darling, I'm sure you misinterpreted my jest
By Heiko Yang
I’m too tired to form an opinion about all the wonderful things that have been happening in Michigan football this past week. However, since we are on the subject of concussions, I do have a fabulous story about the time I got a concussion. Want to hear it? It’s a good one!
It was July of 2011. I was in a summer tackle football league. (Ahem. Just kidding it was softball. Tackle softball.) … I was in a summer tackle softball league, and I was playing center field. I think. Actually I can’t remember, because this story ends in a concussion, and it’s hard to tell a story in the first person about a concussion. Most of this is reconstructed from hearsay and/or imagination.
So let’s just say I was somewhere in the outfield. Dude stepped up to the plate and hit this bomb that sort of split the difference between me and one of my teammates whose name is Owen, as I would find out afterwards, not that it’s important. Owen and I both ran to the ball without taking our eyes off the ball and then boom! We collided. I did some sort of kickass ninja flip and landed on my head. I am told that I got up pretty quickly, was “out of it” for a few seconds, but then acted pretty normally. I didn’t feel injured or hurt. In fact I played the rest of the game.
The only thing anyone noticed was that I kept asking how I hit my head. I guess its because my head hurt, but I couldn’t remember why it hurt, and my brain couldn’t hold onto anything for more than 30 seconds. Clinical pearl: this is called perseveration! And anterograde amnesia! Most of my friends -- all med students, by the way -- thought I was just trying to be funny, because apparently confusion is hilarious, but none of them recognized that I was showing signs of a whopping concussion. Genuine concern arose only when I started asking how I had driven myself and where my car was, at which point I was brought to the emergency department.
Yes, some of this was caught on camera:
I was admitted to the hospital overnight to monitor for intracranial bleeding (which I did not have, thank goodness), and I began to recover the next day. Slowly I started remembering what people were telling me, and I developed a dull headache that subsided by evening. I’m fortunate that I never experienced any neurologic or psychiatric sequelae such as recurrent headaches, irritability, or sleep disturbances despite the severity of the concussion, although I did join mgoblog about a month afterwards, so I’ll have to check if “impulsive blogging” is an official symptom of post-concussion syndrome.
Anyway, I do think it’s kind of interesting to think that there will always be an 18-hour segment of my life during which I was conscious and sober that I have zero recollection of. Now if only someone could find a way to accomplish that to erase only negative memories, such as the last two weeks of Michigan football, that would be great.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, am I right?
Michigan 34, Miami 10
By Nick RoUMel
In tribute to Heiko’s brilliant deployment of his specialty, medicine, allow me to analyze the program in light of mine, employment law. Our once storied athletic department has all the hallmarks of a dysfunctional workplace.
When David Brandon took over, he cleaned house. He fired an alarming number of athletic department coaches and staff, including long term employees going back to the Don Canham years. He did this with little tolerance; employees were fired for minor and subjective offenses—or, significantly, for failure to exercise appropriate supervision over subordinate employees. I know because I and our firm represented a few of them. Sure, any new boss has the right to have his own minions, but this purging seemed to be done with little regard for employees’ loyalty, nor their valuable institutional memory.
Double standards are another feature of the dysfunctional workplace. In contrast to the scrutiny afforded lower level employees, management is free to commit a multitude of boners with no consequences. Examples are easy to tick off. Botched coaching searches resulting in the inability to land candidates that wanted to come here. Assaults on the game day tradition also turned off the fan base, like the well-documented student seating fiasco. Game day blunders ranging from the advertising noodle, to bans on water and seat cushions, the Coca-Cola ticket giveaway, to overdone productions, and unnecessary, meaningless old rock songs played ad nauseum.
Our coach, who is hired to win with integrity, doesn't win. And now the integrity part is in question. Not only does Brady Hoke’s team perform worse than the sum of its parts, but the man seemingly lied to us about Brendan Gibbons. Lying, meanwhile, is the best case scenario regarding Shane Morris. Brandon fired former star and loyal athletic department staffer Jamie Morris for allegedly lying. But maybe Brandon needs to keep Hoke around, because a classic boss is always happy to let his subordinate managers twist in the wind to take the heat.
Another classic sign of a dysfunctional workplace is micromanagement. Why does the Athletic Director attend practices, and hover during locker room meetings? Why is he the one hiring the coordinators, and not his head coach?
Ignoring customers is another symptom. Good leaders solicit input before making changes, and learn from constructive feedback. This administration plugs its ears and goes “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” To its partial credit they reversed decision on smaller issues like the noodle and seat cushions – but only after fan outcry. But why aren’t they seeking feedback before making these changes?
Retaliating against critics on the inside can be done in secret. But how do you explain such actions as taking away the press pass of John U. Bacon, who bleeds Maize and Blue, in apparent reaction to Three And Out? If they’re doing this petty garbage to journalists, imagine what they might do to anybody who dares speak against them from within.
For the most part, nothing can be done about a dysfunctional workplace. But at a public university, we have a trump card - at least theoretically. The athletic department is answerable to the President of the University and the Regents. The question will be whether they will have the courage to do the right thing and clean house, or whether they will bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.
Uncertain. Our new President, Mark Schlissel had no experience with a high profile athletic department while at Rhode Island. As such, the risk is that his ears will be bent by a select few with access. Former Texas coach Mack Brown explained that at his University, a cadre of four to five influential donors had the leaders’ ears and were able to accomplish their agendas. At Michigan, I don’t believe the power structure is that linear, but do worry whether anyone can be the change agent that is so badly needed, especially with powerful and generous donors like Stephen Ross backing Brandon.
The bottom line is that the Michigan Regents are government officials. Raise your hand if you still have faith that government officials will ever do the right thing. ... Anyone?
Fans who feel helpless can only vote with their feet. An under-100,000 attendance threatens this administration. But they believe last week’s crisis has blown over, and that the Penn State night game will provide a solid attendance figure, and then all will shortly return to normal.
Do Michigan fans have the guts to boycott? I believe that the public outcry, culminating in the impromptu rally against Dave Brandon this week, shows that people who care about Michigan football still have collective power.
With all this, the result of today’s game against the Scarlet Knights is almost superfluous. While it would be nice to win, it should not divert from the legitimate criticism that lies at Brandon’s feet. It is our duty to speak out and do what we can to end this dysfunction. That does not make us fair weather fans. When one party to any relationship is treated with such disrespect, they have the right to rise up and resist. That does not make you disloyal, or a fair weather fan – it means you care.
I for one cannot take this anymore. Yes, I wrote earlier this season that I was past the point of having a Michigan loss ruin my week. But when the entire department is showing signs of being rotten to the core, it hurts - as a fan, an alumnus, and a writer who tries every week to bring a light hearted approach to this sport.
Today, my heart is not light. I ache for the players who try their damndest and those of us who support them. And I will not bear this dysfunction without dissent.
MICHIGAN ALUMNI FANS - HALF A MILLION STRONG,
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT – 0
I'm taking down the office now. [Fuller]
Open letters to people who don't read them isn't exactly productive, but it's useful in a snowflakey kind of way. The MGoPostal service delivered a few of note: JeepinBen gives the next coach the correct answers to the Michigan questions. A guy emailed Schlissel our complaint list about Dave Brandon. A wealthy alum says to Schlissel or whoever that hubris is the problem.
You can read a form reply from the president's office here.
Brandon at least had the courtesy to provide a personal response to a lady canceling her long-held season tickets [UPDATED: this was apparently sent last December].
How to have a happy life. A few diarists looked a the qualities that seem to lead to success in a head coaching change. That first is a look at the coaching histories of Michigan, OSU, Bama, ND and USC with particular attention paid to whether guys with connections to the university had more success (they didn't).
The second starts by making a comparison of Bo to Stoops and goes on to sort out some common threads in other coaching changes. He came upon the same thing I did when trying to identify common threads in successful transitions: whatever side of the ball you don't know, just keep the coordinator from the old regime.
I would have been dead set against it at the time but in retrospect RR perhaps could have saved himself a lot of problems with the old guard by retaining Ron English. Or that could have led to an even bigger explosion when he fired English instead of Shafer for not running a 3-3-5 or getting along with Gibson. But imagine Michigan right now if Hoke had retained Calvin Magee, which we were VERY MUCH hoping for.
[After the jump, profiles of guys for Hoke's job; why head trauma is a thing and wasn't before]
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.]
Kind of a big deal. As of 9 PM Wednesday, this was SI's college football front page:
That is the lead story—a scathing roundtable from three of SI's main CFB writers—and six of the eleven top stories on the sidebar either about the Morris incident or tangential concerns (the OSU attendance thing).
STAPLES: Did Brandon throw Hoke under the bus, run him over, back up and run him over again? Or did he run him over three times? …
RICKMAN: Everyone in a position of power here is most concerned with protecting themselves, so they're passing blame around. "I didn't see it." "We didn't have enough evidence." Hoke's trying to keep his job. Brandon's trying to keep his job. At the crux of it, this is a person we're talking about. A kid who has his whole life ahead of him. And the best we can get out of an athletic department at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country is, "We should have done better."
This is awful on all levels. …
SCHNELL: I’m not going to accuse a coach of knowingly putting a player in danger, but I will say this: People in charge do some desperate things when they think they’re close to losing their jobs. As for Brandon’s role, it’s his athletic department, and the buck stops with him. If he’s going to take responsibility, ultimately, then he needs to hold a press conference and allow questions, not email out a few paragraphs long after most people have gone to sleep. That’s a coward’s way out.
I was not kidding about "scathing."
Speaking of scathing. Stewart Mandel:
I was pretty surprised to wake up Monday morning and find that Brady Hoke hasn't been fired yet. The poor performances are bad enough, but the disregard (and flimsy excuses) for player safety should've been grounds for immediate dismissal. Is there any good reason for having him finish the season? The only thing I can think of is recruiting, but come on. Everyone in the nation knows he's gone after this year.
-- William Daniels, Mt. Morris, Michigan
Well then I can only imagine how surprised you were to wake up Tuesday morning and find out that Shane Morriswas diagnosed with a concussion on Sunday but no one thought to inform the head coach by the following day.
The Morris situation has provided a mind-numbing window into the level of dysfunction within the Michigan athletic department. Hoke’s days were already numbered due to the program’s on-field deterioration into a poster for offensive ineptitude. The only way Hoke’s team is going to a bowl game this year is if there aren’t enough eligible 6-6 teams. The Morris story only intensified the level of outrage surrounding Hoke.
Mandel goes on to say the stuff about 5-0 and we're defending the guy, and I mean… come on. If this happens to a successful coach it is a strike but not one that dooms a regime, and a sizeable majority of the anger in the Michigan fanbase right now is directed at the athletic director for the ham-handed mismanagement everyone is citing.
Additionally in scathing. They asked Don Canham's widow what she thought:
“I just think it’s gone way overboard with the crazy music and Beyonce and Eminem and that sort of thing,” Canham-Keeley said. “I guess he’s trying to cater to the students but it’s obviously not working. For me the pageantry of the football game is the band coming out on the field and the tradition of the drum major.”
“I’ve narrowed it down to fireworks, flyovers and empty seats,” she said.
“To me it’s become a circus, and that’s not what it should be. I’m born and raised in Ann Arbor. I grew up with Michigan football. That’s not—to me—Michigan football.”
She goes into the Beyonce/Eminem stuff and you're like "oh she's just old" and then she immediately cuts to how the students aren't buying it and you're like that's a fantastic point I forgot you were Don Friggin' Canham's wife.
Yet more in scathing. USA Today's Christine Brennan calls for firing everybody:
…at a Monday news conference, Hoke said Morris did not suffer a concussion. He also said that he and Brandon hadn't discussed it.
But, after midnight early Tuesday morning, Brandon released a statement in which he said that Morris had indeed suffered a "probable, mild concussion," whatever that is.
Brandon also said that he had met with "those who were directly involved" since Sunday, which clearly would include Hoke, who of course said he hadn't talked to Brandon about it.
So the two are either not telling the truth or simply incompetent. Or perhaps both.
For Students complaining about $295 season ticket prices, that's about 1/3 price of NFL tickets ... Even bad NFL teams w/ no tradition
They're not just complaining. They're not going. Yelling at them about that doesn't fix the problem. The customer is always right, right? You wanted customers. Now you've got 'em.
The oracle speaks. Detroit media jihadist Jeff Moss likes to get on Wojo for not having strong takes, but the more reasonable you are the more people pay attention to you when you come down from the mountain and say NOPE. Wojo has done so:
Brady Hoke's fate was sealed before Shane Morris wobbled on the field, before the clumsy statements and misstatements, before every media outlet in America leapt on a juicy controversy complete with compelling video.
This is on athletic director Dave Brandon now, and if Hoke should be fired, likely after the season, Brandon should be, too.
That speaks volumes.
Meta-protest. I would like to protest this from Wojo's article, though.
A few hundred fans actually marched onto the lawn of Schlissel's campus house Tuesday night chanting for Brandon's dismissal. There's a mob outrage to this, which is uncomfortable.
It's not a mob until it does something unreasonable. About a thousand people peaceably assembled, talked/shouted at each other, and then dispersed. They wanted to make a point the only way they could, and did.
Actually being there was fun. One guy nearby exclaimed "this is so much better than a home game," and I don't know that he was saying that just because he wasn't watching a football team get its jibblies kicked in at the time. Once a random hero decided to start us all in the direction of the president's house there was more passion on display than these students get to express when Michigan's blasting music at them during every lull.
After, a clearly skeptical media guy came up to me and asked me some nasty questions—"do you think this stunt will hurt Brandon's ability to hire a new coach?" was his leadoff. I was taken aback by "stunt." A stunt is something an organization does for attention. This was the opposite, a movement so grass roots it was literally unorganized.
We want our athletic department back. If it's a mob it's got the most articulated complaints of any mob in history.
Also that guy with a megaphone takes a badass picture. Apparently he's a public policy senior:
Just lookin' at that dude like that is more leadership than Brandon's shown this week. #ThisGuy4AD
I LIKE DAN DAKICH. He had me on his show yesterday after I tweeted something jerky out in frustration at things Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd were saying, and I appreciate the opportunity for a half hour segment, which you can find here. A couple of clarifications and omissions:
- Dakich thought some of my other examples of Brandon errors were petty, and they were, but that was the point. The things the hypersensitive Michigan fans have been complaining about for the duration of his tenure have come home to roost in a major way. This is how they handle everything, and there's no reason to expect they'll change.
- I don't think I said the Dakich-Burke combo was creepy. I said I was "off to patent a system that turns all color commentary into Dan Dakich hitting on Doris Burke" once; a podcast demanded that "this happens over and over again. GET A ROOM! ON MY TELEVISION!" And I think that's it. For the record, she was totally into him.
- Apparently my level was quite a bit lower than Dakich, so when we talked over each other it was just him. Our conversation felt a lot more even to me on the phone; I thought it was a good back and forth—I've had radio appearances that I thought were unfair (cough **ALBOM** cough); this was not one of them.
- Dakich really is my favorite color guy other than maybe Jay Bilas right now. The reasons he's good at color can make him come off as abrasive, but I'll take that a thousand times over PRIME TIME PLAYER BAYBEEE blather. I mean, there was one time Michigan was playing K-State where Dakich called one of their post guys out for never passing the ball and he never passed the ball. Every time he got a touch we were on the edge of our seat. That's adding to a broadcast.
- I didn't much like the part of the interview that slid into the Guys Like Me From Gary Who Are Adults versus You Guys On The Internet Who Are Beta Males. I have a mortgage, man, and 2005-era blogger cracks are so dated.
Anyway, if he's interested I'll gladly go on any time.
Well… that's not good. Bill Connelly's updated projections foresee this:
- 8-4 or better: 2.1%
- Bowl eligible: 35%
- 4-8 or worse: 33%
Michigan is expected to go 5-7 when all possibilities are jammed together.
And half of this is based on the system that was ranking Michigan 19th before last weekend. It's possible that this is a little grim since we'll probably play Gardner the rest of the way but with Utah losing to WSU it's not like we can even claim the Utes are much good.
Upshot: buy a helmet, and put it on top of your existing helmet. Then dig a bunker under your bunker.
SIDE NOTE: The chance the West winner is 4-4 has dropped to 0.1%. Dagnabit.
Offensive line starts are not particularly indicative, unless you don't have any. Buried in a random Barking Carnival post:
While O-line starts does correlate with stronger offensive performance, it’s not everything. Ohio State is the only team with fewer than 30 O-line starts performing above-average, but they’re well above average, and you don’t have to go much higher before the scatterplot becomes a field of white noise and the trendline levels out.
That said, this chart doesn’t take into account that we’re on a new offensive system and we’ve lost our QB, so the fact that we’re not too far below the trendline for our number of O-line starts is an optimistic takeaway. But honestly it’s not much to hang one’s hat on. If we start playing better, it won’t be just because the players are getting more experience – it’ll be because they’re getting more experience in an effective offensive system.
(Horizontal axis: number of O-line starts at the beginning of the year (Texas is adjusted for current personnel); vertical axis: offensive S&P; and I’m using a power law trendline, to reflect that the difference between 0 & 30 starts should be more impactful than the difference between 90 & 120)
Looks like you're good or not good and OL starts are a very minor factor, what with the random scatter of the plot.
Etc.: The MZone has come back with what's undoubtedly the creepiest post I've ever featured in. Hypothetical AD Rich Rodriguez would have handled this better than Brandon did. I am dead serious about this.
This made Inside Higher Ed, which… okay. Are we in Cat Fancy? I think that's the last outlet that hasn't covered this.
In hindsight, and this has nothing to do with an injury, should Devin Gardner have played earlier in the game on Saturday based on how Shane was playing?
And why not?
“Well, I think you’ve got to give a guy an opportunity to play. Shane prepared very well. We talked about it for several weeks, you know, his preparation leading up to the game. He deserved that opportunity to play and we were going to let him play.”
Doug, what was your perspective on the Shane Morris hit that’s kind of been a question after he had the hit to the head? It looked like you kind of saw him struggling on the field. What were you saying to him and what was your take on this?
“Well, I didn’t see the hit. You can’t see- everything was lost in the field of play and the guys upstairs, you know, it was third down and it was an incompletion so I was thinking- well, they say, ‘We got a roughing penalty. We’re up.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay.’ So the first thing is okay, what are we doing now? It’s first-and-10 from a playcaller’s standpoint, and then I look up and I see Shane limping. ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ and he waved me off, [saying] ‘I’m fine.’ Okay. I didn’t know at that extent what had happened, really. You don’t really know because you couldn’t see from our vision on the field and Shane’s a tough, tough guy, man.”
Did you talk to him when he came off the field, and what was sort of his state of mind and clarity at that point?
“I don’t really recall having a conversation other than ‘Are you okay?’ and then you’ve got the flow of the game and everything else that was going on.”
Coach, is it going to be difficult for either quarterback or whatever quarterback you have in there until this offensive takes a few more steps forward in terms of pass protection and things like that?
“We’re all disappointed in our performance. We needed to perform better. We needed to play better. We needed to coach better. That’s across the board, not one position. Like I said, we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. We’ve got a lot of work to do, obviously. The only thing we can do is go back to the practice field. We went and put some pads on yesterday and worked on some things, worked on some fundamental things to try and get better at every position.”
Do you know who will be the starter next weekend?
“We’ll go through the week and we’ll evaluate it.”
Is it a question of- if Shane were 100% and nothing had happened injury-wise would that still be the case this week, or…?
“We’re going to challenge and compete at every position, like we say every week and see where we’re at and evaluate every guy. We’ve talked about it numerous times, [we] want to create competition at every position. Both Shane and Devin have done some really good things and we look forward to watching them compete and allow each other to be pushed and get better.”
With how, from our perspective- with how long it took for the final decision to made going into last week’s game…first of all, when was that decision made that Shane was going to be the starter?
“Well, I don’t think that when that decision’s made is really relevant. What’s relevant is that our players are pushing each other every day to get better and that we’re putting the best players at each position out there every Saturday.”
[More on Shane Morris and the hit after THE JUMP]