this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
The sexiest guy with Shrek ears on the planet.
In recent weeks we've seen two mainstream mediapersons state that Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano either had accepted or was incredibly close to accepting the Michigan job. Michael Rosenberg:
On the night of Dec. 6 - several days after the Les Miles fiasco - Martin told several people he had hired a coach. He thought he had landed Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. But the next day, Schiano turned down the Michigan job, sending Martin scurrying for another plan.
And Stewart Mandel:
And a well-informed source told me after the fact that Schiano got serious cold feet after turning down the Wolverines and tried unsuccessfully at the 11th hour to get himself back in the running.
Are these things true? If there's one thing following the coaching search taught me, it's that everything lives in some sort of limbo, neither true nor false. But we can take these as two sources. I have two more, both of which sort of agree with the mainstream sources above.
The first ended up in my inbox at 11:30 on December 6th; the source was someone in a position to know:
... got a call tonight from a person who has a friend who is a Grad Assistant for Rutgers football and he's saying that Schiano is a done deal to go to Michigan to the point where they are actually going to have an interim coach at Rutgers for the bowl game.
I was out until late and didn't check my email before going to bed; when I awoke the next morning Schiano had publicly rejected the job. The same emailer followed up, saying Schiano had done a last-second 180 after talking to his players.
It was at this point the search careened wildly, with the internet (and myself) seizing upon any vaguely viable or terrifyingly DOA candidate: Jim Grobe. Brady Hoke. Mork and/or Mindy. Eventually opportunity met something that could just barely find its ass with both hands and the Michigan-Rodriguez union was consummated in Toledo, with Elvis presiding. A couple days later I got this email:
Michigan re-offered Schiano on Saturday and he stayed up until 2am with the OC (maybe more-family?) debating on whether to take the job. When he called Michigan on Sunday morning to turn it down, they then offered Rodriguez.
I can't vouch for the emailer, but the path from Schiano to yrs truly was short and left very little room for reinterpretation.
So. Everyone on the planet thinks Schiano got a real offer from Michigan and had actually accepted it before making a last-second 180. Mainstream news accounts even have this version of events. I think this is incontrovertible. For a brief period from about 11 PM December 6th to 11 AM December 7th, Greg Schiano was Michigan's coach. Then he backed out.
I think there's plenty of evidence suggesting that the two parties tried once again to come to an agreement but failed. Mandel says that was Michigan's decision; my emailer says it was Schiano's. I know the asserted provenance of the emailer's rumor, and think there would be very little reason to dissemble in the aftermath of hiring someone else, so I lean towards Michigan making a second run and Schiano having to say no again. FWIW.
Does this matter? If you're a Michigan fan, not much. But if you're a Penn State fan scouring the nation for potential JoePa replacements I think it signals that Schiano is going to be a tough pull. He's getting a huge investment in facilities at Rutgers and is just now ramping up his recruiting. With Rodriguez out of the Big East the only thing standing in the way of Rutgers dominion is Brian Kelly at Cincinnati and maybe the Wannstache's inexplicable recruiting prowess. And he's now turned down serious Miami and Michigan offers in consecutive years. I don't know how much credence to lend the PSU internet's "Schiano dreams of State College" article of faith.
IMO, Schiano is going to be piloting a program not far removed from PSU's by the end of this year or next or whenever Paterno finally calls it quits, but he'll be doing it in a conference without 800-pound gorillas. He'll have to think long and hard about whether he should go.
ANN ARBOR -- Incoming Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez has fired all nine current assistant coaches.
There is a possibility defensive line coach Steve Stripling may be rehired.
Rodriguez, who was on campus Wednesday and Thursday to meet with football operations personnel and observe bowl practices, sat down with the coaches one by one on Thursday and to give each the news.
Wow. This is not entirely surprising, since Rodriguez said he would be bringing not only his spread offense from West Virginia but his 3-3-5 defense, which is an "odd stack" and therefore an odd duck the current staff is unfamiliar with. I kind of expected a few holdovers for recruiting continuity.
About that recruiting continuity: a common thing for recruits to say is "I'm still committed, but I'd like to see what happens with coach X." Well, Coach X is going to be somewhere else next year. Might have a decommit or two now; with Fred Jackson gone the McGuffie warning klaxons are going full-bore.
This should also dispel any conspiracy theories about Rodriguez being forced to keep so and so because, well, obviously. He's the man, man. And since everyone's getting paid this year if they don't latch on elsewhere there's not much to mourn. It'll be interesting to see where the discarded coaches end up, as it'll be an acid test of their attractiveness to the coaching community. Ron English, rumored to be under consideration as UW's DC, seems likely to land on his feet. Certain others... not so much.
A question: was this blog useful at all during the coaching search?
The traffic numbers indicate that it was at least interesting, but in the end the stuff on this blog couldn't have been more wrong. There was a ten minute window during which
- MGoBlog had a post in which it noted the WVU message boards had done a sudden 180, and
- said 180 had not reached the mainstream media.
If you managed to visit the blog in this brief window you had accurate insight into Michigan's next coach you could not have gotten elsewhere. The cost was a nonstop avalanche of stuff that induced panic, made Bill Martin a sailboat pariah, and made everyone depressed for the better part of a month.
Then, bam: Rodriguez! Don't we all look foolish. Most especially me.
This blog has always been pretty gung-ho on the information available on the internet. With proper safeguards -- multiple independent-seeming reports, basically, and hopefully a couple of them from people bearing track records -- there is stuff out there that can be gleaned that cannot be gleaned otherwise, at at a remarkably high accuracy level. I still believe this.
Just not about coaching searches.
Things the internet said over the past month:
- Ferentz has not only been offered but accepted the job (multiply sourced!)
- Miles told his team he was accepting the Michigan job.
- Rodriguez was staying at WVU.
And it could have been worse: during the Schiano Era a good source indicated that Schiano had accepted the job. I was spared a difficult decision because I was rocking a fake bass until ridiculously late at night and by the time I arose in the morning, the Schiano Era was over.
The moral of the story: coaching searches are crazy. And, like Bill Martin, I acted a n00b for good sections. The first and clearest error on both our parts: Kirk Ferentz. From there things were uneven, but Martin gets to point to Rich Rodriguez and all I get to point to is a post that says "no Rich Rodriguez!"
So... yeah. The internet's did about as well during all this as we thought Michigan was doing. Our (er... my) only consolation is that ESPN did about as well as we did. Oh, and that we hired Rich Freakin' Rodriguez.
As a commenter said in the aftermath "now I can stop reading this goddamn blog." Amen: now I can stop writing it. It's been sort of fun, but I welcome the opportunity to never do this again. Back to the tables and charts. But first, a recap of the madness. (Warning: occasional F-bomb.)
Wither Martin? In the aftermath of the Sailboat Disaster, I wrote:
Michigan's chances at landing Miles are now much weaker than they were a week ago, and it's because Martin blew the most important decision in Michigan athletics since 1969. Because he was on a damn boat too busy to return a phone call.
He has a chance to make good with an excellent hire; anything short of that and he should be run out of town on a rail.
Mission accomplished, and the "how" of it doesn't matter. Even if your faith in his ability to conduct a coaching search is shaken, Martin's old and isn't going to be around for another in either revenue (read: madness-inducing) sport. His record since the Amaker hire is impressive: getting the program on sound financial footing in the aftermath of the disastrous Goss era, retaining Maloney in the face of actual SEC offers, embarking on a radical and needed stadium makeover, and raiding West Virginia for everything that's not nailed down.
Now, do I think that this was headed in a very bad direction before Mary Sue Coleman got heavily involved? Yes. Was Martin caught flat-footed and unprepared? Yes. Did he luck out by stumbling across what appears to be a poisoned relationship and an athletic director who allowed personal feelings to interfere with having a kick-ass football team? Yes.
Given all the crazy stuff that went down over the past month, would I put much behind these opinions? Not really. MGoBlog remains a results-based charting service. Bill Martin: I'm sorry.
A completely speculative and unconfirmed timeline of events.
This is just what I think happened based on everything that's been sent to me and appeared in the press and would logically lead to the things we have had confirmed in the MSM.
1. Carr pushes Ferentz. This was probably happening during the season to some extent, though Carr was busy coaching the team. Given the way the season played out it had to be immediately apparent that someone on the current staff was a no-go. Carr surveys the available coaches and concludes Ferentz is his guy and pushes Martin to pursue things. With Miles facing down a potential national title game, he's off the table.
Is there an offer at this point? Obviously, this depends on who you listen to. I get the feeling many of these conversations go "we could hypothetically offer you $2 million and a hypothetical pony"; "I would hypothetically need a salary that matches my current salary, plus the pony." So plausible deniability is maintained. The Schiano stuff provides an exemplar:
Schiano called the team to the Hale Center at 7 a.m. and told them he "still had work to do" at Rutgers. Schiano looked physically exhausted and said "this was a hard decision," according to a member of the football staff who was in the meeting.
The member of the football staff requested anonymity because of the private nature of the team meeting, but said Schiano looked "tired, beaten up and physically exhausted." He said the Michigan job was Schiano's if he wanted it, but the job was never officially offered.
No offer from Michigan == "tired, beaten up and physically exhausted"? Equals a team meeting to dismiss said rumors? No, probably not.
I think Michigan offered Ferentz the job but the terms were such that he was very unlikely to accept, or they had talks that implied to Ferentz that the job was his if he wanted it, much like Schiano did. I know people close to the Iowa staff thought Ferentz had an offer on the table, and through channels are really unlikely to be an agent's ploy.
Ferentz turns it down, whatever it is, or Michigan can't meet his demands or something. In any case, talks break down.
2. Les Miles is a done deal. It's a done deal, baby! With Ferentz out and LSU suddenly out of the national championship, speculation turns to Miles. Michigan gets permission to contact. Done deal! LSU says "okay, coach the bowl"! Done deal! Four different guys say the LSU players have been told! Done deal! Some people say it's not a done deal, but MORE people say it is! Done deal! Herbstreit reports Miles and Tenuta to Michigan! DONE DEAL!!! Miles has press conference! DONE--
3. Les Miles is still on the table! H
ey, his presser was kind of weird and left room for semantic wiggling. Maybe he's just putting it off until after the --
"I will be LSU's head coach next year. Absolutely."
4. Brady Hoke... well, that's cute. Hoke interviews. Nobody thinks this is anything but a courtesy.
5. Come Sail Away. In the aftermath, we try to figure out what happened with Miles. First theory: Carr put the kibosh on it. Completely impossible to believe counter-theory: Bill Martin was on a boat and couldn't be reached as LSU put on its power play. Ha-ha-ha, crazy internet with the crazy thing--
Miles had no idea if Michigan really wanted him.
So Bass [Miles' agent] decided to ask.
He said he called Martin's cell phone on Friday and left a message. He just wanted to know where Miles stood.
Then, when he didn't hear back, the agent said he called Martin again.
"The (LSU) deal was so good that we couldn't just wait," Bass said via phone Tuesday. "I didn't know if we were one of the candidates in the pool at that time. There was just no communication."
Where was Martin? One source places him in Florida, at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.
Wherever he was, he didn't call back.
6. He's back! He's not. Ferentz briefly re-emerges, then fades.
7. Ha, ha, Brady Hoke. Dienhart claims Hoke is the frontrunner. He is laughed upon.
8. Schia-no. We're now about a week past the Miles kerfuffle, a week full of recriminations as the warring pro- and anti-Miles camps take their spat into the local papers. I've obviously lost my mind and would chew off Bill Martin or Lloyd Carr's face if I thought it would bring Miles to Michigan. Big donors are reportedly very pissed off. And the only persons even mentioned over the past week are Hoke and Ferentz, neither of whom seems plausible.
It's at this point I think Coleman steps in and Michigan's search starts making sense, two weeks after Carr steps down. Michigan offers Schiano the job, reportedly for the same amount Miami offered the year before, right after a fortuitously timed Profile In Heroism and gets turned down. More recriminations.
9. Sean Payton? No.
11. Seriously, Brady Hoke? Along with the Miles news comes buzz that Hoke is actually getting pushed by anti-Miles forces. A Profile In Cronyism is deployed to display just how bad an idea this is. Morale is low.
13. GROBE! The next day sees Jim Grobe pick up internet momentum, and though by this point internet momentum is worth about as much as the Great White Fail's schematic advantage Grobe is still the perfect platform to launch yet another broadside at this apparently botched search. At this point face-consumption possibilities have expanded to friends, my brother, and most players not named "Mike Hart".
14. Radio silence. Things go dark and there are no plausible candidates about. Fan hopes seem to focus on non-BCS head coaches and NFL coordinators. Two completely implausible names come forward: Lane Kiffin and KC Keeler.
15. Rodriguez. TSN breaks that Michigan is meeting with Rich Rodriguez in Toledo. ("Why Toledo," you ask? Easy: closest Chick-Fil-A to Ann Arbor.) Everyone immediately dismisses this as ludicrously implausible, but all of a sudden the thing has legs. I start stalking the posts of WVU insiders who were right on during the Beilein search. It could happen! It could happen!
Wha... wha... ? No. Really?
A team source said Magee and Gibson will join Rodriguez's staff in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Rodriguez was introduced this morning at a press conference. The source said Rodriguez is also interested in retaining defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jeff Casteel, safeties coach Bruce Tall, associate head coach/special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Bill Stewart and strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Barwis.
That would presumably mean the end of English, Szabo, and Bedford. Andy Moeller is not expected to be retained, especially in light of his recent legal issues; perhaps Stewart would take over on the OL. Stripling, Loeffler, Jackson, and Campbell appear to be candidates to stay.
Bob Lichtenfels is inadvertently breaking all sorts of coaching news these days. From a premium article on Nebraska recruit (until Callahan got axed) turned West Virginia recruit (until Rodriguez left) turned kinda pissed off young man (resolution pending) DJ Woods:
"We did speak with Coach (Rich) Rodriguez today and told us he is taking most of his staff including S&C coach Mike Barwis with him," [Derrick] Woods said. "Barwis was one of the reasons that D.J. liked West Virginia."
Gittleson: gone, and with him goes the antiquated HIT system that only Michigan and Penn State still use. I've never known how much credence to give the S&C wailers, but I think we can all agree that when it's just you and Penn State doing something you're on the wrong end of the innovation bell curve unless the something in question is the Charleston. And every time Brent Musberger brought up Michigan's totally sophisticated system for beefing up Pat Massey -- literally "eat a lot of pizza, son" -- I wanted to throw a shoe at the TV, and then I wanted that shoe to magically transform into a defensive lineman who could stay within five yards of the line of scrimmage. So Git gone == good.
Who is this Barwis guy? Well, if you listen to the fluff put out by the West Virginia athletic department he's got the Ferrigno touch, turning everything he comes across into 230 pounds of twisted blue steel. Try not to drool, o wailers:
"I listen to people and they don't understand what it's like until they get here. They get here and they say, 'Oh my God, what I was doing was a joke,'" Barwis said.
One of those, Florida State transfer Barry Wright, has exceeded all of his personal training bests since he joined the Mountaineer program last fall as a walk-on.
"He told us he had never been through anything like this," said Barwis.
Today's strength and conditioning program is much more than simply lifting weights, says Barwis. It encompasses nutrition, flexibility, speed, agility and even psychology.
Fluff, perhaps, but this is not fluff, especially given the widespread internet rumor that Michigan's voluntary workouts were sparsely attended this offseason:
"Today starts full-go," he says of the team's eight-week voluntary summer training program.
The last two weeks following the conclusion of the spring semester was for informal workouts where the players could come in on their own three times a week.
"We had 90 during that time," Barwis says in his familiar raspy voice. "We had open lifts Monday, Wednesday and Friday and they finished last week."
During the same period last year, Barwis estimated about 50-60 players took advantage of the open period. When the conditioning program began last summer every single scholarship player was in town for the entire eight weeks.
Alex Mitchell is weeping softly into his cheeseburger milkshake.
Ryan Mundy transferred over the course of the offseason and had this to say in August:
As far as the strength and conditioning program is concerned, Mundy says West Virginia's program is much more intense than Michigan's. Other players that have transferred to West Virginia have said similar things in the past, explaining that at some other places the players coming into the program are physically bigger and more explosive. West Virginia develops it.
"Down here we do a lot of Olympic lifts â€“ squats, power clings, hang clings and things like that â€“ and I hadn't done that type of stuff since high school," Mundy said. "I had to get my body back used to doing those types of movements. As far as the practice down here we run after practice and we never ran after practice at Michigan."
No doubt this is part of how West Virginia got excellent results out of mostly average recruiting classes, and part of why Michigan disappointed in recent years. The two stalest parts of the Michigan program were its offensive philosophy and the S&C; both of those things have been swept away and replaced by cutting-edge innovation.
West F-ing Virginia fans turn out to be as socially maladjusted as Arkansas fans, but in doing so they provide some useful information for Michigan fans wondering about the composition of the new staff.
This purports to be a picture of Rodriguez, his wife and family, and a couple assistants boarding a plane for Ann Arbor (or Toledo or wherever). Obviously you can't make anything out in this picture and it could be of anyone anywhere, but this one definitely features Rodriguez's wife. These guys were at the airport as Rodriguez "snuck out of town" like "a snake in the night" by taking a plane. It must have been an invisible cobra plane.
Anyway, the two assistants (drumroll)... defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator Tony Gibson and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee (bios), which implies those two guys will be following RichRod to Ann Arbor. Which would mean that our current staffers in those positions will not be retained. Which is, depending on the position we are talking about, either mostly indifferent or totally awesome.
Bonus! I kind of hate quoting Anchorman -- played -- but there is only one possible response to these guys, who actually yelled stuff at Rodriguez as he left:
We did the O-H-I-O chant.
Asked him how it felt to betray the state. Told him he might have been born here, but he's not a Mountaineer.
Asked him how he would manage to be successful if he can't continue to live off of White's juke moves.
Told him he was outcoached by Wanstedt, the worst coach in football history.
More "living off of juke moves" comments.
Stuff like that.
ps. It will all be in the Dominion Post tomorrow.
And that is, of course, "you stay classy, Morgantown." Even more hilarious is the guy's signature picture, no doubt chosen to express a preference for a new coach: