Dear Diary Out of the Blue and Into the Black

Dear Diary Out of the Blue and Into the Black Comment Count

Seth December 12th, 2014 at 11:09 AM

META first: Happy to announce that Ace's thing was diagnosed and he's gonna be fine.

Out of the Blue. It was refreshing, wasn't it, when Hackett killed off the Michigan Man Bler.

Bo retired with a cult of personality because he was great at coaching football, and great at improving the lives of people around him. Trusting him and his guys served Michigan well enough so long as he and those guys and their guys continued to do things well and righteously.

Camus on why Candyland is the greatest game ever. [Existential Comics]

Hoke was righteous; he didn't do well. Outside Michigan circles there was general bewilderment that Brady could come to this year's football bust, sit beside the men who fired him for fielding progressively worse football teams, and receive a standing ovation. Winning football games can you earn you a lot of respect, but it's not the only way to get it.

I too want to move on from the Cult of Bo, and I too concede that most football coaches out there are good guys. I don't see any problem with recognizing these things and also recognizing that Brady Hoke stood out among his coaching peers. You see it in his players. We'll see it again in the coming years when there are more transfers and more off-field things to wag fingers at, because Brady is an extraordinary human who genuinely cares about people beyond the normal good guy capacity. That quality isn't what got him fired; it's what got him a shot at his dream job in the first place.

We needed to get out of this Blue Bler and relearn how to make decisions with something other than faith in a dead man—sadly it took the people in charge two transitions to realize it. There's no way to eradicate the bler people; fortunately there is a home run-seeming candidate who grew up around the program and quarterbacked it for a time.

Ultimately the question on Harbaugh is 100% "Will he?" Communist Football made the case for the thing we want to believe. If it happens yay for Michigan and the world and the ozone layer. If not, we're…

Into the Black. If we're not looking for the next Bo Schembechler to run Bo Schembechler's program, what are we looking for?

Nobody's telling us. In his Highlander movie-themed discussion of Michigan's pursuit of Harbaugh, I think Gameboy absolutely nailed the coaching search process, which goes:

  1. Big list of candidates
  2. Whittling of candidates into a pool
  3. Precision ranking and clarity among top tier
  4. Pick the guy

Because fans don't get to be part of the process, the bits that leak out make no sense. We are the mortals who keep finding bodies beheaded by swords all over town, plus a few bread crumbs left by those who seek to use us for their own ends, and start drawing conclusions.

Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: In looking for a new paradigm a lot of us have settled on Urban Meyer's regime and coaching tree. Copying a successful rival is as good a strategy as any; in fact it's exactly how Canham chose Bo in 1969.

In that vein, Kyle Whittingham is the next Urban Meyer-like candidate to get the alum96 treatment. Among Urban-like names being tossed around, Whittingham is probably the most palatable to the residual bler in Michigan's brass—Mullen carries the stench of the SEC and we have no idea whether they see the things in Herman that we do. Like Harbaugh, his candidacy is more of a "Will he?" than a "Can he?"

[After the jump, there's more to the picture than meets the eye.]


Dear Diary Is Highly Spooked

Dear Diary Is Highly Spooked Comment Count

Seth October 31st, 2014 at 11:06 AM


On the nature of Hoke, life, the universe, and everything. Upcoming Christopher Nolan movie Interstellar went to great lengths to produce the above image, the best yet of what a black hole looks like based on the mathematics of relativity—not just the lensing of space behind it but the surprising twisting of the accretion disc around it due to the warping of space where it's formed.

What's spooky about it is the thing you're seeing isn't the thing that exists. What exists is a disc around a spinning supermass, like Saturn's rings. What you're seeing however is space itself getting so warped by that mass that you can see it in 4D, bending space like a piece of paper.

Best and Worst posted a trailer for Interstellar and raved about the "our place in the dirt" quote while neglecting to mention the one in there by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This is how I want Michigan to finish the season: certain of its own mortality, fighting anyway. Last year's blowout to MSU was an apocalypse, but at that moment I was profoundly mad, not embarrassed. I was embarrassed when they went out flat and uncaring against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. Whenever I wonder if we were right to can Rodriguez when we did, I remember that act of cowardice. Whenever I wonder if we're being too hard on Brady, I think on how he gives up without looking like giving up. Bronx had a different explanation:

This might be semantics, but I don't think Hoke is a quitter.  He's (sadly) calling the game the same way in the 1st quarter as he is in the 4th quarter.  He's like the worst movie version of artificial intelligence.

So he's a robot who faces adversity by going back to his safe place, i.e. the way Lloyd Carr would coach a 1st quarter. I'm not buying it. I think he closes up shop when he thinks it's hopeless, and believes we're not smart enough to notice it.

Ron Utah nevertheless argues that at least that Brady is an essentially good man. I subscribe to the DFW method of rating people: their expectations of other people tend to be the greatest insight into how they themselves think. For example the dude on the board who thinks everything is about political warfare is just a really partisan dude. Brandon's emails were relevant not because they explain how he alienated fans—if he wrote 300 of these that's still a thousandth of the 300k waiting list his policies expunged. Rather they showed us how arrogant Brandon thinks his critics are, thus how truly arrogant Brandon is.

Hoke's goodness is best exemplified, perhaps, in his weaknesses as a coach. He doesn't ever seem prepared for enemies who want to gut him, because he doesn't have that killer instinct. Perhaps he doesn't push his players hard enough—maybe that comes from not expecting other coaches to be doing so. His players seem stunned when there's a cheap shot against them—we look at that like "where's your spirit?!"" but it could just be they're not the type of dudes who expect the other team is trying to scramble their brains.

It is a mistake to see the obvious flaws in Hoke and assume we would make better head coaches. It is not a mistake to see these flaws and assume more successful head coaches would make better head coaches. Perhaps it was our own naivety to think Michigan's particular advantages could compensate for the weakness of goodness.

This football program is as doomed as matter in an accretion disc. Some of the players in it won't be here (Peppers at least said he will be the last to leave), and there's no guarantee that the next step will take us to the dark core of the black hole or shooting out into space to form a new star. Michigan looks headed to 4-8 by Massey estimates, which LSA matrixcised.


This is mathematical reality. The above is how the universe is arranged. But what separates life from every other arrangement of matter is how we approach our doom. Life doesn't just ride the mathematics arc until it spirals into nothingness. Life rages.

It probably won't change anything, but the players on this doomed team plan to rage against that probability. It almost certainly won't change anything, but most fans have chosen to march back to the Big House, and the other home field in Evanston, and even down to the darkest place in the universe, and rage against the dying of the light.

If you'd like to do so and don't have tickets, head to this thread before 3pm today and tell us about the crazy thing you've done. I'm now up to 8 tickets to give away.

[Jump for metaphysical beings—ghouls, goblins, zombies, etc.]


Rutgers 26, Michigan 24

Rutgers 26, Michigan 24 Comment Count

Seth October 4th, 2014 at 11:59 PM

at the People's Climate March on Sept. 21 in New York City. (Adam Glanzman)

Adam Glanzman/special to MGoBlog

Human beings, and not just those associated with Michigan, are capable of extraordinary incompetence. The biggest brain fart tonight was when a guy watched Amara Darboh make a catch, take two steps, dive out of bounds, and place the ball on the ground, then “confirmed” it “incomplete.” The call on the field was malpractice; getting it wrong with the benefit of a DVR and HDTV is so staggeringly separated from reality that most fanbases will go for sinister explanations.

A Michigan Man knows better. Watching this program try to manage a clock, manage an offense, or manage a press release is the kind of thorough education in the extent of the human capacity for ineptitude that you’ve come to expect from the nation’s top public university.

“Blame the refs!” explains why Wile had to attempt a 56-yarder—which Rutgers blocked—and why Michigan had just one timeout to throw against a 1st down-and-kneel drive to end the game. It doesn’t explain why Michigan manipulated the clock to leave their opponent a comfortable 120 seconds to drive at the end of the first half. Or why they forgot they had Funchess for two quarters. Or why a heretofore deep and competent secondary gave up 404 yards to Gary Nova, overcoming a record previously held by the John L. Smith Razorbacks.

Michigan stayed in it, partly because Rutgers is Rutgers. Also because Devin Gardner laughed off two tackle attempts en route to a 19-yard 4th quarter touchdown that needs to be put to Autumn Thunder immediately. I feel awful about how this guy’s career has gone. Given the schedule from here, the Wolverines would be lucky to go 6-6 and unlikely to win four. When the team is this bad and the coaches’ meat this dead, we can check out, or just enjoy the occasional exploits of those who won’t.

People are just stupid sometimes; even Unpossible Throw God Gary Nova himself took a false start(!) this game. This will be important to remember whenever it’s time to commence  a headhunt as inevitable as the Big Ten’s empty apology. Humans are only tenuously rational creatures, and as soon as a coaching search commences, all contact with reality is lost.


This Week's Obsession: Ingredients for Suck Pie

This Week's Obsession: Ingredients for Suck Pie Comment Count

Seth November 20th, 2013 at 8:58 AM


Peter Frampton:Michigan's offense::Let's stop this analogy right now.

It's nearing Thanksgiving; which means it's time to make pie! Who likes pie? Everyone likes pie! Unless it's a "why our offense sucks so much" pie. Alas, you have all been sampling lots of "Why our offense sucks so much" pie these last few weeks, and we've identified most of the ingredients in this suck pie. What we haven't done yet is say how much any one ingredient is contributing relative to any other. This seems important.

So, I'm going to give you a list of identified ingredients in this suck pie, and you're going to tell me--pie chart like (i.e. adds up to 100%)--how much each suck factor, in your estimated opinion, has gone into our pie:

  1. Fans demand Michigan Manliness. Thus putting the previous regime on not-firm ground and necessitating another transition and talk of MANBALL for stupid political reasons. Rosenberg/Snyder go here.
  2. Rich Rod! One OL in 2010 and his own suck pie of defense that necessitated another transition. GERG goes here. Zero RS juniors goes here.
  3. The Process. Which helped doom the 2011 offensive line class. "Just two OL, both of them fliers, in two classes!" goes here. "None of our tight ends are old enough to buy beer!" goes here. "We're stuck running high school blocking schemes because interior OL are too young!" goes here.
    If you believe this is a result of Nebraska's defense having a sudden aneurism of competence (hence all the blood), please answer #10 "Universe" on your cards. [Fuller]

  4. Hoke demands MANBALL! Only if you think there's an executive order from Hoke that forced Borges to use more "big"--ie TEs and FBs instead of WRs--formations and man-blocking.
  5. Borges can't cook fusion cuisine. Incoherent playcalling and gameplanning, players constantly put in bad positions and asked to do more than their skills suggest they're good at. RPS minuses go here.
  6. Dithered on MANBALL transition for Denard. Spent 2011 and 2012 trying to be all things; decision not to sacrifice those years to transition is costing us in 2013. "Older guys can't MANBALL" goes here.
  7. Dithering in 2013. Personnel switches, gimmick offenses, acts of desperation burned practice time, retarded player development, and contributed to snowballing effect. "Tackle over" goes here.
  8. Funk/OL and execution. Offensive linemen not doing the things that should reasonably be expected of them given their talent/experience levels. "Schofield is missing slide protections" goes here.
  9. Ferrigno/Jackson and execution. Backs and tight ends who can't block or run routes (if you think this is just on them being too young, that goes elsewhere; if you think Funchess ought to be able to crack down and Toussaint get under a guy by now it goes here)
  10. Bloodymindedness of Universe. IE anything else: Spain, Monkey Rodeo, MSU broke Devin, opponents are just that good, etc.

[After the jump, the lede, buried]


Three And Out Q&A: Part Three

Three And Out Q&A: Part Three Comment Count

Brian October 21st, 2011 at 11:06 AM


[ED: Parts one and two here. Book on sale Tuesday. Bacon will be giving his first local book talk and signing at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate Shopping Center on Friday night, October 28, 7 p.m.; other events can be found on his website’s appropriately-named Event page.

Cave people: Three and Out is a book about the Rodriguez era from John Bacon, who was given unprecedented access to the program by Rich Rodriguez because Rich Rodriguez does these sorts of things.]


“What books are you going to write about now that Michigan won't let you within a mile of any of their programs anymore? I mean, it's not easy to piss off everybody.”

Well, first: Despite the sacrifices I mentioned in the first installment – time, money, and possibly professional opportunities -- writing it was my decision, naturally, and I don’t regret it. Given my choices, trying to write an honest book is certainly more appealing to me than trying to keep everyone happy and produce a book I could never respect.

Plus, I had the chance to see a big-time program form the inside that no fan, and no reporter, has ever had—and probably never will again. If there was one great privilege that I hope every reader can share, it was getting to know these young man not as gladiators but as human beings, some of the best I’ve met. If you were proud of Michigan football before, I can tell you this: getting to know these guys can erase much of the cynicism we all feel for college football these days. They were, quite simply, the real thing.

None of that, unfortunately, solves the problem in the question. Mr. Brandon and Mr. Carr, through various means and channels, have made their contempt for the book (and its author) plain enough. I have no idea what’s going to happen with my various ties to Michigan, including my teaching arrangement, but I’d probably be foolish to count on anything.

It’s almost impossible to write anything interesting without at least some cooperation and access, and I might find those in short supply under the Brandon regime. I will likely have to go “off the reservation,” if you will, to pursue future projects. And perhaps it’s time.

But I also believe this book would cost me a lot more if I were writing about Kentucky basketball under Eddie Sutton or, say, Ohio State football (as a convenient example). Those schools and fans generally don’t want the truth, and will attack anyone who attempts to deliver it (witness Mr. Herbstreit’s forced move to Tennessee). Michigan football fans are very demanding—they expect a first-class program on and off the field—but they also want the truth, and they can handle it.

I feel the same way. After all, I learned how to do all the things I needed to write this book – researching, writing and thinking critically – from world-class professors at the University of Michigan. But the most important principle Michigan taught me was the central importance of pursuing the truth without fear, wherever it leads.

For those who say this book will hurt Michigan, I can only respond: not the Michigan I know.

7. Does the idea of being a "Michigan man" emerge as tortured shibboleth in need of burial or does Bacon make the case that there is something valuable in it, something RR just really didn't get?

This is why you have to love Michigan fans. What other school’s backers would inquire if their culture’s central concept emerges as a “tortured shibboleth in need of burial”? It was such fans, by the way, that made it easy for me to persuade our highbrow publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, that our readers would have no trouble getting through a 438-page book with no photos, nor digesting the word “crucible” in the subtitle. (Arthur Miller, after all, went to Michigan.)

The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan. But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since.

Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches. But the phrase really took off in 1989, of course, when Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season. This prompted Schembechler to bark: “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan!”

Pundits have wondered exactly what Bo meant, but I think it’s pretty simple: anybody coaching at Michigan better be completely committed to Michigan.

The phrase took on more weight four years ago, when a reporter asked brand-new head coach Rich Rodriguez if the Michigan coach had to be a Michigan Man. He joked, “Gosh, I hope not! They hired me!”

He was criticized for that—and not without some justification. The question was inevitable, and it exposed Rodriguez’s superficial knowledge of the program upon his arrival, and the athletic department’s failure to prepare its new coach for his mission.

From that point on, the phrase was used more often to beat somebody over the head—usually Rodriguez—than to underscore the values it’s supposed to represent, much the way extremists use “patriot” to castigate someone as un-American.

At the “Victors’ Rally” held in February 2010, Rodriguez wanted to show that he’d gotten the message. So, he closed his speech by saying, “I’m Rich Rodriguez, and I am a Michigan Man.” This time, he was criticized for being presumptuous.

Finally, with great humility, he told the crowd at his final speech at the Bust in December 2011, “I hope you realize, I truly want to be a Michigan Man.” But this time his critics said a true Michigan Man wouldn’t have to ask.

And thus, the silliness of the entire exercise had come full circle. The phrase had become so distorted, Michigan’s critics started using it as a mocking insult. Much like the word “classy,” it seemed, whoever uses it, probably isn’t.

Despite my temptation to chuck this overused and little understood phrase forever, I still think there’s something to it. Everyone knows the values it’s supposed to stand for: honor, sacrifice, pride in your team, and humility in yourself, all in one. But ultimately, to define it, I have to resort to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

Pardon the comparison, but when it comes to the phrase, “Michigan Man,” I know it when I see it, too. They might be Big Men on Campus, but they don’t act like it, in college or afterward. The men I’ve been lucky enough to get to know—many as good friends—really do put their team and their school before themselves, and become the kind of adults you want to be your employee, your colleague, your boss, your neighbor, your brother-in-law. Not because they played football for Michigan, but because they represent its values. And they really are different than the players I’ve met from other schools.

I can cite too many men who fit this description, and too many examples of their conduct, simply to dismiss it.

Here’s a small one: a few years ago the football alums of Ohio State and Michigan were invited to an event in Columbus. The Buckeyes showed up wearing everything from sport coats to sweatshirts and jeans. But the Michigan alums arrived wearing coats and ties. No one told them what to wear. Bo had already passed away. But they simply knew, reflexively, if you represent Michigan, this is how you do it.

A bigger example: a few years after graduating, Scott Smykowski, a former backup under Schembechler, discovered he needed a bone marrow transplant, but his health care wasn’t going to cover all his expenses. That’s all Schembechler needed to hear to rally Michigan Men from coast to coast. And that’s all they needed to hear to raise $150,000 in just a few weeks – even though most of them never played with Smykowski or even met him. That’s what being a Michigan Man meant to them.

When I speak at Michigan events, I often end with a quote from arguably the first important Michigan Man, Fielding Yost. Near the end of his life, they held a big banquet for him called, “A Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast,” which was broadcast nationwide by NBC. After all the speakers had paid tribute, he got up in his eponymous Fieldhouse and said, “My heart is so full at this moment, I fear I could say little else. But do let me reiterate the Spirit of Michigan. It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways. An enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts. And a conviction that nowhere, is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours.”

It gets me every time. But what really gets me is the response from the people in the audience. None of them ever met Fielding Yost. Most of them weren’t born when he passed away in 1946. Most of their parents weren’t, either. And yet, when they hear these words, they nod involuntarily, the words resonating with something deep inside them, and they are often glassy-eyed when I finish the quote.

If you could stand on that podium and look out on those faces, you would not have to wonder if the idea of the Michigan Man is for real.

Despite the best efforts to kill it, it is still very much alive.


Unverified Voracity Balances Things

Unverified Voracity Balances Things Comment Count

Brian May 16th, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Presidential band. Via MVictors, the Michigan Marching band performing for Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan:

Not an endorsement of politics, etc.

Oversigning movement? Braves and Birds's post on the two schools who should be on the warpath about oversigning (Florida and Georgia) has already proven wicked prescient and it continues to do so:

"You've got 20 spaces but you've still signed 25. Well, you can bring them in during the summer, work them and let your strength staff work with them, and decide which ones you like the best. The other five, you can tell them, 'Hey, we know we signed you, we expect you to come in, but we don't have space for you, we're sorry, but you have to leave and come back in January.'"

After a brief pause, Richt gave his feelings on that particular tactic.

"I think that's an awful thing to do," Richt said. "It's nothing that we have ever done since we've been at Georgia."

Get The Picture pulls out another section of that story that suggests Richt believes there's going to be change in the near future:

“Almost every year there have been guys in our class in that gray shirt situation. Normally, we say you don’t have to tell anybody, just sign on Signing Day and the chances of you coming in with your class, no one’s going to know the difference, which I don’t think is dishonest with the way things are,” Richt said. “So we’ve signed guys knowing that the class is full and asked if they could come in January, but every time we’ve done that, there’s been a space and they came in with their class.”

But those rules might be about to change.

According to Richt, the SEC and the NCAA is changing the rules “just as rapidly as they can to keep it from happening in the future.”

The most obvious change you could make is to require the financial aid offered in return for an LOI applicable in fall. You could still grayshirt, but you wouldn't get to use the letter of intent to lock the kid in. If he gets a better offer he can take it. Insert the usual spiel about how the LOI is mostly a one-way street.

Oversigning would be a lot tougher if you couldn't receive a letter of intent without an existing spot. "Extra" players would know where they stood and head elsewhere before they got a dorm room. It wouldn't be perfect but it would be better.

Nine games, si. Via Black Heart Gold Pants an excellent article on why that ninth conference game is important to the conference in general and you, Michigan fan, in particular:

The divisional alignment exuded balance. But the league’s creation of permanent cross-divisional opponents did not. Based on the current eight-game league schedule, some teams have obvious advantages over others. For instance, Michigan State will play Indiana — which had the most losses over the 17-year period — every year and Ohio State four times over 10 years. Michigan, however, will play Ohio State — which had the most wins over the 17-year period — every year and Indiana four times over 10 years. Wisconsin’s cross-divisional rival (Minnesota) hasn’t even tied for a Big Ten title since 1967, while Penn State’s cross-divisional rival (Nebraska) has won three national titles in the last 17.

Meanwhile, Michigan won't play Wisconsin for four years. Incoming freshmen who don't redshirt won't ever have the privilege of staring down a wild boar in a helmet. I know Athletic Director X now has to have seven home games a year because of vastly increased costs that are totally not optional at all or offset by ballooning TV contracts, but long-term thinking should dictate a ninth conference game for competitive equity and various other things.

I'm not sure if I can get behind author Scott Dochterman's suggestion that the ninth game be another protected crossover game that attempts to balance schedules by giving each team a traditionally strong and traditionally crappy protected rival. Michigan would get either Illinois or Indiana on a permanent basis, which means they'd still miss PSU and Wisconsin 50% of the time.

On the other hand, he lays out a conference schedule that looks almost totally balanced. Here's Michigan's:


  • Divisional opponents: Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
  • Permanent cross-divisional opponent: Ohio State (1)
  • Second permanent cross-divisional opponent: Illinois (2)
  • First cycle: Penn State (1), Indiana (2)
  • Second cycle: Wisconsin (1), Purdue (2)

Everyone else's is about right. Do you want more frequent games against interesting teams or an almost totally fair schedule?

In the meantime the first divisional tiebreaker should be the conference record of your opponents from the other division.

Groan. The usual: recent Michigan alumni say things, people facepalm. Whether it's Brian Griese saying Michigan "lacked effort" under Rodriguez, to which I say…


…this is a process many were involved in, or Morgan Trent saying Michigan didn't take Michigan State seriously, every time a former player is quoted somewhere I have to delve deeper into the google image search for facepalm. This last one was bad enough that Jerel Worthy blew up on twitter about it and all you can say is, "yeah, pretty much."

Morgan Trent! When the guy who about singlehandedly lost the 2006 OSU game is saying there's a "real program" now the disease has reached its terminal stage.

Further evidence Beilein is scouting ninja. Rivals has put up their first 2012 basketball rankings and Michigan commit Glenn Robinson III, who was relatively unheralded when he committed, comes in 50th. Nick Stauskas is 89th. Rivals puts a ton of emphasis on AAU, which GRIII is currently tearing up and Stauskas sitting out with a knee issue. Another of the raves becoming de riguer:

Glenn Robinson III (2012): I hadn’t seen the 6-6 Robinson since last summer. Wow. He looks a lot different. He has really filled out since last July, adding about 25 pounds of muscle. He still has that nice 15- to 18-foot shot, but his explosiveness getting to the basket has raised his game to another level. Robinson drove the middle of the lane in a game Sunday and dunked over another guard with authority. The quote of the weekend from that player: “If I knew that was Glenn Robinson, I wouldn’t have tried to block it.” From the couple games I saw, Robinson is very deserving talent-wise of his spot as a core player on the Junior All-Star team.

Robinson AAU teammate Mitch McGary is #5(!), and now we've got an open scholarship so that's totally happening. He vaguely mentioned us at Inside The Hall. Happening.

UMHoops has more scouting video of Robinson, BTW.

Borges: win. Do you know what you want your offensive coordinator to sound like? An IT guy:

"What we want to keep, what we want to throw out, what we may want to add," said Borges, who added he probably won't install much more of the playbook during preseason camp in August. "(We're) trouble-shooting the offense and trying to accommodate the personnel, and now we have a little data to do it. Before spring we didn't know what of our offense our kids could run. Now we've got a much better feel."

Unfortunately the spring game implied the answer to "what can our kids run?" is "nothing you want to"; fortunately Borges seems a lot more flexible than Rodriguez or Michigan past. Proof will be in the pudding. The Saturday Pudding.

Open season. Mike Spath has an interesting column at the Wolverine about Mel Pearson's change of heart. Pearson, long thought the heir apparent to Red Berenson, turned down a ton of overtures over the years but has now left for Michigan Tech. Tech is his alma mater, yes, but it's also the most downtrodden program in the country. Others may be worse year in, year out, but none of those teams spend their year getting their face stomped by the WCHA. It's a depressing job.

Why is Pearson taking it? Maybe because that heir apparent thing is no longer very apparent:

"Here is an opportunity, if you want to get head-coaching experience, if you want that on your resume whether you're looking at my job or any job down the road, here's your chance," Berenson said. "I don't know what David Brandon's criteria will be someday but I suspect head-coaching experience is important."

And it is important. How important? Two different sources have said Pearson (or Powers) will face a mountain of an uphill climb if they don't have head-coaching experience on their resume. One of the sources even saying, "No way Brandon hires a guy that has never been responsible for an entire program. Especially with the way he wants to market the hockey team going forward."

Pearson goes from a shoo-in to a longshot, as Spath has been making noises about Michigan hiring literally anyone they want in the college hockey world with a few limited exceptions (program icons like York, Parker, Umile, and that's about it). If Pearson wants the job he's going to have to be a head coach somewhere.

For a relaxing time, make it a contrast between Michigan's direction with its hockey hire and Michigan State's.

Etc.: Former PSU Austin Scott thinks the dismissed rape charge against him was  conspiracy. MSU instate recruiting freakout makes the mainstream media. Never addressed in these sorts of articles is what it means when two schools both go after the same players and they all go to one. Softball is hosting a regional this weekend. First game is Friday at eight against Western. Get there early—it won't last long. Zach Hyman, a big time hockey recruit has decommitted from Princeton in the wake of Guy Gadowsky's hire at Penn State and is looking at Michigan along with a few other schools. He would be a major help next year.


Mailbag: Equilibrium States, Hockey Formatting, The Distant Future

Mailbag: Equilibrium States, Hockey Formatting, The Distant Future Comment Count

Brian March 28th, 2011 at 4:35 PM


right via flickr user bre pettis


You've often mentioned how a single elimination hockey tournament is a poor indicator of who the best team is, due to the randomness that exists in hockey. There is one sport where the randomness of the winner is considerably higher - baseball. And college baseball deals with this by making the tournament, and the college world series, double elimination tournament up until the championship.

Do you think a double elimination tournament could work for NCAA hockey, or if not for the frozen four, at least for the regionals? Each regional would still fit nicely into a weekend, rather than needing to spread out over two weeks if it were a 3 game series at each round. As hockey is poised for a potentially cataclysmic change tomorrow, the time for changing the tournament would be now as well.


Double elimination doesn't work for hockey because it's just too many games. A first-round loser could hypothetically play five games if they reach the final and win the first game, and how are you going to fit that into three days? Even if you decide the final is one and done (presumably playing this exhausted team is advantage enough) you've still got a situation where someone's playing twice in a day. That's not feasible.

The thing that makes the most sense is to go back to the old best two-of-three series. Have two rounds of those and have a Frozen Four. Downsides: it takes a week longer and some schools don't control their rinks, making reservations awkward. Upside: massively more revenue and it looks like people care about college hockey.

Something like this may be coming. As mentioned this morning, the NCAA has not announced regional sites past next year. Last May this was apparently the hot idea:

Under the most popular proposal, the tournament would stay as a 16-team field, but the first round would be a best-of-three series played at the venue of the higher seed.

The eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals would play at one of two super regional sites. The quarterfinals would be one-game shots with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line. The Frozen Four would not change.

That manages to be only slightly better than the current system since you know you're going to this random "super regional" site to watch your team play once. There seems to be no reason not to play another campus series other than a desire to pretend you're a bigger deal than your are.

If hockey is truly insistent on having regionals, let's format them like the first round of the World Cup or Olympic hockey: everyone plays each other and the top two teams move on. That would force teams to play three straight days but without overtime everyone's on a level playing field. That should help attendance since you know you'll get to see your team play three times.

The biggest issue with that format is scheduling the last day. In the World Cup the last group games are simultaneous because there are situations in which teams can assure themselves advancement by walking around for 90 minutes and tying. You couldn't do that at a regional. I think if you're flexible with the final day's schedule you could avoid that by making the teams who are in that advantageous position play first, though.

More money, more reason to travel, and less randomness—it's better than the current setup. The tournament could start out with groups, have a campus weekend, and then have a Frozen Four.

If NCAA determines that OSU must vacate last year football wins, does that mean RichRod went 1-2 vs. OSU?

No. A vacated game never happened—unless you lost, I guess—so officially he'd be 0-2.

Hi Brian,

After reading your thoughtful post about Webber, I couldn't help but think about why, despite everything, I always loved the guy. Just to try to explain what it was like: The Fab 5 era has many of the elements of the last few years of Michigan football, except they were magnified. First, there was the culture clash. Fisher's coaching style, the new players, all of it received a very similar reception, but unlike RR he had the '89 national championship for protection. And of course the culture clash was magnified because it was not only a matter of a culture clash within the university but on a national level. Think of it as the culture clash times five.

Then there was the electrifying style of play. Every moment of every game at Crisler, you were just sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something amazing to happen. Not just dunks, although people often forget just how incredible not only Webber but Jimmy's ups were. But an unreal block, an impossible pass, a quick as lightening steal. The only thing I can really compare it to in my life of watching sports was watching Denard last year. You were just sitting there with visceral sense of anticipation, knowing you just might witness something amazing. But now imagine if Denard and Rich Rod had taken us to a national championship game -- or two in a row -- and I think that will give you some sense of how it felt to be a student at Michigan in that era and why we simply can't not love those guys. We all knew those players personalities, their faces, their styles of play. It was something close to watching five Denards.


There was obviously a culture clash with Rodriguez's program as a whole but Denard isn't a part of that because Denard is the nicest kid in the history of the universe. I've been going to basketball and hockey games for years and when other athletes show up, they do so in a big group, come late, and leave early. This extends even to nonentities like the tennis team. They signed some autographs at Yost earlier this season and then watched a portion of the second period in seats directly behind mine, then took off.

Denard went to the DEATH TO BACKBOARDS Wisconsin game. He wasn't there with teammates (unless Drew Dileo was there—everyone around him was an average-sized white guy), stayed for the whole thing, and when handed a random maize T-shirt he put it over his futuristic Annie Lennox jacket. You can throw that on the pile of evidence that contains every press conference he's ever attended and every touchdown he's ever kneeled after.

But the larger point is good. Michigan swung away from its baseline attitude in the aftermath of the '89 championship because it won a lot for a brief period of time, and then when it won less and got the program in trouble they reacted by hiring Tommy Amaker and John Beilein. Even more telling was only after Amaker left for Harvard that people started complaining about his recruiting practices.

A lot of people have pointed at that reaction as the Fab Five's doing, but it's really just Michigan returning to its equilibrium state after being knocked out of it briefly. The same thing happened with Rodriguez except it didn't take nearly as long because there weren't any of those win things. At some point in the future Michigan will have a coach with a different idea of what football looks like*, and he'll be tolerated as long as he wins, and then eventually he won't win and Michigan will return to its equilibrium state.

*[Possibly a  distant, Humans Are Dead future, granted.]


Unverified Voracity Batters, Dips

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Brian January 6th, 2011 at 4:43 PM


Understand decades of on and off mediocrity because no one is that dead guy

"Understand Michigan." Desmond Howard was busy blowing this up on the teevee a coupe days ago but that doesn't stop everyone in the world from writing columns about how the new guy "must understand the Michigan way" or "came to Michigan three years ago as a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt in an athletic department of blue blazers." Or the university must "regain its identity."

All of this gives me hives. We have learned that someone who naively enters and expects everyone to be nice, as Rodriguez did, is in for a rough time. All things being equal, Michigan should go with a Tresselian non-speaker who regards the media as cancer and bores everyone to death.

This is different than chasing some sort of mystical "Michigan way" that needs to be recaptured. The guys with a connection to the Michigan way before that meant always losing to Ohio State with occasional fun Horrors thrown in are either Jim Harbaugh (not coming) or Les Miles (plain slimy*). The Michigan way is dead, literally and figuratively, and Michigan needs a new way. They seem poised to repeat the mistakes Alabama did as they fruitlessly tried to replace Bear Bryant, ("Mike Shula has a vague connection to Bear! That's the ticket!") except in this case the most OMG BO hire would be awesome but isn't interested.

If Harbaugh isn't coming, just go outside again instead of shoehorning a guy into a spot he doesn't deserve and putting him behind the eight ball from the start.

*[Protests about this will fall on deaf ears. LSU just got hit with much more important NCAA violations than Michigan did. Miles cut a kid who had been on campus for months, offering a "greyshirt" he had never discussed with him. And he 1) cut a quarterback with a form letter, 2) refused to speak to that quarterback about the form letter, and 3) baldly lied about the kid at SEC media days. He's a media firestorm waiting to happen and he might bring Gary Crowton and he might make my head explode by letting the clock run out in the fourth quarter and he's reaching the age when coaches decline precipitously. Hoke is vastly preferable.

LSU fans currently making snarky posts about how awesome he is will be coating him in batter and thrusting him into a deep fryer at the first sign of weakness.]

Meanwhile, exiting… Brock Mealer on Rodriguez:

"He's just always been (portrayed) as a villain, and he's nothing like that," Mealer said. "He's one of the greatest guys I have ever met in my life, and I wish people would just acknowledge that. As little as I know about football, I know his character is much different than people played it out to be."

Someone punch Jeff DeFran in the throat, thanks. It didn't work out and there's plenty of blame to go around but Rodriguez was probably damaged more by Michigan than vice-versa. Is there any coach in recent history who's been fired and still has fans hoping he succeeds wherever he goes next as the media gleefully jumps up and down on his grave? Multiple people who were at the Brandon presser described the mood as "celebratory," or words to that effect.

As of yesterday, no Patterson contact. At least not according to Dennis Dodd:

Gary Patterson had not been contacted by Michigan for its opening as of Wednesday night according to a source close to the TCU coach.

Patterson, fresh off a 13-0 season and Rose Bowl win, is thought to be a candidate for the job left open after the firing of Rich Rodriguez by AD Dave Brandon. Brandon said earlier Wednesday he expects to move quickly to fill the vacancy but arguably the hottest coach in the country had not gotten a call 12 hours after Rodriguez had been let go.

Suboptimal. Or lies, I guess.

Speaking of oversigning castoffs. Michigan doesn't have a coach but the Blade is reporting that a Mike Marrow wants to transfer in. Marrow was a three-star fullback who redshirted at Alabama and then moved closer to home to "deal with the deaths of three grandparents" but could not get eligible at Eastern Michigan and now is looking for a new home. Marrow's two years removed from playing time and has a skillset duplicated by Stephen Hopkins on a team with plenty of RB depth and desperate need on defense—the chance he actually ends up at Michigan will depend on how shattered this recruiting class is on Signing Day. So welcome Mike Marrow, everybody.

Hoke in, Denard out? Hoke on the Oregon offense, which I will remind you is the OREGON OFFENSE and is playing essentially the Oregon offense in the national championship game:

When asked recently about the influence of Oregon’s offense, Hoke subtly revealed his disdain for the tactical shift Michigan experienced under Rodriguez. He is convinced that modern spread option offenses can be counterproductive to the core values of smashmouth football and are, therefore, to be avoided.

“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time -- when you’re playing basketball on grass -- you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football,” Hoke said. “I don’t think you’re prepared.

“I think there’s a toughness level (required in college football). I still believe you win with defense. That’s been beaten into my head a long time, but I really believe that. The toughness of your team has to be the offensive front and your defensive front.”

(Oddly, that article is by Tim Sullivan. Not that Tim Sullivan.)

If you're eager to get Michigan started on a painful transition away from the offense they just painfully transitioned to, Hoke's your man. If he's hired we'll get some soundbites about flexibility but they'll be about as convincing as Tommy Tuberville's strained "hhhhyyyarrrrr" upon his hiring at Texas Tech.  If there are coaches out there comfortable with the spread offense that's proven itself kind of good across college football they'd be preferable to a guy who professes disdain for "basketball on grass" and doesn't have the track record to suggest he's anything more than average at the other stuff.

And he's not even right. Three of the top four yardage defenses in the country play opposite offense that are pretty much basketball on grass: TCU, Boise State, and West Virginia. It's a bit different if you look at FEI but something like half of the top ten plays opposite a full-on spread: WVU, Missouri, Virginia Tech and Auburn are spreads and Clemson, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Nebraska use a fair number of spread concepts.

I'm not sure you were paying attention. Who's surprised Rodriguez is fired? No one except his players:

"Definitely I'm surprised," said Gordon. "I have a lot of love for Coach Rod. He's the guy who brought me here. He's a guy I definitely respected and I loved him as a coach."When asked what his future plans are, Gordon replied, "I'm here. I came to school for Michigan."Said Gordon: "Yes it is surprising, but it is what it is. You've just got to move on."

This explains something about or secondary.

The batphone rings. ALERT THE MEDIA

I followed Mr. Robinson for one day, which started at 7 a.m. with treatment for his swollen knee, followed by weightlifting, classes, an interview with ESPN Radio, more treatment, meetings, practice, a third round of treatment, dinner and study table. When he walked out of the academic center at 10 p.m., two adults who had been waiting all night for him in the parking lot approached him to sign a dozen glossy photos. I went home exhausted—and I hadn't done anything more than take notes.


(Also that's a John U Bacon story on what went on inside the program that will become an undoubtedly fascinating book.)

Etc.: Penn State denies Bolden a release because Paterno doesn't have enough quarterbacks without him. This will end well. How Gary Patterson's undersized defense shut down Wisconsin. Yes please. Ever notice how it's always Carr's old players talking crap about Rodriguez publicly as the Bo guys remain mum? Nevermind! Of course Lynn Henning thinks Hoke is a great idea. John Niyo says let's wait for a new coach announcement before we hand Brandon over to LSU fans to be battered and fried.