SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
12/05/2007 05:59:00 PM
Where Does Michigan Turn Post-Miles?
Did Michigan athletic director Bill Martin botch the Les Miles situation on purpose?
Tony Ding/Icon SMI
This week's Mailbag turned into an all-BCS edition, but there was at least one other newsworthy topic that generated plenty of questions like this one:
Inquiring minds want to know: What the heck happened between Michigan and Les Miles? Was there ever really a "done deal?" Did LSU change his mind by backing the Brinks truck up to his door? Did Kirk Herbstreit's premature report on ESPN tick him off? --John Blattner, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Media in both Michigan and Louisiana have been trying to figure out that very thing, and while I'm not sure we'll ever know the definitive answer, a couple of reporters have come awfully close. The two best "behind-the-scenes" accounts I've seen of what transpired last weekend have come from Baton Rouge-based Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett News Service and Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg.
According to Rosenberg's Michigan sources, Miles still hoped to return to his alma mater right up until the 11th hour but had yet to receive assurances that he was definitely the Wolverines' guy. With LSU breathing down his neck to sign off on a lucrative contract extension (reportedly worth as much as $3.5 million annually, nearly double his current salary), Miles' "intermediaries" sought urgently for an answer -- but Michigan AD Bill Martin could not be reached. The sailing enthusiast was in Key Largo, Fla., where he maintains a residence by the Ocean Reef Club.
Martin told Ann Arbor News columnist Jim Carty this week that he received a message from Miles' agent, George Bass, last Thursday, but chose not to return the call until Sunday because, "I committed not to talk to Les Miles, directly or indirectly, before the championship game on Saturday. That's the way this process is done, or at least the way I'm honoring the process."
Obviously, by the time Martin called back, Miles had accepted LSU's offer.
Ever since that last bit of information leaked out, Wolverines diehards have been fuming -- and speculating. Did Martin really botch things that badly? Or, as many have suggested throughout, was there an anti-Miles faction at Michigan (most notably, Lloyd Carr) who persuaded Martin into backing off the LSU coach.
Either way, the fact is -- Michigan still needs a new coach. Soon. And so far there's no discernible sign that Martin had a definitive Plan B candidate.
Kirk Ferentz's name continues to pop up but he is not believed to be interested. Cincinnati's Brian Kelly seems an ideal choice, yet, for whatever reason, is not being considered (according to Rosenberg). Current coordinators Mike DeBord and Ron English interviewed for the job last week, but neither would be a popular choice. And names like Greg Schiano, Jeff Tedford and Rich Rodriguez are being thrown around, but there's no evidence any are actually legitimate.
It's the question everyone's going to be debating for the next several days (and maybe longer than that). To find out who I think should face Ohio State in New Orleans, read my Inside College Football column.
In the meantime, some closing thoughts on this most apocalyptic of Championship Saturdays:
∙ If you didn’t stay up until 3:15 a.m. EST to see the final, climactic minutes of the 2007 regular season, you missed some high drama. Hawaii, playing for a Sugar Bowl berth, fell behind 4-8 Washington 21-0, battled back to finally claim a 35-28 lead with 49 seconds left, watched Huskies QB Jake Locker complete a 49-yard pass down to the Warriors’ 4-yard line with 20 seconds left -- then picked off Locker on a deflected pass in the end zone in the final seconds to seal the win.
Give Colt Brennan and the 12-0 Warriors credit: They never give up. They’ve had some ridiculous comebacks this season. And now, barring an unexpected drop out of the BCS Top 12, they’re going to be rewarded with a New Year’s Day bowl berth.
∙ West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez looked like a family member had died during his postgame press conference as he tried unsuccessfully to explain what can only be described as a Mountaineers “choke job” against rival Pittsburgh. I’ll never quite understand the Mountaineers’ offense – 10 games out of 12, they come out and absolutely steamroll their opponent, the other two they can seemingly do absolutely nothing. There’s no middle ground with them.
The good news is, they’re still going to a BCS bowl game, but they likely blew their chance at an Orange Bowl date with Virginia Tech. I’m guessing that game will now use its at-large pick to select 11-1 Kansas.
∙ Oklahoma’s defensive performance against Missouri on Saturday had to be one of the most impressive of the entire season. The Sooners held a team that had yet to score fewer than 31 points all season to 17, and held 4,000-yard passer Chase Daniel to just 219 yards. You could definitely notice the return of previously injured DE Auston English, but this was an all-out team effort by Oklahoma, including incredible coverage from its secondary.
∙ The season-ending implosions of Cal (6-6) and Oregon (8-4) are complete. The Bears’ first loss in six years to hated rival Stanford (4-8), 20-13, marked their sixth loss in their past seven games. The Ducks, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 since QB Dennis Dixon’s injury but did not go down without a fight, taking rival Oregon State to double overtime in the Civil War before falling 38-31.
∙ It’s time to get some sleep. It’s been a late, eventful night – and I have a feeling tomorrow night’s going to be no different. The BCS pairings do not get released until 8:30 p.m. EST, though we should get a better sense how they might turn out once we see the final coaches poll early Sunday afternoon.
Suffice to say, there’s never been more final-day suspense -- or confusion -- than this.