I can't stand the guy.
It's not just that I'm a Lloyd "apologist" or "loyalist," whatever those things are. There's a real possibility that Les Miles wooed teenage athletes by telling them that Michigan's head coach (beloved in my circle though not everywhere) suffered from a chronic neurodegenerative disease. If I'm the Marques of Queensbury because that makes me hate him, so be it. I'm loyal to my school, not a prospective head coach to be named later.
The qualities that seem to draw Joe Michigan to Miles are the same things that make my stomach roil. "Excitement" and "aggression" make sense when they're value-added. Miles is Steve Fossett in a ballcap. Cool shit to watch from a distance, but not so cool when you're scraped across the desert because adventure ballooning sounded fun. At LSU, he's had talent but still only won by razor-thin margins. To call his on-field playcalling "risky" would be an understatement. In The Deer Hunter, Christopher Walken did well for a long time playing Russian Roulette. He made plenty of money, and then it came to an end.
But it's more than all of this.
The University of Michigan is not a football school. It's a vast, great academic institution that happens to have a football program.
Michigan losing to Appalachian State didn't change my life. It ruined a three-day weekend and briefly prompted ideations of suicide, but a week later life was back to normal, even after Oregon's ass-kicking.
The team can lose on the field, and I'll be pissed and traumatized. I have nightmares about losses, condemn my lifestyle choice, scream to my friends that I wish I'd gone to Middlebury or Amherst or some other liberal arts school where kids spend Saturdays high, reading Keats in the woods somewhere. But that, I can divorce from my overall feelings about Michigan as an institution. When I walk into work and a millionaire in his sixties gently mocks me about losing to Appalachian State, I can laugh uncomfortably and concoct a rationalization.
What I could not rationalize is having a head coach whose public behavior is a consistent embarrassment. It's why Gary Moeller managed to get himself fired. Unfortunately, Michigan's head football coach is linked to how the public at large views the school. Lloyd was terse, close-mouthed, careful -- he might have been abrasive with sideline reporters and he might have been a dull interview, but you never feared that he'd utter words to embarrass you as an alumnus.
Michigan's unofficial spokesperson cannot be someone who would say, "We have a new rival in fucking Michigan State." He can't get choked up in press conferences. He can't rationalize a two-loss record as tantamount to being undefeated in regulation. He can't storm in front of television cameras and deliver a UFC-style rant.
That shit's fine at Oklahoma State or LSU. Alabama coaches can call people "coon-asses" and compare losing a football game to September 11. At some places, football plays a role in the hiring of college presidents and is a principal fundraising motivator. I did not go to one of those schools. Mary Sue Coleman, Lee Bollinger and a $7 billion endowment have nothing to do with a team.
I can handle losing to the Appalachian States of the world. I could even handle the program decaying into a Northwestern-style mediocrity -- that would surely suck and require years of pain and adjustment, but it would not make me renounce my degree or tarnish my feelings about the school.
I wouldn't feel the same way if the school's highest-profile employee were perpetually uncorked and verbally reckless. Michigan has always kept sports in its place, and that's no easy achievement. You can spend four years at the school, ignore its athletics, and not feel like you're missing anything. You can be on faculty without giving a damn about football. If you're a major donor wanting to give $20 million for cancer research, your decision of whether to donate to the hospitals at Duke, Michigan or Columbia will not incorporate coaching behavior.
This is why big-time athletics at Michigan have always been risky. By and large, they're good public relations and enhance the undergraduate experience. They also open up the school to forces that have nothing to do with its institutional mission, which, if kept unchecked, risk overshadowing everything else.
And then one day there's a clip repeated ad nauseum of some dumb-ass head coach popping off in a press conference, or in headlines because he said something dumb about the Pac-10, and Michigan starts to look like a football school. As an alumnus, you have a hard time explaining the person away. As a prof, maybe you feel embarrassed to be affiliated with a circus. And as a donor, the football program still doesn't mean jack shit to your decision, but if you're looking to do something serious with your legacy, quite possibly there's an itch somewhere about not wanting a new rival in fucking: Michigan State.