Mary Sue Coleman speaking in Flint (Rodriguez, night games, etc.)

Submitted by Section 1 on May 12th, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Speaking at an event in Flint, Mary Sue Coleman said that Michigan made the wrong choice in hiring Rich Rodriguez: 

I've been to these kinds of events, where the guest of honor talks for about 20 minutes and then answers questions for another 20 minutes.  I was not at this one in Flint; it sounds like all the others. 

Coleman is not nearly as good at the task as is Brandon, who is a polished, disciplined speaker.  And in this case, it appears that Coleman stumbled badly, which does not surprise me. 

But hey, as long as President Coleman is willing to answer questions, I think it is really great, and I will have a few questions for her the next time I am at one of these events where she is speaking:

  1. So who do you think Michigan should have hired at the time?  You may not use hindsight in this question.  Jim Harbaugh was not a candidate; nor was Brady Hoke.  The committee assembled by your Athletic Director at the time recommended Greg Schiano.
  2. Why did Michigan fail to secure the services of Jeff Casteel in early 2008?
  3. Explain the sudden rise in salaries for Assistant Coaches and Coordinators at Michigan after the departure of Rich Rodriguez.
  4. David Brandon has used some unusually pointed and colorful language to describe what was wrong in the August 2009 reporting by the Detroit Free Press.  What do you have to say about the paper and its reporting?
  5. Have you read Three and Out?  If not, why not?  And before making a pronouncement on whether the Rodriguez hire had been a mistake, don't you think it would have been a good idea to read the book?  Why would you have refused to speak with John U. Bacon?






May 12th, 2012 at 9:32 AM ^

Great points/questions.


She's right it was a mistake. Small timer who wasn't ready for the big time who delivered the results to prove it.

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 10:16 AM ^

...That I didn't even propose to ask Coleman the really embarassing questions:  What did she say to Les Miles in late 2007?  Did she and Bill Martin really promise to Rodriguez that they would take care of his WVU buyout, without informing the Michigan Regents?  What was the nature of the several gag orders she insisted on imposing on Rodriguez?  Can you explain the timing of the WVU settlement in connection with your scheduled deposition in that case?

Those questions -- all just as interesting -- are ones that I really would expect her to not answer.  But the five that I posed above flow directly from what she said in Flint.

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

I thought it nice that she would answer a question about Rodriguez.  And I suggested several more.

What is wrong with reading books on a given sujbject, and asking questions?  Does the President of a distinguished public university think that reading books and answering questions are bad things?

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 11:56 AM ^

A bestseller, written by one of the University's instructors and a commentator on the Univiersity's public radio network.  A book for which her participation was requested, and which mentions her.  A book all about the central events resulting in several press conferences directly involving her.

At some point, long since passed, any refusal on the part of President Coleman to read the book becomes "idiotic stubborn refusal," and not any sort of literary discernment.

Thanks for asking, David and have a nice day.


May 12th, 2012 at 11:43 PM ^

I read the OP. I just feel like there's a huge gap between MSC saying RR was a bad fit and telling him good luck in the future and comments on the relative salaries of various assistant football coaches. I don't think that one, for example, is an appropriate question to ask the PRESIDENT of our university. If you see Dave Brandon somewhere, fire away.

Section 1

May 13th, 2012 at 9:31 AM ^

According to the reports of the Flint meeting,  Coleman didn't simply say that Rodriguez was a "bad fit."  She said that Rodriguez had been a mistake.

And why ask Brandon?  Brandon wasn't there; he was working for Domino's at that time.  Mary Sue Coleman was there, taking a lead role with Bill Martin in the hiring of Rich Rodriguez: 

That certainly got Coleman's attention.  She summoned Martin to her office and showed him the pile [of letters from Michigan football alums complaining about the process of hiring a football coach to replace Lloyd Carr], saying that she'd never seen anything like it in her years as president at Iowa or Michigan.  The meeting had all the subtlety of a master rubbing her dog's nose in the rug he'd just ruined.  From that point on, Martin no longer had complete autonomy over the process, and Coleman would be working with him until it was complete.

Three and Out, p. 71.


May 14th, 2012 at 1:13 AM ^

I used bad fit and mistake interchangably. And because Dave Brandon's responsible for the payscale of CURRENT assistants NOW and oversaw the pay jump. Now you're starting to frustrate me. 

Section 1

May 14th, 2012 at 8:04 AM ^

They go like this:

President Coleman, applying a term like "mistake" to Coach Rodriguez seems harsh, without more explanation on your part.  Was it your mistake?  Your mistake and Bill Martin's together?  Why?  Why was it a mistake?  Universities like to learn from mistakes; they like to examine decision processes; so what do you think went wrong if there indeed had been a mistake?  Your words seem to leave open the possibility that you misjudged Coach Rodrigeuz, or that he mistrepresented himself.  Was it simply a cultural difference?  Can you explain why any cultural differences were determinative?  And really, President Coleman -- let's face it -- what is obvious to everybody is that things surrounding the football program had become toxic.  And the defeinitive book on that period of time at Michigan points to forces outside of the football program (former Coach Carr, past players, the media) as being a large part of that toxicity.  Coach Rodriguez is gone, but those elements aren't.  So what about that?  You can answer any way you'd like, but just please be more descriptive than simply mentioning an undescribed "mistake." 


May 14th, 2012 at 4:53 PM ^

Ok well those are different then the ones in the OP, which you first directed me to read. And I disagree with your assesment of Lloyd as "toxic". I've never understood how him offering players a release made everyone so angry. They committed to play for him, he was leaving and they deserved the chance to as well. It seems to me like he just gave a damn about the kids, which should be his first priority. It's one of the things I liked about him. But that is neither here no there, so I apologize for my digression.

Section 1

May 14th, 2012 at 5:18 PM ^

I don't regard Lloyd Carr as a toxic individual.  In all of my many postings on this topic, I have always regarded Carr as a great mystery.  I think John U. Bacon regards Carr as a great mystery -- much more a "Mystery" than "Toxic."

I regard Michael Rosenberg, his editors at the Free Press, and individuals like Braylon Edwards and Eric Mayes as far more toxic. 

And most of all -- this is the important part -- I regard the entire atmosphere surrounding the football program as toxic after September, 2009.  Poisoned, by the notion that Michigan was not merely in transition, but had somehow become a dirty program under Rodriguez.  The reason that I think the "toxic atmosphere" was so important was because it ultimately became part of the vicious cycle.  Losses were one thing; had Rodriguez possessed supernatural powers to produce wins with ThreetSheridan, things might have been different.  Alternatively, if we had endured 3-9, 5-7 and 7-9 seasons without any hint of scandal, things might also have been different.  But taken all together -- the supposed scandal, and what it did to Rodriguez's respectability and support, and what those damages did to foment rumors that he'd be gone as early as 2009, and what that instability did to recruiting, and what that did to alumni support, and what the general loss of support and stability did to the continually failed efforts to convince Jeff Casteel to come to Ann Arbor (at first it was money and a contract, and then later the general idea that the Rodriguez regime would be ending)...  that, to me, is the essence of "toxicity."


May 13th, 2012 at 5:33 PM ^

Almost everyone agrees that RichRod's 3 years on the field meant that in retrospect his hiring was a mistake, but what it made a mistake at the time.  He had won BCS bowl games and was a game away from the Nat'l Championship.  Yes, Les Miles was bigger time but who was Schiano (the other candidate)?  W. Virginia is certainly bigger time than Miami of Ohio or San Diego State.

I think MSC shoudl have simply said that she's sorry it didn't work out and is that she's thrilled with our current coach.


May 13th, 2012 at 5:33 PM ^

Almost everyone agrees that RichRod's 3 years on the field meant that in retrospect his hiring was a mistake, but what it made a mistake at the time.  He had won BCS bowl games and was a game away from the Nat'l Championship.  Yes, Les Miles was bigger time but who was Schiano (the other candidate)?  W. Virginia is certainly bigger time than Miami of Ohio or San Diego State.

I think MSC shoudl have simply said that she's sorry it didn't work out and is that she's thrilled with our current coach.

Monocle Smile

May 12th, 2012 at 9:35 AM ^

But it's not like the benefit of hindsight was necessary. Several of the higher-ups knew it was a mistake before Rich Rod signed anything, and I wouldn't be surprised if Rod himself had several reservations outside of leaving his alma mater.

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 9:44 AM ^

~ Who are the "several higher-ups"?  Because I'd ask them the same questions that I'd have for President Coleman.

~ As for any personal reservations that Rodriguez may have had, I presume that what Rodriguez thought of Michigan was that it was one of the premier jobs in his profession, and that the offer for him to come to Michigan might have been a once in a lifetime opportunity.  And further, that at Michigan he'd be in charge of one of the best programs in the country, with an almost unmatched history of coaching stability and popular support for the team.  He surely had no idea that an insular faction would make his job and his life miserable.   


May 12th, 2012 at 9:46 AM ^

I realize this is a dead-horse topic, but I have another question for the list:

6. Could you explain what you meant by "Midwestern ethos?" (Sounds like 10th-grader broad-brush stereotyping to me ...)

I agree (!) with Section 1 that the presentation sounded undisciplined. (He didn't exactly say that, but seemed to imply as much.)

In hindsight I don't think that Rodriguez had a high ceiling at UMich (that is, when you correct for all the nonsense he had to endure), but we'll never know for sure.

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 9:58 AM ^

No; according to Three and Out, Coleman basically assumed a co-managerial status with Bill Martin after the public blowup with Les Miles.  She was hands-on in the hiring; a fact that I presume that she would have the intellectual honesty to admit.

Those facts just make my questions all the more relevant.


May 12th, 2012 at 2:32 PM ^

always get the antagonism toward you on this board. But as with your clobbering of Title IX in a conversation about bowls last night, you take this thing miles overboard. I would really wish that she had shown a little more awareness of what transpired, then moved on (I was a RR defender to the end). But calling it a mistake hardly qualifies her for burning at the stake. And the way I read it she WAS owning up to the mistake and her implicit part in it, not running from it. 

Of COURSE you make such observations from hindsight. Where the H else you going to sit, here in the future?

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

Where did I call for any "burning at the stake"?

That's the funny part of the origination of this thread; I reported the lede from the story.  I supplied the link.  I offered my personal happiness that Coleman had answered any questions, and then I suggested some more questions.  That was it.

If Mary Sue Coleman wanted to, she could write a long essay on the subject, and she could defend her record, or she could offer a mea culpa for her role in the hiring, or she could blast Rodriguez, or she could engage in a nuanced rebuttal to Three and Out.

She could do any of those things, or none of them, or something completely different.  She has a voice, and she owns the most considerable bully pulpit in Ann Arbor.  (Okay, the second-most-considerable, next to the head football coach.)  She can make her side clear if she has a side, and if she wishes to do so.

Honestly, I think the worst things I said about President Coleman in this thread were that (1) she's nowhere near as polished and as disciplined as Brandon is as a speaker, and (2) she was spineless in failing to push back publicly against the Free Press, as Brandon had.

 I'm right about both of those things.

Oh and about Tiktle IX:  I stated specifically that I did not intend to foment a full-blown equal rights debate.  I said that Title IX was full of unintended consequences, and so too will a bowl-replacement playoff system be full of unintended consequneces.  But since you brought it up, I'll remind you that Bo Schembechler was decades ahead of any of us in pointing out that Title IX would only exacerbate the nature of college football as a cash-cow revenue source for all sorts of non-football things, and that it would distort the nature of the game.  Bo, one of the original Title IX critics, was right.

david from wyoming

May 12th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

Saying the President of the University isn't defending the University in a bit of a statement. It pretty much implies she isn't doing her job, no? Using loaded words like "spineless" and then acting like you never said anything wrong is bullshit.


May 12th, 2012 at 6:08 PM ^

tagonized much of the faculty and administration and could be awful when it came to personnel and other issues. I happen to admire him for his achievements as a coach, but there weren't a lot of people who didn't find him irascible and high-handed at times. Maybe this doesn't get me to "100s," you could be right, but "easy going" wasn't a descriptor very readily hung on the guy. He was a maximalist leader, as sociologists of the period would have put it. I don't see that in Hoke, do you?


May 12th, 2012 at 9:56 AM ^

Regarding your question about if she read Three and Out: I get super annoyed when these public figures (MSC, DB, Lloyd, etc) say that they have not read it.  Sure, that's probably what they are supposed to say, but how stupid do they think we are?  Of course they read it!  You're telling me that a tell-all book came out about you, that directly affects the public's perception of you, your job, and your organization, and you chose not to read it?  C'mon.  Tell us the truth -- you sat down on a Saturday night with some Lagavulin and read the shit out of it.


May 12th, 2012 at 10:54 AM ^

"Three and Out" was painful to read as a fan. I wouldn't want to read it if I were Mary Sue.

You also hear public figures all the time say they don't pay any attention to the stuff that's written about them. Although that may not always be the truth, when it's negative, redundant, or downright awful I think that's a great reason to avoid it.


May 12th, 2012 at 11:54 AM ^

Haha there is no chance she read that book. Maybe it is a possiblility she got someone on her staff to read it and let her know if there was anything they felt she needed to know in it but there is literally zero chance she actually sat down and read the ramblings of three and out.


May 12th, 2012 at 10:04 AM ^

If Michigan had hired a solid 8 win coach back then, Brady Hoke would still be in California, and 10 win seasons and #1 recruiting classes would be a pipe dream. In MSC's defense...guy was a hot mess.


May 12th, 2012 at 10:08 AM ^

1) assuming that bacon is 100% accurate in his assessments that people were undermining RR and that he didn't get a fair shot just lends more credence to the FACT that the hire was a mistake. Whether he was an awful politician (a skill which is necessary at a big time program) or people were just flat out awful undermining human beings (lets call it a split, even though I have a sneaking suspicion it was more the former), it still means at the end of the day that it was a mistake bringing him in. A guy could be the greatest corporate strategist in the world, but if his executives are incompetent/want to see him fail, he probably wasn't the best hire since results are what matter.

2) The coaches salaries make a difference. There is no doubt about that. Nevertheless, we were fielding defenses worse than schools that pay their staffs 1/3 of what we were with 1/10 of the recruiting power and 1/100 of the coaching prestige. So while a factor, it would excuse having 40th ranked defenses / special teams, not 100+.

Question for you Section 1: why did we / still have depth problems at every position except running back and quarterback? As evidenced by Hoke, full regime / style changes dont necessarily breed mass attrition of key players. In spite of undermining admins and coaches ONLY making 250k per year, it doesn't excuse the horrible underachievement, attrition, and general program mockery that Michigan football was exposed to during his reign.

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 10:21 AM ^

... The main reason that hiring Rodriguez was a mistake was that we had not correctly predicted the mutinous treachery of Rosenberg, his interview subjects, the previous coaching staff, its hangers-on in the administration, and many of the players from that era.  Check, check, double check.


May 12th, 2012 at 11:11 AM ^

All I'm saying I that it was obviously a mistake. I'm not saying "argh bill Martin shouldv known!!" although, perhaps one with decent foresight could see how terrible we were going to be in year 1 and how that'd get the pot boiling with such a winning tradition. Couple the boiling pot with a soft ass coach that cries in the public spotlight, and you have a disaster.

But who could've foreseen that a man could make 3m per year and be a stubborn ass who wouldn't adjust 1 iota to his players and coaches' skills, blame his players' youth at any turn of adversity (funny how we managed with 4 freshmen getting significant time on defense in 2011), and oversee the great migration of talent away from the program (funny how nobody of any significance transferred last year). Let's face it, he was terrible in every facet of coaching a major program (aside from developing a great run-spread qb and banquet song selection), and those around him didn't have the integrity or skills to pick up the slack on his obvious incompetences.


May 12th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

If RR could not assimilate into culture at UM, then his hire was a mistake. He was a mistake because he was loyal to his current coaching staff to a fault. He had, perhaps, the worst defensive coaching staff in the history of college football. Part of the head coaches responsibilities is to evaluate and oversee the assistant coaches and make personnel decisions. In this area RR is a complete failure. I supported him, he sucked, he is gone, that is all, let's move on. The fact that he continues to run his yapper only causes me to replace the sympathy I once had for him with disdain.


May 12th, 2012 at 10:28 AM ^

I'm surprised as to why mary sue would bring up RR. Was she asked about it? Seems like she should be adressing the things that effect students and alumni directly (tuition, fund raising, research) rather than atheletics.

Section 1

May 12th, 2012 at 10:34 AM ^

And that too is completely unsurprising.  That sort of question is routine at these sorts of alumni and civic association dinners, luncheons, etc. 

And again, since Mary Sue Coleman was so thoroughly involved in the hiring of Coach Rodriguez, and figures so (surprisingly) prominently in Three and Out, it is one of the most natural, most obvious questions that any reader of the book could ask her. 


May 12th, 2012 at 10:36 AM ^

I think it is pretty simple when it comes to coordinators and assistants - you pay top dollar for top talent, but you also have to create a culture which attracts them on  top of that. Especially if your program is getting a fresh start, you can get the Mattisons and Borges of the world if you put the right people in other places like any leadership situation. There really is no reason for a school  with the prestige and influence of Michigan to NOT pay well and even a fair bit above market rate for such positions. 

I would tend to believe that opening the purse strings to overhaul the situation and relationships that existed in the Rodriguez years, especially later on, would not have been useful because it would not have been an attractive situation for most. It really did get to a point where throwing money at the problems would not have fixed the problems. That is a difficult situation from which to recover without forcing some manner of "fresh start".