[ED: Hey guys! Ace is looking for a few good questions for a basketball season preview mailbag. Hit him up at [email protected].]
Meta-response about yesterday's post.
[ED: I normally hack out praise from these emails in an effort to be as concise as possible but it was not possible to do so here without making bronx sound like a jerk.]
I've been trying to think of a better way to ask this, but I can't so I'll just come out with it:
What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails?
Man, yeah, that comes across as condescending. Let me try to explain.
I'm not saying they shouldn't be given their due. and I respect the hell out of you and Ace putting in the effort to figure out their veracity; count me in the camp of people who doubted WD's initial post due to the inconsistencies in his story. Following through on the story and backing it up with multiple sources is the type of reporting you don't expect to see from a "fan" site, and yet you guys did better work than I've seen in a long time from more established media members in the community. Heck, it's basically you guys and the Daily kicking ass in that department.
But once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward? I've made my feelings known about Brandon and how, frankly, this really shouldn't accelerate his removal (I mean, if his handling of Gibbons, Morris, ticket prices, attendance, stadium experience, alumni relations, coaching snafus, losing, etc. doesn't do him in but bitchy emails do I'll be a bit disappointed in the administration for needing something so trivial to move them to action), but I honestly want to know your take. Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward?
For example, you mentioned in your podcast that fans' habits can be broken quickly and it can take a generation to get them back. You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away? Personally, I'm less and less excited to follow this team even this year because it is just a clown show made worse by the negative tone so many fans seem to hold toward it. My Facebook feed is full of people linking to articles calling for Hoke an co. to be booted (many to mgoblog), and lots of them were moderately-sane fans before the last couple of years. I'm not saying you and the site are to blame for any of it; you are just reporting and commenting on the shit show being trotted out every week. But do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?
And again, I'm conflicted even asking this, because you guys have a duty to ferret out these idiots and bring them to the public's eye, and you do a great job at capturing the Michigan zeitgeist effectively. But there's just such a toxic culture around the program, and I wonder even if they get some homerun hires (which I'm a bit dubious about), if some of this damage will linger.
Anyway, feel free to respond however you want; if part of this makes its way into a mailbag or something then by all means out me and respond how you wish. I'm fine with it. I honestly just want to know.
I made a decision to let the original Have A Happy Life email stand—in fact I made a decision to re-instate it after one of the mods pulled it 200 comments deep—and from there things proceeded inexorably to yesterday's post.
I let it stand because I thought it was true.
[After THE JUMP: a full run-down of the decision to run with this story and evaluation about whether this was in error.]
As I said in the post, over the past few years about two dozen different people have emailed me their interactions with Brandon. The purported Brandon consistently overused ellipses and exclamation points. Most emails had that arrogant tone, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. There was no way all these different people were snowing me, especially early on when we were just somewhat cranky with Brandon.
The first burst of these came after Brandon broached the possibility of moving the OSU-M game to midseason in a WTKA interview. Brandon got a lot of emails about how that was a very bad idea and responded to them like so…
…at the time emailers generally said "this guy is kind of a jerk" and let it drop; I did too. But I knew that this was a thing, as did a lot of people I talked to. I have a dozen more of these after yesterday.
I've let my internet spidey sense guide me for my career here and it's served me well—if you seek a popular blog, look around you. I went with it here, and then a few things happened.
- An Olbermann staffer found it and got it on freakin' ESPN. ESPN actually credited us on TV, to which my response was "Oh no. Oh no no no no."
- A skeptical MGoBlog user submitted an FOIA specifically tailored to return this result and got nothing. This caused a maelstrom of recriminations for Wolverine Devotee, whose only crime is purchasing Michigan alternate jerseys.
- I found out that there was a very good reason this FOIA was not likely to return a response, as detailed in the post.
- I felt the FOIA response was tactical. I had FOIAs pending at the time, filed before the MGoBlog user filed his. The U took the absolute maximum time allotted to respond to them, and when I filed a FOIA request in summer of 2013 that was similarly non-responsive they again took the maximum amount of time. The quick response to his request felt like selective efficiency designed to release information they desired to release, and this made me even more certain of the email's legitimacy.
- A second, detailed email chain was provided to me by another reader.
So now we're in a situation where we've been credited nationally for something that might be bunk but probably isn't bunk and thanks to the multiple emails we can confirm or disconfirm with great confidence. Plus there is the strong, false implication that the thing is bunk provided by the nonresponsive FOIA request.
At that point there is really no decision about whether to go forward or not, especially after Ace did yeoman work to actually track down the original Have A Nice Life post with headers and all. It was my call to let the original post stand, so now I have a responsibility to follow that through.
The one thing we can absolutely not afford is to be wrong, or even perceived as wrong, about anything. It is so much worse for us than a larger outlet. If we had published something like the Oklahoma State expose, we would be done. Doomed. If something is news-ish from us it cannot be sort of news-ish, it has to be ironclad. This is why the site's rumor reporting has always gone with the maximum amount of transparency possible—that's the closest thing to iron we've got in those situations.
We have solid, newsworthy information that we need to disclose. The only thing that would have prevented us from talking in this situation would be if the release of the information was damaging to a student-athlete, a private citizen, or the department.
I do not consider Dave Brandon the department. If Dave Brandon is fired and replaced nothing we published affects Michigan one iota. It is my opinion that Dave Brandon leaving would be a great boon for Michigan. That's not why I published, but it is why I didn't hold my tongue like I had for the previous three years.
To answer the questions above directly:
What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails?
To confirm something that had been reported as Reported By Us, and vindicate a guy who was right in the first place. And to publish something newsworthy.
Once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward?
If Brandon is replaced it does not affect the program. If Brandon is kept it probably sucks out a few more ticket holders.
Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward?
I reject the notion that the fans have any role in the "turmoil" except as people responding to said turmoil. The fans did not go 2-11 against Ohio State and 1-6 against Michigan State over the last X years. The fans did not leave Shane Morris on the field—the fans actually urged Michigan to take him off. The fans did not botch the aftermath of the Morris incident such that it led national news for almost a week.
All of that is orders of magnitude more damaging to the program than anything a fan will ever say.
And anyway Michigan fans have in fact been super patient. How many other programs going through this fallow period would have put 113,000 in the stands for a game everyone knew was going to be a dud? Look at how much money we are providing relative to performance, with this home schedule and this team.
The idea that Michigan fans are somehow worse than other fanbases is ridiculous. I did This Week In Schadefreude for years. Michigan is nowhere near the most volatile fanbase. We care our asses off; spinning that as a negative is backwards.
You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away?
This question seems to assert that fans complaining about the degraded state of the program is why fans are discontent. Again, if that is impacting Michigan negatively the size of that effect is dwarfed by the losing and inept PR provided by its leadership. This is a response to the things negatively impacting the program.
If the guy negatively impacting the entire University's public image is removed, the fans immediately get hopeful and happy. That's how this works.
Do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?
No. Fans want Brandon out. As soon as Brandon goes, the fire goes. At this point the most damaging thing possible is Brandon's retention.
Amongst the copious positive feedback from yesterday there was the occasional comparison of our decision to publish Brandon's emails to stretchgate, including a hilarious thread on Rivals calling for a boycott of this here site.
This kind of response comes from a fear that publishing the way we do hurts the program. I don't think that's true. I think the program hurts the program. The reaction yesterday indicates that the great majority of the fanbase is with us, and we stand by our decision.
I'll talk about this more later but when we do get significant pushback we change our tack. I got a lot of concerned reactions to the idea of a Maryland boycott and I'm dropping that idea. Yes, even if Brandon is still in place. I misjudged what an appropriate response would look like there.
I've gotten zero indication that's the case here—even that Rivals thread quickly turned into a bunch of people bombing the few proponents. If we err, we own it; this is not an error.
ain't no precedent for an NFL coach wearing google glass neither
I can't think of a single example of a successful NFL head coach who left the league to take a college job (e.g., an NFL coach who had a winning record one season and then coached in college the next season).
Would a Harbaugh-to-Michigan move after this season be literally unprecedented?
I think so. Help me out, hivemind, but I could not find a single instance of a successful NFL coach leaving his job for college. There have been a few instances where guys bail on the NFL:
- Bobby Petrino ditched the Falcons at the tail end of their season after going 3-10 in his first year
- Nick Saban did leave the Dolphins after two years without getting axed. He was 6-10 in his second year.
- Steve Spurrier resigned after two years in Washington, took a year off, and then took the South Carolina job.
- That appears to be the full list of NFL head coaches who voluntarily returned to college.
So it would be unprecedented for an NFL coach who seems like a good NFL coach to go back to college. But Harbaugh is an unprecedented guy in a lot of ways. How many coaches coming off back-to-back-to-back conference championship game appearances are dogged by constant rumors he's out the door no matter what?
There are college guys and there are NFL guys; Michigan is hoping that their guy is a college guy who happens to also be a great NFL coach until people get tired of him.
I know that you ascribe turnovers to randomness, but do you think that it feeds itself? Not getting turnovers leads to not looking for turnovers or trying to create turnovers? It feels like our DB's don't even look to pick things off over the middle - rather they are looking to "bring the wood".
That's not entirely true. I ascribe fumble recovery rates to luck. This was a position of some controversy after Michigan picked up 74% of the fumbles that hit the ground in 2011, fueling Michigan's stunning defensive turnaround that year. Michigan has not come anywhere close to repeating that feat. The last three years they were/are at 51%, 61%, and 40%. There is no repeatability to fumble recoveries.
Turnovers in general are pretty random just because they're low probability events, but anyone who's watched football knows that hitting people hard and getting pressure on the quarterback are reliable ways to force TOs; having a young quarterback is a reliable way to cough 'em up. College teams have so much turnover from year to year that TO rates tend to have very low repeatability.
Phil Steele uses TOs to predict up-and-downswings from teams annually. He has good success predicting that teams who suffered a huge negative TO margin will improve. If turnovers were repeatable year to year that strategy would backfire.
But anyway, the question: I think that Michigan's lack of TOs forced this year is a combination of bad, predictable coverage in the secondary and bad luck. It's hard to force an interception when the QB is rifling it to a wide open first read. You can't apply pressure to the QB and you can't, like, cover the guy he's throwing to. Michigan has not forced many throws into tight windows. Coverage across the middle has been particularly nonexistent, and that is an area of the field a lot of coaches fear to go because dangers lurk therein.
I don't think it piles on itself; I think it's just an effect of not being very good.
Hey Brian and Ace,
I've figured out why people think Dantonio's reaction to the spike was cool and good.
Listen, run the score up or don't. As people have repeated ad nauseam, "it ain't Dernternier's jerb to sterp his term!" That's fine as far it goes. And I also understand that beating Michigan and feeding red meat to the fanbase are each about 45% of his job.
But why do people think it's cool that he got so offended by the lesser team's dumb motivational ploy? Why do people think this is how an adult who makes millions of dollars a year should behave?
It's actually quite simp . . . ALL HAIL THE HYPNOTOAD!
Tom in DC
It is cool that he got offended by the lesser team's motivational ploy because Dantonio's never ending torrent of anger has made Michigan State as good as they've been since the 1960s.
This is not how an adult who makes millions of dollars a year should behave, but football coaches are not expected to be adults. See: Bo, Woody, etc. Football coaches are expected to be high-functioning lunatics.
Here is a DANTONIOAD anyway.
You now feel a need to apologize for anything you have ever done that might offend Mark Dantonio, which is everything.
Why haven't we fired him yet?
Why is Brady Hoke still the Michigan football coach this morning? While there may be a dearth of promising interim options, what benefit is there to keeping a clearly inept and doomed coach at the helm? The current players cannot be enjoying this, they are not improving, and they may not really care anymore. Further, no recruit currently committed to UM can realistically think Hoke will be still be here after December, and no un-committed or once-committed prospect is likely swayed that the program is heading somewhere good while Hoke persists as the "I think I was aware that something happened, but I'm not fully aware" guy.
Shouldn't Michigan create an opening right now, post it on the job board, and begin rounding up all the lucre it needs for Jim Harbaugh or someone else sufficient for the task at hand? Even if David Brandon is also headed for a career change, doesn't officially firing Hoke free up more permanent forces--boosters, donors, Jesus--to work on a football regime change?
The benefits of firing Hoke now are dubious because of the AD situation, and because search firms exist. If anyone at Michigan has their business right, they're already gauging possible candidates.
Letting Hoke stay on does provide some fringe recruiting benefits—they're still out there visiting places, trying to get guys in, offering the occasional in-state three star. Letting him go out on his own terms instead of roughly pulling the plug will help soften the blow for the players on the team, who are universally said to like Hoke. Midseason firings are mostly reserved for coaches who are loathed by their team (see Weis, Charlie) for a reason. If the players feel that Michigan did Hoke wrong they might be more inclined to transfer.
I don't think it matters much either way but after the initial flush of post-Morris anger I've come to accept that keeping Hoke on until the end of the season is the right move. I would still give him his walking papers before OSU on the off chance there's a miracle that muddies the waters.