I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
via the always brilliant Prevail and Ride. Warning: cartoon genitalia ahead.
Should the Late Carr Malaise be re-evaluated in light of the fact that USC and Ohio State were cheating on epic scales?
The Horror, 2007 Oregon and 2005 Minnesota still happened, of course. But 2003 and 2006 might look very different to us if USC and OSU hadn’t been quite so stacked—in which case we might see 2005 and 2007 as off years rather than symptoms of a systematic decline.
Yours in Michigan Football Historiography,
Possibly? It's impossible to tell how much of an advantage Ohio State got with its Tats For Everyone program and USC got with its Look, Snoop Dogg(!) program, and the list of knocks against Lloyd Carr's career gets a lot shorter if you remove "could not beat USC or Jim Tressel" from the list.
Carr might be regarded on par with Bo today if he'd flipped some scores in USC Rose Bowls and 2006's Football Armageddon, during which Troy Smith torched Morgan Trent. Troy Smith got a wrist-slap for taking 500 bucks, but given what we know now it seems improbable that was all he did. If he was in the supplemental draft, Michigan plays for a national title with Jake Long and a bizarre dominance of Florida instead of still-drunk-from-last-night Alex Boone and a paralyzing fear of the SEC.
However, while Carr's career might have been truly legendary without Cheatypants Sweatervest and Pete Carroll tag-teaming the NCAA rule book, the degradation at the tail end of his career wouldn't have changed. No one did The Horror to Michigan except Michigan; no one else lost that bumper crop of instate talent and left the program with six offensive linemen and only one primadonna itching to leave between Michigan and total quarterback implosion; no one else provided Michigan zero plausible in-house options in a program that evidently needed one.
HOWEVA HOWEVA, a hypothetical win in one of those Rose Bowls or Football Armageddon might have avoided that fate because it would have caused Carr to retire earlier, avoiding a good chunk of the nastiness comprising the last four years. Sans cheating, Carr probably has two or three more wins that swing public opinion of him from solid B+ to Bo 2.0.
I was having a facebook conversation with a guy I played football with in high school. He played at a moderately successful IA school from a non-BCS conference, and made the comment that "this goes on at every big-time school." It's important to note that he is NOT any kind of an OSU fan, and that when he said "big-time" it was to note that it didn't happen at his school. Now if "this" means the ebay and the tattoos, I don't really care too much. But if "this" refers to raiding the equipment room and the improper benefits, than I'd like to step off my high horse.
I know he's not really in a position to know, and I know neither are you - but please speculate for me. When the Reggie Bush thing broke, everybody said "well that's how USC dominated." When the Cam Newton thing broke, it was "that's how the SEC dominates." Not it's Ohio, and people say the same thing. But at the same time - Rich Rodriguez did convince an awful lot of people from the south to come to Michigan. Most southerners I know bristle when they hear the word "Michigan" just because of the thought of cold. Maurice Clarett and Terrelle Pryor both took official visits to Michigan. Am I just being paranoid when I get nervous about Brady Hoke kicking butt at recruiting?
I say that we just had NCAA investigators pore over our program, brick by brick. I say that similar scandals to the tattoo scandal broke with AJ Green and at UNC without it implicating the institutions as a whole. But I can't help but be a little nervous - do we have anything to worry about? Do all the "big boys" do this kind of thing?
I think the eBay thing in general has started talk about reforming college sports scholarships and restrictions on activities. But if the shadier parts, of agents and boosters, is widespread - if all the major programs have their own Ed Martin - then can college sports as we know it continue to exist as we pretend it does?
Sorry for the long email - please tell me there are no monsters under the bed.
I can't flat out say "there are no monsters under the bed" after the Jihad. During that I repeatedly assured everyone that Michigan's compliance was Serious Business that would have all this stuff amply documented. Instead we got a lot of emails from Ann Vollano to Brad Labadie and zero in return. Things can break down; what we saw during the Jihad was a broken system that needed a revamp. It could have exposed Michigan to something serious if they had recruited a 6'6" sociopath instead of the world's nicest cheetah strapped to a jet engine and pushed out of a plane.
HOWEVA, in the aftermath a large number of people lost their jobs (or sought other opportunities or whatever other euphemism you would prefer—I like "succumbed to gumball addiction"). With Michigan on probation and Dave Brandon acting as new sheriff* things are on lockdown right now as they're ever going to be. When things are on lockdown the worst thing that happens is some kid does something wrong with some agent and gets suspended a la Marcus Ray or AJ Green. (I'm not so sure UNC is going to get off with just their suspensions, FWIW. Wasn't John Blake in some serious dirt?)
As to your larger point, no, I don't think This Happens Everywhere. That Texas walk-on's story demonstrates there are places that are serious about compliance. Here's beloved MGoStoryteller CRex with a local example:
As someone who once helped a football player fix his car, Michigan compliance was so far up my ass there was a blue lot in my lower colon and I almost got my own blue bus stop. The player bought the tie rods and I did the labor since I knew how and had the tools. He paid me for my time in beer and pizza. Compliance jumped all over this and figured out the hourly rate for a mechanic was greater than the cost of the beer and pizza, thus he still owed me money. I attempted to lowball my time estimate for doing the job, they talked to a real mechanic and got the official time estimate for tie rod replacement. They were also unimpressed by the fact I helped all my friends fix their cars in exchange for beer and pizza. So they basically stood over him while he wrote me a check for what they demanded the difference was. They also made him pay my uncle who let us use the lift in his garage.
I tossed the check aside and figured "I might cash this if he gets drafted, maybe". Someone though noticed the money never came out of his account and started calling me about cashing the damn check. This was old school Carr era though.
The next time I worked on his car I sarcastically sent them an invoice (six page writeup for helping him replace two brake pads) "for their records", they crosschecked all my time estimates and sent me back an approval letter and a genuine thank you for the paper...
While it's impossible to prevent local restaurants from giving players extra chicken wings or free cover, there is a level of shadiness that can be effectively regulated. A debate about whether amateurism is ethical is outside the scope of my brain right now because I'm so happy I'm not wearing pants.
*[While it's obvious I'm ambivalent about Brandon these days what with the whole creeping advertisements, night game uniformz, and failure to put Special K's head on a pike two minutes after taking the job, the way he handled the NCAA investigation both during and after is a huge, huge positive. Our athletic director may suffer a curly fries mascot in Michigan Stadium and refer to the department as "I" but…
…it could be so much worse.
Also, video replay in Yost.]
How does Tresselgate (and rumors of systemic NCAA violations) compare to the Fab Five fiasco in terms of sheer magnitude, and in terms of discredit they bring to the university in question?
They're pretty similar. In both you have guys taking extra benefits from guys who may or may not technically be boosters, and in both the violations stretch over some years with multiple players. (With way fewer players on scholarship, four basketball players is approximately equal to the 28 Buckeyes SI say are trading stuff for tats.)
The major differences:
- Tressel lied to the NCAA multiple times; Fisher didn't.
- Michigan fired Fisher immediately and without regret, then went into their Day Of Great Shame routine. Ohio State tried to convince everyone this was worthy of a two game suspension.
- Ohio State had plenty of warning in the public eye from the Clarett accusations and the Smith handshake. Michigan had never brushed up against similar allegations.
I'm guessing Tatgate will be worse from an NCAA standpoint. In the end, Michigan got one year of postseason ban and a one scholarship penalty for four years. If Ohio State gets off with the equivalent they'll be skipping and everyone will be outraged. From a program standpoint, it won't be as bad because Ohio State isn't going to hire Brian Ellerbe. From a shame standpoint, probably worse since at least Michigan didn't go around pretending everything was cool.
The Clans. This is an awesome post that you must rush to read right now drop everything. Look:
You want to know where you fit. Everyone does. Everyone thinks they're a fierce pragmatist. Seriously, check the comments.
Mike Hart is the master. If Mike Hart is serious about going into coaching after his NFL career is done and eventually returning to Michigan, he's already got the bit about expertly defusing tricky questions down pat. Via a recent radio appearance:
"I think that any Michigan man that would've came in would be hard to be mad at because I think people have been complaining so bad these last three years that – 'Hey, we want a Michigan guy here. We need a Michigan guy. Rich-Rod doesn't respect the traditions.' (For) guys that have been saying those things, Coach Hoke was the perfect hire because he brings back that Michigan legacy."
I eagerly await the day he's cut. No offense, Mr. Hart, it's just… you know.
and the hoke-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee
Needs moar tremendous.
Not much of substance, but I'm not a big fan of the Vick comparison. When Vick got to the NFL he was shepherded in a run-heavy, simple system that wasn't very good. It takes time, and while Denard will progress I think it'll take more than a year. There will be a larger post on this later.
Calling Brandon a liar. Is what LSU's doing:
"He was offered more than 4 million to become the Michigan coach," LSU Board of Supervisors member Stanley Jacobs said Friday. "When he said no, they came back and offered him more. And he said no again."
Miles is apparently set to sign an extension that does not raise his salary. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the buyout. Miles has made a lot of money already but seemed to be lacking in job security early this year when LSU was surviving by the skin of its teeth. He may not have leveraged the Michigan job into more money, but he may have leveraged it into making it very difficult to get rid of him if LSU fails to live up to expectations next year, which is totally going to happen because LSU fans are expecting a national title.
I can see Miles doing this because he's 57—a primary reason he should never have been considered for the job in the first place—and knows this is his last head coaching job at a premiere school. He's probably eyeing retirement in the not too distant future and would like to make sure he chooses the "when."
As for the Michigan side of things, I'm not sure what to believe. It would be stupid for Brandon to waste time playing footsie with Miles when he had no intention of tabling a serious offer, but it would be stupid to table a serious offer. So I guess it doesn't matter. The LSU guys think this game of semantics is silly:
"Well, if Hoke was his first choice, he could've signed him up prior to ever talking to Les or Harbaugh," LSU chancellor Mike Martin said. "Don't you think?"
One way or the other, they're right.
You are heartfelt but uninformed, LSU chancellor. Brandon, meanwhile, set to compounding his arrogant father-knows-best press conference by putting this out later in the day:
"I got inundated with advice," he admits on WDFN-AM 1130. "A lot of people with very good hearts, and who care a lot, and with a lot of passion, came at me with their point of view. And I respect that, and I certainly tried to show them a courteous reply whenever I could because those passionate people are what make Michigan football special.
"However, most of them are very uninformed, and in most cases, they were recommending people they had never met. Or been in the same room with. Or ever had a conversation with. And interviewing a candidate for an important job like this is about sitting down and talking about specific issues, and getting to know them at a completely different level than blogs and statistics and images that, in many cases, are shaped by PR more than reality. [ed: the noise you heard was my irony meter exploding.]
"So, I didn't pay a lot of attention to those recommendations – even though they came from people with good hearts, they just weren't all that helpful."
This falls in line with Brandon's comments during the press conference that "all that glitters is not gold" when it comes to some coaches and that "the hype or the PR doesn't match the real person." To me, that came off really, really poorly. I was pretty sure everyone was in the same boat—I especially liked the bit at the end that signaled the program's return to barely tolerating its fans—but apparently not. The Wolverine Blog says to give credit to Brandon for "putting himself on the line," which he's certainly done by making his decision on explicitly faith-based grounds. I'm not so much with the crediting bit.
One, attempting to paint the internet's problem with Brady Hoke as a matter of "statistics" is… well, the main statistics people have problems with are "record: 47-50" and "age: 52," neither of which is a particularly advanced metric.
Two: does this relate in any way to Brandon's passive-aggressive comments about Jim Harbaugh when Rodriguez was fired? It doesn't seem very leader-y to take shots at the people you interviewed and didn't hire. It implies everyone other than Brady Hoke is not fit to coach Michigan, and attempts to dismiss an awful lot of evidence that suggests Hoke is kind of a desperate hire by saying "you have not sat across the room from this man."
It's not reassuring to envision Brandon's interview process. Braves and Birds blows up this line of reasoning from Brandon real good; suffice it to say that Brady Hoke would have to be vastly worse than expected to sink to the level of Brandon's performance over the last two months. It looks like we'll have tangible evidence of that in two weeks.
EXPLICIT SECTION: Here's the tedious section in which I explain this is not a criticism of Brady Hoke but the athletic director that hired him at a terrible time for not particularly good reasons and told anyone who said words to that effect that they were "uninformed."
I expect Hoke will have enough success at Michigan to stick around a while; when he retires whether he was a good idea is likely to be a matter of heated and interminable debate. I hope I am wrong and am willing to give Hoke the proverbial "chance." I hope that Dave Brandon sets the world record for smug pats on the back when Hoke retires. For the record.
BONUS: Expect to read this disclaimer dozens of times!
ON THIS DAY MY HAIR IS VERY APROPOS
So this isn't two thousand words of swearing as promised. That requires some level of verve to pull off and I'm out of that. I'm depressed and waiting for the other shoe to drop and far too sober. A few things:
"This is not Brady Hoke's fault." Repeat 1000x. This is not Brady Hoke's fault. He seems like a nice enough dude. It seems unlikely he actively participated in the submarining of Rich Rodriguez. Unlike everyone else ever associated with the Michigan program with even the most thinly plausible of resumes, he actually wants to be the head coach here. So that's nice.
This is a stupid hire. It will always be as stupid hire and David Brandon just led the worst coaching search in the history of Michigan football. He managed to chase off half of an already iffy recruiting class, hired a Plan C coach on January 11th, probably ensured the transfer of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and restricted his "national search" to people who'd spent at least five years in Ann Arbor. Michigan just gave themselves a year of USC-level scholarship reduction voluntarily.
What are the chances that the best available coach is a 52-year-old with a 47-50 career record and no experience as a coordinator? Why weren't a half-dozen coordinators with time and results on their side given the opportunity to interview? Why did Brandon waste time with Les Miles, a guy on the downside who may not have even gotten a serious offer? After learning a hard lesson about program continuity with the last hire why did Michigan hire a guy who professes to hate the spread 'n' shred a day after two spread teams played for the national title?
I'd rather have Rich Rodriguez entering year four with a new defensive staff than this, a total capitulation. Does anyone remember Tressel's record against Lloyd Carr? 5-1. Change was necessary. It didn't work, but that doesn't mean you go back to the stuff that required change.
Michigan should still be better next year. It depends on what goes on with the offense. Calvin Magee has already been hired at Pitt, so don't get your hopes up about tempting Denard by keeping the offensive staff that matters (QB coach and OC) unchanged.* The defense should be much better simply by virtue of returning approximately ten starters if you throw in Troy Woolfolk and not dragging the devilishly handsome corpse of Greg Robinson around. At the very least Hoke should have a quarterback, even if it's redshirt freshman Devin Gardner.
A completely average coach should be able to take 20 returning starters on a 7-6 team that sees the schedule ease considerably and get to 9-3. That's good, because that's probably what we hired. If Denard's out the door all bets are off except "will Brian cut down or across?"
*[Tony Gibson immediately found work at Pitt, too, which is amazing: the most maligned position coach on RR's staff is unemployed for ten days while most of Carr's coordinators fled to the NFL to be an assistant (to the) position coach. The exceptions are Stan Parrish, who is on a quest to rack up the worst winning percentage as a head coach in CFB history, Greg Mattison, who left voluntarily for an equivalent job at Notre Dame and shouldn't count as a pro, and Ron English, who got hired by Kragthorpe.]
Prepare for the media 180. This hypothetical 9-3 will cause the media to fall all over themselves declaring Brady Hoke the polar opposite of Rich Rodriguez (lazy media meme #1 is already underway) and whipsaw Michigan back to the positive side of the media ledger, whereupon that period where Michigan State could literally have 20% of their football team descend upon innocent bystanders in back to back years while Michigan gets painted as the Program Out Of Control will end with authoritah. Sportswriters—even the good ones—love nothing better than holding themselves above the outraged plebes, arguing that whatever they think is foolish.
We're unhappy, so they'll defend Brady Hoke to their dying single-sentence paragraph. This would have been a fascinating dynamic to watch if Miles was the guy. Seeing Rosenberg paper over Miles's oversigning hijinks would have been hilarious/infuriating. Since it's Hoke it will just be generic "why can't you be happy going 9-3 every year and beating OSU 30% of the time, I mean look at Rodriguez!"
Prepare for the program alum 180. Judging from twitter, Michigan guys in the NFL are happy, so there's that. At least we won't have Mark Bihl advising recruits to go to Michigan State and Dhani Jones walking into David Brandon's office and demanding a firing. Thanks for your support, guys! Your loyalty in this tough time is appreciated.
This is actually Hoke's main asset relative to non-Michigan candidates: the program won't be actively hoping he fails. This is not an insignificant bonus relative to Rodriguez.
The Gene Chizik plan is dodgy, temporary, and requires a bucket of money and amenable prospects. All right, so maybe we can hire the next Gus Malzahn and the next Ted Roof and import JUCOs like Nick Fairley and Cam Newton. This is lazy media meme #2, because lol those crazy fans, amirite?
- Who is Gus Malzahn? Texas just blew their coaching staff up and hired Manny Diaz and the Boise State OC, so they're off the table. It is January 11th. Next up is… I have no idea. Honestly, if you were going to poach an up-and-coming coordinator your best option on defense is none other than Scott Shafer, and on offense there isn't anyone, really. I'll believe Michigan has hired Randy Shannon as a DC six months after it's announced, but that's what this plan requires: hiring Randy goddamn Shannon as DC at a million a year.
- JUCOs are not available, and I'm not sure anyone can wave a towel like Trooper Taylor anyway.
- We hired a manball advocate unlikely to stick with the bits of Michigan's team that kind of worked, and his defensive coordinator is going to be the head coach at SDSU.
- To date Michigan's pay packages for assistants have been pathetic. Brandon promised that would change. He also promised a national search and hired a guy who will probably be one of the lowest-paid coaches in the Big Ten.
- The figurehead approach leaves you vulnerable to having your quasi-HC poached, as West Virginia found out when Doc Holliday was hired by Marshall and Auburn will find out soon enough. If you can plug and play Cam Newton that might work, but Michigan can't.
Also, Chizik was an established ass-kicking BCS coordinator who led the nation's #1 scoring D at Auburn, was 5th in yardage allowed in back to back years, won the Broyles award, and then went to Texas to win a national title opposite Vince Young. He didn't really need Roof. He had Gene Chizik. He did not immediately turn Iowa State into a team of ninjas but Chizik was a better hire than Hoke even absent the ludicrous money that went into his staff. Hoke's never even been a coordinator, and his results as a head coach are less than a slam dunk.
I am all in for being wrong. Or not really so much wrong as properly skeptical in an environment where success turns on a blade of grass and real games are few and far between and randomness is so important. Kenpom just put up a great post today about +/- and its general lack of usefulness as a stat because of its immense noise—college football has a lot of noise. It is possible that Brady Hoke was just unlucky or unprepared and that his last three years are more representative of his talent than his first five. I won't become what I hate, Emperor Palpatine.
With the dual boosts of a pliant media and cooperative network of former players plus a program that should find itself on an upward trajectory instead of a downward one, everything's set up for him to look like the white knight who "saved" the program and ride that to something approximating success. Michigan's just thrown in the towel on being a national power but this could be Nebraska after Callahan instead of Notre Dame after Davie.
Note: stop emailing me about the logins and read the front page: mostly disabled so the site stays up.
If you didn't submit yourself to the press conference in which Rich Rodriguez was raptured up, you need to know these things:
- Rich Rodriguez is fired.
- Dave Brandon all but said Harbaugh would not be the next coach.
- A "national search" is about to be embarked on. Yes, on January 5th.
- The recruiting weekend is cancelled.
- Michigan's paid in the middle of the pack in the past and Brandon says that is "not appropriate."
Brady Hoke was not mentioned by name, nor was anyone save Harbaugh.
Here's the official presser:
Rodriguez Dismissed as Michigan Football Coach
ANN ARBOR -- University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced today (Jan. 5) that football coach Rich Rodriguez has been relieved of his coaching duties with the football program.
“I have completed a systematic and thorough review of our football program and believe that a change in leadership is necessary,” said Brandon. “We have not achieved at the level that I expect.”
Rodriguez compiled a 15-22 overall record and 6-18 mark in Big Ten play during his three seasons at Michigan (2008-10). He had an 11-11 record at Michigan Stadium, a 4-10 road record and lost his only bowl game vs. Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator Bowl. U-M was 3-9 in 2008, 5-7 in 2009 and went 7-6 this season.
Rodriguez became the 18th head coach in Michigan history on Dec. 17, 2007, replacing Lloyd Carr who announced his retirement following the 2007 regular season.
“Rich is a good person and coach,” added Brandon. “It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out at Michigan, but I’m sure that Rich and his staff will find opportunities at other institutions. I wish Rich and his family all the best in the future.”
Brandon will immediately begin a national search for a replacement.
This is a total failure on Brandon's part and he has about a week to prevent this program from becoming Notre Dame. He probably won't.
Elsewhere in the thoughts of people who are Dave Brandon. Brandon speaking on the football team's season:
"The team has the opportunity to practice 15 days and prepare for a bowl game, which they've earned the right to," Brandon said. "I have so consistently stated what my process is, how I do this, and what is in the best interest of the program. That's what I do, and that's what I'm going to do. All of this desire for information sooner, all this speculation is fueling curiosity — it doesn't change how I'm doing my job.
"Back when we were 5-0, I said (this would be the evaluation process), along the way, I've said it, after exciting wins I've said it. This is how I'm going to do my job. I have not equivocated on that at all. Just because people out there are stirring the pot, that's not going to deter what I'm going to do."
Since every scenario out there has Michigan in a bowl on New Year's Day or a few days after Christmas (the Insight is the 28th), the final word will have to wait a full month. Stanford is likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl on January first, so a hypothetical transition could take place immediately without putting Harbaugh in the same bind Miles or Kelly was. There's a theory floating out there that letting Rodriguez coach the bowl is tantamount to keeping him for 2011, but given the Harbaugh situation I don't think that's true. It's not an indication either way.
Denard Robinson: awesome. Not a quarterback. So Denard Robinson is the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, which is nice and obvious. He's also not even on the coaches' All Big Ten list, which lolwut? I get Scott Tolzien—he may not have to throw much but when he does it's in the chest of his receiver every time—but Dan Persa? He's got the numbers, I guess, but being at the helm of an offense that's actually good at scoring and stuff is kind of important for a QB and the Wildcats are just 51s in total offense, 74th in scoring, and 21st in passer efficiency. That last number sounds good but is only 5th in a QB-heavy Big Ten. Kirk Cousins, Tolzien, Stanzi, and Pryor are all ahead of him with Denard not far behind and with a vast advantage on the ground.
In other All Big Ten QB news, Terrelle Pryor is still as likeable as Stalin.
Steadily more and more likeable. Meanwhile, Tate Forcier explained to his local paper his thought process about staying with the program after the infamous "I'm out" moment that sent Tom scrambling to Papa Forcier to put out the fire. Via MGoShoe:
“It’s hard to go from starting to backing up. A lot of people told me to leave. I wanted to leave. But it was just too hard. I didn’t want to leave the (coaching) staff or these players. I felt I was going to be a part of something great.”
“Two quarterbacks have to play in this offense. It might not happen every game, but you’re going to get your chance. I’m not banking on Denard getting injured. Nothing like that. But in this offense, you never know what can happen.”
“A lot of people would think me and Denard would have something against each other because he starts, but Denard is a good guy. We hang out. And he works hard. What’s hard for me is he’s having so much success and there’s nothing you can do about it except stay ready.”
“I’ve learned to be way more humble. I look back at freshman year, and I was a little cocky. I was getting too caught up in seeing myself on TV every week. I think that would happen to anybody who would go from being a regular kid in high school to a national stage like that. It was crazy.”
I said something early in the year about how Michigan would need Forcier down the stretch, and they did. He finished off the Illinois win and was a third and ten stop away from driving for the tie against Iowa; if he'd actually been "out" Michigan would not have been able to redshirt Gardner and we probably wouldn't be talking about retaining Rodriguez at all.
I also said I'd be meh about Rodriguez leaving, and while that's largely true I think my overwhelming feeling would be sadness that guys like Denard and Forcier and everyone else who signed up for the RR era would not get to finish their careers on the terms they started them.
These uniforms designed for personal fouls. Another reason it's good to get away from Nike:
"The gloves had a black ‘Block O' on the inside when you put your hands together and so that's what (Posey) was trying to do," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.
But he didn't celebrate his redemption for long. The referee gave Posey a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration.
Gesturing to the crowd, even if it's your crowd, gets you a flag. Unless it's this…
…or dozens of other motions like shushing the crowd that go unpunished every week. File under the massive pile of data that suggests the NCAA should just drop excessive celebration penalties for anything short of taunting.
Opinions I Officially Do Not Care About but you might. Opinions on the Rodriguez job thing—you know, that—from Mets Maize:
Having said that, I do support Rich Rodriguez returning for 2011 IF changes are made on the defensive staff. My reasons are pretty consistent listed above, but the one that stands out the most is the offense. It simply makes no sense to fire the only man who can take this offense to the next level next year. People often talk about how "young" our defense is, which sort of implies we have a relatively older offense. If by "older" we mean not true-freshman, then yes, we have a veteran offense. But the fact is we're prime for not only 2011 but also 2012--Denard's senior year. So that leaves the defense to which I ask...
What added benefit does a change in HEAD COACH give to the DEFENSE that a change in DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR wouldn't bring?
Beaford at Maize n Brew:
Rodriguez should get broomed and Harbaugh should be installed here, but if that doesn't happen my reaction will largely be "meh." In the three years that he has been the head coach, the offense have demonstrably improved, just as we thought it would. The problem is that the defense has actually regressed each year. Even before the Woolfolk injury, this defense was set up to be likely the worst in program history.
And Markus at MNB drops references to David Foster Wallace on Federer and Brian Phillips on Pele, which means it gets autolinked. It's long and not really blockquote-friendly but recommended. My mom, by the way, believes Rodriguez is "not a Michigan Man" and would like to see him gone. Road Games also drops Richard Buckner.
Let's say it again, then.
Etc.: Anne Hathaway proposes "Anne Does Ann Arbor." As someone who has viewed the Get Smart remake I heartily endorse this idea. This Week In Schadenfreude is epic this week. Apparently I missed the date on the "Everyone in Iowa Drinks Four Loko" fanpost at Black Heart Gold Pants, but seriously I'm guessing that happened again after they lost to Minnesota. Brabbs surveys the Michigan-vs-cancer matchups going on. AnnArbor.com's take on the Denard Robinson story.
Sponsorship note! This is going to be ironic given the crabbing a bit later about excessively corporate bits, but we've landed a sponsorship from a new book titled "For Michigan Fans Only" that will run over about the next two weeks. Check it out, see if you're interested, buy a copy or three, and discharge any lingering guilt you may have about not supporting the site.
Podcasting. I put in an appearance on The Michigan Man podcast to talk about the Purdue game, and talked some more new media stuff with Dan Levy of Press Coverage. And yes, we taped a podcast this week that should be up today or tomorrow. It is the angriest podcast.
Defense: we had it. Wolverine Historian's tribute to the mauling '85 defense:
Football with defense now seems like a bizarre anomaly that requires changes to your gameplanning.
Footie V. Congratulations to the men's soccer team, which won its first Big Ten title in 11 years of existence by stomping Penn State 4-1. MGoBlue has video highlights. Soony Saad's goal was a bit of a gift but Meram's two were sweet, and he would have had a hat trick but for a Penn State player pulling a Suarez. The BTN mics picked up the defender incredulously exclaiming "are you KIDDING ME, sir" after the guy had bashed away a certain goal with his forearm—even Rasheed Wallace thinks that's a stretch. BTW, Saad is now the nation's leading scorer with 18 goals.
The NCAA soccer tournament is a 48-team affair where 16 teams are seeded and receive byes; Michigan is the #10 seed and will play the winner of South Florida-Central Florida on Sunday at 2. The game is in Ann Arbor, so pack the place out. If they advance the third round will be at South Carolina or at home if SC is upset by the Coastal Carolina/Duke winner.
From national award winner thing to person at South Carolina. Your unbreakable faith in David Brandon's pimp hand has been further strengthened by the departure of compliance head Judy Van Horn for a job at South Carolina that seems identical to the one she's departing.
Van Horn only appears in the infamous CARA documents occasionally, mostly to gently spar with Draper. Whatever her offenses were they weren't public, and I plead not enough data if you're asking whether or not she should have been gently shown the door. I will say that I am enjoying the public announcements that Person Has Acquired Job You Don't Care About because they remind me of that scene in The Wire where deposed mayor Royce whispers sweet nothings to Clay Davis about staying in line or getting nothing. Don't go against the family.
Horrified Kafkaesque potato-man interlude.
In other Brandon. The Crain's Detroit Business article on Brandon has been kicked around on the message board already but a couple opinion type objects follow on from this:
As part of dealing with the infractions, Brandon plans to operate the athletics program much like he did the corporations he ran for more than two decades, Ann Arbor-based Domino's Pizza Inc. and Livonia-based coupon marketer Valassis Communications Inc.
That includes creating a business plan and bolstering the image. The athletic department is conducting a national search for its first chief marketing officer, and Brandon is looking at where money should be spent on promotion.
"The first thing you need to do is resource properly against the areas that are very important. This is a department that's been under-resourced in terms of marketing muscle and expertise," he said, noting that just three people worked on marketing for UM athletics. The new CMO will add more staff.
"(We will) craft the message a little better in the media in terms of who we are, what's going on here and why it ought to be attractive to people," he said.
I guess that's fine and after the NCAA business it seems like a thorough reshaping of the athletic department is in order, but I'm a bit leery of the direction things have gone so far on the marketing front. I'm not buying a Big Chill shirt because it's got an Arby's logo on it. I'm extremely disappointed that David Brandon's pimp hand has so far spared Special K and his awful, generic gameday music.
The whole point of college athletics these days is a lack of the generic corporate moneygrab that makes professional games sterile experiences—have you been to a Wings game in the last ten years? Part of marketing the program is being actually different. Eroding the wall between Michigan's fusty, old-timey feel and your average AHL game brings a short-term Pavlovian response but hurts the development of long-term obsessives that allow Michigan to avoid two for one Subway promotions even when they're not doing that well.
This is a statement I don't like:
"My job as the quote-unquote CEO of Michigan athletics is to make sure that (the profit and loss statement) is healthy, that we're doing a good job of growing our revenues, that we're managing our costs," he said. "It operates very much like every business I've ever been associated with from the standpoint of what we do and what we need to do to be successful."
His job as the quote unquote CEO of Michigan athletics has zero to do with money. Money is a vehicle via which to graduate students and acquire wins, and in some cases I think the athletic department is sliding too much towards money. I thought the same thing under Martin, FWIW.
Hockey bits. A fuller exploration of what's going on with the hockey team will have to wait until football's over but, man, it's looking like a slightly less nerve-wracking version of last year. Michigan has avoided the ugly .500 start and is sitting at 6-3-3, but they're a last-second goal against Ferris State from splitting every weekend they've had this year save a sweep of Bowling Green. Michigan lost to a terrible version of BG last year so this is some progress. It's a far cry from the rampage they went on at the end of last season.
Making things a bit worse was how the Notre Dame series went down. Michigan was run out of the building Friday in a depressing game where they were outshot badly. This never happens. On Saturday they got down and then got a flood of freaky goals:
Michigan Hockey Net chalked the win up to puck luck and it's hard to disagree when Michigan's last three were some variety of bizarre. Langlais's invisible hockey player job is possibly the weirdest goal I've ever seen.
A lot of people have been muttering about a repeat of last year and it's not hard to see the similarities. Michigan does not have a lot of skill in the forward corps and has to rely on bombs and deflections too much. Only Hagelin brings a consistent look-at-that-guy presence on every shift. The goaltending is okay but not great, and the team seems to lack a shut down defenseman in the mold of a Mitera or a Komisarek.
At least they haven't lost to an awful team yet, and it looks like their schedule has been tough out of the gate—ND and Alaska are 1st and 4th in the league right now and Ferris is okay; even BG is 5-7 overall. UNH is 5-1-3. That Mercyhurst tie is going to rankle all year, though.
Cheese it! The cops! Penn State fans are still convinced that an epic refereeing conspiracy exists to prop up Michigan, and after watching this I'm convinced:
/commits seppuku because of the dishonor
Etc.: The Mathlete has us 50-50 to get to an eighth win before the bowl. Quite a coinflip coming up. Mets Maize on the Purdue game. John Clay might miss the Michigan game, but it won't matter since Wisconsin has two other fine backs.