl. Small cities in Alabama are tough enough to keep track of without adding sponsor names to them.
Anyway the degree of annoyance of this year's bowl slate is 75% less than last year's, what with so many bowls going back to their city names.
To the inevitable person in the comments: I'm not against ads; I'm against selling things that aren't yours to sell.
|Let's stop before here.|
Yes, I sell the advertising on this site, and yes I sell ads in this space, and yes I'd be proud to talk to you in the comments about the standards I hold us to. Marketing is fine and important; like with anything there are limits of appropriateness.
What specifically bothers me about bowl game naming is the people doing the selling don't provide any product or service. If Chobani buys the "right" to name an Ann Arbor bowl game, what does the bowl game provide? The chief marketing service—name recognition—is done by the media, and by extension the public, as we talk about the Chobani Bowl.
It's not the bowls (let alone the teams in the bowls) who get paid the most by title sponsorships, but the TV stations who are broadcasting the games. They in turn package those ads with their regular programs so that it's impossible to separate the title sponsorships themselves from the ad package they were sold with. Over 70% of the revenue from title sponsorships last year went to ESPN, because ESPN sold the BCS bowl sponsorships on top of seven more games they own.
Language is public, or else it can't do the thing it does, which is help us communicate information to each other. If a sponsor (e.g. Outback)'s name has affixed itself to the general consciousness of that game, communication is served and there's no harm.
Degree of Importance
What you call a bowl game or what logo you use for it is at an importance level somewhere around the Legends jerseys, i.e. low. Even the most egregious examples are only minor annoyances to football fans, and I talk about it here because they're minor annoyances to football fans.
The sponsorship money, it's supposed, makes these games possible, but they don't really cover the payouts (that is on the organizers), and the schools, as detailed on this site before, tend to lose money on all the bowls below the $2 million payout line, what with being overcharged for flights and food and hotel rooms (which all kick back to the bowls). The sponsorship money itself mostly feeds the TV dudes. Other than the fun of playing in it for the players, the point of a small-time bowl game is to fill more TV slots with live football.
I like live football, and I'm all for college football players getting a free trip somewhere during Christmas Break, but I think they can do it without the incremental revenue of title sponsorships. If some bowls will die let them die. In their place I suggest, in the spirit of the original bowl games, allowing schools to simply host some friendlies on their own against opponents of interest. You've seen how good every team is by that point, so have the big-time bowls in the big time venues, and then let conference rivals on relatively equal footing face each other. Or let the conferences pick a weather-friendly venue and host a whole series of them.