Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wrapped up a news conference where he announced the firing of head football coach Rich Rodriguez after three seasons.
A lot of interesting comments from Brandon today in Ann Arbor.
Some notes and observations:
Brandon spent a lot of time talking about Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, an interesting strategy after the past few days. Brandon several times mentioned his close relationship with Harbaugh and all of their mutual friends and associates. Although Michigan has had conversations in the past about Harbaugh returning to Michigan, Brandon says no contract offer has been extended.
The AD made it pretty clear what he thinks ultimately will happen with the former Wolverines quarterback. "My personal belief is Jim Harbaugh is going to end up with a really, really challenging opportunity in the NFL," Brandon said. "That’s what I think, we’ll see." By saying this, Brandon is telling Michigan fans to remain realistic about their expectations. It certainly doesn't mean U-M won't try to lure Harbaugh, but Brandon is setting the odds as a long shot. "I have talked to Jim Harbaugh, I will continue to talk to Jim Harbaugh," Brandon said. "He’s a Michigan man."
Brandon on why Rodriguez didn't succeed: "I don't think Rich Rodriguez has had a peaceful night's sleep since he arrived in Ann Arbor. His three years here can somewhat be defined as three years of turmoil. It seems like it was one thing after another. It clearly impacted recruited, it clearly impacted the positive energy that a team needs to be successful. It created a lot of hardships and a lot of distractions. Clearly, we need to put ourselves in a position where that is all history." Hard to argue with Brandon here.
Rodriguez's lack of success on the field ultimately sealed his fate as coach. "Our win-loss record overall over the last three years is the worst in our 131-season history. ... Michigan is not used to this. Michigan fans expect more than this, so do Michigan athletic directors. We need to put ourselves in a position where we get competitive again, both within the Big Ten, which is critically important, as well as nationally." Brandon also identified Rodriguez's struggles in "red-letter games," contests against Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and any both opponents. "If you want to be successful at Michigan, you better win more than your share of those 'red-letter games,'" Brandon said. "Those red-letter games, over the last three seasons, we've been 3-15."
Brandon stopped short of saying Michigan needs a "Michigan Man" as its next head coach, but he wants someone who understands the school's culture and the unique challenges at Michigan. He wants someone with previous head-coaching experience, but not necessarily in an automatic qualifying conference. "Is [Jim] Tressel a bad coach?" Brandon said, referring to the Ohio State boss who came to Columbus from FCS Youngstown State. "He seems to be doing pretty well down there, especially against us." It's time for Michigan to call TCU's Gary Patterson.
Michigan is willing to pay big bucks for its next coach. Brandon said the school has previously been "in the middle of the pack" in paying its coaches. "I don't necessarily believe that's appropriate," he added. Cha-ching!
Brandon met with Rodriguez for 3.5 hours Tuesday afternoon and evaluated the following factors: performance and competition, recruiting and retention, academic performance, leadership, university image as it relates to players, university image as it relates to coaches. Brandon said the meeting wasn't designed to end with a decision on Rodriguez's future. The AD decided Tuesday to fire Rodriguez and informed the coach Wednesday morning.
Brandon seemed to downplay the effect the wait to fire Rodriguez will have on recruiting. He didn't want to make the decision in December because he felt the players deserved the best chance to compete in their bowl game, and Rodriguez and his staff provided that opportunity. Official recruiting visits scheduled for this weekend will be delayed. I certainly don't have high expectations for Michigan's 2011 class, but we'll see what happens. Brandon wants to move as quickly as he possibly can for a new coach, but he wants to find the right guy.
Brandon expects some attrition on the roster, which is standard with coaching changes, but he provided this nugget about the current players and the future coach. "One of the things that I look for is a coach who can modify their approach and their attack based on the personnel that they have."
Michigan won't use a search committee to find its next coach, although Brandon will be seeking advice from those he trusts.
On the need for a defensive-minded coach: "There’s a thought of getting a defensive-minded everything. I want the ball boys to be defensive-minded."
There you have it from Brandon. Start digesting.