at least it's not just us?
rumormongering is what the internets are for
Les pun barrage avoided. The mandarins at LSU are sticking to their story that no one's talking to them about talking to Les Miles. The chancellor's version of yesterday's statement by the AD:
“No one has said anything to me,” Martin said. “But of course a lot of these things are done with agents now, behind the scenes.”
Just like LSU's recruiting. Hey-o!
It's contagious. Jennifer Hammond was patient zero in the Michigan edition of Fruitless Jon Gruden Naming but it's spreading: I have more than one account from actual sources indicating Michigan did interview him yesterday. With Gruden an interview is usually a brief conversation about how this guy makes more money than God by saying generic things on Monday Night Football, so don't get excited. I can't believe I'm actually relaying information about Gruden and Michigan but I guess if we've deployed flight tracking Gruden couldn't have been far behind.
If, like me, you've become inured to the constant Gruden-to-everywhere speculation that seems like it's been a major feature of American culture for the last fifty years you may be surprised to find out that he's a youthful 47 and could actually be plausible in a Pete Carroll sort of way.
Speaking of flights. So the winged helmet plane that touched down in Baton Rouge when Miles was in Dallas was there for all of two hours, then took off for South Carolina. What's in South Carolina? Um… well… a few days ago it was relayed to me that Lloyd Carr was in South Carolina. He supposedly has a vacation home at Hilton Head (restaurant to the stars!). The plane flew to… Hilton Head. It then went to a regional airport in Georgia, back to Hilton Head, headed out to Westchester County, and then went back to Hilton Head.
Ironically, Carr lit out for South Carolina because he was sick of people claiming he was the nefarious power behind the throne and just wanted to get away from everything and now a plane with a winged helmet painted on it is using his location as a hub. This is either
- an amazing coincidence, or
- David Brandon smoothing over Les Miles with Lloyd Carr and random incredibly wealthy NYC-based booster who is probably Stephen Ross.
Since a good source says Brandon actually is using the winged helmet plane—Dominos was a ruse!—I lean towards the latter; this seems like a fact corroborating the Les Miles buzz. I may have to apologize to Tiger Droppings.
Turns out I have less than I thought I did after reviewing items, but the remainder…
Other people are on planes. So. It's that time again:
It's not a coaching search without people tracking a plane they think might have Dave Brandon in it and pointing out that Phoenix is somewhat close to Jim Harbaugh but not too close, right, so probably they're definitely meeting in Phoenix at an Applebee's wearing big Groucho Marx noses so no one recognizes them, right?
A point in the conspiracy theorists' favor: the plane is registered to Domino's Pizza and spent the new year hanging out in Jacksonville watching Michigan get crushed by Mississippi State. Since then it's done this.
- Wednesday, 5 PM: Headed out to Latrobe, PA.
- Wednesday, 10 PM: flew from Latrobe to Chicago.
- Yesterday, 1 PM: flew from Chicago to Phoenix
What does this mean? Eh… probably that someone other than David Brandon is using the plane for purposes related to the business of Dominos. But it's a coaching search so you get Flight Aware. These are the rules.
But wait! There's more! Another plane suspiciously not registered to anything related to the University of Michigan—"Unknown Owner"—has been flying places. A reader relates its progress:
- Willow Run flight left for Miami midday 1/4 when firing "reported" but supposedly not made (Mary Sue Coleman or other agent leaving)
- Miami flight scheduled to Van Nuys, CA on 1/5 and does go, but makes previously unscheduled stop in Lubbock (?). Timing is 2 hours post firing presser. Could be to finalize plan, get gas, time up the following #3, or who knows. Only on ground 47 minutes. Arrives in Van Nuys at 5:09 pacific (Ross in tow to make help make pitch?)
- Gulfstream flight from San Jose, CA lands in Van Nuys at 5:52 pacific (Harbaugh?)
- Flight from Miami to Van Nuys leaves for Palm Springs at 5:57 (easy switchover for "Harbaugh" w/ a private aircraft) stays night there.
- Miami flight departs for home (Boca airport) at 10:05 A.M on 1/6
- Next flight out of Palm Springs at 10:11 AM is private plane to Monterrey Peninsula airport--less public than San Jose airport and 60 miles south of Palo Alto--lands at 11:03 AM
- 49ers meet w/ Harbaugh today in undisclosed location - he flies somewhere else or drives somewhere between SF and airport to meet 49ers.
This is all bats and obviously means Mike Leach is the next coach. Stop in Lubbock, people. Mike Leach.
But wait! There's actual information possibly worth reading! So… as mentioned the sudden reversal in the Harbaugh story now lends some credence to the old acquaintances/teammates from yesterday who were predicting Harbaugh to Michigan in the face of the Twitter army. I'm still a little leery that the only thing out there other than this site that says M-to-Harbaugh isn't dead is John Elway's random opinions on the radio, but…
- Solid source says Harbaugh and Brandon will speak today. There is a separate, extremely fuzzy and probably untrue rumor that it's happening in Phoenix.
- Another says Ross spent most of his time with Harbaugh badgering him about taking the Michigan job, not making him richer than Stephen Ross, and that Michigan is "still in the game" but Andrew Luck's dastardly desire to get a degree isn't helping.
As of 1:30 PM on Friday 1/7, there seems to be a chance.
Hat. Despite my antipathy for Miles—it's a sign of the fanbase's vast desperation that people are trying to talk themselves into the guy—I'm duty-bound to report that a southern correspondent reports that LSU fans are rumbling about losing Miles shortly after the Tigers play A&M tonight. These are fuzzy indeed.
There is also a random thread on Tiger Droppings saying players think Miles is gone as well because in private he's been "much more melancholy," which what the hell does that mean?
I've repeatedly stated the reasons Miles makes no sense—repeat "he will be sixty in three years" if nothing else works for you—and there's an element of wishful thinking around the reports since losing Miles to Michigan would resolve the great idiot/genius debate surrounding him.
Hoke. Endorsed by Jason Whitlock.
Patterson: door not exactly closed. This seems like a guy who will at least listen:
"No, I haven't been contacted," Patterson told 105.3-The Fan. "I've got a great job here.
"TCU has a chance to be maybe the No. 2 or No. 1 team (next season), depending on what poll, in the nation. Maybe we are one of those people (elite programs) now. That's what I've been trying to build the program to get to. Michigan has a great tradition and is a great university. I'll cross that bridge when I get there."
Someone talk to him, yes? I mean, seriously. Someone contact him.
This is what I currently believe is going on, tenuously. Extreme caveat: this is nuts.
Seriously, people, the Jim Harbaugh boat has sailed. The latest awesome conspiracy theory is that Miami is going to bid Harbaugh up into the stratosphere so the 49ers hire someone else. Then Stephen Ross is going to say "whoops I apparently still have this Sparano guy around" and cackle his way to Ann Arbor with a contrite Harbaugh in tow. This is truly an awesome conspiracy theory. It's not happening:
Ross had dialogue with University of Michigan officials to ensure that he would not be competing for Harbaugh's services with his alma mater, sources said. Ross, who is one of Michigan's largest benefactors, was assured by a Michigan official that Harbaugh was not reciprocating interest in the college's now-vacant head coaching position.
"But that's what they want you to think!" Yes. Yes, that. Apparently we don't have to rename the school of business The Jerk Store, so we've got that going for us. That and nothing else.
…Unless it hasn't (but it probably has). I do have some stuff in the inbox second-hand from Harbaugh friends that says he's "likely to be coach by the end of the week" and that in mid-December he was asking people close to him in Ann Arbor about schools and whatnot. Given everything public—most prominently Dave Brandon all but screaming "JIM HARBAUGH WILL NOT BE COACHING MICHIGAN NEXT YEAR" during the press conference—I think the former is inaccurate but it does cite something I've heard from a reliable source: that the big issue was always going to be the amount of Harbaugh's buyout for the NFL in case he wanted to pull a Spurrier at some point. So there's at least some credence there.
The latter would indicate that Harbaugh did indeed change course recently, thus spurring the somewhat bitter/smarmy "NFL challenge" routine from Brandon yesterday and potentially explaining why we're at sea three weeks from Signing Day. An established source says "something terrible happened in the last two days"—those being Monday and Tuesday—that caused Rodriguez to go from 100% gone to possibly back if he can assure Brandon things are going in the right direction back to gone. Terrible thing seems likely to be Harbaugh backing out, no?
FWIW, that last source is still holding out hope that Brandon and Harbaugh can work something out. Dim hope, but hope.
Les Miles? Do I need to say this about a grass-eating nutcase pushing 60 who can't count to 85? In case I do: Les Miles should not be happening.
Yes, I have a crazy fourth-hand rumor that one of the assistant's wives says "Hoke and Miles" are the current the focus, but even the emailer says he's not sure why on earth a just-fired-assistant's wife would know that. Welcome to a coaching search. I also have a second-hand source saying someone you've heard of lists him as one of three main candidates along with Hoke and…
One mid-major P may be in play. An emailer from outside the Michigan fanbase who I've known a while is connected to one of those firms that conducts coaching searches and relates that Boise State's Chris Petersen "doesn't even return exploratory phone calls"—which is probably why he's never rumored to be a candidate anywhere outside of blogger lists. You can write him off if you haven't already.
On the other hand, there is a "sense that the TCU boys were finally ready to move on," though this was before they got the Big East bid. There is obviously a vast chasm between this and Michigan actually talking to Patterson and company, but the aforementioned person you've heard of says Patterson is the third name on the list.
Fitzgerald buzz continues to seem real. If you were listening to WTKA this morning you heard Craig Ross cite a couple of sources within the department saying Michigan was going to look at Fitzgerald, which makes something like a half-dozen independent corroborations that Michigan is interested. This is not on par with the Hoke stuff but it's obvious people would be pushing Hoke because of their personal relationship with him even if San Diego State had gone 0-12 this year. Fitzgerald does not have any in-house friends.
As to the question hanging over any discussion of Fitzgerald—will he leave Northwestern?—a second-hand source says Northwestern has a wealthy alum willing to fork over serious cash to keep him. However, while in the past personal conversations with Fitzgerald led the source to believe he would "never" leave Northwestern, recently that stance has softened and "he can't say that anymore." Still… that's going to be a tough guy to pull. Money won't be the reason Fitz leaves if he does.
There's a decent chance Scot Loeffler returns. Loeffler may or may not be out of a job in the aftermath of Florida's coaching search. Even if he's still the QB coach in Gainesville if the new coach wants him he will come back to Ann Arbor. This would make the recruitment of FL QB Jeff Driskel (who is kind of good) interesting. Since Loeffler is one of two Carr assistants to actually land comparable jobs at other schools (Eric Campbell is the WR coach at Iowa) and he's still carrying around that ability to recruit awesome quarterbacks anyone with pro-style inclinations should definitely hire him.
Mike Barwis may be staying long-term. Unlike everyone else who got the broom, Mike Barwis was kept on as S&C coach, "really likes Michigan," and may retain that job if someone amenable to keeping him is hired. Hoke might keep him; Miles—who seems incredibly implausible—would not.
Keeping Barwis would go a long way towards minimizing transfers, FWIW.
Dave Brandon did a good job with the players yesterday. Reports from the meeting with the players are reassuring after what was a very wobbly press conference. One anonymous player: "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders." It sounded like there were plans bigger than "one of the usual suspects," but if it was a usual suspect it would be because he's earned the job.
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All right, to recap what you've probably already read: Fox and the Free Press jumped the proverbial gun and there has been no official word that Rodriguez is done for yet. Insert condescending clucking about legacy media's insatiable desire to be first at the expense of being right. The 7 PM meeting tonight has been moved to 4 tomorrow.
What does it mean? Eh… probably not much. Sources very close to the AD are incredibly tight-lipped and most of the information out there is coming from outside the department (or, if within the department, may not be that close to the decision-making process), but if we've learned one thing it's that no decisions will ever be made.
Except they probably will. The massive favorite in the rumormongering is none other than Brady Hoke, which goddammit. I'm not writing things about it now because all of it could or would get thrown back in my face in the event Brady Hoke is not a complete failure but rest assured I'm thinking all of them and how.
Items you probably haven't read elsewhere yet:
- A parent of a Michigan player had a chance run-in with John Saunders, Craig James, and some other ESPN folk who said Harbaugh is "still in it," for whatever that means.
- Players are shooting the news(?) back and forth to each other on twitter. Whether they're all basing it off apparently not-quite-founded news reports or they've got something more to go on is unknown.
- Excellent source that provided the Hoke "not an option" quote has been forced to backtrack, unfortunately, and says he is "in play potentially" now even if he wasn't on the list of viable candidates to start. Also an announcement of the new guy is "likely within 24 hours," but no idea on his end as to who that might be. As always this stuff shifts with the wind so take it for what it's worth.
I still cling to the belief that Michigan would not look at a 53-year-old with one decent season and one undefeated MAC campaign (undefeated until Ball State played Buffalo in the championship game, anyway, and then imploded against Tulsa, and then the mighty foundation Hoke had wrought imploded in a pile of balsawood splinters) after Indiana and Minnesota had both said "thanks, but no thanks" to the same guy, let alone make him their head coach. Especially if the inane rumor that Hoke's first hire is going to be his brother—we've had plenty of virtual nepotism already without the real thing intruding—is true and blah blah blah.
Unfortunately, I don't have much information and am relying on the common sense and logical deduction that have
served me so well mocked and haunted me the last three years. I promise you this: if Brady Hoke is actually hired small children should not read the site for a week following because every other word will be swearing. This is in no way a joke.
Let's make a deal.
Saturday Michigan takes on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl and Sunday something may or may not happen involving the throttling of an infant Denard Robinson in his cradle and the tears and lamentation that may or may not result. That would hypothetically also mean the reign of terror Greg Robinson's hair and the zombie minion that goes by the name of Greg Robinson would be over. The city of Ann Arbor emerging from its cocoon of upper middle class ennui to shoot AK47s in the air would at least partially offset the tragic, still hypothetical loss of baby Denard. I have taken too long on this bit.
Two days later Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal take on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After he may or may not be destined for Michigan or the 49ers or the moon. The latest from Harbaugh is reminiscent of one Brian Kelly last year:
"I only talk about the job I have now," Harbaugh said when asked if he or his representatives had spoken to the 49ers about their coaching vacancy.
He acknowledged having a "dual focus"—
--on his team, which will play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday, and on his daughter, Katherine, who was born just before Christmas.
Aw, come on, Harbaugh.
So what's going to happen? I still don't know. No one does. Last time on this show I said I didn't have anything solid and probably wouldn't because of the nature of the "search" but that the mystical aura wasn't looking so hot:
I'm not inclined to put much in the widespread chatter that had RR out the door after the OSU game and seems to be continuing since its sourcing seems to be pissed-off-you-guys folk clearly unhappy with the state of the program taking small interactions and interpreting them as they desire. However, the vibe I'm getting from other people who seem to be on the fence about what to do—or at least close to it—also makes it seem unlikely Rodriguez is back. Emphasis on all the qualifying words in the previous sentence, please. I've got nothing solid because no one does.
I also said that Brady Hoke would be named Michigan's coach over my dead body and the last semblance of sanity in the universe but that wasn't based on inside information. It was more a "has everybody gone CRAZY!?!" moment, and if the threat of Hoke didn't linger in the air I'd apologize for it. As it is I'm on the battlements with an axe* waiting to behead anyone who pops up and says "my name is Buh—." Bill Parcells is duly warned.
With less that a week left before the month of limbo is over, I haven't received anything that pushes my opinion much one way or the other. To reiterate, that's:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is fired, otherwise there would have been an announcement.
- Schools do not start coaching searches on January 2nd.
- There's only one guy out there that could plausibly be socked away or all but in time for Michigan to have a reasonable finish in recruiting and could justify yet more chaos in a program that is pointed in the right direction, even if vaguely.
So it's Rodriguez or Harbaugh and we'll probably know the day after the Orange Bowl. With all due respect to people who would argue otherwise, it makes no sense to fire Rodriguez in January if you do not have a coach lined up immediately. Since the list of people other than Harbaugh who Michigan could install within a week reads "Buh—[blood theatrically spraying from neck]" your alternatives are between rushing someone through without pause for consideration—which worked out so well last time—or dragging the search almost up to Signing Day, leaving your recruiting class a smoking crater and possibly dooming the next guy, who will forever be Not Jim Harbaugh, to repeat the cycle.
I have heard some things that push me more towards Harbaugh:
- Some connected guys at Cal email that Tedford is aiming to poach Harbaugh's OL coach since he has "agreed to go elsewhere already" as of the 17th of December. Caveat: the Cal rumor mill bears no animus towards Rodriguez but would love to see Harbaugh anywhere but Stanford, so as things get passed down the chain they get more certain.
- A player who split his career between RR/Carr years tells an emailer that Harbaugh will be installed on the fifth. Caveat: why the hell would some former player know?
- An emailer who reports things second hand but has been reliable in the past suggests that Mary Sue Coleman isn't a big fan of Rodriguez, which isn't much of anything to go on but just adds to the pile.
- Media people I talk to generally say the best thing is probably to give him one more year but that they don't expect he'll get it. Also not much of anything but vibe.
The only thing pointing the other way is the generally sunny disposition coming from within Schembechler Hall, but with recruits the coaches are saying they've got no idea what's going on but if they're still around after the bowl they'll still be around forever, or something to that effect. That's a hard sale right there.
If I was 55-45 Harbaugh a month ago I'm 65-35 Harbaugh now. I wish I could be more certain and wouldn't make the decision I think is likely if I was king of the world, but that's life. We'll know soon enough.
AWFUL BONUS: If there is a change you can go start the Denard transfer watch at DEFCON 2, since Robinson knows what he is—the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore at quarterback—and where he fits. How screwed up is a program that manages to get both Ryan Mallett and Denard Robinson to transfer away from certain starting QB jobs in the course of three years?
This hasn't happened yet. Breathe. I am talking to myself mostly.
*(To avoid a Tucker Carlson moment let me clarify: I am not going to cut Brady Hoke or anyone's head off with an axe.)
Why is your name all wavy, Wade?
Three years ago when Michigan was waddling about gently poking jowly coaches of the Midwest in search of their next head football coach, I relayed a ton of different things that hit my inbox about Kirk Ferentz and Jim Grobe and Greg Schiano and, yes, Brady Hoke. Many of them seemed ludicrous even at the time, like Michigan offering Ferentz a massive paycut to become Michigan's coach or Greg Schiano accepting the job before changing his mind (twice!), but are now part of what passes for the unofficial history of those maniacal three weeks. It was a weird time.
I tried to balance the inherently contradictory reports by relaying the things I'd heard and laying out what I thought based on those things, but from a distance of three years I think I made a mistake in my coverage. That mistake was assuming that all information being passed was a good-faith attempt to help Michigan fans figure out where the search stood at that point. It did not occur to me that while that assumption was probably correct about the people directly emailing me I had no way to judge the sincerity or connectedness of the people passing them information.
So. Any Michigan message board you pick has both shadowy insiders and now moderators throwing out Brady Hoke's name a "very serious" candidate to be Michigan's head coach. I've gotten the rumor myself from someone I trust, citing solid sources within the athletic department. But this is not then. I'm not going to rush to my keyboard and spit out all the reasons Hoke is not a plausible candidate for the Michigan job like I did three years ago.
I would if I thought there was even the slightest chance Hoke would replace Rich Rodriguez in early January, because that would be the most insane coaching switch of all time. This is not going to happen. Brady Hoke is not a serious candidate for the Michigan job. He is not any sort of candidate. If Dave Brandon was willing to hire Hoke to coach Michigan, Rodriguez would already be out the door because there would be a dozen people he'd rather have coaching Michigan than Rodriguez. Unless meteors hit both Jim Harbaugh and Rich Rodriguez, the chance Brady Hoke is Michigan's coach in 2011 is zero point zero percent.
Yes, single sentence paragraph time.
Do you know how I know this? Because three years ago the rumors about Hoke were heavy enough that I scurried to the keyboard to point out this was a guy with one winning season, that 7-5, at a MAC school. While he's a plausible candidate for the Minnesota job now, back then he wasn't a plausible candidate for the job he was actually at. If Ball State's job was open they wouldn't have hired a coach with Brady Hoke's resume. And yet there were rumblings from within Fort Schembechler that had everyone panicked, just like today.
The obvious conclusion is that there are people who know and like Hoke in the athletic department, who hate everyone else who's ever been rumored for the Michigan job, and there are credulous people willing to relay anything that comes from a person with a job in Schembechler Hall. None of these people are Dave Brandon.
Brady Hoke will not coach Michigan in 2011. You may resume your day-to-day lives.