Three And Out: The Questioning Comment Count

Brian September 20th, 2011 at 10:32 AM


So Rich Rodriguez did a deeply bizarre thing. Captain Renault, yes, yes. GERG, yes. 3-3-5 addiction, yes. Groban, yes. Right. I'll start again.

Amongst the many deeply bizarre things that Rich Rodriguez did was allowing John Bacon virtually unfettered access to his program for three years. He didn't know it at the time, but these happened to be the only three years of his program.

I received an advanced copy of the book that resulted and… man. If you are a Michigan fan the result is a must read. Hate Rodriguez, love Rodriguez, have deeply conflicted relationship with Carr, love Carr—doesn't matter. This is not another book where ex-jocks tell jovial stories about the slightly dangerous things that happened to them.

This is a book that immediately makes everyone in it mad as hell except the guy who did Never Forget. This is close to literally true.  Bacon's been banished to the Drew Sharp area of the press box, Michael Rosenberg is livid, Rodriguez himself is apparently hugely pissed. And while I can't confirm this like the above, I can't help but think that Lloyd Carr hates this book more than anything he's ever hated.

I know Bacon a bit and have pressed upon him an opportunity for MGoBlog: to badger him with questions. I would like to crowdsource these questions because these are important. I want to cover all the bases, ask the things clarify a lot of the debates fans have argued endlessly about for the last four years.

So: what would you ask someone who spent the last three years embedded in Operation Spread Ann Arbor? I'll cull the best ones and pose them to Bacon. He'll answer, and maybe we'll get some clarity.

Before you get to asking, some context:

  • While the book documents Rodriguez's increasingly desperate behavior it does seem to have a pro-RR editorial POV. Hard questions will be about the things he did wrong.
  • It does not really address the DC fiascoes, which I'll already be asking about.
  • The Free Press stuff comes in for a thorough treatment; if you want to be pointed the Qs there should be Devil's Advocate type things.
  • It's clear Bacon could not get anything solid on the Great Stapleton/English Conspiracy Theory, though he tried. Wouldn't bother there.
  • The Rodriguez coaching search went down essentially like we expected: Ferentz, panic, Les Miles boat incident, panic, Schiano, panic, Rodriguez.
  • I'm not going to ask a guy who spent three years of his life with unprecedented access to a major college football program why he decided to write a book about it. Figure it out yourself.

Along with a severe grilling of Bacon, we'll be running an excerpt from the book around the time of its publication, which is scheduled for October 25th.



September 20th, 2011 at 10:37 AM ^

i'd ask how the coaching staff responded to the constant recruit de-committs and if the athletic department saw these de-commits and the rise in attrition as rodriguez's fault.


September 20th, 2011 at 10:54 AM ^

Or I'd like to know how much Bacon felt that the attrition became a self-fulfilling process where people said there would be attrition, it gave people and out, and then so many people (Boren) slamming the program on the way out the door gave rise to others wanting to get out.

Section 1

September 20th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

It's a good point to raise "Boren" as a topic.  I sort of expected that John would steer clear of that topic simply out of respect for student athletes who are remaining, current, NCAA-elibgible student-athletes ===> Zach Boren.

The Boren thing, however, was a great and early foreshadowing of what was to come with the case of The Press Versus Rich Rodriguez.  The immediate reaction was to credulously take the press release from the Boren family and use it to start to wonder why Rodriguez and his staff were driving away talented Michigan shcolarship athletes with foul language.  Everybody started to wonder that.  When in fact that story was baseless; the Boren family were basically freaks; there was a much better and actually more compelling story out there (Mike and Hope Boren's rage that Zach had not been offered), and there was an actual storyline that refuted the Borens' own narrative (Mike Boren's insane football-dad dominance of the kids). 

God, I cannot wait for my Amazon pre-order of this book.


September 20th, 2011 at 10:38 AM ^

I'd like to hear about the division, if any, between Bo-era and Carr-era players' views of the Rodriguez tenure.  I have it in my mind (perhaps erroneously) that Bo-era players were generally more willing to give Rodriguez a chance and see how it all turned out, while Carr-era players were much quicker to jump on Rodriguez for abandoning Michigan tradition, etc.  Is this true?  Was there a pattern to how former players viewed Rodriguez?

Section 1

September 20th, 2011 at 11:09 AM ^

It's the one that I want answered above all, because unlike the Free Press, where we know what malicious dipshits they are, and Bacon would merely be confirming in a more public way what we already know, we really do need to know more about the limits placed on Rodriguez's pursuit of Casteel, and how the lack of full-throated support for Rodriguez in Ann Arbor filtered back to Casteel.

That story might be as much of a Morgantown story as an Ann Arbor story, however.

Brian says that the book doesn't do much to expose all of that.  That may be too bad; but whether the book answers it or not, I still think it is one of the great, prime questions for someone who had John U. Bacon's unprecedented access.


September 20th, 2011 at 11:38 AM ^

Okay, but until you see anything stating otherwise, this is just aimless speculation. It seems to be the case that Casteel simply wasn't interested in coming to Michigan, as hard as that is for many of us to imagine. I do not think that Casteel, in November 2008, didn't come to Michigan because he perceived through some kind of divination that Rodriguez would not have the full support of the M community. Or because M wouldn't pay him as much as WVU. Rodriguez didn't have the full support of the WVU administration, after all, and yet Casteel chose to remain there. As long as we're aimlessly speculating: perhaps Casteel was sick of working under Rodriguez.

Blue in Seattle

September 20th, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

Half of the WVU success was the Defense, and while we were enjoying the #2 FEI Offense in the land, WVU was enjoying the #2 FEI Defense in the land.  I would expand this into why didn't Bill Martin or his selection staff figure out that this was the case when they hired Rodriguez?  And to follow up, when Scot Shafer was fired, did Rodriguez or Dave Brandon attempt to offer Jeff Casteel?

Sure we might get a blah answer, but this question MUST be asked since it's now obvious that Rich Rodriguez was fired because of the downward spiral of his defense.  Meanwhile Dave Brandon spares no expense on bringing in one of the top DC's in the NFL to coach Michigan.

Even more interesting, this line of questioning could dig into whether Bacon knows anything of how Brandon lead his coaching search, to contrast with what Brian says is a very detailed transcript of Bill Martin's coaching search.  Again, we might get an answer of "Brandon was too smart to let me in, so I guess he did what he said he did", but cripes, this is for me the pivotal issue.

Section 1

September 20th, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

By most real measures, WVU has been a Top-25 defense every year under Casteel for about the last five years.

When Michigan fired Shaefer after '08, my clear understanding (I don't think there is much dispute about this) is that Rodriguez immediately went back to Casteel to again offer him the job.

In summary, Casteel seems to have been courted, seriously, three times:

  1. When Rodriguez was first hired in '07, and Casteel said that he would join Rodriguez in Ann Arbor, but changed his mind after Bill Stweart was named HC at WVU and Casteel had the clear chance to stay, keeping his family in place in Morgantown;
  2. When Shaefer was fired after '08, and Rodriguez asked again.  (This would have been the "money" occasion.  Bill Martin was still the AD.  David Brandon was in the private sector.)
  3. When, after the '10 season, Rodriguez was fighting for his own job and was reputedly being pressured about what to do about the Michigan defense.  And Rodriguez's own precarious position made it impossible to tempt Casteel, despite Brandon's realization that Coordinator-pay had been a very big problem at Michigan in the past.


September 20th, 2011 at 11:52 AM ^

I asked Bacon this very same question at a function and he stated that the administration really hampered his ability to get Casteel to AA. The budget that they set for the DC was less than what Casteel was making at WVU. The question then becomes, would you uproot your family for less money into a new town environment and additional uncertanties?


September 20th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

That was why I asked the question, so we could have someone with some knowledge speak about it as opposed to mere speculation.

The entire "process" that was used to find Lloyd Carr's replacement and to bring in the replacement's assistants can now be reviewed in retrospect with the advantage of hindsight and subsequent history. 

I suggest down the road we consider comparing this coaching change to the one made by Brandon in a few years and we can evaluate what does and does not work.


Seattle Maize

September 20th, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

This is inexcusible by Bill Martin in my opinion.  DC was the second most important hire of that offseason wiht RR being such an offensively oriented coach.  While the fact that RR brought and kept defensive coaches like Tony Gibson is beyond belief, this shows that the AD fucked it up too.


September 20th, 2011 at 2:58 PM ^

(that he may not be able to answer): was keeping the existing D staff a precondition for the DC hire? What about the 3-3-5?

There are basically two, not necessarily mutually exclusive, explanations for how we wound up with Greg Robinson:

1. the athletic department wouldn't sign off on the kind of salary required to get a quality DC

2. prospective coordinators believed they wouldn't have control of scheme or staff and weren't willing to sign on under those conditions, especially after what might have appeared to be a scapegoating of Schafer.

It'd be interesting to hear Bacon's take.



September 20th, 2011 at 6:51 PM ^

My thought is that RR wanted to bring Casteel along but may be Casteel didn't think the salary was worth the move, so he turned RR down.

However, for the salary RR could have gotten a good DC and my thoughts are that Schafer was and is a very good DC. He did not mesh well with the other defensive coaches RR brought over from WVU and these were good friends of RR and he was not going to let a new DC let them go. GREG was someone who RR thought could get along with the other defensive coaches. Well it did not work out so well.

Overall, I was willing to give RR 4 years to prove himself as a HC here but there is no way the defense was going to improve to the point to keep RR as coach after this season, and no excellent DC was going to jump on a sinking RR coaching ship this season.

So overall, I'm satisfied that Brandon did make the decision to let RR go.  I will give Brady that same 4 year chance to turn this program around. He has hired good coaches and he is doing surprisingly well recruiting. I'm optimistic that Hoke can get the job done.

I may read the book but as far as asking any questions, I just don't see any point. As far as I'm concern it all water under the bridge. I like RR and I hope he gets a good HC gig somewhere and does well.


September 20th, 2011 at 10:43 AM ^

i'm not sure how valuable our questions can be without having read the book. maybe it's best to wait until after it comes out and everyone had a chance to give it a read? or maybe a round 2 of Q's then??

Blue in Seattle

September 20th, 2011 at 12:55 PM ^ seems that Brian will be interviewing Bacon before we even get our hands on the book.  Which is why Brian gave us guidelines in asking our questions.  I agree that it would help us filter our own questions, but we don't have that chance, so I guess we'll just have to deal with this adversity like Michigan Men.


Shop Smart Sho…

September 20th, 2011 at 10:44 AM ^

What happened when Mallet transferred?  Had Rodriguez really tried to keep him, or was Mallet out the door before the transfer of power actually happened?


What time did Tony Gibson lay down with his sippy cup and blankey in the afternoon?

Hardware Sushi

September 20th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

I was decently close to Mallet, as we had a mutual friend and he would hangout at our house my senior year.

My impression (that's all it is) is that Mallet, being from Texarcana, probably goes to Arkansas had Mitch Mustain not gone and won 9 games in a row (or whatever it was his freshman year). At the same time, he and his parents liked Lloyd Carr and Michigan's QB tradition, so it was a great alternative.

Without Carr in Ann Arbor or Mustain in Fayetteville and a spread coach coming in, I think it's a situation where someone did what was probably best for himself (rightfully so), regardless of any attempt Rich Rod had to persuade him to stay.

My opinion stays the same: Mallet was an immature douche that was unliked by a lot of the team and wouldn't have worked out in RR's offense. Hopefully he will mature and be productive with his time under Tom Brady.


September 20th, 2011 at 10:44 AM ^

How would Bacon have addressed as a journalist, if at all, the practice/stretching issues that the Freep based its story on?

Did RR feel or directly experience backlash from within the program from current/former players/coaches and how did RR feel that impacted his attempt to wholesale change the program?

How were RR and his family treated in Ann Arbor?

Did Bacon contact Carr about the book and if so what was Carr's response?

Does Bacon vomit when seated next to Drew Sharp in the press box?


Six Zero

September 20th, 2011 at 10:44 AM ^

Rich had to know that it was over before it was officially over.  Desperation is a perfect word. 

So when did Bacon really sense that it was over?  Before the bowl game?  As soon as Mullen was carried off the field?  As soon as the Groban song was cued up?  As soon as Brandon was hired?


September 20th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

The Penn St. game, with two weeks to prepare, was when I began beating my head against the wall in earnest. The couldn't have been less prepared if they spent two weeks at the beach chasing bikinis.


September 20th, 2011 at 12:27 PM ^

Yes, I'd like to know RichRod's reaction to the Penn State game.  At one point in the second half (as I recall), RR was seen on the field screaming at the defense, exhorting them to . . . do something.  GERG was in the background of the frame staring helplessly from underneath his magnificient hair.

I thought at the time that RR knew he was losing his job if they didn't pull that game out (or at least make PSU punt once or twice).

Greg McMurtry

September 20th, 2011 at 3:20 PM ^

to go to a Halloween party.  I received word that Michigan almost made a comeback to win the game and thought, "ok I'll see what happens."  Unlike a lot of people, I thought the Illinois game was when I basically became "numb" to Michigan football.  I figured Purdue was a sure-win because they were terrible and made it through that week.  I went to the Wisconsin game and felt like a lifeless zombie as Wiscy ran and ran and ran all over the defense.  I basically had zero hope for a win over "Ohio" for perhaps the first time ever as a Michigan fan.  At that point, I hoped for a new coach.  Not trying to be a jerk here, but since this book is about the past 3 years of Michigan football, these were my final feelings on the subject.


September 20th, 2011 at 10:45 AM ^

I can not wait to read this book. I've been waiting for this since I first heard Bacon was doing it. What a strange period in the saga that is Michigan football. I hope it sheds some immediate light on a few questions I've had for years.

Tha Quiet Storm

September 20th, 2011 at 10:46 AM ^

I'm curious as to the content of the e-mail that Bacon and Drew Sharp received that was mentioned by Ace in the post-WMU podcast. What exactly was their reasoning for relegating him to the back of press row?