In which I defend Notre Dame. Seriously!
Gregg Easterbrook first came in for a lashing around these parts when he claimed Rich Rodriguez had been in contact with Michigan before West Virginia's game against Pitt without a shred of evidence and used this in a tiresome broadside at the idea that a college coach would take a better job. When this was totally disproven by actual court records, Easterbrook—who loves to complain about New York Times errors being on page one and corrections on page 37—did not deign to notice, instead launching tiresome broadside after tiresome broadside at "weasel" coaches.
It's December again and a major program has just hired a coach, so it's time for yet another tiresome broadside:
Charlie Weis and Bobby Bowden had to go -- Notre Dame and Florida State weren't winning every game! Get rid of the bums! All we heard from sports commentators, and from alums and boosters, was get rid of the bums, we gotta win, win, win. Sorry to interject, but why? Why does Notre Dame or Florida State or any university need to win every game? Is it now official that big colleges care more about sports than education?
You'd think a guy like Easterbrook, who is paid to be a political pundit, would have at least a tenuous grasp on economics: Florida State and Notre Dame would like to win because if they do not win they get less money for their athletic departments. If they continue to stick with coaches who are not performing, fan enthusiasm will crater and they'll be faced with the dissolution of a tradition treasured by thousands. Why am I explaining this to you? You understand this because it is obvious. Nevermind. I'll stop treating you like you are a simpleton.
Easterbrook, on the other hand, seems determined to display his ignorance at every opportunity. In previous columns he's claimed Michigan Stadium's renovations are being paid for by "public funds," which if true is only true in an extremely technical sense since the athletic department is and remains self-sufficient*, and that Michigan "surprised" Notre Dame by running the no-huddle style of offense Rich Rodriguez has been deploying for almost a decade at big important newsworthy schools.
In this column his impression of Notre Dame's recruiting under Weis is totally wrong:
Notre Dame was among the few prominent holdouts, insisting its football players be students too. This generated a recruiting disadvantage -- and a recruiting disadvantage caused by high standards, not Weis suddenly forgetting how to coach, is the reason for the recent records of Notre Dame football. Notre Dame alums and boosters should have been proud that high standards keep the school from going 12-0!
According to Rivals, ND's recruiting classes under Weis: 8, 8, 2, 21. (The 2005 class was technically signed by Weis but was almost entirely the (lame) creation of Tyrone Willingham.) Every class at Notre Dame except redshirt seniors and freshmen was part of a top ten recruiting class.
Easterbrook also suggests that the past two decades have seen a "race to the bottom," providing no evidence other than Florida State's recent cheating scandal. He places Nebraska in a list of "academics-first colleges where football players are more likely to attend class"…
…which is a hilarious juxtaposition of concepts. He dubs Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick's desire to not go 6-6 a "bizarre notion." In his attempt to make a case that big time division I-A football can be won by nerds he cites playoffs at lower levels all the way down to Division III and Director's Cup standings heavily biased towards nonrevenue sports. When he returns to the "weasel" coaching meme—which appears to be any coach who takes a job anywhere else and thus includes some 80% of I-A coaches—he cites Brian Kelly "misleading" his players when Kelly, more than any other coach in recent history, was publicly open to a move. He freakin' tweeted about it.
Reality is just something that gets in the way of Easterbrook's arguments.
The worst thing is that buried in yet another Easterbrook-patented tiresome broadside is a concern I share for the players who play college football and end up coming out the other end with little except some memories and a concussion or two. He's not wrong that the way the NCAA is constructed is increasingly silly. Money gets poured in and ends up going to coaches because it can't go to players and has to go somewhere. The result is yet more ridiculous salaries at top schools. The first million-dollar coordinator isn't far off.
But Easterbrook eschews anything resembling a useful suggestion in favor of calling people weasels when they're just acting rationally given the situation. Here's my suggestion to help divert some of the torrent of cash to the players that has more than a snowball's chance in hell of being approved: allow programs to offer players in revenue sports two free additional years of scholarship after their eligibility expires as long as they enroll within five years. At that point it should be clear if you have a serious professional future and those who want to buckle down and make it in the real world will have an opportunity to get a degree that will help them do that.
*(You might note that part of that link is a complaint about the tax-deductibility of athletic department contributions, but that's not the only part that decries "public" funding; the issue is explicitly framed as "and on top of the public funding of the stadium renovations, here's this problem with donations."
As long as I'm in a footnote, let me mention how breathtakingly stupid that argument is: Easterbrook and his emailer are whining about Michigan spending money that will convince extremely rich people to give them more money.)
So your favorite former collegiate head coach, the guy in charge of your favorite team, one of college football's top coaches, and a guy with a meathead haircut all found themselves on the receiving end of various kinds of unfair, incorrect, or nasty-but-deserved media attention. A confusing allegorical play in four mostly unrelated acts:
It's Just A Flesh Wound
Last week on The Sporting Blog I called Bob-Stoops-to-Notre-Dame an "unkillable zombie rumor" after Stoops had to make four progressively more emphatic announcements that he wasn't going to make an unprecedented leap from a program he built into a national power to one that's been no more successful than Purdue over the last 15 years.
It has now graduated to Black Knight status, though:
Saturday's edition of the Chicago Sun Times reported that multiple sources told the newspaper on Friday that "Stoops hasn't said 'no' to Notre Dame."
This was an interesting take on the words "I will be at Oklahoma. Any reporting to the contrary is completely unfounded." Technically, the words "wild elephants could not drag me to South Bend" are not in that statement. That, however, doesn't make it any less definitive. "I will be at Oklahoma." End of story. Unless you're the Sun-Times and you're bound and determined to keep after the dumb rumor you're almost singlehandedly responsible for perpetrating in the mainstream media.
Bob Stoops on saying no to Notre Dame:
"For the third, and hopefully final time, let me again state that I will continue to be the coach at Oklahoma. I appreciate the history and tradition of Notre Dame. I also appreciate the history and tradition of Oklahoma, and I have been part of building that tradition here.
"I work for a wonderful president (David Boren) and athletic director (Joe Castiglione), who have created an incredible work environment at OU. There haven't been any plans for a meeting or negotiations with Notre Dame and there will not be. Any reporting to that fact is completely erroneous. I will not be the next coach at Notre Dame."
This is how plains Indians must have felt after the United States broke yet another treaty with them, right?
Checking Is For Commies
Fake email that started minor Bielema-to-ND meme that would probably still be going on if ND sites hadn't posted the reveal.
All right, lolmsm and all that. But Stoops isn't the only guy batting away meritless rumors about his involvement with Notre Dame:
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, who's with the team in Hawaii, said Friday morning that he has no knowledge of any interest on Notre Dame's part in speaking with Bielema.
"I haven't heard anything," Alvarez said when reached on his cell phone. "He hasn't said anything to me, and nobody's called me for permission."
Bret Bielema? No offense to a guy coming off a bounce-back year any Michigan fan would kill to have, but NDNation would have a meetup just to kill and eat each other if Bielema became head coach there. And, lo, the faintly plausible rumor was created whole cloth by one guy emailing a disreputable web site that just posts whatever crap someone sends in:
2. Friend composes a very short, but specific email: I used to work in the athletic department at Notre Dame (a lie), and I have heard that Jack Swarbrick is interested in Bret Bielema, the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. This was at 6:56pm last evening. The email is sent from a free gmail account. There is no other email sent from friend, no attempt to "sell" the rumor beyond the initial communication, and nothing else to back up his credibility.
3. Meanwhile, friend has another buddy randomly tweet a few times about the Bielema rumors, and goes to bed.
4. FootballCoachScoop does not reply to the email. FootballCoachScoop does not ask any followup questions. FootballCoachScoop, to friend's knowledge, makes no attempt to verify emailer's bona fides in any way.
5. The next morning, FootballCoachScoop runs the rumor almost verbatim. Friend chuckles and shares the development with a few friends.
This expands, getting picked up by "the Examiner," which is like a Bleacher Report that people haven't figured out is almost always garbage yet, then hit rumor first, accuracy later College Football Talk—an offshoot of Mike Florio's Pro Football Talk—and poor Rittenberg's Big Ten blog before the hoax was widely known. (BGS had actually already posted it.)
Your blogger has a couple emails in his inbox that might be innocent but look pretty hoax-y declaring that Rich Rodriguez will be fired the Monday after the Ohio State game, by the way.
This Direct Quote Is Out Of Context
Meanwhile, Charlie Weis ceased speaking to the media in the final days of his regime. I get this. If I was a head coach who knew his head would be on a platter in a matter of weeks, I wouldn't waste my time with a bunch of tedious questions about what went wrong. I might even call a special press event type substance with five hand-picked media members, and I might even go all FootballCoachScoop on tales of Pete Carroll's mysterious grad student affair:
Q: Is it frustrating to Pete Carroll, for example, portrayed in one way...
CW: Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news. He's doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it okay for one guy to do things like that, but for for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins.
At this point I would diverge, though, since attempting to take something off the internet is pointless and once you say stuff it's impossible, and a little dishonest, to try to take it back. Weis said it and he meant it and if it was supposed to be off the record that's only 5% less of a nasty move. He's then put this thing in the heads of five people off the record and set Pete Carroll's Grad Student on the same path as Rich Rodriguez's Impregnated Cheerleader, a zombie meme that lives in dark corners and emerges every time School X has a problem with Coach Y.
This One Really Is Out Of Context
I didn't mention the "Rich Rodriguez doesn't care about black people" moment from the bust in anticipation that a fuller picture of the comments would come out. WTKA's Ira Weintraub mentioned via email that Rodriguez's faux pas was a reference to an earlier speech by a regent. And lo, Dave Birkett provides:
Regent White talked earlier about, uh, it’s really kind of ironic that the New Orleans Saints overcome the hurricane a few years back. And I used to live in New Orleans, coached there for a couple years (at Tulane), and I know how devastated that city (was) and how they overcome and rebuilt their stadium, rebuilt their program from the ground up. And we’ve had a few hurricanes of our own. And we had a big hurricane in August and it kind of hit us like a ton of bricks. But you had 120 young men and a bunch of people on staff say this is not going to tear our program apart. In fact, it’ll do just the opposite, bring us together.
So, yeah, I wish Michigan had a coach that didn't misuse the world "ironic" and am pretty sure at some point in his life Rich Rodriguez has used the word "literal" to emphasize a literally untrue assertion. But Rodriguez is making a nod at one of the regents' Michael Scott impersonation and then riffing on it extemporaneously in a fashion that probably seemed unwise to him as the words were coming out of his mouth. (This has happened to me, plenty.) No one bothered to mention it except one of the two freakin' guys who wrote the piece Rodriguez is referring to, and that guy removed important context that would have taken one sentence to provide. Too good to clarify, I guess.
As for how much this matters, TSB colleague Andy Hutchins provides the right comparison:
These comments may actually match Nick Saban's penchant for grabbing Pearl Harbor and September 11th as metaphors for tragedy, what with Rodriguez talking about the human cost of Katrina purely in the prism of football, but it's less outrageous than it is ineloquent.
What difference does it make? It makes none.
I don't really have one. I just had all this media stuff in my open tabs.
I do think there's some common theme here about partial information being evil: Stoops rumors are utterly baseless but go out of control so much that Stoops has to issue five separate denials of varying strengths, Bielema is momentarily implicated in the ND coaching search and only the hoax reveal keeps him from being hounded further, Weis throws a nasty rumor into the pool that will stick with Carroll forever, and Rodriguez's comments are removed from their context by a guy with a stake in public opinion of Rodriguez. In the one instance where the comments are a full transcript of the words spoken, the speaker's problem is that his comments were not elided from the record and leaked as a whisper campaign.
I guess the thrust is this: I don't believe Weis's retraction for a second because his response to it was to have the offending passage excised from the Rivals transcript instead of demanding that the context be irrefutably provided by one of the guys who was taping the conversation. The evidence is there. Release it. Similarly, Rodriguez's inelegant statement was made to look worse by the omission of information. The Sun-Times failed to clarify just why they thought Bob Stoops was going to be Notre Dame's next head coach at any point; by now they owe the public a detailed explanation of why they kept beating the drum long after any sane organization would have stopped. And Coach Scoop Unsubstantiated Football Site just posts unconfirmed stuff without any attempt to confirm or clarify the origins of the rumors, and doesn't even respond when hoaxed.
Because they're just "rumors," right? You can term whatever you want a rumor and be free from judgment when that rumor fails to come true.
My advice to internet publishers is be as honest and transparent as possible, and people will give you the benefit of the doubt as long as you show good judgment over the long haul. This philosophy has been in place at MGoBlog for as long as it's been around. The first bit of news the site ever originated was a report that Morgan Trent had broken his hand and would miss the Minnesota game in 2006, which Rivals snarkily dismissed in premium content, causing me to post a retraction. When several people reiterated that no, seriously, Morgan Trent's hand was broken, I posted the chain of events and provided enough information for readers to judge for themselves with some guidance—I believe me. Morgan Trent's hand was indeed broken, and I've tried to follow that template ever since. That managed to get this site through the coaching search and Sam McGuffie's Cuban Transfer Crisis stronger. I don't think you can say that about the Sun-Times above.
My advice to consumers of information on the internet is to look for this sort of transparency in the things you trust, and look dimly on anyone who would misrepresent information, intentionally or not, and refuse to apologize or clarify when called on it.
Huh. Tom Dienhart's taken his "get anonymous coaches to say bitchy stuff" act on to Rivals, this time breaking down the pending SEC championship game. You probably don't care much about the particulars, but I found this section pretty interesting given that much-loved former Michigan QB coach Scot Loeffler was just put in charge of the Tebow Child:
QUARTERBACK: Our staff thought Tim Tebow has gotten worse as a quarterback from last year to this year. Everyone talks about his mechanics and dropping the football; he drops it lower this year and has worse mechanics. I don't know what it is. He's still making throws and doing some things, but he just doesn't seem comfortable back there. I don't know if it's because of the concussion or what. But teams are making him sit in the pocket longer and throw the football, and sometimes he gets a little skittish back there.
Probably doesn't mean much given Loeffler's extended, wildly successful tenure at Michigan, but I found it interesting.
Is that your final answer? The internet would be a far less chaotic and rumor-stricken place if folks followed one guideline when citing inside information: never link to a place for the first time, or link to a place you've never heard of, because it's got a hot rumor.
Why do I mention this? Because of this:
Brian Kelly will be next Notre Dame football coach
Cincinnati coach to take helm of Fighting Irish, sources reveal to IrishCentral
Brian Kelly will be the next head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, informed sources tell IrishCentral.
The source, who is a well-informed person of influence at Notre Dame, says the Cincinnati coach is the preferred choice for the job, and that he is expected to eventually sign a deal.
Kelly is expected to see out the season with his Bowl Championship Series-bound team, and then report for duty at South Bend.
There is no there there. Kelly is "expected" to "eventually" be the coach by some random guy. By this standard, Michigan is currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, and Rich Rodriguez. This site has no track record—it started in March. It talked to one guy who says Kelly is the eventual choice in a month, which in coaching search years is sometime after the Sun engulfs the Earth. And it spreads like wildfire. Why this dubious rumor and not others? Other than the newspaper website template—a rinky-dink version of one—I got nothin'.
Kelly, for his part, was less wishy-washy about staying at Cincinnati on the radio than he was at a press conference yesterday:
“I’m staying, man. I’m staying,” Kelly said on the show. “Why would I go? It’s always about staying, first. First and foremost."
No, I don't believe him either. Unfortunately.
Very modern. Greg Dooley has an interview with Angelique Chengelis up at GBW, and as a guy who runs a college football poll I found this snapshot of the AP poll's assemblage interesting:
MVictors: When you say ‘send in’, do you submit an online form or do you email something in like a Word document or a spreadsheet or something?
Angelique: I just send in an email, ranking the teams 1-25. I have a couple different email addresses that I send it to and that’s what I’ve always done. You’d think it’d be more formal, wouldn’t you?
PREWB! Yes, obligated to mention that after unusual stonewalling on the part of the local police department, eight Spartans were "indefinitely" suspended, including starters BJ Cunningham, Mark Dell, and Chris Rucker for the 2009 Posse Roundup & Engineer/Woman Beatdown. Rucker's a cornerback and in the state of Michigan all members of the secondary not named Woolfolk or Warren are interchangeably horrible, but Cunningham and Dell are excellent receivers. BONUS: there are five more guys yet to be identified—Rob Parker thinks they're all Kirk Cousins.
KJ at The Only Colors wants everyone gone permanently, but that seems steep if the kids in question didn't get violent themselves. They might have tagged along for laughs and saw Glenn Winston go all Grimsrud on them (clip NSF kiddies):
Mark Dell might just have some mechanical engineer's brain all over his car. While you have to expect that when you go anywhere with Winston, I guess, anyone without a prior incident shouldn't necessarily see their career end if the tape shows them to be largely innocent. Hefty suspensions lasting past the Michigan game next year are mandatory, though.
The thing about this thing is: I thought that giving Winston the relative slap on the wrist (essentially a four-game suspension) he got for an act far worse than many that see players drummed out of school entirely—see poor Larry Harrison—was a mistake at the time, as did a lot of other people including Spartan fans. If you want to give Dantonio the benefit of the doubt, fine. Coaches have a lot more information in these situations than we do. I find the irony of his pride before the fall delicious, though, and reserve the right to whoop it up after two years in which Michigan's coach has been portrayed as an inbred hick with no ethics.
Etc.: Phil Brabbs is dyeing his hair blue before it all falls out. DOMINATE. Rivals goes stunningly in depth with a geographic breakdown of recruiting stars and NFL draftees.
Site note: remember how I said the blog would be off Thursday and Friday? Psyche. Tim will be around posting up basketball content. I'm taking a couple days off, but the Old Spice Classic will get its due around here.
Hey, thanks for the timely assist. The AP follows up the UV from yesterday that mocked Terry Foster's baseless blog post about Rodriguez's lack job security—the theory being that big money donors would wake up two weeks from now, find out Michigan is 5-7, and revolt—with a few timely quotes from uber-donor Stephen Ross:
"If he has a bad year next year, he'll have a lot more pressure," Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told The Associated Press, standing near midfield before the Wolverines lost to Ohio State on Saturday to finish 5-7. "I don't think he has anything to worry about right now in my mind." …
"People take shots at him for whatever reason," Ross said. "Some people like to beat people when they're down. I think he's a great man and he's been a winner wherever he's been.
"It's just that a lot of people don't like change. I think it will all work out."
Dollars to donuts some hack picks up on "doesn't have anything to worry about right now" and spins it into a grim tale of a pre-2010 firing. Hell, this very article manages to quote Mary Sue Coleman's explicit statement of support for not just this year but next…
"I don't think it's fair to coaches to bring them in and say, `We're going to give you three years,'" Coleman told The Journal early this month. "When Tommy Amaker came in, we stuck with him for six years. It just wasn't going to work; it wasn't the right fit. But it wasn't a rushed decision."
…and deploy this sentence:
One person can end the speculation about Rodriguez's future and she has declined to do it.
IT'S IN YOUR ARTICLE. AAAARGH. LOOK AT THIS HEADLINE
An annual tradition, now with glass houses.
Michigan State's now-annual Posse Roundup & Engineer/Woman Beatdown was moved up this year:
Witnesses and students involved in the incident said a group of 15 to 20 men, who some described as MSU football players, stormed into the dormitory and hit and injured about seven students, some of them women.
Brent Mitchell, a communication junior who said he was sent to Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital after being punched in the face, said some of the men wore ski masks, but others were recognized as football team members.
“I walked up and said, ‘It isn’t worth it.’ A guy with dreadlocks hit me and in the scuffle slapped, hit females to get them out of the way,” Mitchell said.
It'll be interesting to see the reaction of the Detroit media to this since it seems explicitly caused by Dantonio's limp-wristed response to last year's PREWB. There is a straight line drawn from last year's incident to Dantonio's refusal to levy any serious sanctions, including on the guy who spent the summer in jail and became the starting running back, to mechanical engineering students being terrorized:
Mechanical engineering sophomore Andrew Green said he saw one of the men hit another student on his way out. “He was coming downstairs and looked at him and punched him in the jaw,” Green said.
“There was some medic treating this kid sitting in lounge area,” [journalism freshman Mitch Lex] said. “It looked like he had a baseball in his cheek.”
Even better: none of these kids had done anything to the football team. Like the Saint Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, the target was not in the area of the violence. Posse fail.
Say what you want about Justin Feagin, but Feagin was not on the Michigan roster for a millisecond after Rodriguez found out about his cocaine blues, and if the sexual assault case against anonymous 18-year-old proves founded he won't be on the team either. If Dantonio doesn't come down on another incident where a quarter of his team roams around beating up innocent students, we'll get to see the power of public relations in full bloom. What will it take for reality to overcome preconceived notions of Rodriguez as an outlaw and Dantonio a saint?
And now for the best reason to mention this, via the comments of the above article:
If you ever find yourself being attacked by an MSU football player, just yell “Wheel Route” and you’ll quickly find yourself being left all alone.
The RCMB has been here.
Grist. Notre Dame is about to undertake a coaching search and some guy who wrote some book also wrote a letter to some newspaper about what sort of coach Notre Dame should hire next. It might be of interest given Michigan's current situation:
When Notre Dame hires an experienced, successful, major college football head coach, the success rate in turning the Irish into national champions is 100 percent. When Notre Dame hires anybody else, the success rate is 14 percent.
You read that correctly. Since 1940, every single time Notre Dame has hired a college football head coach who has taken multiple teams to major bowls and achieved Top 10 national rankings, he has coached the Irish to at least one national championship and has posted regular Top 10 finishes in the national rankings. Every single time.
This neatly excludes Willingham and is kind of a weird, hacky metric. Lou Holtz hadn't taken multiple teams to major bowls unless my perception of mid-70s bowl games is way off and the Peach, Liberty, and/or Bluebonnet bowls were big deals. So the "multiple teams" metric is kind of weird. Please note that Brian Kelly does not meet this standard and should be avoided at all costs, kthx.
Relevant for Michigan is that coaches who have established major successful programs have been successful at Notre Dame, and this is likely to hold true at Michigan given enough time.
Etc.: Jimmah! No! I agree with the WLA: if you make a list of "things Notre Dame has going for it" Clausen is in the top three with Floyd and Tate; you should probably start your guys to punch list at #4. The Big Ten basketball resume picks up a couple of nice wins with Purdue beating Tennessee and Wisconsin taking out Illinois; does Iowa get half a win for being tied with Texas at halftime? Yes? No. UMHoops gets Creighton's pulse. Henri, anglicized, is in a movie.
Abbreviated. A few site notes:
- The offensive UFR for Wisconsin is basically done and will go up tomorrow.
- Blog will be off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving; Wednesday will be light.
- I've said I'd do last-game UFRs before and not come through so this isn't a promise, but I do intend to UFR this Ohio State game and I have a vague idea to go back and do the Citrus Bowl against Florida; last year's OSU game can get screwed.
- This UV is abbreviated because I'll be on WTKA from 4-6. Please call in and be sane. 734 998-1050.
So happy together. Misopogon, who you may remember from such
Russian novels diaries as "The Decimated Defense," "The Decimated Defense Part II," and "I Make Crazy Hennecharts" would like to trade in some his accumulated MGoGoodwill for material reward. Because he's a nice guy, he'd like that material reward to go to homeless families in Detroit. There's a diary post up about it; right now the donation system is pretty clunky—you call this nice lady—but I am hectoring them to set up a paypal account so the donations can be easy.
People: this is Mitch Albom's charity. I have a dream that Mitch shows up to this thing and he says "where did all this stuff come from" and Misopogon says "MGoBlog" and Mitch has this Christmas Carol-style conversion where he runs from blog to blog liberally spreading comments and goodwill. Do it for your country.
The Victors on an unusual object that makes noise. The thing on the left is a pipa, and it's pretty cool:
Marching band needs more pipa. Go comment flamewar!
Yeesh. I twittered about this but it bears repeating on the main site: holy mother of God, if Les Miles had done what he did against Ole Miss in a Michigan game blood would be spouting from my eyes and I would be groping my way to Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork only to find the shelves picked bare.
For those who missed it: LSU recovers an onside kick and drives to the Ole Miss 31 with around a minute left. Miles doesn't make the classic mistake a lot of coaches do and settle for a near 50-yard field goal from your college kicker, as Randy Edsall did earlier in the day, but wild blitzing from Ole Miss confuses the LSU QB and sacks and whatnot ensue. Before fourth and twenty-two there are 27 seconds left on the clock; there are 9 left when LSU uses its last timeout. LSU completes a bomb and then spikes the ball despite snapping it with one second left; in the aftermath Miles says he doesn't know who called for the spike.
New Les Miles theory: he makes a lot of correct decisions for the wrong reasons. Reasons like "my brain has a vas deferens."
The spike's not even the worst part, the worst part is the inexplicable timeout fiasco. Miles on that:
"Timeouts were being called verbally, but I didn't relate to the official apparently, and that was a mistake. We didn't know [the timeout] hadn't been called."
Has anyone ever seen this late in a game? Sometimes you'll see a coach not get the attention of an official in time—Like (sigh) Jim Tressel on Saturday—but when there's 30 seconds left the official has got to be expecting the TO call and waiting for it. Given the statement about the spike I'm a little leery of that explanation.
Of course, Rodriguez keeps pulling Forcier for Denard Robinson. That was basically waving the white flag on Saturday, but Forcier had coughed up four turnovers at that point. So… yeah, more understandable than whatever that was from Miles.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez survived Bill Martin and Ohio State. He has survived President Mary Sue Coleman. But there could be one more hurdle.
Can he survive disgruntled big time boosters if they decide to withhold cash?
This story is not over. Despite claims otherwise I expect a few more cards to be played before the bowl season begins. The money men and women are not happy with Michigan's two-year record of 8-14. They are not thrilled to see Michigan finish last in a very mediocre Big Ten.
…in unrelated news, newspaper advertising has fallen almost $8 billion this year. There is literally nothing anyone can say that will stop uninformed speculation by Official Journalists about Rich Rodriguez getting fired.
Meanwhile, AnnArbor.com has a positive article on the fans' opinion of Rich Rodriguez. Freaky. Their highly unscientific, 683-vote poll currently has Rodriguez support running 2-to-1 in favor.
Wha happened? Jon Chait has an article on the Wolverine about what happened to the defense that's worth your time, though I disagree that the defensive line was a major problem except in certain situations where Craig Roh was overwhelmed by Wisconsin and a couple other teams. Probably 80% of the team's weakness against the run can be laid at the feet of the linebackers and safeties, as the frequent rotation at the end of the year indicated. No one was pulling Ryan Van Bergen off the field in favor of a walk-on.
Etc.: Jim Leavitt is a weird dude. Eye on Sports Media does a two-parter on Michigan opening up the press box to certain bloggers, including this site. BONUS: part one's title is piratey. Boring details on the AD search.
Originally intended as a UV bit, but then it got long.
As you've probably heard, Bill Belichick went for a first down on fourth and two from his 29 with about two minutes left and his team leading by six points. The Patriots didn't get it, the Colts made the short march for the game-winning score, and commentators duly exploded at how awful the decision was. Tony Dungy evidently kept saying Belichick "should have gone with the percentages."
He did. Of course he did, he's Bill Belichick:
With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful conversion wins the game for all practical purposes. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field position. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt would be:
(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP
A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their own 34. Teams historically get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP.
This is obvious in retrospect, right? Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. There is a slight chance he knows what he's doing. And even if you are one of the folk who really believes emotion and momentum overwhelm probability in football, not even broaching the idea that Belichick might be on to something is simultaneously stupid and arrogant—neat trick. If you are a caveman when it comes to football and see Belichick go for it there, your first thought should be "hmmm… maybe I don't know something." This, obviously, has not happened. Caveman status is self-perpetuating.
Really, no matter how you play with the numbers, it will come out about the same. Try it. There is almost no way–without suppressing the numbers–to make the percentages even out. The Patriots’ best PERCENTAGE chance was to go for it on fourth down. Of course, football is not really a percentage game for most of us, is it? No, it’s a game about emotion and passion and momentum.
This is where Posnanski needs to play a lot of poker. Emotion and passion and momentum are great for football players. For coaches they are ways to go on tilt and make dumb decisions that are safe but go against the percentages. Belichick is ruthless and in a position where media criticism means nothing as far as his job goes. Most other NFL coaches would take the safe route and decrease their chances of winning because they perceive that it would increase their chances of keeping their job.
But, you know, at least Posnanski brought it up. Many thousands didn't, and just did some blah blah about how it was dumb, thereby implying they were smarter than Bill Belichick. This is why he is the traditional journalist who's bridged the internet divide more successfully than any other. Clark Wonk:
In other words, ”traditional sports punditry” is denoted not by what kind of resume you have, how old you are, whether you sit in the press box, or even whether your thoughts are packaged in 800 words of ink, 1600 words of pixels, or two minutes of streaming video. No, “traditional sports punditry” denotes merely that you’re not staying current within your own field: “What the hell is Belichick doing?” as opposed to “Whoa, talk about trusting the percentages–what the hell is Belichick doing?” …
To be aware of what Posnanski calls the “PERCENTAGE”s, ones that indicate that probability was in Belichick’s favor over the course of a thousand tries, does not rule out disagreeing with the coach in this single instance. But to not be aware of these percentages is to fail in the most basic journalistic sense. To write about a decision, much less try to criticize it, without displaying any understanding of its self-evident context is to fall down on the job in the ”why” department, even if you do get the who, the what, the when, and the where.
Humans would be well-advised to nail the “why,” by the way. Computers can now do those other four pretty well.
Seriously. Does anyone remember SHOCKDOME XXXVI*? The Patriots get the ball back in a tie game with about two minutes left. Tom Brady is the Patriot's first-year starting quarterback. John Madden, embodiment of conventional wisdom-type substance, is publicly begging Belichick to run the clock out and head to overtime instead of putting the game on the kid's shoulders. Belichick says screw that noise, I've seen Tom Brady play football, let's go, and two minutes later Adam Vinateri is kicking a game-winning field goal and no one remembers the ballsy decision that won the damn game. The reason Belichick is so untouchable that he can defy conventional wisdom is because he defied conventional wisdom.
And yet no one mentions this.
*(AKA Super Bowl XXXVI. An aging Pat Summerall awkwardly blurted out "this game has turned into Shockdome 36" at some point in the second quarter when the Patriots weren't getting stomped like everyone expected they would, and I died laughing.)