When Michigan went looking for a Lloyd Carr’s replacement in 2007, the “obvious choice” was LSU’s Les Miles. It was so obvious that Miles had his bags packed and reservations made for Ann Arbor.
Until a bungled coaching search led to the Big Blue Disaster of the Rich Rodriguez experiment, according to a new book from Michigan professor John U. Bacon.
The book, Three and Out, primarily focuses on Rodriguez’ troubled three years at the winningest program in college football history, but delves into the process that had Michigan turning Miles down.
A December 2007 conference call with Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, former Athletic Director Bill Martin and Miles lays the groundwork for the search to replace Carr.
Miles tells the Michigan president he "would never say no to Michigan," but insists he can't jump from LSU until after the Tigers' upcoming bowl game. If Michigan waits and asks in January, Miles says, "I will be your coach."
Bacon writes that it is Carr -- winner of Michigan's most recent national championship in 1997 -- who first reaches out to Rodriguez. It is Carr who calls Rodriguez to gauge his interest in becoming the Michigan coach. And that call takes place only hours after the conference call with Miles.
"Even if you haven't thought about it," Bacon reports Carr saying, "you should think about it now."
Readers are left to infer that Carr had a big role in picking Rodriguez, who took the job days later without setting foot on the campus. But then Carr, whose strong objections to Miles are documented early in the book, holds a team meeting after Rodriguez is introduced as the Wolverines' new coach, informing players he will sign their transfer papers if they want to leave.
The best parts of the book for Michigan fans will be the well documented failure of Rich Rod to ever gain traction among a fan base that didn’t trust him and his inability to assert the kind of control and discipline the head coach needs to at a program like Michigan. To be the Michigan Coach, you’ve got to be a Michigan Man, and Bacon writes that they couldn’t wait for their Michigan Man to finish the business of LSU’s 2007 National Championship.