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John U Bacon talks Dombrowski, Harbaugh and 'Endzone'

Aug 6, 2015

Credit John U. Bacon

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joins us for this week’s sports roundup.

Tigers say goodbye to Dombrowski

After 14 years as president and general manager of the Tigers, Dave Dombrowski has been shown the door.

The move took place the day after the trade deadline, timing that Bacon calls, “strange.”

Even weirder, he says, is the way Dombrowski’s departure has been handled.

“There is no statement from [Dombrowski] thanking the Ilitch family, and there’s no statement from the Ilitches or the Tigers thanking Dave Dombrowski,” Bacon says. “Not even the usual corporate,  ‘we wish you well,’ sort of thing.”

Bacon goes on to tell us that the decision is made more strange by the fact that Dombrowski wasn’t a controversial figure, and that he helped bring the Tigers out of a near-two-decade slump.

“From ‘87 when they were in the AL finals to basically 2006 when they finally get back to the World Series, they were dead,” he tells us.

“As Shakespeare said, ‘There’s something rotten in Denmark,' " Bacon says. “I don’t know what it is, but it smells a little funny.”

Harbaugh and the media

The media’s obsession with Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh started when he hit town and has not let up.

According to Bacon, the reason behind the fawning over Harbaugh can be whittled down to one fact: “He has more charisma than most.”

He tells us that Harbaugh also has the advantage of being very sincere, “And that’s rare these days.”

“Sometimes they like him, sometimes they don’t,” Bacon says. “But I’ve never seen him — I’ve known the guy since fourth grade — I’ve never seen him ever be phony.”

Bacon tells us that Harbaugh never stuck with previous teams he coached for more than four years, but guesses that Harbaugh will be in for the long run at Michigan.

The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football

Bacon’s new book, “Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football,” takes a look behind the scenes at the business of Michigan football to talk about how hubris, greed and betrayal almost brought college football’s most successful and well-respected team to its knees in less than a decade.

He clarifies that the titular “return” isn’t a prediction of upcoming Big Ten titles, but rather, “The return is that the Michigan family saw something wrong with what was going on, that values were being challenged, were being threatened.”

“The students, the lettermen, the faculty, the alums, the regents ultimately all stood up and said, ‘we have to fix this.’ And then they went out and they fixed this,” Bacon says.

According to Bacon, if you think you know what happened with Michigan football, you have no idea.

Bacon will be holding a Literati-sponsored presentation and Q&A session about “Endzone” at Rackham Auditorium on September 1.