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My Q&A on “ENDZONE: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football.”

by | Feb 27, 2015 | Uncategorized | 8 comments

NOTE: This week, Brian Cook of MGoBlog asked me a bunch of questions about my upcoming book, “Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football,” which is due out September 1.  The publisher posted it on Amazon and B&N on Monday, and it’s been the #1 football book all week.  You can pre-order it on either of those sites, listed below, or my website.  And we’ll be setting up the book tour, to run this fall, coast to coast, very soon, and posting on my website, too.

Now, all I have to do is finish it!

Q. So you have a new book coming out. What is it about? Is it about anything that may be of interest to the readership of say, this blog?

Funny you should ask. We think it might well be of interest to Michigan fans in general, and MGoBlog readers in particular, because they seem to care a lot about Michigan football, and this book happens to be about Michigan football. In fact, MGoBlog’s vaunted leader – you – will make more than a few appearances therein, plus Ace, and even a few of your readers.

More specifically, this is why I think the readership of MGloBlog might be interested in Endzone, from the first draft of the jacket copy:

Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football tells the story of how college football’s most successful, richest and respected program almost lost all three in less than a decade – and entirely of its own doing. It is a story of hubris, greed, and betrayal – a tale more suited to Wall Street than the world’s top public university.

Endzone takes you inside the offices, the board rooms and the locker rooms to see what happened, and why – with countless eye-opening, head-shaking scenes of conflict and conquest.

But Endzone is also an inspiring story of redemption and revival. When those who love Michigan football the most recognized it was being attacked from within, they rallied to reclaim the values that have made it great for over a century — values that go deeper than dollars. The list of heroes includes players, students, lettermen, fans and faculty – and the leaders who had the courage to listen to them.

Their unprecedented uprising produced a new athletic director, and a new coach – the hottest in the land – who vindicated the fans’ faith when he turned down more money and fame to return to the place he loved most: Michigan.

If you love a good story, you’ll want to dive into Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football.

So, there it is. And that’s why I think your readers might be interested.

Q. So is this a follow-up to your previous books? In what way?

Short answer: Yes, it picks up where Fourth and Long left off.

Long answer: it gives the reader a deeper understanding of how Michigan football got to where it is today – the bad and the good. Also, Endzone focuses more on the leadership of the athletic department and the university itself than on the team, though we have plenty of interesting stuff from former players, too.

Because this book focuses entirely on Michigan – unlike Fourth and Long — I have the space to write a better biography of Dave Brandon, to shed more light on how the University administration works with athletics, and to include the eye-witness accounts of the decision-making the past four years, including the hiring of Harbaugh – which is an amazing story in itself.

Q. You were of course embedded in the locker room for the first book. For the second you were exile to St. Helena, with nobody in the AD willing to give you any quotes. How difficult has it been to get inside the department this time around? 

I love this blog – and UM fans generally – because when you reference St. Helena, you don’t have to explain it, and your readers don’t have to look it up. That, to me, is the Michigan Difference – or at least one of them.

Although I obviously wasn’t inside the department during the past four years, it hasn’t been hard getting inside the story, because so many people at all levels of the equation have been willing to speak, many even eager. I’ve sent out fewer emails for interviews than I’ve received.

My strong sense, from these many conversations, is that they’re not calling to grind their ax but to explain were Michigan went wrong, and what Michigan could easily avoid in the future. I’ve already transcribed over 90,000 words of interviews – the entire “Bo’s Lasting Lessons” was shorter, by comparison – and not one of them wants Michigan to fail. To a person, they love Michigan, they were heartbroken watching the ship start to sink – and they’re relieved to see it back on the rise.

One simple lesson I’ve already learned: You should not confuse the general with the soldiers. They didn’t always agree, but the soldiers often felt they couldn’t speak up. Now they can.

Q. Have any stories you might be comfortable relating right now to whet appetites?

Well, my publisher would kill me if I did that. But what the heck!

By now most fans know the public narrative – and if they didn’t, your rundown last week hit the main events very efficiently – but it’s the stories behind the stories that Endzone will provide, from Brandon’s experience at Domino’s to how he got hired as Michigan’s AD, to his relationship with President Coleman, to how he fired Rodriguez and hired Hoke, to why he didn’t get Harbaugh or Miles, and how he and his staff faced the growing displeasure with his tenure last fall.   (Perhaps you’ve read something about this?)

More specifically, we’ll explore how the Notre Dame rivalry crumbled (not suddenly, as we’ve been told); we’ll explain how the students got the administration’s attention to affect real change; we’ll get to the bottom of the Shane Morris situation; and we’ll spell out how many people worked to get Harbaugh back – from old friends to Regents to Hackett himself, not to mention Jim’s wife Sarah – and how they did it.

BONUS Q: “The Rise, Fall and RETURN of Michigan Football”? Is that premature?

If I were referring to Michigan’s record next season, and the seasons after, yes, it would be. But this last word was inspired by an UM Alumni Club event in Cleveland in January, with Brian Cook and Seth from MGoBlog, yours truly, and former UM greats Andy Cannavino and Big Ed Muransky. It was a great crowd, maybe 120 people, on another single-digit night. kkkkSomeone asked Muransky, “How long do you think it will take to turn this around?” And he said, “It already is.”

He was not referring to the record either, of course, but to the suddenly unified football family – from the lettermen to the fans – the likely robust wait list, and the restored spirits. Since the book itself is more concerned with the off-field values of the program than the victories, I thought Muransky’s answer was spot on – so I stole it!

Q. Why didn’t you take the best advice I’ve ever given anyone and name this book “Brandon’s Lasting Lessons”?

While I greatly appreciate the best advice you’ve ever given anyone – and feel fortunate to be the sole beneficiary thereof — if I’d named this book “Brandon’s Lasting Lessons,” it would probably come off as disrespectful to Bo, and maybe just a little sarcastic toward Brandon, too. One reader suggested I title it, “I told you so,” which I thought sort of comes off as an “I told you so.”

Plus — I hate to tell you — I will do my best to be as fair to Brandon as I can. I’ve already talked at length to a Regent, a player and others who love him. It’s clear that Brandon was very good on academics, for example, and very popular with many student-athletes.

That said, I get your point. If you held Bo’s Lasting Lessons in one hand and Endzone in the other, you might think the previous athletic director was consciously trying to do the opposite of Bo’s advice at every turn – and Endzone will address that, too. In fact, your suggested title is the answer to your readers who wonder why we need to know more about this saga: there are lessons to be learned here, lessons that go deeper than just the list of crises, and if Michigan doesn’t learn them, more mistakes will follow.

Another reason not to title it that: while Brandon is obviously a central figure in this book, the Harbaugh story will comprise the third and final act of Endzone. For once, I’ve got a happy ending to write.

Q. You do realize that I’m going to call it that anyway?

Yes, you’ve made the very clear.

Q. No matter what you do? 

Yes, it is understood.

Q. You can’t stop this train, Bacon?

I don’t think that’s a question, is it?


* * * * *

Please join the conversation, but remember: I run only those letters from those who are not profane or insane, and who include their FULL name. 

Radio stuff: On Friday mornings, these commentaries run at 8:50 on Michigan Radio (91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit and Flint, and 104.1 Grand Rapids), and a few minutes later,  I join Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub LIVE from 9:05 to 9:25 on, 1050 AM.

After 12 years, I’ve handed over my “Off the Field” slot on WTKA to my good friend Jamie Morris, who is launching his new two-hour show, “A View From the Backfield.”

This gives me the time I need to join Michigan Radio’s great Cynthia Canty on her afternoon Stateside show every Thursday for a few minutes.  Check it out!

Follow me on Twitter:  Just cracked 27,000 followers.   THANK YOU!

Like this story? Please feed the blog, and keep ’em coming!

Hope to see you on the road!



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  1. Christopher J. Robbins

    John U. Bacon:

    I am hopeful we are back on track. I like what I’ve heard so far from Harbaugh and Drevno….build tough team from the lines out. Particularly the OL. When I think of Michigan football I think of a power running game first. Bo and Jerry Hanlon emphasized OL play and it was a key to our great TEAMs of the past.

    Liked hearing Ed Muransky say the program turn-around has already started. I hearken back to the day when Saturday’s in the fall were akin to opening presents on Christmas morning. Am hopeful we will awaken that great Michigan spirit when toe meets leather against a very game Oregon State Beaver team.

    Forever Go Blue!

    Christopher J. Robbins
    BSChE Class of 1991 UM, Ann Arbor

  2. Dave

    Hopefully, we will have a RISE this year!
    John, you and I are class of 86 SQ SQ and WQ, you need to re establish an alumni relation with him
    Hopefully he will welcome you back to Schembechler Hall

  3. Jon Schneider

    I admit that I had to look up the St. Helena reference. Evidently, I must have been sick the day they covered that in my Computer Science courses at Michigan!

  4. john w minton jr


    As A Woody Hayes booster, remember he taught Bo, I suffered through the Jubilation T. Cornpone years
    watching the “I hope we don’t Lose” expression on his
    face. He and Earl Bruce had good won/loss records, but
    it wasn’t the same. Going I/10/1 against the Blue wasn’t
    nearly as bad as seeing what Woody had built go down the drain. Every Michigan fan needs to read “The Legacy of Champions” to know what was and could be again. When you
    lose the tradition, you lose the soul


  5. marvin

    Congratulations on your newest publication

    a senior citizen, i enjoy your writings, inclusive of books, essays, articles and naturally, the internet interplay

    i’m a first time communicator with you and plead that you that my email address NOT be shown; my children are u of m grads and i’m content to be labeled a wannabe

    my thoughts re your newest tome is that it fits your personality-part renaissance man, part u of m man and part a major asset for the brand.

    would love to continue periodic chats that may interest both of us







  7. Pete Offredi

    I love the idea of creating a team with the lines of scrimmage defining the toughness of Michigan football, both physical and emotional. That said, that objective is long-term, right; at least a recruiting cycle (four years) away. In the short and near-term, there will be many of the same struggles that Rich Rod and Grady encountered, like how to win games or be competitive when the Wolverines don’t have that physical advantage.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the Wolverines get to that on-field competitive level again. If you’re looking to be competitive now though, the type of game Harbough is known for is going to have to evolve towards the skill-sets already on campus. With that difference between what Jim is known for, from his Stanford and pro days, and the square pegs/round holes realities of 2015, perhaps we’re going to see something significantly different than what we’d expect.

    Although the true measure of Harbough will be in 2018-19, hopefully, this first season could bring a uniquely non-Michigan type of football.

    Then again, it might just be three yards and a cloud of rubber pellets . . . .

  8. Paul Harley


    Thanks for your persistence of uncovering all the chaos that was bringing down this prestigious university. Looking forward to reading this book.

    Thanks so much John.

    Paul Harley


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