[ED: Hey guys! Ace is looking for a few good questions for a basketball season preview mailbag. Hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Meta-response about yesterday's post.
[ED: I normally hack out praise from these emails in an effort to be as concise as possible but it was not possible to do so here without making bronx sound like a jerk.]
I've been trying to think of a better way to ask this, but I can't so I'll just come out with it:
What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails?
Man, yeah, that comes across as condescending. Let me try to explain.
I'm not saying they shouldn't be given their due. and I respect the hell out of you and Ace putting in the effort to figure out their veracity; count me in the camp of people who doubted WD's initial post due to the inconsistencies in his story. Following through on the story and backing it up with multiple sources is the type of reporting you don't expect to see from a "fan" site, and yet you guys did better work than I've seen in a long time from more established media members in the community. Heck, it's basically you guys and the Daily kicking ass in that department.
But once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward? I've made my feelings known about Brandon and how, frankly, this really shouldn't accelerate his removal (I mean, if his handling of Gibbons, Morris, ticket prices, attendance, stadium experience, alumni relations, coaching snafus, losing, etc. doesn't do him in but bitchy emails do I'll be a bit disappointed in the administration for needing something so trivial to move them to action), but I honestly want to know your take. Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward?
For example, you mentioned in your podcast that fans' habits can be broken quickly and it can take a generation to get them back. You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away? Personally, I'm less and less excited to follow this team even this year because it is just a clown show made worse by the negative tone so many fans seem to hold toward it. My Facebook feed is full of people linking to articles calling for Hoke an co. to be booted (many to mgoblog), and lots of them were moderately-sane fans before the last couple of years. I'm not saying you and the site are to blame for any of it; you are just reporting and commenting on the shit show being trotted out every week. But do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?
And again, I'm conflicted even asking this, because you guys have a duty to ferret out these idiots and bring them to the public's eye, and you do a great job at capturing the Michigan zeitgeist effectively. But there's just such a toxic culture around the program, and I wonder even if they get some homerun hires (which I'm a bit dubious about), if some of this damage will linger.
Anyway, feel free to respond however you want; if part of this makes its way into a mailbag or something then by all means out me and respond how you wish. I'm fine with it. I honestly just want to know.
I made a decision to let the original Have A Happy Life email stand—in fact I made a decision to re-instate it after one of the mods pulled it 200 comments deep—and from there things proceeded inexorably to yesterday's post.
I let it stand because I thought it was true.
[After THE JUMP: a full run-down of the decision to run with this story and evaluation about whether this was in error.]
Henry was not the same kind of risk Chris Barnett was [Bryan Fuller]
Fliers actually a good thing?
You mentioned in the last UV that "If Michigan hangs onto 8-10 guys
they could add a few fliers and be fine. The guys they hang onto are
actually touted recruits instead of the mess that was Rodriguez's last
It seems like a large percentage of the big names on the team today
were fliers in the Hoke/RichRod class and Hoke's first class. Names
that immediately came to mind as late offers that panned out better
than expected are Norfleet, Morgan, Taylor and Henry. I wonder if
taking a few more chances on last-minute fliers wouldn't pay off for
this recruiting class?
There's a difference between late fliers you take after scouting them in secret for a while and the kind of late fliers Michigan took after Brady Hoke was hired and they needed to cram ten guys into Rodriguez's battered final class. Morgan was a Rich Rodriguez add after extensive scouting; Henry was a Hoke add after the same; Norfleet was a highly touted spread guy Michigan had room for on Signing Day; he was well known.
Here are the guys Michigan added after The Process concluded in early 2011 (minus Chris Bryant, because Bryant was on the verge of committing to Michigan for months beforehand):
- Chris Barnett (flamed out before fall camp)
- Frank Clark (check)
- Thomas Rawls (never played, now CMU feature back)
- Russell Bellomy (third string QB)
- Antonio Poole (pec injury forced retirement)
- Matt Wile (kicker)
- Keith Heitzman (backup to AJ Williams)
- Raymon Taylor (check)
- Tamani Carter (transferred after one year)
They got two players out of eight swings and they got one of those because Frank Clark went from 210 to 280 like guys who get drafted from MAC schools. That's not a great hit rate, and that hit rate was about as expected. Only Taylor, one of the two hits, had a recruiting profile even on the 3/4 star borderline. All others were fliers picked away from Vandy, Minnesota, Purdue, etc.
Now combine that with the rest of the class, which featured four more guys who didn't make it through year one (Greg Brown, Chris Rock, Kellen Jones, Tony Posada) and that's a 20 commitment class in a year you could have taken 25 that has way too many washouts.
This year is different. A guy coming in at the same time Hoke did last year would only need to add four or five guys and the guys already in the class aren't particularly likely to flame out, because that's the thing Hoke has been terrific at. They would not desperately need the the late flier guys to work out, and that's a good thing because they would not be likely to.
It shouldn't matter in a class that looks like it'll top out at 15. So I'm just sayin' if it's January 1 and Michigan has just installed a new AD I wouldn't necessarily think Hoke is safe.
[After THE JUMP: anti-mascot concept art]
Quarterback is not the only difference.
Something you may not wish to address in season but in watching this team I had this thought:
Solid run defense, inconsistent pass defense, an offensive line with talent struggling to gel, solid backs, receivers and tight ends. Hmmm, sounds like 9 or 10 wins from Carr again. What is missing is a solid, low turnover, accurate, quarterback. Completely unfair?
Cumong man, that's completely unfair. You're comparing this offensive line to those featuring Jake Long or a half-dozen other NFL players, with zero freshmen of any variety on them unless they're Hutchinson-level talents. The backs don't make the right cuts and almost never make yards on their own. The tight ends are not good right now except for Butt, and Butt is still working his way back from an ACL tear.
There's no part of this team not subject to mental breakdowns that are hard to accept four years in. This includes quarterback, but since it seems like any QB under Hoke goes backwards it all ends in the same place.
BUT IS HE BETTER THAN A WISTFUL ORANGUTAN?
In the wake of the ND game i have found my anger directed more at Dave Brandon than anything for whatever various and stupid reasons. The conventional wisdom seems to be, "hey, but revenues are increasing so, even though football is terrible and the stadium experience is horrible, Dave Brandon is great at growing the business." I think that is non-sense. I looked at revenues from 2002 through 2013 (graphs and numbers in attached spreadsheet) and the trendline attached to the revenue data shows Brandon has not out performed Bill Martin. Growth in revenue looks very on trend from Martin's tenure.
If you look at Michigan's AD revenue from 2005 versus some other athletic departments (texas, OSU, florida, Alabama, Oklahoma) our athletic department hasnt outperformed them either. Those five ADs revenue increased 84% from 2005 til 2013, Michigan's increased...83%.
Look, the data i gathered isn't perfect, I don't love the way USA today presented the 2005-2013 data. I've sort of cobbled together the 2002-2004 data from U-M budgets. The way i have presented the data is somewhat problematic (i should index 2005 to 100 then see the changes from there), but I don't think it changes the overall picture.
The point is I am really bothered with the conventional wisdom saying Brandon is doing really well increasing revenue. He is merely riding a wave that started long before here was hired and affects all of college football. Raising ticket prices doesn't make you a business genius. He gets zero credit for increased television revenues, which are the two overwhelming drivers of the whole enterprise.
These are things I am sure you are aware of but i have not seem them articulated on the blog.
It should also be noted that the portion of the surge from 2009 to 2011 not due to increased BTN payouts was largely the luxury boxes coming online. Michigan offered them for cheap the first year and then increased the price to the regular level in year two.
So even if you are measuring Michigan athletic department success by revenue—a completely bonkers thing to do—Brandon is completely average in this department while being literally the worst AD in the country at public relations. A wistful orangutan could have been Michigan's athletic director since 2010 and revenue would still be way up. And students would love him!
[After the JUMP: Manning plausible as a CB coach over time? Mysterious red clad team-thing. Where to go in the event of an apocalypse. (The real apocalypse, not bad football.)]
What will happen and when?
Obviously, the central issue to our entire fanbase is what is going to happen to Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, and if something is going to happen to either, when. You have obviously posted at length about your opinions about what SHOULD happen, and I am excited to see part II of your coaching candidates series. But, unless I missed it, I have not seen you post anything about what you believe WILL happen.
Specifically, based upon where we stand now (2-4, 0-2) what is your expectation as to (1) whether Brandon will be removed, (2) whether Hoke will be fired, and (3) if you believe that either is gone, when. I think that many of us would also be interested in your opinion as to how the events that will transpire over the remaining 8 weeks of the regular season could impact that decision. (For example, there is a thread on the board now asking what would happen if we win out).
I know that you are probably getting millions of emails on the topic, but I know that many of us would really be interested in knowing your opinions on this topic.
Thanks, as always, and despite everything, Go Blue!
I just don't know. I'm only answering this because I get a lot of emails to this effect; usually if I can't answer something reasonably I just say so privately and that's it. But… yeah, I don't know.
One thing I've learned is that insider information is often colored by the desires of the source; slap one degree of separation between that source and you and then it seems really true and important. This is not so important when someone has a broken bone; it is vastly so when political infighting is involved. So I don't take a whole lot of stuff about Hoke staying seriously; I know it's popped up on premium message boards here and there. There's a faction amongst the old program alums who can't stand to be as flagrantly wrong as they were and will swear up and down that Hoke can be saved.
He can't. Anyone who watches his team knows that this is a disorganized mess and in year four that goes back to one guy and one guy only. There is no expectation this would get better, and in that light the successful Hoke years look like flukes born of disproportionate talent and flat-out luck, as Michigan's 2011 was.
I guess Michigan could run the table but any reasonable season projection gets you to 7-6 at best and that is a firing, if only because whoever the AD is will know that continuing with Hoke is going to be an inflection point on season ticket sales.
As far as Brandon, I do not know. I've read all there is to read and heard all there is to hear and what is clear is that here is some sort of serious support for the guy that centers around Stephen Ross and his dollars and drops off almost immediately after that. If this was a democracy he'd be booted in an 80-20 election; it is not.
I would have faith that the people around the president who have his ear because of dolla dolla bill y'all would eventually be able to come to this conclusion:
- Someone else would be about as good at continuing the things who make the people in the AD support him
- Anyone else would be less toxic to fans and especially students.
Even if you somehow believe that guy whose PR stunts will literally go in a textbook under what not to do is the best guy for the job, the next best guy for the job is 99% as capable and isn't loathed by half the Michigan fanbase. This flies in the face of our nation's CEO fetishization, but here it's undeniable.
Logic then demands I say that both guys will be gone by the end of the year, but logic ain't got nothing to do with it.
As to the timing, Hoke's not gone until after the OSU game. If he was going to get the axe immediately it would have been after the Minnesota game. Short of that happening again, he's got the rest of the year. Michigan may announce he's done before OSU, a la Earle Bruce; functionally he's your guy the rest of the year.
Brandon could go at any time. I hear that there are some meetings coming up in the next week that could be the impetus for his dismissal, but as long as Stephen Ross is backing the guy it's going to be pulling teeth.
[After THE JUMP: define risk in re: coaching candidates.]
Where was this last year?
I'd like to ask the question, why has this incident concerning Shane Morris, framed (quite appropriately) around player safety, been treated so much more seriously than say Devin Gardner having played against OSU with a broken foot?
it's an honest question, wondering your perspective, do you think it's because of the poor play on the field now as compared to then (although we are pretty awful no matter when you look at it), but then let's not kid ourselves and exploit the situation anymore than is warranted by the poor leadership failures, or is it people are treating a head injury as much more serious than a foot injury? I think that's true, but foot injury can also harm the student-athlete.
There are two layers of outrage/disgust here that should be separated.
1) There is disgust leveled at Brady Hoke and his program for being disorganized enough to send Morris onto the field. Much of the meta-backlash has focused on this aspect of the problems; they say that if Michigan was 5-0 this wouldn't be a problem, or compare the vastly greater level of attention to this incident than those that followed the Will Gholston a couple years ago and assert this is unfair.
The people in the Michigan community who are angry about this are not determining the media reaction. They are reacting to it. So the Gholston thing is not relevant unless you're asking Good Morning America*. By the time anyone on campus did anything that got on the news this had already blown up into a huge story, and the thing they didn't do is demand Brady Hoke's firing.
The 5-0 thing is also invalid. The shambolic state of the program now seems like the cause of an alarming incident instead of a punt return touchdown. If this happens at Alabama, are people as mad? No. But that is not just because Alabama is successful. It is also because if it happens at Alabama it seems like an aberration instead of a logical conclusion to the things we've seen before. When this happened the initial thought wasn't "I can't believe this happened"; it was "of course this would happen to this program."
And then there's the Brady Hoke Isn't Evil defense, which is an enormous strawman. I haven't seen anyone writing on this suggest that Hoke doesn't care about his players. Literally not one person outside of a message board post from a lunatic or two. It doesn't matter if Hoke is a great dude or not if he can't stay within 16 points of anybody in year four, concussion incident or not.
2) There is outrage leveled at the athletic department for their handling of the PR crisis. This went national quickly. Michigan's response was dishonest and insufficient, then laughably uninformed, then infuriating. Michigan's refusal to forthrightly admit error and lay out how they would set to fixing matters turned a one-day story into a week long debacle. It was only yesterday at 6 PM that an adult stepped in and gave the kind of statement that should have been issued on Saturday night.
The Brand was compromised, and not just the football team. The entire university's image has been through a ringer the past few days. This was unnecessary, and exacerbated by the incompetent handling of the situation by the athletic director.
@mgoblog I know professors in Communication who are already planning on using this as a case study in failure.
— Zach Evans (@dzevans) September 30, 2014
This, too, is a pattern. Michigan used the same playbook for the Gibbons story last year for a weeks-long period of press tension. They learned nothing from that incident, in which simply being honest about why when and how Gibbons was removed from the team turns that into a story about Gibbons and the university disciplinary process instead of the athletic department.
The used the same playbook after the skywriting incident, and were embarrassed when the company sold 'em out; caught red-handed in a lie they waved their hands, and the story went away because only Michigan fans care.
This was utterly predictable to anyone who had been paying attention. This is what they do. It will happen again if Michigan is unfortunate enough to have to handle another story like this. Meanwhile, no big time coach is going to want to sign on to an athletic department that just hung its coach out to dry spectacularly. So the AD has to go.
All of the stuff in bin 2 is not relevant to the above question. The stuff in bin 1 is, and to be clear: this is just another strike for Hoke. If it was strike one, people would cluck and move on. If it was strike three it would be a big deal. Since it's strike 486, it's almost moot.
But anyway: feet heal. Gardner was of sound mind and capable of making decisions about whether to continue or not. Brains, we are rapidly learning, do not heal completely, and immediately after a trauma is an extremely dangerous time.
As a culture we are pretty okay with a guy who walks with a limp. It sucks; it's not a life-ending disaster. We are not okay with Junior Seau. We are not okay with a thing that may cause you to point a shotgun at your chest and pull the trigger not being handled carefully and professionally. I feel this is too obvious to explain but there have been a ton of comments to this effect of late so I explained it.
*[And the Gholston thing at least had the semblance of competence. He was removed. He did not re-enter immediately. The nation did not see him stumble around after a helmet-to-helmet hit and then take a snap. The doctors had time to give him a legitimate examination. It wasn't as visceral.
The nation absolutely should have come down on Dantonio like a ton of bricks for his statement that Gholston "had the wind knocked out of him," but even a couple years ago concussions seemed like much less of a big deal.
In any case, the failure there is not with the response to this incident but the response to the Gholston one, for which MSU should have taken a lot more heat.]
[After THE JUMP: Good stuff Brandon did, Regents basics, a little game theory.]
Michigan football made Al Jazeera's front page. Hooray?
In regards to the way both Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon have handled the whole situation regarding Shane Morris, I have to wonder why we have not heard from the AD since the game. I am concerned that the absence of any comment on the situation screams that he is trying to distance himself from the whole situation. By doing this, I feel that he is jeopardizing the search for a new head coach. Parents would have second thoughts on sending their sons to play for Hoke, while potential coaching candidates would have second thoughts on working for a man who keeps quiet in times of trouble, I know that I would.
I live in Arkansas and thought back to the way that Jeff Long handled the Bobby Petrino situation in April on 2012. Four days after the accident, when it was to come out that Petrino may have covered up the accident Long placed Petrino on paid leave while he did his own investigation. 6 days after that Petrino was fired for just cause. That is the kind of leadership I like to see in the workplace.
I will end this e-mail with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. as I think it speaks loudly as to what is going on now.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Don [ed: Not That Don]
Dave Brandon's 52-hour absence during a PR crisis magnitudes greater than the one Michigan faced when he was hired speaks volumes. We were all temporarily on board the Brandon Express because he came in and talked in his gibberish way to the media about stretchgate. He spearheaded the U's reaction to the investigation, and because his one skill is handwaving at things this seemed brilliant. That was a thing that deserved handwaving.
That PR crisis did not feature literally dozens of prominent opinion-makers on college football calling for Hoke's immediate dismissal, nor did Michigan show up on Good Morning America or ABC World News Tonight. This is so much worse.
And now Dave Brandon is a ghost. When the University of Michigan desperately needs someone to step forth and be Adam Silver, they get a single 1 AM statement from the guy in charge, one that directly contradicts his own football coach. Whatever this is, it doesn't feel like an attempt to save anyone's job.
They learned nothing.
Since some people are defending the Morris incident by saying "its an isolated incident and only getting attention since we are losing", I think its time to talk about Brendan Gibbons. If that incident came out now (post Ray Rice) how would it play? Also, its another incident where you are left to wonder whether Brady Hoke is (1) devious or (2) dumb - a question that as alumni and fans of what the university stands for we should not be asking.
The thing that makes Brandghazi even more inexplicable is that they already had something like this happen to them with the Gibbons thing, where their vagueness and dissembling led Brady Hoke to claim a guy who had been expelled from the university wasn't playing because of a "family matter."
They experienced a lesser version of the media blitz that they intensified with their stonewalling, gathering ugly press. What did they learn from that? Absolutely nothing. This is the PR equivalent of Shane Morris stumbling after a hard hit to the head against Ohio State and staying in the game.
And in the light of the most recent disaster, doesn't it seem a lot more plausible that Michigan was lying about Gibbons's "muscle injury" against Ohio State? We can't trust them about anything anymore.
While I think a boycott is a good idea, I'm curious as to why you want to wait until the last home game to do it?
Mostly I thought the idea would be better if given enough time to gather a critical mass, and that it would be easier to convince people to stay away from a game that was not a night game against a theoretically sexier opponent or homecoming.
Also I wanted to give the powers that be some extra time to get rid of people. This isn't just Hoke, after all. It is also Brandon, and while you can chop the head coach off right now without raising an eyebrow canning Brandon might take some more time to canvass donors, point at the raging tire fire, and say "I hope we can agree that this is very bad and we need to move on to someone not widely hated."
I am all for people doing something for the Penn State game. A suggestion: replace GO with FIRE and BLUE with BRANDON in chants.
[After THE JUMP: more emails in this vein, and a random game theory Q]