Mike Spath points out that doing an interview for the official site is a pretty good indicator he'll be back.
I know you're here today to find out who Michigan's next coach will be. I don't know. This is mostly eulogizing the last guy.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Ohio State game, I left Craig James and rivalry week results on the flickering telly and moved to my computer to post one of my first-ever diaries, a short train of thought called "Cue the Coping Mechanisms." The relevant pieces:
Now is the time for coping mechanisms. If you have the ability to cry, take this opportunity to lock yourself in a closet with your favorite Sheridan throwing chart and let it all out. If you're more Type A, head to the gym and repeat "3 AND 9" until you break your max rate.
Or if you're like me, find the woman you love, sit her down, and see how long you can try to explain why this losing won't be permanent before her level of really not caring or understanding what the hell you're talking about overpowers her concern for your mental health.
Probably because Misopogal and I bought the DVD of Across the Universe the night before, the whole time I was writing that, other than utter despair, my internal DJ was filling my head with "Strawberry Fields Forever."
The fields: Ohio Stadium. The bleeding strawberries: Ohio State's uniforms and the smeared and splattered plasma of once great Michigan left twitching amongst a five-year losing streak that seemed, at the time, destined to go to at least six.
We knew there was something terrible going on the world, where George Lucas could ruin Star Wars, where Henne and Hart could graduate without beating Ohio State, where a man from the land of Yost with Crisler's offense and Bo's will was greeted by the establishment of our side with contempt and disdain for not having the transitional loyalty of Kipke, or the eloquence, affability, and talent of Lloyd Carr. 2008 had ended 3-9, and somewhere Mike Valenti was giddily preparing for months of grave-stomping, and somewhere Drew Sharp was rubbing his hands at the glorious opportunity it provided to piss good people off.
At least there was solace:
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.
It's just sports, right? Everyone's alive. Everyone has their health. Except that doesn't work, because in 2008 I felt real despair, and in 2009 I felt real disappointment, and in 2010 I felt real shame, and a quick glance at my browser history will make the panic of 2011 immediately apparent. So if we are to get hung about this stuff, it'd be well to have some justification. The best I've heard yet is the following, from Brian's masterful eulogy of Bo/preview of the most important Michigan game ever:
And then you try to figure out why the stakes are so high in the first place. Why this entire week you haven't been able to concentrate on anything by war by proxy. Fake war by proxy. Meaningless war by proxy. You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area. It's ridiculous. Intelligent people do not spend a goodly swath of their life pouring emotion and precious time into a contest that affects no one and changes nothing except some inky scribbles in media guides.
You wonder why. It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?
The answer seems clear.
Now the man who took that rudderless program and gave it -- gave you -- all the things you like and don't like is dead. In 1969, it all started with a victory over #1 Ohio State.
…and ended with a loss to it. I posit that sports is not just war by proxy, but also politics by proxy, and value judgment by proxy, a binary system to serve as metaphor for any argument which in life is never resolved to any one side's satisfaction. A Michigan football game is won or lost. A recruit commits or doesn't. A coach is fired or retained, hired or left to pursue other opportunities.
In that battle, the aforementioned traits held dear – loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory – were defeated on the strawberry fields of Columbus, and Pasadena, and finally brought home in the twin horrors of early 2007. Those traits, adopted from Bo to represent the conference, were too drowned amidst the raucous choruses of "S-E-C."
That year went out with Lloyd carried upon the shoulders of star receivers and forgettable trenchmen, followed by a first overall NFL draft pick, and Robo QB, and led by a running back who was more Jamie Morris than Jamie Morris. But the most lasting image of 2007, in my mind, is neither the exeunt nor the scoreboard of the Horror, but a cold, sleeting day in Michigan Stadium when Henne's shoulder and Mike Hart's ankle and justice itself abandoned us, and Tressel Corp. made it four.
The years since have seen the rewarding of the villainous. It witnessed the rise of the Alabama and the SEC, a school and conference predicated on the concept of professionalizing college football, and witnessed the apogee of USC, the unapologetic Hollywood party. And it witnessed the continuing reign of Ohio State.
To view Michigan as the paragon of collegiate virtue is so much sanctimonious bunk, but to discount it entirely is to ignore sport's appeal as argument by proxy. This is what we believe about ourselves, why probation for a clerical error is a big deal here while Buckeyes can drive around in "borrowed" vehicles for a decade before someone bats an eyebrow, and schools, conferences, bowls and NCAA officials can excuse anything short of murder by its moneymakers to protect a BCS bowl and a Heisman run.
Right or wrong, we look at a Spartan and wonder how they can claim association with Dantonio without the shame. Our credulity is sincere when a Bama fan defends Saban's blatant ethical violations. We wonder how Ohioans can tune into the Sugar Bowl knowing most of their own conference is rooting against them, or at least that we see little difference between a Buckeye and the conference that's given them their widely publicized fits.
It's real because we make it so. And so, it follows, are the expectations of our head coach. Many of us naively believed that the Rodriguez hire was a chance for a new Bo to redefine Michigan in his own image and traits, some familiar, others not: honesty, hard work, openness, building a greater whole through the sum of specified parts. We saw ourselves beaten by Wildcats and Ducks and worse, and said "howcome we don't get one of those guys?" Well we got one of those guys, and we ran him out of town.
Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see..
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me.
So if you don't really think about what's going on in college football, if you take your platitudes with your visuals of man-beasts rumbling up and down a televised rectangle of gridded turf, then this is fine. The local papers, the talking heads, much of the fanbase, living easy with eyes closed, will bring up the values instilled by Bo, describe how Rodriguez didn't measure up, and conclude a "Michigan Man" is required to coach Michigan. This is a script, and it is misleading, for it supposes that the first three values of Bo – loyalty, honesty, tradition – were RR's greatest transgressions. That's because they're writing for a fanbase that believes our program, unlike the field, cares as much about that trio as for the fourth, victory.
Rich Rod was fired for two reasons: he didn't win, and Michigan fans were irreparably split over him. The first is mostly on him, but since he only had three years to accomplish a dramatic shift, it's not absolute. Most of the fault can be found in his handling of the defense, which fell far below even our modest expectations from '07. Shafer's apparent resurgence as a viable DC, and GERG's obvious inadequacies and unfamiliarity with the 3-3-5 put the defense in this position. To that you can add recruiting, which RR used his short '08 recruiting time to bring in a fine offensive class but merely held onto some Lloyd defenders. The defense he inherited was short on underclassmen and in desperate need of new blood and player development; instead we witnessed upperclassmen making freshmen mistakes and freshmen put in position to fail.
The split in the fanbase comes back to the winning – put it this way: Spartan fans aren't enamored with Dantonio because he's a good person, ye kennit? But this was also stoked by local media. Most notoriously, the Free Press published a total hit job that led to NCAA "major violations" that will never be severed from the Legend of Rich Rodriguez. Perhaps exoneration is in the future (probably when he turns whichever school hires him into a national power in four years); then again, "Remember the Maine…" remained a rallying cry against Spanish atrocities for half a century.
Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder can take personal responsibility for a part of Rich Rodriguez's failure, and by accounts of facial expressions and the atmosphere at Dave Brandon's press conference/execution, at the end they did. The investigation and sanctions created a cloud that hung over recruiting and the program. How big a cloud is difficult to say. What's fair to say is that it would be hard to find a coach given less of a benefit of the doubt from Year 1 by the prevailing local media than Rich Rodriguez. Rosenberg may have disliked the hick from West Virginia from the start, but really it was going 3-9 in 2008 that opened the door. Forget the early snafus over the No. 1 jersey and team captains – if you take away the practice scandal that has made Rosenberg, onetime alum, a disgrace to my profession and enemy to the University of Michigan, it was about the wins; it was always about the wins.
No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.
It's December 2008 and I can't wait for it to be 2011, because that's when Rich Rod would finally have a few upperclassmen on the two deep, and the prospect of getting better for a third year in a row would be enough to get some of the glibslingers to back off. But Craig James is still talking. Michigan State has forward momentum. Ohio State has consolidated its evil grip on the galaxy and unleashed its most monstrous creation, an erstwhile Jedi named Terrelle Vader.
In retrospect, we knew Anakin Pryor had some inclinations toward the dark side – driving a car borrowed from a Columbus dealership to Jeanettte, murdering younglings (but everybody murders), etc. Truth be told, the Emperor must have been rather disappointed with young Vader's inability to live up to his lofty expectations, that he would turn out to have serious personality problems, his loyalty to the Empire only going so far as the power and notoriety it brought him. In what was meant to be his great coming out party, the young Sith lord went and got his arms and legs chopped off and his torso burned. The Emperor would thereafter deploy his great weapon in a debilitating suit; keeping up the pretense that the guy is anything but evil would be all but impossible.
Still, for the duration of Vader's career, the Jedi came out far worse.
It's hard to find a more appropriate metaphor for the opposite directions taken by Michigan and Ohio State since Pryor's late decision day than Pryor himself. The unlikeable quarterback did finally exorcise the demon of SEC dominance over the perennial Big Ten Champion, but only after the NCAA passed down an utterly indefensible decision to let Pryor and a who's who of his hyped classmates defer their suspensions until next season. In typical fashion, Senator Tressel offered promises from Pryor and his teammates that they would come back next season to accept their punishment.
Meanwhile, Michigan left one of its most important players, Tate Forcier, at home for a bowl game about as important to the Rich Rodriguez project as any game prior, because of grades. That would hardly have fixed the entirely theoretical defensive effort, but it's emblematic of decisions consistent with the expectations of the Michigan fanbase. There are very few schools in our tree. Stanford is one, which was a big reason Harbaugh's success there had Michigan fans looking wistfully westward. Others are BYU, Notre Dame, and Penn State. That's not a conclusive list, but it does make a coaching search at Michigan exponentially more difficult, since outside of a small and shrinking minority of schools, which side of the force you use – unless it results in suspensions/violations – isn't a big deal.
Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know when it's a dream.
I think I know I mean a 'Yes' but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree.
When "Strawberry Fields Forever" was recorded in '66, it prefaced the most visible shift in the Beatles' musical direction, the unveiling of Tate before the Sgt. Pepper's of Denard. It was also pre-"Revolution" adjuration from John to the Great Society/Lord Wilson establishment that the young and liberal were moving away from their patronizing Democrat/Labor leaders.
Two years later the split was a fait accompli, or mostly. The potential for reunification came in the guise of Robert Kennedy, the right hand man of the last unifying figure, credible to both the elder and younger factions of the party. For years the spectre of Bobby was a kind of increasingly valued insurance policy should LBJ go sour. Then they killed Bobby.
What followed was a mess of a convention, a one-side-pleasing candidate, and Nixon. If you're an RR-hater smile now because if you take the analogy to its logical conclusion, Rodriguez is probably LBJ and the spread transition is the Vietnam War. I make no such assertion, mostly because I don't believe it one bit. What I do believe is that Michigan, internally and externally, has been functioning for the last several years with a mindset of "if Rich doesn't make it, at least we have Jim." This might even have been entirely true until last week, when the blood was spattered.
Absent Harbaugh, we're now thrown into a '68 scenario in one of the most critical times in our program's history, with only a vague hope of emerging with a candidate who can reverse the decade of the damned. Our best shot to unseat Ohio State in 2011 was the baby tossed with the bathwater of Rodriguez, and even a best-case scenario imagines Michigan just a middle of the conference team next year, with another exodus-enabled 3-9 the floor. The only way this isn't another rebuild is if they find a spread guy who's better than Rich Rodriguez (unlikely) and a defensive staff that can work miracles. Whatever name next comes out of Dave Brandon's lips, he'll at least be the first Michigan coach since 2008 to hit the trail without the cloud of "will he be here?" I wish I could say that Michigan gives you four years out of hand, but that's obviously no longer true. Among the plausible, I'm personally rooting for Tom Bradley, provided he agrees to a "no return" clause in his policy. If it's Les Miles, I'll do my best not to Rosenberg him until something more real than 20 minutes of practice materializes; FTR I'm not sure I like the combination of a man who weekly plays the Devil's odds and Michigan's consistently terrible luck.
Meanwhile, it's 321 days until the counter either goes to eight in a row, or I release the most jubilant noise in human history (yes, over the outcome of a sporting event!). Given the tenor of all things recently, you can forgive me if my expectations are more Strawberry Fields forever.
The diaries after the jump.
…but they apparently didn't make it. Meanwhile, the other plane that may or may not have Dave Brandon aboard is in Dallas, where a coaching convention is going on. So either Les Miles is approaching done or Brandon is in Dallas interviewing anyone who looks at him funny and the winged helmet plane heading to Baton Rouge every hour on the hour is just a bizarre coincidence.
Or both. It's likely that UM reps of some variety are in both places, so Les Miles is in play and they're talking but nothing is certain so they're trying to scout out backup plans.
Wait, there's something happening outside of football right now? Who knew?
|WHAT||Michigan v. #3 Kansas|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
4:30 PM EST
January 9th, 2011
|THE LINE||Michigan +10.5|
Though the victory over Harvard now gives Michigan a top-50 victim in RPI, Kansas is the Wolverines' last chance for a marquee victory in the non-conference - well, their last chance for another non-conference win at all. It won't be an easy task, as Kansas is one of the top teams in the country with a 14-0 record.
On the bright side for Michigan, the Jayhawks haven't been tested on the road much, with a single game at an opponent's home court. On the not-so-bright side, that was a 15-point win over a Cal team with approximately the same Kenpom rating as Michigan.
Kansas comes in with a stacked roster including the Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus) in the frontcourt, along with super freshman Josh Selby, who has emerged as a serious threat in the past five games (he was ineligible for the first nine) - and was described as possessing a "killer instinct" by onetime camp teammate Darius Morris. Add in a number of role players who would start at almost any other program in the country,
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Kansas: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Kansas Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. KU Def eFG%||83||7||K|
|Mich Def eFG% v. KU eFG%||72||1||K|
|Mich TO% v. KU Def TO%||32||38||-|
|Mich Def TO% v. KU TO%||261||96||KK|
|Mich OReb% v. KU DReb%||277||54||KKK|
|Mich DReb% v. KU OReb%||27||22||-|
|Mich FTR v. KU Opp FTR||331||53||KKK|
|Mich Opp FTR v. KU FTR||17||142||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. KU AdjD||74||1||K|
|Mich AdjD v. KU AdjO||66||8||K|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
OMG Rebounds and free throw rate are racists. Other than that, uh... gulp?
By any measure, Kansas should be able to run Michigan off the floor. Though Michigan can claim statistical stalemates in a couple areas, the Jayhawks have a huge edge in some of them.
Michigan has been able to scheme well against teams that have a good outside game or a good inside game so far this year, but they don't have the defensive firepower to handle a squad that has both. Kansas, the best-shooting team in the country on the basis of Marcus Morris pounding inside, and a number of outside shooters. Shutting down both will be the toughest task so far this season.
Then again, that was the case last year, too. Michigan had a much worse team (despite Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims's absence, I think there's no arguing otherwise at this point) and was playing on the road, but managed to hold the final margin to just eleven points.
That said, I'll be surprised if the Wolverines are able to pull this one off. This is a young team that has faced some adversity this year (and responded well to some of it), but no test as serious this one. Expect the Morris twins to each hit double-digits, and at least three Jayhawks to connect on at least four long-range shots.
On the other side, Darius Morris will struggle to get his offense, with strong perimeter defense preventing him from getting his jumpers, and a trio of the country's top 500 shot blockers patroling the lane (the Morrises along with sophomore Thomas Robinson). Zack Novak, not Morris, will be the Wolverine to notch a double-double. Jordan Morgan will struggle offensively, but do surprisingly well on D.
In the end though, Kansas has way too much talent for Michigan to overcome. They'll use the fastbreak to score more on Michigan than any team has so far this year, emerging with the 82-64 victory.
Les pun barrage avoided. The mandarins at LSU are sticking to their story that no one's talking to them about talking to Les Miles. The chancellor's version of yesterday's statement by the AD:
“No one has said anything to me,” Martin said. “But of course a lot of these things are done with agents now, behind the scenes.”
Just like LSU's recruiting. Hey-o!
It's contagious. Jennifer Hammond was patient zero in the Michigan edition of Fruitless Jon Gruden Naming but it's spreading: I have more than one account from actual sources indicating Michigan did interview him yesterday. With Gruden an interview is usually a brief conversation about how this guy makes more money than God by saying generic things on Monday Night Football, so don't get excited. I can't believe I'm actually relaying information about Gruden and Michigan but I guess if we've deployed flight tracking Gruden couldn't have been far behind.
If, like me, you've become inured to the constant Gruden-to-everywhere speculation that seems like it's been a major feature of American culture for the last fifty years you may be surprised to find out that he's a youthful 47 and could actually be plausible in a Pete Carroll sort of way.
Speaking of flights. So the winged helmet plane that touched down in Baton Rouge when Miles was in Dallas was there for all of two hours, then took off for South Carolina. What's in South Carolina? Um… well… a few days ago it was relayed to me that Lloyd Carr was in South Carolina. He supposedly has a vacation home at Hilton Head (restaurant to the stars!). The plane flew to… Hilton Head. It then went to a regional airport in Georgia, back to Hilton Head, headed out to Westchester County, and then went back to Hilton Head.
Ironically, Carr lit out for South Carolina because he was sick of people claiming he was the nefarious power behind the throne and just wanted to get away from everything and now a plane with a winged helmet painted on it is using his location as a hub. This is either
- an amazing coincidence, or
- David Brandon smoothing over Les Miles with Lloyd Carr and random incredibly wealthy NYC-based booster who is probably Stephen Ross.
Since a good source says Brandon actually is using the winged helmet plane—Dominos was a ruse!—I lean towards the latter; this seems like a fact corroborating the Les Miles buzz. I may have to apologize to Tiger Droppings.
[Ed.: Bumped for awesome.]
For pathos purposes only.
Rodriguez: Trouble at Schembechler!
Assistant: Oh no - what kind of trouble?
Rodriguez: One on't zone reed gone owt askew on spreadshred.
Rodriguez: One on't zone reed gone owt askew on spreadshred.
Assistant: I don't understand what you're saying.
Rodriguez: [slightly irritatedly and with exaggeratedly clear accent] One of the zone reads has gone out askew in the spread n’ shred.
Assistant: Well what on earth does that mean?
Rodriguez: I don't know – Mr. Magee just told me to come in here and say that there was trouble at Schembechler, that's all - I didn't expect a kind of Coaching Inquisition.
[The door flies open and Cardinal David Brandon of Domino’s enters, flanked by two junior cardinals. Cardinal Rosenberg has goggles pushed over his forehead. Cardinal Fatcatalumnus is just Cardinal Fatcatalumnus]
Brandon: NOBODY expects the Coaching Inquisition! Our chief Replacement Candidate is Hoke...Hoke and Miles...Miles and Hoke.... Our two Replacement Candidates are Miles and Hoke...and Patterson.... Our three Replacement Candidates are Miles, Hoke, and Patterson...and an almost fanatical devotion to Harbaugh.... Our four...no... Amongst our Replacement Candidates.... Amongst our Replacement Candidatery...are such candidates as Miles, Hoke.... I'll come in again.
[The Cardinals exit]
Rodriguez: I didn't expect a kind of Coaching Inquisition.
[The cardinals burst in]
Brandon: NOBODY expects the Coaching Inquisition! Amongst our Replacement Candidatery are such diverse candidates as: Miles, Hoke, Patterson, an almost fanatical devotion to Harbaugh, and nice red uniforms - Oh damn!
[To Cardinal Rosenberg] I can't say it - you'll have to say it.
Brandon: You'll have to say the bit about 'Our chief Replacement Candidates are ...'
Rosenberg: [rather horrified]: I couldn't do that...
[Brandon bundles the cardinals outside again]
Rodriguez: I didn't expect a kind of Coaching Inquisition.
[The cardinals enter]
Rosenberg: Er.... Nobody...um....
Rosenberg: Expects... Nobody expects the...um...the Coaching...um...
Brandon: Coaching Inquisition...
Rosenberg: I know, I know! Nobody expects the Coaching Inquisition. In fact, those who do expect -
Brandon: Our chief Replacement Candidates are...
Rosenberg: Our chief Replacement Candidates are...um...er...
Rosenberg: Hoke and --
Brandon: Okay, stop. Stop. Stop there - stop there. Stop. Phew! Ah! ... our chief Replacement Candidates are Hoke...blah blah blah. Cardinal, read the charges.
Fatcatalumnus: You are hereby charged that you did on diverse dates commit heresy against the House of Bo. 'My old Michigan Man said follow the--'
Rosenberg: That's enough.
[To Rodriguez] Now, how do you plead?
Rodriguez: I’m innocent.
Brandon: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Rosenberg: We'll soon change your mind about that!
Brandon: Miles, Hoke, and a most fanatical -- [controls himself with a supreme effort] Ooooh! Now, Cardinal -- the MAJOR VIOLATIONS!
[Rosenberg produces a ONE-PAGE LIST OF NCAA MAJOR VIOLATIONS. Brandon looks at it and clenches his teeth in an effort not to lose control. He hums heavily to cover his anger]
Brandon: You....Right! Tie him down.
[Fatcatalumnus and Rosenberg make a pathetic attempt to tie Rodriguez to the sheet of NCAA Major Violations]
Brandon: Right! How do you plead?
Brandon: Ha! Right! Cardinal, make the public [oh dear] make the public believe the violations.
[Rosenberg stands there awkwardly and shrugs his shoulders]
Brandon: [gritting his teeth] I know, I know you can't. I didn't want to say anything. I just wanted to try and ignore your crass mistake.
Brandon: It makes it all seem so stupid.
Rosenberg: Shall I...?
Brandon: No, just pretend for God's sake. Ha! Ha! Ha!
[Rosenberg pretends to publish the violations in the Free Press using a plastic coated dish rack as a printing press]
[Cut to them torturing Rodriguez]
Brandon: Now, Rodriguez -- you are accused of heresy on three counts -- heresy by Game Captains, heresy by Hick Accent, heresy by Not Understanding the Rivalry, and heresy by the Number One Jersey -- four counts. Do you confess?
Rodriguez: I don't understand what I'm accused of.
Brandon: Ha! Then we'll make you understand! Rosenberg! Fetch...THE INFLATABLE MICHIGAN MAN SEX DOLL!
[Rosenberg holds out an INFLATABLE MICHIGAN MAN SEX DOLL]
Rosenberg: Here it is, Lord.
Brandon: Now, Rodriguez -- you have one last chance. Confess the heinous sin of Tiny Slot Ninjas, reject the works of Casteel -- two last chances. And you shall be free -- three last chances. You have three last chances, the nature of which I have divulged in my previous utterance.
Rodriguez: I don't know what you're talking about.
Brandon: Right! If that's the way you want it -- Cardinal! Poke him with the Inflatable Michigan Man Sex Doll!
[Rosenberg carries out this rather pathetic torture]
Brandon: Confess! Confess! Confess!
Rosenberg: It doesn't seem to be hurting him, Lord.
Brandon: Have you got all the air in the schlong?
Rosenberg: Yes, Lord.
Brandon [angrily hurling away the Inflatable Michigan Man Sex Doll]: Hmm! He is made of harder stuff! Cardinal Fatcatalumnus! Fetch...THE $2.5 MILLION BUYOUT!
[Zoom into Fatcatalumnus's horrified face]
Fatcatalumnus [terrified]: The...$2.5 million buyout?
[Rosenberg pushes in a GIANT PILE OF MONEY]
Brandon: So you think you are strong because you can survive the Inflatable Michigan Man Sex Doll. Well, we shall see. Rosenberg! Put him in the Giant Pile of Money!
[They roughly push him into the Giant Pile of Money]
Brandon [with a cruel leer]: Now -- you will stay in the Giant Pile of Money until another coaching job opens up, with only a year-long break on ESPN as an analyst. [Aside, to Rosenberg] Is that really all it is?
Rosenberg: Yes, Lord.
Brandon: I see. I suppose we make it worse by shouting a lot, do we? Confess, man. Confess! Confess! Confess! Confess!
Rosenberg: I confess!
Brandon: Not you!
Don't look at me, lady. via
As of about 5:30 LSU's athletic director was saying he hadn't been contacted about Les Miles and would shoot any Yankee who came within 500 feet of him: "Les Miles is LSU's head coach and we are going to do everything we can to keep it that way. He has had great success here and we plan to keep enjoying that success under his leadership."
But now drums in the deep say that is one lying-ass athletic director:
Michigan expressed interest in talking to LSU coach Les Miles prior to the AT&T Cotton Bowl and it is expected the meeting will occur soon, sources told ESPN.
One source close to Miles said a time and place has not been finalized. Another source said the coach would give LSU 24 hours notification before the interview and that had not occurred. Miles, a Michigan alum, would be interested in listening to athletic director Dave Brandon, one source close to him said.
In this case, drums in the deep are Joe Schad. If you work for ESPN please change his password to this.
Now… this exact same article was written three years ago—almost to the letter—but apparently no meeting ever happened or was set up. Les Miles did get punched in the face with millions of dollars, though, and his agent probably plays "have a nice day" as part of his hype-up video to this day. I'm always deeply skeptical of "sources" who are talking to the WWL and no one else because a good chunk of the time they're lying-ass agents. ESPN scoops == 50% agent vapor.
Meanwhile, my inbox has accounts that 75% guarantee Brady Hoke will be coach having a dance-off with accounts that 75% guarantee Les Miles will be coach. I don't really believe any of them, because the one thing that seems like a rock-hard certainty is that about five people have any clue WTF is going on. Even last time when there was a committee leaking left and right, almost everything that got reported about Michigan guys turned out to be crap—Hoke was never in play, and neither was Miles—and the best information came from third parties who were close to Ferentz, Schiano, and eventually Rodriguez. Rodriguez and Schiano came so far out of left field that the actual media was ahead of the rumor train—the Sporting News was the first entity to mention Rodriguez in connection with Michigan even counting GoBlue1856 and his four posts on Rivals.
This time we're dealing with a pro-Hoke crowd who knows him personally and the LSU fanbase, so… yeah. Maybe that's just me engaging in wishful thinking that the next coach's best asset won't be his ability to find Cubs' AC without a GPS, but since those two guys are so bleedingly obvious it seems easy for misinformation about them to get passed around. A similar drumbeat about a guy without connections to Michigan would be an all but certain hire. This I don't know.
The thing I was told before this all started blowing up, long before it, was that for a lot of reasons Miles would never be seriously considered for the Michigan job. Obviously I'm wavering from that point but I still think Michigan's coach is more likely than not to be someone no one is talking about right now.
COMPLETELY BOGUS PERCENTAGES:
30% Brady Hoke
20% Les Miles
50% Hot Coordinator Du Jour
BONUS: We've officially reached that bit of the coaching search: sources say Jon Gruden is "interviewing for" the job, and by "interviewing for" FSD's Jennifer Hammond means "golfing in the vicinity of." Seriously, even she hashtags that baby "takeitwithagrainofsalt." Will do, Ms. Hammond.
On the candidate pool:
Several respected people, yourself included, have correctly bashed the concept of a "Michigan Man" being a criteria for coaching this job (especially since there are so few actual Michigan Men qualified for the job despite a 38-year era to cultivate it). But what about the feeling that the new coach must be a proven head coach at a decent school? Isn't that a bit elitist of our fan base and narrowing the field substantially?
Obviously having someone with a great track record in a BCS conference reduces the risk substantially, but we just spent 3-years learning that it doesn't eliminate the risk completely. Conversely:
- Florida has been the best program in the country the past few years and just hired an coordinator with no head coaching experience and no ties to the program.
- That same coordinator was being groomed to take over at Texas, another national power, despite only being their DC for two years.
- Nebraska is one of the all-time winningest programs and has returned to respectability (after a similar coaching debacle) by hiring a coordinator with no head coaching experience.
- Wisconsin has been a force in the conference since promoting a DC who had minimal experience.
- OSU has been one of the elite programs in the country after hiring a Div-1AA coach.
What makes us as a fan base require the candidates to be proven commodities at a big school? What about plucking an up-and-coming coordinator from somewhere who will work their tail off because it is their first job? Why aren't their names like that on all the list of candidates being thrown around?
When I put together a list of the six plausible-if-they-'d-come candidates a few days ago they were all D-I head coaches, but I was basing that off Dave Brandon's assertion in the press conference that they'd be looking for someone who's currently a college head coach. I'm not necessarily advocating it myself. In fact, with everyone on that list off the table or a real longshot to start, it's time to move on to hot coordinators at BCS schools.
You want a guy who is in the right age bracket with a track record of excellent performances on his side of the ball under a head coach that either specializes on the other side of the ball or is more of a CEO type: Pelini, Muschamp, and Bielema all fit that profile. So did Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, and Mark Richt. That's probably four of the fifteen most prestigious programs in the country plus knocking-on-the-door Oregon and Wisconsin. Hot coordinators aren't just for the middle of the pack.
Who's out there right now?
- Gus Mahlzahn, OC, Auburn. Turned down Vandy job for payday at Auburn but there's only so much you can pay an OC and Vanderbilt's a deathtrap he was probably using for leverage more than anything else. Obvious con is that he's a real Southerner from the South and this will set off fainting spells across the land.
- Brent Venables, DC, Oklahoma. A slight violation of the principles above since Stoops is a defensive guy but he's getting up there and has probably removed himself from the day-to-day operations enough that Oklahoma's consistently excellent defense is largely Venables. He's young (40) but has seven years as a DC under his belt. Midwest connections are lacking.
- Paul Chryst, OC, Wisconsin. Interviewed for but either didn't get or didn't take the Texas OC job, but has made the Wisconsin offense terrifying. At 45 about ready to move up after almost a decade as a successful OC. Downside: hard to think of a more extreme mismatch with Michigan's offensive talent. Actually five years older than Bielema so it would take an implosion in Madison for the fact Wisconsin's his alma mater to be relevant.
- Tom Bradley, DC, Penn State. I mean why not at this point, right? Bradley's interviewing for jobs left and right and if he's not actually the new guy at Pitt he clearly seems willing to move on. He's been the defacto head coach at Penn State for years, has been the backbone of their consistently excellent defense, and could bring along a big chunk of staff with him. Caveat: he'd have to agree to an exorbitant you-can't-go-home-again buyout.
- Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech. The backbone of the good bit of Virginia Tech. People have tried to pry him out of Blacksburg forever and he hasn't gone but they've been offering DC jobs, not the head chair. A glance at his stats is ridiculous: the last five years VT has been sixth nationally or better in yardage defense. Is 51, so if he's ever going to be a head coach now's the time. Has interviewed at Pitt.
That's a list not far off the list of head coaches with one important difference: Michigan's likely to get one of the above. Again, if Brady Hoke was a former Penn State assistant would he be more attractive than those guys? I prefer someone with a 20-year timeframe who's proven he can assemble half of a conference championship-caliber team in the BCS to someone who, you know, hasn't.
Malzahn might bring scoffs about Midwest ties and Southern oh noes and whatnot but look at him:
This man is kind of a dork. In certain shots he looks a bit like Alton Brown. The latest bit of fluff on him from Pat Forde deploys the phrase "impregnable earnestness." He's also 45 and was the guy in charge of three wildly different, wildly successful offenses in five years as a coordinator. The fourth and fifth years were not quite as amazing but still saw teams rocking Chris freakin' Todd and freshman Mitch Mustain at quarterback finish 18th and 29th in total offense. Brandon mentioned offensive flexibility in the press conference. Mahlzahn offenses have been run-mad (2006 Arkansas and 2009-10 Auburn), pass-mad (2007 Tulsa) or both (2008 Tulsa).
There will be questions about recruiting and ties and whatnot but with Harbaugh gone we're now picking between questions, and I prefer "will this guy with an awesome offense that fits Denard like whoah be able to recruit and find a DC?" to "how long will a pro-style rebuild take and how much of my soul will die watching Denard play for someone else?"
I mean, who would Jeremy Foley hire?
Why not Mike Gundy? Other than the presser blowup and the whole leaving your alma mater thing, he'd seem like a good hire.
He's a man and he's now 43, so he's in a good spot as far as longevity but I didn't throw Gundy on the list because the blowup seemed like it would be offputting in the aftermath of Press Consumes Rodriguez Alive As Family Watches In Horror. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens will match anything Michigan can put out there and there is the whole alma mater thing. I didn't think he was plausible since the situation was "Pat Fitzgerald except the school can pay him."
In the name of equal time, section in which Hoke is defended:
How you could advocate Patterson over Hoke is absolutely beyond me. Patterson has no ties whatsoever to the midwest. He has only recruited Texas, yes his schemes are fundamentally sound but as we saw with RR there is way more to football than that. I wholeheartedly disagree with you on that one. Give Hoke as much time as Patterson has had in the Mountain West and he will have as much success.
Seriously? How on earth are we supposed to expect that a guy who's had two years in eight above .500 is as good of a coach as a guy with 8 of 10 above .500, most of them featuring eleven wins—TCU has won 11 games six(!) times under Patterson. He's vastly more proven than Hoke, whose single comparable season ended with blowout losses against Buffalo and Tulsa. Patterson just beat Wisconsin. There is absolutely no comparison between their resumes.
"Ties to the midwest" are somewhat important, but a couple local assistants can help smooth over any minor recruiting bumps and shouldn't outweigh a record of 98-28 over ten years. Ten years! Averaging 9.8 wins per year! Flargabargaegabarb.
Despite my antipathy for him it's not like Hoke is a guaranteed failure. However, it's hard to see him not providing another awkward transition period and then being at the tail end of his career by the time he gets something up and going. The upside is low, and frankly I don't want to return to whatever philosophy Carr had at the end of his career when OSU zoomed by him and Michigan flailed about with no answers. Michigan is in this situation because the Carr coaching tree doesn't exist and his version of bringing in Bret Bielema (a wildly successful DC at Kansas State) or Chip Kelly was to gradually force out Terry Malone in favor of Mike DeBord. Look at what Mack Brown's doing at Texas and compare it to the way Carr went out.
I want nothing to do with anyone who was a part of that unless someone else has employed them in a similar capacity because it's clear who you know became more important than anything late. Michigan cannot go home again and would be making a mistake by trying.
[Ed: In case you were wondering what that business about dolla bills was...]
At Wednesday’s press conference, Brandon made reference to Michigan’s mediocre compensation package. I knew that Michigan didn’t pay top dollar for coaches, but when I heard Brandon refer to it as “middle of the road” and “unacceptable”, dude/etts… how can that be? It’s Michigan; we have scratch if nothing else. So, I embarked on a mission with the following objectives: 1) Define middle of the road and 2) recalibrate the coaching salary budget. I have learned, at the very least, a meaningful chunk of the explanation to a few issues we have observed.
For this study, I used USA Today’s Database of coach’s salaries for 2010.
What is Middle of the Road?
To answer this question a more sophisticated look is needed than my reflexive answer: the average or 50th percentile of the population. In Michigan’s case, the population could mean at least three things.
All FBS schools, pop.: 120. Pretty straight forward as to who’s included here. Middle of the road would be top-60 money. No way, Michigan has more money than Indiana, let alone Louisiana Monroe. This population is out.
All BCS AQ schools, pop.: 66. Again straight forward and more reasonable. Middle of the road is top-33 money. A useful benchmark.
“The FBS Hegemony”, pop.: 15 (or so). I have some ‘splaining to do here. Before 1980 college football was pretty different from what we see today: scholarship limits have changed, the passing game has been allowed to evolve, and the Florida schools have emerged. Not to mention the basic amateurism and substitution rules changes that occurred prior to 1970. In college football, anything before 1980 is simply a by-gone era.
As such, I define the “hegemony” as those schools who could plausibly win a mythical national championship in the modern era. To determine these I’ve looked at the schools who have actually won one since 1980, only 19 schools qualify. Of those, only 12 have won an MNC since 1990 and still could: Alabama, Florida, Florida St., LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio St., Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, USC. Since Notre Dame gets special BCS consideration, they’re in. Then there’s another rotating crop of schools that could plausibly vie for an MNC today (Penn St, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Auburn, and Oregon) but haven’t done so in the last 25 years. Fifteen feels like a good number to work with, though I think a reasonable argument could be made for 20. I’m going with 15. So, middle of the road for “the hegemony” would be top-8 money.
Assessing Michigan’s Compensation Package
For simplicity’s sake, I focused my attention on University-based pay for Head Coaches and their staff (total). Of the 112 programs available in the database, the $2.5M Michigan paid Rich Rodriguez in 2010 is better than middle of the road for BCS schools (top-12 in FBS), but basically middle of the road (9th out of 15) for MNC-plausible schools included in the database.
When it comes to assistant coaches, things are different; unfortunately for everyone involved. In 2010, Michigan peeled of $1.8M in compensation for former Coach Rodriguez’s staff ranks in the 73rd percentile for the 112 programs listed (top-31 money) but dead last amongst the big dogs. Who among us is willing to pay more money for better defensive assistants? No one, I’m sure… /s.
I sooo don’t want to rehash but it’s clear that Rich Rodriguez had a specific vision for what he wanted his defense to be capable of and there he knew just the guy to do it (not shown at right). The word on Hoover street is that Jeff Casteel just liked West FUCKING Virginia too much to come to Ann Arbor. OK. Homeboy earned just over $372k last year. Allow me to visualize a phone call between Rich and Jeff circa Thanksgiving 2008:
RR: Hey! Jeff, buddy, pal, friend-o-mine; how goes it?
JC: Aiight, I guess. I kinda miss my homies and it sucks being Brian Kelly’s bitch, but the squad is doing ok down here and I’m super glad that I didn’t uproot my family to move to Michigan and deal with THAT cluster-[bleep], you know?
RR: Totally... *sigh* [collects himself] So, how would you like to bring your sweet-ass defensive coordinating ability and concepts to ace deuce next year? Our helmets got wings… ah? AH? Have I ever told you that you raise me up so I can stand on mountains? That, with you around, I can walk I stormy seas? That I am strong when I am on your shoulders? That you raise me up to more than I can be?
JC: Yo… get a grip, G. What have those hippies done to you, yo?
I dunno, bro; I kinda like it here and like I said, it looks like you have a cluster-[bleep] on your hands--
JC: Hey, Stewart! Eat a [hot dog]! See you tomorrow, Rich, buddy, pal, friend-o-mine.
Or something like that. By “like that” I mean verbatim.
Gerg was our second highest paid assistant last year at $270k, but really he only made $5k less than Magee. Guess what the top two assistants in the hegemony averaged in 2010 excluding Muschamp…about $425k. We had the lowest paid offensive and defensive coordinators by at least $25k and we were $100k away from middle of the pack.
Nope, that won’t do for a team trying not to suck. Bill Martin made many mistakes, but being cheap is the only one I find
impossible very difficult to forgive.
It goes on. You get the picture but, in case you don’t here’s a chart; gotta have a chart:
That thar is bullshit.
How Much Would You Pay to Not Suck?
$6.5 Million per year, exactly. No less than $5.7M
Jim Harbaugh commanded a salary at that Nick Saban / Mack Brown level ($5M per year). Pretty steep but I’d shell it out this very second… Anyway, Meyer, Stoops, Miles, Tressel are at the $4M range. To be the program everyone
used to thinks of when they hear MICHIGAN--you know, part of the hegemony. Right?—we need a head coach worth at least $3M (Mark Richt) and probably more like $4M (Jim Tressel - $3.5M)If you’re going to beat Tressel don’t you have to, you know, beat Tressel?
As for assistants, the golden ratio fits very nicely: 62% of budget on head coach, 38% of budget on the rest of the staff. That equates to a total budget of $6.5M.
But Wait, There’s More…
I think Michigan should be will to pay top dollar for the ultimate prizes (Bowl Wins, B1G Championships, National Championships). We need escalators for each accomplishments for everyone on the staff. Something like this:
Staff - Bowl Win: +5% Salary
Staff - B1G Championship: +10% Salary
Staff – National Championship: +35% Salary
All cumulative. So, winning a National Championship would increase each staff member’s pay by 50%. At a budget of $5.7M, a national championship would result in an outlay (salaries and bonuses) equal to Alabama’s base 2010 salary budget ($8.4M).
Boom, let’s get to work.
Assistant type folk I’d like to see M land/go after once we have a horse:
- Chuck Heater – Formerly DB / co-DC at Florida; played at Michigan with Dave Brandon.
- Teryl Austin – Formerly DC at Florida; DB coach for two Super Bowl Teams (Seattle 2003, Arizona 2006); defensive backs coach in prime Carr years (1999 - 2002).
- Scot Loeffler – Coached and/or recruited Tom Brady, Drew Henson, John Navarre, Chad Henne, Ryan Mallet at Michigan.
- Phil Bennett - Impressive 2009 national ratings in sacks (3.62 sacks/game), rushing defense (17th, 106.31 yards/games), scoring defense (19th, 19.77 points/game) and total defense (23rd, 319.31 yards/game). In 2010 Pitt ranked 9th in total defense (304 ypg).
- Bill McGovern - 2010 Eagles ranked #1 nationally in rushing defense (80 ypg), 13th in total defense (310 ypg), 19th in scoring defense (19.5 ppg)in the ACC in rushing defense, allowing just 103.2 rushing yards per game.
Everyone but McGovern is currently available AFAIK. It’s guys like this that make me most nervous about not having an HC locked down right now. I’d feel much better about Brady Hoke if I knew who he would have in tow with him if he were to be hired.
Still, I prefer to find someone who commands a $3-4 M salary.
We'll get started between 12:30 and 12:45. The game is at 1 on NBC.
Oh, Lord. Kelvin Grady is using the twitter cryptically:
And Flight Aware caught that winged helmet Learjet touching down in Baton Rouge, so it's time to blow up again. Yes, Les Miles is in Dallas. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the winged helmet Learjet has nothing to do with the university. No, WE WILL NOT BE DISSUADED FROM EXPLODING.
So LSU boards are virtually overrun with speculation about Miles leaving Michigan, and Miles was less definitive in his post-Not Cotton Bowl press conference and there's a LA radio station* reporting that Miles will take the Michigan job "within 48 hours." Of course, I'm listening to it at the moment and the first caller is deliciously confrontational, forcing the guy to back off a little bit. "His sources" directly contradict random radio guy's sources, which given the track record of radio stations when it comes to breaking news is just about as worthwhile. They pegged their confidence at "8 or 9 out of ten."
Despite that radio call-in smackdown, there is an absolute ton of buzz about Miles to Michigan from the LSU side of things. I have a second-hand non-gospel report originating from LSU boosters saying he's gone that's two days old now and Tiger Droppings has been burning up with stuff. You take the word of message boards at your peril but as a guy who's wandered around them for years the widespread buzz has the air of something true.
On the other hand, if Miles is leaving he's apparently not only not told his players but bluntly lied to them:
Russell Shepard just told me Les Miles assured team he's coming back. Not going to Michigan. … So have many others.
He did cut that one guy with a form letter so maybe they haven't checked their mail recently.
I've made my opinion clear on this: Miles is old, has enthusiastically adopted the tao of SEC, and just saw his program take a more serious hit from the NCAA than Rodriguez did. Even if it works out in five years Michigan is going to be saddled with a coach exactly as old as Carr was when he retired and will either get to experience the extended senescence of a guy who's already wacky or experience yet another transition. I would prefer Brady Hoke.
I'm probably alone in this, I know.
UPDATE: More from LSU players:
"He said, 'They have rumors going around about (me) going to Michigan, but it's not true,'" Jefferson said. "'It's nonsense.' He said hasn't spoken to anybody, anything about Michigan. We're going to stick with that and get ready for next year." …
"He told us this is his football team and this is where he's going to be," Ridley said. "We respect our coach, and this is our coach for right now, and we're going to enjoy him as long as we can. Coach Miles is a Tiger. This is his group of guys, and he's proud of us. I think this is where he will be next year."
Seems fairly unambiguous there.