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Harbaugh-lust sends Michigan into fit of idiocy

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

Tuesday was one of those days you really needed a bottle of Tractor Shed Red and a pack of cigarettes to fully comprehend. A combination of blood lust, cold feet, panic, double panic, expediency and a side of fries.

It was, in short, the circle of life on crank.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon meets the press to explain his rationale in letting Rich Rodriguez go. (AP)  
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon meets the press to explain his rationale in letting Rich Rodriguez go. (AP)  
It actually started ... well, to be honest, it's hard to know when it really started, but the best guess is that it began when Michigan was edged by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl a mere 5½ scores. That was the day Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez became extinct, to be replaced at great institutional cost by Stanford's Jim Harbaugh.

Only Harbaugh's team crushed Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, making him the hottest coaching commodity since ... Nick Saban, I guess. Now his name, which already had been in play in San Francisco as well as Michigan, started appearing everywhere except New England. In Denver, where new CEO John Elway was watching Stanford in the Orange Bowl as part of a job recon mission. ... In Miami, where owner Steve Ross is a Michigan man with his own coaching issue. ... In Carolina, which has Andrew Luck's place in the locker room already cleaned and dusted. ... In Oakland, which just had its best season in eight years and therefore was ready for a change. ... In Cincinnati, where no tire fire goes extinguished. ... you name it, if there was a cold seat in a big office, it was his for the asking.

Only this caused San Francisco owner Jed York to hire his new general manager Trent Baalke, to make sure that Harbaugh didn't get away. And Oakland to fire Tom Cable to make sure the 49ers didn't get offensive coordinator/heir apparent Hue Jackson in case Harbaugh said no. And Michigan to delay firing Rodriguez by a day. And Cincinnati to re-up Marvin Lewis only to avoid having its name dragged into the maelstrom.

And Harbaugh to do what he loves best in life -- brusquely stiff-arm inquiring minds about his job future.

This isn't about Harbaugh, though, but about the sheer beauty of chaos, the white-hot panic of people who want something and can't have it right away so they do other things because they're just supposed to be doing something.

The best of these is athletic director Dave Brandon at Michigan, who surely thought he had his guy, until he suddenly didn't. He celebrated his first anniversary on the job postponing the hangman and drinking by himself in his closet.

The second-best is, well, Michigan again. When the school isn't running around like a beheaded chickens' Renaissance fair, it must surely be reflecting on what it set in motion when it found Lloyd Carr guilty of advanced fuddy-duddy-ism. Nothing truly says panic like trying to atone for past mistakes that can't be undone.

And the third-best is, well, Michigan one more time, now desperately chasing (or perhaps being rebuffed by) an alum who once dogged them publicly for lack of loyalty. Shame, panic, fear, more panic, and now momentary inertia.

Now that's the way to run a modern athletic department.

Last week we suggested the NFL market a "Black Monday Festival," in which all coaching decisions had to made and announced as part of a Rich Eisen Hell Week Marathon. This would have been one of those glorious moments where the ratings would have shot through the ionosphere, and could have pulled other shows into its orbit. Glorious, I tell you.

(This is called rewriting old columns and passing them off as new, but since this is just a paragraph, shut up.)

And the beauty here is that with so many other openings, it will be the gift that keeps on giving for days. Who can't like that kind of racings/net traffic juicer?

I mean, other than Dave Brandon, who is making these odd whimpering sounds from inside that darkened room, wondering why he didn't take that job as the athletic director at Genentech? You may not win the Big Ten that way, but you'll no longer feel that vein throbbing behind your left eye like Tito Puente beating his carpets.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.


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