Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Michigan Situation
Les Miles & Jim Harbaugh
Les Miles & Jim Harbaugh
Posted Jan 6, 2011

So now what for Michigan? Is the timing of the Rich Rodriguez firing set up to get Les Miles, or was the plan and the hope to get Jim Harbaugh? Trying to spin the Big Ten's disastrous New Year's Day, Ohio State's defense in the scandal, the Ron Franklin situation, the ratings for the BCS games, and more, in the first Cavalcade of Whimsy of 2011.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

January 6

E-mail Pete Fiutak

- Jan. 6 - Do Bowl Wins Mean Momentum?

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … it suffered when former ESPN play-by-play man Ron Franklin called it Sweet Baby. However, it really stung when sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards called it an a**hole.

But Cam's agent, Cecil, is better than Ron's … If Franklin had only solicited $180,000 from Mississippi State, he'd had have been fine.

"Hey, top-heavy, give me a Tiparillo and a sake and seltzer, s'il vous plait." … Would Chris Berman or Kirk Herbstreit have been canned if they said the offensive, demeaning remarks, or was Franklin an easy termination because he's Ron Franklin? Unlike the NCAA, though, at least ESPN is consistent when it comes to handling any whiff of a scandal. Don't poke the bear. Ever.

"That's terrific, Peter. I'm sure you've heard some of the rumors around the hallway about how we're just going to do a little (finger quotes) housecleaning with some of the software people. " … Michigan officials wish to deny reports that the last blurb was true, and they'll wait until Wednesday to meet and discuss it in further detail.

Hi, Denard, so how do you feel about being the next Devin Hester? … You just know that Rich Rodriguez is going to get another head coaching job right away and will be terrific without the pressure of being the Michigan head man. Who gets to the BCS first, a RichRod coached BCS team – like Connecticut - or Michigan? Someone is going to want this offense.

I'm more broken up over the CBS Morning Show whacking of the spunky-cute Maggie Rodriguez … Using skills from the advanced course, Journalism 301: Out Of My Butt, I haven't gotten any confirmation and there's absolutely nothing to back this up at the moment, but if I had to make an educated guess, I think Michigan either 1) screwed up or 2) has a certain SEC head man in mind.

To try to piece this together, if it's not Les Miles, it seems like Michigan thought it had Jim Harbaugh, waited until after the Orange Bowl, leaked on Tuesday that Rodriguez was going to be canned, realized it didn't have Harbaugh, backtracked and denied that Rodriguez had been fired, bought 12 hours by putting it off until Wednesday, realized it couldn't go back at that point and keep Rodriguez, and then went ahead with the firing. Again, total guess on my part, but even before Rodriguez was fired, all indications were that Michigan wasn't going to make a move unless there was a specific guy ready to jump in. To speculate further, maybe the plan behind the timing is to wait until after LSU plays Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on Friday.

"Yes, yes, yes, I do follow, Mr Anchovy, but you see the snag is... if I now call Mr Chipperfield and say to him, 'look here, I've got a forty-five-year-old chartered accountant with me who wants to become a lion tamer', his first question is not going to be 'does he have his own hat?'" … No, Michigan, after all that just happened with the RichRod experience, the last thing you want is the Les Miles travelling fun show.

At least their parents didn't ask Arkansas for $180,000 to get their kids to sit out of the Sugar Bowl … C'mon, Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the Tattoo 5. Didn't you learn anything from how Cam Newton and his agent, Cecil, handled their scandal?

"I … didn't … know … anything"

NCAA: "Did you sell a pair of game-worn football pants?"
The Tattoo 5: "We … didn't … know … anything."
NCAA: (while flipping through its rule book) "Uh, um, uhhhhh. Well, we have the receipts right here, and …"
The Tattoo 5: "We … didn't … know … anything."
NCAA: (assistants furiously dialing cell phones in the background) "… but we have pictures of you handing them the items and them handing you money."
The Tattoo 5: "We … didn't … know … anything."
NCAA: "You know what? It doesn't matter. We have proof and we're going to suspend you for five games next year and …"
The Tattoo 5: "We … know … good … lawyers. And we also know what the word precedent means."
NCAA: "Hey, uh, JIM!!! Coach Tressel? Could you, um, talk to these guys for a moment, we're think we …hey look, is that Elvis?" (The NCAA clumsily runs out of the room as quickly as possible.)

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season
- 2009 Season 
- Jan 19, Part 1 - Oh those wacky coaches 
- Jan 19, Part 2 - The sucky 2009 season 
- Sept. 7,  The Marcell Dareus Issue
- Sept. 14, The Boise State Issue
- Sept. 21,  MSU's Wild Weekend
- Sept. 28,  Is Boise State the new Florida State or Miami?
- Oct 5, Oh, that wacky Les Miles
- Oct. 12, Why the Brett Favre situation matters
- Oct. 19, Is Oklahoma REALLY No. 1?
- Oct. 26,  What if all the underclassmen come back?
- Nov. 2, The Notre Dame Tragedy
- Nov. 9, The Hosing of Boise State
- Nov. 16, Cleaning up college football
Nov. 23 The BCS Games We Want To See
Nov. 30 The BCS Championship ground rules
- Dec. 6 - Rich, Cam, and the NCAA's rulings
Dec. 13 - SMU, the FWAA & Cam, and more Big Ten names
- Dec. 21 - Naming the Big Ten divisions after Bo & Woody, and the solution
- Dec. 21 - Ten reasons why Auburn will win the BCS Championship 
- Dec. 25 - CFN Holiday Wish List - Part 1. ACC to the Ind.
- Dec. 25 - CFN Holiday Wish List - Part 2. MAC to the WAC
Although ESPNU comes close … I couldn't seem to find the Alabama whumping of Michigan State anywhere. My satellite package doesn't carry ESPNSuck.

And … and … and … he got to coach in the same division as TEBOWWWWW … Phew. That was close. For a moment there the Arrogant Gas Bag levels at the Florida football program were running dangerously low following the retirement of Urban Meyer. Thank God, help is on the way from Kansas City.

"Put your hands together! No! Your hands! Together! Louise!" … Finally, Ohio State can shed the tag of being labeled …crap. The rest of the blurb was dropped after throwing it to an Arkansas receiver.

"Coming into your own, are you, Melon? I wouldn't break my arm patting myself on the back if I were you. Because... get this, towel boy... no matter what you think, you will always be a crude obnoxious, nouveau riche little phlebe." … TCU's 21-19 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin delivered an 11.7 television rating, the highest overnight rating (excluding the NFL) on record for ESPN and all of cable television. Super, but that's the equivalent of winning the Mountain West title.

College football, have you learned nothing from the NHL burying the Stanley Cup on something called Versus? Did you notice how no one, and I mean no one, watched the baseball playoffs on TBS? Have you seen how the brand name of Monday Night Football doesn't mean anything anymore, with the game being eclipsed prestige-wise by NBC's Sunday Night Football? Cable is cable, and no matter how anyone wants to spin it, that includes ESPN.

I know this might come as a shock, but not everyone can afford cable or satellite television. I get the arrogant mindset from ESPN that believes fans will find a way to get "the family of networks" in some way to watch the games they want, and that's true, but that's not the point. ESPN can be ignored, but ABC can't. ESPN, despite what it believes, is a niche, and the Rose Bowl and the other BCS games being on pay TV makes them just another part of the sports programming day. The BCS being on ABC would make it a thing, and more casual fans and young observers would watch the games on regular TV.

And no, the ratings, as great as they were for cable, weren't necessarily a success. The 2010 Fiesta Bowl between TCU and Boise State, not exactly the be-all-end-all of brand name teams, got Fox an 8.23 rating. Connecticut might not have brought the intrigue, but it involved the Northeast TV markets, while Oklahoma is about as big as it gets, and yet on ESPN the 2011 Fiesta Bowl got a mediocre 6.7 rating. How bad was this for one of the BCS's showcase events? Ratings-wise, it didn't beat the regular season Auburn-Alabama battle.

The Rose Bowl was an even bigger problem. By far, TCU's win over Wisconsin was the most watched college football game of the 2010 season, but the 11.7 rating paled in comparison to the 13.8 Ohio State-Oregon did for ABC. Before you dismiss this as a lack of respect for the Badgers, or that it showed that no one was interested in TCU, the 2000 Rose Bowl between Wisconsin and Stanford did a 14.1.

If they can play football in Yankee Stadium, can the Yankees play baseball in the Rose Bowl? … The 11.7 might not have been phenomenal for the Rose Bowl, but Fox would kill to hit that mark for a World Series game not involving the Yankees. The highest rating for the 2010 tussle between San Francisco and Texas, two mega-markets, was a 9.0 for Game 4. The NBA Finals between Boston and Los Angeles, which was everything the NBA could've dreamed of, thanks to a seven game series, only took in a 10.6. The NFL is king in this country, but college football is a draw and might be the No. 2 sport in America.

If only the Tattoo 5 and the Newtons could've seen these ads months ago … Thanks, ESPN ad sales, for unleashing the army of guilt trips upon our bowl season. What's the true foundation for a better life? A real, live network with real, live advertisers who don't remind me every commercial break what a peehead I am for watching the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl instead of playing with my kids.

Lionel Hutz: Now, Mrs. Simpson, tell the court in your own words what happened after you and your husband were ejected out of the restaurant.
Marge: Well, we pretty much went straight home.
Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, remember that you are under oath.
Marge: We drove around until three in the morning looking for another open all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant.
… AHHHHHH, AHHHHH. AHHHHHH!!! IT'S JANUARY 5th AND THERE'S NO BOWL GAME!!! IT'S GOING TO BE OKAY … (pant, pant, pant). Alright. Ritalin … check. Snuggie … check. Are you there God, it's me, Margaret … check. Keys to the panic room. KEYS TO THE PANIC ROOM … check. Framed picture of Kirk Herbstreit … check. Okay … 21 hours, 19 minutes, 24 seconds until the Bowl. 21 hours, 19 minutes, 21 seconds until the Bowl …

And you can also hear the sound of having timeouts in your pocket after a long drive at the end of the first half … Shhhh. If you listen quietly, really quietly, you'll hear the sound of Wisconsin ignoring the power running game.

"Throw me the idol. No time to argue! Throw me idol, I'll throw you the whip!" … Now is the time of year when coaches have to hold their breath as juniors … ugh. Another blurb that landed right in the hands of an Arkansas receiver and put on the ground.

Daddy, why is there a test pattern instead of the Big Ten Network post-New Year's Day wrap-up show? … I'm now going to attempt to do the impossible. I'm going to become the public relations director for the Big Ten and I'm going to spin the New Year's Day Saturday of Misery using the A.D.A. method.

Acknowledge – Yes, the Big Ten had a rough January 1st going 0-5. However, all five teams were underdogs. No one expected Northwestern to come within two scores of Texas Tech, but the Dan Persa-less offense made it a game and the team showed great heart. It was Urban Meyer's final game at Florida, so Penn State ran into an emotional buzzsaw. Wisconsin lost to a TCU program that came within a hair of playing in each of the last two BCS Championship games, and Michigan and Michigan State … Northwestern managed to rally to come within seven of the Red Raiders. But in the end, 3-5 for the conference isn't that bad.

Deflect – New Year's Day conveniently masked a disastrous start to the bowl season by the SEC. South Carolina, the supposed star of the East, was awful in the Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Florida State, and Georgia was an embarrassment to itself, its conference, and its country by only putting up six points against a Conference USA team in the Liberty Bowl loss. Throw in the Tennessee loss to North Carolina and the SEC started out 0-3. If Kentucky clanks against Pitt, LSU loses to Texas A&M, and if Auburn gags against Oregon, suddenly, New Year's Day doesn't become the definitive statement it appeared to be at the time.

Ask – Really, what were you expecting out of the Big Ten against the SEC on New Year's Day? Did you really think Northwestern or Penn State was going to win? Did you think Michigan was going to suddenly find a defense? Did you think Michigan State was … did you really think the Nittany Lions had a chance in Meyer's final game? Cycles, cycles, cycles. The Big Ten was solid in the 2009-2010 bowl season, and it should be able to bounce back quickly.

PR hat taken off now. That was an awful, awful, awful day for the league, and it's going to take years and a monster 2011-2012 bowl season to overcome a disastrous seven hours of bad football. The Ohio State Sugar Bowl win was a start.

It's the two-point conversion of your season and you're throwing?!
… Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Wisconsin's running game between the first and last drives.
Wisconsin's running game between the first and last drives, who?

"Plunge right through that line! /Run the ball clear down the field, / A touchdown sure this time. (U rah rah)" … Why aren't there more Wisconsins? Football is a copy-cat sport, and everyone jumps on any new fad that works, so why don't more programs 1) focus all energies on stocking up on top-shelf offensive linemen who 2) make life a lot easier for an above-average quarterback and running backs and 3) work on pounding teams into submission? Why can't Minnesota do the same thing? Why couldn't Indiana go from miserable to solid by using this formula? Remember, Wisconsin used to be among the worst programs in the country before Barry Alvarez took over, and if this can succeed in Madison, it can fly just about anywhere. Of course, this only works IF YOU RUN THE FREAKING BALL ON PUNY DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVENS. Very strange, but it had a … this would've gone further, but the Hog receivers just can't seem to find the handle.

You don't ask about Sweet Cakes, and you don't tell about Sweet Cakes … The best line uttered in 2010 by any human being on this or any other planet. From Mike Patrick in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl after a fumble: "You know, as I always say, when you're under a pile with a bunch of guys from the Navy …." And cue the uncomfortable silence as his voice trailed off and that little balloon hung in the air for what seemed like ten minutes.

Who are the Catholics and who are the Convicts? … Well that's a relief. Notre Dame beat Miami 33-17 with a dominant performance in the Sun Bowl. That means the Declan Sullivan death and the memory of Elizabeth Seeberg, along with her suicide following the traumatizing fear of what going against the Irish football program might mean, can be swept aside to bask in the glory of a victorious football game.

And I'm pushing for GameDay to come broadcast from my breakfast nook, because 14 degrees and a foot of snow is far more character-building than the boring calmness of Glendale. … It's Year Two, Week Seventeen of my open lobbying of the ESPN College Football Final show guys to give me a helmet sticker and the signed T-shirt, suitable for framing. Why do I deserve one this week? Once again, because it's my job, I am the only human being on the planet who sat through every second of every bowl game, from the opening kickoff of the New Mexico Bowl right on through Terrelle Pryor's apology up on the Sugar Bowl winners' podium. Now, for doing this, again, and consuming so much ESPN product, I don't just want the signed T-shirt and the helmet sticker, I want a, "I Sat Through Every Minute Of Every Bowl Game And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt," shirt. ESPN, use some of that ad money and make them up.

- Jan. 6 - Do Bowl Wins Mean Momentum?