Optimist Prime makes a good point. He is a Michigan State fan. I am, by virtue of my birthplace of Columbus, Ohio, an Ohio State fan. Yet, here we are dispensing advice on what the right choices are for Michigan as it searches to replace its head coach.
Optimist Prime starts off his argument with an obvious statement that cannot be overlooked. It is true that RichRod was no Michigan man.
Perhaps we could have another debate about how to define “Michigan Man.” My friend Captain Obvious tells me that being a Michigan Man isn’t that complicated – it boils down to being tough on the offensive and defensive line, preaching a penchant for taking care of the ball, and playing disciplined football with an emphasis on eliminating stupid mistakes. It was exactly what RichRod’s two predecessors embodied, and it’s also the reason he is now part of more than 13 percent employed in Michigan.
To Optimist Prime’s point, Michigan has hired the big name and it didn’t work out. Perhaps it is a lesson learned.
If we examine the other recent head coaching hired in the Big Ten it is clear that Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, Mark D’Antonio at Michigan State – and even Jim Tressel at Ohio State almost a decade ago – were not big name, splashy hires. There is a reason that theme has developed over time. Simply, it works. Finding a coach who has a strong understanding of what it means to be a part of the Big Ten is important if the athletic director is following the blueprint for success in the Big Ten. A splashy name simply does not equate to success in the Midwest.
Optimist Prime made an excellent point about Mark D’Antonio. He may not be Midwestern bred, but he understands it very well and committed to that region. And he was not a big name at the time he was hired either. I think Optimist Prime is on to something here, and that’s why he wins the debate.
Babe Ruthless really lost me when he stated that college and professional football are very similar. They are not. They are not even close. The needs of a college football program include recruiting across the country, a major understanding of politics internally within the program and externally with boosters and the respective Boards of Regents, coaching and motivating young players, hiring the right assistant coaches and managing inevitable turnover, and the list keeps going.
Babe Ruthless does made a solid point. It is true that a lesser known coach does not guarantee success. There are risks with either a lesser known name or a splashy name option. There is no guarantee that a Southern rooted coach like Les Miles can recruit in the Big Ten. There is no guarantee that a coach with little name recognition but Big Ten roots can coach his way out of a paper bag and handle all of the complex rules and responsibilities of a modern college head football coach. But, the odds are that a coach with a philosophy rooted in the conference he is going to coach in stands a better chance for success than a splashy name who is an outsider. Big Ten history proves that out.
Michigan’s coaching search is more about regionalism and roots, and less about experience. Splashy names are long on experience.
I am interested to see what Michigan does. It seems clear, though. If Ohio State and Michigan State fans are supposed to fear Michigan again, it’s best if fans are unfamiliar with the new coach’s name.