he grew a beard
Many of you who follow CFB closely, espicially on Twitter, will be familiar with FootballScoop. The guys who run the website and Twitter feed are coaching insiders who are on close terms with a majority of the D1 football coaching community, as well as much of the lower levels. I believe they were the ones that broke the Nussmeier news last January as well. All this to establish who they are for those that don't know, and their level of credibility... Because what I just heard their editor-in-chief say on ESPN radio was fairly shocking. Here's the relevant tweet:
Fast forward to about 10 minutes in to hear about the Florida job, and 13 minutes in to hear about Michigan. The money quote: "I talked to three guys [presumably connected to the Michigan program] and there is complete belief... not just some question, but complete belief that Dave Brandon does not survive this." Great news, right? But not exactly earth-shattering. That part comes next: "I heard a very interesting name for the next AD... Joe Castiglione, the AD at Oklahoma."
Again, this is not some ESPN radio guy just spouting off whatever names that come to mind, this is an actual insider who has heard enough scuttlebutt to think Castiglione may be a guy Michigan looks at. Also, nice to hear further confirmation from an outside source that it appears Brandon is going to be out the door.
Thoughts? Also interesting to note that Rich Rod seems to be the leading candidate for Florida with Spurrier (!?!) as the dark horse.
Over three years ago, immediately after Dave Brandon announced the hiring of Brady Hoke as the new University of Michigan football coach, MVictors came out with what I consider to be the definitive summary of the Michigan fan culture. We were divided then, some of us acrimoniously, and with Michigan poised to begin another coaching search, the factions have begun to show their ugly faces again. There is less division now over whether the coach should go or stay, but who should take over, who is worthy to lead us out of the desert into the Promised Land, that is still very much a point of contention with many in the Michigan family.
For those of you who have been around here for awhile, this will look familiar. Brian featured it on UV after it came out. MGoShoe started a thread where you were able to share which faction you best fit into. If you’re new around here, I encourage you to click over to MVictors and check it out, because it’s really outstanding.
I didn’t bother to reassess the breakdown of each group, but certainly some clans have grown and some have shrunk. In 2011, here’s how the folks at MVictors saw things:
With Michigan poised on the cusp of what appears to be another change in leadership of the football program and perhaps the Athletic Department as a whole, it seems relevant to have a look another look at our collective culture and what value unite us and what ones separate us and remember that ultimately, we all want the same thing; for Michigan to win and be Michigan again.
They weren’t really in Hoke’s corner when he was hired, but liked his rhetoric and were impressed with his recruiting. Things looked encouraging when he went 11-2, but the gradual decline over the next 2.5 years is undeniable. These are the guys who bristle the most at all the Hoke hand-clapping and talk of toughness that never seems to make it to the field. They are aghast that Hoke allows David Brandon to micromanage the football program they way he does. They want Brandon gone yesterday and Hoke let go after this season is over and give Jim Harbaugh whatever he wants to come back to Ann Arbor.
Still pissed and their ranks are swelling. Feeling a bit vindicated that Hoke’s version of Manball has fallen flat. Chafed over watching Denard line up under center as Borges tried to hammer that square peg into that round hole. Apoplectic that a player of Devin Gardner’s caliber is being wasted doing the same thing. These guys want Hoke gone NOW! Want Brandon gone NOW! You saw a lot of them on the news last week marching around The Diag and the President’s Residence. These folks are the most annoyed with the Michigan Man meme and while they would accept Jim Harbaugh, believe he’s not coming and think somebody like Dan Mullen is a perfect guy to come in and finally move this program forward.
Corduroy Jacket w/Patch Clan
Feeling uneasy and a little put-out that Hoke hasn’t been successful and that Brandon continues to commit PR gaffe after PR gaffe. Michigan being dragged through the mud in virtually every national media outlet over Concussiongate is the worst thing ever. They just want this shit to go away and for everyone to get along again. Still, our future falls disproportionately in their hands right now, as we’re unsure if the head of this clan, President Schlissel, is up to the task of righting the ship.
In Rod We Trusted
As always, closely allied with The Rebellion, but their ranks have thinned with time. Also feeling vindicated watching Hoke fall flat while Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats sit atop the Pac-12 undefeated and sporting a sexy upset over Oregon. Annoyed with being right back we were in 2011 facing another coaching search and talking about viable candidates when they still believe that we could’ve avoided a lot of this if we had just given the man a fair chance to succeed. The next coach should be the best candidate for the job and anyone talking about Michigan Men should be taken out back and shot. Oh yeah, and fire Dave Brandon. Giving the collective finger to….
These are the only guys still firmly in Hoke’s corner, stubbornly insisting that he’s a good coach and will succeed at Michigan if just given time. They’re not happy with Dave Brandon and want to see him gone, but Hoke is their guy. Their ranks have been dwindling for years now, but unfortunately, since they mostly consist of Lloyd’s ex-players at this point, they have a lot of inside access to the program and are a serious challenge to any kind of wholesale culture change.
Cotton Pickin’ Blues
The biggest group and the biggest reason why Michigan Stadium looks so empty this year and the resale market for tickets is so poor. These fans have simply checked out. Dave Brandon has disenfranchised these folks with neutral site body bag games against Alabama, noodles, RAWK music and the general NFLization of the Michigan football experience. Done with Hoke as well, as this is not Michigan. Don’t really have a favorite replacement in mind, because, frankly, at this point, they just don’t care anymore. These are the folks that successors to Brandon and Hoke will have the work the hardest to get back.
They were 100% behind Hoke coming into this season and thought any talk of Hoke’s seat being warm or setting a win threshold on retaining him for his 5thseason was ludicrous. Have come to the sad conclusion in the past few weeks that things around Hoke have gotten just too toxic and his job is not salvageable. These guys don’t really have a preferred replacement in mind, they will back him no matter what, but they hope for an inspiring choice.
The Second Estate
These are the guys that are still firmly in Brandon’s corner. See Stephen Ross. Keep Hoke, fire Hoke. Whatever; Brandon knows best. Just as long as their access to the program is not affected, they will ultimately be satisfied. These folks would probably be the most wary of a strong coaching hire, like Jim Harbaugh, that might put their access in jeopardy.
The Decatur Clan
These folks are still somewhat in Hoke’s corner if only because what about the kids? These are the guys who came back to watch the finish of the Utah game who weren’t Utah fans (so yeah, not Ace). They bristle at pyrrhic talk of boycotts and public protests and want to believe beyond all hope that Hoke is going to right the ship, the light is finally going to come on for this team, and we will have our revenge against MSU and OSU. They haven’t considered a good replacement for Hoke, because a real Michigan fan wouldn’t have turned their back on this team while there is still season left. Will get behind whoever is hired once that decision / announcement is made.
To my mind, the most successful head coaches in the college ranks (in every sport) share some common traits that underpin their success. Using an analogy to baseball's Five-Tool player, I think the following list captures what a Five-Tool HC ® has at his/her disposal. Spoiler alert: Depending on your disposition, our current Football HC has between one and three of these attributes and is, therefore, not referenced below.
1. Recruiter - This one is obvious. It's hard to win without horses.
2. Game Coach - Again, this is pretty basic. Xs and Os, play calling (or confidence in good play callers), RPS win ratio, game/clock management, schemes (1-3-1), formations (e.g.,punting), situational awareness etc. are all critical components apparently lacking inour program at the moment. I would put game preparation in this category.
3. Face of the University - The HC needs to positively represent the institution to the fan base, the press, and recruits. In addition, the HC should garner the respect of opponents and opposing fans alike (even if only begrudgingly or expressed as hatred). This is primarily for marketing purposes, but a coach behind whom the university/fan community can rally instills a culture of winning.
4. Fundraiser - This one is often overlooked, but if you can't pull in mega-dollars for the program, you're whiffing on a big part of your job. It's also a way to justify your bloated salary.
5. Educator - These are 18 -22 year old kids. They may not have come to college to play school, but intellectual and social development is essential in order to ensure any signinficant team development.
So who in the past 25 years or so has been a Five Tool HC?
I'm happy to put Bo and Beilein up here, but several other candidates form a veritable who's who of Wolverine Killers:
Tressel (even in the educator category for the majority of his players)
Pitino (wins with freshmen, but grows them in the short time he has them under his tutlage)
JoPa (before the fall)
There are plenty of others...
Are these the right five tools? Who would you put in this class of coach?
Perhaps more importantly, are there any who might be available at the end of this FB season?
It's being reported on 106.5 "The Ticket" in Toledo that Tim Beckman, coach of the Toledo Rockets, will be replacing Ron Zook at Illinois next year. This is not a done deal yet, but it is expected to be announced sometime soon.
If this goes through, I think this will be a pretty good move for Illinois. As seen on several Wednesday/Thursday games on ESPN, his team does not know how to play defense, but overall Beckman has done a solid job with the Rocket's team in the past 3 years and has done real well on the recruiting front (The Ticket said his recruiting class last year was 1st in the MAC and would have been the 5th best class in the B1G).
Who's next in Columbus? Luke Fickell is supposedly the interim coach, but he doesn't have the pedigree yet to take over full time. Here are a couple of suggestions:
EDSBS favorite Ron P?
I personally think Urban Meyer is done coaching, but I've been wrong many, many times before. I'd guess they'll make a run at Gary Patterson, but given the sanctions that may be coming, I think they'll go for a super recruiter who will take a tough job because the obvious candidates won't be interested.
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.”