A commenter asked for my thoughts on the Big Ten’s New Year’s Day faceplant. I don’t have much to add to what I wrote 384 days ago about Big Ten expansion. The Big Ten operates at a disadvantage relative to the SEC because the South has far more blue chip high school players than the Midwest. What the Big Ten does have is revenue, loads and loads of revenue because the Big Ten schools sit in populous (but shrinking) states and churn out sports-addled alums like yours truly. Big Ten schools ought to plough that revenue into hiring the best coaches. Instead, they hire Danny Hope and Greg Robinson. Any league where Mark Dantonio is considered to be one of the hot young coaches is going to be a league that gets massacred on New Year’s Day when its teams start swimming in a deeper pool.
This brings me to Michigan’s current disaster of a coaching search. In 2007, Michigan had an obvious candidate: Les Miles. Because of infighting among the powers that were in Ann Arbor, Michigan either dithered while LSU locked Miles up, made an insulting offer that pushed Miles away, or never made an offer in the first place. Michigan then lurched around, making offers to Kirk Ferentz and Greg Schiano, before hiring Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez was a good hire at the time, but one factor in his ultimate demise was Michigan skimping on hiring a defensive coordinator for him when the position was open after the 2008 season. Michigan had figured out that to compete with the best in college football (read: the SEC), it needed to pay the market rate for a top head coach, but it had not learned that lesson for the coaches below the head man.
In 2010, Michigan again has an obvious candidate. David Brandon has let Rodriguez wither on the vine for over a month, neither firing him for a lack of progress nor giving him an extension and a new defensive coordinator for recruiting purposes. The only way that Brandon’s ludicrous “evaluation after the bowl game” mantra made sense was if he had Jim Harbaugh signed, sealed, and delivered. Otherwise, Brandon was pissing away a month that could be spent with either Rodriguez recruiting his tail off or Brandon lining up a replacement so the successor could recruit his tail off in January. Normally, a major program can take a hit to one class in order to make sure that it hires the right coach. In this case, Rodriguez’s recruiting is one of the major reasons why Michigan is making a change, so UM cannot afford to give away another class.
With Harbaugh apparently gone, Brandon’s process appears to be an epic failure. Coming back to the SEC, I’m at a loss to think of an SEC program that has behaved this ineffectively. Compare Michigan’s actions to those of Florida. The Gators had an opening, they filled it quickly, they’ve paid top dollar for a coordinator to cover for the new head man’s weak side of the ball, and they are off and running in recruiting. Michigan knew that they would need to make a change around the same time that Urban Meyer was retiring and yet, Michigan hasn’t even made the introductory step of making their vacancy official. Assuming that the San Francisco 49ers showed Harbaugh more love, we can speculate that an SEC program would not have allowed itself to get outfought in the “show me love” department when trying to hire an alum like Michigan did. However, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that an SEC program would not have dithered like Michigan has.