Thursday, January 06, 2011

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss?

Well, well, the wicked witch of the west (Virginia) is gone. That constant sullen mugshot has melted away.
In its place, is … well, THAT is the question of the day, right? Who will be the new football coach at Michigan and, part two of that question states, when will he be hired?
The opinions concerning the dismissal, possible candidates and the entire process are flying like arrows in a circular firing squad – from ALL directions. And they are being directed at the one person who has put himself as the face of Michigan athletics (at least for the moment) – athletic director Dave Brandon.
Whether he hires Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh (with maize and blue blood running through his veins) or LSU coach Les Miles (with a bunch of Tabasco mixed in his blood) or San Diego State coach Brady Hoke or Boise State coach Chris Peterson or TCU coach Gary Patterson or … your name is as good as any other, Brandon has made at least ONE major mistake off the top. The process has become about him; his is the mind that needs convincing and he said so in the most public of means.
No NCAA program wants its athletic director to be the face of any sport; that’s the job of the football coach, or basketball coach or hockey, etc. Brandon wasn’t the face of Domino’s Pizza, even when that company struggled a few years ago because of declining sales and poor customer reaction to changes in the product.
But here he is now – Mister Michigan Football … until he hires a new face. And that person MUST have the kind of personality to assert himself into the role.
Harbaugh would be that type of person and allow Brandon to return to the shadows. Miles could be that personality, although his experiences at LSU and Oklahoma State often demonstrate that he doesn’t play well with other kids in the sand box.
But does the former UM quarterback want to coach in Ann Arbor??? Brandon, himself, doesn’t think so and say it publicly (a strange thing to say in a press conference when the entire Wolverine nation is set to crown Harbaugh as the throne’s successor).
Miles told media at the Cotton Bowl site this week that he has not been contacted about the job but never said he wasn’t interested. The gypsy in his football soul would never allow that; he’s ALWAYS interested.
Here’s what the new Michigan coach faces in 2011: home games against Western and Eastern Michigan, San Diego State (wouldn’t THAT be interesting if Hoke moves to Ann Arbor), a night game against Notre Dame, Indiana and Minnesota (both under new leadership), Illinois and you-know-who; road trips will go to Wisconsin, Sparty, Iowa and Northwestern.
Even with the talent on the roster, that is another bowl-eligible squad and if someone can implement a decent 4-3 defense, it could account for 7, 8 or maybe 9 victories. If the new coach can stop the leakage of recruits (shrinking BEFORE Rodriguez was clipped), 2011 might be salvageable and even seen as an improvement.
It’ll have to be because 2012 opens with a road trip to Arlington, Texas, to play Alabama, and Michigan’s program is in no position to honor that contract. Seriously! I have yet to comprehend why Brandon wanted that confrontation and sought it like his pants were on fire. If you think the Gator Bowl was a disastrous rout, just wait until Michigan faces Demetrious Hart (who dropped UM in favor of playing for Nick Saban) and the school that utterly coldcocked Michigan State the other day.
Anything past this Monday without an announcement will cripple the UM program for the first half of this decade. Recruiting will become a smoldering cinder since Rodriguez only received verbal commitments from a relatively small list (12 and falling) and most of them out of range from Brandon’s stated area of concentration (the Midwest, as he said at his presser). The new coach will focus FIRST on the Midwest (I guess that will include the home state) and areas surrounding Ann Arbor (Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania). That’s the same roadmap used by Bo Schembechler, whose ghost continue to haunt the room – for better or worse.
Bo succeeded in his first year with a roster entirely consisting of players brought to the campus by Bump Elliott. It took until 1971 to see the complete stamp placed by Bo on the program.
The man who hired him, Don Canham, quickly stepped away from the spotlight and let Bo by THE man (remember, Bo was NOT Canham’s first choice; Joe Paterno WAS). Believe me, Brandon has not shown himself to be a Don Canham yet.
The new coach cannot be a year-to-year figurehead; he must be someone who will last more than a decade on the job.
And it has to happen soon because everyone is scratching their heads over how this scenario has played itself out. That’s not a good thing for Michigan football.
Brandon must deliver the greatest meal of his life to his hungriest fan base and a helluva lot faster than promised by his former employer. Because what the alumni will send back to his desk won’t resemble cold pizza; it’ll look like empty donation envelopes and no change in the tomato sauce will repair that.

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