Three And Out: The Questioning

Submitted by Brian on 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.


Section 1

September 20th, 2011 at 11:33 AM ^

Mind you, this is not any sort of "reporting" on my part.  Just a kind of loose explanation of competing theories and rumors.

First, the short cast of characters:

Ron English - Michigan's former DC under Lloyd Carr.  Discharged along with all of the rest of the Carr staff, after Carr's resignation.  Very widely criticized in his last year as DC for App St and Oregon debacles, which were defensive debacles as much as anything.  An African-American, and therefore in a unique posture as a possible replacement HC for Carr.  An obvious candidate for Michigan to interview in its coaching search.  Rejected, then hired as EMU's HC.

James Stapleton - A professional hanger-on in the world of University oversight and collegiate athletics.  Michigan grad; former member of Michgan's Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics (since renamed); Democrat Party playa; appointed by Gov. Granholm to the EMU Board of Trustees; has a consulting business of some kind that is sort of amateur-athletics managment-related.  Even while at EMU, highly active in Michigan affairs though friendships, professional connections, alumni associations, etc.

Lloyd Carr, Percy Bates, Compliance Services - Okay so no introductions needed.  Percy Bates has for about one millennium been an academic advisor on the Athletics Board.  He was recently inducted into something called the Minority Collegiate Athletics Hall of Fame or something like that and just so you know, Tom Goss was inducted as a great example of a minority Athletic Director.  Percy Bates would have been copied in on the July 27 2009 CARA-form audit memo that (Rosenberg refuses comment on) was apparently leaked and found its way to Rosenberg and/or Snyder and which launched Stretchgate.

So the story, such as it is, was that there was a cadre of people led (or at least exemplified) by James Stapleton, who wanted Ron English installed as HC.  And when that didn't happen, they were pissed off and sought to undermine Rodriguez.  It is thought that Stapleton, Bates and Carr are all kindred spirits.  Kindred political spirits, especially.  That is, politics in the ordinary sense and local interpersonal politics.

If anybody has more to add, be my guest.  Again, I caution -- this is not reporting on my part.  Somebody asked; and that's the answer from my perspective.


September 20th, 2011 at 12:04 PM ^

in Feb '06, Ron English left the M coaching staff for a job with the Chicago Bears.  Shortly following, Carr shitcanned Jim Hermann and convinced Ron English to return to UM as D Coordinator.  Many feel Carr enticed English to exit the NFL and return to UM with the promise that he would be the "head-coach-in-waiting" (strictly a handshake between Carr & English).  There was a history of hiring from within and English would have the inside track and Carr's blessing as his replacement.  When Bill Martin publicly stated his replacement search would only consider candidates with previous HC experience, English (and Carr) felt Martin welched on their personal agreement.  Carr and English then teamed up with others to torpedo Bill Martin's choice behind the scenes.  Unverified - but intriguing nonetheless. 



September 20th, 2011 at 12:54 PM ^

but I don't think Lloyd was a Ron English or else guy. I think he wanted a guy in his style as coach (Kirk Ferenz, Schiano...) or at the very least wanted to be consulted heavily in the decision, but he clearly was not consulted with the hiring of RR.


September 20th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

Ron English spent a year as DC at Louisville after leaving Michigan and before becoming the Head Coach at EMU.  I thought it was worth pointing out, only to avoid the implication (not your intention, I'm sure, but it jumped out at me this way for some reason) that English was some sort of hot commodity immediately scooped up as a head coach upon leaving Michigan. 

Edit: too slow on the trigger.


September 20th, 2011 at 9:50 PM ^


Stapleton is married to Carol Cain, Detroit F___ ____s columnist.

Also, Lloyd Carr, while an associate athletic director at the University of Michigan, assisted EMU in its search for a head football coach.

(PS, in what other universe would an official of a state university athletic department be permitted to assist another -competing- DI program find a head football coach?)


September 20th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

I've often wondered about the thought process that put Devin Gardner on the field last year.  Did RR really think that he was better than Tate Forcier or was Forcier in some sort of doghouse and RR was willing to burn a redshirt over it?

In all honesty, a lot of RR's decisions were puzzling to me.

1.  3-3-5 against Purdue in '08

2.  Fake punt against MSU in '09

3.  Just about any 4th down attempt in '10.


September 20th, 2011 at 10:56 AM ^

1. Were Tony Gibson and Jay Hopson really as bad as the fanbase thought?

2. Did RR ever seem to "get it" at Michigan?  Did he ever start changing his methods to conform more to what the fanbase had expected?  If this happened, when did it start?  If it didn't happen, why not?

3. How did the breakdown in communication happen with all of the athletes (Dorsey, Witty, a few others) who were never cleared to be admitted?


September 20th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

Since I feel like the poor defensive performance is the real reason Rodriguez got fired I really want to know what he was thinking with his defensive moves.

Why did Rodriguez hire guys he didn't know, twice, to run the defense? Was Rodriguez involved much with the defense? Did Rodriguez support his defensive coordinator or did he rely more on the position coaches who were his friends? Why did he try to change the defensive philosophy mid-year (ie Purdue)? Did he regret firing Shafer rather than the rest of the position coaches? What would he have done differently on the defensive side of the ball if he had a chance to do it again?


September 20th, 2011 at 3:14 PM ^

For me, it's really a story of how the defensive tradition disintegrated. The trajectory of the offense was never surprising in any way.

The thing that was hardest to take was going from entering 2008 thinking the defense would have to carry the team for a while, to wondering why they just could not get it together, to just wanting it to end, even if it meant sacrificing everything that had been accomplished on the offensive side.


September 20th, 2011 at 11:01 AM ^

I would like to know the criteria that the search committee used to find the canidates for the HC job and who were involved in the searching process mostly, i.e. boosters and other outside influences other than the AD and President. and was the committee recommendation unanimous or were there a faction or group that pretty much said "f you and we'll show you"

Was the hiring of RR a reactive hire or more of a well thought out hire with a purpose?  The search seemed to be so scatterbrained and lacked a direction that it still has me in awe.


September 20th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

While I'm sure that to some degree everyone involved could have done better to make Lloyd Carr's retirement work more smoothly for Michigan, as the guy inside following it, knowing what he knows now, who does Bacon blame for the failure of the Rodriguez era?  Bill Martin for conducting a search that found someone that "didn't fit"?  Rodriguez for not adapting?  RichRod for trying to win a MANBALL conference with waterbugs?  RichRod's horrible luck with DCs?  Michigan's fanbase for not giving him the support needed to recruit/weather storms?  The media/Freep for making the path uphill more difficult?  Lloyd Carr and his former players for not coming back and helping RichRod garner the power of Schembechler hall?  Dave Brandon for having too short a leash?

So many possibilities, and many probably complicit - but at the heart of it, what does John U. Bacon believe was the central catalyst/cause that was irreconcilable and caused the Lloyd to Whomever transition not to work the way we would have wanted?


September 20th, 2011 at 11:04 AM ^

What was the player-coach interaction really like behind closed doors?  Was RR the type of leader with an open door policy outside of practice, or did he lead from the top of a mountain?

What was the coach/player relationship really like during practice?  Was there positive encouragement mixed with the negative, or nothing but the berating like some have suggested?

Why Josh Groban? Why why why why why?

Did he hear that Craig James has never denied claims that some say he KILLED FIVE HOOKERS WHILE AT SMU?


September 20th, 2011 at 11:05 AM ^

I'd like to learn more about RR's contract/legal issues coming over from WVU.  I would like to know what Mary Sue's input on all of this was.  Something tells me that they (UofM admin) knew about all of the issues contractually beforehand so why did it seem it was all RR's doing?


September 20th, 2011 at 1:44 PM ^


Right out of the door we had signs that some newspeople were gunning for Rodriguez. Those "pay $x (huge number) if you take another job" clauses are legally very hard to enforce. You have to demonstrate that this sum is a plausible representation of the actual harm to you of the contract's being broken, so that the money can be represented as compensation for harm. Otherwise it would be closer to involuntary servitude, which contracts are not allowed to establish. That's why every single time in the history of coaches taking new jobs, the settlement is negotiated down to some fraction of the contractual number. I assume Brady Hoke did it, that's what Beilen did when he left WV, etc. Going to court just costs a lot of money for both sides and the result would be some smaller number. 


But this time, because all of the state of West Virginia was whipped into a state of outrage, not just about the leaving but about all sorts of bulls**t (OMG he shredded files! Yes, if they are confidential personal files with academic and personal information about athletes, that is what you are supposed to do. Are you going to put them in a caretakers bin out in the hall?) some elected judge decided to grandstand and insist on the whole amount. The ruling would never hold up on appeal, but it would be a p.r. catastrophe to drag things out (and expensive) so the U. said - look, just pay up and let's put this behind us. 


From this, lazy journalists got licence to make snide remarks about alleged "contractual controversies" every time RR was mentioned.


I say this not as any particularly huge RR fan, but to be fair: The spinning of that episode was an intentional hatchet job by people who had it in for him. 



September 20th, 2011 at 9:29 PM ^

Come on now, Rodriguez wasn't innocent in all of this.  It was reported (and I don't remember it ever being refuted) that he sent a grad assistant to deliver his resignation and pretty much tried to blame WVU for his decision instead of taking the high road.   He then got mixed up in charging them with discrimination, allegedly saying that he heard that they wouldn't hire one of his coaches because he was black.   I'm not saying the reaction would have been different, only that he contributed to the hostility. 

As for the journalists...I wasn't in Michigan when he was hired but nationally he was being pummeled.  The local journalists didn't invent the line of questioning he faced when he got to Ann Arbor, all of those questions were being posed on national sports talk shows. 


September 20th, 2011 at 11:06 AM ^

I'd like to know why he didn't even consider anyone from the Carr coaching staff

(Scot Loeffler!!!)


I know the epic Fred Jackson was kept... but you know... the rest of the staff.


September 20th, 2011 at 12:31 PM ^

Keep in mind that RR's QB coach from WVU, Rod Smith, was his lead recruiter in Florida and probably deserves most of the credit for turning Denard from a 4* cornerback into a heisman trophy candidate at qb.  Since leaving UM, he brought Gunner Keil to Indiana.  So while Loeffler was let go, its not like he was replaced by a total slouch.