A Coaching Search in 2011

This was not your father’s coaching search. This wasn’t even your older brother’s coaching search. The Internet has changed the news landscape, so when Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon announced yesterday that Brady Hoke would replace Rich Rodriguez, for the first time in a week the Wolverine fan base could stop clicking the “refresh” button.

The Web resources below were in existence when Rodriguez replaced Lloyd Carr three years ago, but were not as popular. Regarding the Michigan coaching search and any future searches at other football-crazy schools, here are the game changers:

Twitter
Although 140 characters isn’t much, it’s enough to write, “Harbaugh to Michigan, sources say,” or “Miles is being interviewed by UM; likely to accept offer if one is made.” Sure, publishing to a blog is fast, but Twitter is the emblem of immediacy.

There’s still an attitude that “it’s just a tweet,” so take it with a grain of salt. Also, athletes are on Twitter, and even though they often have no idea what’s going on, they can influence people with even the vaguest of messages.

Flight Tracking
FlightAware.com allows visitors to track flights live, even private planes, and people did just this to determine the whereabouts of Brandon. This happened during Michigan’s last coaching search, but it was taken to a new level this time.

It was determined there were two planes involved in the search—one with the Michigan winged helmet on the nose of the plane and one owned by Domino’s Pizza, Brandon’s former company. Bloggers and message board posters could pinpoint exactly where the athletic director was travelling and could reasonably speculate which coaches he was meeting. It was even noted that on one trip from Baton Rouge to Ann Arbor, Brandon’s plane went slightly out of its way to avoid Ohio airspace.

Yeah, the flight tracking got a little creepy. Not only were Michigan fans following planes, but LSU fans were as well, wondering if they might lose their coach, Les Miles. Would it have become public knowledge that these meetings took place even without such a website? Most likely. But fans and media could track the AD in real time, as if they were flying around the country with him.

I wonder if the site traffic numbers for FlightAware increase in December and January, especially when high-profile schools are looking for a new football coach.

Is this Dave Brandon’s jet? No, but the coaching search is over, so who cares? (Credit: Adrian Pingstone)

Blogs and Message Boards
These have obviously been around for a while but there are more than ever. This is not scientific by any means, but blogs are bigger and better as well. I’m not a frequent message board visitor, but it was clear that during the coaching search the boards were pounded just as they would be after a game.

I know many Michigan fans (myself included, at times) who clicked refresh on their favorite blogs throughout the past few days. Not everyone has the time, energy, or know-how to access the relevant information on Twitter or flight tracking sites, but many bloggers did that work for you, culling the news and speculating on what it might mean.

The Michigan coaching situation was unique in that it occurred later than most (if a coach is fired, it usually takes place before the bowl games) and took longer than most (Rodriguez was fired last Wednesday). The resourcefulness of the media, bloggers, and fans, however, are things you are going to see in any future coaching search involving a big-time football program.

And there was plenty of false information flying around. It seemed like everyone was trying to be first as opposed to being right, a philosophy of sports journalism that has apparently carried over from 2010. Get used to it.

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