mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
...if this actually transpires:
There's a new twist in Michigan's ongoing search for a head coach: University officials are meeting with West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, according to Sporting News Radio correspondent Michael Bradley.
Rodriguez and his agent are in Toledo today to negotiate with Michigan athletic director Bill Martin and university president Mary Sue Coleman.
Schwing. Coleman being there, if true, would be a further signal Martin was being gently guided. For the stalkers in the crowd, FlightAware turns up a Morgantown-to-Toledo flight... but it's a Piper.
Rodriguez gets a hearty thumbs-up from these parts, but I expect in about two days he'll scoff at these rumors and sign a contract extension.
WVU's AD has no idea what's goin' on:
"I don't know anything about it," WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong told the Gazette. "The only person who can clarify that is Rich Rodriguez.
"We recently put a strong contract in place with Rich. We made a strong commitment to him and he made a strong commitment to us."
Come on, Martin, pull the Danny Ainge here and back your way into a winner.
Update II: a reader emails that the Piper Cheyenne is a plausible aircraft for a RR journey, as it's a short haul corporate transport that cruises at 250kph.
I'm a Notre Dame fan, but my wife's family has a lot of Michigan grads. (We are both from Michigan.) I've drawn my 11-year old brother-in-law to give a Christmas gift to and I am thinking of buying him a DVD about Michigan football. I've seen one called Michigan Football Memories that looks pretty good. I was wondering if there are other DVDs you or other Michigan fans can recommend.
Thanks in advance for any help.
I'm useless here. Perhaps commenters can offer some suggestions?
Now on to the usual: soup recipes.
Pat Forde reported this morning on ESPN2's First Take show this morning that Michigan should "rebuild bridges" and pursue Jim Harbaugh. I have been rather surprised that there has not been more talk about Harbaugh being a candidate, despite the comments that he made about Michigan's admissions policy earlier this year. In my opinion, Harbaugh would be an outstanding hire, and he would bring passion, intensity, and offensive ingenuity back to Michigan football. Have you heard any whispering about Harbaugh's name being mentioned, and wouldn't both the "Miles" and "Anti-Miles" camps endorse his hire?
IMO, Jim Grobe would be a terrible hire and set UM's recruiting efforts back five years.
More on Grobe later. First: Harbaugh. There's no way. Even leaving aside the blowup this summer, his first year at Stanford he was 4-8. That's not terrible considering Stanford was historically awful a year ago, but it's not good either. Yes, they beat USC, but they also lost to Notre Dame. His youth, NFL and Michigan pedigree, and promising initial returns as a coach don't go far enough to offset his tendency to shove his foot in his mouth and lack of proven ability.
And then there's the fiasco -- we do have a lot of those, don't we -- this summer. If Miles has problems getting the job because he's done wrong by the program in the opinion of key decisionmakers because he privately told some recruits Carr would be retiring, how on Earth is a guy who publicly shamed the program going to work his way into the discussion? I mean, Miles is best-case scenario goes as far as potential hires and they managed to screw it up based on years-old animosity. Harbaugh's offense is much more recent, more public, and more flagrant, and he'd be a total flier of a pick. There's no way.
Meanwhile, many took issue with my dismissal of Grobe. Jeff Brock of State Fans Nation writes:
I wanted to respectfully submit that I think that you are way off in your judgement of Jim Grobe as a coach and wanted to encourage you to take a quick step back and maybe refresh your thoughts.
Remember...I am NOT a Wake Forest fan. I just represent a school with SIGNIFICANTLY more resources, more talent and more support than Wake Forest but who loses to this guy every year.
Grobe may not be flashy or have the pizzazz of some names (nor is he an attention whore)...but I promise you - as someone who has to compete against the guy - there are few football coaches in America better than this guy...and maybe even fewer with the integrity and standards of this guy.
You commented that he "Runs a crazy offensive system that may or may not translate to higher levels with (possibly) better talent. A huge, huge risk to anyone who has performance foremost on their mind. Obviously, this is not the case here."
I hold a different opinion that your conclusions in this statement are in stark contrast to the actual facts. I've got a few rebuttals if you would allow:
* Instead of running a 'crazy offense', Grobe runs an extremely effective and efficient offensive system that wins football games no matter whom the opponent. Isn't that they goal. I haven't seen much 'crazy' about it other than how he takes players that FSU, Clemson, VPI, UNC and NC State didn't want and then turns around and beats those very teams with lesser players.
* Additionally, don't confuse these 'lesser players' as an example of how he 'can't recruit'. The guy doesn't recruit top talent because he is at Wake Forest...not because he 'can't' recruit.
* Grobe won an ACC Championship at Wake Forest in a year that he beat Florida State 30-0 IN Tallahassee. I can't begin to explain how amazing that is. Wake has one of the five SMALLEST enrollments in division one football. They play in a glorified high school stadium with a fanbase that looks like they are preparing for a J Crew photo shoot. And, it isn't as though he took over something that was decent and made it better. The program he inherited from Jim Caldwell was on par with Duke it was so bad. Yet Grobe immediately became competitive and now is winning championships with some of the smallest resources in the country.
* "Translate to Higher Levels"? The ACC may not be the top football league in America the last two years...but it certainly is a 'higher level'. Over the last three years the ACC has put more players into the NFL than the Big Ten and two years ago the league set a college football record with more first round draft picks than any conference in football history. An ACC vs Big Ten comparison is irrelevant to the conversation. What is relevant is that you don't get much 'higher level' than a competitive landscape with the most NFL talent in America. Therefore, Grobe's performance ALREADY 'translates to a higher level'. You just need to acknowledge it.
* No offense...but you may be a tad biased as it relates to this 'higher level' thing. Friggin Duke hasn't won an ACC football game in 4 years yet beat the Big Ten's bowl-bound Northwestern AT Northwestern this year. The same FSU team whom Wake beat 30-0 last year played Florida a helluva lot closer than Ohio State did last year. Didn't that same OSU team beat Michigan in a game that was played at this so-called "higher level"?
I think that you get my points...and, I hope that the fact that I am not even a Wake fan exemplifies how respected that Grobe is for both his performance and his behavior.
I hope that you didn't read any of my comments as critical. I just had a few minutes this afternoon and thought that you may be interested in a different perspective.
Thank you very much for your time.
Responses point by point:
- Jeff's right that a "crazy offense" based entirely around misdirection is not a negative. This blog has complained about a lack of cleverness from the Michigan coaching staff for years.
But while Grobe does well with what he has his offenses have never been actually good. Total offense in the Grobe era: 98 (this year), 96 (2006), 68 (etc), 76, 76, 24, 51. Disturbingly, Grobe's offense seems stuck in a multi-year decline perhaps for the same reasons Michigan's zone running game imploded this year: once they've seen it it's just not that imposing. It would be nice if Grobe had one year in the past five in which his offense was even average despite the Wake talent gap.
Wake has to be the first 11-game winner to be actually outgained on average over the entire season (323-307). Duke drove 60-plus yards on its first possession and missed a field goal, then drove 60-plus yards on its last possession a
nd had the winning kick blocked. UConn dominated statistically, completely shut down Wake's offense (the Deacs had 209 total yards) but gave up two "cheap" touchdowns, on an 86-yard interception return and a one-play, six-yard drive after a last gasp fourth down attempt. The margin in the N.C. State win was a Wolfpack fumble that somehow rolled 20 yards into the end zone for a safety, but it also required each of three 50-plus-yard field goals by Sam Swank and a failed two-point conversion to tie in the dying minutes. North Carolina allowed a blocked punt in the first quarter and was looking for the tying touchdown at the Wake 12 with seconds remaining before being â€“ surprise! It was Joe Dailey â€“ intercepted.
When Wake's fortunes returned from the Robert Varkonyi stratosphere, so did their results. Credit is due Grobe for keeping Wake competitive, defying SMQB's grim "Wake is a textbook first-to-worst candidate" summation, but Wake 2006 was a very fortunate team in a very, very bad conference. As a testament to coaching skills go it's not a stirring one.
A common meme on Michigan message boards is that Grobe is the football equivalent of Beilein. Even if this didn't sell Beilein -- way more successful and consistent at West Virginia than Grobe has been at Wake -- short, Beilein is a good hire for a Michigan basketball program that hasn't been to the tournament in a decade. The Michigan football program is not the Michigan basketball program.
Grobe appears to be an excellent coach but, like Paul Johnson, a very poor fit for Michigan. He's an enormous risk; if Michigan is going to take an enormous risk it makes sense to do so with a guy who's young. Grobe either has five bad years or ten good ones. Someone like Kelly could have five bad years or twenty-five good ones.
A dissenting opinion from a Michigan fan:
MOTS: my objection remains the overrating of Grobe based on one year when Smiling Demon Deacon Loving God transported a team that was outgained on average in its conference games to the BCS. Many people will look at that and declare Wake "found a way to win" ex post facto; to me that's a ton of luck. 50-yard field goals and defensive touchdowns do not a program make except maybe Virginia Tech.
Grobe, IMO, is just as big a risk as any of the hot young guys out there but has a far smaller upside and would be a questionable hire at best.
Who would I hire?
1. If you were the Athletic Director the day Carr stepped down, how would you have proceeded, and who do you think you would have hired? Why?
2. If you took over as AD now (Petrino is at Arkansas, etc.), what do you do? Who would you pursue as you first, second, etc. choice? Again, why?
Just a thought.
Well, we don't really know what went on inside the AD. So we'll have to make some initial assumptions:
- There are two major factions inside the athletic department with goals as close to polar opposites as you can get. One wants change, the other hates it.
- The first group pushes Miles, the second group Ferentz and Hoke and Grobe.
- You are trying to make both sides happy.
Uh... does not compute. You cannot do both of these. Martin's first error: trying to do both of these. Okay, I'll talk to Miles indirectly but I'll make sure LSU gets the first a
nd so far only move. Okay, I'll call Miles with Mary Sue and talk but after being publicly shamed. Okay, we'll offer the job to him sorta but he has to keep some assistants and can't get enough money for others and he'll report to Carr. (Previous sentence speculative.) Meanwhile in between we'll dance the safety dance with Ferentz.
The way the search has been handled indicates Martin and I have very different ideas about what needs changing in the football program. Martin: the nameplate on the coaches' door. Me: nearly everything. So this is in no way feasible if I am playing Bill Martin. But if I'm playing me...
1. Put Carr on a boat to China. Have a nice vacation. See you in February. Carr is way too close to the situation and has too many animosities with key players to be a close advisor. He is also deeply invested in that perpetuating his culture thing; we want to change it and he'll be really annoying to be around.
2. Fire Mike Debord.
3. Re-hire Mike Debord.
4. Fire Mike Debord again. He symbolizes everything that's wrong with the program: cronyism, incompetence, entitlement, more incompetence, sloth, and guys who look like Gomer Pyle. This wouldn't do anything productive, but neither did hiring him after his CMU debacle.
5. Hire a search firm. It's mindboggling Michigan didn't do this. You haven't looked for a football coach in 40 years. It's time to bring in consultants.
6. Call Miles, Tedford, Schiano, Stoops, Meyer, Spurrier. Gauge interest. The latter three will laugh in your face and hang up, but whatever. Maybe Spurrier's having a pissy day.
7. If any of the above agree to come, give them total control of the program and get out of the way. I do not think Michigan offered Schiano or Miles this. A tipster indicates the offers had some riders: keep at least a few assistants, one of whom will act as a liaison (read: snitch) to Lloyd Carr, assistant AD in charge of football operations.
8. Oh, and if there isn't enough money to pay for coordinators... raise ticket prices two dollars and shower John Tenuta in golden honey.
9. Hire Brian Kelly otherwise.
As for what I'd do now: if Martin has been deposed by a pitchfork-toting mob presumably Michigan would have the flexibility to pursue Miles again. I would go for Tedford first -- I still think he's the best option -- and if that got shot down I would go hat in hand back to Les, making it very clear he can choose not to retain any and pay his coordinators whatever the hell he wants to. Assuming Les and Tedford are off the table... well. Damn. It's at this point your outside search firm comes in. Past those two guys the track records get thin and you're basing your decision on something other than onfield performance.
At this point you look for someone relatively young, like 40-something, and take a major risk. If Kelly's problems are minor he's the top candidate. (No, I do not care if the head coach is kind of a dick.) English would get a serious look with the proviso that a big-deal OC is brought in. Petersen from Boise State becomes viable, as do NFL coordinators du jour. At no time do the words "Brady Hoke" ever threaten to assemble.
Who said this...
"It's flattering," [Coach] said ... "But this is not the right time for anyone to discuss anything other than us playing for a national championship.
"I can guarantee you I have made no inquiries about the University of Michigan job, and I have not been contacted."
No, not Les Miles. This guy:
A new name has surfaced in Michigan's search to replace Lloyd Carr. A source confirms that University of Delaware coach KC Keeler is being heavily considered to take over in Ann Arbor.
Keeler's Blue Hens take on Appalachian State this weekend in the I-AA Championship game. Prior to Delaware, the UD alum coached at Rowan College in New Jersey. His 2003 Delaware team won the national title.
Meanwhile, I have a source of my own who states Michigan is "talking to" Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin's about ten and is currently leading the Raiders to a miserable season in his first go as a head coach and seems a really iffy candidate, but hey, at least they're talking to people.
What's going on? At this point, I don't know and I don't think anyone else does either. The last "reliable" piece of info to come in was the Miles conversation. Now that avenue seems truly dead, and yesterday's post on Grobe was based on internet buzz and little else -- sorry if I didn't make that clear. A few people are complaining about regular sources of information being completely in the dark, so I assume the "leakers will be shot" memo has gone forth to the high and mighty.
Now we enter the deeply crazy -- yes now we enter -- phase of the search, when the chastened AD starts running silent and a Miles-free rabble starts latching on to every name floated by sports talk radio.
An approximate timeline of events so far:
- Carr retires, claiming the timing of said retirement has nothing to do with helping or harming anyone's chances at the job.
- Kirk Ferentz is the first hot candidate. I still believe if he was willing to accept a paycut (and, possibly, Carrassistantpalooza) he'd be the coach and the search would have been brief. A few days after Carr retires, he's out again.
- Les Miles is now a "done deal" for about a week.
- ESPN and Kirk Herbsreit create the brief Miles-Tenuta era. Flowers sprout across the state. Wolves stop their eternal thirst for deer meat and sit down to have a nice cup of tea with representatives of the local ungulate population. GM announces six plant openings. Honda declares bankruptcy.
- Sailboat Bill Martin sails on sailboat as Frantic Telephoning Agent Guy frantically telephones Sailboat Bill.
- Miles announces he's staying at LSU. Flowers die. Honda buys ad space on Jennifer Granholm's forehead, tatoos "Suck It, America" on said forehead, crushes auto industry wholesale. Deer viscera everywhere.
- New hot candidate: Kirk Ferentz. That dies again.
- Actual new hot candidate: Greg Schiano, who reportedly turns down a contract offer comparable to the one he turned down from Miami last year. Reports that Schiano had tentatively accepted an offer before reversing course twist the knife.
- Another new old hot candidate: Miles, who has a conference call with Mary Sue Coleman and Martin.
- Miles shoots down hopes once more with a tersely-worded press release. Off camera, Skip Bertman holds a gun to his wife's head, Jack Bauer-style. Flowers die again. Toyota tatoos something unspeakable on Granholm's butt. Wolves start eating people.
So what now? Ferentz, Schiano, and Miles are off the table. There has been exactly one indication that Jeff Tedford is being considered and that wasn't from either Berkeley or Ann Arbor but Los Angeles. By all indications, Brian Kelly isn't even being considered. The three known interviewees: Debord, English, and Hoke.
This search no longer has a public direction, which is an improvement from a public fiasco but, given the whole fiasco thing, unsettling. If the search had been dark from day one, we could sit and wait and trust in Martin's ability to acquire Beilein and hold onto Rich Maloney and get the stadium renovation through. But Michigan has been exposed as prancing jackanapes; at this point fans should expect a detailed daily briefing from someone in the athletic department justifying everything they're doing to reassure us about the prancing. Slides make everyone seem competent.
This is not likely to happen.
What should happen: a bucket of money gets thrown at Tedford, and if that gets shot down Brian Kelly is brought in. Sadly, this is also not likely to happen. We have seen incompetency in this department from the fellows in South Bend and competency from the ones in Gainesville (check out this old article on the hiring of Urban Meyer); at this point there's little question which side of the fence we're on.
On the same day Bobby Petrino takes the Arkansas job, Jim Grobe becomes the hot name in the Michigan coaching search.
Weeks ago, Petrino's name kept popping up among college athletic directors looking for new coaches. I wrote that Petrino sniffed around the Michigan job to no avail. GM Rich McKay and Petrino both denied that he was actually pursuing open positions on the college level.
Why not Petrino? Inveterate job-hopper, guy you'd have to worry about from time to time if he's a success, which his track record at Louisville suggests he would be. Why not? Because you might have to endure the indignity of watching your coach entertain other job offers? Isn't this Michigan? Isn't this a place that should be good enough that other job offers don't matter?
And if it isn't, whose fault is that?
A blogging associate of mine found himself talking with a prominent assistant coach in the state of Florida who could not believe Greg Schiano turned the job down. "Insane" was the term used in our discussion. And, right: insane. This is the head coach of Rutgers, and even if he gets lucky and Joe Paterno retires before 2027 everything has to fall right for him if he's going to get the job. Bradley has to be passed over. He has to remain attractive enough to be the first choice. And Penn State's athletic department has to overlook strong internal candidates like JayPa.
For Schiano to turn the job down there has to be something wrong with someone. Maybe it's Schiano, but the preponderance of the evidence says otherwise.
Petrino asked about the Michigan job and could not get an interview. Brian Kelly is running around saying he can't guarantee he'll be back at Cincinnati next year but will not be considered for the job. Les Miles... well, we all know the fiasco that turned into.
I would like to believe in the magic of smokescreens, but when a phone call with Les Miles, Mary Sue Coleman, and Bill Martin that should remain secret hits WTKA, then here, then the Free Press the problem with the search is not its obscurity but its transparency. And it's transparent that Michigan is flailing, divided amongst itself, and rapidly running out of plausible options.
Brady Hoke is not a plausible option. Neither are Mike Debord, Ron English, or current future rejecter du jour Jim Grobe. But who else is there? Michigan is determined to eliminate anyone who's "off" in any way. Grobe is not off. This is Jim Grobe:
This is about perpetuating a culture. It is not about finding a good football coach. Anyone outside of that culture faces the daunting task of conforming to it instead of changing it, and that has driven off coaches even if it's "insane" not to take the job. Something is rotten in the state of Schembechler, and it will not yield the throne.
And what about Grobe, the coach? Old. No record of how well he recruits. Runs a crazy offensive system that may or may not translate to higher levels with (possibly) better talent. A huge, huge risk to anyone who has performance foremost on their mind. Obviously, this is not the case here.
Press release from the LSU official site:
BATON ROUGE -- LSU football coach Les Miles issued the following statement on Tuesday regarding the conversation he had with Michigan last week:
"I had a conversation with Michigan last week that covered a wide range of topics. I was doing nothing more than helping them with their search for a football coach, just as any loyal alumnus might do. It was nothing more than that.
"I'm not a candidate for that job and I will not be a candidate for the job. I was only assisting them in their search for a coach. I have a great job at a wonderful place, a place that my family calls home. It's time that Michigan goes on with their search for a football coach. I'll say it again, I'm going to be the coach at LSU next season."
I don't believe that explanation for a hot second and there's always the chance of a post-bowl 180, but the flame dims once again.