The Trials and Tribulations of the Michigan Coaching Search
January 5th, 2011
It has been a long strange trip and I doubt the surprises and pitfalls are over yet. The topic of changing the Michigan head coaching job has been popular since the last year of our retired poet coach, Lloyd Carr. After a disastrous showing against a spread offense I-AA school and a shellacking at the hands, or should I say webbed hands of the Oregon Ducks, people were fed up with Carr’s hackneyed style of pro offense. It seemed the underlying mantra to switching to Rich Rodriguez was that if we couldn’t beat a spread offense, we might as well become one. Become one we did. After Bill Martin’s sailing excursion in the Caribbean with Johnny Depp and some Bahama girls, he went out and got the architect of the damn thing.
The first year of the Rich Rod experiment went as well as a VIOXX addiction. With the changing of offensive systems, bare cupboards in way of players, and a new defensive scheme, a sub par year was expected. Then he finished 3-9, most recorded losses at Michigan for a season in its storied history and no bowl for the first time in over three decades. Seeing how the silver fox alumnus and Detroit Free Press Kool-Aid drinkers were not overly happy with the hire in the first place because he wasn’t a “Michigan Man”, a huge block of the fanbase was ready to throw him to the wolves after one year. Coupled with NCAA allegations and infractions that would make Erik Dickerson giggle a little bit, and a 5-7 season with no bowl again, he was not getting many Christmas cards in 2009. Come 2010, not even a super hero the likes of Flash Dilitium could save Rich Rod from a predestined outcome of being axed on January 5th, 2011. Another day that seemed like another chance to begin another fresh start.
Throughout the 2010 season a man occupying a coaching position on the west coast caught the attention of a lot of people ready to return to the “Michigan Man” was the only man for the job that was given to a country bumpkin that had no place here while spitting his tobacco juice all over Schembechler’s coffin. There was also a faction of revolutionaries ready to defend Rich Rodriguez to the very bitter end, including me. That was until the Gator Bowl episode, where I became open to a change. Not necessarily getting rid of RR, but at least a major overhaul of the defensive staff like they were some worthless hacks in a company merger ready to be cut loose and beg on the street like vagabonds. It is my general belief that if the Michigan fan base were armed to the teeth, the bloodshed after that game would have rivaled the death toll at Gettysburg. Change of some sorts would have had to happen, no doubt about it. Within two days of firing Rich Rod it seemed only two options were acceptable and likely. Either Jim Harbaugh would ride in on his white horse and raise the spirit of Bo to win at least six national championships in a row or the same result with Rich Rod and a revamped defense with General Tommy Franks as defensive coordinator. Then, BOOM, went the coaching change.
January 5th, 2011, a day not to celebrate a new start, but a day to commence panic and find the nearest lifeboat left as the Michtanic went down in the cold waters of Lake Huron as a string quartet played the final verse of Hail to the Victors. Dave Brandon, Chief Pizza Tosser, announced the firing and then announced he will begin the national search for a new head coach. Begin the search you say? As soon as that pepperoni eating fool uttered that sentence, the hounds of hell erupted into a fit of laughter and began feasting upon the souls of many people near and dear to our hearts.
Our fearless captain of the S.S. MGoBlog went into DEFCON 5 mode; the blog broke due to heavy traffic, and every two bit expert wanting to weigh in on the wasteland known as Michigan football. I consumed a near dangerous level of Ambien to wake up in 2013 since I could not evoke my disapproval through digital nuclear warfare upon the masses. The national blood pressure average spiked as many of the MGoBlog community and residents of Michigan fandom nationwide erupted into anger that made the drunken Mel Gibson rant look like a children’s bedtime story. The end of Michigan football, along with the announcement of the end of the world in May put very bad vibes in many innocent bystanders of this pitiful saga.
January 7th, 2011
The White Horse and the Other Candidates
“Michigan Man”, a term coined by the late Bo Schembechler. Many began to think it should have been buried along with our beloved coach. By measuring every football entity with the “Michigan Man” measuring stick, we have duped ourselves and placed a millstone around any future coach that would dare step within the city limits of Ann Arbor. There is nothing wrong with upholding an aurora of decency and model citizenry for a coach, but to only allow a coach to come in with ties to the original “Michigan Man” is foolish at best and self destructive at worst.
Obviously the “Michigan Man” guard thinks more of the damn term than the jackass that pulled the rug out from under them, Jim Harbaugh. He will be gold digging in the bay area of California while we piss and moan about him not being a true “Michigan Man.” After a years worth of lusting after him he left his obsessive water carriers looking like grafters and shameless dunces. It seems the chosen one chose elsewhere.
What were our options now? A name that wouldn’t seem to leave the psyche was Brady Hoke. Hoke was a “Michigan Man” and former coach on Lloyd Carr’s magical mystery team. It was clear that only a few felt positive about Hoke in this MGoBubble we live in. Although his die-hard supporters pushed his excellence to lofty and Yost like levels of comparisons, he was wanted by most as much as we would like to swap spit with a former Hutu warlord with leprosy that contracted the bubonic plague and took malaria baths.
Another candidate was Chris Peterson from Boise State. He was less toxic than that mutant Hoke, but it seemed as if Boise St. coaches forgot their winning ways when they left the Potato State. Our only choice would be to hire him and become the next Colorado NAIA team or paint the Big House metallic blue and raise it about 10,000 feet in the air to induce Boise State like winning.
Next on the ever lengthening list is Gary Patterson from TCU. Out of all the names mentioned so far, he was my favorite. He would be able to utilize Denard and install a defense similar to the one at TCU. The TCU defense brought purple rain and pain on the mouth breathing meatheads from Wisconsin, and I could only imagine the erotic feeling I would get if it became Maize Rain. He also has many entertaining superstitions like un-tying and re-tying his shoelaces if his team was winning. That would definitely be a bonding point to get Denard to stay. I was also exclusive to the fact from an unnamed source that he shat rainbows every blue moon and was a close cousin of Horatio from CSI Miami.
Another choice from the west is Kyle Wittingham, the head coach at Utah. This choice makes no sense to me if we just dumped a proven winner. Wittingham could still be riding the recruits brought in by the Urban Meyer experience and after a slight nose dive at the end of the season, my stomach feels about good on this choice as does the morning after downing a fifth of rot gut whisky. It was appealing the night I got drunk and dumped, but now it sucks feeling this way; waking up next to a one armed mustachioed heifer in some strange lacy red lingerie.
The MGoUniverse became the chorus of a trendy Spice Girls song as everybody was telling everyone else what they wanted. As the days went by, more names from all corners of the football universe popped into the MGoBoard orbit. Panic became a drink of choice as the hands on the clock rounded through the hours many times. The night after the Cotton Bowl almost became the accumulation of the gnashed teeth and ulcers that were eating their way towards our rectums.
Les Miles was all but certain to become the next coach at the University of Michigan. Book it. Done deal. Hell, even throw in some grass for him to munch on before we rolled out the red carpet in Ann Arbor for the soon to be anointed Jester-King. The LSU message boards were blowing up to the likes I haven’t seen since The Great Possum Snatching Scandal of 2002. I listened to Jim-Bob and Jimmy Sue’s radio broadcasting postgame show as caller after caller called in from Michigan and Louisiana to accept the fact that the trade was done and the universe could go back to focusing American Idol. Saturday came, no announcement. Sunday came, and again no announcement. Tom VH then came out with the depressing facts that our recruiting class mimicked a hemophiliac with no medicine.
What the fuck was going on? I told my doctor not to fill up my medicinal horse tranquilizer prescription any more. I was ready to whore myself out to the idea of waking up in the Mad Hatter’s tea house. Back to the veter…doctors I went. Double dose. I had to put up with more flight tracking maps that looked more like an updated version of the Atari game Pong, wild rumors of Hoke riding in on a snow leopard made of meatlovers pizza, and Jon Gruden would be popping out of Schembechler Hall frothing at the mouth while he held Tressell’s skull in a precarious position at waist level height.
On day six of this bat shit crazy wild ride things seemed to be falling in place. Planes were coming and going to Baton Rouge in the likely outcome of a Les Miles coaching contract. Even Les Miles put out a brief presser that sounded like he was announcing himself pope of the snake wielding, gibberish talking branch of the Appalachian Pentecostal movement. In other words, he was being himself. Eerily strange and vague it was though. It was no doubt however that the Les Tickler had a hankering for taste of Michigan.
January 10th, 2011
Time Travel vs War Eagle
At least to buy my time I was able to watch the BCS National Championship Game. In my perception I expected two versions of the spread offense square off. Would it be the blazing Oregon offense that was the first ever NCAA team to travel in the future to score? Or would it be the SEC powerhouse bruisers that ran downhill like rabid “war eagles” hell bent on the Scorched Earth policy as a game strategy? My hopes laid with Oregon. Auburn was a dirty thuggish team. I thought even a tad extreme for the SEC. Mostly at the hands of Nick Fairley. Obvious proof of his bully mentality lay across the internets. While we struggle with major problems of an uncertain and chaotic situation with the future of our program, Gene Chizik must grapple with such problems as the obvious character flaw in Mr. Fairley:
"It's real simple. You have a 315-pound defensive tackle and you can't block him, sometimes he's going to be very aggressive and people are going to get hurt," Chizik said. "We don't want that. We don't want to see anybody get hurt. But when you can't block a guy that's 315 pounds, that happens."
That must suck. Poor saps.
Unfortunately I missed the 2nd quarter due to an impromptu stop into a small Pennsylvanian town and was forced to swallow down the fact that I had to watch the hit long running series “The Bachelor”. The women in the house were serious that night and there was no way I was risking my life to change the channel. The vibes most likely would have shifted very wrong if I had. Finally leaving with the idea that it was a tight turnover prone game when I was last listening to it on the radio, I arrived ten miles to the north to watch the completion.
What I saw made me squeamish. The Tigers were up 19-11 in the third quarter. As the game progressed, one thing in my mind became clear. The Oregon offensive line was greatly overmatched by the behemoths breathing fire across the line from them. Auburn brutalized Oregon with force and blatant malice by Fairley again. Oregon made a last ditch come back scoring a TD and amazing 2pt conversion try. Oregon’s TE Jeff Maehl was their team last night.
Bummer for Oregon was that they left two minutes on the clock for Newton & Co. By this time in the game the Auburn o-line was eating up Oregon’s d-line. Oregon wasn’t tired, but they were out muscled. Auburn seemed to collect seven yards on every carry by Newton or Dyer. Auburn won in a close game that was really never that close. The final chapter on a year in college football was written, in which evil won.
January 11, 2011 (1/11/11)
The Day Before The Day After
Day Seven. It feels like we’ve been in a desert for eternity. No sign of water. We might have to Bear Grylls a snake and recycle our urine to survive. LSU athletic director Alleva announced that Les Miles will be staying at LSU. BOOM. ROASTED. I was just starting to think the Mad Hatter was crazy enough to handle this nuthouse we have created.
This coupled an article out of San Diego that Hoke was now going to meet with Dave Brandon for the University of Michigan Head Football Coaching position. This news can do bad things to one’s mind as a snowstorm rolls in from the west and trap you in alone. I expected to become destructive to society at any moment, but it never came. I had a feeling of numbness. If Hoke was hired, ok. Ok. Whatever. We have no other choice but support him and hope that Brandon saw something in his crystal Challis we couldn’t. He would be our coach and the fanbase faced two choices. Either stay on the boat and support our new head coach or load into a lifeboat and abandon ship. What would win out in an MGoCulture War? Michigan and unprecedented faith or a possible millstone necklace of tried tradition?
Lou Mannheim: “Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”
Two hours later, that decision came down the pipes from HQ. Hoke was our man, no joke. John Lennon once recorded a song titled “Instant Karma”. Then I thought about Jerry Kill.
The culture war ended that quick. What seemed like a never-ending all out nuclear war ended with in seven days, third in recorded history only to the Six Day War in 1967 that surprisingly only lasted six days and The Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 that lasted a tough 45 minutes. Regardless after a nuclear war, there will be fallout. How much is yet to be seen, but there will be a myriad of emotions for the ones that are left rooting for our beloved Michigan football team. It will only come down to two choices however. We can either band together and make a go of what we have and stand at having a better chance to survive or scatter like cockroaches into factions that continue to practice cannibalism ending in probable epic proportions of fail.
Is our reign as a once traditionally powerful and feared program over? I’ll let Brady Hoke tell you that:
Brady Hoke. Love him or leave him. He is here. I am down with being a Hokeamaniac.
credit: Tom Pickle...WLA^^^^^^^
“Buy the ticket, take the ride…”
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.”
First thing's first, I think I did a pretty thorough job, but if you think any of my numbers need to be corrected, just say so in the comments. This can be a group effort.
One of the most common objections heard from Michigan fans with respect to the potential hiring of Les Miles is that he's demonstrated a penchant for oversigning. ESPN's Outside the Lines produced a segment about a month ago widely linked to on this board highlighting LSU's use of this practice under Miles. If it matters to you my take is that it's abhorrent that a head coach making a multimillion dollar salary and with tremendous institutional backing could go into some poor kid's home and sell the promise of a college degree and then spit the kid out when he becomes expendable. I would hate seeing someone who'd do that become the head coach at my alma mater both for the sake of the kids he'd recruit and for the fact that he'd be the most public face of my school. Game theory be damned.
I got into an argument with psychomatt earlier about whether LSU was set to oversign again this year. I cited http://www.oversigning.com which says LSU currently has 8 more commits than it will have a place for. Psychomatt disputed these numbers. So, fair enough. Let's take a closer look.
As chronicled by the OTL report LSU trimmed down right before fall camp to get down to 85 scholarship players to start the year. Since, one player was dismissed from the team and none have transferred. The player dismissed was fullback Dominique Allen. He had a scholarship, was dismissed for an undisclosed violation of team rules, and Miles noted interestingly at the press conference that walk on James Stampley was clearly the number 1 fullback anyway.
That gets us down to 84.
Now, to the roster analysis:
There are 9 outgoing scholarship seniors. They are: Terrence Tolliver, Lezerius Levingston, Josh Jasper, Derek Helton, Richard Murphy, Jai Eugene, Joseph Barksdale, Kelvin Sheppard and Drake Nevis.
All other seniors on LSUs website are either expressly denoted as walk ons or have completely blank bio pages and no varsity letters. Exception: Dan Graff, listed as a player-coach (?!) who joined the team as a sophomore walk on. I'm confident in counting on him still being a walk on.
Potential 5th year candidates
- Josh Dworaczyk- has started every game for them at left guard this year. Will almost certainly return.
- Will Blackwell- was the starter at the beginning of the year at right guard before injuring his ankle. He recovered to play in the final 3 games. Probably back.
- T-Bob Hebert- took over Blackwell's starting job when he went down and spent the previous year starting at center. As a multi year starter he'll be welcomed back.
- Stevan Ridley- LSU's top back this year getting 249 carries and 1,147 yards. If he wants to come back he can. And he probably will come back at least according to where he's currently projected to go in the draft and to general message board scuttlebutt.
- Stefoin Francois- Started every game at linebacker, will be welcomed back. Not thought to be a draft risk.
- Ron Brooks- backup cornerback/strong safety and contributor on special teams. Played all 12 games, but started none. Put up decent numbers, though, 28 tackles 5 tfls and 3 PBUs. With Peterson leaving on the one hand and the number crunch on the other let's give him a 50-50 chance of being back.
- Jarrett Lee- 2nd string qb. It might be conceivable they'd let him go, but because Miles in his infinite wisdom, put Russell Shepard at wide receiver (seriously if he comes RIP Dilithium), their current 3rd string option is a freshman walk on. Zac Mettenberger (highly touted Georgia castoff) is about to come aboard though. But still, who likes having a redshirt freshman walk on as your 3rd string? Lee's getting invited back.
- Jordan Jefferson- Starting qb. He's welcome back.
- Patrick Peterson- Thorpe winner. All world cb. NFL. Gone.
- Alex Russian- Cone like tight end turned backup snapper. It's a wonder he isn't gone already.
- Mitch Joseph- in LSU's 3 man tight end rotation. Started 4 games this year. Let's say it's 50-50.
Only case with any ambiguity is Dennis Johnson, but after going through message board stuff I'm 90% sure he's a walk on.
So giving Les more wiggle room than he probably deserves let's count the maybes as both out. So in total we'll say that's 4 RS juniors not coming back. Obviously that +9 seniors +1 free schollie = 14.
Potential 3rd year draft entrants
I couldn't find any 3rd year guys LSU fans seem worried about losing early to the draft. Correct me if I'm wrong.
As Brian explained here , outside Alabama, medical hardships aren't very common. In fact, between 2008 and 2010 SEC schools that don't love houndstooth on average gave out slightly more than one each.
Recruits who fail to enroll
LSU currently has 21 commitments and is still in on some prospects. Let's hypothesize they don't gain or lose any commits between now and signing day, although it's probably more likely they gain. From 2005-2010 (Les' tenure) LSU has signed 144 players of whom 135 qualified academically and enrolled.* That makes for a 93.75% matriculation rate. Obviously using this rate to project into the future has its limitations, Miles might have changed his recruiting philosophy and taken on more high risk kids this year, but given how much he oversigned by last year and that 28 of the 29 in that class enrolled, I doubt a huge variation is likely this year. Anyway, using that figure we can project that 1 player not qualifying is the most likely outcome, having 2 not qualify is the second most likely outcome and having none fail to qualify the 3rd most likely outcome. Let's go with taking one out since it's the most likely statistically and they might end up with more commitments anyway.
You don't really need me for this, it's simple math. But giving Les more wiggle room than he probably deserves this is what we get 84 - 9 - 4 + 20 = 91. Miles is looking at being 6 above the limit right now.
Is this really a big deal?
I can hear people say it now: But, but, that's not accounting for players who choose to transfer voluntarily or make boneheaded decisions in the offseason and get kicked out justifiably!
To reply: Yes
Any oversigning analysis shouldn't account for that. For a coach to take a kid's signature, or even a commitment, when he doesn't have a spot for him is fundamentally wrong. Even if he thinks it's more likely than not that the spot he needs will free up in time, he promised a player much younger than him, usually much poorer and less powerful the opportunity to get a degree and play the sport he loves and by accepting that signature or commitment he doesn't have a spot for he's putting that at risk. It's grossly reckless and highly irresponsible. No institution of higher learning should be associated with it. And really, if a football program ends up a few scholarship players short is it the worst thing in the world? Those scholarships would instead go to deserving walk ons. And what's wrong with that?
Assume, for the sake of conjecture, that Les Miles is announced as coach sometime in the next 96 hours. Does he bring his coordinators or is the next CC for coordinators?
[Ed.: Bumped for awesome.]
For pathos purposes only.
Rodriguez: Trouble at Schembechler!
Assistant: Oh no - what kind of trouble?
Rodriguez: One on't zone reed gone owt askew on spreadshred.
Rodriguez: One on't zone reed gone owt askew on spreadshred.
Assistant: I don't understand what you're saying.
Rodriguez: [slightly irritatedly and with exaggeratedly clear accent] One of the zone reads has gone out askew in the spread n’ shred.
Assistant: Well what on earth does that mean?
Rodriguez: I don't know – Mr. Magee just told me to come in here and say that there was trouble at Schembechler, that's all - I didn't expect a kind of Coaching Inquisition.
[The door flies open and Cardinal David Brandon of Domino’s enters, flanked by two junior cardinals. Cardinal Rosenberg has goggles pushed over his forehead. Cardinal Fatcatalumnus is just Cardinal Fatcatalumnus]
Brandon: NOBODY expects the Coaching Inquisition! Our chief Replacement Candidate is Hoke...Hoke and Miles...Miles and Hoke.... Our two Replacement Candidates are Miles and Hoke...and Patterson.... Our three Replacement Candidates are Miles, Hoke, and Patterson...and an almost fanatical devotion to Harbaugh.... Our four...no... Amongst our Replacement Candidates.... Amongst our Replacement Candidatery...are such candidates as Miles, Hoke.... I'll come in again.
[The Cardinals exit]
Rodriguez: I didn't expect a kind of Coaching Inquisition.
[The cardinals burst in]
Brandon: NOBODY expects the Coaching Inquisition! Amongst our Replacement Candidatery are such diverse candidates as: Miles, Hoke, Patterson, an almost fanatical devotion to Harbaugh, and nice red uniforms - Oh damn!
[To Cardinal Rosenberg] I can't say it - you'll have to say it.
Brandon: You'll have to say the bit about 'Our chief Replacement Candidates are ...'
Rosenberg: [rather horrified]: I couldn't do that...
[Brandon bundles the cardinals outside again]
Rodriguez: I didn't expect a kind of Coaching Inquisition.
[The cardinals enter]
Rosenberg: Er.... Nobody...um....
Rosenberg: Expects... Nobody expects the...um...the Coaching...um...
Brandon: Coaching Inquisition...
Rosenberg: I know, I know! Nobody expects the Coaching Inquisition. In fact, those who do expect -
Brandon: Our chief Replacement Candidates are...
Rosenberg: Our chief Replacement Candidates are...um...er...
Rosenberg: Hoke and --
Brandon: Okay, stop. Stop. Stop there - stop there. Stop. Phew! Ah! ... our chief Replacement Candidates are Hoke...blah blah blah. Cardinal, read the charges.
Fatcatalumnus: You are hereby charged that you did on diverse dates commit heresy against the House of Bo. 'My old Michigan Man said follow the--'
Rosenberg: That's enough.
[To Rodriguez] Now, how do you plead?
Rodriguez: I’m innocent.
Brandon: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Rosenberg: We'll soon change your mind about that!
Brandon: Miles, Hoke, and a most fanatical -- [controls himself with a supreme effort] Ooooh! Now, Cardinal -- the MAJOR VIOLATIONS!
[Rosenberg produces a ONE-PAGE LIST OF NCAA MAJOR VIOLATIONS. Brandon looks at it and clenches his teeth in an effort not to lose control. He hums heavily to cover his anger]
Brandon: You....Right! Tie him down.
[Fatcatalumnus and Rosenberg make a pathetic attempt to tie Rodriguez to the sheet of NCAA Major Violations]
Brandon: Right! How do you plead?
Brandon: Ha! Right! Cardinal, make the public [oh dear] make the public believe the violations.
[Rosenberg stands there awkwardly and shrugs his shoulders]
Brandon: [gritting his teeth] I know, I know you can't. I didn't want to say anything. I just wanted to try and ignore your crass mistake.
Brandon: It makes it all seem so stupid.
Rosenberg: Shall I...?
Brandon: No, just pretend for God's sake. Ha! Ha! Ha!
[Rosenberg pretends to publish the violations in the Free Press using a plastic coated dish rack as a printing press]
[Cut to them torturing Rodriguez]
Brandon: Now, Rodriguez -- you are accused of heresy on three counts -- heresy by Game Captains, heresy by Hick Accent, heresy by Not Understanding the Rivalry, and heresy by the Number One Jersey -- four counts. Do you confess?
Rodriguez: I don't understand what I'm accused of.
Brandon: Ha! Then we'll make you understand! Rosenberg! Fetch...THE INFLATABLE MICHIGAN MAN SEX DOLL!
[Rosenberg holds out an INFLATABLE MICHIGAN MAN SEX DOLL]
Rosenberg: Here it is, Lord.
Brandon: Now, Rodriguez -- you have one last chance. Confess the heinous sin of Tiny Slot Ninjas, reject the works of Casteel -- two last chances. And you shall be free -- three last chances. You have three last chances, the nature of which I have divulged in my previous utterance.
Rodriguez: I don't know what you're talking about.
Brandon: Right! If that's the way you want it -- Cardinal! Poke him with the Inflatable Michigan Man Sex Doll!
[Rosenberg carries out this rather pathetic torture]
Brandon: Confess! Confess! Confess!
Rosenberg: It doesn't seem to be hurting him, Lord.
Brandon: Have you got all the air in the schlong?
Rosenberg: Yes, Lord.
Brandon [angrily hurling away the Inflatable Michigan Man Sex Doll]: Hmm! He is made of harder stuff! Cardinal Fatcatalumnus! Fetch...THE $2.5 MILLION BUYOUT!
[Zoom into Fatcatalumnus's horrified face]
Fatcatalumnus [terrified]: The...$2.5 million buyout?
[Rosenberg pushes in a GIANT PILE OF MONEY]
Brandon: So you think you are strong because you can survive the Inflatable Michigan Man Sex Doll. Well, we shall see. Rosenberg! Put him in the Giant Pile of Money!
[They roughly push him into the Giant Pile of Money]
Brandon [with a cruel leer]: Now -- you will stay in the Giant Pile of Money until another coaching job opens up, with only a year-long break on ESPN as an analyst. [Aside, to Rosenberg] Is that really all it is?
Rosenberg: Yes, Lord.
Brandon: I see. I suppose we make it worse by shouting a lot, do we? Confess, man. Confess! Confess! Confess! Confess!
Rosenberg: I confess!
Brandon: Not you!
Last week, there was a thread about an alleged “MGoBubble” (thread ref)- and that led to a side discussion about the perceived level of support for Rich Rodriguez among various groups of people. In my quest to find some real data (rather than forum posts or polls on Detnews), I came across an organization called Public Policy Polling that conducts state-level polls about voter perceptions of political candidates. In May of 2010, they included questions about Rich Rodriguez for their Michigan poll. They repeated those questions in their Michigan poll this past week. The results, both from May and from December, are very interesting and may be surprising to some.
First of all, the usual caveats:
- I am not affiliated in any way with Public Policy Polling (site)
- I am not advocating one way or another anything about “CC” - I am trying to bring some accurate data (and new information) into the discussion
- The survey does not go very deep - it simply asks some basic questions about favorable or unfavorable opinions about RR, and about allowing RR to continue or having him replaced
- The survey does not claim to be representative of any particular subgroup other than the categories it specifically asks about. In other words, this poll is not representative of the UofM student body, nor of alumni. nor of former players, etc. It is representative of registered voters in Michigan who identify themselves as UofM fans, and of those fans as broken down by political ideology, party affiliation, age, ethnicity, and gender.
- The May Michigan survey was conducted May 25-27, polled 890 people, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% (source)
- The December Michigan survey was conducted December 3-6, polled 1224 people, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.8% (source)
- One of the questions specifically asks whether the respondent is a fan of UofM, MSU, or neither. The questions about RR were only asked to those who identified themselves as UofM fans. This also means that the margin of error for questions about RR is higher, because the sample size is smaller.
May 2010 Results
First of all, let’s look at the May results, after a 3-9 and 5-7 season, and concurrent with the announcement by Michigan of the self-imposed penalties for the NCAA violations (UofM announced those penalties on May 25).
1. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Rich Rodriguez? Based on the May results, it appears that there is a small group of people (20%) who had a favorable view of RR, and a slightly larger but still fairly small group of people (26%) who had an unfavorable view of RR. The majority (54%) were unsure.
The polling organization noted that this is a low favorable rating for one’s own coach. They compared it to the favorable rating that North Carolina fans have for their arch-rival Duke’s basketball coach (46%). For RR to have such a low favorable rating from his own fan base is “exceptionally bad,” according to the polling organization. (source)
2. Would you like to see Rich Rodriguez continue to be Michigan’s football coach this season or would you like to see him replaced? This is a very interesting result - a majority (51%) of people wanted RR to continue for the 2010 season, which implies that a majority of Michigan fans who were “Not sure” of their opinion on RR still wanted him to be the coach. In fact, there was a smaller percentage of fans who wanted him replaced (20%) than who had an unfavorable opinion of him (26%), which implies that even some of his detractors either wanted him to continue as coach this year or were unsure.
Digging a little bit deeper, although this poll doesn’t say anything specifically about UofM students, alumni, current players, or former players, it is possible to address whether age has anything to do with one’s positions on RR. A claim that I have heard on this blog is that RR’s detractors are probably older fans who are more comfortable with traditional power football, and not inclined to support a coach who brings a modern offensive philosophy to the table. In fact, this data appears to show just the opposite - the older the fan, the stronger the support for RR in May. It is the group of fans in the youngest category (18-29) who are the most polarized and who have the strongest negative views on RR.
Why is that? One possible explanation is that the idea of keeping something the same or making a change may be related to one’s political ideology - and that as of May 2010, having RR as the coach was already seen as the status quo. Assuming (the polling organization didn’t publish this specific data) that older fans tend to be conservative, and further assuming that conservatives prefer to keep the status quo, that might partially explain why older fans preferred to keep RR as coach back in May. In that sense, one could argue (although the data doesn’t necessarily say this) that RR was already accepted by those older fans as “a Michigan man” in the sense that his status as football coach was seen as the status quo.
One final interesting result from the May survey. There does appear to be a significant divide in support for RR based on ethnicity. The polling organization didn’t put forward any possible explanation for this ethnicity gap, and I honestly can’t come up with a rationale myself. It is what it is.
A lot has happened in Michigan since May, both in football and in politics. Michigan elected a Republican governor by a large majority, and the UofM football team experienced a winning season under Coach Rodriguez, but suffered double-digit losses to MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, and OSU.
So how did the events of the past 6 months affect RR’s favorable rating among UofM fans?
There remains a small core of people (20%, just as in May) who continue to have a favorable opinion of RR, while the group that has an unfavorable opinion has increased (from 26% in May to 38% in December), apparently almost completely from the “Not sure” camp in May (down from 54% in May to 42% in December). The surprising result, for me, is that the largest group (42%) is still “Not sure” about their opinion of RR.
Given that many “Not sure” fans in May still wanted RR to continue, and even some of the fans who viewed RR unfavorably in May didn't necessarily want him replaced, do fans want RR to continue as they look forward to 2011?
Again, there has been a shift in opinion away from a majority of people who wanted RR to continue back in May, to a statistically even split among those who want him to continue (32%), those who want him replaced (35%), and those who are unsure (33%). As in May, there may be some people who have an unfavorable view of RR but do not necessarily want him replaced (38% v. 35%).
Attempting to tease out where those unsure of their opinion of RR stand with respect to having him keep his job, I made a couple of admittedly invalid assumptions:
- All those who want RR to continue have a favorable opinion of him
- The difference between the larger group of those who want RR to continue v. the smaller group of those who have a favorable opinion of him consist completely of those who are unsure of their opinion of him. In other words, if 20% have a favorable opinion, but 32% want him to continue being the coach, that extra 12% of people who want to keep RR is coming from those who are unsure of their opinion of him.
Not sure of their opinion of RR but want him to continue
Again, this is probably a stretch in terms of interpreting the published data, but it appears that RR’s support for keeping his job among “neutral” UofM fans has eroded significantly.
Digging a little deeper, the May results suggested that the youngest fans (18-29) were the most strongly divided and had the highest percentage of people wanting to replace RR. By contrast, the oldest fans (65+) wanted to keep RR back in May, by a large margin. Has this age profile of support for RR changed in December?
This is a significant change. Not only has RR’s overall support eroded, his support among the “blue hairs” has completely flipped, where more of the oldest respondents (65+) want him replaced than want to keep him.
Respondents age 65+
What about the youngest respondents, who were the most divided back in May? It appears that they are now very unsure of whether they want RR to continue being Michigan's coach.
Respondents age 18-29
What about political ideology? Do even conservative fans, who theoretically would prefer to keep the status quo, still want to keep RR in his position?
Again, this shows almost a complete inversion of the results in May. Back in May, liberals tended to want to replace RR while conservatives tended to want to keep him; now in December, it’s the opposite.
And for the sake of completion, do we still see a dramatic gap in support for RR based on ethnicity?
Although there is still an ethnicity gap, it has narrowed significantly to the point where it appears that one either wants RR to continue, to be replaced, or is unsure - regardless of one’s ethnicity.
Finally, one additional question was asked in the December poll, about who the respondents would like to see as a replacement. No surprise about who leads the pack, but I should point out that Brady Hoke is running a distant third, behind even an “unnamed” candidate.
I’ll be the first to say that it is dangerous, even maliciously deceptive, to extrapolate into the future using data that is not intended to be used that way. So I believe it would be inappropriate to say anything like, “if current trends continue...”, or “another season like this one would probably result in favorable ratings of...”, or “if we lose to MSU and OSU again next year, the percentage of fans who would want to keep RR would probably be...” The data makes no claim to predict the future - it is simply 2 snapshots in time that reveal how opinions have changed since May.
I hope this diary qualifies as “bringing new information” to the table, and also brings forward some reasonably accurate opinion survey data that we can talk about, rather than statements made in a vacuum claiming that “98% of former M football players still alive despise RR” or the idea that “players that played 40-70 years ago...are not a fan of the spread offense...” (thread ref)