Saturday, December 1, 2007

Recapping a Crazy Day in College Football

That was an unbelievable day in college football, both on and off the field, and it's still going on as I write this (Hawaii is playing what could be a very important game against Washington -- But we'll get to that in a moment). But before we get to the mess that is the BCS, let's do some clean-up on the Les Miles fiasco.

As I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more about earlier in the day, we went from Les Miles coming to Michigan, to Les Miles returning to LSU, to a press conference which led to more questions and more ambiguities, to finally, what we think is absolute, definitive words that Miles is not coming to Michigan.

"For a coach to be an issue, on a day like this? It's not forgivable. That's why I had to take the podium and tell the truth. I promise you, it's not a press conference I wanted to have. I wanted the game to be the focus, not the coach. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that my name was on ESPN. I was embarrassed for my team."

Miles said he was saddened for Michigan and his team, but made it clear that he will sign an extension with LSU and is no longer a candidate to succeed Lloyd Carr in any way, shape or form.

"There's no wiggle room," Miles said. "I just want you to know. It's very difficult for me to take another job if I'm not talking to anybody, and I said that. I'm very fortunate to represent LSU. It's a great place. My family is happy. ... We have great support. It's a special place. I'm glad to be home."

Kudos, BTW, to Jim Carty for his excellent reporting all day on the Miles story and being the first to report Miles was staying at LSU, which could not have been easy considering ESPN was reporting he was already delivered to Michigan. So why turn down your dream job? That's an interesting question. Maybe it came down to money. LSU is set to make Miles one of the top paid coaches in the country, which I read to mean somewhere around $4.0 million (Nick Saban is the highest paid coach at $4 million per year). I don't know what Michigan would have offered him, but probably not more than $3 million (Lloyd Carr was only making $1.5 million per season). And maybe it was simply a timing issue, which made it hard for Miles to leave LSU. It had to be hard for Miles though, knowing he more than likely will never get another opportunity to coach his alma matter.

The question now is, what does Michigan do. Angelique Chengelis, of the Detroit News, had a list of potential candidates:
Meanwhile, sources close to the Michigan search said Martin will continue to look at candidates that include Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, N.C. State Tom O'Brien and Cal coach Jeff Tedford.

Outside of Schiano, who would be a very intriguing candidate and probably the best candidate at this point, that list of names is not awe-inspiring. Tedford is a quarterback guru, but he just finished a .500 season at Cal. Pinkel, Grobe, and O'Brien won't excite anyone in Ann Arbor, and none are more than mediocre candidates (Pinkel may have turned Missouri around this year, but he's been a 4, 5 loss coach each year until now). And word has it Brian Kelly, successful at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan (as well as Cincinnati this year) is not a serious candidate. There just are not very many blow-away candidates out there. Miles was it. Now, unless Michigan can get Schiano, it's going to be a sad, disappointing search for the Wolverines. Eerily similar to the difficulties Notre Dame had finding a head coach a few years back before Charlie Weis came to the rescue. I don't envy Bill Martin.

The only thing stranger than the Les Miles situation is the BCS mess. This college football season has seen more upsets and top teams falling and Saturday was no different. After the #1 (LSU) and #2 (Kansas) teams in the country lost last weekend, the same happened this week, as Oklahoma destroyed #1 Missouri in the Big 12 Title Game and #2 West Virginia, despite being a 28-point favorite, lost to Pittsburgh, at home (just an incredible loss with a BCS National Title birth hanging in the balance). So the question now becomes, what on earth to do with the National Title Game, with so many one and two loss teams (not to mention undefeated Hawaii, or, at least they were undefeated when this post went live -- After a day like today, who knows what may happen against Washington -- 12:00 Update: And, of course, on cue, Hawaii falls behind 14-0 to Washington in the first quarter. Go figure.)

It's all but a given that now Ohio State becomes one of the two teams in the National Title Game (talk about a bad day for Michigan -- They lose Les Miles, their basketball team is upset by Harvard, who just happens to be coached by the man they fired, Tommy Amaker, and arch-rival Ohio State makes it into the National Title Game) but the team they are going to face is anybody's guess. Georgia is the #4 ranked team in the country going into this weekend, so keeping that constant, they would move to #2, but can you really put them in the National Title Game after failing to even make it to the SEC Championship Game, especially when SEC Champion LSU just defeated Tennessee, which beat Georgia 35-17 earlier in the season? Then you have one-loss Kansas, but again, they failed to make it to their conference championship game, and were beat by Missouri, which again, got blown out by Oklahoma tonight. Virginia Tech won the ACC today, but they lost 48-7 to LSU during the second week of the season. If they make the National Title Game over LSU, then there's something seriously wrong. And of course, Hawaii is still the only undefeated team in college football (12:00 Update: See above, Hawaii falls behind 14-0 against Washington early on.)

I think at this point, I would say Ohio State should play either LSU or Oklahoma, and flip a coin on who deserves it between the two of them. I'm happy I don't have to make that choice, and you can bet, no matter what happens, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people, as the BCS will, once again, fail in its mission to eliminate the exact controversy it was desigined to avoid.

What a day, a full, very full day, in college football. Good thing there's a break before the Bowl Games start. After a day like today, we need it.

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