If there's one thing the two weeks should've taught us, it's that no news with regard to the coaching search is good news. Many of us in the blogosphere and professional media got our panties in a knot over the potential hiring of either Krik Ferentz or Les Miles, only to be alternatively relieved or disappointed, despite the fact that the only information in our possession was hearsay and conjecture. Even with all the highs and lows, the information and misinformation, the most surprising thing to me during the whole coaching search is the way people are reacting to the way the Les Miles situation panned out.
Despite the fuss Brian is making over Bill Martin's "sailing trip," I'll defend Martin vehemently. While I may not agree with everything he's done, if there is one thing Martin is, it is consistent. Martin took his sweet-ass time deciding on the hiring of John Beilein and I suspect he'll do the same with the hiring of a new head football coach, irrespective of the pressure the alumni, fans, and donors put on him to resolve this situation quickly and with the perceived best candidate du jour.
But to answer your questions allow me to state the following: Was Miles the best available candidate? Yes. I believe he was. Was this handled correctly? No. Whose fault is it? Everyone's, but mostly Les Miles'.
The only thing I will fault Martin for is letting the pressure get to him and contacting the LSU AD for permission to speak with Miles. The second he did that the game was on.
Let me be crystal clear on this next point, I do not, in any way, shape or form, fault the LSU Athletic Director or Administration for the way they played this. If I was in their shoes and someone with a big bag o' money and family ties came knocking on my coach's front door, I'd be nervous too. And if I wanted to keep him, I'd fight dirty. And that's what LSU did. They forced Miles hand with the trump card Martin had inadvertently (or advertently, depending on your perspective) dealt them.
As Brian correctly points out, Martin let the game plan out too soon. Big-friggin-deal. Michigan's been doing that since Bo was coaching here. We're coming at you. Try to stop us. Was there any reason to believe that would change, even for this? Martin should've waited till after the football season was over, completely over, before placing any calls, and especially the call to LSU. The bayou had made every indication they were willing to fight, and wage an expensive campaign to keep Miles at LSU.
Calling LSU for permission to speak with Miles prior to the conclusion of the season was not a good idea. Especially when you consider an SEC title gave LSU a BCS bowl and an outside chance at the MNC. The amount of money at stake for Miles, LSU and Michigan because of those unknowns made that phone call a really stupid mistake. It was a dumb, but forgivable mistake. Who thought Pitt was going to top WVU? Martin should've waited. But he didn't and LSU had all the ammo it needed to go after Miles full bore.
Even though Martin screwed up, I do not fault him at all, zero, nada, nein, nyet, nunca, for waiting until Sunday to call Miles. Let me be clear on this too, Martin was correct not to get sucked into a bidding war initiated by Miles' agent. For all the bullshit angst over Miles' decision to remain or leave, it boiled down to money.
Despite what people think, LSU was not going to fire Miles the day before the SEC Championship or the BCS game. Seriously. Who does this in football? Unless the firing school wins and immediately replaces said coach with someone special, they end up looking like idiots and they piss off their fanbase. Despite his talented coordinators, Miles is a pretty good coach and you don't switch from a thoroughbred to a nag the day before the championship race or game. Miles was set and sitting pretty until the season was over. If he really wanted the Michigan job, he should've told his agent to shut the hell up. Martin agreed not to speak with Miles until after the SEC Championship game and he held true to that promise.
And no, it is not splitting hairs to call Miles and his agent the royal Les Miles. It is the truth. If you are negotiating with a principle's representative, then in effect you are negotiating with the principle. There is just one more level of bullshit to filter through because of the presence of another person, "negotiating."
And this is where I lose patience with people going after Martin. The phone call was not "to determine where Miles fit as a candidate." If you believe that you also believe the refs are out to get Penn State and Coke Zero tastes like real Coke. The phone call was to gain leverage with LSU, and then to use whatever was gleaned against Michigan in contract discussions. The call was about money.
If Miles was really ready to fall on his sword for the Michigan job the way everyone wants to believe, he would've sat tight and refused to discuss an extension until after the season, and he sure as hell wouldn't have allowed his agent to make that call. As much as I respect Jim Carty and enjoy his columns, this is a load:
Desperately looked to Michigan? What, was the LSU AD holding his family at gun point? Was he poisoned and the only antidote was buried in the Diag? You've got to be kidding me. He was at the top of every coaching vacancy's wish list, making plenty of money, in no danger of being canned, and he "desperately looked to Michigan for some sort of sign that [he] had another option?"
Please, everyone, take two seconds and smell what Miles and his agent are shoveling. This is presidential level BS and everyone is horking it down like it's filet mignon. Of course he other options. Wait two fucking days and then talk to Martin! It was that simple, and despite that, everyone has bought the line that was a gun pointed at Miles' head.
I don't understand why everyone is so happy to bash Martin for not falling into this trap. If Miles wanted to be the coach, chances are, he'd have a pretty damn good shot at it. It wasn't served up on a silver platter to him, but it was there, pending the SEC Championship game. He couldn't wait two days? Two friggin' days! Wait two days to get, the way he's described it as, the one thing he'd dreamt about since puberty. I don't buy it. Never will. Because it's a total and complete load.
Don't take this as me bashing other bloggers, particularly MGoBlog, who do not share my opinion on this matter. We have a difference of opinion on this. We've had them in the past over the John Beilein hire, and we'll likely have them again over the final coaching hire. It is the diversity of opinion in the Michigan blogosphere and in our democracy in general that make both institutions great. (I can't believe I called the blogospehere an institution either. - Ed.)
However, a difference of opinion does exist. I believe Bill Martin did things the right way. The Michigan way. I also believe he knew what Miles and his agent were trying to pull and refrained from doing, what Jim Carty believes "every other major college athletic director in the country" would've done. I don't agree with Jim. I agree with Bill when he responded "the athletic directors he respects would have waited."
This is Michigan we're talking about. We may be arrogant, but we are honorable and hold ourselves to a higher standard than everyone else. I refuse to believe that standard should be swept aside for convenience. Martin did the right thing.
Miles, if he truly wanted the job, did not.