The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
It's hard to believe that only two summers ago, a segment of Michigan supporters ardently opposed this project, that the group called Save The Big House formed and worried luxury boxes desecrating a timeless landmark.
The Big House was indeed saved, not by groups stuck in the past, but by Bill Martin and his construction shovels.
From the exterior, Michigan Stadium had become dumpy and dated. The interior had become known for its crowded walkways, long lines and cramped seating.
Watching a game at The Big House may have evoked some sort of nostalgia for fans, but using the stadium in a practical sense had become somewhat of a miserable experience.
That's AnnArbor.com's Dave Birkett. Obviously, I'm with him. I'm not sure how anyone can see the gorgeous brick exterior going up and think that tin walls that were so plain that someone thought slapping a halo on them would be a good idea were better.
Tim has a bunch of pictures below and some key numbers, including the number of commitments they have for the 82 suites (58). That's 70% full; club seats are in the 60-70% claimed. That sounds well on its way to selling out, but it seems like that number hasn't budged in a while. Not that selling suites in the face of a 3-9 season and the END OF AMERICA is an easy thing.
My impressions, which are based entirely on a comparison with a Tiger Stadium suite I was in earlier this year because of corporate ticket fatigue:
- They are swank. The Tigers' digs aren't particularly old but they suffer in comparison: granite versus 50's-era laminate countertops, flatscreens versus tube TVs that seem like they're from the 50s.
- They are way less inconvenient. If you don't want to order 80 bucks worth of food at a Tigers' game you have to hoof it down to the plebes and get a taco salad or whatever and miss at least a half-inning. I assume this won't be a problem at Michigan since there should be points of sale on that level if the food doesn't come with your 70k.
- The bathroom thing is a little odd. One advantage for the Tigers: you get your own bathroom; here you get access to a bunch of concourse bathrooms only the patricians can access. That might be better, I guess, since I assume the bathrooms will be so plentiful that one will always be open and that might not be the case in a sixteen-person suite.
There was a fierce debate about whether or not the window configuration—you can open them—blocks line of sight. A lot of media members thought it did but since we were all standing up I think maybe it's not a problem when you're seated. It's probably a ton better than the Tigers, who inexplicably put unnecessary pieces of metal directly in your LOS.
They also showed us around the club seats underneath the new structures. If a magic fairy came down and told me I could sit anywhere in the premium seating I wanted and if I didn't he'd shoot me* I'd probably go with those. They sit below an overhang, which should keep rain and less pleasant things off and also make the stadium seem electrically loud—the Tiger suite had a similar noise-catching configuration and it was surprisingly lively. They've also got access to an air-conditioned Donor Whose Name I Forgot Lounge that's got bathrooms and points of sale and whatnot. But I have different requirements than men in suits with 55-85k.
Speaking of: yes, 55-85k "gift" per suite, which is approximately $5.7 million per year without considering the 3000 club seats. This thing is going to be a money factory. And now I realize there's a word for "money factory": mint. If only I had the power to delete.
Oh also noes! The day's most-discussed topic:
They're switching from Pepsi to Coke, which several eagle-eyed reporters picked out. I wouldn't have been able to tell you which company had the previous contract.
Greg also points out something I noticed and winced at as we clambered up the stairs:
Crisler looks sadder and sadder with every new touch they put on the renovation. That place has got to go.
Looking out the window of the brick, glass, and class structure being erected, Crisler looked dingy and old. A new practice facility will help, but only so much.
BONUS rumor debunk/start! Debunk: the classic art deco lettering on top of the press box is going to be saved but they don't know what they're going to do with it. It had previously been rumored to be headed for the entrance tunnel.
Start: I heard tell there are vague plans for another 27 rows in the endzones at some indeterminate future date in case Beaver Stadium ever gets uppity.
Thing that wasn't even a rumor but I asked about anyway, mostly in jest: there are no plans to but bleachers on top of the new luxury box structures.
*(The family heirlooms are season tickets that have been in continuous use since the 50s; they are good seats.)
Brian and I toured Michigan Stadium with assorted members of the media, and all we got was this
stupid t-shirt photo gallery:
Also, we got some details:
- Both the suites and the club seating are reserved to about 70% capacity.
- The suite have their own indoor concourse with air conditioning. The suites themselves are also air conditioned.
- The new press box will have seating for 224 reporters.
- Michigan Stadium was down to 106,201 seats last year (from 107,501), making it the second-highest capacity stadium in the country (though more people strolled through its gates than #1, Penn State's Beaver Stadium). When the new structures are complete for the 2010 season, capacity will be around 110,000.
- Over the next few years, the aisles will be widened in phases. Final capacity of just greater than 108,000 will be reached in about the 2013 season.
Every time Rich Rodriguez meets with the media, he is inundated with a thousand questions about the quarterback situation. Today was no different. Rodriguez reiterated all three quarterbacks will see some time in the opener, and the schemes may be slightly different for each signal-caller. "We have an idea in mind as far as what plays each guy runs well, which ones they execute well," he said. Denard Robinson and Nick Sheridan are unlikely to have the same portions of the playbook available to them. As far as playing time, there's nothing set in stone yet, but the staff plans to use each QB in meaningful minutes—for the first time in Rodriguez's coaching career.
While performance on the field will play a role, the staff isn't going to be quick to hook an unproductive quarterback. "It's not going to be pulling in and out based on just one play or how well they play on one play," Rodriguez said. "There could be a guy in one play then out, but it wouldn't be a constant thing."
Clearly, Rodriguez doesn't buy into the adage "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none." [Editor's note: adage says nothing about three.]
The team's first chance to play in the Big House comes this Friday. "It's not really a full scrimmage because it's not live... Getting accustomed to the stadium, where they stand on the sidelines and all that, we'll do that Friday afternoon."
- Jason Olesnavage is leading the kicker competition for now, but it won't be settled (along with the rest of the depth chart) until next Thursday.
Brandon Herron and Craig Roh are neck-and-neck to be Stevie Brown's backup at the Spinner-ish position[Editor's note: no, that ain't right. Revised bullet follows.]
- Craig Roh is Brandon Herron's backup at deathbacker.
- Brown's backups are "two true freshmen." Rodriguez didn't specify who but it's easy enough to deduct with Isaiah Bell enduring some sort of injury. The backups, then, are Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones.
- Michael Williams and Troy Woolfolk are physical for safeties, despite a slightly smaller stature. Williams, however, needs to remember to wrap up after going for a big hit.
- Michael Shaw has worked to improve his physical play and his ability to contribute in the passing game.
- The team is holding onto the ball better than last year, but they'll need to prove they can continue that in games.
Your chalky top ten:
Florida got 99 of the 101 first place votes, and the two that didn't rest gently on the Tebow Child's ticklish nose were handed out in polls that either ranked the whole thing on schedule strength and only schedule strength or voted Utah #1 because that's where they finished last year(?).
You will, however, note that the blog-folk managed to exclude potential flash-in-the-pan Ole Miss from the top ten. It wasn't by much—they're #11—but a three spot difference in a preseason poll represents a fairly large difference of opinion.
The November 20, 2010 game between Penn State and Indiana will switch locations from Indiana's campus in Bloomington, Indiana to [The Stadium Formerly Known As Jack Kent Cooke] in Landover, Maryland. [TSFKAJKC] is home of the NFL's Washington Redskins.
The stadium in question is about four hours from State College. It's eleven hours from Bloomington. Indiana just sold a home game for three million dollars. And Penn State got one for free.
This sort of thing has a long tradition in college football—Michigan State didn't play a home game in their series against Michigan until 1948 and didn't start equitable home and homes until a decade later—but died out at about the same time segregation did. And nobody wants to bring that back, hmmmm? [/sportstalkradio argument]
Let's stipulate that schools have the right to do whatever they want with their nonconference schedules. The effect on the rest of the conference is minimal there, mostly limited to "you scheduled who and they did what to you?" Feel free to insert your favorite recent humiliation there: The Horror, Iowa State, USC, Louisiana Tech, etc.
Once we start talking about conference schedules, though, people have a right to bitch. Every team is playing for a conference championship. The schedules need to be as equitable as possible. Yes, playing eight games against ten opponents naturally inserts some wobble in average schedule difficulty. Creating protected rivalries enhances that. (Would you rather be Michigan State (Penn State and
Ohio State Michigan [ed: whoops lol] every year) or Purdue (Northwestern and Indiana).) But in both cases everyone has agreed to the potential imbalance and decided that the alternative—years without The Game or I-AA snackycakes—is worse.
Not so with Indiana's decision to sell a home game, which benefits exactly one team, has been approved by no one, and compromises the integrity of the league schedule. It also sets a dangerous precedent. No Big Ten team has been so craven since balanced schedules became commonplace. A rundown:
- Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, and Minnesota have never scheduled a neutral site conference game.
- A few teams did so back in the stone age but not since. Michigan hasn't played a neutral site conference game since they lost to Northwestern 2-3 in 1925, and that was in Chicago. Illinois played home games against Ohio State in Cleveland in 1944 and 1942. Purdue did the same in 1943.
- A few teams have moved games to neutral sites without giving up at least the appearance of a home game. Indiana played a neutral site game against Penn State in 2000 and against Illinois in 1984, both in Indianapolis. (They did sell a home game to Northwestern, also in 1925. Northwestern won 25-0, their only win of the season.) Ohio State moved a 1991 home game against Northwestern to Cleveland. Northwestern has a fair number of games listed as "@ Chicago, IL," which Evanston is basically a part of.
- Aaaand there's one bizarre outlier I didn't remember: Wisconsin gave up a home game to play Michigan State in Tokyo in 1993.
That's it. No modern-era Big Ten team has ever agreed to move a conference game to a location almost three times closer to the road team than the "home" team. No one has ever moved a conference game out of state with the freakish exception of that Tokyo game. Even that game was a decidedly neutral site, which TSFKAJKC will most definitely not be in 2010.
The Big Ten should shoot this down, and do it soon. This is the I-A equivalent of forfeiting a conference game so you can get paid by Michigan. Insert some bylaw that says any attempt to move a conference home game out of state or to a point that's closer to the nominal road team than the home team must be approved by the league first, and look very sternly at the Indiana administration when you do.
So one of the cool things about engulfing Varsity Blue is absorbing their technical know-how, and one of the products of this process are eggs. I mean podcasts. Forget I said anything about eggs, which I have definitely not implanted into your necks.
Anyway: MGoBlog plans a weekly podcast this fall and possibly into the spring. Our first show is now. Tim and I talked with Matt Hinton, AKA Doctor Saturday, nee Sunday Morning Quarterback, about Michigan's upcoming season, the Big Ten landscape, and then Tim and I just talk to each other about how skeptical we are about Obi Ezeh. Be sure to count the times I try to talk over Matt like a n00b.
The show checks in at around 30 minutes. We're looking for show and guest ideas in the comments or the ol' inbox; next week we'll talk with Ball State blog Over The Pylon about Western Michigan and probably the Cardinals' addiction to former Lloyd Carr assistants. I mean, I'm guessing it will come up, right?