OT-SI follows RR during his first 2 days in AZ

Submitted by MGoShtoink on November 30th, 2011 at 9:03 PM

Two very interesting articles on Rich Rodriguez's first 48 hours as the Arizona head coach:

The first is the play-by-play:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1192629/1/index.htm

The second is a summary:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/andy_staples/11/30/rich-rodriguez-arizona-hire/index.html

Sounds like both RR and Arizona learned from the mistakes highlighted in 3&O.

I wish him all the best.

Comments

hart20

November 30th, 2011 at 9:10 PM ^

That we now know all of the shit Rich Rod had to deal with? That we know about people who claim to be Michigan men but act nothing like it? Certainly Rodriguez didn't come out looking perfect, but the people who really looked bad were those that had worked against him. 

cbuswolverine

November 30th, 2011 at 9:36 PM ^

Why?  I didn't see anything bad written about the team, either.

And as far as "things the public doesn't need to know," there's nothing wrong with transparency.  If the people who need to be held accountable for their actions are the same people running the show, nothing would ever change if some of this stuff doesn't come to light.

America

November 30th, 2011 at 10:01 PM ^

I'm not saying protect them.  I'm saying that putting the programs dirty laundry out for everyone to see is not a positive thing.  It is also something that can be handled internally and the AD and President have an obligation to do as much.  Especially with something like a football program where if you want to be truely sucessful year in and year out you have to operate in the grey area in a number of instances.  Allowing access to a journalist is just inviting punishment.  Watch the news on any given day it's like 95% negativite and 5% positive.  People love scandals.

dcwolverine1993

December 1st, 2011 at 12:15 AM ^

I'm not sure that word means what you think it means.

He had a lot of things transpire, but nothing approaching defamation.  And he can regain his reputation without being overly dramatic.  Win some games out in Arizona, and he's back.

As for openness, it can be a double edged sword.

 

3 & out helped in some ways, and skipped over some obvious negatives (very little on Shafer firing and Gerg hiring).  RR controlled a lot of that narrative.

 

He did not control a lot of the narrative during his time at Michigan.  Openness hurt him - I don't understand how that can argued.  Lobardi quote, groban story.  

Control the narrative, or be controlled.  

 

hart20

November 30th, 2011 at 9:22 PM ^

I like to know the reasons for my team falling so spectacularly the past 3 years. I like to know why a coach who was so successful elsewhere, failed here. I like to know when people aren't given the best shots to succeed. I like to know when people who I look up too, aren't really the way they're made out to be. The only people who don't want the general public to know are those who look bad in the book.

profitgoblue

December 1st, 2011 at 9:13 AM ^

Arguing with the statement "bottom line" is silly.  Our appreciation of Michigan football on this blog is and should never be about bottom lines.  Its about getting a greater understanding of the inner-workings of the program, all of the tiny cogs that make it tick.  If you're here for bottom lines, you're probably wasting your time - you can simply say they won or they lost and move along.  Three and Out is extremely useful to the discerning fan that wants to know more than the simple statement that Rodriguez would still be coaching if he won.  Oh, and the sky is blue.

 

M-Wolverine

December 1st, 2011 at 10:35 AM ^

It seems it's far more a cudgel used to try and beat people into submission. "Have you read 3&O?" seems like a popular replacement for a good argument.  The book certanly lets people see some inner working, and discern some things....but leaves a whole lot out.  Some because people wanted to have nothing to do with it, but others because he just willfully leaves them out. If the point was to see what some of the cause and effect of the wins and losses were, it makes no sense whatsoever to completely gloss over the defense...which is reason #1 on why we have a new coach...and the rest start at 101 in importance after that. Bacon loved his innuendo and politics, but somehow with people he was locked in with for 3 years didn't hear anything about the interactions between Rich, his defensive staff, his first defensive coordinator, and then his second defensive coordinator....and how/why they were switching what defenses they were teaching, often by guys who had no idea how to teach it.  That was kinda importance.  Yet somehow Bacon knew what went on in meetings between Martin and Coleman, but had no idea what went on with the staff he was embedded with. That's either negligence, or outright spin.

Needs

December 1st, 2011 at 11:17 AM ^

Or its an editorial choice that the biggest story is about the internal politics of one of the big traditional college football powers and how insiders and outsiders conflicted therewithin. At some point, you've got to choose the core of your story, otherwise your book is a disorganized jumble / chronology that does not capture the audience.

Bacon and his editor, at some point, decided that the story of the internal politics that surrounded (and in Bacon's narrative, did in) Rodriguez was the story that had the widest possible appeal and they focused the book on that narrative. I'm sure he'd tell you there are multiple other narrative threads that he explored but discarded, either because he couldn't prove his conclusions or because they led away from the focus they chose to reach the broadest possible audience, ie, to reach beyond the audience of die-hard Michigan fans targeted in his previous books to the mass sportsreading public. And it seems to have succeeded, as Bacon's book has been mentioned on almost every platform that writes about college football.

There are definite downsides to that narrative choice.It substantially removes RichRod's agency, he comes across as an ineffectual, almost clueless figure helpless to counter all the forces swirling around him. Because the book focuses on the politics beyond the football staff, noone on the staff, save Rodriguez and maybe Barwis, emerges as a real character in the story. Without treating those coaches as essential characters to the story, Bacon can't really tell the story of the defensive struggles, because his narrative doesn't provide the context and characterization necessary to understand what happened. 

I'm sure Bacon has his opinions on the defense, and likely some very intriguing stories about the conflict between the coaches, but you only get so many pages.

EDIT: the fact that the book is a work of narrative also means that your first point is right on. The book should not be used as a cudgel, a final word, or as absolute truth, but as a story that, like all stories, is partial and from a point of view.  But because its not the entire story (nothing will ever be) doesn't mean we have to throw up our hands and declare the past unknowable. 

Ah, history in the age of post-structuralism.

el segundo

December 1st, 2011 at 1:42 PM ^

are the problem with the book.

For the reasons M-Wolverine points out, Bacon's analysis of Rodriguez's tenure is enormously frustrating for the reader and, at least for me, completely incredible.  

Bacon wants to make the point that Rodriguez failed because the football program, the Athletic Department, and the University as a whole all failed to give him the uniequivocal support and the room for discretionary judgment that Bo and Lloyd enjoyed.  The only fault that Bacon will attribute to Rodriguez is an inability to make good PR decisions.

Well, maybe.  But if Bacon is going to succeed in making that point, then he has to explain why those institutional factors and clumsy PR made the defense suck.  Instead of doing that, Bacon just skates over all of the most essential problems with the defense.  It's as though Bacon did not want to address the problems with the defense at all, which only detracts from his credibility.  Rodriguez made a lot of mistakes as coach -- and not only PR mistakes.  But without any analysis of Rodriguez's obvious shortcomings, Bacon can't really prove what he wants to prove -- that Rodriguez would have succeeded if Lloyd Carr and the former players had behaved decently, if Michael Rosenberg did not have an ax to grind, and if Bill Martin were better at his job.

Bacon's approach has the additional defect of making Rodriguez look ineffectual, as you pointed out.  Bacon portrays him as a pawn, robbing him of most (or all) of his agency.  If I were Rodriguez, this is what would most irritate me about the book.

[EDIT -- You are also right to point out that Bacon only had so many pages to work with.  But there's a lot of fat in the book.  Did he really need to quote so many pre-game speeches at such length?  Did he really need to include the functional equivalent of an AP game story for virtually every game?  Did he really need that long first chapter on the history of college football? (Moreover, as someone who wrote a dissertation on the history of higher education in the US at the turn of the 20th century, I can tell you that Bacon's history is grossly distorted by an apparent desire to prove that all good things in college football began in Ann Arbor.)  One can't blame page limits for Bacon's failure to address important issues in the book.]

Maybe Bacon's book "succeeded" in a commercial sense.  But the sales figures alone don't prove that his chosen narrative was the right one.  Many people bought this book because it dishes dirt, because it has behind-the-scenes information that is exciting to read.  You can enjoy this book on a superficial level and put it down feeling like something big was missing.  And readers who don't follow Michigan closely can accept Bacon's analysis because they probably don't know much about Michigan football between 2008-10, besides the team's won-loss record and the Free Press scandal.  They don't know about Rodriguez comandeering the defensive strategy decisions, year after year.  They don't know about Shafer and Robinson.  They don't even have questions to ask about these things.

Deeply flawed books often sell.  This is a deeply flawed book.  And the flaws begin with the narrative that Bacon chose, which is not well supported by Bacon's own evidence and which just does not correspond some of the most important events of Rodriguez's time as coach.

Section 1

December 1st, 2011 at 2:05 PM ^

The only fault that Bacon will attribute to Rodriguez is an inability to make good PR decisions. 

That's you saying that.  That point is not made in the book, and it is an assertion that Bacon has pointedly refused to make in any of his book tour interviews.  Bacon willingly concedes the mistakes made by Rodriguez.  Your assertion is false.

 And readers who don't follow Michigan closely can accept Bacon's analysis because they probably don't know much about Michigan football between 2008-10, besides the team's won-loss record and the Free Press scandal. They don't know about Rodriguez comandeering the defensive strategy decisions, year after year. They don't know about Shafer and Robinson. They don't even have questions to ask about these things.

So what is YOUR knowledge base on those issues?  Have you spoken with Greg Robinson, or Scott Shafer, or Rich Rodriguez, or Jeff Casteel?  Do you have other information about those guys, apart from this blog?  If you have a detailed theory on the Michigan defense being "comandeered," I might like to hear it and I hope you won't mind my asking about your sources.

el segundo

December 1st, 2011 at 2:30 PM ^

First, I think that it's fair to say that Bacon's only substantial criticism of Rodriguez in the book itself is that he stunk at PR.  Bacon pointed out other small flaws, but no others that would have materially affected Rodriguez's position.  My position is, of course, a statement of opinion, not of objective fact.  It's your prerogative to disagree with it (although I'd be interested to learn what you saw in the text that's inconsistent with my opinion).  But it's not your prerogative to say that my opinion is "false."

Second, I don't have a "source" about Rodriguez comandeering the defense.  I don't need one.  The commonly accepted story of the Michigan defense is that Rich Rodriguez compelled his subordinates to run a scheme with which they were neither comfortable nor familiar.  I am not aware of any evidence to contradict this, and there is much evidence consistent with it.  For example, it cannot be disputed that Michigan began running a 3-3-5 at midseason, during the tenures of both Scott Shafer and Greg Robinson.  It is also undisputed that neither of those coaches ever ran a 3-3-5 before.  The head coach of the Michigan Wolverines did have experience with such a defense before coming here.  There are numerous unrefuted reports (including by Bacon) that Rodriguez decided that Michigan needed to run a 3-3-5.  It is reasonable to infer that neither Shafer or Robinson would have made this decision on their own.  That inference is supported by the fact that, as Michigan ran it, the 3-3-5 was structurally flawed.  Under Robinson, the linebackers were misaligned, among other things.  (See numerous UFRs from 2010).  If you have a better explanation of why Michigan's defense failed, or of why the 3-3-5 was used and used badly, let's hear it.

Section 1

December 1st, 2011 at 2:49 PM ^

It implies a takeover by force, against opposition.  Maybe that is the case.  I just haven't seen anything from any of the principals that would support that kind of description.

As for Bacon explicitly declining to let Rodriguez escape blame, and in fact placing "equal" blame on three elements (unfair press, disloyal insiders, Rodriguez himself) you can listen here, at the end of the interview:

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/11/25/college-football-michigan 

el segundo

December 1st, 2011 at 3:04 PM ^

John Bacon can give a thousand interviews in which he assigns equal blame to Rodriguez, disloyal insiders, and the press.  But those interviews don't determine the meaning of the text that he wrote.

When I look at the text itself, I don't get the sense that Bacon blames those three things equally.  The structure of the book and the themes that Bacon reiterates throughout that structure emphasize public opinion and institutional dynamics as the two primary causes of Rodriguez's failure.  To the extent that Bacon blames Rodriguez, he blames him for not being better at managing public opinion and, to a much lesser extent, for not being good at institutional politics.  And, with respect to this last point, Bacon even seems to indirectly laud Rodriguez, implying that Rodriguez just wanted to coach football, not to play politics, and, who could blame him?.

Nothing in the book suggests that Rodriguez had any significant shortcomings as a football coach, not with strategy, not with managing his staff, not with dealing with his players, not with anything that took place on the field, in the weight rooms, or in the meeting rooms.  And that's my main problem with the book.  I don't believe that Rodriguez was 6-18 in conference because of Mary Sue Coleman, Lloyd Carr, Bill Martin, and Michael Rosenberg.

M-Wolverine

December 1st, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

I can see that maybe he didn't think there'd be a demand, or he had no interest in breaking down coaching X's and O's, or consulting on what's bad coaching or what's not.  But since his take on the book was the politics of the situations (for whatever reason), how he could make that his book's primary theme yet completely ignore the politics going on in the coaching staff doesn't connect with me. He has no problem repeating what Rich told him happened in private meeting. What others told him happened in meeting he wasn't anywhere around. And what could only be considered scuttlebutt of what happened in a private meeting between Martin and Coleman.....but he heard NOTHING going on in a staff he was embedded in for 3 years?  Never heard of problems between the carryovers from West Virginia and not one, but 2 DC's?  I didn't have to be there, and could see Shafer had some sarcastically hard feelings over being scapgoated.  And we don't need to have an analysis of the 3-3-5 to get into why multiple coaches who have never coached it are being forced to impliment it (and sometimes in MID-season).  He was there. He DID have first hand access to all of them.  If he didn't have space for those "characters", it sounds like some really bad editorial decisions.

He may have decided to frame his book as Rich vs. the Athletic Department (the media, the fans, and whoever else).  And that's a legitimate take. But it completely undermines his claim that he was just a fly on the wall, reporting events, and it's an unbias look at things.  Because that's a hell of a slant.

It's funny, a lot of people here are saying the book benefited Rich in his hiring at AZ.  But when the book came out, it was "valid" because according to Bacon "Rich's lawyers let him know he didn't like the book".  So I'm not sure how it's helpful, but so hurtful at the same time. Frankly, while I'm sure there's always some lawyer-type contact in these situations, I can't imagine Bacon really thought Rich hated the book. It's practically a love letter to the guy.  But it sounds good to say that when you're trying to claim objectivity after apparently chosing a narrative that paints one guy against the world, with nary a fault mentioned.  Because I'm guessing, just like the rest, no one comes out looking really good in that defensive staff interactions.

Bacon gave us a lot of the what.  And the who.  But 90+% of it we already knew (though the general public might have been in the dark....still are, because it's not like it's read by anyone buy diehards).  But he almost completely misses on the why.  Why did so and so do that, undermine this way, stupidly said this.  We go from Lloyd supposedly recommending Rich to supposedly undermining him.  What happened inbetween?  A void in the book.  I'd say it's just unknown, but the book doesn't stray from insinuating a lot of unknowns.  Did maybe Rich do a few more things that didn't endear himself to others? Possibly.  We heard those rumors too. But some rumors are greater than others in Bacon's book. Which makes it all a bit suspect.

el segundo

December 1st, 2011 at 2:45 PM ^

that really bothered me about Bacon's "sourcing."  At various points, he takes great pains to point out that he had multiple sources to verify certain factual statements that were not within his personal knowledge.  But he cheerfully reports on the substance of meetings that included only Rodriguez (sometimes with Rita), Martin, and Coleman.  He even attributes direct quotations to persons in the meeting.  Did he have multiple sources for these things?  I cannot believe he did.  It's impossible to think that Martin and/or Coleman would have confirmed the story about agreeing to pay part of Rodriguez's buy-out without approval by the regents.  So Rodriguez must be Bacon's only source for this.  Are we really supposed to believe that Rodriguez and/or Rita had a perfectly objective, perfectly accurate recollection of precisely what was said -- accurate enough for Bacon to attribute quotations to the participants?

This reflects a more general problem with Bacon's adherence to the standards governing his writing.  Sometimes he insists on multiple sourcing; sometimes he's wiling to rely on a single source.  Sometimes he tries to look behind the scenes to identify the reasons for events; sometimes he takes stuff at face value.  And, most of the time, when he deviates from his purported standards, he does it in a way that's flattering or beneficial to Rich Rodriguez.

M-Wolverine

December 1st, 2011 at 3:37 PM ^

...from Rich's take."  But the one that stuck out to me was the meeting where "MSC chewed out Bill Martin."  A 2 person meeting. That I'm sure there was some gossip about.  But there were two people in the meeting, and I don't think Mary Sue was tellling him about how she handles employees (or anything else), and I don't think Bill Martin was volunteering that "boy, did I get my ass reamed that day."  So, who's his source? It's gossip. Which quite possibly could be true. But I'm not sure how he won't throw a single Les Miles rumor out there, that probably has a lot more behind it, or rumors about defensive coaching issues, which are there to see, but stuff like that is ok. It's ok because it frames his story the way he likes.  (And yes, even if there was some truth to Coleman and Martin agreeing to pay without consulting the regents...the way it was worded in how they said it "oh boy, we're fired if we get caught" makes them sound like 8 year olds, and really doesn't instill me with confidence that it's an accurate recording of how and what they said.)

ATLWolverine

November 30th, 2011 at 11:16 PM ^

All-access coverage might be great for the author and fans, but ultimately bad for the school. I think Martin was out of his mind for allowing Bacon to have no-holds-barred access to the program, though we as fans benefitted.

Can you imagine if Rosenberg had had such access? Bacon glosses over numerous things in the book (e.g. what he saw when partying with the football players) that a classy reporter would overlook, but I dread what a mucraker or Deadspin-type would do with that sort of access.

Better to not allow that sort of access without, at the very least, right of refusal to allow anything the Administration deems inaccurate to go to the presses.

jackw8542

December 1st, 2011 at 8:22 AM ^

a more appropriate nom de plume for you would be Stalingrad, then?  There are things to be kept on the inside, but insidious behavior is not one of them.  That is what 3 and Out revealed.  As a result, we are better, even if still imperfectly, able to judge people on their true character rather than merely a carefully cultivated public persona.

SirJack II

November 30th, 2011 at 9:59 PM ^

I think the importance of 3&O is really being overblown here. I doubt any of the Arizona people read it, or if they did that it had any impact on their decision ("gee, this Rodriguez sure is an emotional wreck, but this Bacon fellow seems to like him, so let's do it").

They hired Rodriguez because he's a big-name coach who'd actually be willing to coach at such a school. He'll attract attention to a university that's never even been to a Rose Bowl.

ATLWolverine

November 30th, 2011 at 11:12 PM ^

Virtually every Rodriguez-related article since 3 and Out has referenced the book or said "Rodriguez failed at Michigan because of a meddling former coach and an inability to coach defense" or "Michigan needed one of its own like Hoke; RR was never a good fit."

You can ask Mike Leach how much media narrative of a coach affects his hiring chances.

blue in dc

November 30th, 2011 at 10:57 PM ^

I am so sick of all the RR apologist whining. Contol what you can control and don't worry about all the rest. He was the head coach, not the offensive coordinator. Had he taken care of the defense, his record would have been better and he could have dealt with all the external problems better

STW P. Brabbs

December 1st, 2011 at 10:25 AM ^

Well, you can make that argument if you want.  Even before the Bacon book, I tried to imgaine how, even if there was a Lloyd shadow conspiracy, it would really affect results on the field - and potential negative recruiting seemed to be the best hypothesis.  But if you argue that, it's harder to use 'I guess Rodriguez's recruiting was pretty good after all - look at what Hoke did with his players this year.'