[Ed-M: Bumped because this is all important stuff. Photos: MGoBlue.com: all from March 30 practice. Click through to see, among other things, Urban Meyer on the sidelines.]
I want to start by wishing a Happy Birthday to Bo. Born this day in 1929.
I attended practice yesterday and here are some very random notes and observations.
I gravitate to the LBs because that's what I coach and I try to pick up new drills/techniques. Here are the 11 guys who were working with the LB corp: Cam Gordon, Brandin Hawthorne, Marell Evans, Kenny Demens, Isaiah Bell, Mike Jones, Jake Ryan, JB Fitzgerald, Paul Gyarmati, Brandon Herron, Jordan Paskorz. They were running a lot of basic drills because, quite frankly, this group has a LOT of work ahead of them.
- Cam Gordon is ALL of 6' 3". He's gotten taller since he was a senior in HS (I know because I stood next to him at a spring practice last year and I was definitely taller than him). He looks good, physically. He's added a significant amount of muscle and has real good pop. During one particular drill where the LB shuffles downhill then forms up on the "ballcarrier," Cam surprised the ballcarrier with an explosive pop. It was either Bell or Demens. Whoever it was felt it, I can promise you that.
- Josh Furman has sweet dreads. He's a good sized kid too and got a lot of reps
- Marell Evans got a lot of reps with the ones during the scrimmage. He seems very comfortable with his teammates and coaches.
- Jake Ryan's helmet is chipped all to hell, which tells me he keeps his head up at the point of contact and has a nose [Ed-M: Or more accurately forehead] for the ball. I thought Cam looked taller but they're both listed at 6'3" on the roster.
During the scrimmages, the defense moved around a lot, displaying multiple looks. Although they were running a 4-3, Mike Martin was lined up over the center (or shaded) most of the time.
Big Will and Q got a lot of reps (with the 1s and 2s). I think Will probably gets more coaching than any kid on the team. It appears to me that the coaches REALLY believe they have something special in Will if they can just coach him up and bring it out of him. He is a big kid with a lot of potential and could be scary good if he makes up his mind and puts in the work. BTW, Will talks a lot of shit. On one play, he pursued Devin to the sideline and out of bounds, gave him some lip, then smacked the ball out of Devin's hands. It was all in good fun and I think it shows that Big Will is feeling like he's an integral part of this team. BW is big but QW isn't far behind. These two have a chance to make a huge impact, if they simply learn to work hard and realize what they can achieve.
Curt Mallory is by far the most intense person on the entire field. He is working hard with the DBs.
It's obvious both sides of the ball are learning new schemes. Lots of mistakes and miscues. However, the intensity is there. Ryan Van Bergen is your vocal leader of the defense.
Here are the DBs I noticed getting lots of reps: Courtney Avery, Jordan Kovacs, Thomas Gordon, Floyd Simmons, Cullen Christian, Jared VanSlyke, Greg Brown, Marvin Robinson, Tony Anderson, and Al Backey.
- During one scrimmage, Jordan Kovacs dropped the hammer on an outstretched Je'Ron Stokes. It was a BIG lick, but Stokes held onto the ball and popped right up.
- Courtney Avery ran with the 1s all the time. He looks good although I think 5'11" is generous. I talked with his dad (Courtney Sr) for a while. Super nice family (mom and younger brother were there too). He said everything is completely different for Courtney and it's like starting over: Terminology, technique, alignment, philosophy, scheme.
- Cullen Christian has sweet tats on the back of both arms. Written in old english font with a 2 and C on the left arm and 4 and C on the right. (That's some Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporting, isn't it?)
- Speaking of tats, it's one thing I noticed we have a LOT of. There's some sweet artwork out there.
- Woolfolk and Floyd were off in the corner with a S&C coach, working their asses off. The coach had one of those punching dummies that the two players would take turns delivering two handed shivers in rapid succession.
Here's something I'm sure you'll all be fired up about: the 1st team D owned the first team O in Red Zone scrimmage. Three times in a row the D stuffed the O, including a 1st and goal from the 2 which resulted in a fumble, recovered by Herron. The defense was noticably more vocal than the O, but I don't think that means anything other than the O is doing a lot more thinking, rather than just playing.
It was quite evident that this was the first week of practice under a new system. On the other hand, the 2nd team O scored in one play (both passes to the right side) TWICE against the 2nd team D.
Offensively, Rocko Khoury was the center during the scrimmages, but Molk participated in the conditioning. I don't recall seeing Molk out on the field, but maybe I just overlooked him (shame on me).
Your first O line was (from left to right) Huyge, Barnum, Khoury, Omameh, Schofield. Lewan wasn't in pads. Second O line was Barnum, Khoury, Burzynski, Pace, Gunderson.
Every time I looked up, it seemed Drew Dileo was retunring a punt or kick. There was a decent amount of time devoted to special teams at the begining and end of practice, which I thought was, you know....... important (lol). Both kickers were lined up on opposite hashes (Seth on the right hash, Brendan on the left), starting with 27 yard kicks then moving back to 35 yarders. I will leave you with this....... they need more practice.
I didn't watch the offense all that much as I was trying to concentrate on what the defense was doing and who was on the field. However Denard is sweet. His smile and personality resonate from across the field. I honestly feel like we have been blessed, not with just a hell of an athlete, but a hell of a kid. That is all.
Finally, I had a chance to talk with Coach Jerry Hanlon for a bit. I haven't seen him in a LONG time, but he looks and sounds great. I'm surprised he still has a voice because he did a LOT of yelling back in the day. I remember one spring practice, for some reason, Coach Hanlon decided to coach from the press box, which was really odd. Nobody ever did that.. Anyway, we were going through a scrimmage or inside skele and all of the sudden, from WAAaaaay on high, this high-pitched, angry voice bellowed down from above. It brought practice to a screeching halt as everyone stopped what they were doing so they could take in the ass chewing Coach Hanlon's dished out to some poor linemen from 100 feet in the air. I guess you had to be there, but it was memorable.
Sorry this is late. Spent large chunks of the afternoon futilely trying to Google hard numbers on spiraling coach salaries.
You wouldn't know it from the college football world's reaction to HBO's most recent edition of Real Sports—best summed up by Michigan tight end Kevin Koger, who tweeted "They snitched on Auburn lol"—but the point of the thing was a little broader than the Paul Finebaum show. It was yet another discussion about the NCAA's amateurism brought about by March Madness.
This is a near-annual rite. Attention to the tournament invariably sees journalists bring up the eye-popping dollars CBS pays to air it, at which point someone's always like "hey, these players aren't getting any of that" and we get roundtables inexplicably containing Jason Whitlock, Rich Rodriguez, and Billy Packer. Since this is the first year of an even more eye-popping contract we've gotten a heavier dose than usual this year, one sufficient to prompt responses from John Gasaway and Big Ten Geeks. Oh, and also this.
Pieces on these tend to be maddeningly soapboxy. The headline on Whitlock's latest column is witheringly dumb: "Greedy NCAA exploits athletes." The content isn't much better. In an effort to keep things as engineery as possible, a series of questions and a table.
Who is hypothetically getting exploited?
Football and basketball players in power conferences. Nothing else consistently turns a profit. In other sports that occasionally do—baseball and hockey—there is an alternate development path for anyone who doesn't like the NCAA model. The only restriction placed on those players is that baseball players who pass up a contract out of high school have to stay in college at least three years. In other conferences even successful schools like VCU are throwing money down a pit—77% of their "revenue" comes from student fees*.
Who is benefiting from hypothetical exploitation?
- Non-revenue athletes. About 30% of Michigan's expenses are related to housing, educating, transporting, and outfitting athletes with another 16% devoted to giving them places to play.
- Coaches. 17% of Michigan's revenue pays them.
- Everyone else. 21% of Michigan's revenue goes to the rest of the department.
It is clear that as revenue rises, Coaches and Everyone Else take up an increasingly large chunk of the pie. In the last ten years Michigan has added PSLs to its football seats and seen television revenue skyrocket. They've gone from 25 to 27 sports, and they'll add two more in the near future when lacrosse and a sop to Title IX are added.
Operating revenue has gone from 78 million in 2004-05 to 106 million last year. Outlays to students have gone from 11.4 million to 15.7. Coaches have gone from 9.3 to 14.7, and Everyone Else from 12.3 to 18.5. Chart? Chart.
Michigan outlays to scholarships, coaches, and administrators (millions)
|2004||2010||Pct 2004||Pct 2010|
Students are essentially constant as a percentage of revenue, and that's only because tuition keeps skyrocketing as long as anyone can get a federal non-dischargeable student loan. They're watching the people around them eat up more and more as a percentage of revenues as places like Michigan get big enough that costs like flying people around and building stuff top out. And this is over six years! In 2007 the average compensation of a D-I head coach averaged one million dollars; last year it had already gone up 36%. When I wrote about Michigan putting EMU on the schedule in 2007 I ran across a now-linkrotted Bloomberg article with this stunning fact:
This relatively ancient Bloomberg article from March 2005 takes a look at the increase in NCAA coaching salaries across the board from '97 to '03 and finds that average compensation went up 89 percent in just six years. This is before the twelfth game. (Though it's noted that there were some twelfth games in there. That was a calendar quirk and not permanent policy, however.) This is before 3-2-5e*. This before Superfluous BCS Bowl and The Two Teams With Six Wins Each bowls. This includes the obscurest coaches you can think of, like Romanian Buffalo Polo.
Eighty-nine percent in six years.
*[The hated clock rules that got repealed after one year were at the time loathed enough to be referred to solely by bylaw.]
Is there a real case here?
It's getting to the point where the Whitlocks of the world are not entirely crazy. There was a time when Bo Schembechler was making 100k per year and had to have a tearful press conference because Texas A&M offered him the life-changing sum of one million dollars and he turned it down. At that juncture anyone crying about exploitation was nuts, not that there was anyone doing that.
HOWEVA. Given the revenue growth at major universities there is a point at which even the student managers are walking around wearing monocles and puffing cigars and there will be a unified popular opinion that we can no longer treat the people doing the bulk of the labor like Oliver Twist except with infinite sex and training table. Which, granted, isn't much like Oliver Twist at all. But at some point it seems like it.
I don't know how much of the uptick in "Everyone Else" for Michigan is adding to the legions dedicated to getting athletes their educations. It's some. It's probably not that much when you consider the revenue athletes specifically and it certainly isn't enough to look a the above chart without a sense of foreboding as to where this is going. It is clear as day Michigan has money to spend on these athletes, and that goes for every team sporting a coach making too much money relative to revenues (in case you are wondering: this is all of them).
The money goes somewhere. It doesn't go to more rowers. It goes to the literal and metaphorical scaffolding around the athletes, and being in Michigan Stadium these days looking up at luxury boxes and down at Denard Robinson kind of makes me think this Oliver Twist point is in the past, at least for me.
So what now, smart guy?
I'm not actually sure. I do know that guys like Andrew Zimbalist who advocate the reduction of scholarship limits are precisely wrong about the problem. The outlay to keep a football player around is the only thing that has remained relatively constant over the course of the Knight Commission's infinite complaints about costs. They've gone up by the cost of tuition. Coaching salaries have gone up by multiples.
The fact that anyone's even talking about making cuts to the sole redeeming bit of the whole enterprise speaks to just how badly the system is messed up. Revenue sports are disproportionately populated by black males,** many of whom wouldn't have a shot at college otherwise. Cutting them so you can keep paying the people around them in gold bullion is an idea only an academic economist could come up with.
The opposite would be better. Hockey has 18 scholarships, three short of fielding a full team. Baseball has some weird number like 11.7. Many athletes make do with partial or no scholarships in equivalency sports. The NCAA should significantly raise those restrictions. Small schools will complain about unbalancing the playing field and blah blah but we are talking about putting kids on scholarship, not autobids. An unbalanced playing field because one school has offered to pay for more tuition than the other is justified. It's beyond justified.
As for the guys making the actual money, I'm not that peeved about basketball since 99% of the exploited are good enough to go on to pro careers here or in Europe and anyone good enough can just screw off after a year or two. It's in football and its brain damage and other damage and low chance of a reasonable minor league career and low chance of an NFL career longer than three years that the moral compass gets a little confused. It's hard to look at 110,000 people paying close to 100 bucks a head and look down at Martavious Odoms and think he's not getting a raw deal.
*[Numbers come from the USA Today database. Unfortunately, it doesn't produce permalinks. VCU's specific case highlights the stupidity of the OTL piece on athletic departments making a "profit". The Rams are 600k in the red even with 12.4 million in student support. They are nowhere close to self-sustaining.]
**[45% in football and 60% in basketball this year; in all D-I sports white guys are 63% of the population; 77% of women playing sports are white; 57% of the undergrads are women.]
HOCKEYBEAR IS—AW, HAMBURGERS THAT'S NEXT WEEK
|WHAT||You vs A Weekend Without Michigan Sporting Events|
|WHERE||The Depths Of Your Existential Dread, Pancreas, TX|
|WHEN||An irritatingly persistent feeling that serves as a preview for the Long Dark after the Frozen Four|
|THE LINE||Existential Dread -7|
|TELEVISION||Versus (Versus will televise anything)|
Flipping Through The Channels, Finding Nothing But Clippers Games
(And the Final Four, I guess)
Record. 10-10, 5-5 in conference. Everything this weekend is a nondescript defensive battle between teams too bad to be exciting and too good to be interesting. Both teams wear grey, and Ricky Davis is nowhere in sight.
Previous meetings. Last summer this was a merciful end. The prospect of being required to watch nothing except half-full NBA arenas that double as Ambien for their attendees was sweet relief after football and basketball imploded and hockey only narrowly avoided doing so.
Dangermen. You're really going to want to watch out for old baseball/football/hockey cards (17-27-44), especially that Tim Cheveldae rookie card you thought was going to be worth thousands by now. They will remind you of a time when even bits of cardboard with pictures of people on them were endlessly fascinating. Remembering this could lead into other reveries, like the first time you saw a boob on pay cable, that can only go downhill from there.
Goalie and defense and whatnot. Alcohol, probably. Hang on to the "previous meetings" factoid. It will help to remember that the alternative to feeling lost and alone after relevant sporting events cease is feeling like that all the time. Wait, that doesn't help at all.
Special teams. Their power play is better than Michigan's, I tell you what!
You Versus The Dread Sports Distracts You From
Good luck with that, buddy. You may even find yourself bowling. You hate bowling.
Scandals are pretty much sports too. Jim Tressel, man.
When in doubt.
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO ANYWAY
The Big Picture
Next Thursday and, God willing, Saturday are the Frozen Four. The methadone of spring practice and the spring game-type-substance will provide a gentle glide path into May, but at that point you're just waiting for September. Prepare.
These updates are a little late, but I tried to space everything out so it wasn't all one big bombardment. Here are two more updates from last week's junior day visit from Minnesota OL Jonah Pirsig and Ohio TE AJ Williams.
6'9", 300 lbs.
Blue Earth, Minnesota
Yes, Jonah is 6-foot-9 and he's from a place called Blue Earth. [Ed: Next time Tom talks to him I'll have him ask if he's got a pet ox and has been bewilderingly located in East Lansing of late.] Pirsig has racked up some big time offers--Auburn, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, MSU, Ohio State, and Wisconsin to name a few. He took in Ann Arbor this past weekend and got a chance to talk with his potential position coach.
Right away we had a meeting with Coach Funk. We didn't watch tape or anything, but he gave me some history of the coaching staff and what he's done with offensive linemen. He went over the depth chart and his coaching style. He said they'll be running pro style but they're going to still run Denard. I think I definitely fit in that offense. Coach Hoke was talking with my dad and me. We didn't talk much about football, just about random stuff like two guys.
Pirsig came up on a off practice day so they weren't able to watch any actual coaching. That may not have been a negative though as it gave him more time to interact with the coaches.
We went in the Big House and it was pretty overwhelming walking out on the field. They gave us some facts and told us that they're planning on adding about 10,000 seats eventually. We got a tour of the locker room and the training room. I think this visit helped Michigan because I was just talking to the coaches, and now I can put faces and personalities to the name.
Jonah said he wants to narrow things down pretty soon, but he's not exactly sure when that will happen. Like he said, this visit helped Michigan but I have a feeling they still have work to do.
6'6", 260 lbs.
Williams has put together a nice offer list himself with Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, MSU, NC State, and WVU among the programs interested. AJ journeyed up to Ann Arbor with his father and both seemed to like what they saw.
It was great. I love the facilities and the way the coaches welcomed us in. I went with my dad and he loved it too. He loved how the coaches showed me how I would fit in and how they were honest about everything.
Williams was also up on a non practicing day, but there's always plenty of things to see and people to talk to.
We talked to Coach Hoke and he is a great guy. I love how cool he is with just talking about life and how it's not all about football. He was having a good talk with my dad. I would say this trip was a solid 9, and it helped Michigan.
This visit really seemed to make an impression on both AJ and his dad. He's not sure when he'll make his final decision, but he said it will be either before his football season or before his basketball season next year. After this visit Michigan has put themselves in good position.
Epic fark. There is a Jim Tressel Signing Things fark thread at TigerDroppings featuring frequent contributions from LSUFreek. There's an excessive quantity of lolbewbs but there are also gems like this:
Try to get that out of your head within the next decade.
Refinements. Frequent diarist the_white_tiger has started up his blog, Maize Colored Glasses, and one of his first posts is a refinement of the polynomial graphs purveyed on The Only Colors that show performance trends over the conference season. TWT increased the polynomial count—this allows more "turns" in the graph—and normalized for opponent performance.
Michigan's result won't surprise you but the way they got there might:
There might have been a very slight uptick in the offense; the defense got massively better. The really really high yellow spot on the graph was that Indiana blowout. Horrible team given many points == ugly. From there the turnaround was gradual improvement. I linked one of John Gasaway's "Tuesday Truths" column around the middle of the conference season to point out that Michigan was dead last in defense; the year-end numbers TWT is using show them squarely middle of the road (sixth).
My favorite other graph is Minnesota's:
There should be a vertical line at game seven labeled "Al Nolen explodes, season goes with it."
Burlon status. Brandon Burlon is tentatively expected to play at next weekend's Frozen Four:
After not being able to eat solid foods last week, losing close to 20 pounds and as a result having to sit out during the regional round of the playoffs. Brandon Burlon skated at Monday and Tuesday’s practices. He said he’s regaining the weight steadily.
Burlon said he expects to play next weekend, but a final determination has not been made.
Twenty pounds seems a little sensational. In any case, getting Burlon back would be huge as Michigan goes up against a Sioux team featuring the best—or, from Michigan's perspective, worst—aspects of the UNO and CC teams they beat to reach St. Paul. Like CC, they have a lights out top line. Hobey lock Matt Frattin is coring at a nearly goal-per-game pace. Like UNO, they have scoring depth. Six forwards have at least 13 goals, a couple more have eight, and two defensemen are putting up Moffie-like numbers. Getting Burlon back gives Michigan the defensive depth to match UND's forward depth.
Hypothetically, anyway. I've been looking at their stats for the past five minutes and feeling deeply unhappy.
The only lawyer in America. Someone on the board linked to an article about a lawyer discussing what's going down at Ohio State and if they can expect more than the wrist slap they've given themselves, and I just knew in my bones we were about to get a quote from…
“If I was representing a coach in that similar situation, I would advise my client to expect not only a show-cause order assessed against him or her, but also significant individual penalties that may cause their employer, which is the university, to either terminate their employment or some other significant employment action,” said Michael L. Buckner, of Pompano Beach, Fla., whose law firm specializes in representing schools and individuals before the NCAA. “I’d tell them they should be prepared for that.“
I like him so much more when he's producing alarmist soundbites about other teams.
Buckner-issued proclamations about Michigan's NCAA foofaraw turned out to be just that but media framing had a lot to do with that—see this article titled "Avoiding show-cause order a must for Michigan, Rodriguez" from Dave Birkett that has Buckner explaining that show-cause is bad, mmmkay, despite the fact that no one thought it was even vaguely plausible once the hype about the initial article was replaced by a general sense that it was crap. In that article Buckner has this to say:
“Michigan would have to make sure that Coach Rodriguez follows the show-cause order,” Buckner said. “If he’s found to have committed the failure to monitor, issued a show-cause order, and then he goes to West Virginia … and if he’s found to have failed to monitor in that case, than a show-cause order can be enhanced significantly."
Buckner said Michigan must “provide as much evidence as (it) can to defend Coach Rodriguez so that (it) can eliminate that failure to monitor allegation.”
“Whether or not you can actually do that” remains to be seen, he said.
There's a big gap between "if, if, if" in the latter article—it did turn out Michigan had enough to eliminate the failure to monitor allegation, for all the good that did for Rodriguez's employment prospects—and "expect not only a show cause but significant individual penalties."
FWIW, that's a Bruce Hooley article. Hooley's the guy who went ape on the radio about this whole thing and is apparently going whole hog in an effort to become a guy who makes money by being hated. He's not exactly unbiased.
BONUS: Eleven Warriors is totally right that Stanley McClover claiming he got cash from OSU and MSU isn't going to amount to anything, but I loved to imagine an Ohio State fan who was one of the legion saying "I remember when he decommitted, not surprised there was some funny business going on there" watching the HBO special and going from smug to outraged in the space of an anecdote.
BONUS BONUS: Tressel situation "totally unacceptable," OSU president says!
Oregon State president Ed Ray was executive vice president and provost at Ohio State in 2001, and had input into the hiring of Tressel. He’s now chairman of the NCAA executive committee, and told Rachel Bachman of The Oregonian that “this whole episode to me is beyond the pale. It’s totally unacceptable. I’m pretty disappointed and startled by it all.”
Goddammit, Sporting News headline writers. I hate you so much.
BONUS BONUS BONUS: Is it possible to see Rich Rodriguez these days and not think he's constantly fighting the urge to kill everyone in the room?
Three years ago I was a broken thumb away from a national championship game. I was a hero. I invented the spread offense.
Now everyone in two states hates me and thinks I'm retarded. A month ago I interviewed my replacement—who walked into Denard Robinson and Jim Tressel making my fake NCAA violations look like the Nobel Peace Prize—on television. Right this instant I'm staring at Jason Whitlock, surrounded by men in suits. Jason Whitlock. Suits. Whitlocksuits. whssiiisisfi
FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU /goes Falling Down on universe
"It is not often that you have to stare the death of your basketball program in the face". Matt Painter's flirtation with Missouri was an earth-shaking event for Purdue fans. For confirmation a quick check of the first two pages at Hammer and Rails will suffice. Open letter: check. Open thread soaring well past a thousand comments: check. Bolded quote: check. Wholesale demolition of your entire athletic department:
Check. The answer is pretty much "yes"; contained within the link is a more comprehensive explosion of an athletic department than you'll find anywhere. IU fans should bookmark it for future e-peen wars. It incidentally makes you go "whoah" halfway through:
Total Number of Big Ten Championships as of spring 2009:
Ohio State 185
Michigan State 81
Penn State 50
Nebraska 0 (obviously)
Michigan has a lot of sports and has been around a lot of years but holy crap, man. That doesn't even include hockey.
And now for a completely different tangent on Painter. I've been annoyed at Braves & Birds' theory that the Big Ten has been disappointing in football because it hires losers like Ron Zook and nuts like Tim Brewster over actual football coaches. Lately I'm just annoyed it's right. It's hard to dispute after the latest round of hires from the Richest Conference In The Universe is MAC and Mountain West guys with iffy records. None of these guys are Bobby Petrino.
Painter has been wildly successful. Missouri is locked into an abusive relationship with Texas and would have punched a swan to get into the Big Ten this summer. Their TV contract sucks. They have little cachet outside their home state. They do not have a network that drops by every once in a while to drop off a new diamond boat. If Purdue had been too cheap to keep him that would have been a stunning indictment of Purdue, and I think that would have bled over into the entire mentality of a conference that really expects people to call its conferences "Legends and Leaders."
As it is the fact that it was even close is a mild indictment.
[Ed: bump for Masters.]
For the last year and a half, one of the most exciting collegiate golfers in the Big Ten Conference has been Michigan Golf Team captain Lion Kim. In a little more than a week, Lion Kim is going to be, for at least for the month of April of 2011, the most famous Michigan athlete on Earth: as the reigning United States Amateur Public Links champion, Lion has been invited to play in the 2011 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. He will be watched by a billion viewers on the Masters' worldwide telecast, and untold millions in his birthplace of South Korea.
Lion was born in Seoul, Korea and emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was barely a year old, first living in New Jersey where his father operated a New York area business, and then to Lake Mary, Fla., where he worked seriously on his competitive golf game before accepting a golf scholarship to the University of Michigan.
In the summer of 2009, the Michigan golf team barely qualified for the NCAA Division I Golf Championships to be held at the Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, the historic site of numerous USGA and
The 2009 NCAA D-I Championships marked a sea change for collegiate golf; a new/retro format involved team-match play with teams grouped into brackets as in the NCAA basketball brackets. (For non-golfers, “match play” is where two golfers play against each other, counting whether each hole is won or lost. The Ryder Cup is a well-known team-match play format. “Medal play,” on the other hand, is the format that most
The 2009 NCAA Golf Championship also marked a turning point for Lion Kim and the Michigan Golf Team. After having barely qualified, they proceeded to go to the semi-finals, including a thrilling victory over a highly-ranked
From then on, Lion Kim has become one of the best players in college golf. He qualified for almost every major amateur event last summer, and in five grueling North Carolina July days at the Bryan Park Golf Course in Greensboro, Lion Kim won the United States Amateur Public Links Championship. By tradition every year, the USAPL winner, as well as the United States Amateur finalists and the winner of the British Amateur, are all invited to the Masters Tournament at Augusta.
I spoke to Lion last year; he was gracious to talk for a while as he was practicing for the Western Amateur at the Skokie Golf Club just outside of Chicago. At that time, he was looking back with satisfaction on his Masters-qualifying win in the
AP: Lion Kim clinches his final match in the USAPL, 6 and 5.
Section 1: Lion Kim welcome to MGoBlog and thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us while you’re playing in the Western Amateur.
Lion Kim: Yeah, no problem.
S1: First of all congratulations on the US Amateur Public Links, but also congratulations for what really now has been a great run for you for going on for a little bit more than a year now. How does it feel to be a national champion?
LK: You know, obviously it is an amazing feeling; never did I think this summer that I would win one of the biggest Amateur golf tournaments in the world. Not just in the US but one of the amateur tournaments around the world and I just feel very honored to be named a national champion and at the same time it’s very humbling because I realize that, you know, with this success obviously there is going to be some expectations now, and I enjoy those types of pressures and am really looking forward for the challenge ahead of me.
S1: Your own game, Lion, seems to have gone to a new level, at the same time that the Michigan Golf Team’s collective game has gone to a new level starting back last year at the NCAA’s at Inverness. Can you talk about that stretch of time for us?
LK: Well, yeah, I mean since then I obviously gained a lot of confidence at NCAA’s and but you know overall just, I gained so much confidence in Michigan Golf Program and the coaches and in my teammates and obviously what we were able to do at Inverness Golf Club was amazing but at the same time, honestly in my opinion I was not really surprised because I knew our team was really capable of accomplishing big things like that and ever since then you know I personally gained a lot of confidence through that experience and I just knew actually that week that I am a good player and I really start to believe in myself and ever since then I just kept working hard and am just very lucky that all of my hard work paid off at the US Public Links Championship because obviously with that win, you know, I get some cool invites to
S1: Yeah it is going to be a very, very cool year for you coming up. Any particular memories from your time at Inverness? I was there, and I happened to be standing next to Bronson Burgoon when he hit that gap wedge shot on the last hole of the last match which was pretty exciting. What are your memories of Inverness?
LK: I guess I mean it is tough not to pick my shot on 17 to close out the deal against
S1: Yeah. How did it feel to play in that new NCAA format at Inverness?
LK: Well very exciting obviously. You know in match play, anything can happen and to be honest with you, we were a good team that year but we weren’t a great team and
S1: Jack Nicklaus was very excited about that format and he thinks it is a great thing for college golf. He thinks it is a great thing for young golfers that want to be better golfers to get that experience in match play.
LK: Yeah I mean, I definitely agree with Mr. Nicklaus. I think that if you become a good match play player, if you’re a great match play player, it really means that not only are you a good golfer but you are just mentally tough because in match play you just really have to be tough because how I like to think of the match play is when I see our opponent plays good, you just need to play great. And if your opponent plays great, you’ve just got to play phenomenal golf. There is nothing to it, you got to do whatever it takes to beat your opponent and you know, you just have to answer. That is the type of attitude I have in match play and again going back to what Mr. Nicklaus said, it makes you a better player I think, when you play a lot of match play events.
S1: Yeah. Did you meet him when you were down there at Inverness?
LK: Yes, I was very lucky enough to meet him at the player’s dinner and I also actually have a picture that I took with him at the player’s dinner and it is hanging up on my wall, the picture is hanging up on my wall in my home in New Jersey. A very special moment.
S1: Fantastic thing, to get a picture with him. Well you’ll never forget that. I have my own picture of me caddying for him in 1973 when I was a 17 year old and he was at the peak of his powers then. At that time he was a few years younger than Tiger Woods is right now, so yeah you will love that picture forever. But I will tell you, Jack Nicklaus is a Buckeye through and through.
LK: Yeah I understood that. That is why it made it sweeter to even go up to him and say that I am Lion Kim and I play for the University of Michigan and he almost did not want to take a picture with me, but obviously he is a great man and it was just a fun thing I got from a little rivalry feeling between Ohio State and Michigan.
S1: Yeah, what is it like playing Ohio State in golf matches?
LK: You know obviously, it does not get as intense as it does in football. But we all know that Ohio State and Michigan have the best college rivalry. Maybe, in my opinion, the best rivalry in sports period. I mean it is just a fierce rivalry, but in golf, I mean Ohio State knows that they want to beat us really bad and same with us we want to beat them very bad. But at the end of the day know that we are friends and will be a gentleman and shake their hands, whatever the result is.
S1: We hear a lot about recruiting in football and basketball, but talk to us a little bit about recruiting in golf and about your own recruiting.
LK: Yeah, well you know I am a guy from Florida and everybody asked me why would I go to Michigan, going up north to play golf. You know when people or my buddies ask me that question, I say look -- plain and simple Jack Nicklaus went to Ohio State, Luke Donald went to Northwestern, Steve Stricker went to Illinois and I could go on and name all of these great players that have played school up in the Midwest or just north and you know I tell them that weather really should not be a factor and I understand golf is an outdoor sport but you know if you are really dedicated to the game and if you are really passionate you are going to find a way to improve no matter what the weather is like. That is the attitude that I have and since my first American home had been in New Jersey, I have seen the weather before and it was not really a surprise for me when I came up to Michigan.
S1: So, Joey Garber is coming down to Ann Arbor from Petoskey, he is really having a great summer too. He is out there in Chicago with you right now for the Western Am, right?
LK: Yes he is.
S1: And you have got one other teammate that has made the field at the Western?
LK: Actually there are four of us; including me and Joey, there is also Matt Thompson and Jack Schultz.
S1: (Laughs.) That’s good; you calling Joey your teammate already.
Yes. (Laughs.) Right; he is, yes!
S1: Joey is having a really good summer. I am not sure; did he qualify as an alternate for USAmateur qualifying?
LK: Yeah, he is the second alternate right now. I think he just fell a couple of shots short to make it. But he is an alternate, he still has hope.
S1: So, you're exempt for the USAmateur by virtue of your great win in the Public Links. You did not have to go through qualifying, right?
LK: After my win I actually called the US AM the following day and said I am scheduled to play in my qualifier in a week and I said, you know I am guessing I am exempt, and they said yes you are exempt and we will just take your name off of the qualifying list and the lady was really nice and she said you are already set and no worries about showing up to your qualifying time. Which was a good feeling because a lot of guys over the summer really, even no matter how bad, or how poorly they were playing in the summer I think every college kid’s goal in the summer really is to at least to play in the US Amateur. So, it is always in the back of our minds; Am qualifying. But for me luckily I won’t have to qualify for a couple of years.
S1: Well for those that are not quite as tuned to it as you and I might be, the USAmateur is obviously the premier national championship for amateur golfers but in the exact same breath you would mention the USAmateur Public Links Championship which you won this year.
S1: The Public Links is kind of interesting because it was started specifically by the USGA to provide a championship for players that weren’t members of private golf clubs.
S1: And honestly I will tell you Lion; before this interview with you I had never before seen the questionnaire form that you have to fill out for the Public Links. And they really do ask all of those questions about whether you are a member at a private club.
LK: Yeah, and you know what is funny is that they even call to make sure, they even call a club just to make sure that you are really not a member. The first year I qualified to apply for the Public Links, I sent in my application, got all of my travel arrangements ready and then someone from the USGA called me up and said, “Lion unfortunately you are not eligible to play in the Public Links yet because you did not get rid of your [Florida golf club] membership ahead of time...” What I learned then was that you have to go a full year without being a golf club member. And I had gotten rid of my club membership in high school because I was going away for college and obviously it would be a waste of money to spend the monthly payment when I am not going to be there for the majority of the year. So my dad figured well if I am not going to be there, then why bother paying all of this money. So we got rid of it. But yeah, it had been less than a year before that application. I mean they have some really strict rules, you know, they said you will be eligible for the next year, but not that year. So you’re right; they are very strict about that.
S1: Yeah, it is a really interesting thing. I do not know if you were aware of it, but the origination of the United States Amateur Public Links came about way back I think in the 1920s as a result of a guy from Detroit, it was James Standish who was later a President of the USGA and a member at the Country Club of Detroit who had the idea to start the Amateur Public Links; it is his name that is on the trophy. You will have to look at your trophy to see if you see his name there.
LK: (Laughs.) Really, okay.
AP: Lion Kim, holding the Standish Trophy following his USAPL win.
S1: So there is a nice little Detroit connection there for the Amateur Public Links, he would sure be proud to see a guy from the University of Michigan win it...
Yeah, so as a result of your win at the Public Links you are going to Augusta.
LK: Ha, yes, that is the plan. I did not get my official invitation yet, but that is usually the tradition, I think when you do win the USGA, Public Links or US, you get invited to the Masters.
S1: I think you will get your invitation in about February.
LK: Haha. Okay.
S1: They will mail it to you and obviously your Masters Invitation is probably going to go into a frame and go into your office someday.
LK: Yeah, I will definitely frame it for sure.
S1: Yes. So, tell me have you ever been to Augusta?
LK: No I haven’t. I have never even been to a practice round, never been to anywhere close to Augusta, the City of Augusta, period. So I am really looking forward to it. I plan on playing a practice round maybe in October. I look forward to going down there.
S1: Well I think that they will welcome you and they will be very, very happy to have you down there and you will get to see the Crow’s Nest.
LK: Yeah, hopefully. I think all the Amateurs get to stay at the Crow’s Nest so yeah I am looking forward to that too.
S1: So tell me who is going to caddy for you?
LK: I am not really sure yet. I mean, I have been asking a lot of my friends who have played there in the past and to be honest with you I am getting two kinds of advice. Some say you should take your dad or friend or a coach. Some people say you need to take a local caddy. But right now, I am not sure yet. I have not really made my decision. Obviously I will make my decision leading up to it, but I have a lot of time to really think about it. So, I am not really sure yet to tell you the truth.
S1: Sure, well when you go down there for a practice round, you may get a chance to meet some of the local caddies and they will surely be interested in you.
LK: Yeah, right, hopefully.
S1: You cannot believe how hilly it is. You just never see it on television. It just doesn’t show up on a two-dimensional television screen. The whole thing is on a big side hill from the clubhouse at the top of the hill going all the way down to the 12th green and 13th tee, which is the lowest part of the property down there by the Rae’s Creek. But the extent and the severity of the hills are just absolutely amazing. You have no idea, no appreciation until you see it live. So, it will be fun to go down there and see it for the first time.
LK: Hmm, yeah, really looking forward to it, very excited to see it.
S1: Well when you won the Amateur Public Links the first thing everyone was trying to think of was whether you would be the first University of Michigan team player to play in the tournament and as far as I have been able to tell, you are the first U of M student that will ever be a Masters’ participant. But there have been some other Michigan guys that have played in it over the years. As far as I can tell the last Michigan alum who played in it was John Schroeder back in the 1970s and 80s. Before that you have to go back to the 1930s when Chuck Koscis and John Fisher played in it as amateurs then.
LK: Yep, definitely heard of Chuck Koscis for sure.
S1: Yeah, great iron player.
LK: Yes, that is what I heard.
S1: So, equipment-wise, when you go down to Augusta you are going to have to play by the new groove rules. Is that going to require you to change out anything in your bag?
LK: Ah yeah; probably my wedges. I know for sure my current wedges do not confirm with the new rule [The
S1: That is exactly right.
LK: Yeah, so I think that equipment-wise I think that my wedges will be the only clubs in my bag that I would have to switch out. But you know what, I think that I could get used to [tour-conforming wedges] very quickly. I have always practiced and played a couple rounds with the conforming groove and I did not really see a whole lot of difference. So, it should not be a whole lot of transition for me.
S1: Does Coach [Andrew] Sapp help you guys with equipment?
LK: Yes, Coach Sapp does and also fortunately for me, before I got to college I had a relationship with Titleist, so they have been helping me out since high school and even throughout right now. So, Titleist is the club that I usually play with. I found a new Taylor Made driver that was something different that I have played with for a couple months, but I am pretty sure that I will have Titleist driver in my bag leading up to the Masters.
If you get a chance to talk to talk [former Assistant] Coach Doug [Gross] he will tell you how many equipment changes I have gone through in my Michigan career. He thinks that I have probably gone through about 18 drivers since I have been in school. That is quite a bit.
S1: Sure. The new Titleist drivers are very cool; they are finally going to an adjustable hosel sleeve design which is going to make it a lot more fun, a lot easier to work with. I think the tendency with all of the Titleist drivers that you have been using in the past is that with the way that the hosel bore was set so deep -- that bore-through design -- it sort of ate up a lot of the tip on the shaft and kind of, kind of changed the way that shafts felt.
S1: Well, lets do the lightning round here. I am going to ask you just a few fun questions, give me your fast answer, okay?
S1: Alright; your favorite place on the Michigan Campus, other than the golf course?
LK: Ahhh, Academic Center.
S1: (Laughs.) That’s a good start, Lion.
S1: Your favorite place to play golf anywhere?
LK: Ahh, I would have to go with Cypress Point in California.
S1: Oh, really you played there?
LK: Yeah, Coach Sapp and one of the Michigan alums, Tony Ridder, [he of the Knight-Ridder newspaper family] he invited the team to play at Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, San Francisco Golf Club and Spyglass.
LK: Yeah, we got to play some really nice tracks while we were down there. Beautiful, beautiful scenery.
S1: That’s nice. San Francisco Golf Club is seriously nice, too.
LK: Yeah, very nice, right.
Tony Ridder (far left) with the Michigan Golf Team and Coach Sapp (far right) on the first tee at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Lion Kim 3rd from right.)
S1: Okay, back to the lightning round. Your favorite website?
S1: What is on your Ipod?
LK: Korean music. The majority of them are all Korean music.
S1: That’s cool. What is the weirdest thing in your golf bag?
LK: So you warned me about this question, so I have been thinking about that, it is actually my baby oil --
S1: Oh, wait, I know that. That’s not so weird.
LK: (Laughter.) Haha, okay.
S1: I know that; you put baby oil on the finish of your Scotty Cameron putter. (Laughter.)
LK: Yes, correct, correct, it will rust.
S1: I have an old Scotty Cameron Oil Can Laguna, I have to put baby oil on that one as well.
LK: (Laughter.) Oh yeah, okay. Man you know a lot of stuff.
S1: (Laughter.) Well that is just the way that we take care of them, right?
LK: That’s right. (More laughs.)
S1: Well Lion Kim, thank you so much for taking time while you are in the middle of a competitive week. We are all wishing you luck in the Western Am, which is one of the great amateur tournaments in the Country and we wish you success in the US Amateur out there in Chambers Bay and we send you sincere congratulations and the pride of everybody at Michigan on winning the US Amateur Public Links and being Michigan’s National Champion in 2010.
LK: Thank you SO much. Thank you. It is very exciting and I feel very honored to always represent the block M everywhere I go, so it is an amazing feeling to be a National Champion of the year.
S1: Well, fantastic! Lion Kim Go Blue!
LK: Go Blue!
Lion Kim introduced at Michigan Stadium, September 18, 2010: