Okay, last installment. For the previous installments, see: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/three-and-out-100-pagesfor the first 100 pages, and http://mgoblog.com/diaries/three-and-out-pages-100-250 for pp. 100-250. Also, you might want to check out the comments to those entries for more exposition and clarification.
It’s clear that this whole book, and this subject, reopen a lot of old wounds and dig up a lot of old debates. I’ve actually thought a little bit over the past two days about what a couple commenters said, which was that they don’t think they’ll read the book because of a handful of reasons, notably because, well, it’s in the past, and why dig up old bodies, beat dead horses, reopen old wounds? I am conflicted by that notion. In a way, I understand that line of thinking- reading this book isn’t a fun exercise after a certain point because it reminds the reader of the agony of those 3 seasons. It is not a happy tale, and today, we have a new regime, a 6-0 team, and things are looking up. At the same time, I think it’s hard to discuss the past regime, the differences between Hoke & Co. and the past regime, and, most importantly, the differences between the two transitions without revisiting the dark days of late 2007-January, 2011. But the more I read the book, I could come to appreciate the idea that rehashing all of the negativity may not be something that many wish to do. That being said, I think it will be hard going forward to discuss the RR era without reading this book, even if you doubt the “spin” put on the story contained within its pages.
Again: this book is written from the RR perspective. Bacon was following RR, his team, etc. So a grain of salt (which many have rightfully pointed out) is wise.
These are just my musings on what jumped out at me, things I found interesting (personally) and thought that those who haven’t gotten a chance to read this yet might also find interesting. I actually finished the book a couple of days ago, but haven’t had a chance to write this yet.
One thing that strikes me is that the team really seems to stick together throughout all of the negativity- the Free Press stuff, the losing, the rumors, etc. Over and over again, Bacon muses that he figures the team would quit on the staff, that, at times, they probably should quit on the staff, etc. He seems to look for cracks in the team’s drive/mission/togetherness, especially throughout 2009’s slide and in 2010 when the players themselves are fully aware of all the rumors. But if that was ever the case, he didn’t see it. Until, perhaps, the Mississsippi State bowl game, where the seniors, at least (but really more likely the whole team) were of the impression that RR was done, win-or-lose (more on that below).
The Les Miles stuff was purely for show and to appease the fanbase. He says, quote, that Les Miles would be Michigan’s head coach “over my dead body” when RR asked him about it when the rumors reached a fever pitch in late December 2010. The book doesn’t say why. I have a feeling that there are multiple reasons, and at the very least, some of the nastiest rumors must be either a.) true, or b.) believed by enough people in the Michigan community who actually have a say in things (LC, Brandon, among them) that Les was never a serious candidate.
Brandon also handled the transition infinitely better than Bill Martin from a “players leaving” standpoint. As soon as it was announced, he (DB) called a meeting with the players and asked them not to leave. Far cry from LC holding a meeting and saying “if you want to leave, I’ll sign.” DB told the players if there was a mass exodus, they’d be “crippling” the program.
Furthermore, after DB left the room, Molk, Van Bergen, and the other seniors-to-be stood up and said, essentially, “don’t leave. We’ve all come too far.” Seems everyone had learned from the 2007 debacle.
Also of note: Dave Brandon said that he’d talked to “lots of players” before making the decision to fire RR, and that his “door was always open” and had always been open. Apparently not to Denard Robinson. Denard requested an audience with Brandon multiple times between the U of M Bust dinner and the bowl game, both in Ann Arbor and after they’d all gotten to Jacksonville. Brandon never met with him during that time.
The 2010 Bust, Josh Groban, December 2010, and Senior Exit Interviews
To Bacon, this is where RR’s tenure ended. He seems to think that after the Groban debacle, RR was toast. Many people were exchanging uneasy glances as he started doing it (asking for the song to be played) saying (by their looks) please don’t do this. When the lights went up, Bacon says that even RR supporters whom he knew were, essentially, like “yeah…that was bad, and he’s done.” Also, apparently, there were rumors that Fox Sports and others were offering $50-100k for the tape. Dave Brandon told the film crew who were present that if the tape of the incident were released, they’d never have access to Michigan again.
Seniors conducted exit interviews with the A.D. (associate AD Greg Harden) in the weeks following the bust (but before the bowl game) and the conclusions the players reached was that Rich Rod was gone. The student managers told Bacon that, point blank, the seniors all “knew” RR was getting fired and, thus, “no one wanted to be here.” I’m talking about the student managers talking about what the players told them. And that trickled down from the seniors to the rest of the team. “They realized winning would bring not freedom from their burdens—as it would have earlier in the season—but an extension of them. The way things were set up, they had more incentive to lose than to win.” (P. 419). That quote is clearly Bacon’s opinion.
During this time, the coaches themselves were concerned. Rich Rod, of course, had a contract. His assistants did not. The assistants “knew that other schools might be interested in them—particularly Maryland—if Rodriguez would just entertain the offers, but he steadfastly refused.” (P. 418). Apparently, his assistants refused overtures (if there were any) as well, as Rodriguez said that none of them had approached him in the time between the tOSU game and the bowl game saying that they’d either a.) reached out to other schools, or b.) were considering offers from other schools.
On Hoke, from Dan Dufek: “He’ll be successful because we’re not going to do to him what some of those guys did to Rich,” talking about the former players, etc. (P. 428).
The school orders rings for every bowl game. They are allowed to do so and give them to all members of the coaching staff and football staff who were on the staff at the time of the bowl game. Michigan ordered Gator Bowl rings, but didn’t give them to RR and his assistants and any that RR had hired. They did give one to Scott Draper. When RR came to UM in 2008, even WVU sent him one from their Orange Bowl trip. Petty, not that important, but still…ugh.
When RR was fired, Brandon told the players that the new staff would pick its assistants and its strength staff, but that Barwis was still employed by the University. Sometime in either January or February of 2011, Florida State offered Barwis a package that would make him the highest paid strength coach in the country, a multi-year deal, and would employ all of his staff. He turned them down, as he was still coaching at Michigan and, assumedly, thought Hoke might keep him and his staff. In March, Hoke went a different direction, so Barwis opened BarwisMethods in Michigan.
Rodriguez isn’t the one who alerted the Big Ten to the punch by one of Purdue’s players (in a game not against Michigan) that got the player suspended. It was actually someone in Purdue’s own athletic department. However, after the Michigan-Purdue game in 2009, Hope pulled the stunt where he grabbed RR’s hand and brought the player (Zach Reckman)over and said “I want to introduce you to the man who got you suspended.” After that stunt, RR had a quote that I found humorous, which he blurted out after he told Rita what happened: “Bullshit! I gotta get my ass beat by a junior high school, no-class asshole?” I think JHSNCAH should be Hope’s acronym from here on out.
Justin Turner and Wingless Wolverines
So, summertime workouts are voluntary. Showing up to the first day of fall practice, however, is not. In the summer of 2010, Tate, Gallon, Austin White, and Justin Turner showed up to fall camp out of shape, after having loafed throughout the summer. Turner famously said of the S&C staff (when one of his teammates warned him): “they can’t break me.”
The team had a conditioning run, and the three who didn’t make in the time for their position group were White, Gallon and Turner. Tate made it, barely, by diving across the line. However, his landlord then called RR and told him Tate hadn’t been paying his rent. So these four gentlemen got two pieces of special punishment: no wings on their helmets until they earned them back, and a “Breakfast Club” conditioning workout.
Amazingly, RR himself did the drills with them, at least for the first part of the Breakfast Club drills. They involved a stairmaster, then lots of situps. It lasted only 45 minutes, but clearly had an impact on Turner. The workout ended at 7 am. He asked for a transfer by 2 pm.
This is mentioned on page 342. “…the contracts Michigan offered at the time did not permit (RR) to hire his first choice for many coaching positions, including defensive coordinator. In hindsight, he would probably agree that insisting on guaranteed contracts for his coordinators and cutting $100,000 out of the new weight room budget to secure Casteel- plus a multiyear contract- would have been wise, as would making recruiting an acclaimed kicker a high priority.”
RR and the NCAA
He paid most of his life savings (cash savings) on his own attorneys in the NCAA investigation (over $300k). This was to ensure that the charge that he, RR, failed to promote an environment of compliance was vigorously fought, as it wasn’t (in his mind) the University’s top priority. (I actually agree with him here: in any case where the individual employee and the company’s interests are both at stake in any lawsuit, which an NCAA investigation is, sort of, I strongly advise all of you to have your own counsel, not just the one hired by your company. Just my $.02).
Michigan ranks 5th or 6th in the Big Ten in spending on football (or at least that’s what RR thought, which surprised him). P. 397.
Barwis had a tear come to his eye after we beat Illinois last year in triple overtime. I didn’t even know that was possible.