Over the past 48 hours the internets have been atwitter with the rumors that Kirk Ferentz has been offered and has accepted the Michigan Head Coaching position. Every one of these rumors has been addressed as such by the blogs or media outlets reporting this recent flurry of activity. Hell, we're even tracking flights out of
Ames Des Moines! (Ed: wherever the hell Iowa is located....)
It is difficult to question the validity of these rumors because that's what they are. Rumors. However, one of the prime outlets for the proposition stated above is MGoBlog, a news source credited around these here parts as more reliable than the sun, rain, national or local media. This adds to the difficulty in questioning the rumors as Brian is generally right about these things.
Over the last few days I've spoken with a number of Michigan graduates and fans that follow the program closely. None of these people have inside information, nor are they connected to the university in any manner or form greater than any other alumni. While many were consternated by the Ferentz to Michigan news, after the initial panic related to Ferentz roaming our sidelines for the next four years subsided, everyone reached the same conclusion. Something didn't fit.
My buddy MB, a Michigan undergrad and law school graduate, had the most realistic take on the Ferentz rumors: they don't pass the smell test. A simple and folksy take on things, but dead on accurate. Here's why:
The biggest hurdle and reason to doubt that Ferentz has been handed the Michigan job is the fact no minority candidates have been interviewed at this point. Michigan has always held itself out as a champion of equality and minority opportunity whether in higher education or in employment and recruitment. Michigan has faced down not one but two separate lawsuits regarding minority enrollment in its undergraduate and legal education programs in the last ten years and has never faltered or so much as batted an eye that their position was the correct one. To wit, Michigan conducted extensive, lengthy, and fairly public interviews when it filled its men's basketball coaching position and made certain everyone knew at least one minority candidate was being taken seriously (SIU's Chris Lowry was one of the hotter names in the Michigan search).
The football program is the highest profile position in Michigan athletics. In many ways it is the face of the institution to the majority of America. For a school that self aggrandizes itself as a bastion of opportunity for minorities and the disadvantaged in general not to interview even a single minority candidate before handing the job over to a white, old-boys-club member runs contrary to the school's self-promoted image and standard operating procedure. People can call Bill Martin what they like, but he has been fairly transparent with regard to his major hires. While we were left guessing who would lead the basketball team, Martin made sure just enough leaks made their way to media to let us know who was being considered and that there were minority coaches under consideration. The important point is there was, at minimum, the illusion of an actual search, with actual candidates, with minority representation among those candidates. For Michigan to hand the reigns of its highest profile program over to anyone without at least sleep walking through the hiring tango it danced less than months ago would be shocking.
Two other factors play into the "it ain't signed and delivered yet" mantra. While they may seem in some ways to contradict themselves, I think stepping back, they weave together well.
First, English was literally just interviewed Monday. To date, English is the only candidate who has been officially interviewed. DeBord is scheduled to interview Tuesday, and while that doesn't mean much as DeBord and English are at best a pair of making-first-contact-with-alien-life-using-only-a-Garmin-and-a-cell-phone type longshots, why would Bill Martin and Michigan even bother with the pretext if it was signed and delivered in a pretty pink locker room bow to Ferentz? I realize this rationale contravenes the argument above, as English is a minority candidate and this gives the appearance of a search. However, no one in their right mind believes either DeBord or English to have a shot in hell at the job. If this was the person Martin and the University believed was going to be the head coach from the start, and they've got him in a contract situation, I have to believe they'd bite the bullet and announce it as such. If this was a pre-text type set of interviews, Michigan would take a stab at a couple of coaches it has no chance at to give the impression of going after the best coaches around, fumble through broken negotiations with Miles, and then hand it over to Ferentz and tell their alumni "Hey, we tried!" If Ferentz was Michigan's next coach, I believe we'd know at this point, search or not.
Second, the timing makes little sense. While I'm sure Martin did his due diligence prior to Carr resignation, I seriously doubt he began contacting coaches until after their respective seasons were over. Again, the men's and women's basketball searches are my only guide, but Martin took his sweet time before pouncing on his choice. Don't forget the dance Michigan had with Beilein regarding his buyout. I may be naïve, but without conducting an extensive search, blatantly in the public view, Michigan won't make a move. Less than two weeks after Carr's resignation seems far too early to have made a decision on the future of the football program, especially when the football season isn't even over. Martin didn't speak with Beilein until his season concluded. In fact, he waited until SIU was out of the NCAA's until Lowry got a call. Martin plays it by the book and to select a coach within two weeks of Carr's retirement without interviewing, well, anyone, seems totally off. Maybe Ferentz was on that plane to Ann Arbor, but I suspect it was for an interview and not for a press conference.
In some strange way there's more than the future of the football program at stake here. The reputation of the school is on the line as well. Is Michigan the purveyor of opportunity it has built itself up to be? Or is it like any other football factory?
I'm hoping the answer is the latter.
One last thing before I let this go. I wish to offer an apology to MgoBlog for citing his reports of the Ferentz offer as "rumormongering" yesterday. I did so because Brian himself lists them as such, and does so to clearly let his readers know that the information he is providing in those circumstances is rumor, and may not be counted on as gospel. I, like so many of you, have come to take MGoBlog as a far more reliable source of information than anything in the mainstream media. And when Brian reports information like this, it is news and not rumormongering, and I should've prefaced it that way.