You're not old enough to drink beer
So Rich Rodriguez did a deeply bizarre thing. Captain Renault, yes, yes. GERG, yes. 3-3-5 addiction, yes. Groban, yes. Right. I'll start again.
Amongst the many deeply bizarre things that Rich Rodriguez did was allowing John Bacon virtually unfettered access to his program for three years. He didn't know it at the time, but these happened to be the only three years of his program.
I received an advanced copy of the book that resulted and… man. If you are a Michigan fan the result is a must read. Hate Rodriguez, love Rodriguez, have deeply conflicted relationship with Carr, love Carr—doesn't matter. This is not another book where ex-jocks tell jovial stories about the slightly dangerous things that happened to them.
This is a book that immediately makes everyone in it mad as hell except the guy who did Never Forget. This is close to literally true. Bacon's been banished to the Drew Sharp area of the press box, Michael Rosenberg is livid, Rodriguez himself is apparently hugely pissed. And while I can't confirm this like the above, I can't help but think that Lloyd Carr hates this book more than anything he's ever hated.
I know Bacon a bit and have pressed upon him an opportunity for MGoBlog: to badger him with questions. I would like to crowdsource these questions because these are important. I want to cover all the bases, ask the things clarify a lot of the debates fans have argued endlessly about for the last four years.
So: what would you ask someone who spent the last three years embedded in Operation Spread Ann Arbor? I'll cull the best ones and pose them to Bacon. He'll answer, and maybe we'll get some clarity.
Before you get to asking, some context:
Along with a severe grilling of Bacon, we'll be running an excerpt from the book around the time of its publication, which is scheduled for October 25th.
You're not old enough to drink beer
that West Virginia lost whenever they played anybody...Oklahoma and Georgia strongly disagree.
Did Gardner actually have a back injury? (Although, I'm not sure we actually want the answer to this out there unless the answer is yes.)
What was Dave Brandon's real take on The Game during conference expansion?
What was the process like for hiring Hoke?
What is the deal with Mike Cox? He made it seem like he got a raw deal with RR, but still hasn't even seen the field with Hoke. That makes me think he just doesn't put in the time like other players.
Does he have insight as to RR's plans for his next job?
Did Dave Brandon come in expecting that this would be RR's last year and he'd be able to hire his guy after that?
Has he ever seen Mike Martin turn green?
Answer to your first question: does Santa Clause live on the North Pole?
So, Gardner is a myth to keep me buying things?
I'm interested in what kind of guy Rodriguez really is . . . Publically, Rodriguez always seemed like a likeable guy to me (and continues to be on his CBS program). But I'm interested in what he is like privately. I have to assume he is as cutthroat as any college football coach, but does he still come across as a genuine guy after spending 3 years inside the program?
I would need to read the book first.
I think I will read it and then email Bacon. He is a pretty accessible guy.
The Process (TM) must be followed to completion as outlined.
Clearly there must have been some moment where RR realized he couldn't win. That whatever steps he had needed to take were already missed opportunities. When did RR realize that he was doomed, and did he openly express any regrets?
Also, how did Bacon find time for both this and playing Rickety Cricket?
One the earliest criticisms of the hire was that RR was only using the Michigan job as a stepping stone to greater things. Was he? Did Bacon ever get the sense that RR did not want to coach at Michigan long term? If so, was that desire predetermined or did it come slowly, after he realized UM was not the right "fit" for him?
Not a question for Bacon, but has any other major program gone through anything like this? Every program has had it's depth and despair, but was there anything quite like what Michigan experienced? Where else has a guy come into a successful program with such high expecatations and then have everything implode so spectacularly? Where else has there been such a "new regime vs old regime" split and a hostile local media?
Callahan at Nebraska? Came in with expectations of "modernizing" a program that had very recently been in the championship game (less than 2 years before he was hired). He certainly created huge divides within the program and created an incredible backlash from "traditionalists." Not sure that he ever had the kind of fan support that Rich Rod had, even if the fanbase was incredibly polarized.
I thought about Callahan at Nebraska, but there was one really big difference. Callahan had no college track record to speak of. The Rodriguez era wasn't just notable for its conflicts, but for the fact that Rodriguez was very successful at his previous program and looked like arguably the best coach in football. But then he came to Michigan and everything blew up in his face.
i was bored the other day, so I went back and looked at some of Brian's old posts from 2007 and 2008. Rodriguez looked like a home run and a half. Every problem that we had at the time, he seemed to address. His teams had won two BCS games in the time frame that Michigan had been blown out of them. We replaced slow and fat with fast and lean. We replaced old and lethargic with young and hungry. We thought we were replacing nepotism with merit. We struggled to run the ball against good teams for Carr's last few years, so we brought in a guy whose offensive lines always played well and whose teams ran the ball for 300+ yards a game. We got a guy who had no chance of going to the pros. We gave the keys to the program to a guy who had succeeded with good scheming and who would now have good talent too. We thought we had a guy who could thrive despite the declining population of Michigan's recruiting base. We were thinking "national championship" with RichRod, but he failed spectacularly.
than what you seem to suggest.
Arguably, Michigan was the LAST big-time college football program to go through this kind of intramural turmoil. Michigan was blessed to have a sort of zero-conflict continuous managment team from about the time of Harry Kipke's departure in the 1930's until well into the 21st Century. Basically, it had happened to everybody else before us. It is really hard to think of any better examples of incredibly long continuity. (BYU? I dunno. I just can't think of anybody who comes close to the continuity at Michigan. The one break was Bump Elliott going upstairs to allow in Bo Schembechler. The ever-classy Bump made sure that was not a problem.)
Nebraska might be the best bet. Lots of program took a downturn after a legend left, probably more so than what Michigan did, which was have a legend leave, then have some continuity after, then take a plunge. And often at other places (like Oklahoma) it involved probation. I mean, after Bear left, Bama went downhill fast. But it's hard to follow an all time great. It might be a better comparison after they bounced back up again under Stallings, one of Bear's guys, won a title over a short HC career, then went back down again under Dubose. Great programs have had downturns. All at once like us? Pretty rare.
Schnellenberger at Oklahoma
A few questions...
1. Did Shafer get completely undermined as it has been portrayed? There was a pretty clear turning point from competent defensive play to tire fire and it happened during the Purdue game in RR's first year. So I'd think anything on this would be pretty good to know considering it was gawd awful defense that ultimately did RR in here.
2. What was the dealio with the Demar Dorsey (no fly zone!) recruitment? Did RR ever get clearance from the admissions people? There are some people on the interwebs who float the idea that Dorsey was initially approved and then dirty tricks aimed to foil RR denied Dorsey entrace after he committed to Michigan.
3. Was Carr actively recruiting for MSU during RR's tenure? Reading the tea leaves it seems pretty obvious Carr hated Rodriguez. I've read where he told at least one recruit to select Sparty over Michigan. So anything on this would be awesome.
Agreed on the Shafer portion. The potential undermining of Shafer (if it did happen) was the beginning of the end.
The defense never got better after the 2008 Purdue game
1. In Bacon's opinion, how involved was RR in the defense and the coordinators? Was he really as "this didn't work, try that" as some have reported, or was it just a clusterfuck filled with incompetence that he tried fix when it became glaring obvious that the current DC wasn't working?
2. How involved/exposed were the media to the day-to-day events with the team? Carr ran a VERY tight ship toward the end, but all I heard was how open RR was to the media by comparison. Did this openness exist, what type of access was given?
3. With all the attrition, was it due mostly to kids not working out or was there a clear "trend" of kids being run off? It doesn't make any sense to get rid of kids, but it would be interesting to see how so many flamed out spectacularly and left despite having ample opportunities to start (especially on defense).
4. What were Barwis' wolves named? When guys were not working hard enough, did he have a "release the Kraken"-type command or did they just appear?
yes please. would upvote but don't have enough mgopoints.
specifically why he largely abandoned our most productive recruiting area of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and went into areas of the country where coaches and players didn't know us well. I can guess that he believed the Midwest was incapable of producing fast athletes, but other than that, what was behind this very poor strategic decision?
More generally, what was he like on the recruiting trail? How did he identify players and how did he attempt to sell them on Michigan?
Seriously? People are still flogging this thoroughly debunked horse?
Did you know that he ran Mallett off so that he could have Sheridan and Threet run his offense? Did you know that he ran Boren off because the offensive line was so deep? Did you know that the only QB he recruited was Terrelle Pryor? These memes are so ridiculous.
RR recruited for his system which was more specialized and thus he could not build his system by recruiting like MSU or a MAC school. Talent was not deep in Michigan and Ohio like it is this year.
While he did not necessarily kill it in MI, OH and PA, he certainly did not ignore them.
Devin Gardner - five star from Inkster; Will Campbell, 5 star from Cass Tech in addition to the Gordons and Hallowell, Justice Hayes; Justin Turner - number one player in OH, the Trotwood guys, Avery, Brown, Koger, Jake Ryan ;
PA - Cullen Christian comes to mind.
Had his seat not have been an inferno last year, in addition to Beyer, Morgan and the ususal Cass Tech smurf, RR may have landed Fisher and/or Zettel.
BTW, is Hoke ignoring PA? We dont have any commits from PA, so he must be.
RR had to go, but it was not because he ignored MI and OH.
I think Hoke is doing an amazing job with recruiting and I really like this staff, but he has also lucked into a very deep and talented pool of players in MI and OH. I expect that you will see Hoke look at players in other parts of the country when the talent is not so deep in MI and OH. Does not mean he is ignoring them.
It's also just straight up mathematically untrue. Rodriguez's non-2008 classes were comprised of a *higher* percentage of Midwestern kids than the average Lloyd class. As much as Rodriguez cooked his own goose, memes like this drive me crazy because they're such willfully wrong-headed groupthink.
I think a couple of different definitions of "ignore" are in play here.
One involves willingness and ability to recruit B1G-caliber players in the state. That's statistically verifiable buncum as you rightly point out.
The other involves outreach to schools and coaches who don't happen to have any 3-star and up recruits. There were reports of coaches disappointed that their players weren't getting the encouragement and camp invites that were traditional in the past and it might explain the "RR is ignoring MI" meme.
It's an open question, how much energy and resources should be spent on in-state kids that you know from day one are never going to be able to play at Michigan. But there are credible reports that RR's approach differed from the prior regime on this score.
Do you believe, knowing Bo the way you did and to a large degree how things where before RR and obviously during his tenure, that the last three years would have gone differently if Bo were still alive? Would Bo have publicly stuck up for him? Would his support and presence likely have led to greater success in recruiting, play, morale, former player support, etc to the point that maybe we still have RR as our coach today? Would Bo have supported him at all?
That's a great question. Not sure how anybody would be able to answer it, but it is nonetheless a great question for John.
To know the answer to this question.
Definately the most interesting question, to me, so far. As someone who grew up in the Bo era, I'd like to think that I know the answer, but I was just one of the many fans who never got to meet him. It would be great to hear what someone who knew Bo would say.
I'd like to hear Bacon's thoughts on the divergent cases of Rich Rodriguez and John Beilein.
Both were hired with the idea that they would be able to run their successful systems, but with Michigan-level athletes. All indications are that Beilein has been successful in this regard, while Rodriguez was not.
Did the Athletic Department handle the two coaches differently? Could Rodriguez have done better if there was less pressure on him to succeed right away? Is it just that Beilein had more time?
(Note: I'm not sure how closely Bacon follows the basketball program, given his excellent work on both the football team and the hockey team, so this may not be an appropriate line of questioning.)
i think that's just because basketball <<<< football at michigan. there was no revered program head, like Bo, etc.
That basketball and football were divergent at their starting points in where their program stood. Football was still a good-but-not-consistently-great program, allowing for many letdowns but having fairly good-to-great records after each year (despite the 0-2 debacle at the beginning of 2007, UM did recover enough to get to the Capital One Bowl and beat Florida in between their NC years.) So, football was a good program before RR was hired.
Basketball, on the other hand, with Amaker...not so much.
Beilein never got sucker-punched with a front-page media story leading to an NCAA investigation. Had that happened, I wonder if Beilein would still be here.
And, moreover, I wonder if Beilien would be able to recruit players like Stu Douglass, Zach Novak or Darius Morris if there was an ongoing investigation for a year and a half, and rumors about how he might not last to the following season.
No; the basketball program hasn't committed any major violations, to the best of our knowledge, so far. John Beilein's a lucky guy, in the sense that there hasn't been a disgruntled newspaper reporter after his job. Naturally, I am NOT suggesting that there is anything seriously wrong with the M basketball program under Beilein. I don't think there is. And after a scathing investigation, I likewise know that there was nothing seriously wrong with Michigan's football program under Rich Rodriguez, either. It just took a nasty, expensive, distracting, destructive investigation to be sure of that. An investigation that John Beilien would not want to have to endure for himself.
Had anyone contacted the University early on about supposed CARA violations, and had the University had gone through everything and self-reported what we now know, there'd have been no newspaper story, no high-profile investigation, and very likely no major violations. Oh, and no probation, either.
The newspaper story was crafted, calculated and timed to cause OUR football program the maximum harm. All to just to get at Rodriguez. Via an inevitable investigation, provoked by the publication.
And of course the real irony in your post is that you've done what you can to link it to Rodriguez personally, when the investigation showed him to be peripheral or else merely supervisory to some hyper-technical shit.
For Brady Hoke's sake, I hope he gets a better level of loyalty from people like you, than what Coach Rodriguez got. So far, the media difference is about 180 degrees. And it seems to guide an awful lot of general public perceptions.
Beilein bought himself more time by unexpectedly taking the team to the NCAA tournament in 2009, ending an 11-year drought. His first and third years were arguably comparable to RR's, but that surprisingly good second year was a big positive in his book.
I think the Shaeffer friction with the WVU guys was very interesting. What did RR do to diffuse or exacerbate the situation.
Really, this sounds like it will be the greatest book since Charlie Weis taught us all how to laugh with his hard-hitting, honest, self-aware "No Excuses"
That tension and its eventual resolution has felt to me like it was the center of all that went wrong. Anything we could find out about it would be good....
I agree. Schaffer has gone on to be a pretty good DC at Syracuse, turning around a Greg Robinson defense so it would be really interesting to see why he failed here and if he was really undermined by RR and Gibson, Tall and Hopson.
Does West Virginia really have only a single hardcopy record-keeping system?
Did Brandon offer to keep RR for at least 2011 on the condition that RR hire a new DC who would have complete control including being allowed to pick his own position coaches, and subsequently fire RR only after RR rejected this? I don't remember seeing anything on this. This question is moot if only DB and RR know what was said in that room
This would be interesting in conjunction with a broader question along the lines of "What did RichRod know at the time of the Bust last year?" to account for the weirdness of that whole scene.
This one of the top questions for me. I'd love to hear more about the most recent coaching search
Is a moron
Is a moron
I would ask if he got any insight into the Demar Dorsey situation and how Rich Rod identified recruits. What his overall recruiting strategy was.
He might not have had those kinds of discussions, but it would be interesting to hear about.