My Take on Michigan’s Recent Staff Hires

My Take on Michigan’s Recent Staff Hires

March 18, 2015
Erik Campbell (right) worked at Iowa with head coach Kirk Ferentz

Thanks to David, Kevin, William, and Sean for your donations to the TTB redesign campaign. You can donate at Paypal (LINK) or shop at Amazon (LINK) if you would like to contribute.

When Jim Harbaugh was negotiating for the job at Michigan, he required permission to expand the football staff. Obviously, athletic director Jim Hackett agreed, which has resulted in a hiring binge. These hires have been well publicized in the last several weeks, and I want to take a look at a few of them.

Erik “Soup” Campbell, unidentified administration job: I have talked about Erik Campbell several times on this blog, and devout Michigan fans are probably already familiar with the name. Campbell was a safety and wide receiver at Michigan in the 1980’s, became a GA for the Wolverines in 1988, and then coached the wide receivers for the Wolverines from 1995-2007 under Lloyd Carr. His acolytes include Braylon Edwards, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, Mario Manningham, Tai Streets, Jason Avant, and Steve Breaston, among others. When Rich Rodriguez was hired, he somewhat inexplicably fired Campbell, who went to Iowa and coached Marvin McNutt, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, and tight end Tony Moeaki. He has spent the past two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes. It’s unclear what Campbell’s job description will be at Michigan, but it’s a possibility that he will replace Jedd Fisch at some point. Fisch was hired on a one-year contract and generally changes jobs every couple seasons. Campbell’s return to coaching the wide receivers would be welcome.

Hit the jump for discussion of three more staff hires.

Rick Finotti, Director of Football Operations: Finotti was the head football coach at Cleveland (OH) St. Edwards from 2009-2014, winning two state championships. One of his players (Kyle Kalis) ended up signing with the Wolverines, although St. Edwards was known more as a pipeline to Ohio State. Players from the state of Ohio aren’t going to accept scholarships to Michigan just because the Wolverines hired Finotti, but he does know the lay of the land and could provide some connections to schools and coaches in the area. A director of football operations does a lot of the dirty work for a football program. He’s in charge of making travel arrangements, prepping facilities for practices, arranging summer camps and clinics, etc. Since high school coaches often have to do these types of things on their own, becoming a college director of football operations is largely doing the same things but on a higher level.

Col. Jim Minnick, Director of Football Operations: It’s unclear how the jobs of Finotti and Minnick will differ, but Minnick was a childhood friend of Jim Harbaugh’s and became a United States Marine Corps recruiter. He was working in Kansas City as the area recruiter for 14 states when Harbaugh got the job in San Francisco, and the two have remained close friends. Here’s an interview of Minnick from 2011 (LINK). With the military connection, it reminds me of how Brady Hoke sent the seniors in 2012 and 2013 to train with the Navy SEALs at Coronado. Anyway, Minnick obviously has some organizational skills since he was in charge of recruiting 14 states for the Marines, and he connects the Marines closely to the game of football in that linked interview. It will be interesting to see how his old job and his new job dovetail, but I expect positive results. Plus, Minnick and Harbaugh teamed up to help at a car accident scene on I-94 a couple weeks ago, which brought some positive publicity their way (LINK).

Chris Partridge, Recruiting Coordinator: Partridge was the head football coach at Paramus (NJ) Catholic for five years, up through 2014. Two of his players (Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty) ended up signing with the Wolverines, and a 2016 prospect from Paramus is one of Michigan’s top targets – and one of the top few players in the country – in the form of Rashan Gary. Recruits constantly mention Partridge, who must have one of the most active Twitter accounts around. Partridge reportedly had a deal in place to join the Rutgers program, but the state school of New Jersey received some flak from high school coaches around the state because Partridge had a bit of a bad reputation. It turns out that Paramus, which is a private school, did some recruiting and pulled in some of the state’s top prospects, including Don Bosco’s Peppers. When the agreement with Rutgers fell through, Harbaugh pounced on the opportunity to reel in Partridge. California, Florida, and Texas are some of the most recognized football player-producing states, but New Jersey’s reputation as a football hotbed might surprise some. Getting Partridge on the staff could help Michigan make some inroads where a cultural connection between Ann Arbor/New Jersey has long been apparent.

Obviously, it’s too early to tell the results of Jim Harbaugh’s hires. However, one thing seems to be clear – Harbaugh is bringing in people who do their jobs well. They might not be at the highest level of the sport, but these people are all winners who have been go-getters. Reaching the FBS level of coaching is not for followers, so I don’t mean to imply anything negative about Brady Hoke’s staff (Aaron Wellman, Roy Manning, Darrell Funk, Dan Ferrigno, etc.). But the differences are stark between the two staffs.

Finotti and Partridge are young-ish high school coaches with multiple state championships each. Erik Campbell is a college coach who has tutored multiple first round draft picks and All-Big Ten performers. Colonel Jim Minnick is, well, a colonel in the Marines. Greg Jackson is a former All-American and NFL safety. The list goes all the way down to Jay Harbaugh, who at the young age of 25, has been around a Super Bowl team with the Baltimore Ravens. Obviously, he has a lot to prove as a coach, but these guys are all winners on an individual or a team level.

All of these men have succeed, know how to succeed, and come from various backgrounds. While a few have worked together, they are not a group of friends who have meandered through college football by each other’s sides. I won’t pretend to know all the staff members at the football powerhouses around the country, but it’s hard to believe that many staffs – including coaches and administrative guys – have amassed more impressive collective resumes.


  1. Comments: 21436
    Mar 18, 2015 at 11:03 AM

    If RichRod had completely cleaned house, not hiring Campbell would have made more sense. But, he kept Fred Jackson, so why not Campbell? Loyalty to Tony Dews, perhaps …

    • Comments: 21436
      Mar 18, 2015 at 2:21 PM

      I always felt that the way the coaching staff transition was handled by RichRod and the AD started the ball rolling downhill for his tenure. I think he was practically forced to keep Jackson once the negative publicity about cleaning house started brewing. Keeping another low-level assistant wouldn't have hurt and handling the PR could have been done better.

      What I think he should have done is to keep a majority of the defensive assistants once Casteel didn't come on board. Maybe it wouldn't have worked for political reasons, but telling them "you guys hold down the fort on D for 1-2 years while I biuld the offense and I'll leave you alone".


    • Comments: 21436
      Mar 18, 2015 at 9:14 PM

      RR had already hired the rest of his staff when Casteel changed his mind and took a better offer from WVU.

  2. Comments: 21436
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    St. Ed's also produced former M commit Shaun Crawford. It's true that St. Ed's mostly sends them to Ohio State, but it was also more than a rumor around here that Finotti was not a fan of Urban Meyer.

  3. Comments: 21436
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    Also TJ Weist was hired as part of the support staff. He is a long time college coach who was OC at UConn and then interim HC when Pasqualoni got fired. It appears that Minnick's title has been changed to Assistant AD for football (or some such thing).
    Looks like JH is assembling a coaching tree in waiting. In addition to the apparent Soup for Fisch replacement, you have a guy like Weist in the bullpen along with successful HS coaches ready to move up. With the great success that we will soon enjoy it is likely that some assistants will move on. JH is already prepping their possible successors and indoctrinating them into the program.

    • Comments: 21436
      Mar 18, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      I wished you'd speak about Gwen Bush, too, but oh well.

    • Comments: 21436
      Mar 18, 2015 at 6:04 PM

      It does indeed look that way. Finotti explained his move to UM by saying it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I wondered how a move from big time high school head coach to director of a college team's operations is such an opportunity. The likely explanation is that there is an understanding that he will move onto the coaching staff in due time. This certainly would allow JH to indoctrinate his coaching seedlings for future use.

  4. Comments: 21436
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:44 PM

    Great write up Thunder! It just fires me up to read stuff like this. He is seeking people that have a similar drive and work ethic as him. You can look at each person he's hired and have some level of excitement for each of them. That was not the case with the last two staffs. There clearly wasn't the effort to be the best possible organization they could be like there has been with Harbaugh. It feels like he's building a future powerhouse and these hires are the foundation of that. I think we're going to have one of the most prepared teams in the country on a week to week basis.

  5. Comments: 21436
    Mar 18, 2015 at 2:26 PM

    There are so many things to love about these hires:
    1 – If the NCAA isn't going to limit your overall staff, hire as many good people as you can. I love the idea of exploiting opportunities within the rules wherever possible.
    2 – Money should be no object for Michigan, so use it!
    3 – There are very few resumes on the overall staff that you can question. About the only one would arguably be his son as TEs coach. We have an NFL OC as our WR coach!! Most people hire those guys to be the head coach.
    4 – He isn't surrounding himself with the same group of people he's always had. One of Lloyd Carr's short-comings was that he was too loyal to a select group of people and his coaching tree looks more like an inbred coaching stump. On top of being a diverse group of people, most of them are in their prime rather than at the tail end of their careers.
    5 – Having so many people on staff makes you more immune to departures. I feel like Harbaugh will encourage these guys to explore future jobs, which broadens his coaching tree. But if that happens, he has replacements waiting in the wings that know the system, the players, the coaches, etc. It is like a minor league of college coaches.


  6. Comments: 21436
    Mar 18, 2015 at 6:16 PM

    What we see on the field in the fall during Jim's tenure will be consistently great, occasionally transcendent, football.

    The real story of Jim's tenure is will be the subject covered by this post, the reconstruction of the elite football coaching incubator that was Bo's Michigan.

    Going anywhere except for the few consistently elite NFL franchises will once again be a step down when you leave Michigan.

    To complete this perfect fantasy, imagine an elite player (cough**Peppers**cough) actually choosing to stay in this environment, with this staff, despite the structural limitations the NCAA imposes, for an extra year and continue his development (cough***complete Ed Reed training and demand to be drafted by the Ravens and only the Ravens***cough).



  7. Comments: 21436
    Mar 19, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    Just a small quibble with the idea that Harbaugh wasn't trying to surround himself with the people he had before. He did, just as every coach would, but they just didn't or couldn't come along. With that said he's put together what looks to be a great staff but lets wait until there's actual football to evaluate before anointing it.

  8. Comments: 21436
    Mar 19, 2015 at 7:54 PM

    Can't wait to see Michigan. Players actually develop and get better,that has been an issue latley and with This staff I know they will get it done. I believe we are about to witness one of the best stretches of MICHIGAN FOOTBALL since BO, love reading your articles, now let's get back to BEING THE LEADERS AND BEST, GOD BLJE FOREVER!!

You must belogged in to post a comment.