Okay, neither of these fine gentlemen are real idiots. I mean, you can't be an idiot and rise to the level of CEO or athletic director of a major state college, but holy crap, have these guys tried to challenge that line of fairly conventional thinking.
Now at the end of the day, Michigan might find themselves a great coach, just like I think Minnesota did, and in two or three years people will look back at this episode and laugh at much ado about nothing. I mean, Gene Chizik has worked out fine at Auburn, and at the time that was widely hailed as the worst college football hiring in history.
But in the 'Standards And Conduct' section of the Standard Blogger Agreement, Para 1a (IV), it is my "duty to heap insults and scorn, using comedy, backed with dubious to non-existent statistics, combined with a woefully uninformed personal opinion to bring to light inadaquacies of said topic you are writing about".
So contractually, I have no option but to tell you how dumb Maturi and Brandon have been in handling their respective coaching situations, and who actually looks worse.
There are a fair amount of similarities in the UM and the...UM coaching searches. Obviously, both athletic directors had coaches that were just not getting it done on the field. First strike here goes to Maturi, becuase he was the guy that brought Tim Brewster to Minnesota, when in retrospect, Tim Conway would've been a better choice. Brandon inherited Rich Rodriguez from the previous administration, and to his credit was willing to give Rodriguez a chance.
This past season, I give credit to Maturi in realizing that Brewster wasn't getting it done, and removed him before the end of the season. Joel Maturi said that no stone would be left unturned to find the right coach for the program, and hired a renowned search firm to help them get the right guy. But the Gophers AD really stubbed his toe when he said of his next head football coach that he wanted 'a Tubby Smith hire'. That was a reference, of course, to the basketball coup Maturi achieved when he hired Tubby Smith after he was let go as Kentucky coach.
Fast forward to December. Expecting a football version of Tubby Smith, like say Chris Peterson, Dan Mullen, or Mike Leach (my personal favorite), and Internet message board traffic flying about those guys and several others, the Gophers announced they hired...wait for it...WAIT FOR IT...Jerry Kill.
The immediate reaction was a big time WTF?!?!
But Kill diffused the angst among the fans almost immediately, essentially saying 'hey, I know I'm not everyone's first choice, but give me a chance.' So Maturi came out smelling okay, but more in spite of the coaching search, and not because of it. But that still doesn't excuse the unrealistic build up he gave the fans. Once the smoke cleared, Maturi said that he regretted the 'Tubby Smith hire' comment, so obviously, the question begs, why the hell did you say it?
Kill more than Maturi has done more to ease the uneasiness among Gopher fans. He's hit the recruiting trail hard, he's reached out to the state high school coaches, and hasn't made wild promises that no one believes he could deliver on. In short, he's been the anti-Brewster, and that in and of itself is good.
For the time being at least, it looks like Maturi fell into a barrel full of dicks and came out with a tit in his mouth.
Dave Brandon, however, has put himself in a more unenviable position than Lindsay Lohan's sobriety coach. Where Maturi cut ties with Brewster in October, giving the Gophers time to get a new coach in place for the crucial recruiting period between the end of the season and Signing Day, Brandon waffled when everyone knew, except Brandon apparently, that Rich Rodriguez was a Dead Man Walking.
There was the oh-fer against Michigan State and Ohio State. Oh, those car wrecks that have become Ohio State games. The putrid record in the Big Ten. There were the major violations found by the NCAA. The historically bad defense. And then...oh then...there was the team banquet where RichRod made everyone hold hands and sway back and forth to a Josh Groban song. I'm sorry, I laughed out loud while typing that last sentence. To my dying day, that will never be not funny.
Ever. You raise me uuuuuuuup.....
And in a scene that was only slightly less awkward than Nancy Pelosi handing the Speaker's gavel to John Boehner and Boehner crying...again...Brandon joined in at the banquet turned 'save my job' rally.
Really Dave? That wasn't enough for you?
No, no it was not. The last blow was the signature moment in the Big Ten's New Year's Day Massacre--a 52-14 pasting by Mississippi State. Only then, did Brandon act swiftly. But he didn't. Rich was fired, then not fired, then finally fired on Wednesday.
But the damage might be too done to make it undone. Recruits are decommitting, the methodical plan Brandon promised if this day came has been revealed to be nothing more than a Kabuki Dick Dance, and that's because the one guy everyone in the Michigan universe wants---and I mean everybody---isn't really interested. That was confirmed by Brandon during the press conference really really we're not kidding announcing Rich Rod's termination, which was only a bit less awkward than the dinner banquet.
The problem that Brandon now faces is the one Maturi faced right after the Kill hire, only on a scale 1,000 times more intense. Michigan is teetering towards becoming just a job as opposed to the Gold Standard it was 4 years ago, and the entire fanbase, it seems, wants Jim Harbaugh to restore the program. And if they got Harbaugh, things would seem right again in Ann Arbor. And so would a Les Miles hire, but the feeling would be that he was the top guy not named Harbaugh.
But Harbaugh (and probably Miles) isn't coming in with the cavalry to save the day, and that means whoever comes in will not be a popular choice among a good portion of the fanbase and alumni, much like Rodriguez was three years ago. Putting him in the same no-win situation that RichRod was in from day one.
Now, this situation isn't lost, but as it stands now, Brandon has really let things get away from him, and he, like Maturi, will have to rely on the new coach to assuage the fanbase that things will be okay, even though it's supposed to be the other way around.
This is the smooth operator we've heard so much about?
Well, derpity derpy derp.