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Is Michigan Jumping on the Coaching Carousel?

In the early 1970's David Brandon entered Michigan as an All-State QB. Brandon, a classic drop-back passer soon saw the Wolverines move to an option attack, so he moved over to defense. A career backup, Brandon thought about going into coaching, until Bo Schembechler suggested to the campus recruiter for Procter & Gamble that they "should talk to this Brandon kid."

Now after a successful career that included a long stint as the CEO of Domino's Pizza, Brandon became the Athletics Director at his alma mater in January, and he made clear what his number one priority is. ""We need to continue to reinforce what the Michigan brand stands for."

To that end, Brandon studied two other Athletic Departments that he deemed comparable to Michigan -- the University of Texas and the Universtiy of Florida. His study merely reinforced his belief about where the Michigan Brand starts.

It begins with football.

Ohio State pounded Michigan Saturday 37-7 for their 7th straight win in the heated rivalry. Buckeye coach Jim Tressel is now 9-1 against the Wolverines, a fact that sears the souls of all Wolverine fans.

The Buckeyes have outscored Michigan 100-24 over the last three years.

Rich Rodriguez is now 15-21 in his three seasons in Ann Arbor. Worse, Michigan is a miserable 6-18 in Big 10 play, including a 0-6 record against its two major rivals -- Ohio State and Michigan State.

Michigan finished 7-5 this season, and will go to a Bowl, but that may not be enough to save Rich Rodriguez' job.

Rodriguez has his backers who site several positive factors.

* His record has improved every year.

* He has a very young team -- 19 of 22 starters will return for 2011.

* He has recruited well on the offensive side of the ball and his spread offense is working in the Big 10.

There are several marks on the other side of the ledger that have lots of Maize and Blue folks howling for his scalp.

* Michigan has gotten worse as the season deepens in each of his 3 years.

* The defense is still pathetic -- in their five losses this year, Michigan has given up an average of 40 points.

* For the first time Michigan was hit with NCAA probation (no sanctions or loss of scholarships) for violating the rules on excessive practice.

Brandon has said all the right things when the press asks him about Rodriguez -- that all phases of the program will be evaluated after the season. He specifically shot down the idea that something could come as soon as Monday.

There is speculation that there are a couple of reasons for a decision to be held off for a while. For one, Rodriguez' buyout drops from $4 million to $2.5 million on Jan. 1, 2011.

There is of course speculation that the top choice among Michigan faithful -- Jim Harbaugh -- will be coaching in a BCS bowl game for Stanford.

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was a 3-year starter for Bo Schembechler at Michigan in the mid-1980's.

While Harbaugh is the easy guess among fans and media alike, it is not a foregone conclusion that he would be the next Wolverine coach should they make a move.

In the past, Harbaugh has indicated that the NFL is a desired destination. He played in the NFL for 15 seasons for five different teams (after 1997 Indianapolis traded him to Baltimore since they were taking Peyton Manning with the #1 choice). His brother, John, is the current Baltimore Ravens coach.

Then there is the matter of Harbaugh taking a shot at Michigan's academics when he first got to Stanford. He was asked about recruiting to a Stanford in relation to playing at Michigan, and he minced no words.

"Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in, and when they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."

His comments created a firestorm in Ann Arbor and when he didn't back down it alienated him from members of the Wolverine faithful, including some of his former teammates who are still upset.

Meanwhile, Wolverine AD David Brandon watches as the Crown Jewel of his program continues to flounder. At his post-game press conference yesterday, Rich Rodriguez was at times testy and tinged with a bit of self-pity. He said, "I worry about my future every day …before I took the job, after I took the job. But nothing is gonna change how we work."

He never mentioned his players, even the seniors who were finishing up their careers. He did say, "I'm not deterred one bit...I think the worst is behind us. I know it is."

Sunday morning the masthead of the Columbis Dispatch sports section read:

Days Since Michigan's last victory over Ohio State in Football -- 2,563.

David Brandon will decide in the near future if Rich Rodriguez is right and the worst is behind the Michigan program, or if a change is needed to protect the Maize and Blue Brand.