On Harbaugh, Brandon, And Other Such Things

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2014 at 11:50 AM

ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE. We are probably embarking on a coaching search in the near future and also probably embarking on an AD search in the near future. When these things happen I get buckets of insider information from provenances both dubious and legit, and at some point they cross the threshold where I think they're useful to relate.

When I do this I want things to be supported by multiple people, or people I've heard from before and were accurate. I've learned over the years that when you get in these situations a lot of people stridently believe things that turn out to be wrong, so keep that in mind; I strive to be precise with my language to give people the right impression of how strongly these opinions are held.



ON JIM HARBAUGH. There are plenty of media reports suggesting that Harbaugh won't be with the 49ers next year; I've heard similar things. I've also heard that people within the 49ers organization think that maybe Harbaugh isn't an NFL guy, long term, and that Harbaugh is also coming to this realization as the guys in his locker room start getting more and more ornery. Michigan is not a far-fetched destination according to them.

ON DAVE BRANDON. I mentioned this on twitter and should clarify. There is the Big Ballers Meeting and then a Meeting With A Lot Of Big Ballers And Some Smaller Ballers And Some People Who Do Nice Stuff For The University. I got a report from the latter, in which Schlissel sat down for a Q&A session that was moderated by Stephen Ross. Nothing said was definitive, but almost all of the side chatter centered on how Brandon wasn't going to make it and Ross didn't seem like he was going to throw a hissy fit if a change was made. Even in this context away from the madding crowd the first issue addressed was the AD; Schlissel reiterated his point about a culture change; there seemed to be big baller chatter about who might be next.

Now: these people are not universally omniscient. There was chatter that things might go down last Tuesday. Obviously they did not. Don't take that as gospel.

ON THE COMBINATION OF HARBAUGH AND BRANDON. Never say never but I've heard from guys who know Harbaugh who say that Jim working for Dave is highly unlikely to happen. I do not have signed affidavits, but… yeah. As chatter goes this drumbeat is intense.

ON HOKE SURVIVING. This is likely to become moot this weekend, but serious people are asserting that he's not dead yet and could get by with a 7-5 record that includes a win over MSU or OSU, or even that 6-6 might be enough.

I don't think this is the case, as the powers that be know that season tickets are on a knife edge now and bringing Hoke back could see significant drops. It's impossible to know anything about Hoke's status given the uncertainty about the top of the department; the information being discussed is going to point strongly to a change no matter who is in charge.


ON AD CANDIDATES. Amongst the obvious Michigan Man candidates I would peg the pecking order as

  1. Jeff Long (Arkansas)
  2. Brad Bates (BC)
  3. Warde Manuel (UConn)
  4. Joe Parker (Texas Tech's associate AD)

There's a bigger gap between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Michigan may go off the board, of course, but Long in particular seems to have the respect of the AD community—he's the CoFoPoff chair—and made a stunning hire of Bret Bielema after the Petrino situation blew up in his face.

Also worth noting that he handled the PR of that disaster as well as can be expected. Bates and Manuel have not had to face similar crises yet.

ON JABRILL PEPPERS. This is not certain otherwise Michigan would have announced it but I've gotten several seemingly independent sources asserting that Peppers isn't going to play again this year. Michigan just threw him on top of the depth chart at nickel and punt return, so I don't know… I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play this weekend.

ON LLOYD CARR. Lloyd Carr is a civilian. He is neither involved nor wants to be involved in the day-to-day of the athletic department, and if you have a conspiracy theory involving him it is ridiculous and you should just drop it.



October 21st, 2014 at 12:14 PM ^

I've said this in other threads but if we don't make a change this year The harbaughs and probably miles will not be options next year. On top of that Hoke would be in his last year of his contract next year so he's a lame duck. If we extend him that's ridiculous. If we don't then recruiting will suffer. We have to make a change this year.

As for Jim harbaugh, he will coach somewhere other than San Fran next year. He will also sign a multi year contract. If we are going to get him at all this is the time. John has had some issues with his front office and may be looking around and as time goes by those issues will go away so the time is also this year. Miles is having a down year at lsu (I'd take his record in a heartbeat) and might be ready to come home. Again who knows about next year.

All in all it needs to happen this year.


October 21st, 2014 at 5:21 PM ^

For Hoke to return in 2015


  1. He has to turn this year around in a big way, AND
  2. A Les Moss-to-Sparky Anderson upgrade must not be waiting in the wings

Hoke has allowed himself to become vunerable to #2. With the unprecedented risk to the $82mm/yr football cash cow, any prudent fiduciary would remove that risk immediately with a Jim Harbaugh hire.

As to the turnaround, rather than a specific number of wins, I would think in terms of conditions, no different from the preseason, although knowing he has burned a ton of capital and opportunity.  After the season

  1. There should be reason to be jacked for 2015
  2. It should be clear that we are above the middle-of-the-B1G pack and approaching MSU & OSU.  With so small of a sample left to establish that, I think at the very least he needs to beat one of MSU or OSU and be very competitive in the other.

I have no expectation that this is going to happen.  However, consider the Ohio State turnaround in 2004.

Ohio entered the 2004 campaign ranked #9 AP preseason.  After going 3-0 in the out-of-conference slate, the Bucks rose to #7.  However, Ohio lost its first three B1G games, 33-27 @Northwestern, 24-13 at home to Wisconsin, and 33-7 @Iowa City.  After the Iowa thrashing, the Buckeyes fell out of the Top 25.

Unfortunately, as we know, the Buckeyes recovered to beat Michigan 37-21 in Columbus.  The upset over the seventh-ranked 9-1 Wolverines was part of a 5-1 finish after their horrid start.  The Bucks topped it all off with a 33-7 thumping of an Oklahoma State team in the Alamo Bowl.  Oklahoma State had been ranked but dropped out in the Nov 28 poll.

The following year, the Buckeyes began the season ranked #6 in the AP preseason poll.

I think that's what the turnaround would need to resemble.  Good luck with that.









October 21st, 2014 at 12:15 PM ^

Michigan has lacked someone with either AD or coaching experience for too long. While not an absolute necessity it does non the less create an insular effect from the wider community across the nation which would be beneficial in drawing upon the talent pool for coaches & players from the SEC footprint which bluntly put is where we need to be going forward.


October 21st, 2014 at 12:16 PM ^

The only thing that matters is Brandon out NOW or SOON. If they wait until after the season, it's probably Brandon hiring a nobody coach doming UM to three more years of bad and watching the best candidates go elsewhere.

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October 21st, 2014 at 12:19 PM ^

Perhaps an impertinent question, but are we just supposed to ignore the fact that Bielema has been, like, horrendously bad at Arkansas so far? I agree it was a stunning hire. It's far from obvious that it was a good one. The man is 0-12 in the SEC and Wisconsin fans seemed genuinely glad to see the back of him, even at the time. Given that a new AD is highly likely to be making an immediate coaching hire, this seems like something we should be keeping in mind.


October 21st, 2014 at 12:32 PM ^

He hasn't been horrendously bad. He inherited a horrendously bad team that got blown out a lot last year, and he already has them playing much more competitively. I don't know many Wisconsin fans who wanted him gone, but that would be pretty stupid considering he went to the Rose Bowl his last three years there.


October 21st, 2014 at 1:13 PM ^

My roommate is from Madison and his dad is a Wisconsin undergrad/law school alum. From what I've been told, I can totally understand why Wisconsin fans hated him despite the success that he had. Bielema, despite being a good coach, seems to be a genuinely terrible person to be around. So that it doesn't sound like I'm completely making accusations/withholding information, a car service in Madison refused to let him ride in their cars. They'd take his wife, who doesn't sound much better, but not him.


October 21st, 2014 at 3:15 PM ^

Big Bert strikes me as a big tool who is an otherwise good football coach.  Arkansas schedule is horrific this year with the Mississippi teams rising up.  For most of the West's history those were the bottom 2 teams in the division.  Now its Arkansas.

Look at this schedule - only A&M was a bad loss in retrospect and that was an OT game

  • @Auburn - lost 45-21
  • @Texas Tech (Iowa level team in Big 12) - won 49-28
  • @Texas A&M - lost 35-28 (OT)
  • Alabama - lost 14-13
  • Georgia - lost 45-32 (this game was not as close as indicated)


  • @#1 Miss State
  • #23 LSU
  • #3 Ole Miss
  • @Missouri

Those are 9 of Big Bert's 12 games.  That is ridiculous.  Missouri and Texas Tech are the easy ones - and a year ago Missouri was a top 5 team (they are down this year).


October 21st, 2014 at 4:22 PM ^

I don't know of any "Wisconsin fans" who liked Bielema and I live in Wisconsin.  Makes me question how many such fans you actually know.  I would not be surprised if Barry Alvarez realized he made a bad choice in Bielema and may have helped him out the door.     and I live in  Wisconsin.    a Make me wonder how many He


State Street

October 21st, 2014 at 12:32 PM ^

I think it's less about the hire itself and more about the manner in which the search was carried out.  It's Arkansas, not Alabama - Bielema was about the ceiling for them.

But nobody heard a god damn peep about it until the ink was dry.  Nothing.  No leaks, no drama.  Do you realize how goddamn impossible that is to do today, carry out a full head coaching search without compromising anybody's job or forcing anybody's hand?  

Dude is a genius.  Hope it gets done.  


October 21st, 2014 at 12:25 PM ^

Does Long's hiring actually increase the chances Hoke will be retained? They played high school football and baseball together and Long seems to have great respect for Hoke. The article below details some of their connection... http://espn.go.com/colleges/michigan/football/story/_/id/6919080/brady-…

EDIT: I just went back and read some other articles about Hoke and Long's past connections. I find it difficult to see that Long is going to take a job with the intention that his first order of duty will be to fire Hoke.


October 21st, 2014 at 1:21 PM ^

But then who would be firing Hoke? Are you suggesting that the president would fire a football coach while no AD was in place?

Im sure Long is able to handle firing a friend in the course of the job if necessary..but I think that is different than accepting a job with the intention to walk in and fire a close friend in your first few weeks on the job.

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Mr Miggle

October 21st, 2014 at 1:55 PM ^

The president could easily fire the coach along with Brandon. I don't see that as any kind of a stumbling block. I would expect that interviews with AD candidates are going to involve discussions about Hoke's future. Suppose everyone says they think Hoke has to go? Schlissel would just be making the announcement, not the decision. It's also possible that the timing could help in the search for his replacement.

I don't like the idea of Schlissel firing coaches for their W-L records, but I would have had no problem if he had stepped in and fired Hoke for his handling of Shane Morris. While that might still be the AD's job, it's ultimately the president who's responsible for the conduct of university employees and the welfare of its students.


October 21st, 2014 at 12:21 PM ^

has always felt like a college coach to me. I don't say that out of talent but personality. If he doesn't like recruiting he doesn't have to. Few guys can truly win kids with assistants and a phone call like he can. So, to me it seems to be an issue of self understanding on top of getting to Ann Arbor. Does he feel like a college guy even if it's just going the Carroll route? If not, he'll get an NFL job. If so, there is the issue of moving. IIRC, he has his children with his current wife but also another child with his ex in the bay area. It's not easy if your "daily" family may not want to go and you have other obligations just as important. I could see him going back to college but not Michigan. I don't think college = Michigan for Jim. It sounds insane but Stanford would be in play. Knowing the parties involved, Shaw wouldn't be a big obstacle and Shaw could/would stay at Stanford if the situation/pressure was right. Would Jim ask that of Shaw? Would Stanford? Who knows but it would be about as likely as Jim coming to Michigan, IMO. I say that with more possibility of that happening, btw.

Mr Miggle

October 21st, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

I don't, but frankly, every element of that scenario just sounds crazy. Shaw loves working under Harbaugh so much that he prefers that to being a very successful HC? So much so, that he won't mind his salary getting cut by at least 2/3? Or Stanford thinks it's a good idea to pay a coordinator $3M/year to accomodate an ex-coach who bolted for greener pastures?

I don't get why people think Harbaugh coming back to Michigan is out of the question. I seriously wonder if anyone but some Michigan fans feel that way. It's infintely more likely than some of the other possibilities being bandied about like hiring a Div-3 coach. We'll never know the complete truth abouth coaching searches, but I think there was a good chance Harbaugh was coming here last time unti the 49ers job opened up.


October 21st, 2014 at 1:57 PM ^

I said insane (ha). Yet, I hear it's not out of the question or realm of reality given the relationships. Money wouldn't be an issue but the key is options. One of them would move on (likely back to the NFL) in 1-4 years in that scenario anyway. I heard Stanford wasn't too sad to see Jim go the first time (all rumor to me) so, again, would anyone be asked to do that? I have large doubts! I based it largely on likelihood given what I've heard about Jim/Shaw and what we know about Jim as far as family in the area, etc. IMO, it's not just the wife that wants to stay near the bay.

turd ferguson

October 21st, 2014 at 12:25 PM ^

Great, well framed post, Brian.  Thank you.  I like this as a way that blogs can communicate gossip with some transparency and discretion in a way that more formal news sources can't (and probably shouldn't).

It's especially nice to see you rein in the Carr conspiracy theories.  They've been getting a little more ridiculous than usual lately.  

I'm not the first to suggest this, but I, too, would be interested if you've heard anything about John Harbaugh.  There has seemed to be more chatter about him than Jim, but I don't know if that's totally baseless.


October 21st, 2014 at 12:28 PM ^

..is given the option to fire BH or follow him out the door, I'm sure he'll choose the first option. I'm sticking with my suggestion that Brandon stays and Hoke goes, especially if we are embarrassed by Green and by Red.

Mo Better Blues

October 21st, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

Jim Harbaugh ain't comin'. And frankly, it's like talking about the no-hitter in progress. Better to just outright ignore the possibility and see if fortune smiles, because talking about it inflates everyone's hopes and we all know, deep down, Jim Harbaugh ain't comin'. (Yes, this is just total defeatism talking now--at best, fatalism. And those losing attitudes are entirely justified.) 


October 21st, 2014 at 12:46 PM ^

but still so very unlikely. Again, if he were to return to CFB I think he's back at Stanford. Even with Shaw they would be in a better position to rehire him then we would to hire him, imo. That's just counting the personal issues and not the actual hiring of a HC hurdles. Yes, more likely but it's like going from zero to 2%. Still, it's more likely than before. I'll admit that.


October 21st, 2014 at 1:24 PM ^

but both have a history, comfort level and options. I've only heard that it wouldn't be crazy (it would but not crazy unlikely ha) given everything involved IF Jim can't back to CFB. It would also be nothing like Hoke moving back to DL coach for a new staff (though, given his rep after this, it's back to the MAC or DL coach sonewhere).


October 21st, 2014 at 12:41 PM ^

there are just SO MANY factors involved with getting him even if we were in good standing with him (and all indication is we're not at the moment). I kind of have up during an NFL network interview a year ask where Eisen ended it with a "Go Blue". Jim just sat there, smirked and said nothing but "thanks". Rich then, assuming he didn't hear him, said "Go Blue, Jim.....can I just hear it". Jim then smirks again, thanks him again and almost rolling his eyes says the weakest "Go Blue" imaginable. There are issues lol. To answer an above question: Not sure how viable it is but always heard that John is "our Harbaugh" if we ever get one. No beef with the school and, in fact, loves the place. If he ever went CFB he'd basically be ours to lose. I've heard that from many different people that know far more then I do.


October 21st, 2014 at 1:28 PM ^

You're right, there would have to be some significant hatched burying for Harbaugh to come here.  Maybe the first thing would be a pledge for our new AD that they aren't going to steer football players into easy majors just to handhold them through school?  Isn't that the issue Harbaugh raised about Michigan?  If so, that would seem like a win-win--we get a top-flight coach AND he works to raise the academic profile of the team at the same time. 


October 21st, 2014 at 2:07 PM ^

the issue goes much deeper than academics as that would largely be on Jim to recruit kids to do what they want. Not everyone at Stanford under his watch was a "fill in hard major here" player. There are issues going back to Jim starting his major coaching career. We turned the guy down for QB in favor of a bust recruit (Loeffler). Not a bad hire but not Harbaugh. He took that really hard, as he had the right to if you ask me. Then some rumor about the RR hire in that he was bothered to not even get a call or something. Who knows? All I know is that outside of the HC hiring b.s. is a lot of personal stuff and some is bad blood between UM (or someone here...or near) and himself. After that you have his family, both live in home and out. A lot would have to line up is all. I hope it does.


October 21st, 2014 at 3:14 PM ^

I know grudges are a thing, but I sincerely doubt Harbaugh has soured so much that he would never even consider the job. We would have heard that by now if it were true.

And honestly, if Michigan is willing to (finally) make the changes necessary for a guy like Harbaugh to come, wouldn't that be enough to get over a silly past grudge? This isn't high school, guys. Les MIles has as much (if not more) of a reason to hold a grudge, and yet no one seems to talk about that...he would still come here in a heartbeat if Michigan offered him the job, despite never being offered each of the last two times that the job opened up.