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Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football Hardcover – October 25, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 255 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“John U. Bacon found himself with the kind of access unheard of in modern athletics. The result is a remarkable book . . . [If] you are simply a fan of college football, or interested in big-time college athletics more generally, it is a fascinating read.” —The National Review

“A fascinating look inside the workings of a major-college football program. Rodriguez’s failure was everyone’s fault and no one’s. Unreasonable expectations combined with bad decisions and bad luck led to three bad seasons. Not acceptable at Michigan. Fine reading for college-football fans.” —ALA Booklist

“John U. Bacon’s Three and Out [is] an epic piece of reporting behind the scenes of a college football program going to hell.” —New York Magazine

“Rich Rodriguez never had a chance as coach of the Michigan Wolverines. He showed up with a glowing resume and got himself eaten alive. John Bacon’s account of Rodriguez’s epic failure is a cautionary tale for anyone who doesn’t realize that being a major college football coach requires one to be part CEO, part psychologist, part carny barker, and all crazy.” —Charles P. Pierce, author of Moving The Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit Of Everything

“College basketball has Season on the Brink. High school football has Friday Night Lights. Now college football has Three and Out, which takes you inside the locker room to show you what it’s really like to be a college football coach and player. If it surprised me—and it did—I’m sure it will surprise even hardcore fans. If you care about college football, you’ll want this book.” —Adam Schefter, ESPN

“John U. Bacon is one of the best reporters/writers of my generation. Three and Out proves it. It’s one of the most riveting non-fiction works I've read in years, in any genre. The eyewitness details from the locker room, the sidelines, and the most powerful offices on a college campus are breathtaking. Get this book. You will thank me.” —David Shuster, Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist

“When, several millennia from now, archeologists excavate American ruins as archeologists have done those of Carthage, they may be mystified by the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. How did this 109,901 seat football emporium come to be connected to an institution of higher education? Or was the connection the other way? Without waiting 2,000 years, readers can join John U. Bacon on his eye-opening, and occasionally jaw-dropping, report on the weird world of college football.” —George F. Will


From the Back Cover

Sports fans invest great hopes and dreams into their teams. College football fans invest even more, I think, because of the stronger connection they feel with the school and the players. But I’ve never seen any fans ask more of their teams than Michigan football fans ask of theirs.
There are only two groups who are more devoted to the Wolverines, and demand more in return: the coaches and the players. They have the most to gain and the most to lose. They know the stakes. And they accept them—even embrace them. It’s why all of them, from Rich Rodriguez to Tate Forcier to Denard Robinson, came to Ann Arbor. Not to be average, or even good, but “the leaders and best.”
Anything less would not do.
This book explains how the coach and his team fell short—and what happened when they did.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809094665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809094660
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an alumnus of the University of Michigan, I approached this book with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. I follow sites like MGoBlog with a religious fervor, but I had a deep-seated need to understand for myself what had gone so horribly wrong during the Rich Rodriguez era.

What I found from reading this book confirmed my worst fear: that the death of Bo Schembechler, the naivete (if not outright incompetence) of Bill Martin, Rodriguez's record and own missteps, and petulance within the University's Athletic Department and at the Detroit Free Press, had combined to create a perfect storm which took nearly everyone associated with the football program down. At times, I was heart sick, in the way that people are when they learn of the crimes and misdemeanors of a beloved pastor, to read what had been done in the name of the University and its Football Program.

The book itself has a "you-are-there" urgency, and reads more like a personal memoir than a reporter's story. In many ways, that's what it is, as Bacon attempts to learn for himself what it is to be a college football player and coach. He shares a humorous story about working out with Michigan's (in)famous, former strength and conditioning coach, Mike Barwis, and freely admits to several occurrences in which he found himself curled up in a fetal position after reaching the limits of his endurance.

In the end, Bacon makes his point that a person would have to be mad to endure what Rich Rodriguez endured for three years. He deserved better at the hands of Michigan Men, and through his efforts, showed himself more worthy of the mantle than those who professed to wear it.
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Format: Hardcover
John Bacon's Three and Out is one of the most remarkable books I've ever read because of the unprecedented access to players and coaches that he was granted by a college football powerhouse for three entire seasons.

The ability to play invisible observer to one of the most lucrative and tradition-rich programs in CFB history is priceless. Reading an account of it is well worth your time and $17.

Bacon present a great narrative of the sharp contrast between the part of the college football game that is played on the field, and perhaps the no-less-important part of the game played at press podiums, inside the political jungle of the university, and in the training facilities.

Access: At various points Bacon describes:
- Being inside the tiny coach's changing room at Notre Dame minutes before kick-off
- Riding shotgun with Denard Robinson for an entire day and seeing everything starting with low-level laser therapy on his knee in the morning to Denard's aw-shucks embarrassment at being on ESPN to his leaving the training facilities at 10PM at night with middle-aged men begging him for autographs
- Huddling with the coaches on Recruiting Day next to the fax machine watching commitments come in and the reactions of the staff
- Sitting with the players at every halftime listening to Rodriguez's speeches and reporting on the reactions
- Relaying the light-hearted recollection of players about their recruitment to various schools including SEC schools which offered to buy them cars and had co-eds waiting in their hotel rooms for them among other enticements

It's truly remarkable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
They say that journalism is a "first draft of history." In the well-publicized case of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, in which he was the subject of a virtual declaration of war by writers from the Detroit Free Press, we now know that that "first draft of history" can be torn up and flushed down the toilet.

If you are a fan of Michigan football, you must read this. If you ara a fan of West Virginia football, you must read this. If you are a fan of the school where Rich Rodriguez will be named the next Head Football Coach (wherever that might be) you must read this. If you are a worldly, curious fan of any big college football program in America, you should read this.

No writer in recent history has been given this kind of access to a major college football program, and the result is remarkable. A great book that will be discussed at pregame tailgates for years. Don't be left out.
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Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer -I am a WVU fan. The book was a gift to me, so I read it. This is not the place to get any sort of balanced view of Rod's departure from Morgantown. The author makes clear that the key players on the WVU side wouldn't be interviewed for the book, but a couple of hours on the internet would have provided the information (in the form of depositions and other filings) that refutes or at least rebuts aspects of the divorce that are presented in the book without even an indication that there IS another side to the story, much less what that version of the story happens to be. For a guy who was willing to drive to Glenville, West Virginia, this strikes me as either unconscionably sloppy, or uninterested in the "truth" about this particular aspect of his story. Ironically, this type of failure to make any effort to investigate and present both sides of the story is precisely what the author complains about bitterly, when it comes to reporters who broke the story that lead to the NCAA investigation of Rod and Michigan.

But the book isn't supposed to be about how Rod got to Michigan. It is a brisk and entertaining read; it moves along nicely. The author paints a picture of a serious split in the Michigan "family". I think the book has a couple of problems where this main part of the story is concerned. The first is that the book doesn't seem to offer any explanation of WHY this split took place. Was it simply because Rod wasn't from Michigan? As everone know, neither was Yost; neither was Bo. I am left wondering what the author really thinks took place behind the scenes. The other problem is that this book borders on hagiography. The author is willing to admit that Rod made basically two mistakes while he was in Michigan.
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