a terrible blight on our fine country
Hello. I badgered John Bacon for an advance copy of his new book BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS , and John said to me "that is not the title of the book," and I said back to him "yes it is," to which he said "no it is not," and so forth and so on.
Several hours later he agreed to provide me one if I would, just once, say that the book's title is in fact "Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football." The previous sentence has discharged that obligation.
Anyway, I tore through BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS in a couple days. Bacon asked me what he should cut, and I said nothing, and then he said seriously, and I told him to restore various things that had already been cut. I am extremely unhelpful.
I asked Bacon if we could run an excerpt. He said yes, but we had to wait for the people who pay money to have their window of exclusivity. I said well what else can we run, then, and we settled on a Gimmicky Top Five list of book revelations. This is that list. Bacon's got the text between the dashes.
1. Dave Brandon was highly controversial as an AD candidate.
Michigan had the luxury of choosing among three candidates who were experienced, successful Division I athletic directors with deep ties to Michigan. But President Coleman asked the committee to interview a fourth, less conventional candidate: Dave Brandon.
Because Coleman made it clear she wanted Brandon to be the next AD, one Regent asked why she didn’t just appoint him, but she insisted on having a search committee. The committee had trouble deciding who the most qualified candidate was, but not the least: Dave Brandon. More than one member of the search committee told more than one Regent that Brandon was the least impressive candidate on the list. Despite pushing back several times, the committee members finally acquiesced to Coleman’s wishes and picked Dave Brandon.
2. The 2011 pursuit of Jim Harbaugh was half-hearted at best.
Among insiders, it’s debated even now if Brandon really wanted Harbaugh to become Michigan’s next head coach in 2011. “I do believe Dave wanted Harbaugh,” one member of Brandon’s leadership team told me, “but he wanted Jim on his terms.”
Brandon waited six weeks after the Ohio State game to fire Rich Rodriguez, even though it would have benefitted almost everyone to make the decision sooner; he rarely contacted Harbaugh, and declined to visit Harbaugh in person—sending not Michigan’s highly paid search consultant Jed Hughes, either, but Hughes’s subordinate, a young man named Philip Murphy.
After Harbaugh signed with the 49ers, his friend Todd Anson asked Harbaugh if he really had been interested in the Michigan job. Harbaugh paused, then replied, “ I just wasn’t feelin’ the love.”
Hackett and others would take the opposite approach in 2014, to bring Michigan’s prodigal son home.
3. Will Hagerup and various other student athletes will vouch for Brandon forever.
Endzone starts following punter Will Hagerup from his official visit, when he decided minutes before driving back to Wisconsin to go back to Schembechler Hall and commit to Michigan. “I wanted to be there so badly, that I knew I was never going to leave.” He proved it by refusing to transfer even after three violations of the team’s drug test, which entailed working a brutal summer job in a steel mill to help pay for a semester of school himself. He straightened himself out, and persuaded Brandon to give him a fourth chance.
At the 2014 Bust, he told the audience, “I want to thank Dave Brandon, a guy who has my lifelong respect and allegiance. He stuck his neck out for me multiple times and believed in me.”
A majority of the football players and other student athletes supported Brandon, too, right to the end, not to mention top coaches like Red Berenson, Carol Hutchins and Bev Plocki.
4. The student government leadership drove circles around Hunter Lochmann.
One day after they won the election in 2013, student government leaders Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell started taking on the department’s General Admission seating policy for students. They put their education in statistics and public policy to good use, while pulling endless all-nighters, to prove empirically that General Admission was not only deeply unpopular, it didn’t achieve Brandon’s stated goals of getting students to the games, and on time. In fact, their surveys and analysis were more thorough and incisive than anyone else’s – including the department’s – and they handled themselves with more professional aplomb than most of the department officials in this story.
“Look, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a jerk,” Proppe told me, “but Hunter [Lochmann] and his group were not as sophisticated as we were about analyzing data. When I looked at this data for ten minutes on an Excel spreadsheet, I could figure out what the data really meant.”
During two dramatic public meetings, the idealistic duo convinced the faculty and Regents their conclusions had far more merit than the department’s, which cost Brandon crucial support.
5. Brandon sowed the seeds of his own destruction from day one.
Over his four-year tenure, Brandon removed the safeguards protecting Michigan from a public relations disaster, one by one—usually by letting experience staffers go, from equipment managers to sports information directors—until Michigan was finally exposed during the 2014 Minnesota game. ENDZONE explains what really happened before, during and after the hit on Shane Morris – including a marathon meeting that stretched from 8 a.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday. The outcome created a national embarrassment – one that was far more a PR problem than a medical one.
About twelve hours into the meeting, they called in former sports information director Dave Ablauf to the room. “I will not forget his answer,” one person in the meeting told me. “ ‘At this point, it doesn’t matter. You guys put a coach out there at noon, and you told him to keep telling them you were going to have a statement from Michigan officials as soon as he was done. That was seven hours ago.
“’We’re going to get roasted on this. But given all that, you might as well tell the truth. Not that it will help much.’”
Bacon says that "[BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS] tells the story of how the University of Michigan’s fundamental values were tested during the Brandon Era, and how the students, lettermen, alumni and campus leaders started a grass-roots effort to restore them – and succeeded, against long odds." That's true. After 300 pages of facepalm the last bits of the book are actually quite inspiring, as the Michigan community comes together and vows not to screw it up this time.
BONUS: Bacon has events coming up:
August 29th, Chicago, 12 PM: Bacon talks Endzone and takes questions at the Diag Bar & Grill.
Following Bacon's appearance a panel of lettermen will do a Q&A.
September 1st, Ann Arbor, 7 PM: Bacon has as presentation and Q&A at Rackham auditorium on Michigan's campus.
He's also got a half-dozen dates set up through the fall around the midwest. Someone's let him into a cathedral for one of them.
I'll be at the Rackham one as a spectator. Say hi.
[EDIT: The lettermen panel is taking place on August 27th at Rockit Bar in Chicago. The book event at the Diag Bar & Grill is set for August 29th.]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke has spoken with Frank Clark since Monday
The team practiced inside yesterday, except for the special teams unit; they wanted them working in the wind
Ty Isaac has dropped some weight and impressed in the intrasquad scrimmage last week
Hoke said the problems in the passing game seem to change from game to game
Hoke and his staff turned down Jake Ryan when they were at SDSU after watching his recruiting tape
"Thanks for coming. Yesterday we had a very productive practice as far as both execution and the intensity of it and the finish, and that's one of the things we talk about all the time but the consistency of the finish we want to do every play and I think we accomplished a lot of those things yesterday. We went inside. A little surprising to some of you. Mr. Glick might be upset if we didn't go inside but we did punt and snap and catch punts outside for about 12 to 15 minutes. We usually always go outside for that specialist [portion] and it just helps those guys fielding the punts in the wind yesterday. The other problem that you have, and it's not a problem, but your filmers, your student filmers being up in those towers [where] the wind gusts can get pretty good and we don't want to take any chances with that.
"As far as- you always track the weather and you want to try and be ahead of it. It does reflect sometimes on if you want to have two returners on a punt [or] if you want to have three returners on the punt back and because of the weather and what the wind can do to the football. Doesn't affect a lot in the passing game unless it's just unbelievably from the side especially if you're doing a great job of spirals with the ball.
"The one thing we've talked about is there's 12 seniors that are going to play their last football game in Michigan Stadium, and I think that's important. You try and remind guys that they're going to be seniors soon, those young guys, and we talk about that constantly and I think some of them you've had an opportunity to talk to this week because we're trying to give the seniors time with you. It can be emotional for some of them and some guys will be emotional but it won't hit until after the game has been played."
/someone opens door, noise from a snowblower fills the room
"SO WE HOPE AND WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO COME OUT AS WE HONOR THEM AND WE RECOGNIZE THEM AND WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT THAT."
"And we're blowing snow."
You don't face a lot of three man fronts. Appalachian State was one, but this one's a little bit different from Appalachian State because they're a lot more up front, a lot more aggressive. Does it present some different challenges than what you face in a normal week?
"Well, it does in some areas, and they'll kick it to be an under or an over front depending on where the tight end's lined up or what they feel is a receiver strength or just formational strength, but the present some thing because they've got really good quickness. [They] present some problems because of the quickness they have as a team, and I think they have pretty good team speed. They're not the biggest guys up front, but I think they do a nice job of what they're trying to get done when you look at gap integrity in the run game and then obviously we want to stay out of those third downs that can be a problem because whoever you play there's only so many things that you can do."
You talked about him a lot early on in terms of eligibility, but what have you seen from Ty Isaac on the practice field to make you feel that he is what you thought he was?
"Yeah, yeah. A couple things. Number one, I think Ty from a standpoint of where he is getting at now physically from when he got here- you know, he was in Chicago in the summer taking classes, doing those things so didn't have an opportunity really to work out with our guys at all in the summer so he did a nice job and he's continued to do that. His weight's down. When we had the scrimmage the other day he was one of the guys [I forgot]; I said there'd be guys I forgot to mention. He ran the ball pretty daggone well."
[After THE JUMP: Hoke talks about Hagerup's improvement after dropping an old-school technique. Yes, that happened. Yes, in the punting game. Why would you accuse me of making that up?]
SUCH a good movie. You chivalric fool; as if the way one fell down mattered. On Wednesday this week I had to put our family dog down—he was 14 and been slowing down since we lost my dad, and he had a stroke during the night, and it was sad but undeniably the best way and best time to go. Afterwards I was supposed to collect my daughter, get the roundtable posted, then get to the facility that's trying to get my Mom able to walk again within the impossibly small window her insurance company will pay for it. I didn't want to engage the sympathy choir, nor was I ready to go fixing things or move on. Instead I wandered into a breakfast place and ordered a coffee, and stared at texts of things people say when your heretofore ridiculously fortunate family is going through the mother of all mean regressions.
SUCH a good movie.
You chivalric fool; as if the way one fell down mattered. On Wednesday this week I had to put our family dog down—he was 14 and been slowing down since we lost my dad, and he had a stroke during the night, and it was sad but undeniably the best way and best time to go. Afterwards I was supposed to collect my daughter, get the roundtable posted, then get to the facility that's trying to get my Mom able to walk again within the impossibly small window her insurance company will pay for it. I didn't want to engage the sympathy choir, nor was I ready to go fixing things or move on. Instead I wandered into a breakfast place and ordered a coffee, and stared at texts of things people say when your heretofore ridiculously fortunate family is going through the mother of all mean regressions.
After a time I struck up a conversation with an older dude who from his Michigan hat I identified with the super Michigan-stickered car outside. He was, of course, a current player's dad, and other than his kid who's the best player in the entire world, he had a lot to say about the darkness hanging over this program that twinkling lights could only temporarily keep at bay.
He echoed a lot of what another player's brother said in a diary earlier in the week:
The program is in shambles. Bo is not coming back and it's time to move on. The cult like adherence to tradition and "this is Michigan" is the very reason we are plummeting towards rock bottom. We don't need another Bo or another Michigan Man, we need a competent, forward thinking administration who will take advantage of the massive institutional advantages Michigan provides.
The players are acknowledging reality while doing everything they can to make sure there's a team tomorrow. We got a glimpse of this from Gardner's aneurism of leadership
…and another from a letter to the players by their senior punter:
"Play for the guys in your class who you texted the day you committed, and live in the dorms with. Play for the elementary kids back home whom you've never even met, but know who you are and where you play. Play for your high school coaches, the guys you've met at combines, your family, your friends. Finally, play for yourself. Pride in yourself means that, win or lose, you worked and competed as hard as you possibly could until the schedule provided no more games to play."
When the fall is all that is, it matters.
[After the jump, I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family.]
Thank you, Jourdan Lewis, for picking this ball off in front of the home sideline, and more specifically mere feet away from the eminantly GIF-able Will Hagerup.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Miami game in GIFs.]
|Kicker||Yr||Punter||Yr||Kickoffs||Yr||Punt return||Yr||Kick return||Yr|
|Matt Wile||Sr||Will Hagerup||Sr*||Kenny Allen||So*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr||Dennis Norfleet||Jr|
|Alex Mitropoulos-Rundus||Jr*||Kenny Allen||So*||Matt Wile||Sr||Dennis Norfleet||Jr||Raymon Taylor||Sr|
MATT WILE finally ascends to the starting job at kicker after a patient three-year apprenticeship while filling in at punter and kickoff specialist. We have very little to go on when it comes to field goals; he's spent the last couple years as the long-range specialist, hitting 50% from ranges such as 48, 49, and 52 before hitting a couple chip shots in the bowl game.
Kickers are weird and I can't predict kickers, because you can't predict molecules of air. That said, Wile will probably be fine. He's done a lot of kicking-type activities that didn't include field goals over the course of his time at Michigan and he's been consistently effective. Once you get past the bare physical minimums, consistency is your watchword and lifeblood; Wile has that. As the kickoff guy last year he eschewed blasting 'em through the endzone, instead trying to leave them high, short, and to one sideline. That ended up not being a great idea, but it wasn't because of Wile. That effort speaks well to his ability to put footballs in specific places after they come off his foot and is the closest thing to analysis you can get for a kicker no one has seen.
This section very well could have been "dunno; is kicker," I know. He should be fine to very good. But is kicker, dunno.
Unlike last year, Michigan is short on options after Wile. JJ McGrath transferred to Mississippi State this offseason, leaving previously obscure walk-on ALEX MITROPOULUS-RUNDUS as the second option. He was not real good in the closed spring scrimmage; when they brought him out to kick a few field goals he missed a bunch in a row. It got to the point that when he hit one it felt like a bronx cheer erupted from the rest of the team. Viva Wile.
[After THE JUMP: Norfleet! Peppers! I hope they matter!]
On my signal, unleash charity. EDSBS's annual fundraiser for Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta is up. Michigan has won this thing back-to-back, crushing all comers, and I'm pretty sure if we win a third straight year we get the right of first refusal on any 7'3" Spiderman shot-blocking centers they might accidentally produce.
Orson suggests commemorating a past football game with your donation. I'm going SUMMER OF TATE!
I blame the Big Ten Network for this. And wheel routes, of course. The donation page can be reached directly here. Michigan State is currently leading.
Hagerup gets the Stonum treatment. Michigan has announced that Will Hagerup is reinstated and will be suspended for the entire 2013 season. He'll have one more year of eligibility in 2014 if he can survive the double secret probation period, which of course Stonum could not.
Q: would Michigan announce anything if their own players didn't spill the beans on social media? The timing of all these reports seems to be: "wait for someone on a message board to notice, announce once it starts getting wider attention."
If Hagerup is still on scholarship that would take Michigan's next recruiting class down one.
Kovacs doing his Kovacs thing. The NFL equivalent of a walk-on is the undrafted free agent, and Kovacs is doing his Kovacs things with the Dolphins. But first, awesome lead!
Jordan Kovacs is the rarest kind of three-time all-Big Ten player. The kind that is nearly $100,000 in debt.
That might be a first, actually. Kovacs came in for a profile on the Dolphins' site with this quote in it:
"Those within the Dolphins organization tell me that Kovacs has a legitimate shot," MiamiDolphins.com's Andy Cohen wrote, "that you aren’t as productive as he was at Michigan without having a chance at the next level."
Practice observers are united in stating he is small but impressive nonetheless. One:
Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs was the main guy who caught my attention. At first I noticed he's the runt of the litter, standing all of 5-foot-10, 205 pounds. Most NFL safeties are three inches taller, and maybe 10 pounds heavier.
"Then I noticed Kovacs has a knack for being around the ball," Kelly continued, "and plays with a feisty spirit. He pulled down one of the Friday session's two interceptions and was consistently around the ball. What does that mean? No clue at this point, but flashing is a good thing."
Former Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs, an undrafted rookie free agent signee, knows how to make an impression. He was a walk-on at Michigan and rose to prominence and had something of a cult following in Ann Arbor. He knows the way to draw attention and that's hit. He did plenty of that, taking some liberties at times in the defensive backfield. He also had an interception. So he's got my attention, at least.
Spiece means all of the scouting reports. There was an immense AAU tournament in Fort Wayne over the weekend that has resulted in an unusually large scouting dump even for the internet. Trevon Bluiett had a great weekend on both ends, filling it up and giving five-star Kevon Looney the business on defense:
Dylan on Bluiett:
We’ve been keeping tabs on Bluiett for a long time now so his offensive exploits don’t come as a big surprise. Bluiett can score the ball against just about anyone. He has a great jumpshot, can use his 6-foot-6 frame to get to the rim and even has a nice mid-range game. But it’s always encouraging when a guy that you’ve been following for a long time shows off something new. We already touched on Bluiett’s defensive exploits against Kevon Looney but his performance was very impressive – mostly because we haven’t seen that out of him. Five threes on the other end didn’t hurt, although this still wasn’t Bluiett’s best offensive game of the tournament, that would have been his 28 point outburst against Team Thad.
He told Rivals($) that Michigan and Butler are recruiting him "most vigorously" at the moment. Everyone who's ventured an opinion thinks Butler has a tentative lead, and time is running down. Bluiett wants to decide before his senior year begins.
UMHoops also put together a scouting reel on Looney. Which… wow. He doesn't have the quickness to drive on guys a lot shorter than him, but he's a 6'9" kid who blocks everything, runs the floor, has three point range, and is aggressive. I say, he might be a good player.
Scout also has extensive, uh, scouting($). Vince Edwards had a little bit of a rough outing as his teammate and OSU commit Jae'Sean Tate went to the basket over and over; everyone's now filing Looney as an "elite face-up power forward."
Oh. ESPN's Paul Biancardi puts Zak Irvin on his class of 2013 "dream team," describing him as an "alpha dog($)":
Every team needs some alpha dogs, and Irvin fits that category. He provides the luxury of having a big-time scorer who can stroke it from deep with excellent size or beat his defender off the bounce, pull up and nail it from the midrange. That scoring versatility is priceless. He also has high-level athleticism, and his frame is strong enough that he can take a hit and finish at the rim. Irvin is a competitor who can play the game up tempo or in the half court. Bottom line, he is a bucket getter who can put up big numbers.
Sports in which you attempt to throw a ball past a person with a stick. Softball clinched their sixth straight Big Ten title over the weekend with a narrow 2-1 win over Northwestern, then celebrated by clubbing the Wildcats into a fine paste 16-1 in a game I attended. I was just talking up how Sierra Romero was pretty good when she put one over the fence; later in the game they walked her with a base full. The next day, Northwestern walked her at every opportunity, plunking her the first time. Also she's the shortstop. She might be good.
Softball is the top seed for the Big Ten tourney, which is in… Nebraska. Does that make more or less sense than having the hockey tournament at neutral sites? Advanced math necessary to tell. In any case, it's a big tourney for Michigan, which currently sits on the edge of the top-eight spot that would not only guarantee them a regional but also a home super-regional should they advance.
The softball tourney is a twelve-team single elimination thing; Michigan's Friday opener won't be televised but their hypothetical semi would be at 3 Saturday and the final is 1 Sunday, both on BTN.
Meanwhile, the baseball team is fighting for the last spot in the six-team Big Ten tournament, taking two of three from Iowa over the weekend. They've got six conference games left, a home series against Purdue and a trip to Lincoln. Purdue is about as good as Iowa—not good—and Nebraska is just okay; Michigan has to keep ahead of Illinois for the last spot. They've got a game on the Illini.
Dollar dollar bill y'all. The Big Ten's distribution to its schools pops up over a million dollars to $25.7 million. The BTN is now putting out $7.6 million a year. Makes you wonder how they used to manage with just 15 million a year. Probably ate roof tiles, sat in a hot tub filled with dirt, used old batteries to decorate.
The irony of this bullet. The only good thing about the new flood of articles (YES IT'S A TWO-ARTICLE FLOOD GAWD) about Chris Webber is they're the ones spurred by the dissociation period imposed on him by the NCAA ending. So they should be the last, by God. Has anyone else ever been a subjection of this much discussion 20 years after he left his college team?
Canadian Football. Your names. I don't know what to do. There's a new Ottawa CFL team that just drafted a backup Iowa lineman in the first round because the CFL draft is only for Canadians. In any case, I bring this to your attention mostly because that team is considering the following names:
Wiki says they're choosing between the RedBlacks, the Nationals, the Raftsmen, the Voyageurs, or the Rush. Of course a Canadian team would consider "Rush" an appropriate nickname. Whatever they end up going with, they're always going to be The Fightin' Tom Sawyers to me. But I digress.
Canada. I think "RedBlacks" is actually the goofiest what with its connotations of a distant rollerball future where all things are named according to the colors that comprise them because the gubberment has confiscated nouns.
Knobwatch. When Bret Bielema isn't fighting with Wisconsin fans on twitter—seriously—he's dialing up the doublespeak to its maximum:
Will put out a release shortly with a list of a few current student athletes that will explore new opportunities. Transition is a process.
— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) May 6, 2013
Coincidentally, "Transition is a process" is also what the noun-confiscating dystopian gubberment says when it takes your nouns.
One of those guys is a postgrad quarterback everyone will want Michigan to look at who will instead go somewhere he can play.
Barwis talking about Mealer. Via the latest TEDx event at M:
Etc.: Is the body of this article titled "Why B1G has no November night games" just "IT'S COLD"? It should be. Ringer departure official if you missed it yesterday. FWIW, I heard he'd had microfracture surgery a la Greg Oden. Where the O'Bannon case stands and is going in the near future. Ben McLemore stuff just makes me want agents to be cool wit the NCAA. Burke's got a shot at going #1.