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Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football Paperback – August 21, 2012
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“College basketball has A Season on the Brink. High school football has Friday Night Lights. Now college football has Three and Out….It will surprise even hard-core fans. If you care about college football, you'll want this book.” ―Adam Schefter, ESPN
“An epic piece of reporting behind the scenes of a college football program going to hell.” ―New York Magazine
“Sets a new standard for books about college sports…A great read.” ―Alex Ashlock, NPR's "Here & Now"
“One of the most riveting nonfiction 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….John U. Bacon is one of the best reporters of my generation.” ―David Shuster, Emmy Award--winning broadcast journalist
“John U. Bacon's report on the weird world of college football is eye-opening, and occasionally jaw-dropping.” ―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.
Top customer reviews
John Bacon's book is remarkable on several levels: first, it provides the reader with virtually unparalleled access to the inner workings of the Michigan football team, from practices to game strategies, to post-game reactions. Bacon does an excellent job at conveying the intensity and emotion that surround a major college football program -- especially one under the gun the way Michigan was during the RichRod era. For that alone, the book is just wonderful.
And Rich Rodriguez appears to be both candid and an honorable man. He was certainly remarkably trusting to let a reporter have the kind of in-depth and extensive access that Bacon had to put this book together. So many college coaches inflate their importance and become secretive control freaks, mistakenly believing that their jobs involve something akin to national security. Rich Rodriguez, whatever his faults, comes across as decent, honest and refreshingly free of such imperial grandiosity. During the long period in which he was being savaged in the press, it was hard to tell exactly what kind of person Rich Rodriguez was. Three and Out shines a bright and mostly positive light on him.
If there's a weakness to the book, it's Bacon's obvious fondness for his subject, which leads him to underplay Rodriguez's missteps and weaknesses. Bacon acknowledges that Rodriguez made few efforts to ingratiate himself with the fraternity of former Michigan football players and the wider world of fans (raging from the fanatic to more casual casual fans like myself). He also admits that Rodriguez's ignorance and apparent disregard for Michigan traditions also cost him dearly with those groups, and that it wasn't until too much damage had been done that he tried belatedly to repair those relations. Furthermore, he also notes that Rodriguez had a virtual tin ear for public statements, and that he frequently said things that made him look foolish, naive or worse.
But the biggest failing in Three and Out is in letting RichRod off the hook for his coaching weaknesses, especially on defense. Bacon subscribes to the theory that the previous coach, Lloyd Carr, had left the cupboard bare of decent players. There's still a dispute as to the strength of that claim, but even if you grant its premise, it still doesn't explain why, for three years, Michigan tacklers still lacked proper tackling technique, or why, during his three years, the defense's efficiency and overall rating deteriorated each year. Nor does it explain why, despite Rodriguez's emphasis on strength and conditioning, his teams were often competitive in the first half and blown out in the second half. In my view, you can't blame the players for the coaching, which was one reason why Rodriguez had to go. Especially after the Mississippi State disaster in the Gator Bowl, I don't think Dave Brandon had any confidence that RichRod could fix what was wrong.
While Three and Out has some weaknesses, it's still a great look at the Michigan football program during the time of its greatest adversity.
For what its worth, my own take on the program's demise is that the loss to App State in 2007 was the beginning of the end. That loss was on Carr's watch. And one of the ironies of this riveting story is how Carr has been put on a pedestal by UM alums and football people. After reading Bacon's book, let me just say that I don't think Carr is a very gracious, or nice person and he is much to blame for Michigan football's current woes.
If Michigan wants to get its football program back they need to clean house. But it all starts at the top, with the President of the University for that is the office that oversees the Athletic Dept. Bacon also makes this clear in his account and lays some of the blame for the Rodriguez debacle on President Coleman.
In short, if you follow Michigan football and care deeply about the program, read this book.