Good luck, coach.
Mike Lantry, 1972
This is clearly not part of the 2011 football preview, except it is. It was not possible to write this year's "The Story" without closing the door on the Rodriguez era. Thus this.
I meant to, but never got around to, writing one of the Rich Rodriguez obituaries that sprouted across the Michigan blogosphere in the aftermath of his firing. At the time I was busy panicking about Les Miles, the lack of Jim Harbaugh, and the possibility someone with as thin a resume as Brady Hoke would get hired.
By the time I'd stopped railing about The Process and the hire it begat, Rodriguez's corpse was cool. People were already complaining about how I wouldn't let the last three years go. So I dropped it. They say things happen for a reason, though, and usually say so at press conferences.
A couple months later I was at show at the Magic Stick. We had no knowledge of any of the bands that were playing; we'd been encouraged to see the headliner by a friend of the MGoWife. Whatever talent the headliner had was overwhelmed by the impression she was the worst person ever*, but the second opener was this quirky trio from Ypsi called Lightning Love. Lightning Love is a twee indie band whose drummer (now) looks like he was acquired from the Megadeth surplus store. Most of their songs are about being a miserable discontented loser surrounded by people just like you**. MGoWife adored them, bought the album and all that, and eventually I came to think of one of their songs as The Ballad of Rich Rodriguez.
This is it. Yes, you're going to have to do this obit multimedia style:
Lightning Love - Friends
Thirty Josh Grobans agree this is more in the spirit of the Rodriguez era than Josh Groban songs. And that's hugely depressing, isn't it?
It's his kid that kills me. Scattered amongst shots of Rodriguez emoting like a mofo are pictures of his son Rhett doing the same. At this point he must wonder why the universe hates his dad. Three years ago Rodriguez was promising his son as a member of the class of 2017. A few months ago this was happening after the Illinois game…
…a few months later it was this…
…and some heretofore innocuous sports photographer got a terrifying glimpse into life as a paparazzi.
The universe's capper:
The universe has watched your gladiatorial antics, Rich Rodriguez, and it is not impressed. Thumbs down.
In retrospect the downed thumbs were inevitable. I mean… the Groban thing. Come on. It was always something. It was Groban or another fake controversy about how people need to "get a life" or his inability to "get it" about rivals. Rodriguez wasn't subsumed by the overwhelming Michigan-ness of Michigan. He either failed to understand the need to throw himself at the shoes of the Great Tradition or just couldn't be anyone other than the guy who grew up in the "holler" and married someone my mother would certainly refer to as "that woman." You know how mothers do.
So the legacy program and local media rejected the organ transplant. The program started throwing t-cells at Rodriguez on day one. Rodriguez chipped in with stormy sideline antics and pouting. When he swore it was weakness; when he choked up it was weakness.
All of that was unambiguously negative for a football coach, but an offshoot of that was having your kid with you in a genuinely touching way. For a human this is the definition of low expectations. You publicly express your affection for your son. You are not a grim military object; you are capable of squeezing emotions other than rage out of your gray heart. Congratulations for not being a one-dimensional character straight out of American Beauty.
But I can't recall ever seeing the kind of father and son shots Rhett and Rich Rodriguez feature in before. Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit. He, like most of us, was doing okay but sometimes—too often—he was not. When Michigan instituted "The Team The Team The Team" as its official pregame hype theme it drove the point home: there is God, and there is man, and Rich Rodriguez is not God.
There was no clearer evidence of that than his answer to a question posed days before the Wisconsin game. Michigan was 7-3 but a teetering 7-3. The question was something about "how he projected the third season at Michigan." A coach would have blustered something about senior leadership. Rodriguez told it like it was, and though it was already kinda over this seems like the moment when Rodriguez accepted his fate:
"I thought we'd be further ahead.
"I thought a lot of things when I got here."
*[The chorus of every song was functionally "I'm sorry I don't care about you or any of the things you care about, except I'm not sorry."]
**[Or they've been arranged for marimba by a Michigan State fan… which… wow, internet. Vast and deep are your reaches.]
Good luck, coach.
You know this should have been listed as a CC: in the title. Geez ... I think I read every one of these posts last January, February, March .... gotta go throw up.
New season starts in 9 days. The coach is dead ... long live the coach!
On a personal level, you have to feel for the guy, and I wish him well.
On the coach side, in hindsight, I don't think he was a terribly good coach, an opinion that was reached sometime during the PSU game last season.
'head coach' rather than 'coach'. He's proven to be an excellent football coach and, when handed an excellent defensive coordinator, he's proven to be successful as a head coach as well.
Michigan is Michigan, as our new head coach might say. It's not the right job for everybody, even everybody who is a good football coach.
I'm just amazed a bad coach was able to amass 100+ wins in CFB, and one of the faster ones to do it. Man was he lucky.
He was lucky enough to coach in the Big East for most of those. Or as FreddieMercuryHayes so aptly named it "TCU and Its Bitches". The guy can definitely coach though. Just didn't work out at Michigan.
Unless I missed something, TCU never played in the Big Eat while RR was there. He did benefit when Miami and VT left (along with BC, but they weren't as big a factor), but the guy was still a very good coach while in the conference. And he won bowl games against legit teams (and yeah, I know he was gone when WVU beat Oklahoma, but that was still his team). He's a good coach - it didn't work out at UM, but the Big East is still a BCE conference and for at least part of RR's tenure had some very good squads.
Sorry, that was a comment from another thread that was taken a little out of context. I was talking about Cincinnati building a Big East power and FreddyMercuryHayes subtly reminded me that TCU will own that conference when they make the move. I unintentionally juxtaposed TCU and RR.
No problem. Just caught me off guard. I know that they are heading there now, but I thought they were in the WAC for most of RR's previous tenure.
Yes he coached in the Big East and won a ton of games. Hoke coached in the MAC and won significantly less games. There are plenty of good coaches in the Big East, and talent level is roughly equivalant.
I wasn't really commenting on RR's coaching ability and I didn't even mention Hoke. It was supposed to be a slam on the strength of the Big East but if you have to explain it . . .
He's not there yet (unless you're counting D-II). He has 75 wins at the FBS level.
Yeah, you are correct about the Glenville St wins, but I guess I count those because most times they include those in any "career" records. Like how Tressel was one of the fastest to 100 wins because of his Youngstown St. years. Still, shows the man knows how to win, and win quickly.
After years of reading this blog, and a fair amount of the comments, I am not sure why this post made me feel like I had to ring in. But it did. And since this is my first post I will say at the outset that I am an enormous fan of Coach Carr and of Coach Hoke and even though I never understood the Coach Rodriguez hire (other than the context of it happening in a panic, assuming that is true) he wore the block M on his hat and for a 3 year period worked harder than anyone else on the planet to win for Michigan. For me, it was impossible to not support him.
Anyway, I'm sure this has been covered many times before and fought about many times before because that is what people who care passionately about something do, but I still look at the decision to hire him in the first place as where the blame for the last 3 years should ultimately be placed. And that is where the failures of the last 3 years will always be placed and remembered in my mind. Yes the players and coaches are ultimately responsible for wins and losses, but as the athletic director - especially at Michigan - hiring the right guy to be football coach is your number 1 job. We can argue (and have and will continue to) until we are all blue in the face about whether Coach Rodriguez "got it" and what "it" really is. But one thing is for certain either Bill Martin didn't "get" what the Michigan fan base would tolerate as far as rebuilding was concerned or he did "get" what the Michigan fan base would tolerate but the thought the gamble was worth it to bring in a Coach that would change the program significantly (in many ways). Leaders/CEOs/Presidents/Generals etc. take risks. When they work out, people say they are great men and women, when they don't they are banished and flogged (sometimes literally) for their miscalculation at best, evilness at worst.
My point is that Michigan hired Coach Rodriguez to be the head football coach. Coach Rodriguez knew enough about how special this place is (or at least listened to people who told him how special it is) to jump at the chance despite the great gig he already had. He got hired because he was Rich Rodriguez. Anyone hiring him should have known exactly what that meant (not just the offense that he ran and the players he would need, but his sideline demeanor and press conference presence). They should also have known and understood their fan base. Maybe Bill Martin knew he was taking a huge gamble. Maybe he saw a huge possible payoff but also understood the potential downside. But maybe he fell into the trap that so many people did: that the program ran itself. That we would be at least 8-4 no matter who was running the show. That Bo, and Moeller, and Lloyd (all of whom had disappointing losses and disappointing seasons) were benefactors of this place being special (as opposed to big parts of the reason why it is so special). To some extent we were all lulled to sleep from 1969 - 2007 (depending on your age, obvs) by having so much success that anything less than great was considered unacceptable. A quote from Lloyd that I will never forget was when he stood on a chair in Pasadena on January 1, 1998 and said (paraphrasing): "Gentlemen, you have just set a standard for which all Michigan teams will be measured. You just won the National Championship." We've all heard that line. It gives all of us chills. But I think about that first part of it, the part that doesn't get run as often in TV clips. Let us not forget moving forward WHY this place is special. It is the hard work of the people who are a part of the program. It is not and has never been magic. I hope and believe that Coach Hoke will get us back to that mountain top where he was as an assistant. But along the way there will be tough losses and tough seasons. Coach Hoke would not want a pass, nor will he make an excuse, nor does he want anyone to expect anything less than perfection. But when the team stumbles, let's remember what I think was the true lesson of the last 3 years - if you're going to throw the baby out with the bath water make sure that you know who the next baby is AND that the tub can tolerate the birthing pains that come with that new baby.
Sorry for the long post.
Can't wait to see these guys run out the tunnel in a little over a week.
...and I agree. I'd just further emphasize that, given he had a whole year of knowing it was Carr's last, there is absolutely no excuse for Martin to have found himself in panic mode in the first place. That to me is where the mistake lies.
I think Bill Martin did a pretty good job there.
Overall this was an excellent article by Brian in summing up a viewpoint on Coach Rodriguez. Considering that we are on a new Athletic Director and a new Football Coach, trying to assign blame is a pretty worthless exercise. I'm surprised we we haven't assigned some blame to Mary Sue Coleman, she hired Bill Martin in the first place.
I do find it amusing that people who have very little information on a specific hiring process can be so critical of it. Especially when you compare the two hiring processes against each other and can find people that complain about completely opposite things. The search to replace Coach Carr was chaos because he announced his retirement "too soon" and thus put Les Miles on the hot seat and in a terrible situation with his employer at the time. Then when Dave Brandon says he's going to wait and does wait until the season is over the complete opposite complaint comes out that he "waited too long".
But then again, what point would this blog serve if people didn't enjoy getting over emotional about speculation based on very little available data.
Excellent writeup by Brian.
It took Martin two tries with the basketball coach. (And in that case he made a choice that was supported by....Rosenberg and Carty).
But the rest of your point stands.
sorry - i hope this removes the double post
...three more years of the honest and decent Lloyd Carr to what a fishing Bill Martin and RR wrought. I recently saw a story on how many major programs had been investigated by the NCAA. Michigan was listed, of course. We can forget about the unwillingness to adapt his style to his talent and conference, his refusal to pay any meaningful attention to defense, and Josh Grobin, but the NCAA stain will never go away.
1) Maryland recently was recently found in violation for almost the same offense Michigan was, but in UMD's case, the NCAA didn't deem the violations "major," and
2) The fact that it was the first major violation in UM's history seemed to get a lot of play. You have to ask yourself: what is the relevant difference between UM and UMD's cases that influenced the NCAA's decision? I don't think it's anything rules-related.
because the change to Hoke was necessary, and I support him, but your assertion is total B.S. and 100% without merit. Ludicrous comes to mind as well.
The notion that the infractions RR & Co. were guilty of constitute a stain is as ridiculous as asserting that getting a ticket for driving 35 in a 30 zone means you're a criminal.
Giving illegal inducements to recruits is a stain. Pressuring professors to change grades to keep star players eligible is a stain. Having academic advisors writer papers for players is a stain. Arranging payments from boosters is a stain. Keeping young assistants in observation towers during bad weather who then die is a stain. Taking former players directly out of prison and putting them back in uniform immediately is a stain. Lying baldly and repeatedly to NCAA investigators is a stain.
But over-practicing by minutes per week and having staff members impermissibly present at off-season workouts is a stain? Give me a fucking break.
When we are lumped into articles with Ohio and Miami about the sorry state of college football, that, my friend, is a stain. I wish it were not true, but it is. Here is a quote from Sports Illustrated:
"The allegations against Miami have sparked what is just the latest in a string of NCAA investigations involving some of college football's most high-profile and successful programs. In the last 18 months, the football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU all have either been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA."
You know what's a stain on Michigan? The goddamned Free Press. And every other media outlet nowadays that looks at something without any context whatsoever and lumps them in with everyone else who actually did something wrong. The way facts are presented in the world today are extremely bothersome.
The media is ALWAYS a stain on Michigan, because Michigan seemingly always gets negative attention, for one reason or another. I have no explanation for that. But those violations are NOT a stain on the program, because anyone who has half a brain and isn't ignorant to the situation knows the truth about it.
Dude...we are arguing semantics. Let me be a bit more direct:
1. Our violations were trivial.
2. The NCAA deemed them "major".
3. That is total BS.
4. The media doesn't care about #3.
5. This happened on RR's watch.
6. I do not forgive RR for #5.
It is one thing to suck for three years. It is quite another to break NCAA rules while sucking and get (unfairly) tarred with the same brush as Ohio and Miami. Blame the media all you want, but without RR's transgressions we are not in a position to be (totally unfairly) lumped in with Ohio and Miami. Bottom line: RR is responsible for the violaitons that are being totally misrepresented.
I understand your point. Yes, the violations weren't that huge of a deal and calling them "major" seems a bit over-the-top. But that's what the NCAA decided, and most CFB observers aren't going to look beyond that. We're on probation for the first time in program history. We heard about that in every telecast last year and probably will again this year. Most non-UM fans do not care what our explanation/rationalization is. All they note is that we're on probation.
And it should be added: this is worse than the "35 in a 30 zone" analogy. If we are - heaven forbid - found guilty of something else in the next few years, we will receive the dreaded "repeat violator" tag. I was talking to athletic department officials at the garage sale and they made it clear that absolutely nothing has to go askew in the compliance department right now.
RichRod brought a "stain" on our program like tom izzo brought a "stain" to MSU basketball last year....and he was suspended for his violation. I wonder why he isn't lumped in with all cheaters in NCAA basketball. The media will make a bad guy out of whoever they want, that doesn't mean you have to buy the shit they are selling you.
Well, according to the paperwork the CARA forms weren't completed correctly back into Carr's era, so technically this spans both his and RR's tenure. But whatever, I understand what you are saying.
I just think you are way off. The "violations" are due almost completely to a beligerent, axe-grinding smurf at a failing local newspaper who wanted to "expose" the dangers of letting an outsider like RR into the Michigan program. And the fact that the NCAA viewed these as "major" violations but apparently didn't feel that Cam Newton's father soliciting offers for his son to sign with certain schools to play football rose to the level of concern beyond "we'll spend a weekend looking at it" neuters their decision in my eyes.
UM was stained by the Ed Martin fiasco and the Fab 5. UM has its skeletons, and even if they weren't directly attached to the football team it is still a mark that the University will carry with it. That said, get off your high horse - given enough time, every program in America will be "sullied" by some type of violation, and I'd much rather have UM's than the ones we're seeing at OSU, USC, or Miami.
that when a SPORTSWRITER puts something down, without any context whatsoever, and lists us along programs that did far, far, far worse, that his opinion equals STAIN. You should have mentioned that in your first post. /s
How asisne. Keep dgging that trench into stupid land.
When we are lumped into articles with Ohio and Miami about the sorry state of college football, that, my friend, says the articles were written by idiots.
as concise and on-point you can get about the ordeal.
Although I'd add, it would be like a guy named "Mike" calling the police to give them a heads up that "this guy, Rich, is driving 50 mph over the speed limit! Oh the humanity!" And the police are all like, "well, we have no choice but to take it seriously", and when they got there, Rich had pushed the speed limit by 5 mph on accident because he was going down a hill, but since EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT IT the police are forced to pull him over and issue the ticket and fine.
By the way, you totally miss the point. I am not arguing that our violations are on par with those that you reference. I am arguing that we are lumped in with those shcools by a media that won't spend the time to differentiate from the technically "major" (but total BS) and the actually major (prostitutes and abortions).
Love the bold and italics!
I could care less what "the media" thinks about the program, especially given the 24-hour news cycle that drives television, print, and online to post anything for hits and attention. UM is still a great program with a fine tradition of excellence on and off the field, regardless of what Robert Smith or Mark May has to say between gargling on the testicles of the teams they played for.
Media writes dumb article = everlasting stain on Michigan football. I'm pretty sure the media also wrote dumb articles about Michigan football back in the Bo and Lloyd Carr eras. I didn't realize the Drew Sharps of the world have such power.
Jumping in mid-argument here, it seems like folks are conflating two different points - NCAA violations and questionable reporting. The fact that many question the basis for the NCAA investigation and that media outlets now report on violations at Michigan (equating them with much more "major" violations by omitting context) doesn't mean that the NCAA violations cease to exist.
If you doubt there is a "stain" on the program, consider what would happen if we were to be hit with violations this season. We would, without doubt, be considered "repeat violators". It is the NCAA label of "violator" that matters. That label is indeed a stain. We might all think the violations were "minor" rather than "major", but we committed violations and whatever reporting led to that (and whatever reporting continues from that) doesn't negate the violations themselves.
The points being these:
I won't even disagree with any of that, but that doesn't mean the violations are no longer a stain.
dahblue, you are a persistent fellow, so let me give you this much, without in any way attacking you, and giving you your full due.
We really CAN blame someone, and that someone is Michael Rosenberg. He had choices on how to proceed. Once he became aware of the July 27, 2009 CARA memo, he could have investigated it, the right way. I am not suggesting that he bury an anti-Michigan story when it is his job to report on such stories.
But Rosenberg could have, and should have, gone to Compliance Services, or Martin, or Joe Parker, or even Rodriguez early on, and asked questions about what CARA really meant. In fact, if you really wanted to report a story, as opposed to creating a story, that is exactly what you would do. Rosenberg didn't do that. He sacrificed accuracy and context, for "gotcha."
Michigan, faced with early, timely queries from Rosenberg, might have said, "Wait just a minute; that business about X number of hours on Sundays, and the coach-forced 7-on-7 summer drills; that's just not right. And your allusions to Barwis somehow violating NCAA rules is not backed up by what we know." That might have ended Rosenberg's story. Or, given him a much different story to write. In hindsight, Michigan would have been 100% to have set Rosenberg straight on that stuff. Rosenberg was wrong.
It actually took two teams of lawyers (NCAA C.o.I. staff, and Michigan independent outside counsel) to find different violations from what the newspaper story alleged. Michigan could easily have self-reported those things, the way that hundreds of other self-reported secondary violations are reported in every season. The outcome would have been qualitatively different.
Rosenberg chose how to handle this story. He chose deliberately, to make this story as inflammatory as possible.
It's entirely possible for two people (or entities) to have both committed wrongs. In this instance, I think the Freep is guilty of some wrongs...and so is Michigan. Just because we maybe shouldn't have been caught (and just because the nature of the violations isn't really "major") doesn't mean we didn't commit them. One wrong doesn't excuse (or erase from the history books) the other.
What did Charles Robinson do? I don't believe he gave USC or Miami the kind of advance notice that you're proposing Rosenberg should have given UM. And I havent heard anyone impugn Robinson's journalism.
The major problem with Rosenberg's story was that he didn't understand the rules about countable hours. The minor problem was that he used the two freshman's quotes in manipulative ways. He didn't owe Michigan anything beyond the notice he granted. His responsibility was to write an accurate story, not to notify UM, and those are the grounds upon which he failed.
I didn't suggest that Rosenberg had any "duty to warn" anybody about stories he is working on. He has no such duty.
What he does have, is a duty to look at all sides of a story. He has a duty to ask all of the important players, all of the important questions. That principle, looking at all sides of a story, is actually included in the old Free Press ethical guidelines.
And that is what Rosenberg did not do. He did not ask anybody in Compliance Services about the CARA memo. He did not ask Compliance Services about calculating CARA time. He did not talk to any of the coaches. He talked to no administrators in the Athletic Department.
Rosenberg didn't do any of that, which would clearly have been important to a good story, because he wanted to be able to surprise Michigan with his story.
And then, on the Friday afternoon before a Saturday (online) posting of the story for Sunday publication, he and Snyder had the unmitigated gall to walk into Bruce Madej's office and say, We're running this as a story in the Sunday paper. If the Athletic Department has a comment, we need it by tomorrow midday.
You and I agree; Rosenberg totally failed in his "responsiblility to write an accurate story." Had he not been so secretive and so cavalier with who he talked to and who he didn't talk to, he might have gotten a more accurate story. He didn't do that, and it likely cost him in terms of accuracy, because he wanted to hurt Rodriguez and the best way to do that was surprise.
Again, Rosenberg's intent and methods are laid bare and it is truly ugly.
I agree with a good deal of that, but I disagree strongly that UM's compliance dept was the right place to gain the perspective on the memo, for a couple reasons. First, if he goes to compliance, he's potentially burning the source that leaked the memo to him. Second, if he goes to compliance, they get in front of the story by releasing it themselves, and he kills his own scoop. Killing his own story was not required to meet his ethical burden.
What he should have done is to go to someone in some other compliance department or some other source to acquire adequate understanding of the rules governing the situation he was writing about. His big flaw was failing to understand the rules and therefore writing a story based on a broad-scale misunderstanding of those rules and miscalculation of "countable hours," which led to the story's killer lede of UM players exceeding practice time by two or three times the norm, rather than .1 times (or whatever it turned out to be).
The biggest journalistic flaw in the story lay in the freep editors allowing Rosenberg to cross the news/op-ed divide, and to write a "hard" news story on a figure he'd already been highly critical of in his role as a columnist.
First, if he goes to compliance, he's potentially burning the source that leaked the memo to him.
Well, even now, that isn't known. Not to me at least. And if I knew, I would publish the fucker's name. I don't think anyone knows that, and I don't see how Rosenberg's asking about it would blow the source. The memo had wide distribution; 20 or more people probably saw it.
Second, if he goes to compliance, they get in front of the story by releasing it
Well, I guess you are right. The story, and the surprise, and the "splash" factor, all took precedence over accuracy and hearing "both sides of the story" as, uh, the Freep Ethical Guidelines required. (Though I don't much believe that the "story" would be blown. I think that Michigan, if it had time to investigate on its own, would very likely have reported things as secondaries. But I don't expect that Bruce Madej would have run to Angelique Chengelis with the story, just to blow Rosenberg's supposed scoop. I'd expect that Michigan would report to no one, other than the NCAA.)
So yeah, I think we have boiled it all down to the essential: Michael Rosenberg threw accuracy and fairness out the window, in favor of surprise and impact.
6. The extra "practice" didn't do us a damn bit of good anyway.
your "point"i still makes no sense. So, the media won't differentiate between actual major and real major violations--therefore they are being both lazy and wrong-- yet this somehow equals a "stain", and that therefore a media mistake is the same as actually committing real major violations. It does not,. Apaprently you do not see this.
Don, I am almost always a fan of your posts. That being said, I think this was the best post I've ever seen from you. I couldn't agree more, and am like "damn, I don't think that post could be improved in any way." Well done.
While I agree to an extent, and DEFINITELY do not wish to start a discussion on this subject... the violations spanned a period of time that overlapped RR and LC...
But to be fair, the violations didn't span the time over LC...the horribly shoddy paperwork that might have caught the problems (or not, we'll never know) started before RR, but CARA forms aren't in fact require, or a violation. Might they have revealed issues, and prevented a bigger one, and certainly contributed? Most likely. But they're not actually violations. Which I agree, are ugly just because as Don so aptly put it, make someone getting a minor speeding ticket labeled a "criminal".