to play football, not to play trumpet
The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Ross batphone rang again today:
On Monday, Ross said that he still thinks Brandon can do the job. But he also has promised school president Mark Schlissel that he won’t interfere or oppose a decision to fire Brandon.
“I don’t think alumni should control universities,” Ross said. “We have a great president and he is running the university and not me.”
Ross said Schlissel has “been talking to a lot of people” about Brandon and “has not come to a hasty conclusion.” If he has made a decision, Ross said, “he has not told anyone.”
IS THIS THE KISS OF DEEEEAAAATH?
ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE. We are probably embarking on a coaching search in the near future and also probably embarking on an AD search in the near future. When these things happen I get buckets of insider information from provenances both dubious and legit, and at some point they cross the threshold where I think they're useful to relate.
When I do this I want things to be supported by multiple people, or people I've heard from before and were accurate. I've learned over the years that when you get in these situations a lot of people stridently believe things that turn out to be wrong, so keep that in mind; I strive to be precise with my language to give people the right impression of how strongly these opinions are held.
ON JIM HARBAUGH. There are plenty of media reports suggesting that Harbaugh won't be with the 49ers next year; I've heard similar things. I've also heard that people within the 49ers organization think that maybe Harbaugh isn't an NFL guy, long term, and that Harbaugh is also coming to this realization as the guys in his locker room start getting more and more ornery. Michigan is not a far-fetched destination according to them.
ON DAVE BRANDON. I mentioned this on twitter and should clarify. There is the Big Ballers Meeting and then a Meeting With A Lot Of Big Ballers And Some Smaller Ballers And Some People Who Do Nice Stuff For The University. I got a report from the latter, in which Schlissel sat down for a Q&A session that was moderated by Stephen Ross. Nothing said was definitive, but almost all of the side chatter centered on how Brandon wasn't going to make it and Ross didn't seem like he was going to throw a hissy fit if a change was made. Even in this context away from the madding crowd the first issue addressed was the AD; Schlissel reiterated his point about a culture change; there seemed to be big baller chatter about who might be next.
Now: these people are not universally omniscient. There was chatter that things might go down last Tuesday. Obviously they did not. Don't take that as gospel.
ON THE COMBINATION OF HARBAUGH AND BRANDON. Never say never but I've heard from guys who know Harbaugh who say that Jim working for Dave is highly unlikely to happen. I do not have signed affidavits, but… yeah. As chatter goes this drumbeat is intense.
ON HOKE SURVIVING. This is likely to become moot this weekend, but serious people are asserting that he's not dead yet and could get by with a 7-5 record that includes a win over MSU or OSU, or even that 6-6 might be enough.
I don't think this is the case, as the powers that be know that season tickets are on a knife edge now and bringing Hoke back could see significant drops. It's impossible to know anything about Hoke's status given the uncertainty about the top of the department; the information being discussed is going to point strongly to a change no matter who is in charge.
ON AD CANDIDATES. Amongst the obvious Michigan Man candidates I would peg the pecking order as
- Jeff Long (Arkansas)
- Brad Bates (BC)
- Warde Manuel (UConn)
- Joe Parker (Texas Tech's associate AD)
There's a bigger gap between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Michigan may go off the board, of course, but Long in particular seems to have the respect of the AD community—he's the CoFoPoff chair—and made a stunning hire of Bret Bielema after the Petrino situation blew up in his face.
Also worth noting that he handled the PR of that disaster as well as can be expected. Bates and Manuel have not had to face similar crises yet.
ON JABRILL PEPPERS. This is not certain otherwise Michigan would have announced it but I've gotten several seemingly independent sources asserting that Peppers isn't going to play again this year. Michigan just threw him on top of the depth chart at nickel and punt return, so I don't know… I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play this weekend.
ON LLOYD CARR. Lloyd Carr is a civilian. He is neither involved nor wants to be involved in the day-to-day of the athletic department, and if you have a conspiracy theory involving him it is ridiculous and you should just drop it.
Oh no. This is is getting passed around various message boards:
This isn't Brady Hoke's luggage combination (we know what that is). It's the number of points Michigan has scored against MSU over the last decade. It goes in one direction.
Brady Hoke says coaches can sometimes tinker a bit too much in bye weeks. Says Michigan got back to its identity during break: run the ball.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) October 20, 2014
Brady Hoke asked if Jabrill Peppers practiced yesterday: "We had a good practice. We had a good practice. We had a good practice."
— Kyle Bogenschutz (@KyleBogie) October 20, 2014
Coachbot is malfunctioning. Someone give him a whack.
Purdue coaches all look alike. Jerry Kill doesn't know what Darrell Hazell looks like.
So Michigan has lost to the Ebola coach and goofy Minnesota uncle this year.
Also in Minnesota, I would pay to see Jerry Kill do this:
The status (please don't be the status). Sam Webb laid out his opinion of the way things are going to go on the Scout message board in an extensive post. In brief: his guess at the moment is that Brandon is relieved sometime after the season and this delay may end up buying Hoke another year.
I find it implausible that Michigan would risk that. The fanbase is right on the edge of dropping out in droves—a recent Free Press story touting the fact that Michigan only lost about 700 season ticket holders ignores the fact that Michigan has now completely burned through its once-legendary waitlist. Hoke's return threatens to create a serious dent, and once you break the habit it's hard to get people back in it.
Recruiting shouldn't override common sense here. Even if Michigan goes with another Process that sees them hire a coach in the middle of January the recruiting impact won't be enormous because this class is so small. 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 class.
Maybe I shouldn't worry. A lot of these projections come with disclaimers like "if Michigan splits with MSU and OSU". MSU opened a 15.5 point favorite—the most MSU has ever been favored in the series—and that was quickly bumped up to 17. That gives Michigan a less than ten percent chance to win. OSU just bombed Rutgers 56-10; that spread is likely to be in the same range.
/stares blankly at wall. So this happened:
Tony Gibson, the first-year West Virginia defensive coordinator, had an interesting dilemma midway through the second quarter facing the dynamic Baylor offense. The Bears had arrived in Morgantown averaging an FBS-leading 623 yards per game and 67 points in their past two meetings with the Mountaineers. Baylor had just retaken the lead, 20-14, on a 63-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Antwan Goodley.
On the play, WVU's Terrell Chestnut took a vicious block from Corey Coleman to spring Goodley. The WVU cornerback was down on the field for minutes and done for the game due to a concussion. The Mountaineers also had lost their other standout corner, Daryl Worley, for the game at the start of the second quarter after he injured his ribs on a punt return.
WVU blitzed 46 times, Petty got discombobulated, and WVU ran away with a win over #4 Baylor after holding the Bears to just 315 yards—their lowest total in four years. Without both starting corners. With Tony Gibson their defensive coordinator.
Good one, universe. Just when I think I can't feel your steel-toed boot you find the last possible nerve that feels anything.
Join us in our misery. Iowa, come on down!
Iowa really went the entire first half without completing a single pass to a WR.
— Brendan Stiles (@thebstiles) October 18, 2014
On the one hand, Iowa is 5-2. On the other, Iowa isn't any good and can't get a new coach. We might be able to get a new coach. I think I'd rather be us? Yeah.
Texas A&M, come on down!
That was halftime.
Florida, come on down!
— MUSCHAMP-O-LANTERN (@edsbs) October 19, 2014
I hope this has made everyone feel momentarily better before we go into the dark this weekend.
Etc.: Indiana is a 3:30 kick, so you have to wonder if you'll ever get to see most of a college football weekend again. Hooray Denard rushing for 129 yards in his first start. Canadian junior hockey facing a lawsuit for violating minimum wage laws. If you're not familiar with the hypocrisy of the CHL, imagine the NCAA without the education. Women's soccer is rounding into a real program. These numbers are beyond ugly.
What do you do when you're getting a ton of quarters coverage? Go deep in the slot. Roy Roundtree knows what's up.
Complying with the Norfleet Atomic Dog Act of 2560. What's better than Dennis Norfleet? Dennis Norfleet holding bread!
Regents meeting stuff. Not a whole lot happened other than a couple of students bombing Brandon hard; they did so more professionally than Brandon handled the Shane Morris incident.
Schissel reiterated his disappointment with the way the Shane Morris incident was handled; Andrea Newman publicly supported Brandon (the earliest we can terminate her status as regent is 2018, unfortunately); Mark Bernstein was the guy who sounded like he was talking the most sense:
“The Shane Morris incident, the poor performance of the football team, that’s like a spark in a very, very dry forest. And there’s not a lot of water around right now," Bernstein said. "I think the actions of the athletic department, I believe (some) generally agree, have drained whatever reservoir of goodwill there is with Michigan football in particular. So it makes navigating this issue far more difficult.
“Therefore, it makes this moment much more complex. Is that the fault of the athletic director? Partially. But at the same time, we all care deeply about this university. We care about the student-athletes who are working hard every day at the game they love. We care about our students, our fans, our alums. We want to get this right. And that’s why it’s essential that the board support the president’s deliberative, methodical approach to this to figure out the best course of action.”
He offered a no comment when asked whether he supports Brandon, which is as close as you'll get to a "hell no" in this situation.
Yes, it is incredibly frustrating that the wheels are turning so slowly here—this is a situation in which Michigan is likely to be searching for the most important employee in the department in six weeks, with an ideal candidate probably available. If Michigan can't take its shot at Harbaugh because Brandon's not quite on the cart you'll hear the million-strong facepalm across the state.
The impression the meeting left was still bad for the AD. Baumgardner:
There's no hiding it any longer. Thursday's meeting was standing-room only. Every major media outlet in the state was represented, most brought more than one person. And most left with one clear thought in their mind.
Brandon's future at Michigan appears to be in real jeopardy.
Thursday's meeting was a public, formal airing of grievances about the environment that's been created around Michigan's athletic department, and it left no stone unturned.
This wasn't just about the handling of the Shane Morris injury, or the athletic department's public relations debacle that soon followed. It wasn't just about the variety of stunts -- from skywriters to fireworks to ticket prices -- pulled by this department. It wasn't just about the lack of communication internally and externally. And it wasn't just about the fact that the sense of community -- and culture -- surrounding Michigan athletics appears to be on life support.
It was about all of it.
For the record, any buyout of Brandon's guaranteed contract likely will cost $3 million or so, not including the refreshments or confetti. But any concerns about backlash from major donors might have been assuaged by last weekend's alumni gatherings surrounding the Penn State game.
Brandon was noticeably absent as Stephen Ross, the real-estate magnate whose $200-million donation to the university last fall included $100 million earmarked for a new athletic campus, took part in a question-and-answer session with university president Mark Schlissel, who reiterated his "disappointment" in the way the Morris situation was handled.
I got a report from this meeting in which it felt like Brandon was not going to make it, FWIW.
After the regent's meeting, Brandon released a statement about how he looked forward to "repairing" his relationship with the students and announced a significant cut in ticket prices.
He also said the was looking forward to going for a walk and felt "happy."
Stitt happened. I did not live tweet the Colorado School of Mines game because I don't get CBS Sports. /shakes fist at UVerse.
But it went well, as Bob Stitt kind of hilariously took on a team coached by John L Smith:
Mines played Fort Lewis, John L. Smith's team. Smith's Skyhawks had just ended Colorado State-Pueblo's 42-game regular season winning streak, but they had no answers whatsoever for the Mines attack. The Orediggers gained 662 yards, scored touchdowns on each of the first four possessions, and cruised to a 56-14 win. Fort Lewis probably should have scheduled Homecoming for last week.
The Orediggers are 7-0, and oh my I have to sit down
"I treat fourth-down conversions as a turnover," Stitt told me in 2012. "We were 58 percent on fourth down [in 2012], went for 36 of them. Our opponents went for 18. We’re a lot higher percentage than 58 when it’s fourth-and-5 or less. I’ll even go for it on fourth-and-8 when it’s a situation where we’re on the 50 or their 40.
"That’s a turnover! If you get it, it’s like the defense just got you the ball on their 50-yard line. We’ve got to be able to have confidence as an offense that -– hey, when we get around the 50, Coach is gonna go for it – and the defense has to have it in their head that, hey, they’re gonna go for it, and if they don’t get it, we have to get excited and make sure the opponent doesn’t get points out of it."
Once you get past the Harbaugh/Mullen tier it gets very thin very quickly this year and a lot of the guys you'd take a poke at afterwards seem like they would be hard to get—lot of dudes with good job security at their alma mater. So… yeah. Bob Stitt.
(Yes, that is Kevin Sumlin.)
Chance of any chance. Hoke's return by the numerical projections:
In other words
(Although this is pessimistic now that Indiana is apparently starting a Pokemon named Zander Diamont at QB.)
That's not actually good. One of the good things about Brandon cited in an ESPN article:
The football troubles outweighed the building upgrades that Hamilton oversaw while taking Tennessee's athletic department from a $750,000 deficit to a $9 million surplus in his time at its helm. They outweigh the two top-10 finishes in the Directors' Cup, which measures a school's success in all varsity sports.
Michigan also has been in the Directors' Cup top 10 twice under Brandon and made a trip to the men's Final Four
Michigan finished in the top five every year from 1999 to 2009.
All you need to know about the last couple of years in hockey. I mean:
Everyone finishes the lift, heads to the ice through a locker room, one with a complete makeover from the last season. Gone is the sign that said, “Win the next game.” It’s been replaced with key words such as “Unity” and “Respect.”
I'm not a big chemistry guy when looking for explanations as to why things go wrong, but I make an exception in this case.
That would be nice. Hockey megaprospect Auston Matthews is "50/50" between college and the OHL:
'97 C Auston Matthews of NTDP tells me he's 50/50 on college vs. WHL. Says he's talking to BC, BU, Denver, Michigan.
— Mark Divver (@MarkDivver) October 16, 2014
Don Granato, the U18s' head coach, says he's "leaning" to college, FWIW.
Mathews, like Zach Werenski, Jack Eichel, and Noah Hanifin, would have to accelerate an entire year of school to arrive on campus next fall. Like BU super-recruit Eichel, Matthews is playing with the U18s despite his young age.
Interesting dynamic here: the NCAA's new autonomy push should give the Big Ten schools an edge against smaller conferences and the OHL. A couple weeks ago the league announced a raft of benefits including full cost of attendance scholarships and a "lifetime educational commitment" that stands in stark contrast to the OHL's current policy, in which playing pro hockey on any level for more than a year makes your scholarship package evaporate.
Meanwhile a school like BU is big time in hockey but in conferences that are not going to follow suit; the OHL will also have to step up its game to maintain its level of attractiveness.
HELLO ANN ARBOR. Ennui levels reaching critical.
There will be more on today's regents meeting in the days to come, as there's still much to parse through—the live streams I tried to view missed much of the action due to connectivity issues. I'll note a few important things right now, however.
President Mark Schlissel opened the meeting by saying he was "deeply disappointed" in the athletic department's initial response to the Shane Morris controversy, and he's still in the midst of evaluating the AD before making any potential changes. Importantly, the regents stated they support Schissel's mission to fix the issues in the department. It didn't sound like a firing is imminent, as Schlissel is still working to educate himself about the department; it also didn't sound like there are many road blocks left before a change would hypothetically be made.
Central Student Government president Bobby Dishell had more pointed statements, beginning with "the athletic department has broken its trust" with the students. He then cited a student survey—answered by an impressive 5,208 students, for about double the average response rate—that's been released in full via MLive (PDF link).
It does not reflect well upon the athletic department.
Had student seating remained general admission in 2014, less than 9,000 students would have bought season tickets this year (as opposed to under 12,000 this year under assigned seating).
However, even fewer students intend to purchase next year at a price of $295. To maintain a student section of just under 12,000 students, the Athletic Department needs to drop student tickets to roughly $210, or $30 per game next year. To regain a student section of 20,000 students, the Athletic Department needs to drop the price of student tickets to roughly $150 next year.
The department, at least, has agreed to "significantly" lower prices for student tickets next year, though an exact figure hasn't been determined. That may be a step towards repairing this regime's relationship with the student body, but the other results from the survey make it appear that it's broken beyond repair.
Though the Athletic Director was never mentioned, by name or by title, in the survey, David Brandon is mentioned 1,208 times by respondents (the phrase “Fire Brandon” was used 110 times by respondents). Almost none of the respondents have positive things to say about Mr. Brandon’s tenure as Athletic Director.
The CSG put forth several recommendations, including lowering ticket prices, expanding the student section in the lower bowl for basketball, being "forthcoming and transparent" when crises occur, and shifting "away from commercialization" in the department.
Most damning, perhaps, are the word clouds published based on responses to the following questions [click the word clouds to embiggen]:
1. Before coming to the University, what is one word that you would use to describe Michigan Football?
2. What is one word you would use to describe Michigan Football today?
I'd say those speak for themselves.
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.)]