"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
The Trials and Tribulations of the Michigan Coaching Search
January 5th, 2011
It has been a long strange trip and I doubt the surprises and pitfalls are over yet. The topic of changing the Michigan head coaching job has been popular since the last year of our retired poet coach, Lloyd Carr. After a disastrous showing against a spread offense I-AA school and a shellacking at the hands, or should I say webbed hands of the Oregon Ducks, people were fed up with Carr’s hackneyed style of pro offense. It seemed the underlying mantra to switching to Rich Rodriguez was that if we couldn’t beat a spread offense, we might as well become one. Become one we did. After Bill Martin’s sailing excursion in the Caribbean with Johnny Depp and some Bahama girls, he went out and got the architect of the damn thing.
The first year of the Rich Rod experiment went as well as a VIOXX addiction. With the changing of offensive systems, bare cupboards in way of players, and a new defensive scheme, a sub par year was expected. Then he finished 3-9, most recorded losses at Michigan for a season in its storied history and no bowl for the first time in over three decades. Seeing how the silver fox alumnus and Detroit Free Press Kool-Aid drinkers were not overly happy with the hire in the first place because he wasn’t a “Michigan Man”, a huge block of the fanbase was ready to throw him to the wolves after one year. Coupled with NCAA allegations and infractions that would make Erik Dickerson giggle a little bit, and a 5-7 season with no bowl again, he was not getting many Christmas cards in 2009. Come 2010, not even a super hero the likes of Flash Dilitium could save Rich Rod from a predestined outcome of being axed on January 5th, 2011. Another day that seemed like another chance to begin another fresh start.
Throughout the 2010 season a man occupying a coaching position on the west coast caught the attention of a lot of people ready to return to the “Michigan Man” was the only man for the job that was given to a country bumpkin that had no place here while spitting his tobacco juice all over Schembechler’s coffin. There was also a faction of revolutionaries ready to defend Rich Rodriguez to the very bitter end, including me. That was until the Gator Bowl episode, where I became open to a change. Not necessarily getting rid of RR, but at least a major overhaul of the defensive staff like they were some worthless hacks in a company merger ready to be cut loose and beg on the street like vagabonds. It is my general belief that if the Michigan fan base were armed to the teeth, the bloodshed after that game would have rivaled the death toll at Gettysburg. Change of some sorts would have had to happen, no doubt about it. Within two days of firing Rich Rod it seemed only two options were acceptable and likely. Either Jim Harbaugh would ride in on his white horse and raise the spirit of Bo to win at least six national championships in a row or the same result with Rich Rod and a revamped defense with General Tommy Franks as defensive coordinator. Then, BOOM, went the coaching change.
January 5th, 2011, a day not to celebrate a new start, but a day to commence panic and find the nearest lifeboat left as the Michtanic went down in the cold waters of Lake Huron as a string quartet played the final verse of Hail to the Victors. Dave Brandon, Chief Pizza Tosser, announced the firing and then announced he will begin the national search for a new head coach. Begin the search you say? As soon as that pepperoni eating fool uttered that sentence, the hounds of hell erupted into a fit of laughter and began feasting upon the souls of many people near and dear to our hearts.
Our fearless captain of the S.S. MGoBlog went into DEFCON 5 mode; the blog broke due to heavy traffic, and every two bit expert wanting to weigh in on the wasteland known as Michigan football. I consumed a near dangerous level of Ambien to wake up in 2013 since I could not evoke my disapproval through digital nuclear warfare upon the masses. The national blood pressure average spiked as many of the MGoBlog community and residents of Michigan fandom nationwide erupted into anger that made the drunken Mel Gibson rant look like a children’s bedtime story. The end of Michigan football, along with the announcement of the end of the world in May put very bad vibes in many innocent bystanders of this pitiful saga.
January 7th, 2011
The White Horse and the Other Candidates
“Michigan Man”, a term coined by the late Bo Schembechler. Many began to think it should have been buried along with our beloved coach. By measuring every football entity with the “Michigan Man” measuring stick, we have duped ourselves and placed a millstone around any future coach that would dare step within the city limits of Ann Arbor. There is nothing wrong with upholding an aurora of decency and model citizenry for a coach, but to only allow a coach to come in with ties to the original “Michigan Man” is foolish at best and self destructive at worst.
Obviously the “Michigan Man” guard thinks more of the damn term than the jackass that pulled the rug out from under them, Jim Harbaugh. He will be gold digging in the bay area of California while we piss and moan about him not being a true “Michigan Man.” After a years worth of lusting after him he left his obsessive water carriers looking like grafters and shameless dunces. It seems the chosen one chose elsewhere.
What were our options now? A name that wouldn’t seem to leave the psyche was Brady Hoke. Hoke was a “Michigan Man” and former coach on Lloyd Carr’s magical mystery team. It was clear that only a few felt positive about Hoke in this MGoBubble we live in. Although his die-hard supporters pushed his excellence to lofty and Yost like levels of comparisons, he was wanted by most as much as we would like to swap spit with a former Hutu warlord with leprosy that contracted the bubonic plague and took malaria baths.
Another candidate was Chris Peterson from Boise State. He was less toxic than that mutant Hoke, but it seemed as if Boise St. coaches forgot their winning ways when they left the Potato State. Our only choice would be to hire him and become the next Colorado NAIA team or paint the Big House metallic blue and raise it about 10,000 feet in the air to induce Boise State like winning.
Next on the ever lengthening list is Gary Patterson from TCU. Out of all the names mentioned so far, he was my favorite. He would be able to utilize Denard and install a defense similar to the one at TCU. The TCU defense brought purple rain and pain on the mouth breathing meatheads from Wisconsin, and I could only imagine the erotic feeling I would get if it became Maize Rain. He also has many entertaining superstitions like un-tying and re-tying his shoelaces if his team was winning. That would definitely be a bonding point to get Denard to stay. I was also exclusive to the fact from an unnamed source that he shat rainbows every blue moon and was a close cousin of Horatio from CSI Miami.
Another choice from the west is Kyle Wittingham, the head coach at Utah. This choice makes no sense to me if we just dumped a proven winner. Wittingham could still be riding the recruits brought in by the Urban Meyer experience and after a slight nose dive at the end of the season, my stomach feels about good on this choice as does the morning after downing a fifth of rot gut whisky. It was appealing the night I got drunk and dumped, but now it sucks feeling this way; waking up next to a one armed mustachioed heifer in some strange lacy red lingerie.
The MGoUniverse became the chorus of a trendy Spice Girls song as everybody was telling everyone else what they wanted. As the days went by, more names from all corners of the football universe popped into the MGoBoard orbit. Panic became a drink of choice as the hands on the clock rounded through the hours many times. The night after the Cotton Bowl almost became the accumulation of the gnashed teeth and ulcers that were eating their way towards our rectums.
Les Miles was all but certain to become the next coach at the University of Michigan. Book it. Done deal. Hell, even throw in some grass for him to munch on before we rolled out the red carpet in Ann Arbor for the soon to be anointed Jester-King. The LSU message boards were blowing up to the likes I haven’t seen since The Great Possum Snatching Scandal of 2002. I listened to Jim-Bob and Jimmy Sue’s radio broadcasting postgame show as caller after caller called in from Michigan and Louisiana to accept the fact that the trade was done and the universe could go back to focusing American Idol. Saturday came, no announcement. Sunday came, and again no announcement. Tom VH then came out with the depressing facts that our recruiting class mimicked a hemophiliac with no medicine.
What the fuck was going on? I told my doctor not to fill up my medicinal horse tranquilizer prescription any more. I was ready to whore myself out to the idea of waking up in the Mad Hatter’s tea house. Back to the veter…doctors I went. Double dose. I had to put up with more flight tracking maps that looked more like an updated version of the Atari game Pong, wild rumors of Hoke riding in on a snow leopard made of meatlovers pizza, and Jon Gruden would be popping out of Schembechler Hall frothing at the mouth while he held Tressell’s skull in a precarious position at waist level height.
On day six of this bat shit crazy wild ride things seemed to be falling in place. Planes were coming and going to Baton Rouge in the likely outcome of a Les Miles coaching contract. Even Les Miles put out a brief presser that sounded like he was announcing himself pope of the snake wielding, gibberish talking branch of the Appalachian Pentecostal movement. In other words, he was being himself. Eerily strange and vague it was though. It was no doubt however that the Les Tickler had a hankering for taste of Michigan.
January 10th, 2011
Time Travel vs War Eagle
At least to buy my time I was able to watch the BCS National Championship Game. In my perception I expected two versions of the spread offense square off. Would it be the blazing Oregon offense that was the first ever NCAA team to travel in the future to score? Or would it be the SEC powerhouse bruisers that ran downhill like rabid “war eagles” hell bent on the Scorched Earth policy as a game strategy? My hopes laid with Oregon. Auburn was a dirty thuggish team. I thought even a tad extreme for the SEC. Mostly at the hands of Nick Fairley. Obvious proof of his bully mentality lay across the internets. While we struggle with major problems of an uncertain and chaotic situation with the future of our program, Gene Chizik must grapple with such problems as the obvious character flaw in Mr. Fairley:
"It's real simple. You have a 315-pound defensive tackle and you can't block him, sometimes he's going to be very aggressive and people are going to get hurt," Chizik said. "We don't want that. We don't want to see anybody get hurt. But when you can't block a guy that's 315 pounds, that happens."
That must suck. Poor saps.
Unfortunately I missed the 2nd quarter due to an impromptu stop into a small Pennsylvanian town and was forced to swallow down the fact that I had to watch the hit long running series “The Bachelor”. The women in the house were serious that night and there was no way I was risking my life to change the channel. The vibes most likely would have shifted very wrong if I had. Finally leaving with the idea that it was a tight turnover prone game when I was last listening to it on the radio, I arrived ten miles to the north to watch the completion.
What I saw made me squeamish. The Tigers were up 19-11 in the third quarter. As the game progressed, one thing in my mind became clear. The Oregon offensive line was greatly overmatched by the behemoths breathing fire across the line from them. Auburn brutalized Oregon with force and blatant malice by Fairley again. Oregon made a last ditch come back scoring a TD and amazing 2pt conversion try. Oregon’s TE Jeff Maehl was their team last night.
Bummer for Oregon was that they left two minutes on the clock for Newton & Co. By this time in the game the Auburn o-line was eating up Oregon’s d-line. Oregon wasn’t tired, but they were out muscled. Auburn seemed to collect seven yards on every carry by Newton or Dyer. Auburn won in a close game that was really never that close. The final chapter on a year in college football was written, in which evil won.
January 11, 2011 (1/11/11)
The Day Before The Day After
Day Seven. It feels like we’ve been in a desert for eternity. No sign of water. We might have to Bear Grylls a snake and recycle our urine to survive. LSU athletic director Alleva announced that Les Miles will be staying at LSU. BOOM. ROASTED. I was just starting to think the Mad Hatter was crazy enough to handle this nuthouse we have created.
This coupled an article out of San Diego that Hoke was now going to meet with Dave Brandon for the University of Michigan Head Football Coaching position. This news can do bad things to one’s mind as a snowstorm rolls in from the west and trap you in alone. I expected to become destructive to society at any moment, but it never came. I had a feeling of numbness. If Hoke was hired, ok. Ok. Whatever. We have no other choice but support him and hope that Brandon saw something in his crystal Challis we couldn’t. He would be our coach and the fanbase faced two choices. Either stay on the boat and support our new head coach or load into a lifeboat and abandon ship. What would win out in an MGoCulture War? Michigan and unprecedented faith or a possible millstone necklace of tried tradition?
Lou Mannheim: “Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”
Two hours later, that decision came down the pipes from HQ. Hoke was our man, no joke. John Lennon once recorded a song titled “Instant Karma”. Then I thought about Jerry Kill.
The culture war ended that quick. What seemed like a never-ending all out nuclear war ended with in seven days, third in recorded history only to the Six Day War in 1967 that surprisingly only lasted six days and The Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 that lasted a tough 45 minutes. Regardless after a nuclear war, there will be fallout. How much is yet to be seen, but there will be a myriad of emotions for the ones that are left rooting for our beloved Michigan football team. It will only come down to two choices however. We can either band together and make a go of what we have and stand at having a better chance to survive or scatter like cockroaches into factions that continue to practice cannibalism ending in probable epic proportions of fail.
Is our reign as a once traditionally powerful and feared program over? I’ll let Brady Hoke tell you that:
Brady Hoke. Love him or leave him. He is here. I am down with being a Hokeamaniac.
credit: Tom Pickle...WLA^^^^^^^
“Buy the ticket, take the ride…”
Found this posted on Auburn blog Wardamntailgate.com in 2004 in regards to Al Borges offense
Al Borges had his work cut out for him as did the Tiger offense. I think we can all agree that this is an understatement. But what I want to shed a little light on is what I think of the fit between the Auburn Tigers and the Gulf Coast offense.
My first step is to identify what the Gulf Coast offense is. Although Borges comes to the plains from Indiana, he had a few stops in California spending six years in and offensive coordinator/QB coach role at both UCLA and Cal. The Gulf Coast offense is based on the West Coast offense (sorry for stating the obvious, but someone who reads this may go "ohh, I get it"). If you are this person, you’re welcome.
Bill Walsh, the daddy of the West Coast offense coached for the 49ers in the 80s. Although he was the lone horse running the WCO through most of his career, in the early 90’s many teams started using the scheme with much success.
Let’s go through some of the basic premises of the West Coast offense and see how this will work for our Tigers.
Quick, controlled passes – I’m all for it. Although Borges said he likes to air it out on occasions, I like the idea of quick and controlled passes. With explosive receivers like Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu, I think this will work well.
Give the QB and receivers the ability to make reads on the fly – I am a little skeptical about this. After picking up Petrino’s offensive scheme in 2002 and a bastardized version of the same offense in 2003, Jason Campbell and company have got to be good at picking up new offenses. However, the ability to effectively make reads on the fly comes from study and repetition. A great deal of the time these guys have put in since Al came on board has been inside the playbook. With LA Monroe and Miss. State, I think we’ll be able to get some of the repetition we need to be effective against a tougher opponent.
* I bet that you will see the starters in the game a little longer than you would expect in the opener. Don’t think we’re tying to run up the score, we’re learning. Points are like A’s.
Many different formations in order to create a mismatch between an offensive player and a defender – Formation changes can be a great thing as long as the offense stays less confused than the defense. Again, back to the studying aspect of a new offense. I think that the guys will be prepared. I also think that we will see a good deal of formations in the opener this weekend. But know that we’ll be saving some surprises for LSU.
Equal amount of passing and running is used although the passing is thought to set up the run in some cases– I see two main reasons Tubberville brought Borges to the plains. One, to implement a top-notch offense that can take us back to a championship level. Two, get Cadillac and Ronnie Brown in the game at the same time. The little boy in me is reminded of watching Little Train James and Bo Jackson blocking for each other in 83. If it works out that way, that’s great. Either way, with the top running back duo in the country, I think that the Gulf coast offense will use the run to set up the pass.
Utilizes the running back as receivers – Cadillac and Ronnie combined for 13 catches and 100 yards last season. I think they have the hands, but simply weren’t given the opportunity last year. Jake Slaughter has been practicing his catching in the off season. I think that we will see a lot of play action routes that will open these guys up to really eat up some yards.
Count on yardage gained after the catch – Check and Check. Our guys are quick and evasive. I think this will be key.
Accurate and mobile QB that can read and react – I have always said Jason Campbell is a rollout passer. In his freshman year when the offense was devised around Daniel Cobb, and in his two years under the Petrino scheme, Campbell was in put into a drop back passer role. I think that given the opportunity Jason will be a great mobile QB.
Tight ends who can catch better than they can block – Cooper Wallace caught 16 passes for over 200 yards and a touchdown last season. He stepped up in big games catching 4 passes against LSU and 5 against Georgia. I think he will be perfect in this role.
Overall, I think the Gulf Coast offense is going see it’s share of bumps and bruises early on. I’m hoping we steal the "Bend, Don’t break" motto from Penn State’s defense in the first half of the season and go into the Arkansas game at 5 and 1. Once the guys have a few games in the new offense under their belts, I think we’ll see something really special on the plains.
That concluded the post, I looked for Auburn highlights from 2004, couldn't find anything without some annoying hype music. Hope this at least calms people down. I hope denard stays and think he will, but devin could dominate in this offense.
Wow. Brady Hoke? Really? Wow.
Ok. Yes, on paper it looks like possibly the worst hire in the 130-year history of Michigan football. No, it is not even close to what we all wanted or expected or were promised publicly by the Great Brandon. Yes, our shiny new AD has wasted every ounce of goodwill he was given when he was hired and has put his lesticles on the line with this hire. However, this is not about Brady Hoke and this is not about Dave Brandon. It is about Michigan.
We call ourselves a family. Family are supposed to be there for each other through thick and thin. It does not get much thinner than right now and it is time to sort out the real Michigan fans from the posers. Your family needs you more than ever (and they are calling collect asking for money).
This decision was not Brady Hoke's and he needs our support. The Great Brandon's "process" has destroyed this year's recruiting class and made damage control with the team's current players a much higher priority than it needed to be. The last thing Brady Hoke needs is grief from a shell-shocked and mourning fan base.
I was not excited about the hiring of Coach Rod three years ago. I wanted Les Miles. But I have been "all in" for Coach Rod every day since he first stepped on the field at Michigan Stadium. Despite my initial reservations, I have grown to think very highly of Coach Rod as both a coach and a person and will always be "all in" for him wherever he coaches.
Dave Brandon had a very difficult decision at the end of this season given how we performed against the top teams in the conference. Coach Rod did not make that decision any easier by delivering a face plant in the Gator Bowl. I still would have given Coach Rod one more year with a new defensive staff unless, of course, we had an ironclad lock on Jim Harbaugh to come in and save us. But after watching the product on the field over the past three years, it is hard to say the decision to replace Coach Rod was unreasonable.
Still, the prolonged and bizarre process the Great Brandon has used to replace RR with the Great White Hoke cannot be defended. Maybe it sounded good to DB when he and his team of consultants were sitting around a meeting table and discussing it back in November, but it has only made things worse and the new coach's job more difficult.
Coach Rod will always be a Wolverine and a Michigan Man and I will pull for his teams wherever he lands, but it is now time to get behind Michigan's next head coach, Brady Hoke. He doesn't stand a chance if we all gang up against him before he even steps on campus. This is not about being right or wrong or getting payback on the anti-RR crowd (Sharp and Rosenberg included). It is about Michigan. Please do not do to Coach Hoke what the anti-RR crowd did to Coach Rod. It is not right, it is not fair and it is not what it means to be "all in" for Michigan.
GO BLUE (NO MATTER WHAT AND FOREVER)!!!
Note: Longish post – TL;DR – bad comedy; why no news on planes! - to save you the trouble. Also, probably won’t be relevant in 2 hours.
To say that the past couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the University of Michigan and its football team would be a massive understatement. After a disheartening loss to Mississippi State on New Years Eve, fans of the program were subjected to days of uncertainty and innuendo regarding the future of the program, culminating the in the firing of Rich Rodriguez after three rocky years. Since then, we have seen promising replacements turn down the program’s overtures and either remain where they are or move on to other opportunities. We witnessed a number of high-profile recruits switch allegiances in the wake of RR’s removal and the subsequent uncertainty of his replacement. And throughout these travails, we have heard about how the coaching carousel has affected the coaching staffs both here and at other schools, unsigned recruits, the athletic department, and most importantly, the fans.
But in the furor over this most public chapter in the storied history of Michigan football, true victims and their travails have fallen through the cracks. Their pain is as real and notable as anyone else’s these past months, and yet nobody has lent them a voice to be heard. What follows are their stories.
James Jackson, proprietor of Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork, Inc.
“We’ve actually been in Ann Arbor longer than people think; my dad opened up our first office on Packard after Gary Moeller’s 1993 season,” said Mr. Jackson, as he looked out over downtown Ann Arbor from his expansive new headquarters on Division St. Occupying office space in the building affectionately called “Goolge A2” (due to the search giant’s ubiquitous logo on the building’s façade), Jackson reminisces about his company’s genesis from a mom-and-pop location for disgruntled UM fans to obtain mob-specific weaponry to the thriving factory of fan angst that employs over 100 people in Michigan, including some notable alums in the Detroit newspaper industry, as well as satellite offices in other major college towns.
Mr. Jackson credits his father, Mike Jackson, for first realizing Ann Arbor Torch and Pitckfork’s (AAT&P) enduring mission: “When the going gets tough, the tough get fiery sticks and pointy farm equipment.” While this is clearly a metaphor, Mr. Jackson acknowledges that college football fans are generally both the most loyal and irrational people one will ever meet, at least when it comes to analyzing the current state of their favorite program. When the team is winning, fans can be expected to fill the stadium every Saturday, buy bushels of merchandise, and follow the team religiously to road and bowl games (except, Mr. Jackson noted, MSU’s fairweather football fans). But when the team struggles, even if only compared to the fans’ sometimes-irrational expectations, “it can be one huge ‘Critter Fritter’ of a situation,” borrowing a term from a bumper sticker sold by AAT&P “Who’s fault is this Critter Fritter?”.
For example, Mr. Jackson remembers sales tripling after Michigan started the 1998 season 0-2 following the 1997 National Championship. At the time, AAT&P was struggling to pay its suppliers due to extremely slow sales during that magical championship run, with most customers buying the bare essentials (single torch stick, single posterboard and black marker, a pocket-sized trident, etc.) “in case Carr does something stupid like throw on 3rd-and-4,” in Mr. Jackson’s words. That season had been so harmonious amongst the fanbase that Mr. Jackson feared a new era of logical appreciation and rationality was permeating the UM faithful would spell the end for his fledgling shop.
“I thought I’d have to go back to my first job, which was as an actor who dressed up like an affluent gentleman at parties,” Mr. Jackson said, with a hint of sadness in his eye. When asked if Mr. Jackson got the idea for that occupation from a Simpson’s episode, he responded “oh great, you’re one of those guys” and quickly changed the subject.
“We were able to weather that 1997 season by the skin of our teeth, but after that Syracuse loss we never really struggled to keep the lights on. No matter how good the team looked, there was always a steady stream of people who would stop by on Monday, even after a win, to pick through our famous Nits section.” Though the actual Nits change weekly, they typically embody the lifeblood of any irrational argument provided by the customers:
- Sheets with offensive and defensive play calls that should have been made instead of the ones actually run (helpfully broken down by quarter and situation)
- Obscure jerseys of players not receiving much playing time who “totally should instead of that stupid” S/RB/WR/QB currently occupying the position. Includes players whose eligibility expired in 1999
- Box scores from rivals highlighted with the results from players and/or coaches who should be at this school “except the dumb coach ran him off” or “dumb school didn’t let him in because of his grades/test scores/juvenile record.”
“We plugged along for most of the 00’s under Carr with few ripples, save for the Critter Fritter created by Henson’s arrival and subsequent benching behind Brady. After those consecutive losses in ‘99 to MSU and Illinois, we actually ran out of torches and had to resort to wrapping 2x4’s with the Sports Illustrated 1997 Championship Recap special.” But tension soon dissipated as UM went undefeated the rest of the year, and business remained steady until The Horror and the subsequent shellacking by Oregon in 2007. “That point,” Mr. Jackson said, with a barely-disguised twinkle in his eye, “is when things really took off for us. The Monday after the Appalachian State game, there was a line around the block. We actually had to hire additional help to service all of the customers. And when we debuted our Henne vs. Mallett reversible dartboard, we knew we had hit a nerve in terms of fan apathy.”
But the true motherlode came with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, an “outsider” to the program who was clearly not the first choice of the fanbase or, for that matter, a portion of the Michigan athletic department. “This,” Mr. Jackson said as he thrust his arm about his expansive office with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen televisions, and mahogany furniture, “is all because of RR. When he arrived in Ann Arbor, sales went from steady to astronomical. Before the guy even coached a game on the UM sidelines, we were back-ordered 6 months on everything in the store – that includes the limited-edition pitchforks personally autographed in crayon by both Mike Valenti and UM’s own Drew Sharp.”
Mr. Jackson would not confirm specific sales numbers over RR’s three tumultuous years, but did acknowledge that the RR’s tenure coincided with dramatic growth for his company. One interesting trend Mr. Jackson noticed was that, unlike past years, business remained brisk regardless of the level of success on the field. “A vocal contingent of people clearly did not care whether or not RR’s team experienced success or failure on the football field – they wanted to march around in groups with flaming torches and pointy sticks, and to hell with reality.”
Top sellers during this time included “Make your own DC” kit with real recruiting violations and feathery GERG-style hairpiece, t-shirts emblazoned with “Start the other guy at QB”, a copy of “Family Matters” season 2 DVD signed by the entire Boren family, and framed copies of the Detroit Free Press’s expose on practice violations, player abuse, and baby-eating by RR and his staff.
Sales peaked following the Gator Bowl, but with the inevitability of RR’s firing “everybody wants to save their money until the next coach is selected,” lamented Jackson, who noted that his greatest fears were laid to rest when Jim Harbaugh decided to take the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. “I’m sure people would have grown tired of Jim once he lost a couple of games, but with all the talent that was returning next year it might not have happened as quickly as we liked. Plus, people love Jim around here, which probably would have allowed him to go 8-4 without a total meltdown.”
“I just hope Brandon hires the replacement coach soon, because the longer he waits the fewer shopping days people will have before National Signing Day, which is when our sales naturally drop off as people finally realize that there are other successful sports at UM. Rent isn’t cheap, and we were planning on making an IPO in 2011. We don’t need much; pitchforks are always in style.”
When asked who he’d like to see succeed Rodriguez, Mr. Jackson paused for a moment before saying “based on an order we have pending for a Mr. B. Cook, probably Brady Hoke. He’s just Lloyd enough to annoy the fans who liked the direction RR was taking the program, but still unproven enough to bug the fans who expect UM to go 13-0 every year. Les Miles would also work, but the whole grass thing kind of weirds me out.”
As for what the future holds for AAT&P, Jackson spoke of continued expansion in the SEC, where sales have skyrocketed in Gainesville, Baton Rouge, and Athens. Closer to home, he expects sales to grow in Happy Valley as news of Paterno’s quest to defeat the sun in terms of longevity shows no signs of ending, and he might even open another branch in Columbus of all places. “We’ve had brisk business down there for years, but with the Pryor era failing to live up to expectations, I expect sales to exceed even those in Ann Arbor soon.”
Vincent Torino - Novelty t-shirt seller at corner of State and Hoover
“I’ve been selling shirts at this corner for over 10 years,” says Mr. Torino, wearing a Michigan wool cap with two bluetooth headsets sticking out from each ear. “From ‘Rudy Sucks’ to ‘Wuck Fisconsin’ to our recent bestseller ‘Shoelace16’, I’ve been trying to meet the needs of drunk frat boys and ironic kids of alums since the beginning of the millennium.”
Mr. Torino, “but you can call me Vinnie”, comes from a long line of vendors capitalizing on the fervor surrounding the UM program. His grandfather was once the official pickle seller during games when Fielding Yost roamed the sidelines, and his father sold knockoff football jerseys out of the back of his 1975 Ford LTD station wagon near what is now Elbel Field.
Even Vinnie’s mother was involved in the family business in a tangential way; according to Mr. Torino, his father met his wife while selling merchandise at a road game in East Lansing. “Dad said Mom was the most beautiful woman he ever saw, but she also dressed like a woman who ‘wasn’t a stranger to the old end-around’ as he used to say. That’s where the idea for ‘East Lansing is a woman of ill repute’ shirt came from – a fun little jab at Mom, rest her soul.”
When I asked how business was during Rich Rodriguez’s tenure at Michigan as compared to Lloyd Carr’s reign, he noted the biggest difference was the shift in focus in the nature of his merchandise under both coaches. “With Carr, it was all about the players – ‘I’ve good a Woodley’, ‘Bow Down Little Brother!"’ and ‘Robot Henne Maximize!’ were huge. I tried to sell bumper stickers saying ‘My other vehicle is a Carr’, but they never really took off. Maybe a little too ironic.”
“But with RR, it was all ‘In Rod We Trust’ and a three-wolf moon spinoff with Mike Barwis’ head as the moon. Sure, we had brisk sales with Zoltan Mesko’s space emperor line as well as the iconic shirts for Tate’s ‘Behold the power of the Forcier’ and Denard’s ‘Shoelace16’, but everyone loved the fact that RR’s name could be spun into a genetalia reference. Again, my market is mostly drunk people; it doesn’t need to be particularly clever for them to fork over $20.”
This sales bump from the coach’s line was especially important because some of the cherished models were running on fumes. “Everyone has ’Muck the Fuckeyes’,” Mr. Torino noted, “but when you haven’t won the Game recently, fans aren’t inclined to keep spending money. Also, Notre Dame’s continued irrelevance has really hurt. Do you realize ‘Rudy’ came out in 1993? They haven’t done anything since, and so I haven’t been able to generate any new material”
But with Rich Rodriguez’s departure and the subsequent uncertainty surrounding the new coach, Mr. Torino has found himself in the unusual position of “hedging” on the new Wolverine leader with his designs. He noted that he originally had orders in for “I have a Hard-buagh!” shirts until Jim Harbaugh signed with the 49ers, and has since been printing “Got Grass?” and “Miles of fun” (with an outline of Les Miles’ face) in anticipation of the LSU coach being named to the top spot. “I also had a couple dozen ‘I’m Yoked for Hoke’ shirts drawn up, but they just looked dumb. They’ll be sent along with the Harbaugh shirts to the American Red Cross, where they’ll be given to people in developing countries like they do with the loser’s shirts from the Super Bowl.” When asked why he doesn’t just sell them as novelty shirts, Mr. Torino said, “I like the idea of an alternate universe where the Patriots went 19-0, Butler beat Duke for the NCAA title, and Brady Hoke was the head coach at the University of Michigan.”
“I just hope that whomever David Brandon selects as the new head coach is good for business,” noted Vinnie. “Hell, who am I kidding? I sell t-shirts to drunk kids. All I have to do is mess around with the word ‘fuck’ and they’ll fork over the cash. Man, this is the life.”
BRADYPET, the Mgoblog server
“I hope Brian knows how hard I’ve been working,” the words appeared in the terminal window as I sat down with BRADYPET, the Dell PowerEdge server that hosts the MGoBlog site, “and how bad I feel about not being able to support upvotes right now.”
BRADYPET is actually the second server to maintain the site since the Haloscan days; the first was HENNEBOT, which was irreparably harmed by the traffic influx following MSU’s overtime victory against UM in 2009. BRADYPET was brought in shortly thereafter because she featured 32 GB of RAM, 2 TB of hard-drive space, 8 hot-swap banks, advanced bandwidth throttling, and had a track record of “knowing her way around Drupal.”
“Brian and I don’t talk about HENNEBOT much anymore, except that their relationship was one of convenience, while ours is one of mutual respect and scalability,” noted BRADYPET, who trumpeted that she hadn’t needed anything more than a BIOS update in nearly 2 years, “though Brian did mention he was looking at adding another rack, but only if I felt comfortable with it.”
Traffic at MGoBlog has always been steady, BRADYPET noted, and though it spiked at times the past few years, she was always able to handle it with minimal downtime. Sure, the “lockdown” phases for the site after disheartening losses in the past helped, but BRADYPET noted that those were more content-based than usability. “I can handle anything the community throws at me. Brian does respect my sensibilities, though, so that is why he limits posts at times – I can’t un-see what everyone writes.”
Without naming names, BRADYPET noted that “the worst offenders pop up after rivalry games – rival fans sign up with their student e-mail addresses, post ignorant articles with so many grammatical flaws that my spellchecker throbs for hours, and then never come back.” And then there is the negging, which “really hurts my soul. So many posts, so many d-bags, so much anger. It makes me want to throw, to throw, to throw – 503 – Service Unavailable.”
Ten minutes later, I was finally able to get BRADYPET back online. “I’m so sorry – this is what the coaching search has done to me. I can not even maintain simple connectivity with web users.” BRADYPET stated that the sheer number of hits the site received after the Gator Bowl “scared me like a grandmother trying to use her webmail but instead stumbling onto porn site hottmail.com.”
And once RR was fired, “I just couldn’t keep up. Brian said he would protect me, but it was too late. He disabled logins, but that just made people angrier. They just hitting refresh, refresh, refresh – dear God, the number of packets being sent and lost. Just carnage; pure, sad carnage.”
While the the spike has dissipated somewhat, the near-constant stream of insider knowledge and updates about the future coach “has been a strain. Everyone is creating threads about the same topic, then responding to each of them with the same post. It is just madness at times. And then you have Brian’s posts with links to Twitter accounts – Twitter! Have you ever tried to communicate with Twitter? Bunch of ruffians!”
“And don’t get me started about flightaware.”
When asked if she had a preference about the future coach, BRADYPET responded that “I really could care less, because at least then the number of visitors would drop. I guess, standing on my ethernet cable, I’d say Brady Hoke. Not because I think he’d be a good coach, but because if Les Miles was signed those TigerDroppings visitors would flood over here as well, and those people are crazy! Have you seen their animated gifs – supporting those monstrosities would kill me with bandwidth demands.”
As for what the future holds, BRADYPET said she’s looking forward to a break once the new coach is selected, “maybe host a couple of Cover It Lives for the basketball team, maybe go shopping at newegg for some more RAM. I also wouldn’t mind viewing some more Japanese girl-band pop videos with Brian, but I’m saving those for a special occasion.”
This is getting awkward, but I suspect it should be over soon. I've pointed out that there are two recruiting dead periods left until signing day. We just started one today that runs to the 13th, then there's another dead period from the 30th until signing day. That leaves roughly 16 days depending on when the new coach is hired to recruit. So here's where we're at.
6'2", 175 lbs.
Greenville, South Carolina
Before the coaching change Hakeem was very high on Michigan, and was moving closer to a decision. He has decided that he will make his announcement on January 23rd at his high school, and will decide between Oregon, LSU, and Michigan.
Prior to the coaching change I would have told you that Michigan was in the driver's seat. It's hard to say now where they stand, and I'm not exactly sure yet where he'll be headed. Until a new coach is named nothing will be 100%, and depending on who is hired it could swing him one way or another.
Who's Looking Around
Michigan currently has 13 commitments, and as everyone has heard there's a decent amount of them trying to keep their options open. Before you panic and say we're 100% losing these kids you have to understand their position. It's a month away from signing day and spots are filling up fast. If they were to stay committed to Michigan and the new coach doesn't want to honor their scholarship offer, then they'd be hard pressed to find a new school. It's a gamble and an awkward situation for them. A lot of the recruits are going to say they'll keep their options open to cover themselves. Here's who is potentially open, or looking around.
- DB Dallas Crawford - As I reported the other day Dallas wants to come to Michigan, but is nervous about the coaching situation. He will be visiting Miami this weekend, and most likely USC at some point. If Les Miles is hired at Michigan that will help retain him.
- K Matt Goudis - Matt told me that he will also be visiting Miami this weekend (the 14th), and will take the trip even if a new coach is hired at Michigan this week.
- OL Jake Fisher - Jake has started to hear from some other schools like Notre Dame and even Oregon. He's not officially open yet, but he's keeping communication lines open just in case.
Who Could We Get
There has been a lot of speculation that Les Miles may be hired as the next coach. There have been a lot of questions regarding LSU's current commits, and if there would be any that would switch to Michigan in the case that Les Miles is hired. This is pretty hard to predict since their recruits don't want to talk about anything until it's official. Here's a few thoughts on the question though.
LSU currently has 21 commitments, and 15 of those prospects are from Louisiana. That right there will make it tough to pull some over to Ann Arbor, especially if LSU acts fast and hires a new coach to retain them. Here's probably the most realistic options that would consider coming with Miles. These aren't kids who would 100% come to Michigan, but that we would have a shot with.
- OL Trai Turner (6'5", 340 lbs, 4 Star) - Trai was being recruited by Michigan heavily before deciding to stay home. He was even at one point during the season thinking about taking a trip up to Ann Arbor.
- OL Jonah Austin (6'7", 305 lbs, 3 Star) - Jonah is a teammate of Trai's, and was also being recruited by Michigan. He originally committed to Houston, received an offer from LSU, and jumped on it.
- WR Jarvis Landry (5'11", 178 lbs, 4 Star) - Landry had a Michigan offer and would fill a potential need at the receiver position in this class.
- K James Hairston (6'1", 200 lbs, 2 Star) - If Michigan can't hang on to Matt Goudis in this class they might try to flip Hairston.
Besides those four it's tough to tell who at this point would be willing to listen. Like I said, this is obviously in the case that Les Miles is even hired. It's safe to say that the new coaching staff needs to jump on the recruiting trail either way, and there will probably be new names popping up all over.
- LB/WR Kris Frost surprisingly chose Auburn at the Army All American game. If you weren't in the liveblog you missed why that was significant for Michigan. About three weeks ago Frost had told me it was Michigan, that he was 99.9% sure, and that he had only applied to Michigan. He's planning on enrolling early and announced for Auburn. There's a chance that the Tigers may not accept his offer, and he's waiting to hear back from them still. LSU was one of his favorites before he announced, we'll see if Michigan can get back in it if Auburn denies him.
- WR Devin Lucien is set to announce his decision on January 30th. He has been anxiously awaiting a decision from Michigan on their new coach. Devin wants to set up his visit ASAP, and also make sure that his offer will be honored by the new coach. Michigan's in great position as long as there's a decision soon.
Today's "snow armageddon" in the southeast got me to thinking . . .
For those of you that live in the south, y'all know what kind of reaction there is to a predicted snow storm. For those in the north, a snow storm is an everyday occurrence and you probably laugh hysterically at the reaction of southerners. (Yes, all of the bread and toilet paper in the local Target here was gone by early evening yesterday in preparation for the 4-8 inches of snow predicted).
On my enjoyable drive into work this morning, with the roads to myself, I started comparing the physical and emotional reactions of people to approaching wintry weather compared to the reaction to coaching changes across the country. As the analysis evolved, it became pretty entertaining and I wanted to share in case you are entertained as well. What I've tried to do is match the reactions to snow storms based on geographic location to the reactions of a fan base to a coaching change at a particular school. Here's some categories I've created - please feel free to add more that you believe are pertinent, especially for schools/locations that are less extreme examples that the ones I chose:
Snow in Georgia = Coaching Change at Michigan: I think this fits. Those of you in Georgia (Atlanta, in particular) that deal with approaching snow storms know how drastically people freak out when even a hint of snow is forecasted. I think this is how the coaching change/search has gone with Michigan fans:
Everyone that freaked out about a change are analogous to southerners living in Georgia that are not used to the snow. Those that did not want a coaching change were aware that a change could occur but were emotionally unprepared and started freaking out when it became a foregone conclusion (equivalent to southerners flocking to the grocery store to get milk and bread).
Everyone that welcomed the change are analogous to northerners living in Georgia that feel comfortable in anticipation of a snow storm. Those that welcomed the coaching change believed it would be "all good" and did not worry. However, once the change came they quickly realized that they were not prepared for the fallout and became extremely nervous and began expressing their reservations. For example, Atlanteans (?) realized that getting to work from the suburbs was almost an impossible exercise, just as the coaching change at Michigan has frustrated many to the point of trying to remove themselves emotionally.
[You could probably substitute several schools here including, but not limited to, Florida(?) and USC(?)]
Snow in Michigan = Coaching Change at Eastern Michigan: You could substitute a number of schools here but I thought Eastern was the most fun. Everyone that lives in or has driven regularly in Michigan knows that snow in that state is a regular occurrence and almost all but disregarded. (As an aside, I can remember being in school up there in 1993, probably the worst winter I've experienced, and classes went on as usual. I remember walking to the Frieze Building in a -60 degree wind-chill for my 8am calculus class. And I also remember commuting to work on roads covered in ice with people driving at least the speed limit, seemingly oblivious to the ice.)
I imagine this to be the same for die-hard fans of Eastern Michigan football (are there any???). They basically expect a coaching change every 2-3 years as part of the game. Just as players graduate and new players must be recruited, so do coaches at schools like Eastern.
[Other analogous schools = Minnesota(?), Washington(?)]
Snow in Florida = Coaching Change at Penn State: This one is the most enjoyable to discuss . . . Everyone in Florida knows that it could, one day, snow there. Every Penn State fan understands that, some day, Joe Paterno will retire, be fired, or pass away on the job. Nevertheless, each year that goes by where neither happens leaves Florida residents less prepared just as it leaves Penn State fans unprepared for a change. In particular, every year, Penn State's coveted assistants get wooed by other schools (e.g. Bradley) and Penn State fans freak out that their coach-in-waiting is going to be gone. When the time actually comes, if ever, its going to be very entertaining to watch.
Snow in Canada = Coaching Change at Notre Dame: Per jHackney. Self-explanatory.