Why has my team moved to Norman, Oklahoma? Lessons from coaching transitions past; Keys to “Great Success” in football; Tempo i
Why has my team moved to Norman, Oklahoma? Lessons from coaching transitions past; Keys to “Great Success” in football; Tempo is for favorites and other people who hate variance; Broad evolution in coaching hires; Ideologies kill coaches; Special teams venting; And, maybe… all is not lost?
I present the first 15 years of conference records for two coaches I hold in very high regard. Bo Schembechler and Bob Stoops. The first seasons and the tie give it away but I’m so struck by how similar they are. They even switched to a nine game conference schedule in the same year of their tenures.
Bob Stoops might be this generation’s Bo except that he got a NC. Their win percentages are about the same and OU is almost always great regardless of the assistant coaches or players they lose. OU hired Bob at age 39 and Michigan hired Bo at 40 so both had very long runways to establish their programs. Both paired good defenses with good offenses which SURPRISE, makes football teams good at football. Bo’s offenses where great mostly due to talent since back then teams had more scholarships available so the best teams could hoard all the talent making schemes matter less.
Side Note: The 85 scholarship cap is responsible for a lot more parity nowadays, but success still breeds success. Captain Obvious says, “Ideally our next hire would be that kind of home run.”
What can learn from the Stoops hire? I think we learned that you can hire a coordinator to a prestige program and have success. Also you need to cover the HC’s blind spots. Stoops was a DC and hired Mike Leach to run his offense after seeing what he was doing at Kentucky while they were both in the SEC. Mike Leach was hired away after 1 season but from then on the Air Raid + good defense has been what’s made OU great.
Bob Stoops’ coaching tree is pretty impressive, also he is from the Bill Snyder / Hayden Fry coaching tree which is also huge so there is plenty of connections to help an assistant from his tree find more quality assistants.
Bob Stoops Coaching Tree
· Mike Leach – Good HC; probably got screwed at TT; a little crazy
o Greg McMackin – Not bad but resigned under odd circumstances
o Sonny Dykes – Good at LaTech but too early to call for Cal
o Ruffin McNeill – ECU has been good under him but they were good when he took over
o Dana Holgorsen – Like RR needs Jeff Casteel on D to win
o Art Briles – Turned Baylor into a team that actually wins at football! Baylor!
· Mark Mangino – Made Kansas good! More than a little crazy
· Mike Stoops – Could never get Zona past OK
· Chuck Long – Not so good at San Diego State
· Kevin Sumlin – Do want! BTW former OSU DC Mark Snyder under Tressel is his current DC
· Bo Pelini – Pretty good but not Tom Osborne, but no one is Tom Osborne; Also more than a little crazy, but not Mangino crazy
o Carl Pelini – Florida Atlantic didn’t go very well
o Tim Beck – I just like his offense so I included him
· Kevin Wilson – Indiana is chaos team due to insanely good offense and terrible defense
I would be pretty happy with the success most of those guys had if they also had Michigan's resources, though I would prefer less crazy in my head coach than a lot of those guys.
I also thought it was very interesting how some of the most successful coaching transitions transpired. The best at it is probably Urban Meyer. First, he leaves BGSU to go to Utah and keeps Kyle Whittingham to run his defense. This worked out pretty well. Then he moves on to Florida to find that Charlie Strong is there so he keeps him and that worked out pretty well too. He then keeps Luke Fickell around at OSU. That worked out only ok by his standards so he brought in Chris Ash this year since Fickell isn’t as good as than the other two guys, but it still probably helped with the transition year. Another example in this mold is Dana Holgorsen going to WVU and keeping Casteel around and winning big until RR stole Casteel away. More along the lines of Bob Stoops, Kevin Sumlin hired Mark Snyder to be his DC at A&M who had won the NC under Tressel as his DC, results so far have been positive.
In the final analysis the key to being really good at football is being really good on offense and defense, and being good on both sides of the ball depends on having good coordinators on both sides of the ball, who’da thunk it.
If you can be good on a play to play basis then you have to get the higher level game theory strategies right so that you get the results you deserve more often than not. Also, you do not have to be able to coach a team to figure this out and since time is so limited to coaches they probably never think about it since being good on a play by play basis is rightly their main focus. Besides if you suck than this doesn’t matter as much, but this is where tempo comes in to play though. If I’m a crappy team then I want to slow the game down as much as possible so that randomness becomes more important to the outcome of a game, because if talent and skill alone determine the outcome then I will always lose. If I’m an awesome team then I want a huge sample size so that randomness becomes less of a factor, so I’ll want to play at as high a tempo as possible so that I don’t lose due to bad luck. If I’m evenly matched with the other team then it doesn’t matter as much but going slow will still increase the variance in the outcome so I’d prefer to go fast so that our evenness will get a better chance at playing out and the order of events matter less.
Now that we’ve laid the ground work for what tempo people should run based on their skill level I want to consider how this should be taken into account with coaching hires. Most head coaches at bigger schools are hired away from smaller schools. When the coaches were at the smaller schools the optimal strategy was to go as slow as possible to increase their chances of winning. When coaches get hired to bigger schools they carry over everything that worked for them in the past because experience tells them that it made them successful. Thus, the slow tempo trait was naturally selected into the upper echelons of coaching. Things that the coaches perceive to have aided them in the past are raised to the level of an ideology and ideologies cannot be changed. This is mostly due to man’s influence from association tendency and inconsistency avoidance tendency but other psychological biases are at play as well.
A few things happen to generally bring about the demise of slow tempo in the temples of college football. First, with necessity being the mother of invention small schools develop better schemes in order to compete. They also try to tire out the other team since everyone is used to going at a snail pace and most teams don’t have the conditioning of these smaller schools since they didn’t plan on using it and the other guys did. Second, is the David vs. Goliath effect where if you are David do not try and out Goliath, Goliath. You need to do something else so that you can fight more evenly, get yourself a damn slingshot! So, teams go to a spread the field style since at the power schools they are typically smash mouth, load’em up style teams so their nickel and dime packages aren’t as good as their typical starters. Third, the traditional slow pace of power teams makes upsets more likely for the underdogs which then get their coaches hired away to the power schools. Lastly, once at the power schools their tempo that they adopted for other reasons helps them avoid as many upsets and high variance losses as their predecessors which means they get to keep their jobs.
Broad evolution is iterative so that at any single point in time we are not likely to have reached the optimal solution. I believe this was especially true with head football coaches that inherited significant competitive advantages and saw no reason to change since they were still winning due to those advantages, but they never reached the optimal solution. I don’t think anything exemplifies that better than Carr’s last game where every fan thought to themselves, “where has this been all my life?”
I have a feeling that Brady thinks that he needs his dominate defense to carry his bad offense and the best way to do that is to play slow. I don’t think this is the right solution since a dominate defense still needs a large sample size to prove it. By going slow and increasing variance the actual effect is that the defense’s awesomeness can be hidden by randomness. I think that this was probably naturally selected into Brady which he then elevated into a belief and beliefs like ideologies are very hard to change in people.
I think other psychological biases have caused shield punting to be verboten in the Hoke era. Other people have pointed this out but Brady was on the Carr staff that first introduced shield punting to Michigan and it went very poorly. This type of extra vivid evidence causes the data to be overweighed in the human mind since it is more available than the myriad of non-event data points that dominate the punting game. Confirmation bias then sets in so that anytime one of his teams, or any team for that matter, blocks a punt against the shield this further entrenches his belief. Everyone is susceptible to these biases unless you are Darwin and make it a habit to pay extra attention to disconfirming evidence.
In other special teams’ issues, missed field goals are essentially turnovers and long field goal attempts in college have a high probability of being missed. Why do we bother kicking these? If we make it we get three points and they likely get it at their 25. If we miss we get nothing and they get great field position. The odds are high that a college kicker will miss a 45+ yarder. If we go for it they either get good field position if we fail or we get a chance to score a TD or at least increase the odds of a FG by being closer. It would depend on distance to go to determine the probabilities but most of the time if feel like going for it is the call. This is mostly venting since I didn’t do the math and am thus allowing myself to be swayed by psychological forces that impair cognition but even so missing a field goal is essentially getting sacked for seven yards on fourth down and it hurts a certain sensitive part of my soul every time. I think this might show up properly in Mathlete’s win probability charts so math may absolve me yet.
All may not be lost for this season though since on a per play basis Michigan is actually not bad. The problem is that we are killing nearly every damn drive with a turnover or some similar disaster. At least that’s what my availability addled brain is telling me. If turnovers disappear then what you do on a per play basis matters again and maybe we can be good, or at least not bad. That’s our only hope for this year really; that we stop killing ourselves on offense and our very good defense carries us to victories. Maybe even the slow tempo will help us against MSU and OSU, variance does help the underdog and we are certainly that this year against both of them.
Wait never mind, I just read the offensive UFR and all is probably lost for this season but at least our defense doesn’t suck anymore so that’s pretty awesome and maybe we can keep the coaches on the good side of the ball this time around. Always look on the bright side of life…
So after all of this my conclusions are thus:
For a new Coach:
1. Usually the new HC is the from opposite side of the football from previous one and all coaches have blind spots; Protect the blind spots
2. Keeping some of the previous staff significantly reduces transition costs and teams tend to have one bad side of the ball that is keeping them down, the New Mexicos of the world don’t have much hope anyway
3. If the new HC is an offensive guy (likely) then he should retain the defensive staff since the defense is actually really good
4. If the new HC is a defensive guy then we should help him find an OC that has proven to already be awesome somewhere else
5. The Air Raid is picked up quickly by new teams and has aided in first year successes of the Stoops progeny
6. Josh Heupel, anybody? No, ok just me.
For football in general:
7. Being an ideologue typically leads to underachievement and losses and firings and pain
8. Shield punting or death
9. Slow pace leads to high variance which is the enemy of the favorite and people who don’t like luck to decide games, Michigan should always hate variance
10. Missed long field goals are TOs
11. TOs kill football coaches and fans
12. Gugh… why can’t we be like Oklahoma anymore
Lots of talk about the possible dismissal of Brady Hoke this week. And deservedly so. We lose.... often. Those traditions not being ignored are cannibalized to maximize profit. The students aren't interested because the games are too filled with commercial timeouts and the product sucks. We are treated to a weekly air show made up of private planes. Sweet Caroline and Sweet Cherry Pie. Thank goodness for the regents' call on the fireworks.
Is Michigan Football broken? If it is then someone else needs to repair it. Dave Brandon can go to hell (or at lease be fired) immediately, but what of Hoke? The last 10 games have been awful, there's no denying, but I see hope. The coaches talk about the building of a foundation and I see that. The defense appears to be poised to be near-elite by the end of the year. The offensive line remains bad, but it's clearly improved from last year and this while working with an entirely new offense (again). The skill positions are fine and improving. The QB situation will figure itself out as the line provides better protection and a better running game. Our players seem like decent guys and I don't worry about a tattoo or car scandal hitting campus.
The fact is I want my Michigan Football back and it's not my Michigan Football without a "Bo" level of class. Hoke strives for this and it's important. For those who want to compete the way the SEC competes I have no good argument. It just isn't my thing and I don't want to associate myself with it. There was so much promise after Hoke's first season. Even before this season. But we all suspected 2015 would be our real year to compete. Starting over now may put off winning another 5 years.
Here's what I think.....In 5 years Ohio won't give a damn about our whole state and they'll field a good team. Iowa or someone else will replace Sparty as a good B1G team that isn't normally very good. Tennessee or Miami will be in the news for a group of their players caught with a retail supply of the drug of the day. Mississippi State will be caught up in an academic scandal. Auburn and Alabama will each have 24 verbal commitments on their way to 33 member classes. USC will be breaking in another head coach. And if we stay the course, Michigan will be a Top 10 team we will be proud to associate with. The damage done by Lloyd's end-of-career bad recruiting and RichRod's poor performance (his fault or not) have taken time to fix. We're almost home.
Hello. First Diary entry, woo! [ EDIT: Lol nope, my 2nd. forgot about the one I did in '09]
So, when the offensive line struggles, the claim is frequently made that the offensive line is too small. I heard this alot on call-in radio shows during the RR era, and it's starting to creep back into style, or so it seems to me.
So, I thought let's see just how big Michigan's line is compared to the rest of the B1G. I basically went through every B1G teams site, got the roster and then checked the game participation notes from the most recent game they were in to see who was listed as starting on the OL.
I then computed the average weight of the OL for that team/game.
Notes: I didn't include any TE's or FB. Just from one tackle to the other.
I didn't check for situation subs (unbalanced lines, etc.)
I went by weight alone, didn't look at height. Perhaps I should have gone by body mass index?
Would be nice to do a comparison of games played / experience as well. Maybe next time.
Also some teams rather suspiciously seemed to have players weights in exact increments of 5 pounds. Some teams roster's were worse than others in this regard. But the roster is all I really have to go on, so, it is what it is.
So, here is the sorted list of average weight of offensive lines in the Big Ten.
*If Kalis is in UM's line instead of Glasgow, the average drops to 301.0
Michigan is smack right in the middle. No surprise Wisconsin is tops, by a relatively large margin. Iowa, a somewhat run-first offense, is surprisingly near the bottom. Indiana's potent offense is also only at 295.
The most notable thing here is probably that in terms of weight most lines are roughly the same.
So IMO this shows that Michigan's line isn't undersized. To some this may not be a big deal, but I've always bristled at the claims of UM's line being small for a reason for them struggling. I always felt that is just a knee jerk superficial criticism. It's kind of a pet peeve and I wanted to dispel any such notion.
Raw data below
52 Mason Cole OL 6-5 292 FR
78 Erik Magnuson OL 6-6 294 RS SO
60 Jack Miller OL 6-4 299 RS JR
61 Graham Glasgow OL 6-6 311 RS JR
71 Ben Braden OL 6-6 322 RS SO
67 Kyle Kalis OL 6-5 298 RS SO
average weight: 303.6
w/Kalis instead of Glasgow: 301.0
LT 71 Lewis, Alex 290
LG 68 Cotton, Jake 305
C 56 Pelini, Mark 290
RG 74 Moudy, Mike 305
RT 57 Sterup, Zach 320
LT 66 Cermin, Cameron 303
LG 72 King, Jason 309
C 57 Kugler, Robert 298
RG 70 Roos, Jordan 312
RT 73 Prince, J.J. 302
LT 68 Cvijanovic, S. 310
LG 5H Hill, Alex 310
C 71 Spencer, Joe 300
RG 69 Karras, Ted 310
RT 74 Heitz, Michael 310
LT 65 Campion, Josh 317
LG 52 Epping, Zac 318
C 58 Olson, Tommy 306
RG 77 Bush, Foster 304
RT 78 Lauer, Ben 315
LT 78 Jorgensen, Paul 295
LG 53 Mogus, Geoff 295
C 66 Vitabile, B. 300
RG 57 Frazier, Matt 290
RT 76 Olson, Eric 290
LT 68 Scherff, B. 320
LG 79 Welsh, Sean 285
C 63 Blythe, Austin 290
RG 65 Walsh, Jordan 290
RT 78 Donnal, Andrew 305
LT 68 Decker, Taylor 315
LG 65 Elflein, Pat 300
C 50 Boren, Jacoby 285
RG 54 Price, Billy 312
RT 76 Baldwin, Darryl 307
RT 59 Nelson, Andrew 305
RG 53 Dowrey, Derek 323
C 66 Mangiro, Angelo 309
LG 70 Mahon, Brendan 292
LT 76 Smith, Donovan 335
74 Jack Conklin OT 6-6 303 SO
63 Travis Jackson OL 6-4 291 SR
66 Jack Allen C 6-2 299 JR
76 Donavon Clark OL 6-4 306 JR
79 Kodi Kieler OL 6-6 304 SO
average weight: 300.6
61 Marz, Tyler OL 6-5 321 RS JR
73 Lewallen, DallasOL 6-6 321 RS SR
70 Voltz, Dan OL 6-3 311 RS SO
54 Costigan, Kyle OL 6-5 319 RS SR
78 Havenstein, Rob OL 6-8 333 RS SR
LT 78 Spriggs, Jason 300
LG 68 Kaminski, David 295
C 64 Rahrig, Collin 285
RG 67 Feeney, Dan 305
RT 62 Evans, Ralston 290
T 76 Dunn 300
G 68 Altamirano 290
C 65 Conaboy 295
G 66 Zeller 310
T 55 Doyle 300
WEEK 4 IN THE BIG TEN: HERE COMES THE CONFERENCE
For better or worse, the out-of-conference schedule is now firmly behind Michigan and we look towards the next eight games to see how the regular season will shake out for us. Admittedly, right now, the anxiety level if elevated even for me for a lot of reasons which have been discussed ad nauseam on the board in the last few days, so I would rather not spend time dwelling.
Instead, let’s take a look at where Michigan sits with respect to the conference on some basic metrics. Actually, let’s switch this up a bit and start with some tempo-free stuff – these are not all that bad relatively speaking.
We’ll start with point differentials on scoring offense – there is one team in the negative, and it is actually Purdue at -1.6 points. Michigan is not that much higher at 9th, but 3.8 points for a differential is, well, positive. I will put it that way. Here are the conference averages:
Michigan is actually fourth in yards per play differential, largely thanks to great defense, at 1.9 yards per play. Only Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State are doing better in this respect. Of course, the number is in our case a synthesis of being 1st in total defense but 9th in total offense. The relative positioning of the conference members as a function of total yards is below:
Rushing offense is what you might expect from the Big Ten lately – there is Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana and others, but for the moment, we do fall in at 6th in the conference on this metric, averaging 211 yards per game. That’s still a massive improvement from last year, especially late last year. When it comes to run defense, we’re rather stout, as you will note below:
Our passing numbers…well….we’re 12th in the conference at 193.2 yards per game on average, but 3rd in passing defense. Again, the idea that the defense is carrying the brunt of the load right now seems to play out in the stats this season.
How about some stuff on down differentials? I didn’t do formal charts this time around, but perhaps next week and I know people enjoyed the discussion topic in the past. For both first and third down differentials, Michigan sits nicely in the upper half of Big Ten teams at +6.5 for first downs and +12.5% for third downs. In other words, despite what it looks like sometimes, we are winning some rather key battles on the field for the time being. Our next two Big Ten opponents are in the negative on both these metrics, which on paper is hopeful.
Yeah, so, I wrote this today:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Scene: a futuristic computer room, ringed with terminals and transparent screens. A single, long-haired blogger dude stands in the midst, wearing an electric glove, wired with electrodes, and manipulating data. Suddenly the man stops, and waits. A small, coral-colored ball emerges from a tube in the ceiling, bearing a cryptic imprinted message:
Scene: an outdoor dining table behind a palatial country club. A fifty-ish man in corporate chic [DAVE BRANDON] snaps a slice of Negihama roll from the hip of a nude prostitute, prompting a giggle.
PROSTITUTE: Are you ready for me, Ralph?
DAVE BRANDON: Actually, you can just call me “Dave.”
The shadow of approaching guest [RICH RODRIGUEZ] darkens the foreground.
DAVE BRANDON: What now? Rodriguez. And what, may I ask, is it I can do for you today?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well as you know, our defense ain’t been ‘zacly what people expect.
DAVE BRANDON: You don’t say. And this is my problem becauzzzz? [exchanges glances with sushi-bearing prostitute]
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I’s just hopin’ maybe, if I could get a little bit-a more money--
DAVE BRANDON: More money? MORE money?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, well, see, there’s this guy I know, Jeff Casteel—
DAVE BRANDON: I see. So you want ME to give YOU more money so you can hire “some guy you know.” [making air quotes] Great plan, southern man.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: That’s basically the gist of it. But we was top ten at West Virginia.
DAVE BRANDON: Okay. But you gotta ask me nicely. [Prostitute smiles again.]
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Say what?
DAVE BRANDON: You gotta ask me nicely. You come here, asking me for more money to spend on your spread offense and your ‘traditional’ white road uniforms. You gotta ask me nicely.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Alright then. Pretty please, can I have money to hire Jeff Casteel?
DAVE BRANDON: Ha ha. Let me give you a little advice, so you know. In times of economic uncertainty, never, ever fuck with another man's livelihood. Go have fun, now? You know fun, time of your life? And don’t ever come back here. [Brandon and prostitute laugh diabolically}
Scene: a rural linebacker farm in the rolling Virginia hills, west of Baltimore. The aging proprietor [GREG MATTISON] stares excitedly as the beak of a new hatchling pokes through its shell. Above the incubator, a strip of masking tape says “Hybrid Space Player.” Suddenly, the barn door swings open, to reveal a lone figure [BRADY HOKE]—corpulent, with bare arms in winter.
GREG MATTISON: No, no, no, no sir. Can’t use him, don’t want him, couldn’t afford him if I did.
The figure [BRADY HOKE] approaches.
GREG MATTISON: I heard all about you and Dave Brandon. Me though, I’m retired, don’t want none of that. But you’re welcome to come in, have a beer, and play some euchre.
Scene moves to dim living room. A flickering old CRT televisions set murmurs in the background, children sleep among cookie crumbs and empty soda bottles. Two men [GREG MATTISON and BRADY HOKE] slide the coffee table against a wall.
GREG MATTISON: You sure you want to do this? I was All-American, remember?
BRADY HOKE: [slurred] I’m taking you down this time, biy-atch.
The men begin wrestling. Much furniture is smashed. Camera pans around to capture championship trophies from the Florida Gators, Baltimore Ravens, Michigan Wolverines. GREG MATTISON eventually gains the upper hand.
GREG MATTISON: You coach that team, Brady, and you’ll FAIL! You’ll fail, god dammit! Dave Brandon is no particular friend. He’d put you in the wall today if he could get Harbaugh tomorrow.
BRADY HOKE: [Out of breath] But I need this, Greg. I haven’t got anything else.
Scene: The Big House, Ann Arbor, Michigan--a roaring football stadium at night, fans waving yellow pom-poms and chanting along to piped-in techno music. Down on the field, DEVIN GARDNER confidently steps into the Michigan huddle. A voice [AL BORGES] crackles on his helmet mic.
AL BORGES: Maverick, this is Ghost Rider. Take angels 10-left-three-zero.
DEVIN GARDNER: Roger.
Looks up at teammates
DEVIN GARDNER: Angels 10-left-three-zero. Jeremy, you got him?
JEREMY GALLON: Roger.
DEVIN GARDNER: Okay—you hook’em. Jehu will clean’em and fry’em.
Players line up in a shotgun formation.
DEVIN GARDNER: Contact, 20 left at 30! Nine hundred! Nine Hundred! Set, hut!
Players begin running, pads begin popping, Gardner throws a pass to Jeremy Gallon. Gallon catches it, spins off two defenders, and scores. Crowd goes absolutely wild. Meanwhile, Jehu Chesson blocks three defenders into a pile, then stands over them.
JEHU CHESSON: “Watch the birdie!”
Snaps a Polaroid. Scene fades
Scene: Jubilant locker room. Sweaty Michigan football players gather around Head Coach BRADY HOKE, clap and sing “The Victors.”
BRADY HOKE: I’m really proud of the way this team practiced, this team executed. Enjoy this one. But we’ve still got ten more to play—
Hoke pauses momentarily, as a grinning DAVE BRANDON shuffles through the crowd
BRADY HOKE: So yeah, I want’chall enjoy this one, then we’ll be right back to work tomorrow morning.
A cheer goes up from the players, who begin turning away…
DAVE BRANDON: One more thing, well done, gentlemen. You really kicked some ass tonight.
Slight sighs are heard from the annoyed players.
DAVE BRANDON: In this big game that we play, life, it's not what you hope for, it's not what you deserve, it's what you take. I'm Dave muthaf*kin Brandon, a master of the muffin and author of the “Avoid the Noid” advertising campaign for Domino’s Pizza. No I wasn’t an All-American when I played here for Bo Schembechler. But I was able to become an All-American at business, because I learned one thing: Respect the cock! And tame the cunt! Tame it! Take it on headfirst with the skills that I will teach you at work and say no! You will not control me! No! You will not take my soul! No!
You will not win this game! Because it's a game, guys. You want to think it's not, huh? You want to think it's not? Go back to the schoolyard and you have that crush on big-titted Mary Jane. Respect the cock. You are embedding this thought. I am the one who's in charge. I am the one who says yes! No! Now! Here! Because it's universal, man. It is evolutional. It is anthropological. It is biological. It is animal. We... are... men!
Players stand in stunned silence.
Scene: Michigan LSA student SAGAR LATHIA enters the Arcade Barbershop and takes a seat in an empty barber’s chair as the door creaks shut behind him.
SAGAR LATHIA: How's it going, Luther?
LUTHER: Another day, another dollar, captain.
SAGAR LATHIA: You gotta play them as they lay.
LUTHER: What goes around comes around.
SAGAR LATHIA: Can't beat 'em, join 'em.
LUTHER: At least I got my health.
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, then you got everything... See you tomorrow, Luther.
LUTHER: Not if I see you first.
SAGAR LATHIA: Sometimes you gotta say, "what the fuck." Make your move. Luther, every now and then, saying "what the fuck?" brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.
Scene: Big House for early game vs. Akron. Quiet hum from crowd as Michigan offense breaks huddle.
DEVIN GARDNER: Red 90! Red 90! Hike!
Gardner receives shotgun snap, drops back to pass. Pressure comes up middle. Gardner retreats, spins, reverses field, and is blind-sided by an Akron player. Gardner throws ball—but the wobbly duck lands right in the chest of an Akron player and is run into the end zone for a TD. Gardner lies on turf, mystified.
Scene: luxury suite above Michigan Stadium. DAVE BRANDON grabs telephone receiver and lifts to ear.
Scene: Michigan sideline. A phone rings. A team manager answers and bring the phone to BRADY HOKE.
BRADY HOKE: Consider yourself in Contempt!
GREG MATTISON: [standing beside BRADY HOKE] You don’t have to answer that question.
BRADY HOKE: I'll answer the question! [Into phone] You want answers?!
Scene cuts back to Brandon’s luxury box
DAVE BRANDON: I think I’m entitled!
Back to sideline
BRADY HOKE: You want answers?
Back to Brandon’s luxury box
DAVE BRANDON: I want the truth!
Back to sideline
BRADY HOKE: You can’t handle the truth!
Scene: a classroom in Mason Hall on University of Michigan campus. A female professor jots information on the white-board, then looks up.
PROFESSOR: Excuse me, Mr. Lathia, is there something wrong?
SAGAR LATHIA: Yes ma'am, the data on the coaching search is inaccurate.
PROFESSOR: How's that, Mr. Lathia?
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I just happened to read Dave Brandon’s actual itinerary from “The Process,” and he never actually met with Miles. Never offered Harbaugh the job.
PROFESSOR: Where did you see this?
SAGAR LATHIA: Got it from John U. Bacon.
PROFESSOR: From who?
SAGAR LATHIA: John U. Bacon. I would introduce you to him, but then Dave Brandon would have you fired.
Scene: Road game at Penn State. White-out, fans yelling hostile obscenities. Michigan trailing on the scoreboard. Nervous-looking DEVIN GARDNER approaches the huddle.
DEVIN GARDNER: Twenty-one right Bogey on three.
JEREMY GALLON: What? Again? It hasn’t worked the first twenty-six times we’ve run it.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s what the man said. Twenty-one right Bogey on three. Readee-break!
Michigan offense steps to line against Penn State defense, which has inserted extra defensive tackles. The wall of defensive humanity nearly blocks out the lighting.
DEVIN GARDNER: Set…hut! Hut! Ready….hut!
[DEVIN GARDNER] takes snap, retreats into backfield, shoves ball into running back’s arms. The back is promptly swallowed by several tacklers before reaching the line of scrimmage. Dispirited Michigan players walk back to the huddle.
AL BORGES: Dang-it. Okay, Maverick, let’s go Angels 10-left-three-zero.
DEVIN GARDNER: Roger that.
Gardner faces offensive teammates, gives play. Unit lines up in shotgun formation.
DEVIN GARDNER: Red 90! Red 90! Hut!
Slo-mo shot as shotgun snap approaches. DEVIN GARDNER catches snap. Heavy breaths and foot-falls. DEVIN GARDNER retreats one step, camera pans to primary read. JEREMY GALLON is open in seam.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s no good.
Camera closes-in on [JEREMY GALLON]
JEREMY GALLON: God dammit Maverick!
Camera follows Gardner’s eyes as he moves to secondary read. DEVIN FUNCHESS is open on sideline.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s no good!
DEVIN FUNCHESS: God dammit!
Penn State defenders arrive. Gardner slammed to turf, ball comes out. Penn State players rejoice as crowd erupts into frenzy. A crumpled Gardner sits motionless on the field.
Scene: an austere, tropical barracks. Banana rats scurry as hooded figures slip into a darkened room. Inside, a rotund figure of a snoring man [AL BORGES] heaves upon the bunk. Suddenly, the figures pull a blanket tight over the man’s chest; a pure grey bar of soap is shoved into his mouth, and the man is pummeled repeatedly with oversized macaroni noodles.
AL BORGES: Whaahhh—[choking sounds as soap enters mouth]
The beating continues for several seconds
HOODED FIGURE: Get an identity, fat man!
The figures rush out of the room as AL BORGES passes out.
Scene: anti-septic military-style interrogation room. Young lawyer [SAGAR LATHIA] in dress uniform enters the room. five hulking men, each wearing a jump-suit marked with a non-eligible number, immediately rise and salute.
SAGAR LATHIA: [timidly] At ease?
The men sit. SAGAR LATHIA sits at folding chair across the table.
SAGAR LATHIA: So, can we start with what happened?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! What happened when, sir!?
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I understand the five of you beat a guy with noodles—
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! It was a ‘miscommunication,’ sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: A miscommunication?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! That’s what we call it. A ‘miscommunication,’ sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I’m just trying to understand—
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! Must protect the brand, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: The brand?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! Yes, sir! Must protect the brand. That’s our code, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: Who put you up to this?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir?
SAGAR LATHIA: You better tell me. I’m the only friend you’ve got.
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! I am on specific orders not to disclose that my commanding officer, Dave Brandon, instructed me to perform the miscommunication, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: …
Scene: DEVIN GARDNER meets with BRADY HOKE on an isolated path along the Huron River.
BRADY HOKE: What I’m about to tell you is classified—could end my career. I loved coaching that Denard, even if he wasn’t a pocket-passer. You're a lot like he was. Only better... and worse. He was a natural heroic son of a bitch that one.
DEVIN GARDNER: So he did do it right.
BRADY HOKE: Yeah, he did it right... Is that why you play the way you do? Trying to prove something? Yeah, Denard did it right. We were in a rebuilding phase. There were walk-ons and freshmen like fireflies all over the roster. His ulnar nerve was hit, and he was wounded—he could have not dressed. But he stayed in it, won three games before Nebraska got him.
DEVIN GARDNER: How come I never heard that before?
BRADY HOKE: Well, that's not something the Athletic Department tells fans when a player belongs in a spread offense, isn’t ‘Manball’ enough.
DEVIN GARDNER: So you get it?
BRADY HOKE: I get it. What's on your mind?
DEVIN GARDNER: My options, sir.
BRADY HOKE: Simple. You've already acquired an undergraduate degree. You can soldier on in our pathetic offense, or you can quit. There'd be no disgrace. Last year’s offensive line was hell, it would've shook me up.
DEVIN GARDNER: So you think I should quit?
BRADY HOKE: I didn't say that. The simple fact is you feel responsible for Notre Dame and you have a confidence problem. Now I'm not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass. A good quarterback is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned. On the field there, we gotta push it. That's our job. It's your option, Devin. All yours.
DEVIN GARDNER: Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, sir, but thank you very much for your time.
BRADY HOKE: No problem. Good luck.
* * * * *
Scene: a ceiling panel slides open in a bright, institutional storage closet. Motion-detecting lasers criss-cross the room at odd angles, and alarmed panels cover the floor. A lone computer terminal sits unoccupied at a desk built into the wall. Suddenly, SAGAR LATHIA drops from the ceiling. He almost strikes the floor, but spreads-eagle inches above it. SAGAR LATHIA moves through the air to the computer terminal, pulls up a screen that says “COCA-COLA TICKET PROMOTION,” and inserts a USB drive to download the data. A lengthy status bar appears on the screen while the data is slowly copied.
Meanwhile, outside the room, DAVE BRANDON speaks with [ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER].
DAVE BRANDON: How many tickets have you sold today?
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Fourteen hundred, sir.
DAVE BRANDON: Very good. How much is that?
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Well, with the Coca-Cola promotion, that’s twenty-eight hundred dollars. More importantly, we can keep our streak of 100,000 fans alive.
DAVE BRANDON: Whatever. You know what I say? If it ain’t broke, break it—that’s what I say. So go ahead and break that streak.
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Whatever you say, sir. Don’t want to be fired like every other person I used to work with.
DAVE BRANDON: Yeah. Hey, didn’t those skywriters give us a half-off coupon for our next purchase? I think $2,800 ought to cover it.
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: I think the coupon is in the storage room, sir.
DAVE BRANDON: Well don’t just sit there. Bring me skywriting coupon!
Camera returns to storage room. SAGAR LATHIA finishes downloading marketing plan data and is pulled back through ceiling, just as ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER opens the door.
Scene: Ornate banquet room at Detroit’s Downtown Athletic Club, for annual Michigan Football Bust. Team, dressed in suits, has finished its meal and is looking to podium. Camera pans room to see several players carrying or wearing medical equipment, DEVIN GARDNER in full-body cast with oxygen tank. BRADY HOKE exits podium to moderate applause, as DAVE BRANDON steps to podium.
DAVE BRANDON: And I just want to thank Brady for the wonderful job he’s done. Really, really wonderful job. But you know, 7-5 really is not Michigan Football. I mean, let’s face it: you men are shit. What? Yes: you men... are... shit. Horrible, heinous, *heinous*, terrible football players. That’s you. Fuck this bullshit. What is it that we need? We need Michigan Men! You see what I'm getting at? What’s your problem, anyway? “Mommy wouldn't let me play soccer... and Daddy, he hit me, so that's who I am, that's why I do what I do?” We will not apologize for who we are. Michigan will not apologize for what it needs. I will not apologize for what I want! And that’s why I’d like to introduce the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines—
Just then, SAGAR LATHIA and JOHN U. BACON rush into the room
JOHN U. BACON: Stop!
DAVE BRANDON: What the hell is this?
JOHN U. BACON: Stop, this man [points to SAGAR LATHIA] has something to say.
DAVE BRANDON: I’m outta here.
GREG MATTISON: [rises from the back of the room]: You're not going anywhere, Brandon. DTs, guard the Athletic Director.
DAVE BRANDON: Am I being charged with a crime? Is that what this is? I'm being charged with a crime? This is funny. That's what this is.
SAGAR LATHIA: You brought in Special K and left the band at home. You paid pilots to skywrite “Go Blue” over an empty Spartan Stadium. You masterminded the general admission fiasco. You undermined Rich Rod and botched the hire of Brady Hoke.
DAVE BRANDON: Son, we live in a world that has college football, and college football has to be played by men wearing uniformz. Who's gonna do it? You? You, hockey boy? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for our tradition, and you curse the rawk muzak. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That the loss of Michigan tradition, while tragic, probably won games. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins games. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me in that luxury box, you need me on in that luxury box. We use words like brand identity, brand equity, sub-brand, and brand loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent marketing something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very revenue that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a pom-pom, and wave it to piped-in techno. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
SAGAR LATHIA: Did you order the miscommunication?
DAVE BRANDON: You’re goddamn right I did!
Audible gasp arises from the team and boosters in attendance
DAVE BRANDON: I'm gonna rip the eyes out of your head and puke into your dead skull, you messed with the wrong AD!
BRADY HOKE: I think you’re in deep shit, Brandon, I guaran-damn-tee you.
DAVE BRANDON: You have no idea how to run an athletic department. All you did was weaken The Team today, Lathia. That's all you did. You put Rose Bowl berths in danger. Sweet dreams, son.
SAGAR LATHIA: Don't call me son. I'm a Michigan student, and an officer in the LS&A student government. And you're fired, you son of a bitch.
Scene: Schembechler Hall. Square-jawed John Harbaugh stands at a podium, beside an academic-looking man [BRAD BATES] in a muted blazer. Cameras flash as BRAD BATES steps to the microphone bank.
BRAD BATES: I’d like to announce some exciting new changes for Michigan Football. We thank Brady Hoke for his distinguished service as the head coach; he’ll be staying on with the athletic department as an advisor and assistant euchre and wrestling coach. We’d like to welcome John Harbaugh, most recently of the Baltimore Ravens and the son of former Michigan assistant Jack Harbaugh, as our new head coach. And we’d like to extend our congratulations to Devin Gardner, who has made a full recovery from his injuries and was drafted 199th overall by the New England Patriots. Thank you, and Go Blue!
In another thread, I offered to post an e-mail exchange that I had with Dave Brandon about a year ago at the beginning of last season. I should probably explain that when it first happened I was too mad to think about posting it, and we were in the midst of a season, then prompty forgot about it during the off-season, when I should have posted it. But now Dave has pissed us off again, and with any luck we will be bidding him adieu soon, so it now seems relevant again.
So, to set the stage: it is the Friday before the 2013 season opener. Michigan had a big stupid Kraft noodle in Michigan stadium. The natives were restless, even MGoShoe. The noodle itself didn't upset me, but rather the slow creep of advertising into the stadium. So although I didn't think that my opinion meant all that much, I figured that I would let the Athletic Department know how I felt. I wasn't expecting a response at all, and I figured that if I did get a response, it would be some boilerplate like, "Dear X, thanks for your feedback and for your continued support of Michigan football! Go blue!" Instead I got snark.
I sent the same e-mail to Dave Brandon and to Brian Townsend:
Dear Mr. Brandon/Mr. Townsend,
As an alumnus and supporter of the University, I was upset to see in the Michigan Daily (http://www.michigandaily.com/
blog/game/football/8-new-) that the Athletic Department is apparently planning to allow Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to advertise inside the grounds of Michigan Stadium. advertisement-blocks-big- house-view-29One of the attractions and important traditions of the stadium experience, in my view, is the lack of advertising. Please do not allow this trend to continue. I would rather pay higher ticket prices than to be subjected to large orange plastic noodles and other such nonsense that significantly detract from my experience.Many thanks in advance and Go Blue!Yours sincerely,[my name]Associate Professor, [my department in the humanities, my university, which is in the AAU]
Dave's response (or perhaps someone in his office?):
[My first name],
I received your message and I am sorry you are "upset" over a noodle.
Clearly, this is a very troubling matter for you.
Perhaps the lesson here is for you to be careful not to believe everything you read. There was an event at the Stadium Friday and this promotional piece was included. It was removed at the conclusion of the event.
I suggest you relax and enjoy the football game today!
Dear Mr. Brandon,Thank you for your timely response. I am not upset about a noodle, however, but about the possibility of advertising in Michigan Stadium on game days now and in the future.I suggest that you drop the condescending tone.Go Blue!
Thanks for your very helpful input!!Much appreciated!!Dave
Brian Townsend's response:
[My first name],
Thanks for your feedback. Your message was heard.
We are looking forward to another exciting weekend in Michigan Stadium. Go Blue!
Dear Brian,Thank you! I was at the Notre Dame game (UTL II) and it was magnificent. I was very impressed with all the work that the Athletics Department does to make the games so enjoyable and seemingly effortless. I know that they are not effortless, and I want to let you know how appreciative I am of all your hard work!Go Blue!
Thanks [my first name]. We appreciate your compliment!
I was upset about Brandon's response. It made me feel more alienated from the University that I love, actually. But here's the thing: it's just really, really stupid of him. He can think one of two things:
- This guy is an idiot.
- This guy is a reasonable person with strongly-held feelings about the University.
If (1), then the best thing is not to reply at all or to send some canned response: "Thanks for your passion! Go blue!" If (2), then the same, or something conciliatory: "Thanks for letting us know you feel, the opinions of fans and alumni are important to us" blah blah blah. I would have been satisfied with that. The only other time I e-mailed the AD about an issue, I received a very conciliatory note saying something like, "Thanks, we are already talking about this internally and we appreciate your input."
What does Dave Brandon gain from picking a fight with an alumnus?
I also think that his response was disingenuous, however. The fact of the matter is that the Kraft noodle was in Michigan Stadium for a promotial event, sure. But that promotional event -- cleverly called "W.O.W. Friday" -- is actually all about football (here's the official description of it). So it's not any old promotional event, but actually one directly tied to the football team and program. And despite the promotional tie-in, they charged $10 a person for access to the stadium! It wasn't even free!
It sounds like other people have had similar experiences to mine, perhaps even worse ones? I'd be interested to hear what other people have to contribute.