For two days in January, the most-shared story on the Wall Street Journal’s website had nothing to do with business: it was a column by local writer John U. Bacon on the firing of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez.

Bacon was wrapping up a book on Rodriguez when the Wolverines suffered a humiliating loss in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Recognizing that “a big decision was going to be made,” Bacon called former Ann Arborite and WSJ sports editor Sam Walker to pitch the story. Drawing on the preface to his book in progress—Third and Long: Three Years with Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines—it paints a vivid picture of a stressful, unpredictable sport. Readers were especially struck by Bacon’s description of quarterback Denard Robinson’s fifteen-hour day, from treatment for a swollen knee at 7 a.m. to signing autographs at 10 p.m.

Bacon expects to deliver a 300-page manuscript to his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, by February 1 for publication this fall. What’s his own view of the Rodriguez firing? “I thought he deserved a fourth year,” Bacon says. “But I’m clearly not the athletic director.”