Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bill Martin and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

You just knew that this season wasn't going to go out with a whimper. The year that brought us the horror of Appalachian State, the bloodbath that was Oregon and the bone-numbing soul crusher against that team from down south gave us one more punch to the gut this weekend.
The day started with ESPN reporting that Miles to Michigan was a done deal and that he was bringing Georgia Tech's fabulous defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta with him. We were sky high. This was a brand new day for Michigan, one that would bring excitement to the program, while still embracing the traditions that we all love.
Almost immediately, came rumblings that it wasn't a done deal, and that in fact Miles had been working on an extension with LSU, and that terms had been finalized. LSU posted a notice on their web site that Miles was staying. We were crushed. How could this have happened when it appeared that all parties assumed he was gone.
A hastily called press conference was called where Les refuted the rumors that he had signed anything with Michigan, but didn't categorically deny that he was interested in the Michigan job. Some life perhaps. Again spirits rose a little bit.
But after the game, he confirmed that he was indeed staying at LSU. He sounded in his post game presser like someone who had been left at the alter. He talked of how he loved Michigan but couldn't go there. The ultimate blow. We had a great coach, a top ten coach who wanted to come home in the worst way, and we let him get away.
So how did this happen? My guess (and that's all it is, and probably all it will ever be), base on various internet rumors and stories:
-Michigan and Miles had been talking for weeks (through intermediaries, of course), talking about details, but neither side committing to anything (Michigan to hiring, Miles to taking the job)
-LSU came to Miles after Michigan asked for permission to speak with Miles on Thursday or Friday, knowing that Michigan wouldn't contact him until after the game. They offered him three contract extension options, one if he agreed before the game, one if they lost, and the last if they won.
-LSU's offer was substantially higher than what Michigan had been talking about (3.5mil / year versus 2.4 mil / year). Miles tried calling Michigan to try and get confirmation that he was their guy. For whatever reason, Michigan never called him. Some suggest it was money. Some suggest that Martin wasn't completely sold on Miles. Others think it was just gross incompetence on Martin's part.
-Miles, without any word from Michigan, realized that a bird in the hand is worth more than two in bush, took the LSU offer.
-Herbstreit's leak on Saturday morning didn't really affect the outcome at all, except to bring all the backroom dealings out in the light, and perhaps expedite the process.
-In talking to Miles' agent on Sunday, after all the drama, Martin will still only commit to Miles being "among our candidates."

-The anger among Michigan fans and alumni on message boards, blogs and around the water cooler is palpable. Miles was a very popular choice up here, and the idea that we lost him because we wouldn't pay even close to the market rate, because Lloyd Carr was exerting influence, or because Martin was simply outplayed by the LSU AD is infuriating to a lot of people, including yours truly. This guy was the perfect fit for the job, a continuation of Bo's tradition, while bringing experience and success from other BCS conferences. Instead we are going to end up with some retread or inexperienced coordinator. Even people who weren't completely sold on Miles are upset because of what this weekend's events clearly showed: We aren't playing by the same set of rules as the elite programs in the country. We are holding onto this outdated paradigm about how things "should" be done, and it is not only costing us games, it just cost us our best chance to modernize the program.

Even today there were rumors that Les Miles has not signed the much publicized contract extension, and is leaving the door open for Michigan to commit to him. I'm not getting my hopes up, because I know I will just be disappointed in the end.

Maybe I should move to Australia.