Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011)
Three and Out tells the story of how college football’s most influential coach took over the nation’s most successful program, only to produce three of the worst seasons in the histories of both Rich Rodriguez and the University of Michigan.
Three and Out is the ultimate insider’s account from the epicenter of one of America’s greatest passions. Shortly after his controversial move from West Virginia, where he had just taken his alma mater to the #1 ranking for the first time in school history, Coach Rich Rodriguez granted author and journalist John U. Bacon unrestricted access to Michigan’s program. Bacon saw it all, from the meals and the meetings, to the practices and the games, to the sidelines and the locker rooms. Nothing and no one was off limits.
The result explains how Rodriguez — the inventor of the revolutionary spread option offense, with a reputation for turning rough starts into stunning successes — fell short of everyone’s expectations, especially his own.
Bacon’s behind-the-scenes reporting shows what really happened in Rodriguez’s final weeks at West Virginia, and how Michigan’s chaotic month-long search suddenly settled on an outsider. It explores why Rodriguez remained silent while the leaders of his alma mater attacked him, and lays out the causes and costs of a year-long NCAA investigation and its surprising effects on the coaches and the players.
Everyone knew Rodriguez was on trial from the day he arrived in Ann Arbor, to the day he was fired. But Michigan was on trial, too. Would the Michigan faithful, who cherish their past like no one else, be able to seize the future, in the form of the spread offense? Could they support an outsider for the first time in nearly four decades? And how would the Michigan family respond if Rodriguez failed to win enough, fast enough?
Three and Out takes the reader behind the scenes of the thrilling, last-minute victories that filled Rodriguez’s second and third seasons with great hope, and the heartbreaking losses to Big Ten rivals that dashed it; the factionalism and entrenched interests that only grew worse with each year, to the daily experiences of the players who lived with the consequences.
Three and Out also provides an unprecedented look into the incredible demands college football makes on the men who coach it and the students who play it, and the ever-more powerful forces that fuel a billion-dollar business — one that still rests on the arm of a 19-year-old quarterback and the foot of a 20-year-old kicker.
John U. Bacon’s Three and Out is the definitive account of a football marriage seemingly made in heaven that broke up after just three years, and lifts the lid on the best and the worst of college football.
“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