and... i like them? I think I like them.
Among the commentariat, there is fairly widespread agreement that Rich Rodriguez is sitting on the hottest of hotseats among college football coaches. The only disagreement among them, is just how well he needs to do, to be assured of returning in 2011. The consensus is that he needs to win 8 or 9 games.
Dave Brandon has said that there is no absolute litmus test. I think we can assume that Rodriguez is almost surely fired if the team wins five games or less, and he almost surely returns if it wins eight games or more—that is, assuming no more NCAA violations. The gray area is six or seven regular-season wins.
In setting the bar at eight games, we are aiming rather low, by historical standards. In the thirty-nine seasons that Michigan was coached by Bo Schembechler and his assistants, the team won fewer than eight regular-season games in just five seasons (84, 87, 93, 94, 05). And it should be noted that Bo, Moeller and Carr had fewer games in which to do it, as their teams played only ten regular-season games in the first two years of Bo's tenure, and then eleven through 2005.
Still, there is only so much improvement that one can reasonably expect from one year to the next. Rodriguez's first two seasons are sunk costs, and if he can show a gain of +3 from 2009 to 2010, it is hard to argue that that is not good enough.
Another benchmark is that, in thirty-nine seasons, Bo and his former assistants never posted a losing record within the conference. The closest they came was in 1984, when Bo went 5-4 (they played a full round-robin in those days), on the way to a 6-5 regular-season finish, folllowed by a loss in the Holiday Bowl to the national champions, Brigham Young. That, by the way, was the closest Michigan ever came to a losing season in the Bo/Mo/Lloyd era.
One crucial point is that it is impossible to go 8-4 without at least playing .500 ball within the conference. With Michigan's talent advantage, the Wolverines should beat Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois, and Purdue, practically every time. I do realize even the best teams sometimes lose when they shouldn't, but the Wolverines are staring in the face of two-game losing streaks to three of those schools, and they very nearly lost to Indiana last year. If Michigan loses this year to more than one of these opponents, you would have to conclude that Rodriguez is getting consistently out-coached. It is also worth noting that Rodriguez has just one road victory in two years (Minnesota in 2008), and it is hard to see him surviving past 2010 if he does not start winning outside of Ann Arbor.
With a 6-6 or 7-5 regular-season record, Dave Brandon would have a tough decision. Objectively, there is no sugar-coating a 7-5 season that could very easily include losses to the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, and Notre Dame (those being the toughest games on the schedule). No one will say Michigan is back when it is losing to these teams, or to most of them.
Yet, firing Rodriguez would almost certainly usher in another year or two of transition, a sub-par 2011 recruiting class, and yet another coach who arrives to find a roster not built for the system he wants to run. (The probability of Brandon hiring another spread offense guy is slim to none.) In addition, it would also mean missing a bowl for the third consecutive year, since fired coaches seldom stay on to coach a bowl. For these reasons, as disappointing as a 7-5 campaign would be, Brandon will swallow hard and give Rodriguez one more shot in 2011.
It is too soon now to set the bar for 2011, but I would note that after next season Rodriguez must either be fired or given a contract extension. He is under contract through the end of 2013, but he would need to be extended well before then, as otherwise it would be tough to recruit (kids want to know they're coming to a stable program).
That leaves us with the question of what to do if Rodriguez goes 6-6. Many of the arguments for retaining Rodriguez after 7-5 apply with equal force. But in all honesty, I do not think you can accept 3-9 and 5-7, followed by 6-6, as adequate progress. It is practically impossible to write a 6-6 script that you could find acceptable, unless it involves beating Ohio State.
(I suppose I should note explicitly that the bowl outcome, if Michigan goes to one, is irrelevant to Rich Rodriguez's job security. Coaches are hardly ever fired after losing a bowl, because there is too little time to hire a replacement before national signing day.)
Two games loom large on the schedule: UConn and Michigan State. UConn is another one of those teams that "Michigan should beat" almost every time. Their roster is composed almost entirely of kids that were rated two stars or less when they were recruited. Star ratings don't win games, but when the talent disparity is as wide as it is here, there simply is no good excuse for losing to these guys. I am not saying it cannot happen, only that it is not excusable. What is more, with a trip to South Bend looming in Week Two, UConn is a win Rodriguez has to have.
The Michigan State game is important for two reasons. One is that it's a major rivalry in which Michigan has lost two straight. But even more important, it is hard to imagine how Michigan wins at least four Big Ten games, if MSU isn't one of them, particularly as the game is in Ann Arbor.
Obviously, there are ten other games to worry about, but in the likeliest scenarios that involve Rich Rodriguez keeping his job, wins over UConn and MSU are part of the picture.
In short, I think Rodriguez is: 1) surely retained for 2011 if he goes 8-4 or better; 2) surely fired if he goes 5-7 or worse; 3) likely retained if he goes 7-5; 4) likely fired if he goes 6-6. If Brandon is on the fence, the factors I think he will look at include:
- Beating the guys he's supposed to beat, particularly MSU
- Going at least .500 in conference play
- Getting at least one signature win in the conference
There was a Board topic last night about a response to an email that was seemingly from David Brandon himself. This email response was very fast and rather late at night for an Athletic Director, so it led to questions of whether it was "canned" or answered by an aide.
This made me imagine a few funny scenarios... And the first of these scenarios was surprisingly well received. I decided to expand a bit and also to a wider audience than whoever happened to read the comments on that post. 2 notes: First, I was (I think) asked to do this in a diary, it's not my narcissistic need to be appreciated by more people. Second, this is not a serious discussion via diary, granted, but there are often diaries that are centered on humor and that attempt to make light of certain stressful situations in the program (such as Fake ___ Chat Google Wave, which I admit is much funnier than this diary will be). Hopefully this can help you laugh at a dire situation and see it from a lighter point of view while retaining your (hopefully) "Save The Game" attitude.
Anyway, in the wake of the public outcry to save The Game, the IT department has seemingly set up an automated response for Brandon based on keywords in the email sent to him, and based on who is being responded to (e.g. the folksy trend of politicians responding to questions from the middle-American masses). The following exchange occurs [the caps are meant to be read in an automated robotic sort of voice]:
Email to Brandon from his wife:
"Hey honey, I was thinking about making meatloaf tonight. Do you want broccoli or corn on the cob with that? I'll have some rice too, since the kids like it. Pick up some milk on the way home?
Love, your wife."
His automated response:
"Hello YOUR WIFE,
The University, its administration, and I especially, want to reassure you that we are working on MEATLOAF TONIGHT. We understand the issue at hand, and are debating the positives and negatives of both keeping BROCCOLI and switching to a new system of CORN ON THE COB. We understand that RICE is a very strong tradition with all parties involved, and we are aware how strongly THE KIDS LIKE IT, and THE KIDS are very important to all of us. Allow me to reassure you, YOUR, that I am personally working on a solution to PICK UP MILK, and it will be announced very soon.
Email to Brandon from Domino's CEO J. Patrick Doyle:
This is pretty urgent, so I hope you have time to meet and speak with me privately. We hit a bit of a snag, and we really need your help. It seems that individual Domino's franchise owners are running things with somewhat loose protocol lately, and I'm not sure what you did to remedy this in the past. I know that when you were in this position previously, you handled the situation and it was fixed promptly, so I need your personal and professional advice. Since you ramped up our quality standards, it seems individual owners feel it is a lot more day-to-day work, even after the transition seemed complete.
Thanks for your help,
Your dear friend, J."
His automated response:
"Hello YOURDEAR FRIENDJ,
In the midst of recent rumors, the University, its administration, and I have been trying hard to make time for fans and media alike, and we try to MEET AND SPEAK WITH ME PRIVATELY to as many as we can. I understand you are concerned over A BIT OF A SNAG, but know that I am aware of the situation. I will personally work to be sure SOMEWHAT LOOSE never happens to this program. Many share your confusion over WHAT YOU DID TO REMEDY THIS, but rest assured, YOURDEAR that when I WAS IN THIS POSITION PREVIOUSLY, playing for the U of M football team during some of our best seasons, I understood the importance of HANDLED THE SITUATION. While I can assure you that I take full responsibility, I must inform you that IT WAS FIXED are just rumors at the present time, and this does not necessarily reflect our administration. There is nothing concrete yet, and we are still discussing whether or not to keep QUALITY STANDARDS.
I hope you will continue to hold judgment until we have announced our official position on DOMINO'S FRANCHISE ORDER ONLINE NOW, which will be very soon.
Regards, and Go Blue!!
Email to Brandon from Rich Rodriguez:
The recent staff meeting seemed rather vague. I feel there were many points that were not touched on, probably to save face and not create more rumors since there is no hiding from the media lately. I have had to deal with this a lot in practices, so I understand, but if we meet privately we can discuss matters further and talk about how we should handle things the right way.
Get back to me when you can and we can meet,
Brandon's automated response:
I would first like to say that the Big Ten, its officials, its administration, and all the Athletic Directors of the conference are understanding of the problems we are going through. I know that RECENT STAFF MEETIN' is a big issue to a lot of FOLKS, and we still have work to do before we can be official on our TOUCHED ON policy. We need to think about how to properly CREATE MORE RUMORS before we can actually begin to do it. There's a big lack of HIDING FROM THE MEDIA LATELY, and we're WORKIN' on it, and YOU CAN COUNT ON THAT, SON. I am not only the AD, but also a fan, so I understand your views. We all have had to DEAL WITH THIS A LOT IN PRACTICES. I will take your suggestion to MEET PRIVATELY WE CAN DISCUSS MATTERS into consideration, and assure you that we will not rush into HANDLE THINGS THE RIGHT WAY.
I hope you can help us by being patient, and trust that we will try our best to AND WE CAN MEET RICH.
GIT R' DONE, and Go Blue.
Rodriguez's automated response:
"Hello DAVE, and GO BLUE!
First and foremost, let me address your first question. There is no word yet on the QB situation, but all three of our QB's are progressing very well. There is no clear cut winner, and each has their own qualities. They are all looking good, but hopefully we will have a frontrunner for the starting job soon.
GO BLUE! Now on to the rest of your email. I understand that tradition is important, and I want to continue that. GO BLUE! Please don't hate me. I hope we will soon find an answer to THAT RECENT STAFF MEETIN', but there are about 4 or 5 guys who could fill that spot already. We even have some freshmen vying for playing time in the FOLKS position, and several guys who can score a lot of TOUCHED ONs for us.
I try to address the MEDIA best I can, and our whole program is trying to PROPERLY CREATE MORE RUMORS while still WORKIN'ing ON IT. We know you understand that YOU CAN COUNT.
As THE AD and BUT ALSO A FAN, I hope you can come out and see us prove ourselves come September 4th. We are preparing for UConn, yes, and we are hoping our passing game and our RUSHing INTO HANDLE THINGS THE RIGHT WAY yards can climb from the past two years, and hopefully lead the Big Ten.
I know the fans are eager to see us win and BEING PATIENT, and I thank you for tryin' hard to AND WE CAN MEET RICH in the countdown to that first game.
Finally, to address your last question, There is no word yet on the QB situation, but all three of our QB's are progressing very well. There is no clear cut winner, and each has their own qualities. They are all looking good, but hopefully we will have a frontrunner for the starting job soon.
Hope to see you in the Big House Sept. 4th!
Don't call me DickRod.
Brandon's automated response:
I understand all your concerns, and let me reassure you that we will announce SYSTEM ERROR - - -
Go Blue!! GoB!! GBlue!!Go BlGo Bl Blue!!Go B !Go Blue!!Go Blue!!
DAVE AND GO BLUE"
"This is Coach Rodriguez's aide. How can we stop these from sending back and forth? This computer is moving really slow now and won't stop displaying Domino's ads. I'm just an intern, I'm not trained in IT or anything. Thanks man, hope an aide sees this on that side. I'll email my super."
"Delete system 32. That should help it stop."
"This message to RRGoBlue4EverSrsly@mgoblue.com has not been sent. The account has either been deleted or closed due to inactivity. Thanks for your understanding."
I really hope this isn't half as stupid as I think it is looking back on it, after finishing it... hope you guys like it. I should probably revise, but meh.
Some things should never be changed:
This is one of them
We think we can’t stop it but we shouldn’t stop trying. We think that the countless voices across the blogosphere and fan forums can’t change the powers-that-be up in higher places that sit in lofty Chicago penthouses or Ann Arbor and Columbus mansions, drinking hundred-dollar scotch while tinkering with some of our most revered traditions. We think we can’t, we probably can’t. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
While it may be true that some “traditions” seem trivial or mundane and some “don’t seem to work,” there are some that should NEVER be touched. Touching the “M Club” banner, dotting the Script ‘I’, with Winged helmets, Carmen Ohio and The Victors are a few examples – playing Ohio State the last game at the end of November is another. The useless traditions fade away as fast as the wishbone offense and Nike jerseys - the enduring, valued traditions, that endure the tests of time and the changing ways around them. These traditions are the ones that stay, and those who stay, will be champions.
There are those, even amongst Michigan and Ohio State camps would prefer to move The Game earlier in the year, or at the least – have conformed to the idea. This is a dangerous way of thinking.
Like Ramzy posted on Bucknuts, stating far more eloquently than I ever could: "What is a big deal is corrupting the tradition of college football, which is its most prized and unique asset.....it’s the steady destruction of what keeps college football from just being slower, smaller professional football. Without tradition, that’s all college football is."
But these individuals don’t care – so they try to change it. At best, they make excuses and reasons. At worst, theybelittle our traditions, tell us we are out-dated, and want to determine (what is and what was) right and wrong for past, current, and future generations of Michigan and Ohio State fans – all because they think that their logic and their ideas trumps everything (and this idea doesn't even have logic behind it). And they think we're arrogant?
We hold on to our traditions. We respect our traditions. We remember Mercury Hayes in 1993, we remember Timmy B in 95, and we remember Griese off the bench in 96, to say nothing of matchups in the last decade....does anyone honestly think those games would be just as significant played in October, or knowing that we would perhaps face them again in a Big Ten title game? Hell no!
I remember the pure, unadulterated ecstasy that accompanied the feeling of watching the boys put up 13 unanswered in the Shoe in 1996, to see Cooper's face on the sideline. I remember what it feels like to spoil your mortal enemy’s entire season in just a few, precious hours on late November afternoon.
At the same time, I also remember the feeling in 2004, 2005, and 2006, seeing rows of scarlet-clad fans rush the field in jubilation. Would the pangs of sadness have been as intense had it been played October? Would The Game lose any significance if there was always the possiblity of the season being defined as The GameS? The answer seems obvious.
It’s when we remember these moments and show respect to the ones who played and coached, we respect the generations before us, something that has existed long before us and (hopefully) will exist after us.
Coach Schiano sums it up best:"When Delany, Brandon, Smith, and the other nominal powers-that-be decide, for good reasons or bad, to move the Game, they are not just changing the schedule. They are changing our memories, changing the sights and sounds in our minds. Not destroying them. But lessening them, cheapening them."
So what do we think in the face of such disregard of something so sacred? We fight! And we fight the arrogant attitude of the Big Ten, Delaney, Gee, Smith, and even Dave Brandon and anyone who thinks that they know better than the ones who have come before us. We fight even if we know we cannot win. We battle back to defend the traditions others believe are insignificant, out-dated, irrelevant and close-minded.
I also hate that term: close-minded. They attack our values by saying we’re close-minded. Close-minded? We're close minded because we want our history to have a voice? We're close-minded because we believe that those traditions are part of what connect us with those before and those who will come after? We’re close-minded because we want the countless generations who have come before us and have experienced the same as us to shape our reality? We’re close-minded because we want our children and grandchildren to experience the same thrills and agonies that we have? We're close-minded because we think The Game, which has been played as, proved to be and become the Greatest Rivalry in All of Sports for generations should not be changed?
That makes us close minded, when they are the ones who want to close the book on a hundred years of history, forget everyone before us, and ruin everything we have known as good in our little scope of time known as the "BCS era" because they think they have something new and better? Who's close-minded?
We're not close minded - THEY are!
--NoNon (I don't want to beat a dead horse but these are the feelings that I have)
Hi. My name is Brian, and I am 28. For 20 of those years, I have been a Michigan fan, and until last week, I thought I had it pretty good. There was smugness in my fandom, superiority, feelings that often would cross over into (yes) Arrogance. I looked down at fans of other teams, in other sports, in other leagues.
Where does your team play? Citizen's Bank Park? That's nice. My team's stadium not only doesn't have a name, we also don't even have ads inside. At all. Oh, you're Jets fan? That's great, but why do you only play the Giants once every seven years? Why can't the NFL see how great a rivalry that could be? Sure, the Mets are cool, but they are 100 years younger than my Wolverines.
For twenty years, I thought we were special. We loved a college team, made up of our classmates, at a place we actually had a connection to. The kids that loved pro teams the most were just throwing their money at a corporation, an office building somewhere that didn’t really care as long as people still paid. Ours was a two-way street, where the team and the school remembered us, the past, and why these things mattered.
I could handle the increase in TV money, the championship games, the BCS. These were unwelcome, certainly, but those things couldn’t touch what it meant to be a Michigan fan. “All we want is to win a lot of games, beat OSU, and get to the Rose Bowl. Everything after that is gravy”.
Coach Shiano is right when he says we are about to lose our memories. However, it is even worse than that. We are about to lose our identities. The greatest day in sports (even the Old Firm matches in Glasgow are spread out over two different days) is going to be taken out back, shot, and fed to ABC, for the sum of less than a million dollars.
My first child will be born this fall, a few weeks before the game. It sounds petty, but I couldn’t wait to dress him or her up in a tiny block M shirt, and watch the game from the couch, knowing we would do this every year at the same time until I died. If we can’t count on the game, what can we count on?
[Ed: Bump for truth.]
"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." (Marcel Proust)
We all begin these stories with two simple words: "I remember." That is how mine begins too.
I remember my dad turning off the TV, too agitated to even watch, even when we won.
I remember how the game often fell on my birthday, and the common result: one friend or the other's present to me were two tickets to see the event. What better gift?
I remember the first time I saw it in person, 1985, or at least the first time I remember seeing it in person. It wasn't a particularly nice day (when is it nice in November?), and a distinct chill settled over the stadium when Cris Carter caught a leaping touchdown to bring that team within three. Far too much time on the clock. The sky looming gray, threatening. The lights were on, casting an unusual glow on the field. And on 2nd and 7, trapped deep in our own end, a young Jim Harbaugh faded back into the pocket, looked left, and stepped firmly into Michigan History (at 8:11 in the clip below):
What I remember most about that play: the sudden roar of the crowd as the ball landed in Kolesar's hands; the entire stadium standing up to see what happened (blocking my own view, mostly). What I could see: on the side of the field where I was, Harbaugh laying on the ground, a referee huddling over him to make sure he wasn't hurt. Yes ref, he's OK. He just won The goddamned Game.
I remember too the next time I saw the Game in person, Earle Bruce's last. The bitter disappointment of losing, but the small secret pleasure of seeing a beleaguered coach, just fired from a job he loved, carried off the field by his team.
I remember God's seeming reply to Bruce's firing. And thus He spake: "So you don't want to go .500 against Michigan, huh? How about 2-10-1?". I remember irony.
I remember many years of living on the west coast, with The Game being one of the few games I knew I'd be able to watch, one of my few connections to my past, my roots. And who can forget: Shawn Springs slipping, Charles Woodson intercepting/receiving/punt-returning. And yes, I remember Timmy.
When we talk about the Game, that is all we talk about: our memories. This is why the current plans to tinker offend. It is as if someone is reaching into your mind and altering those memories that you hold so dear. As a movie plot, maybe. As something for our collective football hive mind, not so much.
We all remember so much about that one day in November. As Proust points out, our memories may not reflect reality. I know, for example, that somewhere in my mind, Crable didn't get flagged for a late hit, and we won that damn game. But, good or bad, they are our memories, and as fans, they are what we cherish about this silly but beautiful pastime.
When Delany, Brandon, Smith, and the other nominal powers-that-be decide, for good reasons or bad, to move the Game, they are not just changing the schedule. They are changing our memories, changing the sights and sounds in our minds. Not destroying them. But lessening them, cheapening them.
And this is why we write letters, post diaries, join facebook groups. A vain attempt to protect our brains, our memories. Our maize and blue blood telling us to strike out at this agent; it seems harmful, it smells foul. And perhaps, also, as one last vain attempt to ensure that for our next generation of fans, these same sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible memories will one day be theirs, too.
I know too much on this topic has already been said. But as I woke this morning, this is what was in me. I imagine it is in many of you too. So if I offend for yet another post on said topic, well, sorry about that. Perhaps I shouldn't apologize, though. As Disraeli said, "Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth."
This is the home of the U Conn visitors list. I'll update the list as I talk to more players. As always you can get more updates from me on my Twitter Page.
- Demetrius Hart - The visit is back on, according to his mom.
- Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix - He's coming with Demetrius.
- AJ Jordan - Trotwood wide receiver. Wisconsin may lead right now, so it's good to get him on campus.
- Anthony Zettel - He said he thinks he's coming, so it's not 100%. If he does it will be unofficially. Either way it will be good to have him on campus for a game..
- Avery Walls - Safety out of Georgia has been to Michigan twice, and rumors are that Michigan leads.
- Daren Kitchen - Defensive back from Louisiana might not be coming.
- Jake Fisher - Michigan commit will be there.
- Delonte Hollowell - Michigan commit.
- Brennen Beyer - Michigan commit.
- Coy Brown - running back from Indiana
- Brian Blackburn - Instate quarterback.
- Terry Richardson - Cass Tech DB.
- Chris Wormley - Ohio defensive end.
- Matt Godin - Instate defensive tackle from Detroit Catholic Central will be there. He's best friends with Danny O'Brien, and they'll be traveling together. They're both very high on Michigan.
- Danny O'Brien - Instate defensive tackle, big time prospect. 6-foot-3, 278-pound defensive tackle from Flint Powers. He has Michigan and Tennessee as his top two so far. He still wants to look at some other schools, though, so that's an early list. Says he was a Michigan fan when he was really young, and he has started to really like them this summer. Talking with Coach Rodriguez and seeing the facilities has brought his interest up.
- Tyler Alt: Tyler is a Defensive/Offensive Lineman from Greensbug Central Catholic in Pennsylvania. I've been emailing back and forth with his dad, and they will be in for the first game. Michigan is recruiting Tyler as a guard/center, or DE/DT. As a sophomore Alt was All State honorable mention, and listed by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette as one of the top 10 sophomores in western PA. He plays OT and DE now in high school, but at 6-foot-3, 260-pounds he'd be better suited as mentioned before on the interior of either line. Here's a look at his sophomore film. His dad said he is very interested in Michigan.
- Nick Patti (Still coming even if D. Hart doesn't) - 2012 QB, teammate of Demetrius Hart will be up with his Dad, and potentially with his trainer Tom Shaw. Shaw trains a ton of football players in Florida, including Florida State commit Karlos Williams. Nick told me that Shaw will play a big role in his decision, and he considers Tom to be an uncle. Getting him on campus could be a good thing for a few reasons.
- Hunter and Cam Stanley - 2012 offensive linemen from Toledo, Ohio. They're twins! The 6-foot-4, 260-pound linemen are both very high on Michigan. They camped at Michigan's four-day camp, and jointly took home the offensive line MVP award (they do everything together!). Hunter actually ran his best 40 time at Michigan's camp with a 4.75. Michigan is in their top three along with Notre Dame and Northwestern. They both want to make their decision relatively early, and as you can tell by their list they think they fit best in a spread offense.
- .....AND TWINS!! (I had to)
- Kaleb Ringer - 2012 linebacker from Clayton, Ohio. His uncle is Javon Ringer, former MSU star running back. He told me his family affiliations won't play into anything, and he's actually a Michigan fan (FWIW). He currently holds verbal offers from Cincinnati and Iowa, which is a good sign of his talent level. He and his teammate Jeremy Campbell (DL) will be there. Campbell is listed at 5'11-6'0, weighing in at around 250-pounds. Ringer says that Campbell can squat 750 pounds, which seems like a lot to me. [Ed: me too.]
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2012 Cass Tech linebacker will be there. He loves Michigan.
- Chase Deback - 2012 instate offensive lineman from Charlotte, Michigan. Says he's a fan of Michigan State, but will put his fandom to the side for his recruitment. He wants to go wherever he feels is the best place for him. Being a fan of MSU growing up won't play into it. It's often hard for 16-17 year olds to distinguish the difference, though.
- Nathan Ricketts - 2012 instate linebacker. Shameless plug here. Ricketts is a 6-foot-2 linebacker with some good speed from Holland, Michigan.