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Monday, December 03, 2007

The easy answer is "we'll never know." But that's not particularly satisfying, is it?


What happened, considering Miles' earlier indications that he wanted to return home to the school he played at and was an assistant coach under Bo Schembechler?

A source close to the situation said what was always a close call was pushed the breaking point by the two-week interval between Carr's retirement and the SEC title game, and the combination of LSU's hefty contract offer and the ESPN report on game day made Miles opt to stay.

The source would not comment when asked if Carr's silence on Miles candidacy - widely interpreted as a sign of animosity between the two men and Carr's opposition to Miles succeeding him - was a factor in the decision.
...[Miles] had been in contact with Michigan through back channels for weeks. Through intermediaries, Miles’ representatives and Michigan were hammering out the terms of an agreement.

Miles knew Michigan was prepared to offer a five-year deal. He knew how much money Michigan was prepared to offer. He was fine with it.

But the key word here is “prepared.” Despite what you may have heard or read, this was never a done deal.


And Miles knew it.
Rosenberg's theory is that the money getting worked out was but a prelude to a job offer, not the result of one:
Martin was not going to hire a coach without an extended one-on-one interview, and he couldn’t conduct that until after Saturday’s SEC title game. ...
He just needed to know the Michigan job was his. And Michigan couldn’t make that promise.
This is scenario A: Martin, weirdly, operates in an inverted paradigm where you work out the financial details of a contract, then interview for the job. Michigan went through the first portion of this process with Miles agent and a tentative agreement was reached on the numbers.

This explains the "done deal" stuff as soon as the Ferentz thing passed. This also explains the weird split on the information I was receiving: pro-Miles guys knew about the tentative agreement and made the reasonable assumption any sort of "interview" would be strictly PR, since a 36-6 coach who loves the university more than life itself is obviously the best man for the job. Meanwhile, guys nearer the search committee were hearing that Miles had to dance for Carr and Martin as part of a full search process that, given Carr's strident opposition to Miles' candidacy, could well end with no offer.

The source from the LSU side of things is very well connected and offers up this explanation of events from the other side:
Vincent (AD) evidentially gave Miles an ultimatum. He told Miles that if he was considering the UM job that he would be fired on the spot and not be able to coach the SEC championship game.

So Miles told his agent to work out the details with LSU for a contract extension. That’s why he went on ESPN at 1:30 and sounded as though he was totally pissed off about Herbstreit. Had Kirk not said anything and ESPN not reported on the rumors, Miles may have talked to Martin yesterday.
This has been widely mongered on the internets, and though it seems far fetched -- LSU would fire the head coach on the eve of the SEC championship game? -- please consider this is the South and crazier things have happened in the SEC. Hell, Michigan fired Frieder on the eve of the NCAA tournament. It could have been a bluff, but put yourself in Miles' spot: LSU has threatened to fire you unless you agree to a contract extension. Meanwhile, Michigan refuses to assure you that you'll be offered the job and you know elements of the athletic department wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire. Do you take the risk of calling the LSU bluff and possibly finding yourself without any job?

Well, you probably call Michigan frantically to see what's going on, to give them an update of your situation, and attempt to work something out now. Which is apparently what happened. And Michigan did not respond. Thus the press conference and Miles keeping the LSU job. If you are so inclined, you can hear some bitterness in Miles' postgame press conference:
I certainly love Michigan. I love Michigan. I will always be a Michigan man. I will always root for the next head coach there. I will wear those colors when it comes down to the Ohio Michigan game. I'm going to root and pull for the Blue, and they will eventually win that game (laughter).

There's a proud tradition, and they have to do the things they have to do. I'm for them, and if there's any way I can help them, I'd love to help them. But I'm not going there. It saddens me at times. I can't be at two places.
On Saturday I wondered what an extra 500k or 1m per year would do for an already rich man, as if it was Miles' fault he wasn't coming to Michigan. I don't believe that anymore. This was a colossal screwup by Bill Martin, aided by Lloyd Carr. But they probably don't see it like that. They see it as protecting the program.

How do you not have an extended one-on-one interview with the man obviously most qualified for the job at this point? Michigan has known Carr was retiring since September, and Martin knows literally dozens of Miles' friends. Hell, John Wangler is his BFF. Call Wangler into your office, have him call Miles, and have a goddamn interview on the phone. There is no excuse for failing to hammer out whatever potential differences existed months ago. All this interview stuff is purely for show if we are operating under the assumption Martin has an IQ above 60.

We do assume that around these parts, so the inescapable conclusion: Michigan essentially passed on Miles. If Michigan really wanted Miles, Michigan would have him. That much was made clear by Miles' season-long "woo Michigan" campaign of newspaper articles and TV appearances. Hell, the week of the Ohio State game you couldn't turn on a sports talk station without hearing Miles wax poetic about Bo. Everyone near the program knew Miles wanted the job more than anything. He loves the program.

But his love is unrequited. That has a tendency to embitter people towards the object loved. When LSU made it very clear they wanted Miles, had no reservations about him, and were willing to make a hefty financial commitment to prove it, it was an easy decision. Michigan wanted him to prostrate himself. Good football coaches often being prideful, this was not likely to happen, especially with the pressures imposed by LSU and ESPN. Thus: this.

Two weeks ago, Carr retired. In his press conference he stridently declared he would have only a minimal role in the search and that the timing of his retirement would have no effect. Two weeks later, he maintains plausible deniability. But only just.

Assorted bullets:

  • If Michigan hires someone who fails and gets fired real quick, the Herbstreit report will be the fan equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Who told him? Was it, as Miles suggested, "an Ohio State plot"? Miles said that in jest, but the way everything worked out could not have been better for OSU.

    There are two main theories on the leak: Desmond Howard, his ESPN co-worker and a member of the search committee, and Jim Tressel. Howard obviously has a vested interest in not telling Herbstreit anything. Tressel, OTOH, is interesting: that move would be the Machiavellian genius I now, sadly, expect from Tressel whenever Michigan blunders into his path. The "AND they're getting Tenuta!!!" bit is apparently without even the slightest grounding in real life -- Tenuta denied having even spoken to Miles yesterday -- and implies that maybe the whole thing was just batty nonsense. Who would have the pull with Herbstreit to say "and, like, Tenuta, dude" and get it aired? (Not that Herby is complicit here; the theory is he's Tressel's dupe.)

    That is totally crazy, sure. But maybe I'm a little crazy.
  • Debunking myself: we assume that Herbstreit actually unearthed anything because he was the guy who said it. If you believe this, you are forced to believe that Mark May is busy unearthing all sorts of scoops. Hell, he's finding out who our next coach is right now!

    Another possibility: someone else at ESPN heard it and it was put in pretty boy's mouth to make the talking heads look more credible.
  • More in the Rosenberg piece:
    Two people familiar with the process say Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly is not a candidate. He will not be a candidate. I don’t have a specific reason, but Kelly has rubbed people the wrong way at various points in his climb up the ladder.
    Great. Raise your hand if you think the 1968 version of Bo Schembechler would be even slightly considered by this set of decision makers. That's what I thought. "Rub people the wrong way"... the entire athletic department has been infected with this crap.
  • List of people guaranteed not to rub anyone in this AD the wrong way: Jim Grobe, Mike Debord, Brady Hoke, Ty Willingham.
  • What now? Schiano's name is getting thrown about a lot, as is Tedford, but by media folks. Given the way the search has gone so far, with Michigan high on Ferentz early (yes, I screwed up my first post about the Ferentz situation, but he was a very serious candidate), lukewarm about Miles, and apparently uninterested in Kelly, it's clear Michigan has different priorities than sane most people.

    It appears they're actually serious about the Lloyd clone bit... but who is that? Terrifyingly, Grobe seems the closest.