Book Reports: Three and Out part I

Submitted by 909Dewey on October 25th, 2011 at 11:32 PM

I picked up a copy of Three and Out at lunch today and have been reading non stop since getting home from work.  So far I am through 167 pages.  The next chapter begins with the freep article.

I plan on writing a book report here.  I will start by addressing my own questions from the 9/20 mgoblog request for crowd questions.  These are my initial observations, I will update with details later.  What I have learned so far:

1-Prior to being contacted by the UM AD, did Rich Rodriguez have any kind of opinions regarding the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan, or UofM football? What were those opinions?

Yes and no.  The book does mention in general terms RR having some knowledge about Michigan football and some of the tradition associated with it.  However, there isn’t any explicit mention of specifially Nehlen imparting to RR what exactly Michigan represented.

2-Did Bill Martin and RR have any kind of an agreement regarding on-field expectations in the first few years? What did RR expect? What did Martin expect? Did RR receive some kind of "ok" to lose in year one?

RR mentions Bobby Bowden’s timeline for building a program – first you lose by a lot, then you lose by a little, then you win by a little, then you win by a lot – implying a four year, or at least a four stage process.  RR also meets with Mary Sue and Martin after being hired but before the first season starts and mentions the rebuilding project may take more time than originally thought, more than three years according to RR.  Their response is that he may have to remind them again later, in case they forget.  Obviously expectations and how reasonable they may have been was a fundamental theme in this saga.

3-When Brandon was hired did he give RR any kind of ultimatum regarding on field progress?

Not there yet.

4-When RR did the Groban thing, was he somehow trying to force the athletic department to terminate his employment? Would he have welcomed that result at that time?

Not there yet.

5-During the last few Carr years, there was much speculation that he was on the way out soon - his announcement should not have been a surprise. Yet the coaching search seemed haphazard. Did Martin have any kind of transition plan to speak of? Was it executed during the coaching search? Was there internal strife regarding the plan? Does Dave Brandon have a transition plan now?

Martin insists Carr’s retirement was basically a surprise.  Martin did not have any kind of pre-existing transition plan to speak of.

6-The relationship between RR and John Beilein, both coming from WVU and then at UM together, never seemed anything but strained or even non-existent - what was that relationship really like? Did Beilein ever "go to bat" for RR?

           No mention of Beilein, other than in passing, so far





October 26th, 2011 at 12:17 AM ^


I got the book today and had time to read just about the same number of pages.  It's definitely been an interesting read, and it seems I had repressed memories of most of the 2008 season.  I had forgotten many of the details of those 2008 games Bacon described, so I went back and pored over box scores.  I am a bit dismayed by how very inaccurate Bacon's recounting of the facts of the 2008 Purdue game are.  He writes Michigan led 42-35.  They did not.  Purdue led 42-35.  He writes that Purdue scored a TD but missed a 2-point conversion, leaving Michigan with a 42-41 lead.  That, obviously, did not happen.  He writes that Michigan only needed to get a first down to run out the clock, when in fact Michigan scored late to tie the game at 42, kicked to Purdue, surrendered the TD on the horrific hook-and-lateral, and got the ball back with 26 seconds left.  Threet and Mathews actually drove us to the Purdue 47 for a Hail Mary attempt that failed.

I recognize the book is not an epic retelling of the 2008 Michigan-Purdue Clash of the Titans, but I'm not sure I understand how something so inaccurate could have been missed prior to publication.  


October 26th, 2011 at 4:39 AM ^

He also writes that ND hired George O'Leary after Urban Meyer turned them down, then hired Charlie Weis after O'Leary's resume inaccuracies forced him to resign. The O'Leary fiasco actually happened during their previous coaching search in 2001. Obviously a very minor detail, but it does seem like the fact-checking in the book wasn't very thorough. 

Other than that though, it seems like a pretty solid read so far.

Mitch Cumstein

October 26th, 2011 at 7:03 AM ^

I haven't read the book yet, but for all the love Bacon gets on this website for being "the best jounalist with the highest standards for accuracy" these errors make me think otherwise.  If there are inaccuracies in things this simple that can easily be checked with an ESPN box score or a wiki search, I can't imagine the amount of falsehoods or exagerations when recounting "this person talked to this person and said this to this person" type information that seems to be abundant (judging from the other book reports posted).  That is quite alarming, and honestly takes a hit of credibility in my eyes.

El Jeffe

October 26th, 2011 at 8:20 AM ^

I'm not sure why jumbling up the precise order and outcome of a few plays in a football game would lead you to conclude that there must be a large number of "falsehoods" and "exaggerations" when reporting on conversations that Bacon observed or was told about.

Your tone leads me to believe you were suspicious of the book to begin with. Which is your right, of course, but don't pretend it's because there were two or three factual errors in a 400-page book. As an example, Bill Simmons's "Book of Basketball" was littered with factual errors (corrected in later editions). That shit happens.

Think of it this way: if they had been caught by Bacon or an editor, would that have made you less suspicious of the rest of the book? That doesn't really make sense. In my view, the only really convincing evidence for the book's lack of veracity (verified or otherwise) would be if the subjects came out in the media and persuasively challenged Bacon's accounts.

Mitch Cumstein

October 26th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

I was not suspicious of the book to begin with, but I do question the aura surrounding Bacon as a journalist, as if everything he writes should be taken as the gospel truth.  I think its important to be objective about journalists and their individual pieces.

That being said, as a poster mentioned below, these aren't factual errors.  He isn't making mistakes in stats or mistaking or misspelling someone's last name.  He is misremembering the order and details pertaining to specific events that he is writing about, and making assertions and giving opinions based on those errors.  I'm pretty sure that can lead to the questioning of other assertions he is presenting.


October 27th, 2011 at 4:59 PM ^

Yeah, I'm not entirely sure why Bacon has a reputation as a bang-up journalist.  He's an engaging professor, writes an interesting blog and did a nice job collaborating with Bo on his final book, but had he ever done any kind of investigative journalism before writing Three and Out?


October 26th, 2011 at 12:55 PM ^

No one is taking the Book of Basketball as a definitive history, as much as an opinion piece. This book is being called the factual history of the last 3 years, not one man's opinion on it.  And he wasn't calling out typos, but rememberances of events, which are cut and if those are wrong, how can memories of he said/she said stuff be any more or less accurate?


October 26th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

To be fair it seemed you were trying to discredit the book when the other poster was giving his review of the book. So at a minimum, how can anyone gather that you are reading the book without your own slant on it as well?

Everyone has their own view of the last 3 years, and everyone I have discussed this book with sees the details of the book through the goggles of their own personal view. I am sure everyone is guilty of the same thing.

There has been so much heated debate about all of this that it would be impossible to read completely unbiased if you are a fan of Michigan athletics.


October 26th, 2011 at 9:59 AM ^

If those factual errors are there, then I'd hope that Mr. Bacon and his editors are working on corrections already.

Factual errors attributable to sloppy proofreading might be somewhat excusable. At times I’ve discovered typos in a long document that I’d been drafting and revising for weeks. I realize too late that I’d missed a typo that might’ve been avoided by using some software program that checks spelling and grammar every time I saved the document.

But factual errors attributable to sloppy, careless research and editing, especially when a nonfiction book has been three years in the works and when the facts can be confirmed very easily, are much less excusable and can distract a reader from enjoying the full work, or worse, make a reader question the veracity of other claims that might very well be true, but might be much more difficult to confirm.

Even websites like PolitiFact and FactCheck occasionally get it wrong. But to learn that some readers found some factual errors in Three and Out that easily could’ve been avoided suggests that it wouldn't be unreasonable for a reader to wonder whether other statements in the book can be questioned, merely because those other alleged "facts" are hard to confirm. 

Have to hope that Mr. Bacon is working on those corrections.      If those factual          


October 26th, 2011 at 10:11 AM ^

These aren't factual errors due to proofreading. These are stories Bacon was present to witness and report on. It's not a fact check. It's the ability to factually report a story. What happened on that game with those 10,000 pages of notes he took, during which he was on the sidelines, and what other stories may have been misrepresented?

It just raises concerns. May be just ugly bathwater. Let's hope the baby is clean.


October 26th, 2011 at 10:05 AM ^

It does bring questions. With so many implications of support or lack of support, nuances of opinions or implied messages, I'm very concerned if Bacon doesn't report anecdotes about basic facts accurately.
How can I trust his view of Carr's statements, implied or otherwise, if he can't get a basic box score right?


October 26th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

But I've noticed some of the same stuff.  If not outright inaccuracies, little slants throughout.  If Rich did something, it was always with the best intentions; if it was anyone else, it was sinister. Or even less controversal...every AD after Bo had no Athletic Department Experience....well, except for the guy who was Assistant AD before he became AD...and the guys who had played football, or been involved in the Department. I mean, Bo was a football coach...he had never administered anything financially in the department. It was highly controversal at the time he was taking over (and well known he was just doing it to put in his successor, and the day to day stuff was being done by that other guy Bacon knocks). But he's our last great AD. And all the problems started after him. Even though Canham hired Frieder (where the problems really started) and Bo put Fisher in charge, and even Canham had his coach get baseball probation. So it's not like we had no problems till Bo left.

And somewhere along the line Bacon claims he started the whole basketball investigation...and that was really a lot more Freep driven. At the time there was an editor who "wanted to bring Michigan down", and we gave him the fodder to do so.  But I don't recall Bacon at the News being instrumental in it, like he claims.

Maybe it gets harsh later on, but so far it seems like Rich wrote the book. I can't imagine what he doesn't like in it (so far at least).  All the viewpoints come from him.  Stories that he was supposedly keeping quiet about, we all already knew.  And somewhere we get things like two person meeting with Coleman and Martin where the latter gets chewed out...and Bacon reports the details like he was there, with no source attributation. I get the feeling Rich told him what he heard on just about everything, and since no one else wanted to talk, he just went with things as fact.  (I mean, we have the horrid treatment of Rich banquet story...but nothing about him and his coaches being excessively drunk at some of these alumni gatherers? We've had ex-players on HERE report that...certainly Bacon must have heard it too). I mean, he won't touch any of the Miles rumors...but rumors on everyone else seem fair game.

It's just a take that I have doubts with a quarter of the way through. Things might change.


October 26th, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

This is one of the best examples of why the split in the M community will never be resolved.  The extremists on both sides are completely incapable of reading a factual account without trying to discredit the author if they disagree.  Why can't Bacon be inaccurate about one thing and be correct about everything else at the same time?  

There are a few people here who simply can't hear anything negative about Lloyd Carr.  If the M community is going to make it, we need to be honest with ourselves, admit the mistakes, learn from them, forgive the other side, and move on.  Stop impugning Bacon because you don't agree with him.




Mitch Cumstein

October 27th, 2011 at 8:12 AM ^

"The extremists on both sides are completely incapable of reading a factual account without trying to discredit the author if they disagree."


Did you miss what everyone is talking about here?  People are questioning whether this is actually a factual account.  From the examples brought up above it seems that it might not be.  

los barcos

October 27th, 2011 at 5:23 PM ^

I would agree with this assessment in that the book seems like its slanted towards RR  (I am about 250 pages and  1.5 seasons in).  Up to this point, Bacon glances over the defensive incompetence and doesn’t attribute any of that to RR.   He merely talks about Shaffer being fired as if it was his fault and his fault alone (and leaves out anything regarding the Purdue 08 switch to the 3-3-5, other than some offhanded comment that it “didn’t work.”)  And he also fails to mention the other muffed coaching search – the one that turned up GERG (if you remember, we were without a defensive coordinator for over a month during the thick of recruiting which resulted in Syracuses’ trash).   I read beforehand that RR and his people were very upset about the book, thus far, I don’t see why they would be…


EDIT: I bring up the Shaffer bit in that it seems to me, as an outsider, this was the biggest fatal decision in RR’s tenure.  Firing Shaffer, who turned out to be a decent to good coach, and bringing in GERG, set in motion the events which caused the worst defense in Michigan history.   If we just had a semblance of competency from the defensive staff, no doubt RR would be here.   And in the book, there isn’t as much as a mention of the events behind it – Schaffer kind of leaves and GERG just sort of appears.


October 27th, 2011 at 6:02 PM ^

I agree that Bacon doesn't devote nearly enough attention to the defense. Of all the problematic aspects of Rodriguez's tenure, the defense is the one that Rodriguez had the most control over (aside from the injuries). He kind of glosses over Rodriguez's decision to install the 3-3-5 for the '08 Purdue game and doesn't mention whether there was any pushback from Shafer or the players, nor does he talk about the repeated scheme changes througout the three seasons. In doing so, he does come off as presenting a pro-Rodriguez narrative somewhat. 

I think the book is a good read so far (I'm through about page 260), and I agree with its premise that Rodriguez was not treated fairly from the begining. But I do find it curious that the book doesn't explore the causes of Rodriguez's downfall that were wholly of his own doing. 


October 28th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

And a book covering the last 3 years ignores it.

It acts like there was only one guy in the country who could field an even average defense for Rich, and he stayed at WV. Like there aren't other good candidates out there, who would take the money which Michigan was offering ($10,000 is WAY underpaying?) know, other than the guy they first hired, but looks pretty good before and after he was undermined by the existing staff. How does that get ignored? I bet if Shafer probably felt the victim as much as Rich did page after page in the book...except it was Rich and his buddies doing the victimizing, so it doesn't seem worthy for the book.

Fact- he hires (or keeps) a modestly competent staff on defense, and not a tire fire of cronies, and he's still the coach matter all the other back biting and stuff. Because he WINS more. How that's not even a footnote, when it's THE story...just makes it seem like a fluff piece for Rich. (And now I'm almost done with the book).

Waters Demos

October 26th, 2011 at 11:53 AM ^

I don't have to click on it or read it to get yet another example of ridiculous and laughable human self-importance.  Its mere title gives it away. 

Why do people think other people care what they think? 

Especially in this forum.  In ordinary life, you're "just some random fucking guy," and there's no reason anyone should or will care what you think.  Most people's thoughts are high on redundancy and low on insight/analysis at best (I don't claim to be above this BTW).  A fortiori, with internet anonymity and de-personalization, you're "just some random fucking handle" with even less credibility. 

We've seen these threads, a few of them now - it's best to acknowledge that no one cares what you think and instead include your thoughts in one of the several threads already posted on this topic.  Otherwise your self-importance and redundancy will annoy others - and they don't have to click on a thread in order to see such self-importance and redundancy.  And before you complain that "no one will read it," realize that you're not entitled to anything more than that. 


October 26th, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

agree with you. It works both ways, though. For every person that doesn't give two shits about yet another book report on Three and Out there's an equal amount of of people that do.

Shirtless is also just some fucking guy on the internet that no one cares about. Same as 99% of the members here. If he feels the need to publish a post bitching about another post he'd better expect a response in kind from people who don't care to read posts bitching about posts.


Waters Demos

October 26th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

You could perhaps accuse what I'm about to write here of drawing a distinction without a difference (that's kind of my line of work).

However, (IMHE) Shirtless's comment was not a substantive opinion on an issue, but more like a procedural point of order.  If everybody's precious thoughts on the book get their own thread, then it'll be chaotic.  I see this as fundamentally different than "here's what I think about [X]!!"

Moreover (and perhaps more importantly), you don't see Shirtless's name on the side of the front page beneath a brand new thread (for a topic that has been discussed quite a bit already).  His comment was included in a thread that already exists, which is all I called for to begin with. 


October 27th, 2011 at 4:33 PM ^

he should start a thread (labelled "meta:") titled "are there going to be 1500 book reports?" This is a topic people seem to be itching to discuss.

As a by-product, there may be less of a need for people to click through to a topic they don't want to read just to share with everyone else on the thread the fact that they don't want to be there reading it.