"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
Drop The Hammer
1. ESTABLISH TERRY FOSTER AS UNRELIABLE.
lament: the Detroit News has fancifully stuffed its entire archives behind a paywall. Anything over seven days old is only available if you decide to pay for it, and the day I pay to access a Terry Foster column is the day Terry Foster is right about anything.
Terry Foster does not care if the things he says are true or even remotely supported by the facts. I don't know if he just makes things up wholesale -- such an act requires creativity -- or just steals them from 16 year old punks posting on a Pistons board. This post from a couple years ago contains a classic example of Foster at his nadir. In brief, it discusses this nugget from Foster's short-lived blogspot enterprise:
Rumors are circulating that the Pistons might break up their starting five by trading Rasheed Wallace to the Chicago Bulls for center Tyson Chandler and forward Andres Nocioni.
This "rumor" circulated primarily on a couple internet message boards because some 16-year old kid threw it up there:
Jayborne23 posted on 8/23/2005 9:53:28 PM
HOLY S***, WAS I RIGHT?
Is Sheed for Chandler and Nocioni a real deal? Cause I sincerely made that s*** up. That hoopsworld article mentioned it. WHAT THE F***?
The whole totally awesome and enlightening series of events was chronicled in the aforementioned post.
B. CURRENT EVENTS
For a more recent example, here are these statements from Foster's Detroit News "blog," which isn't behind a fanciful paywall:
I've got bad news. As it stands now Amaker will return as Michigan coach for the 2007-08 season no matter what. That is the word from the inside. ...
And before you fire arrows at Athletic Director Bill Martin, save it. It is not his call. This is from school president Mary Sue Coleman who loves the Amaker family and what it represents. ...
If he stays it will show once again Michigan is not serious about basketball. [note this for later]
I was listening to one of the talk shows on the way over and they were talking about this being a must-win game for Michigan to make the tournament and for Tommy Amaker to keep his job as head coach.
I'm telling you that this guy is not going to lose his job. It is something I've been screaming from the roof tops for weeks. He is here for at least one more season although I admit he will be on probation next season when he returns
Remember that history has proven that Foster's "insiders" are sometimes kids in My Chemical Romance t-shirts in Wixom. On March 13th, he reiterates:
I believe most people in the Michigan Athletic Department believe Amaker is a bad fit here and would like to move in a different direction. But it is not their decision. I also believe Athletic Director Bill Martin would like to find a new coach.
The problem is Coleman is not convinced, even though folks are trying to convince her Amaker is not the guy. Based on that I believe Amaker is returning next season.
The next post on the situation is an artfully phrased lie about how much Michigan is willing to pay its next basketball coach, citing Amaker's base salary as a mere 165,000 when anyone who spends as much time around sports as he does knows that most contracts are structured like that and a simple check would have revealed that Amaker was making 700k plus a deferred compensation fund of 900k. Note also the baseless assertion the the "university lied to him" about a practice facility:
If youve read this blog you know Ive always believed that Amaker would keep his job. I base that primarily on the fact that Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman does not want to fire Amaker. She believes he is what is right about college basketball. He handles himself well. He cleaned up some messes that Michigan created and he has not made a public stink that the university lied to him.
Here is the issue. If you fire Amaker who can Michigan get who is better? Now there are a number of high profile coaches who are better. But here is the problem. Michigan does not want to pay much more than the $165,000 base salary Amaker is making. So tell me who the Wolverines can lure for that kind of money? Ive always believed Amaker should be fired. But I sat and thought about this. Until Michigan is willing to do the things it takes to become a winner, what is the point?
Amaker's fired the next damn day, but does this dissuade Foster from his crackpot theories about the power struggle going on within the department? No. He also throws out three names for the coaching search, only of whom (Todd Lickliter) was a reasonable candidate. The others are Tom Crean, who showed up in Foster's Sunday column (dissected here) as an example of how Michigan wasn't going to get a coach because they only want to pay 200k and Crean cost 1.5 million -- Beilein's contract is for a whopping 200k less than that -- and Bruce Pearl, neither of whom was ever mentioned again by anyone remotely connected to the search:
President Mary Sue Coleman did not want to fire Tommy Amaker as basketball coach. Athletic Director Bill Martin did. But Martin gave Coleman an ultimatum. Martin told Coleman that if she would not allow him to fire Amaker that he wanted to walk. Coleman felt pressure from Martin, but in the past week she began feeling pressure from the public too and it caused her to buckle and go against her initial instinct.
Michigan also wants to talk to Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl and Marquette's Tom Crean. The problem is they are out of Michigan's price range. To get these men Michigan must make a huge commitment on salary and promise them a practice facility and upgrades to Crisler. They made the same promise to Amaker. But he did not get it in writing and the school never delivered.
For the record, Bill Martin on the coaching search:
Q: What this your call?
Martin: It was entirely my call.
Q: Did other people at the university offer input?
Martin: Only if I sought input and I sought very little.
Is it possible Martin is lying? Yes, though I think he'd have little reason to. Far more probable is that Foster ran across an extremely convincing high school freshman from Warren.
2. THE NIMROD AND THE DAMAGE DONE
A. Establish the source of the racially-tinged accusation that Beilein will not recruit inner city kids.
On March 28th, a full week after Chris Balas at the Wolverine -- who kicked everyone's ass on the search by the way, the Ann Arbor News was the only group even close -- had disclosed Michigan's pursuit of Beilein to Rivals subscribers and via diffusion the entire Michigan internet, Foster finally wakes up. Even though he's breaking nothing, he manages to puff himself up like he's the real inside guy:
I'm telling you WVA coach John Beilein is the guy University of Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin has on the top of his list. Beilein is a Michigan man. More importantly Beilein is a Martin man. This is exactly the type of coach Martin wants. He is a good on court coach, has a nice personality and will embrace our community which is very important. He'd promote the program and make sure Michigan's block M is out in the community way more than it is now in high school basketball gyms.
Here is what Martin is banking on. He is banking on Beilein's X's and O's being far superior than those of fired coach Tommy Amaker although his recruiting won't measure up. He is sacrificing players for strategy. It might work in Michigan will be a threat more days than not. I am not quite sure it makes the Wolverines perennial threats to win the Big Ten. However, that is not the issue here. The main issue is simply to make Michigan a threat and that is what Beilein can do.
A whopping three days later he's got his pet theory about Detroit and Flint.
One is the $2.5 million buy out West Virginia insists on taking and the second is Beilein won't be interested in recruiting Detroit and Flint heavily. He wants his own players and is willing to get lesser and coach them up. That means the big-name talent for the most part will continue to go elsewhere.
Please note the distinction between "he won't be able to" and "won't be interested in" recruiting Detroit and Flint. He repeats this assertion on his radio show over and over again, once claiming that one of his assistants told one of "his guys" -- probably the My Chemical Romance one, that guy knows his shit --at the Final Four. This leaks into a sort of conventional stupidity amongst the media. People like Pat Caputo, who are very, very stupid and unattractive and hate Michigan, lap it up. Media members who don't push it to the limit bring it up during his first press conference in order for him to dispel it, thus lending the accusation a patina of credibility when he has to address it like this is a real concern and not the cracked-out speculation of an idiot looking for attention.
And for the record, Beilein on the specific charge:
Condescending laughter and then "that's ludicrous." Because it is ludicrous... but somehow because a guy who has proven time and again he has no idea what he's talking about brings it up on the media platform Satan -- it can only be Satan -- has seen fit to offer him, he's forced to answer these ridiculous questions. And like it or not, every time Beilein misses out on a kid from Detroit or Flint or Saginaw (and he's going to miss on basically all of them next year since he probably only has one or two scholarships available) this refrain will pop up. It's a meme now and it has a life of its own that will serve to damage Michigan basketball until Beilein proves himself beyond the shadow of a doubt. It's a drag on the program that the media is so outright negative about it.
B. WE DON'T HAVE TO TAKE IT
It would be one thing if this was a supportable claim, but it is not. Foster's pattern is to grandly state that the "word from the inside" is one thing and then have that word turn out to be totally wrong. He has a track record of throwing things out without support that turn out to be wrong. Most likely he is just making stuff up or pulling rumors from the internet or contacting his dubious sources after they get out of trigonometry. In any case, the is a harm to the Michigan program and should not be tolerated by the university.
C. BRIEF CLARIFICATION.
If Foster was an actual journalist who dug up some NCAA violations that harmed the Michigan program and Michigan retaliated, that would be wrong. Uncovering the truth, even hard truths, is what journalism is supposed to be. But Foster is the farthest thing from a journalist. He uncovers nothing, supports nothing, and provides nothing other than stupidity. This isn't about journalism. It's about assholes.
3. ENCOURAGE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT TO SHOW SOME COJONES
A major problem with Michigan's relationship with the Detroit media can be traced back to Bo and his Fort Knox philosophy about access. Michigan is widely regarded as one of the toughest athletic departments anywhere to get access to -- poor Johnny at RBUAS couldn't even get a Hart interview for an upcoming Michigan annual I'm editing -- and so there's little harm in ripping away at it, because it's not like they're going to give you less access. There has to be some carrot here -- more open practices, more player access -- in exchange for the stick: refusing any and all media credentials to any outlet that gives Foster so much as a dime. The Michigan athletic department should not stand for irresponsible, negative rumormongers who seek to profit by damaging its programs. (I, on the other hand, am a rumormonger who seeks only to huggle the Michigan athletic department in all its huggly snuggly places, and I don't get any access anyway.)
At the same time, they should create some compelling opportunities for access at other places: The Wolverine, the Free Press, etc., and then just wait. Is one man who can barely write the language worth it? Probably not. There was a time when Michigan needed the local media for attention as much as the local media needed them, but that time has passed. Then when Foster is gone, sculpt a bust of his head and stick it on a pike in front of Schembechler Hall.