this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
I still believe Kirk Ferentz was someone's first choice to be Michigan's next head coach. We'll never know, but the preponderance of rumormongering from here and elsewhere is hard to deny absent any contradictory hypotheses.
From a neutral perspective, Ferentz was a weird first option. He was successful... three years ago. Because of that rapidly receding success he was paid six kazillion dollars a year. And he was way ethical if you ignore the spate of questionable characters he recruited over the past few years and the housing scam he ran with his son.
But by God, he looked like an honest man. Nice jaw. Appealing salt-and-pepper hair. Aura of calm politeness at all times. Super hot daughters and strapping lad sons. People began to question his performance, but most of the opinion directed at Iowa's extended run of Facebook terrorism was meta-criticism: "isn't it weird no one's giving Iowa heat"?
Ladies and gentlemen: heat. This Iowa stuff that's gone down? Heavy. In sum:
- Cedric Everson (remember him?) and Abe Satterfield allegedly have nonconsensual sex with another Iowa athlete.
- The university suspends and eventually boots Everson and Satterfield, but pressures the victim into handling it "in house," allows Everson to move in with his girlfriend(!) three doors down from the victim, and generally appears to have no inclination towards actually doing something until the victim files formal charges.
- Some recruit is chased by eight cops whilst naked, racking up Iowa's 634th arrest in the last three years.
The mother of the victim was so incensed she released a scathing letter originally sent to Iowa eight months after she originally sent it. This is the money quote:
"University of Iowa's character was non-existent. It is disappointing to say the very least," the alleged victim's mother said in a phone interview. "We were told the school will take care of it. We will keep it in house. We will be swift. We will be just, and you don't have to worry about it."
And this is the money quote about Kirk Ferentz, Michigan's probable first choice coach in November:
Speaking of dorm rooms, the alleged assault occurred in a "ghost room," registered to a third player but unoccupied. After the incident, according to affadavits obtained by the Press-Citizen, Ferentz ordered the player to reoccupy the room, and a different player moved into the room as well. The room was never secured, evidence was never gathered from it, and the incoming players cleaned all the mess from the alleged assault. [mess including a used condom and sheets with an "orangish-reddish" substance on them -ed]
When I read the Press-Citizen article the first time around I thought it was a case of university bureaucracy exhibiting spectacular stupidity, not malice. This is not. It certainly appears like the behavior of the athletic department -- keep it "in house" because Iowa's got a first class prison right next to the chem building, throw away the evidence contained in the ghost room, keep it vague in the media -- was mostly concerned with whether or not they could salvage the careers of two defensive backs.
Black Heart, Gold Pants has been calling for mass resignations, and I'm not quite there. But Kirk Ferentz is alleged to have instructed two football players to
destroy evidence in a rape case involving another football player occupy a room he knew was a crime scene. [Update: clarification; Ferentz probably didn't say "you go destroy that evidence"; he did tell someone to move into a room that he knew would be of police interest.] If that turns out to be true (since that information is based on affadavits given by the players who moved into the room, that's highly likely), Ferentz immediately sets up shop one level above Dave Bliss in coaching hell.
We've heard an awful lot about Rich Rodriguez's lack of character this offseason because he changed jobs, tried to reduce his buyout, and said some silly things about the truth coming out. This was despite a seven-year run without a hint of NCAA sanctions and repeated weak showings in the Fulmer Cup. Meanwhile, Iowa is imploding and it took the most serious allegations leveled at a college head coach since the Bliss incident for anyone to notice. If you hadn't listened to Kirk Ferentz and Rich Rodriguez, hadn't seen pictures of their wives, couldn't hear their accents, this would all be terribly mysterious.
But we have and it's not. The whispered accusation about Rodriguez -- he's a hillbilly -- is true. He shops at Costco and is only interested in Rudyard Kipling if he's 17 years old and benches 400 pounds. He makes goofy jokes at press conferences and occasionally says things you wish he hadn't. He does not inspire third-party confidence like Bo or even Lloyd did. He is not a titanic figure astride the globe, molding young men into little Academic All-American Adonises. He is resolutely, publicly human, full of venal sins. He is impossible to truly adore in the way college football fanbases wish to adore their proxy father figures. He punctures the "Michigan Man" myth every day. He, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, is just this guy, you know?
And, like, okay. I'm nearly 30. I have a father. I just want someone who will win football games and not utterly disgust me when the scales fall from my eyes and the preposterous lie is exposed for all to see. I prefer my heroes poor and uncertain of their future, anyway.
|Head Coach, Iowa|
|Assistant HC & OL Coach w/ Baltimore||1993-1999|
|HC @ Maine||1990-1992|
|OL Coach @ Iowa||1981-1989|
|"academic all-Yankee Conference linebacker" at then lower-division UConn.|
Three years ago, Kirk Ferentz was a folk hero in Iowa, NFL teams were stabbing each other just to get an interview with the guy, and if you had told a Michigan fan he would be the man to take over from Lloyd Carr, he would laugh gleefully then punch you for getting his hopes up. Ferentz had just completed a remarkable turnaround, taking a moribund Iowa program that went 1-10 in his first year to the BCS and finishing #8 three consecutive years.
Iowa promptly made Ferentz one of the highest-paid coaches in the land; Ferentz returned the favor by going one game over .500 the next three years. Michigan fans still want to punch people at the idea of Ferentz as the new coach, but for entirely different reasons.
The de rigueur Stassen comparison is not as flattering to Ferentz -- the decade before his arrival saw Iowa win at a 57% clip, good for around 40th nationally -- because he had the misfortune to directly succeed Hayden Fry, a Hall of Fame coach who was Iowa's version of Bo. Most of the other guys this series has considered were preceded by literal losers; that's why they got the job.
Ferentz walked into an unusual situation at Iowa, directing a program with a history of success that had fallen on hard times as the previous coach held on too long. This may sound familiar. (Michigan's situation is far less of a disaster -- Fry went 3-8 his last season.) How should we judge his tenure? It's hard to assign blame for either of his first two years, in which Iowa bottomed out at 1-10 and 3-9, but going 7-5 in your third year is not a huge accomplishment at a place like Iowa, even if the previous two years were ugly. Iowa's a 7-5 kind of program, long term, and that's an average performance.
No one questions the next three years, when Brad Banks and Drew Tate built Iowa into a burgeoning Big Ten power as Penn State fell off the radar; everyone questions the most recent three. Ferentz does have some good excuses: the last two years Iowa was injury- and discipline-wracked on the same level Michigan safeties were during the Year of Infinite Pain. Check this midseason assessment out from Black Heart, Gold Pants:
Anyway, this weekend, Iowa is without the following elements of the team, all of whom were '07-eligible on campus the middle of the spring semester:
- Starting WR Dominique Douglas
- Starting WR Andy Brodell
- Starting TE Tony Moeaki
- Starting LT Dace Richardson
- Second-string OL Alex Kanellis
- Second-string OL Rob Bruggeman
- Second-string WR Anthony Bowman
- Third-string TB Shonn Greene
- Third-string OL Clint Huntrods
- Starting FS Devan Moylan
- Starting MLB Mike Klinkenborg
- Second-string FS Marcus Wilson
- Second-string CB Justin Edwards
- Second-string DT Ryan Bain
- Third-string CB Amari Spievey
All but three (Moeaki, Moylan, Col. Klink) are gone for at least the rest of the season. Most will never play another snap for Iowa.
At this point three other as-of-yet unnamed players were being held out despite Iowa's severe need because of an ongoing sexual assault investigation, so that's a total of 18 kids Iowa did not have at its disposal. Throw in a new starting quarterback and it's pretty obvious why Iowa's offense was 117th in the country.
Digression: midway through the first quarter of the Oregon-Arizona game I thought to myself "Chip Kelly is a genius." Then Dennis Dixon, apparently already playing on a torn ACL, took the wrong step and exited from the season. Oregon since: negative seventy points, negative six trillion yards.* Sometimes it really is out of your hands as a coach. Sometimes you've just got Brady Leaf and... like... damn, dude, what do you do?
But to go 6-6 when you have 4 nonconference gimmes and no Michigan or Ohio State is beyond explanation. And in 2006 a senior Drew Tate finally had a healthy Albert Young and the Hawkeyes still went 2-6 in the Big Ten. Yes, the receivers were young and the offensive line spotty and the defense banged up, but can we submit that anyone in is 8th year at a decent program like Iowa who is a great coach should not go 2-6 in the Big Ten?
Frustration is building at Iowa; when Ferentz' name first came up I quoted some BHGP frustration that sounded eerily familiar:
I mean, seriously, change some names and this BHGP passage could have been lifted verbatim from the comments of this blog during the Ohio State game:
We wasted the best front seven since 2004 on an offensive line which flat out refused to block anyone. We wasted the best running back tandem since Russell/Lewis on a quarterback who couldn't hit an open receiver and receivers who didn't catch the ball when he did. We wasted a tough, classy, downright professional group of seniors on a team filled with convicts and thugs and a coaching staff that was too f---ing stubborn to even attempt to fix the all-too-obvious problems.
Oh, oh, and this one:
Defenders of this coaching staff have repeatedly said, "the coaches put players in position to win, and it's the players' fault for not performing." Assuming (I think incorrectly) that this system would actually lead to success, it's the job of the coaches to prepare these players both schematically and technically. If the players are unable to perform effectively in otherwise correct schemes, the players must be more technically sound, the players must be replaced by those who can perform, or the schemes must be adjusted to account for a lack of talent/knowledge.
Initial promise, disappointing recent results, an epic swath of disciplinary and injury problems, outdated strategy, and a prim propriety in public? Lloyd Carr clone, come on down.
Xs and Os Proficiency: Ferentz has never been a coordinator on any level, leaping from offensive line coach to head coach twice without any intermediate stops along the way. So this is mostly a "not applicable."
Anyone who's watched Iowa can see the philosophical similarities between the two programs: run the ball, play tough D, punt a lot, and for God's sake never take any risks whatsoever. The zone/waggle game had been a staple -- the staple -- of Iowa's offense for years when Michigan decided to implement it, though Iowa tends to go
with guys with actual mobility.
Recruiting: Iowa, aside from the secret government lab where they breed the next generation of Inexplicably Great White Wide Receivers, is decidedly unfertile recruiting territory, and Iowa does not have the sort of national pull a Michigan or Nebraska -- which did shockingly well with recruits from all over in the Callahan here -- does. And it shows in the recruiting rankings (all from Rivals):
- 2002: 51st
- 2003: 43rd
- 2004: 38th
- 2005: 11th(!)
- 2006: 40th
- 2007: 28th.
I wouldn't put much weight in these, as recruiting rankings begin to have very low fidelity as you get down into the three stars, of which there are a million of differing abilities. The general trend is mediocre save for that anomalous 2005 class, which was gathered at the height of Ferentz mania. Ty Willingham was abdicating Notre Dame's class, the Zooker was yet to land at Illinois, and there was a bumper crop of highly rated Chicagoland recruits. Most of them ended up at Iowa. It was a perfect storm of circumstance that the subsequent years have proven does not reveal any particular skill on Ferentz' part. He's done okay considering Iowa's circumstances, but is unlikely to improve on Carr's recruiting at Michigan. (Not that Carr was bad at recruiting; he was pretty good. But this is not a particular asset for Ferentz.)
Potential Catches: There are many. From the perspective of the fan: he's one damn game above .500 the last three years and has a severe case of Lloydballs. Not as severe as the man himself -- let's all remember the Brad Banks era -- but he has many of the same flaws Lloyd does: stubborn loyalty to failing coordinators who happen to be friends, a tendency towards extreme predictability, a team-harming aversion to risk.
From the perspective of an athletic department that evidently thinks very little of its fans and wants a "Lloyd Carr clone": 10% of Ferentz's team was arrested for Serious Business this year. Since 2003, Iowa has suffered a 42% attrition rate. Ferentz' son availed himself of taxpayer subsidized housing for the poor; Ferentz refused to speak about it publicly.
For every rumor out there about Les Miles' supposed lack of morals, there's a kid who's left Iowa's team for being a hooligan. But Miles is the guy with "character issues" because said something mean or wrong or impolite about Carr. Our athletic department's priorities are awesome.
Relative Compensation: This has been discussed ad nauseam: Ferentz makes somewhere between 2.6 and 3.4 million a year depending on how you figure the bonuses. He's insanely expensive.
Would He Take The Job? This was extremely doubtful earlier in the year but as the rumors persist it begins to seem more plausible. It's still doubtful, though. First Michigan would have to match his steep pay package, numbers which would make it possible to hire Les Miles and undoubtedly outrage fans, alumni, and the big-baller donors Michigan is banking on to fill the luxury suites currently under construction. Then Ferentz would have to leave Iowa, a place he likes very much, on the verge of his son's commitment there.
It still appears doubtful.
Overall Attractiveness: Ferentz would not be a disaster of a hire, but he would be a disappointing one. He's no more moral than dozens of coaches across the country. He's increasingly incapable of keeping the kids he recruits under control. He lost to Iowa State and Western Michigan this year. He represents the closest thing to an extension of the Carr era available out there, something which may be attractive to Sailboat Bill Martin but is an anathema to anyone who actually remembers the Appalachian State game earlier this year.
The opportunity represented by the Carr retirement is to take the program in a different direction. Michigan has stagnated, allowing Ohio State to pass it both off the field and on. Ohio State has better facilities, has won six of seven against Michigan, and has fewer disciplinary problems. The Horror was supposed to be a wakeup call inside the department and amongst the heavy movers; Ferentz represents the snooze button, especially if his hiring is contingent upon retaining certain key assistants who have done nothing to suggest they are capable of coaching out of a wet paper bag.
As an insanely expensive backup plan, Ferentz is fine. The program is unlikely to fall apart under his watch. At Michigan he'll have the talent and depth to beat Western; he won't put up with Michigan's stone age strength and conditioning program, and he's likely to have a level of success comparable to Carr over the long haul. And that's not bad.
As a primary option, Ferentz is indicative of a diseased thought process that hasn't watched the past three years. Lloyd Carr was a very good coach, but the emphasis is on was. It's over. "Eff you, try to stop us, oops you did let's punt" is over. Ohio State has raised. Picking Ferentz is, essentially, folding.
Better than Debord? YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES
Two sources . . .
Have now told me that Kirk Ferentz is at the top of Michigan's list of coaching candidates.
Members of Michigan's search committee leaked today that Ferentz has been made priority No. 1. Lloyd Carr, who's retiring after 13 seasons at Michigan, is pushing for Ferentz, a source said. He has a say in this. Mary Sue Coleman, UM's president and the UI president when Ferentz was hired at Iowa, has a say in this. That's according to logic, by the way.
For those concerned about bloggy stuff, Mark Morehouse is a sportswriter for an Iowa paper. For those concerned about the Ferentz's-agent angle, Morehouse makes it clear this is coming from Michigan's end. For those just plain concerned, well... yeah.
Stunning, probably wrong graph:
Ferentz makes $2.84 million at Iowa, and that's guaranteed through 2012 (that's $14.2 million over the next five years). Michigan knows it's going to take between $3.5 and $4 million to get in the ballpark, with a lot of coaches, not just Ferentz.
This does not jive with the "insulting" offer provided Miles unless this whole fiasco was downright deliberate.
The Michigan Rivals site - The Wolverine.com - is reporting that Kirk Ferentz will not be the next head coach at Michigan, citing a source second only to Ferentz himself.
Fanblogs sites a premium message board post, quoting it, which seems ethically dubious, but linking to something ethically dubious is fine(!). Plus, if you read the comments here you know already. Rivals is usually pretty circumspect, so the stridency of that post should be taken as a sign of extreme confidence in the information. (It should be noted that this is the second time The Wolverine has schooled everyone on a major coaching search, as they were way out in front of the Beilein thing. Credit where due.)
Speculation now defaults to...
There is significant buzz that Miles is a done deal as soon as LSU gets done with the SEC championship game from both the premium boards on the paysites and my inbox, but he was supposed to be a done deal a while ago. We'll see; he has support from a lot of important people but obviously not the most important one who's not Bill Martin: Lloyd Carr. The Ferentz thing is a solid indicator of that. (And, yes, there was most definitely a Ferentz thing getting pushed very hard by Carr and others -- this is "Ferentz is no longer a candidate," not "was never.")
There's little out there on the internet yet that can be taken even a little bit seriously; this post from "Pigskin Football Guys" claims Miles has taken the job, but also claims Pelini is gone to be HC at Nebraska and Tenuta will be LSU's new DC at 600k per year, which is crazy if Miles is leaving. That seems to have no credence. Meanwhile, this from "Football Scoop"...
Michigan- Our sources say that Brian Kelly will be named HC if the interview doesn't turn off the Woman President
...gets negative one billion credibility points. Jimmy Carter will have no say in Michigan's coaching search. (ZING!)
*(No, I'm not seriously suggesting this flight had Miles on it: it's a DC-9, which seats like 100 people. The only reasonable explanation: Mark Mangino is going to be the next coach.)
Hawkeye Lounge has posted an update from the Iowa side of things:
HL has received some additional information on the Kirk Ferentz situation from sources we consider trustworthy. So, we thought we'd pass it on. The information is as follows:
1. Ferentz had meeting with the team yesterday. No mention of the Michigan job. Rather, just talk about practice this weekend as if they're going to a bowl game.
2. Historically, when KF/job rumors come up, KF will call the assistants out on the road and tell them to have no worries, he's coming back, etc. Typically this happens immediately after the rumor gets press. No such calls have been made; nobody seems to know what's going on.
3. Apparently the scheduled Wednesday press conference (tomorrow) will not be held. The stated reason for the postponement is that they're waiting on the bowl situation to solidify before holding another press conference.
Make of this what you will. We're just passing on info that we receive from sources that we consider to be of high quality.
The canceled press conference seems meaningful to me: if Ferentz is not a serious candidate or had turned the job down that would be an excellent opportunity to say "I AM NOT A SERIOUS CANDIDATE" in big flashing neon letters; if he's still in play, then every non-answer would further fan the flames.
Also FWIW: I received an email from Jim Acho, who is apparently Fred Jackson's agent. Contents:
Michigan assistant head football coach Fred Jackson is officially a candidate for the Duke football coaching job. A call was placed to Duke AD Joe Alleva today and we await confirmation of an interview date. Fred Jackson was on a "short list" of candidates for the Duke job when it opened up 3 years ago and has turned down no less than 6 NFL assistant coaching offers in the last 4 years.
Make of that what you will.
Also, a reader emails a potential theory on the plane flight: it could have been a return trip, and the "flight crew swap" a cover story.
A Dassault Falcon 20 left Willow Run at 6 EST and arrived in Cedar Rapids a little more than an hour later. After about 15 minutes it left, returning to Willow Run. The return leg is scheduled to touch down in approximately 30 minutes.
While this isn't conclusive, that is the mother of all coincidences if that's not Ferentz.