How Not to Run a Coaching Search: a look back at 2007

Submitted by Alton on December 17th, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Recent events have encouraged me to go back to read the sections of Three and Out about the 2007 coaching search.  There are several lessons learned that James Hackett seems to have taken from the experience.

I very much want to avoid restarting the age-old debate on whether we should have hired Rich Rodriguez.  That's not the issue here.  The issue is how badly we screwed up the entire process, and what we are doing differently in 2014 to avoid the mistakes of 2007.

It seems to me that we can take away 3 major lessons from 2007:

(1) You need a single person in charge.  In 2007, at least 3 separate people contacted coaching candidates on behalf of the University--and they were not always communicating with each other.

(2) Proceed with a sense of urgency, but not desperation.  In 2007, Michigan went from having no real urgency straight into "panic mode."

(3) Control information.  On several occasions in 2007, the media leaked information about events almost as soon as they happened.  This scared at least one candidate away from the job who was otherwise quite willing to take it. is the chronology of the events of the four weeks from Lloyd Carr's official retirement to Rich Rodriguez's hiring, mostly summarized from Three and Out:


Saturday, November 17:  Michigan loses to Ohio State.

Monday, November 19:  Lloyd Carr announces that he will retire after January 1 bowl game.  Bill Martin privately considers Kirk Ferentz the top candidate to replace Carr.

Wednesday, November 21:  Mary Sue Coleman tells Bill Martin that Kirk Ferentz is not to be considered for the job.

Monday, November 26:  Martin meets with the 6-member "search committee", mentions Tony Dungy as his preferred candidate, although Dungy had not been contacted nor had he expressed interest in the job.  Committee discusses Brian Kelly & rejects him due to his reputation.  Committee mentions Les Miles, Martin rejects the idea out of hand.  No actual names were put forward for consideration other than Dungy; no plans were made to move forward.

Thursday, November 29:  Miles's people attempt to contact Martin, not for the first time.  They get in touch with Jamie Morris, who informs Martin of the contact attempts.  Before leaving for a weekend trip to Florida, Martin tells Morris he will return the calls on Sunday when he gets back.  Miles's people are not informed of this.

Saturday, December 1:  Kirk Herbstreit announces Miles has accepted a job offer from Michigan.  Miles's agent (and several people officially & unofficially associated with Michigan) desperately try to contact Martin in Florida, but Martin later claims he was not reachable because he did not know how to use his new cell phone.  Miles announces to the press that he has not been talking to Michigan.

Sunday, December 2:  Upon Martin's return to his Ann Arbor home, he receives an angry phone call from Coleman asking him what happened and where he was.

Monday, December 3:  Martin announces to the media that he has a list of twenty candidates. Martin flies to New York under the guise of attending the National Football Foundation's Hall of Fame dinner.

Tuesday, December 4:  Martin meets with Greg Schiano in New York City.  Word of the secret meeting gets out to the press the same day.  Search committee members express surprise, not having heard that Schiano was being considered for the job.

Thursday, December 6:  Schiano announces to the press that he will not take the Michigan job.  Martin informs search committee that the search would be postponed until after the bowl games. 

Friday, December 7:  In the wake of the bad publicity (and angry alumni feedback) that Michigan was beginning to receive, Coleman summons Martin to a private meeting in her office, informs him that she will be "working with" him on the coaching search until it is complete.  Martin attempts to contact Miles, but is informed that Miles will only speak with Coleman, not with Martin.  At 11am, Miles speaks with Coleman & Martin (in Coleman's office) on a conference call.  Miles states "I would never say no to Michigan."  By 1:30pm, news of the call has been leaked to the Detroit area press; Miles is not happy.

Monday, December 10:  Coleman & Miles speak by telephone without Martin present.  Coleman requests a face-to-face meeting in Miami for Tuesday (Miles will be there on a recruiting trip).  Citing the press leak from Friday, Miles refuses to meet prior to the bowl game.  Miles adds, "If you want me, then after the bowl game, I will be your coach...I would never say no to Michigan."  Coleman discusses this phone call with regents Laurence Deitsch & Andrea Fischer Newman, who agree with this course of action, but ask her who is going to tell Carr.  Coleman announces that she will do so.  That evening, Carr calls Rich Rodriguez to talk about Michigan job.  Rodriguez:  "Is there interest in me on Michigan's part?"  Carr:  "Yeah, they're looking at you."

Tuesday, December 11:  Carr encourages Martin to consider Rodriguez.  Later that day, Michigan media announce that Miles is still being considered.  That night, Martin calls Rodriguez to discuss the job.  Rodriguez begins discussing job with friends.

Friday, December 14:  Rodriguez, in Toledo for a pre-planned meeting with his financial planner, meets with Coleman & Martin.  The job is offered to Rodriguez on the spot, with Coleman & Martin asking for an answer today.  News of the meeting leaks to the media before the meeting ends.  Martin asks Rodriguez to keep Carr's assistants.  Coleman tells Martin, "No, Bill, you can't ask him to do that."  Rodriguez tells Coleman & Martin that he needs to talk to West Virginia first.

Saturday, December 15:  Rodriguez meets with President of WVU, who tells Rodriguez (basically) to take it or leave it.

Sunday, December 16:  Coleman speaks by phone for 90 minutes with Miles and is very favorably impressed with him.  Coleman tells Miles that they have offered the job to Rodriguez, but if it didn't work out they would contact Miles after his bowl game.  WVU president tells the media that Rodriguez is never leaving.  Rodriguez meets with Don Nehlen, who encourages him to take Michigan job.  Rodriguez phones Martin to accept job offer, boards plane to Michigan.

Monday, December 17:  Rodriguez introduced to media as Michigan's next coach.  Rodriguez flies back to WV to close out business there.

Wednesday, December 19:  Rodriguez returns to Michigan, followed by all of his assistants from WVU except Bill Stewart (who was not offered a job by Rodriguez) and Jeff Casteel (who was offered $265K and no contract by Michigan and $275K on a 2-year contract by WVU).



December 17th, 2014 at 7:26 PM ^

My main reaction to reviewing the 2007 process was to come away impressed with how much better everything is (ok, seems to be) going in 2014.  The lack of information out there is scary, but in the end it actually increases my confidence in James Hackett.  All of the leaks in 2007 were harmful.

The fact is that Hackett seems to be in complete control of everything right now, and the 2007 events are an interesting contrast.


December 17th, 2014 at 7:50 PM ^

Remedying the mistakes made by people in the same position years ago is all that can be done and what it seems like is being done. It's reminiscent of an individual life. Have the courage to make the mistake. Learn from the mistake. Continue to make them and thus continue to learn. 


December 17th, 2014 at 7:51 PM ^

but he hired Rodriguez and Beilein, who are two of the very best coaches in their respective sports.

As for your grumbles about the search:

1. Michigan hired a search firm both times, so they again had more than 1 person talking to candidates and/or their representatives. 

2. I don't recall any 'panic'

3. What candidate? Schiano? Boo hoo.  There are leaks in 2014 too FYI.  Check or for the latest example.

We will know a lot more about how this search went down in the future, just as we knew a lot more after 3&O was published than we did in 2007.


December 17th, 2014 at 8:09 PM ^

I agree--two of the best outside hires in recent history by Michigan, even though one did not pan out.  Martin deserves all of the credit in the world for having the courage to make both of those hires.  I don't mean to say otherwise.

1. Yes, there was a search firm.  I suppose the real issue is that the people making the contact with candidates (Coleman, Martin, Carr) were sometimes working at cross-purposes and even at times in strong disagreement about the course of action that the others were taking (recall Martin's original refusal to consider Miles, Coleman's vetoing of Ferentz, and Carr contacting Rodriguez after hearing that Miles was back in play).  Some of those things are good things, some are bad things.  It's the fact that it was happening that was the problem.

2. That's how I see some of those events.  YMMV.  Coleman taking over the search after 2 weeks.  Carr contacting Rodriguez.  Martin announcing his "list of 20" to the media.

3. Leslie Miles.  Boo hoo indeed.  Those may be leaks, but they are a mere trickle compared to the water main break of 2007.

I have obviously angered you with my post; my apologies.  Please accept that my purpose was more to inform than to proselytize.


December 17th, 2014 at 8:14 PM ^

1. I get what you are saying but A) we don't know what is happening now and B) lots of people representing the university have reportedly been talking to JH including Brady, Howard, Woodson, etc.  That's not a problem inherently.

2.  Again, it ain't over.  Hackett has been public about having a list too.

3.  Miles is not a good candidate for Michigan football.  3 ADs have run searches -- none chose Miles, for good reason.




December 20th, 2014 at 8:06 PM ^

in the two searches, beginning with the appointment of Hackett by new president Mark Schissel and his desire to keep the removal of Brandon and then the firing of Hoke by Hackett, a two-man decision-making team.

Plus, the way Hackett has gone about the search was broadly outlined in the Hoke dismissal presser. He has organized it from timelines to support group contacts within the AD and football program along with donors and former players, thus keeping key groups in the loop and not acting in rogue fashion.  Certain leaks instead of press releases have come about the methods Michigan would use in going after coaching tartets, including dealing directly with the 49ers to seek Harbaugh's services.

There have been backchannel meetings to guage Harbaugh interest and learn negotiating terms and conditions for contract approval. Once those were learned, there were discussions with Schissel and regents about possible numbers and how the contract might be funded.

That led to the official offer presented earlier this week. The offer was leaked to put the world on notice Michigan wanted Harbaugh and rejection would make the 49er coach completely accountable. Michigan put its best deal forward and is all in. There is now a trigger date for acceptance and general deadline for disclosure.

If Harbaugh is hired, the man who should get the lion share of the credit for bringing him to campus is President Schissel and his trust in Jim Hackett, the foresight to bring him on board as interim AD, give him full authority to operate as AD, and then conduct the search the best way he saw fit. If this works out, they are the reason for it.

And I said when Schissel appointed Hackett, that he was one smart guy. And he has proven it since his handling of the Brandon situation and now this, potentially resolving two major crises with great professionalism and executive skill that few thought he could handle based on his background.


December 17th, 2014 at 11:30 PM ^

I think the difference in multiple people contacting candidates is that in 2007 multiple people contacted candidates as representatives of the University WITHOUT representing the person in charge of the search. In this year's case, as far as we know, multiple contacts are made on behalf of the U of M but all are directly representing Jim Hackett. Outside guys like Woodson are just friends of the program that do not purport to represent the people in charge.

Excellent write-up. Just reading the timeline is awkward and embarrassing; that Michigan wound up with a brilliant young up-and-coming coach is astonishing.

It may be possible that Miles would still be coaching today and that he would be successful. It is also possible that a media far less compliant than the media in Baton Rouge would have, as they did with RR, found an area where Les's oversight was less than thorough and turned it into a massive scandal.

We'll never know. But the signs suggest that Hackett is handling things much better today. And was probably hired expressly for this purpose.

Eye of the Tiger

December 18th, 2014 at 10:32 AM ^

Er...what are your sources for this, especially the conversations between Martin, Coleman and Miles? Seems to go way beyond Bacon's account and includes information beyond what's publicly known. Not saying you're wrong, per se, but I'm skeptical without references to where the information is coming from.

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December 18th, 2014 at 10:44 AM ^

My only source for private conversations is Mr. Bacon's book, Three and Out.  I certainly want to credit the book for anything not available in archived media reports from the time.

The account of those conversations is included in Chapter 6 ("A Strange Search").  I can't really cite a page number; my edition is on the Kindle and does not include page numbers.  The chapter isn't that long, though, and it is mostly chronologically arranged, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a specific item.

Eye of the Tiger

December 18th, 2014 at 2:12 PM ^

Okay, no problem--I have the book too. Just some of the stuff you included seemed to go beyond what I remember being in the book. I could clearly be wrong about that, but I don't recall, say, Carr initiating the focus on RR--just calling him to talk up the job.

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Communist Football

December 19th, 2014 at 11:48 PM ^

The OP is correct. Carr initiated the focus on RR, before undermining him the rest of the way.

I also re-read 3&O this week.  It's truly depressing how craven the University was in the way it handled so many issues over the last 8 years, always looking out for its own ass, PR-wise, instead of the long-term future of the program.

Hackett appears to be a substantial improvement in this regard.


December 23rd, 2014 at 5:13 AM ^

The job is offered to Rodriguez on the spot, with Coleman & Martin asking for an answer today. News of the meeting leaks to the media before the meeting ends. Martin asks Rodriguez to keep Carr's assistants. Coleman tells Martin, "No, Bill, you can't ask him to do that."

It also sounds like Carr did this in order to keep some of his assistants employed at Michigan(Ron English anyone?), and he thought Rodriguez would agree with his demand. Later when everyone got canned(except for Jackson), he was upset and that's where the rift happened. 


December 18th, 2014 at 12:32 PM ^

Some leaks are inevitable, but the sheer number in 2007 - and how quickly they came out - was shocking.  Martin couldn't keep a secret, it seems.


December 20th, 2014 at 8:18 PM ^

Martin. Those leaks came within the AD building. And they came from someone close to Martin and familiar with all the meetings and conversations, and with access to Lloyd Carr, who was still head coach and still wielding plenty of influence. He obviously had issues with Miles and sought Rodriguez as stopgap based on his offensive philosophy. But then once he got to campus, Carr undercut him, which is the one thing that Bacon's book never actually documents: why that happened.


December 18th, 2014 at 2:09 PM ^

I'm not sure which of these parts is more painful. I hire a lot of people, and I just can't imagine handling a search for an engineer as haphazardly as this was handled. I love the Rodriguez hire, but in retrospect, I agree that's it's astounding we ended up with him. When I read 3 and out, and now reviewing this summary, it's hard NOT to conclude that the main voice of reason that lead to Rodriguez being hired was....Lloyd Carr. That's about as contrary to many people's understanding as one can imagine.

This part just kills me:

"Rodriguez returns to Michigan, followed by all of his assistants from WVU except Bill Stewart (who was not offered a job by Rodriguez) and Jeff Casteel (who was offered $265K and no contract by Michigan and $275K on a 2-year contract by WVU)."

I mean DAMN. How is that possible? No contract and we get outbid for our new coach's DC by WVU... :(


.  Martin asks Rodriguez to keep Carr's assistants.  Coleman tells Martin, "No, Bill, you can't ask him to do that."  Rodriguez tells Coleman & Martin that he needs to talk to West Virginia first.

How is it possible that Coleman and Martin HAD NOT talked out what they were going to do with regard to assistants? That's just incredible.

Jim! Save us!






December 19th, 2014 at 12:21 AM ^

on who he wants to hire as his assistant coach. Keeping all of them defeats the purpose of teaching the players into the system the HC wants to run where the assistant coaches from the previous HC staff have zero idea of how to teach the players.

I remember reading some of the comments where there are some of you who were mad at RR for not keeping most of the assistant coaches. Would you want to hire an assistant coach whom you don't know and aren't sure if you can trust them to teach them the way you want them to teach.


December 19th, 2014 at 2:35 PM ^

it wasn't JUST the $ and contract that kept Casteel at WVU; he had supposedly been led to beleive that he would be STRONGLY condidered for HC when it came up next.

By the time RR headd to AZ, he had been passed over, and decided to head west to join RR.


December 20th, 2014 at 12:59 PM ^

How incredible is it Michigan didn't have a succession plan for Carr??? A failure on so many levels. I would hope once some stability is brought back to the program, University leaders start thinking about some of those things.


December 20th, 2014 at 8:28 PM ^

he wanted to retire after 2006. He only came back in 2007 because Hart, Long and Henne all decided to stay for their senior season. Then came The Horror and Oregon, huge criticism of the program, and Lloyd let Martin know he was through at the end of the season.

Martin had virtually the entire season to set up a search for a new coach and vet the situation. But instead the process was discordant and disorganized and sabotaged because the principals in the search were acting at cross purposes with no goal or perameters in deciding on candidates, targets and methodology. They then allowed personal feelings to motivate how the choice was made, and once made, never committed to the guy they hired, thus undercuttibng his ability to succeed. Funny, seven years ago seems a lot like this past season. But thank God, the search this time is in great hands.