this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Football; Rich Rodriguez; Michigan; West Virginia; Jihad; john bacon
Mods: I screwed up and put this on the Board. Can you move it to Diaries? Thanks.
Previously: “Three and Out: The First 100 Pages” can be found here: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/three-and-out-100-pages
Okay, guys, to recap: these are just my impressions, sort of stream-of-consciousness. Picked the book up Thursday (10/5) evening, and have been reading it. My comments in the last thread (above) I’ll try not to repeat here, other than to say that on page 100, MSC and BM tell RR to keep the $2.5m they promised him toward the buyout quiet because they hadn’t informed the Regents, and MSC tells RR and Rita, “if they find out, I’m toast.” And Martin chimes in “and so am I.” And also to point out if you want more stuff, check out that last thread, especially the times I pop up in the comments to discuss what Lloyd did when RR arrived with respect to transfers, etc., and how that all shook out.
Continuing from my last post, this thing is a soap opera. The infighting, back-biting, and divisiveness in the A.D., football community, and administration is sobering and unfortunate, and it hasn’t gotten much better as the book progresses. There is also a ton of “cover your ass” stuff that the administration did where RR seemed to take the hit, but it wasn’t necessarily always his fault. In today’s installment, much on the Freep Jihad, the NCAA, the Carr’s Camp vs. RR Camp rift, and more. . .
The 2008 Team, Denard and Tate’s Recruiting
RR and the players knew there were guys- seniors- who weren’t “all in.” RR understood this; he thought it was natural, as those were seniors and guys who had paid their dues, and then a new regime comes in, and they’re essentially starting over. RR was actually sympathetic to that.
On top of that, RR and the coaches saw what we all saw: they were incredibly young, and they could never get Threet to stop throwing off his back foot. He’d do it right in practice, but in the games, he’d get all flustered.
They were recruiting Tate during this time. They were very, very excited about Tate, as well as Big Will. They thought Tate was exactly what they needed.
Denard: they were recruiting him during this time, too. Interestingly, RR had always wanted DR as a QB, but wires crossed with Scott Shafer, who had been recruiting DR as a defensive back. (Pages 148-148). Shafer resigns, and it turns out that Shafer had wanted DR as a DB. Shafer had worked really hard to recruit Denard as a DB, but Denard was “adamant” that “I wasn’t coming to Michigan to play corner. He had already turned down Florida for the same reason and had explained as much to Shafer.”
So when Shavodrick Beaver jumped ship (right around the same time), Tony Gibson happened to be in Deerfield, FL recruiting Adrian Witty. While there, he checked in with Denard, and was surprised to learn Denard was still interested in U of M….but solely as a quarterback. Michigan then said they’d let him try QB, and Denard was ours.
The “Highest GPA in team History” thing
RR asked the academic folks what the highest GPA in school history was. They told him 2.60. The team set this as a goal, and got a 2.61.
Then, as part of the Jihad (more on that below), the Freep dug into that. It turns out that the academic people had given RR specious/not well-sourced info on the team’s best historical GPA. Rather than say this, U of M’s PR people drafted a press release where RR took the fall. RR balked at this; it wasn’t his screw-up. He had them change the release (this was one of the first times he put his foot down with the administration). They did. Then they released the earlier version, making RR the scapegoat.
The Free Press Jihad, NCAA Investigation, Compliance, etc
Well. A couple things: this whole thing, personally, really upset Rich Rod. The reason it did was because a.) they weren’t cheating, b.) there was clearly a leak and sources within the athletic department, c.) and most importantly, the idea that RR didn’t love his players, care about them, was trying to hurt them, etc. This is what tore him up. He shed tears over it a few times.
Rosenberg v. Cook: Brian Cook’s showdown with him is recalled. If you remember, Brian went after him, personally, at the press conference following the hit piece, repeatedly asking “do you know what a countable hour is?” Rosenberg and Brian were both interviewed for the book, as was Craig Ross. Rosenberg remembers it as this crazy guy barking at him in the parking lot, screaming over and over “do you know what a countable hour is?” and Rosenberg responding, “who are you?” They went back and forth like that four or five times, Rosenberg stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Michael Rosenberg. Who are you?” and Craig Ross said “that’s Brian Cook.” Also, Rosenberg refused to talk to Brian, saying that Brian was “a competitor.”
Snyder: More direct quotes where he says about RR: “I can’t stand the guy.” Also: from page 183, Larry Foote, who was friends with Snyder, asked him, “why didn’t you ask me about RR?” because Foote knew RR well, trained with Barwis, etc. Snyder’s answer, quote: “I just don’t like the guy.”
Rosenberg, personally: Was really hurt by the backlash. Broke down over the Amazon.com stuff, saying how he’d poured 3 years of his life into that book, it was his life’s work, and to have it trashed like that on Amazon got to him.
Other press vs. Rosenberg/Snyder: When Rosenberg and Snyder came in after the hit piece dropped, they had a spring in their step. This was when they went to the press conference. They were surprised to find that the other press members were at best, cold with them, and at worst, openly disgusted with the piece.
Rosenberg, as we expected, never asked any players to find out if there was “another side” to the “OMG PRACTICING TOO MUCH” story. He didn’t do it. Bacon asks him about this in the book. Rosenberg is evasive. Also blames editors, saying that stuff was edited out.
Chapter 15 deals with a lot of this. Rosenberg and Snyder asked Madej for “everything you have,” on a Friday night when they told him the story was coming out on Sunday. They said “we need Rodriguez, we need Martin, we need schedules. Tell us we’re wrong- anything you have.” Madej: “the problem is, they’ve been working on this for months, and you’ve got seven or eight hours to respond. That’s difficult.”
When the meeting ended, Madej said, “you better be sure you’re not exaggerating.” Rosenberg, “We’re covered,” replying confidently.
Judy Van Horn immediately seized on the countable vs. non-countable hours aspect, as did everyone in the A.D. This was glossed over in the original Freep piece, not even mentioned, though Rosenberg says “of COURSE we knew the difference,” etc.
Of note: Van Horn and Ann Vallano had even asked the NCAA whether stretching counts, taping, etc., and were never able to get a straight answer/interpretation of the rule. They (U of M) interpreted it like everyone else, then: that stretching didn’t count.
Also: former players say that we weren’t doing anything different, time-wise, from under LC. Things like “Torture Tuesdays,” where kids who skipped class were punished.
Also, the Freep piece really shook the players up because of the fact that there had to be sources inside the program; the continuity and togetherness was naturally shaken by this. But RR made sure no one blamed Hawthorne or Stokes, telling the team that those kids were part of the family, they'd been tricked, and that no one should be messing with them, etc. And the team didn't shun them; they understood that it was all bullshit.
Van Horn now feels like she was “snowed.” Labadie told compliance numerous times that he would bring the forms, but in the end, he was negligent, lying, or both. Van Horn brought in auditors to try to get his ass in gear. Didn’t help. That audit resulted in a finding against the football program a few weeks before the Freep piece. Coincidence? No. It’s clear someone leaked it to the Freep.
RR got fed up with all of the bullshit, and all of the drama. “They told me in the interview: You get to Michigan, and you’re gonna be surrounded by great people who are gonna support you. Really? Where are they? I want to talk to the Regents, directly, and tell them what’s going on here….People who support our program only hear about the bullshit these guys (Freep, saboteurs) are making up.” (p. 166).
Also, and again: there were leaks in the athletic department. Bacon seems to be almost certain it was Carr loyalists. There was a very strong faction in the AD that was pissed that English didn’t get the job. English himself was pissed. He refused to actually say anything to RR after we beat them, just shook his hand. RR doesn’t appreciate this. He also doesn’t appreciate apparently this James Stapleton business. Stapleton is a wealthy guy, former U of M fb player, apparently one of those guys who has a lot of pull behind the scenes. He is a regent at Eastern; a big English supporter. The rumors got so bad that he, Stapleton, sent a fax to Bill Martin, LC, and RR, basically saying “I’m not the source of the sabotage! I didn’t collaborate with Rosenberg.” Stapleton and Rosenberg are friends.
Stapleton was also close with Denise Illitch, who as early as 2009, openly referred to RR as “Dead Man Walking.” Classy, Regent. Classy. RR was very pissed that Stapleton had a sideline pass; he got it from Illitch, who was a Regent. RR was pretty convinced (as is Bacon) that Stapleton was part of this group of people who were English/Carr loyalists and were actively undermining the program.
Comes across as petulant, immature, etc. RR was hard on him, and got pissed off at him because Tate never improved, which RR thought was due to a lack of diligence. Tate never watched film (at least through 2009 season’s end) and Denard didn’t really either. RR didn’t like this. The problem was, with the Freep thing hanging over their heads, it was hard for RR and the players, because they were all scared shitless of over-practicing, over-preparing, etc. But yeah, Tate’s demeanor was an issue.
RR, LC, BM Summit in 2009
This was fascinating. Martin was either forced out after the issue with the student security guard who wouldn’t let him into MSC’s box (as many think happened; 2 days later, the University announces Martin’s retirement; it was the 2nd such incident) or it was just a coincidence (as Martin maintains). Regardless, the day after his retirement was announced, Martin went to a pre-scheduled lunch with RR and LC. It was chilly.
This was the first time Lloyd had really spoken to RR since the phone call in December 2007 when Lloyd had sold RR on coming to Michigan. I’ll reproduce the account of this conversation; ellipses are where I’ve cut things out for brevity:
After the chilly pleasantries were dispensed with, Carr sent the first volley: “Tell the people in your camp to quit attacking me in the press,” he said, as Rodriguez remembered it a couple hours later. The catalyst for this was undoubtedly Rick Leach’s public lambasting of Carr. . . for sitting with Iowa’s coaches and dignitaries—people Carr had known for years—in an Iowa stadium luxury box…”
“I don’t have a camp,” Rodriguez replied, “and whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it on their own. Rick Leach speaks for himself.”
Rodriguez ticked off all the reasons Carr shouldn’t feel threatened…What Michigan football needed now, Rodriguez said [to Carr ] was Carr’s unambiguous support. “When the Free Press came out with this story….we could have used you speaking up.”
Carr said nothing.
“You’re either all in or you’re not,” Rodriguez continued. “You’re either inside the Michigan family or you’re not.” But the closest he came to accusing Carr of anything more than silence was this: “Somebody inside the department is talking to the press and doing us harm.”
The suggestion was that, if there were moles in the department, Carr most likely knew who they were, and Rodriguez would appreciate it if Carr told them to knock it off. As Rodriguez recalled, Carr remained silent at that, too.
Alright, all, I gotta go- tailgating for the NW game. But wanted to get this out there for people to digest.
So, I picked up an advance copy of "Three and Out' right after work today in Chicago. I actually left the event before getting it signed, as it was burning my hands, I wanted to read it so bad. In the past few hours, I've read about 100 pages. First off, let me say this:
Oh. My. God. This book is fascinating. It is also informative, interesting, upsetting, and almost Shakespearean at times. It tells the tale (so far) of a deeply, deeply fractured inner circle of Michigan people- former athletes, administrators in the AD, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rod, Bill Martin, Mary Sue Coleman, many former players, close advisors of Rich Rod, U of M faculty, etc. It's amazing in that regard, just the soap opera aspect of it.
Not covered in glory: the Governor of West Virginia, the President of WVU, the AD of WVU. They come across as just...stupid, egotistical, and short-sighted and petty.
Not covered in glory, part ii: Lloyd Carr, unfortunately. After RR was announced as the new coach, and before RR had ever met with the players, Carr held a meeting- five different players told Bacon about it- wherein he stated that he, as acting coach, would sign anyone's release that day that wanted to transfer. RR caught wind of this and told the AD that he was fine with it, but only if he could speak to the players who wanted to transfer first. The AD actually called the Big Ten office to figure out the rules regarding all of this.
Also, Carr allegedly told Boren he should transfer, and said the same to Mallett. The way the book portrays it, these were not conversations in the "Michigan doesn't want you" vein, but more in the "yeah, you probably want to transfer rather than play for this guy" vein.
This is all very difficult to square with another fact: It was Lloyd who pushed for the RR hire. Lloyd made the first call to RR, unbeknownst to Mary Sue Coleman and Bill Martin, and Lloyd promoted his candicacy.
Since Lloyd wouldn't talk to Bacon for the book, it's hard to know what's true. Bacon admits this. He also says that, of the 20+ people he spoke with who worked with both LC and RR, "nearly all of them uttered some derivation of the phrase 'Lloyd never liked Rich.'" Perhaps that feeling came about once RR got to town, but it likely came about quickly.
Rosenberg: Said, and I quote, to Jim Brandstatter, who goes on record, following RR's first press conferece, that he "hates Bill Martin because [Martin] lied to him," and that he "wanted to run Martin out of here." Rosenberg also said, quote, "that guy doesn't belong here," about RR within a month after the hiring. Bacon seems to think that Rosenberg hated Martin the most (doesn't say why) and went after Rodriguez to hurt Martin and run him out.
Also: Martin bungled the coaching search so poorly that Coleman took it over, Martin lost the respect of his people in the AD, and he was completely unprepared about the entire thing. The sailboat Bill story is true. He got a new cell phone, didn't know how to use it, AND went on the sailing trip the weekend of the Miles fiasco. He was unreachable.
Coleman called him to the carpet and castigated him multiple times and essentially neutered his authority w/r/t the coaching search. Also: Lloyd does not like Miles, said they shouldn't hire Miles, and Coleman agreed. However, once Schiano turned us down, Coleman took over the search (sidenote: Martin never told the "committee" he was going to talk to Schiano, which pissed everyone off) and essentially decided that Miles was probably going to be the guy. Others floated Ferentz; she shot it down out-of-hand, having known him from Iowa. Brian Kelly was shot down out-of-hand as well, for generally being an ass, apparently.
So back to Miles. Intermediaries reached out to him again. But this was also around the time LC reached out to RR. Miles said, point-blank, he wouldn't talk to Martin; he wanted to talk directly with MSC, as he knew she was running the show. They spoke for 90 minutes. The leak/pr issues were paramount; Miles said he simply couldn't make the decision until after the bowl game, but he said "if you ask, I won't say no," and that he'd "never say no to Michigan." Only three people knew about that phone call, yet within hours, it was leaked to blogs. Those people were Les, MSC, and Bill Martin. From there, Miles was boxed in, and said, essentially, that he couldnt' talk anymore until after the NC game. But the impression I get is that if we ever formally offered, after the bowl game, he would have accepted.
In the meantime, RR was offered the job at the Toledo meeting. Bill Martin said that RR should keep LC's assistants to appease LC and the old guard; MSC cut him off and said "No, Bill, you can't ask him to do that." RR said he had to go back to WVU and talk to the people there. WHen he did, he reiterated that he wanted raises for his assistants. The WVU president told him "no. Take this or leave it, as it is." He left.
Also: a big revelation is that MSC and BM promised to pay $2.5m of RR's buyout when they negotiated the deal with him, but they asked him to keep it secret, because they didn't have approval from the Regents to do this. This was one of the reasons that they forced the settlement when their depositions were about to proceed; if that came out, MSC said "Bill and I are toast." Well, it's out now. So RR stayed quiet, and took the shots. He also was upset because he wanted to respond to all the WVU allegations, and thought he'd have his chance in court and/or in deposition, so that opportunity was taken from him.
One more thing re: buyout- many times, RR says that the President of WVU promised him the $4m number was just for appearances, and that if RR decided to leave, they'd sit down with lawyers and work out a settlement at half the amount.
There's a lot of other interesting stuff in here, and this isn't meant to be anything more than me posting the "highlights" of the first 100 pages or so. But my god, this book is incredible. You must buy it. All of you.