Monday, December 03, 2007

Bill Martin is a Helpless Finch

Let's play Darwin for a moment. Imagine that you have two islands in the Pacific. The islands are populated by two types of finches that were once the same, but because of the separation of the islands and changing winds, have now evolved in separated environments. On one island, which we'll call Seccu, the finches are surrounded by predators and thus evolve over thousands of years to have sharper talons to fight off the predators. On the other island, which we'll call Bigtennu, there are no predators, so natural selection does not push the finches in the direction of having sharp talons. After thousands of years, the islands are suddenly pushed together by a massive tectonic shift such that the Seccu and Bigtennu finches are now on the same island. The newly consolidated island has limited quantities of the insects that both species eat. Which species of finch do you think is going to get the grubs?

Now read this article and tell me that Michigan isn't a defenseless finch when forced to compete with an SEC school for coaching talent. On Saturday, Les Miles had a massive offer from LSU in hand, as compared to an assurance from Michigan that they would interview him and that their financial offer might be competitive if and when it would be made. When I read this story, my initial reaction was that Michigan's approach to Miles is just like Notre Dame's fruitless pursuit of Urban Meyer. Notre Dame reportedly showed up in Salt Lake City in the school's jet and just expected that Meyer would take the job the moment they arrived because "we're Notre Dame." Meanwhile, Florida had been furiously recruiting him, they made a large financial offer, and they were aggressive about explaining why he should take the job. Thus, Meyer took the Florida job even though ND was one of his three dream schools. Notre Dame's notion that Meyer would immediately faint into their arms when they showed up was arrogant and wrong. Michigan made the same mistake in its pursuit of Miles and has thus pissed away the tremendous good fortune of looking for a coach at the same time that an alum who loves his alma mater is winning big at a comparable program.

Getting back to the finch story, Michigan and Notre Dame suffer because they do not face the same competitive pressures that SEC programs do. LSU and Florida are surrounded by cut-throat rivals who will sell their rivals down the river the moment they can take their rivals' coaches or report to the NCAA that the rivals' boosters are buying players. LSU and Florida are also in an environment in which the right coaching hire is critical because the level of competition is so high. Michigan and Notre Dame, living off of their reputations, don't face the same pressures. This is especially true for Michigan, which has won consistently despite having an average coach for the past 13 years. Michigan hasn't tasted what it's like to be coached by Ron Zook or Curley Hallman. It doesn't face the prospect of having to fight against programs coached by Nick Saban, Mark Richt, Urban Meyer, Tommy Tuberville, and Steve Spurrier. Instead, it competes in a conference where Kirk Ferentz is considered to be a good coach and Tim Brewster is an acceptable hire. Thus, Michigan doesn't go all-out to hire a top-shelf candidate. Instead, it dawdles around with a languid process and an initially uncompetitive financial offer. The difference between Michigan and a program that understands the importance of good coaching and is willing to expend every effort to hire a good coach will be evident on New Year's Day.

PS - per the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Michigan's opening offer to Miles was "insulting."


Anonymous said...

Great post - love the finch analogy.

peacedog said...

Just talons? The seccu finch doesn't develop fire breath, or heat vision, or a call whose sonic emanations don't stun it's prey/rivals/predators so it can eat/eviscerate/get away?

Woulda been a lot cooler if it had done these things. Just make note of that for future analogies.