“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
Book update! Maple Street says that the book should be in bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble across Michigan, as well as newsstands at Meijer, Walgreens, and wherever fine book-magazine-preview-type things are sold. Should be arriving sometime this week. An excitable commenter inquired at the local Borders:
Borders in Ann Arbor just said that it hadn't been shipped to them yet and it would be at least a few more days before they had it. Hearing that, I broke down and ordered it online.
They are coming, I assure you. Anyone who sees one in the flesh, please let me know.
Amazon orderers are spooked by the projected ship dates (September?); Maple Street assures me that this is a fiction borne of Amazonian caution to not over-promise and under-deliver and that they will have the books shortly as well.
If you'd like to check out what the book actually looks like in the flesh, as it were, here's a PDF of the first half of SMQB's schedule preview.
I have been inundated with email (two pieces!) about this, so, yeah:
The photo proves a few things. One: It doesn't matter if you're 5'8" on a good day if you've got a jaw like that. And millions and millions of dollars. (Not only is Comrie a well-compensated NHLer but his father is the owner of a chain of Canadian furniture stores.) Two: holy hell Hillary Duff is tiny. I can't believe she can even lift her enormously oversized purse-type thing. Shouldn't she have a manservant or something?
That would be awesome. If I was preposterously wealthy and famous instead of getting all coked up my vice would be hiring a tiny elderly man from the Indian subcontinent to carry around things for me. Not even heavy things. Like, my cell phone. Because my jeans profile must not be disturbed, I say!
This appears to be a digression.
Schedule bits. As soon as a break in the ND series is dropped everyone wants in. Texas:
Two readers emailed me this morning with links to this story noting that both the Wolverines and Fighting Irish are seeking opponents for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. I've beaten the "please schedule tougher" horse to death by now, so I won't take the podium for that particular lecture again.
Instead, a quiet sigh of resignation as I note our current schedules for both seasons in question
Peter's actually got the years wrong, as it's 2012 and 2013 that are the open slot. Texas is very feasible.
As Hydrotech wrote before in our most controversial post to date, while it's rather unfortunate that while THE Ohio State University (seriously, what is up with that?) decided to cancel our series with them in 2012-2013, it does leave us with other opportunities. Like the opportunity to schedule a habitually underachieving Big Ten foe whose fans somehow got more riled up about our dis of Ohio State than their own fans did. Maybe it's an inferiority complex.
Still, just like Ragnarok suggested, our Bears have an open date in 2012. So do the Wolverines. The two haven't played since the 1950 Rose Bowl. And we are a national power from a major conference.
This would be great if this was true, but it isn't. Cal's not even a Pac-10 power: the Bears' last Rose Bowl was in 1959. The reason Jeff Tedford is such a sexy candidate for the hypothetically open Michigan job is that he's managed to drag Cal into respectability. Next.
Doug Karsch got on the radio -- I did not actually hear this, but have seen it multiple places on the message boards -- and said that Michigan was looking at Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and the big three in Florida. FWIW.
Meanwhile, I will enjoy watching the pretzel logic from a certain genre of Notre Dame fan that turns this Bill Martin quote on its head:
"Certainly, we will be playing them; we'll never discontinue playing with Notre Dame," Martin said. "We may take breaks now and then so that we can add other prominent programs to our schedule."
Szzzzabo. Brief excerpt from a GBW interview with Steve Szabo with interesting bits. Graham and Thompson lead for their spots at the moment. Szabo on Austin Panter:
Spring was rough for Austin. He played eight-man football in high school in Kansas and then went to junior college out there. He doesn't have a vast background in 11-man football. He struggled in the spring, but I think he'll come back a different man this fall. He's become acclimated to the university and his teammates and I think he'll come back much more competitive in the fall."
Yikes. On Thompson:
John's got to step up to the plate. He's got a ways to go, but I'm often reminded by the coaches of some comments that I made last spring about David being a little mediocre (laughing). Thompson is the same way. He's not a house hold name right now, but you never know with how hard he'll work.
I am not particularly assured at the moment.
This will be next to Yost next fall.
Click for big. Construction info here. All the windows are reflective. Curses! Foiled again.
Etc.: Lake The Posts is counting down the top games in Northwestern football history. They've reached #6. You
probably don't want to read about it. And you definitely don't want to read the Anthony Thomas fumble one, whenever that is.
Two sentences in I gave up and just started trying to include as many abbreviations as possible.
A couple days ago EchoStar, the owner of Dish Network, filed a request for the FCC to rule the Big Ten Network a "regional sports network." The Big Ten thinks is for stupids:
The Big Ten Network reiterated Wednesday that it is a national, not regional, sports network and called EchoStar's suggestion it was not a "brazen attempt to increase its negotiating leverage."
This is a tricky tightrope for the Network to walk, because the whole reason it's a big deal whether or not the BTN is an RSN is because RSNs are such a BFD that the FCC has a special carveout in their regulations for them. The ever-helpful Hoosier Report highlights the relevant sections of the legislation. The gist is that when News Corp, the multi-tentacled Rupert Murdoch corporation, bought a way to distribute programming one of the conditions of the sale was the imposition of this arbitration process for various things for which there exist no substitutes, like regional sports.
If the Big Ten Network is declared an RSN they're subject to binding arbitration over just how much it costs. So even if you're all about the Big Ten Network you probably want them to lose this scuffle, as then EchoStar has the option of binding arbitration, i.e. the network gets put on the air. I don't know if cable companies would follow suit (if they even have the option to), as they seem to want to avoid the whole idea of the BTN entirely.
Is the BTN an RSN? Dunno. Neither does THR, but the cited post above takes a crack at it anyway:
I haven't read closely enough to have much of an opinion. A quick read does suggest that my prior discussion of the difference between an RSN and a national network may not have been completely out to lunch. The FCC does seem to assign some significance to the geographically restricted nature of the pro sports programming on RSNs. In the case of pro sports, the geographical restrictions are at the behest of the leagues; for the BTN, while the actual demand is dramatically higher in the right state region, the BTN allows and actually wants people outside the footprint to watch the games, too. Is this distinction meaningful? I don't know, maybe I'll look deeper, but not today.
Mark Silverman is president of the Big Ten Network and, apparently, is on a sort of media -- any media -- blitz as the saber-rattling between the BTN and cable operators reaches its peak in the month before D-Day. Exhibit A: this interview at Peegs.com. (HT: The Hoosier Report.) Exhibit B: the BTN office reached out to me and asked if I would like to have an interview with Silverman.
The ensuing scramble to get some sort of recording capability came up empty -- I shake my fist at you, Skype -- and so I spent a lot of time frantically transcribing. Some quotes may not have 100% fidelity as a result, but they all communicate Silverman's intent fairly. Anyway...
I started by reading Mr. Silverman a quote that was highlighted in an earlier editon of UV:
"We're well on our way toward ensuring that roughly half the subscribers to smaller cable systems across the Midwest have better access to their favorite Big Ten schools and teams than anytime in history."
This seemed a worrisome scaling back of ambition, albeit one that could have been taken out of context. Silverman did confirm that the fears generated by that quote were unfounded: "The point was more specifically referring to the smaller companies. By no stretch is that any sort of implication about the larger companies."
As the conversation progressed, this became clear: the Big Ten is not and has not reduced its goals. They are no more backing down than any of the cable operators are. In fact, when I asked whether there was a backup plan if basic tiers were not possible Silverman repeatedly stated the Big Ten Network is "not deserving of a sports tier" and that they needed to be "sure the network was launched appropriately," then dropped something of a bombshell: if cable operators in the footprint are not willing to put the channel on a basic tier they won't be permitted to carry it at all. This is an all-or-nothing gambit, and this is why Silverman got in contact.
"It means more access. Martin wants to build the school, to build the exposure. The more you can put it on, the more you showcase these universities and make them seen nationally. It's a great exposure tool for the school in general and for the conference."
(Silverman did confirm that they were way more flexible outside of the footprint, willing to accept placement on sports tiers for a lesser fee than that charged by ESPNU or CSTV. Ironically, if you're in Phoenix you have a better chance at having the channel available than Ann Arbor.)
Said gambit is either brilliant or insane depending on whether it works, a real Schroedinger's cat situation. I don't think I have to convince anyone who reads this blog that having the BTN on basic cable is good for both Michigan fans and the University itself. The more revenue the channel generates, the better positioned the Big Ten is in the ongoing filthy lucre wars between conferences, and, frankly, I'd probably watch the BTN a ton.
One thing that Silverman did convince me of is that the universally used -- for scorn -- comparable, the NFL Network, isn't comparable at all. Despite the fact that the NFL is the King Kong of American sports, their network had eight games all year. The rest of their schedule is like highlights and analysis and, basically, junk. The BTN is going to have multiple football games every week plus a ton of basketball games, and act as an ESPN Classic for the conference. (Except without the suck.) The sheer number of televised events makes it comparable to a Fox Sports Net, not the NFL network. The problem, of course, is that a local FSN has a ton of events guaranteed to be high profile and laser focused on wherever it's distributed; meanwhile a Purdue-Indiana football game may not be of extreme interest in Wisconsin or Michigan. Silverman acknowleges this:
"There's a lot of confusion because there's not an exact comparable, but if you look at local and regional networks â€“ most of which are owned by Comcast â€“ and it's significantly less. None of their networks are on a sports tier."
This is true. A brief listing of Comcast-owned RSNs:
- Comcast Sports Chicago: $3.75
- Comcast Sports Philadelphia: $3.10
- Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic: $2.50
- Comcast Sports Northwest: $2.00
- Sportsnet NY (Time Warner -- Mets): $1.80
All of these channels are on expanded basic, as are Versus, the Golf Channel (THE GOLF CHANNEL), and something called CSS Sports, a southeastern channel whose main attraction is single-A baseball and SEC games... on tape delay. That is in six million homes, about what the Big Ten Network's projected footprint is. The "Northwest" edition of Comcast Sports is especially egregious because their entire programming lineup is 50 Blazers games. That's it. Evidently Comcast doesn't care about the "Blazers tax" they're imposing on Oregon, nor the "Tape Delayed SEC tax" on the southeast or the "Frickin' Golf And Not Even Interesting Golf tax" currently being deployed on virtually everyone.
The Big Ten Network's widely reported $1.10 -- a number Silverman said was "probably ballpark" but, oddly, one that he'd "never confirmed" -- doesn't seem out of whack at all in relation to those numbers. Sure, it's probably not worth anywhere near what channels full of NBA/MLB/NHL games are, but they aren't asking for a price near that, and they are providing everything they have at the basic carriage price:
"There's two networks, an HD network and a regular one, a VOD [video on demand -ed] one, and all these overflow channels that we're offering for free. Comcast is going to get a ton of new HD subscribers because all these new games are on that weren't in HD."
(It is possible this is SOP for cable networks and this is not really a point in their favor, though I do think the HD point is cromulent.) Silverman made it clear that the BTN wasn't married to $1.10, but if cable operators were going to stall on placement on basic cable there would be no discussion:
"If they said 'it's on basic,' then we're off to the races. I have to believe it's posturing. I can't believe they're going to hang their hat on that. You can't even have a legitimate conversation on price until you agree on what level of service you're talking about."
At some point he asked me what I thought -- hey, who's doing the interview here? -- and I said I felt like a pawn, then accidentally got off a pithy quote: "it seems like your leverage is our outrage." It does feel like we fans are caught in a Mexican standoff, except both guns are pointed at our collective head. And instead of a gun we have a rubber chicken. Any trigger-pulling will be a mutual act of our two antagonists, but Comcast's rife hypocrisy shouldn't be obscured by the Big Ten's PR-deaf commissioner.
Will the trigger get pulled? Don't know. Neither does Silverman:
"It's going to go on for a while there. We hope to convince them to carry it on a basic level. I do think we'll get it on the air. But... I don't know. We definitely have some work ahead of us."
Hockey Aside: I asked what the hockey coverage was looking like, and he said there would be "ten to fifteen games" on the network this fall and that they would be "above and beyond" the current coverage provided... probably. Obviously hockey isn't A-1 on his priority list, so he wasn't 100% up to date on their projected coverage. Since Minnesota and (I think) Wisconsin have very good TV packages with their local Fox Sports affiliates I assume most of those
would be Michigan/Michigan State/Ohio State games. Hopefully some will be, you know, on the road.
For the record:
(Sidenote: The announcement about his pending announcement was premium message board only 31337 stuff this afternoon. Which is, like... what? Eventually people are going to figure it out. It's on TV.)
There is a book:
This book contains some 15,000 words of mine on Michigan's coming season and their zone running game. The remainder of the words are the work of fine people like Dave from Maize 'n' Brew, Russ Levine of Football Outsiders and The New York Sun, Vijay from IBFC, Michael from Braves and Birds, Joel Pennington, author of the The Ten Year War, Brian Stouffer from The House Rock Built Matt Hinton of Sunday Morning Quarterback, Peter Bean from Burnt Orange Nation -- Mallett, natch -- and Johnny from RBUAS. It is a veritable smÃ¶rgÃ¥sbord of bloggy goodness in book form.
I can't reproduce the whole book for you, but here follow three excerpts to tantalize and amaze.
The Zone Stretch
My excursion into explaining our running game. With some sweet diagrams.
The most important thing on the stretch is to get all the "first level" defenders blocked. Normally these are defensive linemen, who can shoot into the backfield and force the running back to waste time before he gets to the line of scrimmage, but a blitzing linebacker makes himself a first level defender. And sometimes defensive linemen aren't considered first level, usually backside defensive ends who are suffered to run free so that the tackle lined up over him can instead block a second level defender. Our first play features a first level defender suffered to run amok.
It's Michigan's opening drive of the Notre Dame game. Michigan already leads 7-0 after Prescott Burgess's interception return touchdown. On first down, the Wolverines run a zone stretch to the left side of the line for four yards. Facing second and six, they line up in a three-wide ace set (for those who haven't wasted significant swaths of their lives playing EA NCAA Football, an ace set features one tailback lined up behind a quarterback under center as opposed to an I-formation, which has a fullback lined up in front of the tailback). They're going to run another zone left. Notre Dame sticks with seven guys in the box. Please see Figure 1 for the presnap alignment.
On a zone stretch the line moves in unison to one side or the other, blocking whoever they find in their area. But a rote adherence to this concept can leave first-level defenders unblocked. On this play, defensive tackle Derek Landri is shaded to the playside, lined up over the gap between the center and the guard. Asking a center to snap the ball and then get his helmet across a player who is already a step ahead of him is asking for a defensive tackle in the backfield. With the defensive end and outside linebacker shaded to the outside themselves, left guard Adam Kraus has no one in his zone. He could help out on Landri, but he doesn't, instead stepping left into his vacant zone and immediately going out to the second level to block the middle linebacker. Figure 2 shows the actions of all participants immediately after the snap.
Bihl's left alone to block Landri; this works about as well as you might expect. Landri shoots into the backfield, right into the path of Hart. Hart being Hart, he dodges the charging lineman, but the play's timing has been disrupted. The unblocked Abiamiri wraps Hart up for no gain. Figure 3 shows the play's result. It's not a good one. Michigan is stopped for no gain.
The frustrating part of this play for an offensive coordinator is that it was blocked wonderfully aside from the slip up on Landri. By the time Hart was being tackled, Trevor Laws, Notre Dame's other tackle, had been driven five yards downfield by the Riley-Mitchell double team. Riley then completed his zone block by peeling off and hit the outside linebacker. Kraus took out the middle linebacker... if he had just managed to get Landri sealed before he did so Hart would have had a major crease, as you can see in Figure 3.
On the ensuing third and medium, Chinedum Ndkuwe intercepts Henne and returns the ball inside the five, giving Notre Dame their one brief moment of hope in the midst of a wholesale beatdown.
One Last Run
I know this is cruel, to give you an RBUAS article and snatch it away mere paragraphs in, but baby needs to eat.
He sat in his chair with a posture his mother would have scolded him for, his shoulders slumped defiantly forward, his hands hidden beneath a table covered with silver and black tape recorders. He looked like he'd got a haircut recently (perhaps, because, like the first day of high school and dates with pretty ladies, games against Ohio State are worth going to the barbershop for), and though he was not there to talk about things I wanted to hear, it was comforting to see that he'd done so, to see that he revered and cherished this merciless game enough to look nice for it.
It was a little while after Michigan had lost to Ohio State by a score my fragile mind has chosen to forget, and Mike Hart was sitting in a room answering questions which only sought to explain why, specifically, it was that Michigan had lost the most colossally significant game of each of its player's lives â€“ to their nemesis, less than 48 hours after their monarch's heart had stopped beating.
Defeated men in this position choose to walk down one of two dusty paths. On one path he will sit motionless, his face still; so miserable that each question collapses to the ground like a paper airplane sailed into a stone obelisk. He is a man of a conquered will; competitive and visibly exhausted, and talking to a room of men he thinks have never played the game he bleeds for, never fought the men he just fought. It's useless, he thinks â€“ they don't understand. His responses are brief and he wants to go home and close his eyes. I think this is the man I saw when I would watch Lamarr Woodley talk after Michigan lost.
The other man will offer platitud
es lauding the other team and how "they were just a little bit better," than he was. He's detached from the game outside of the moments he's playing it and those he's preparing for it. He's far too content with his fate, and the fact that those who have defeated him know he thinks they are superior. To him, a battle is not necessarily lost, because the entire sport is in a struggle together.
But Mike Hart is not like either of those men. He will never give up on himself, and he will never submit to anyone else. It's doesn't matter to him that people know by now he's one of the best college football players in the whole damn country. Or that when his legs churn against the ground as hard as they do on every third and two you almost wonder if the Earth's rotation has slowed a bit. Mike's only known of a world in which he has everything left to prove; he's never known of anything he didn't have to claw for until his fingernails wore down to the cuticle. So you must understand that if someone had told me about a player in the press room who wanted a rematch and couldn't stop talking about how good Michigan was and how good Ohio State wasn't, I would have hesitated only to wipe the grin off my face. Because that man will always be Mike Hart, our Mike Hart.
Those Who Stayed Were Champions
Joel Pennington draws from his extensive interview sessions with Bo undertaken for The Ten Year War to review Bo's legacy.
Bo was born and raised in Barberton, Ohio. And although baseball was his favorite sport as a kid, his talents were better suited to football. "I always pictured myself being a major league pitcher," Bo said. "But reality took care of that. I was much better at football than baseball and wanted to be a tailback, but reality took care of that too. I asked my high school coach where he needed help the most and he said offensive guard. So that's where I played. I found out that I really enjoyed the intricacies and nuances of offensive line play and I worked my butt off trying to perfect my technique. Physically, I was only average at best. But my technique was good enough to get me a scholarship to Miami of Ohio to play for Sid Gillman."
Following his sophomore year at Miami, Bo's life was forever changed when Gillman left for Cincinnati and a man named Woody Hayes became his new coach. "It's hard to describe what an adjustment that was," Bo recalled. "Woody and Gillman were totally different. Woody was a brutal task master. But something just clicked between us and I ended up spending almost as much time with him as his coaches. He'd call me to play racquetball at all hours of the day or night or we'd spend hours looking at film. He was consumed by football, and I think he recognized the same trait in me."
After Bo graduated from Miami, Woody Hayes took over the Ohio State program and Bo followed him as a graduate assistant for one season before doing his time in the army. His army term was followed by stints at Presbyterian College, Bowling Green, and Northwestern under legendary coach Ara Parseghian. Finally, in 1958, Woody had a spot open on his staff and brought Bo back to Columbus.
"I learned so much as Woody's assistant." Bo explained. "I was like a sponge. I tried to absorb everything I could about how to organize and run a major program. Working with Woody certainly wasn't always easy, but it was an amazing learning experience. Those five years at Ohio State really cemented my relationship with Woody. In 1963, Miami was looking for a new coach and I told Woody I was going after it. He told me I couldn't leave because he would only coach for a few more seasons and then I would take over at Ohio State. Well, I really wanted the Ohio State job, but I knew Woody wasn't going anywhere soon. And I also knew that Woody wouldn't be able to just name his successor. So I went to talk to Dick Larkins, the Ohio State athletic director, and told him that Miami had offered me the job. He just said, 'You'd better win.' He knew that I wanted the Ohio State job and that this might be an opportunity to prove myself. But things didn't quite work out that way."
In addition to the above articles, the book contains:
- An extensive preview of the team, position-by-position, player by player, by moi.
- SMQB breaks down each of our opponents except ND and OSU, because...
- said opponents are covered in their own full fledged articles by Tom Orr and Brian Stouffer.
- Peter Bean's article on Mallett complete with comparisons to Paul Bunyan by local talent evaluators.
- Ten recruits you should know.
- Dave from Maize 'n' Brew's recap of the Henne era to date.
- Two ridiculously researched articles from Vijay and Michael; Vijay compares DeBord to Malone and finds evidence for the infamous "scoring offense" while Michael takes a look at the correlation between Michigan's experience and its on-field success.
- Christopher P. Anderson on Jim Harbaugh's rapid rise to the Stanford HC position, complete with speculation about whether he'll be the new HC here. Yes, written before his multiple outbursts. Still a great article.
- Russ Levine on Lloyd Carr.
- Joel has a second article, this one on the 1973 voting controversy that jacked Michigan out of the Rose Bowl.
- Lots of pretty pictures. Seriously, it's a gorgeous book.
You are probably asking yourself "just six easy payments of 19.95"? And, like, no way, man. That is way too much for a book. You have no idea how much books are supposed to cost. It is way less than that. You can find it at Maple Street's online store or (probably) anywhere fine football publications are sold. Sometimes people ask how they can help out this blogging endeavor; this would be a good way.
Game of the Century of the Year. We had a #1-#2 matchup last year that didn't work out so well. If voters see fit to place Michigan #2 to start the year, we'll have another: Appalachian State is #1 in I-AA. Slightly higher probability we come out on the right end of this one.
Meme of irritation. As mentioned over the weekend, the Michigan-ND series is taking a break in 2012. The exact quote that contains all knowledge about this AFAIK:
White said the Fighting Irish will take a short break from their Big 10 rivals in the future, replacing Michigan with Oklahoma for a two-year period, then facing Arizona State instead of Michigan State for two years.
It's explicitly two years and with a direct replacement. But this Irish fan in the comments says:
To back up ChrisND, supposedly UM wanted ND to play in the Big House two years in a row to shift to having ND at home and OSU away/ND away and OSU at home each year. The same thing could have been accomplished by playing two years in a row at ND, but that was not discussed. One thing as well, as this would have the same effect on ND with the UM and USC games (similar to UM's case). I enjoy playing UM, despite the recent blowouts in recent history, the series is relatively balanced over recent history. (NOTE: THIS IS NOT A CALL FOR SEVERAL FOLLOW UP POSTS RECALLING HISTORY FROM THE 1800s).
Chris Wilson also has this version of the story:
And here's MGo's rather comprehensive PSU preview, although there's little mention of the Wolverines basically forcing the Irish to drop them by asking for two straight games in the Big House.
The more insecure portions of the Irish blogosphere are repeating this ad nauseam as further proof that Michigan is the root of all galactic evil. I call BS. If ND was willing to accommodate Michigan's request to split the ND/OSU home-road rotation, the simplest solution is to take a single year off and then resume the series as before. Demanding two consecutive home games makes no the sense.
Where is this coming from? Does anyone have a link to someone reporting this or is it just a face-saving fantasy based on that old Bill Martin interview in which he said "we want to keep playing Notre Dame" and Notre Dame fans immediately assumed that meant we were going to back out of the series as fast as possible? The meme is spreading rapidly through the ND internet population and is poised to be an annoying urban -- er, rural Indiana legend as the series break nears.
Also, you can file this under "easily predictable": Kyle King flips out and renews his push for a Georgia-Michigan series. I would be up for that. Also, if Alabama's looking for a high profile opponent at around the same time...
Red quotes. I don't remember where I got these; apologies to whoever I stole them from. Probably WCH. Anyway, a couple weeks ago CSTV had some NHL draft-related articles that quoted Red. Red on goalies:
"You rarely find a 19- or 20-year old goalie playing in the NHL, whereas you will find the odd 18- or 19-year old forward," said Michigan head coach Red Berenson, who's seen Wolverine goaltenders Steve Shields and Marty Turco make it to the NHL since he took the reins at his alma mater in 1984. "The forwards, you can get away with their mistakes, and play them when they're younger. Defensemen, their mistakes are more important, and it takes them longer, and goalies' mistakes are critical. Look around the history of the NHL and find me a rookie goalie who's 18 or 19 years old who's on a winning team."
He maintains his longstanding opposition to early-entry:
Berenson's thoughts on that sort of development plan for a goalie don't differ much from his long-held views on skaters signing early when they aren't NHL-ready.
"Are you ready, as a college player, to give up your senior year to play in the American League?" Berenson asked. "If you are, then you're thinking differently than I am. If I were a goalie, I'd go to college, and I'd stay for four years, and I would get as ready as I can for pro hockey, but even then, I would expect I might have to play a year or two in the minors."
Elliot Olshansky also has this incendiary quote on his, um, slog(?):
"The NHL [teams] are becoming the biggest enemies of college hockey," Berenson said. "They're afraid of losing players that they draft, so they're signing them early whether they're ready or not. They're saying that they're going to take over the development - which the NHL hasn't necessarily been good at - but they're going to take over the development of these young players."
Rules and such. Also from a couple weeks ago was a whole bevy of potential rules changes coming down the pike for college hockey. Yost Built has summaries and opinion. In brief:
- A two-ref, one-linesman system starting in '08. Wha? Weird. Unless they're planning on slapping orange bands on several linesmen I don't know that college hockey has enough referees. I mean... there are referees out there but they're the sort of referees who would get fired from the never-ever league. See: Scott Hoberg.
- The elimination of ties starting in '08. Overtime would get modified to make scoring more likely in the extra session, possibly extended to ten minutes, and then a shootout would follow. I'm indifferent to this.
- They're thinking about changing the handpass rule but don't know how yet.
- The addition of an "embellishing" penalty that's supposed to be called concurrently with an opponent penalty; a dive should now only be called on its own. Won't have much effect on the game but will prevent my head from imploding when the dive-obstruction duo is called.
Yost Built, as mentioned, has more.
(Side note: Yost Built also offhandedly mentions that the NHL is implementing a new rule: all faceoffs come from one of the nine faceoff dots. This is an excellent change that gets rid of those silly faceoffs just inside the offensive zone that when "won" instantly put everyone offsides and force a dump-in. It also provides one fewer thing for the referees to track. College should follow suit.)
More Adidas. Since the shoe company is probably going to get a lot more mention amongst Michigan fans please note that it's not "adidas" even if the company refers to itself as that. It is a proper noun and should be presented as such. END angry grammar man section.
So, here's Nike with an offer they say would be the highest contract they have in college sports, and I'm still concerned, because these are long-term deals. How ever I set this up is going to impact this place for a long, long time. The long and short of it is, we were very fortunate with our timing. Adidas was hungry to have a major college bra
nd and they laser focused on us. If you look at their strategy, they take one or two schools in every conference, and that's it, whereas Nike tries to saturate the country with all schools. (Adidas) has Tennessee, Notre Dame, UCLA and Wisconsin. Everybody has said Notre Dame has the richest Adidas contract, but you can't get it, because it's a private institution. I know this contract exceeds it.
I'll name some of the unique features in this contract. There is a $6.5 million signing bonus. There is never a signing bonus. We're going to get it in two weeks. What am I going to use it for? I have to finish up this facility stuff and get Crisler going. If I had any spare bucks, it'd go into endowing scholarships. It's pretty simple.
We've got an annual (Consumer Price Index) escalator. Annual.
We got a most favored program clause. There's never going to be an Adidas school that gets a nickel more than us, either in product or money.
But wait, there's more:
The other thing we received is that ... you know, markets go in cycles. Eight years from now, who knows what the situation is going to be economically. The market may be way below where it is now. I've seen that happen in my business career. Well, guess what? We have the option to extend. It's no lose. If the market's gone up, we negotiate a new deal. If the market's gone down, we say we like this deal and we'll keep it another five years.
A sweet deal all around for Michigan. Whenever you sign a contract and one of your main rivals' message boards has a week-long conniption fit over it, you have done well.
There's some stuff about Crisler in there and then a discussion of this month's looming issue:
Q: You talked about Big Ten revenue. Are you concerned about the rough waters the Big Ten Network finds itself in? (The new network is struggling to get picked up by major cable operators in the Midwest)
Martin: We anticipated this. Jim Delany counseled us on this a year ago. Fox counseled us on this. Do I think it will get resolved? Sure I do. One way or another, we'll get it resolved. I feel very good about it. Long term, it's going to be tremendous, and I'm not thinking in terms of the money, I thinking about exposure.
We want it on basic (cable). We don't want it on a premium sports tier. The Golf Channel, Versus, they're on basic. What we're going to provide is much more exciting to our state and region.
Q: Are you prepared for a flood of angry e-mails if some football games aren't on the local cable outlet this fall because a deal hasn't been reached?
Martin: Join the list (laughs). I don't fret about that stuff. We'll be fine. This is exciting, what's happening in the Big Ten with that channel.
Q: Are you concerned it's become a public fight?
Martin: I don't like seeing it. I don't.
Negotiations with Dish Network do not appear to be going well. Their parent company has petitioned the FCC to get the BTN declared a "Regional Sports Network." Apparently there is some sort of arbitration process that RSNs go through with satellite providers or something. Argument:
EchoStar claimed that after three months of negotiations, it has been unable to strike a carriage deal with Big Ten Network "due to its insistence on unreasonable terms, including rates that are far above market, and its demand for nationwide carriage on EchoStar's basic tier."
The No. 2 direct-broadcast satellite provider claimed that Big Ten Network is trying to position itself as a national network, not an RSN, so that it can "evade the RSN classification so that it will not be subject to the arbitration provisions" of the News Corp.-Hughes order, which only applies to RSNs.
"Although the Big Ten Network has held itself out as a national network, its programming, pricing structure and other aspects of its business model are consistent with an RSN, not with a national network," EchoStar said in its filing.
"In particular, the pricing and packaging structure proposed by the Big Ten Network is comparable to that of a traditional RSN and bears little relation to the greatly reduced pricing structure of existing national college-sports-based networks, e.g. CSTV and ESPNU," the filing said.
The BTN counters by saying that it only wants the widely-cited $1.10 figure for subscribers in the BTN footprint and is asking less than a tenth of that for everyone else. Do we have an expert in the peanut gallery who can provide more detail on this? I'm not sure what all the implications are here.
The Hoosier Report also points out this Q&A with a Time-Warner exec from the same cable/satellite industry publication:
MCN: At this point, as you're looking at both of those networks, do you see them as being sports-tiered networks in terms of their value? You mentioned that you're not getting complaints with the NFL Network, but the Big Ten's a little different. You have systems that represent markets where Big Ten schools are and there might be a great desire among those subscribers [to be able to watch] that network.
BW: Well, I think that, again, it's a real assessment as to what we think the value is that the content brings to our consumers. There's no question that there are fans of the NFL, hockey, the Big Ten, tennis â€” there are fans of every sport you can find.
I think striking the right balance is the question. Of course, we're in the business of providing video content, so the most compelling offering is going to be able to offer our consumers everything they could possibly want. If bandwidth were unlimited, we would do that at the right price, and let the right people pay for it that want to pay for it.
So I think that â€” particularly for sports programming where they're looking for high payoff â€” we have to be responsible about figuring out who's going to pay for that. And I don't think that that burden should be borne by the breadth of customers.
Particularly, the Big Ten is an interesting one only because they've kind of cast themselves in a hybrid of a regional sports network and a national service. But you'd probably be hard-pressed to find a regional sports network with an eight-state core market. But we're still evaluating, and we have an open door with respect to every programmer who wants to do business we us, so we're talking to them and evaluating, and trying to determine where our customer sets are.
More BTN later today.
Etc.: Maize 'n' Brew previews the hell out of Oregon.