[Ed: MCalibur, apparenly an economist found himself collateral damage on today's shotgun blast at "X is stupid" sports economists. Maybe I should have come up with a label like "freakonomists" so as to not implicate people who are just interested in the numbers without the look at me pub. Anyway, here's an excellent diary on what your goals should be on second and third down. Implications for a second and medium are interesting.]
A while back The Mathlete sent out a Thundercat signal for some help shucking data for his database; at least that’s how I remember it. Any un-lame kid of the 80’s knows that when you see the Thundercat Crest you put on your spiked suspenders, pick up your laser shooting panther paw nun chucks, jump into the tank you built singlehandedly, and you roll; that’s all there is to it. I had no choice.
Anyway, we voltroned* our abilities together and came up with something pretty sweet. I have put together my own database, with Mathlete’s help, and can now do some of the same tricks he can. I’ve focused onto BCS-BCS matchups extending the thought of excluding mismatches; Michigan v. Eastern Michigan is still a significant mismatch.
*Oops, wrong cartoon but, then again, you simply cannot over-reference 80’s cartoons/shows. I pity the fool that disagrees. I feel bad for youngins that don’t know the glory of 80’s children’s programming. Also, am I the only one who thinks that Voltron and Zoltan might be related?
When I’m not eliciting unreasonable responses from otherwise reasonable people, I’m usually crunching numbers of some kind as if they were a motley band of mutants and aliens led by a grody and ancient mummy demon priest. Very often the numbers have something to do with football in general and, most often, Michigan football specifically. This time I wondered “how do we know if a play was successful or not?” This question has been asked and answered by some smart people before, but being the curious little twit that I am, I wanted to gauge it on my own.
One way to go about it is Mathlete Style: Expected Points, a good but abstract method. One potential problem with focusing on EP is that doing so can drive you to scoring points where as the real goal is to win. It’s a subtle but important distinction. Depending on the situation, maximizing EP might not be the same as maximizing the probability that you will win. Maybe you would rather not score if doing so means giving Peyton Manning the ball back with 25 seconds left and less than a 1 score deficit. Besides, The Mathlete has this beat covered.
Another method is to use 1st Down Probability, the likelihood that a team will convert a new set of downs given the current down and distance. I think this is more appropriate to the microcosm of a play because the goal of a play is not necessarily to score it is to keep the ball and move it forward, in that order. Scoring is the goal of an entire drive. To calculate 1DP, you do the same thing you would to derive EP, except you keep track of first downs instead of points.
Whenever you have a mountain of data, you need a way to focus your attention on what matters while still maintaining the value of having so much data in the first place. For this study, I’ve filtered on the following criterion:
- Exclude plays involving a penalty of any kind.
- The game must be close. My arbitrary definition is: all plays in the first and second quarter, third quarter plays where the lead is less than 17, and fourth quarter plays where the lead is less than 10. These values are arbitrary, but there are so many plays available that the sample sizes are still large enough that any additional precision is of negligible value. Also, any unimportant plays are swarmed by a large number of plays that are important, then math deals with the noise.
- Results of the play are limited to –10 and +25 yards. The logic here is two fold. On the negative side, the average sack is good for about 6 to 8 yards, anything bigger than that is a fluke play (botched snap for example). On the positive side, most plays aren’t designed to go for huge gains. However, there are instances when an OC calls a play like that in order to exploit an advantage and not necessarily as part of a base strategy. Though relatively infrequent, both types of plays happen with enough regularity that they significantly shift the averages even though they are vastly outnumbered by more typical gains. This filter only excludes about 0.5% of all plays to the negative side and about 5.3% to the positive side.
Each play in the database has been assigned a 0 or 1 depending on whether or not it was part of a first down series, touchdowns are counted as first downs in this survey. Essentially, every play in a four down sequence is counted as a being part of a 1st down unless a punt or turnover occurs before a new set of downs is achieved. Filtering the plays that made the cut (over 105k) by down results in the following scatter plot:
Every point on the chart above has at least 15 samples, most have several hundred, some have several thousand, and 1st and 10 has almost 42,000 samples. The trends are self evident and really, really, strong. A few comments on other decisions I’ve needed to make here:
- The small black dots represent 4th down plays. They are essentially overlaid with the 3rd down plays which makes sense, the objectives in both cases is the same, convert to a 1st Down. If you’re in a 4th down decision, use the 3rd down line.
- The curves for 1st and 2nd Down were both pegged to 100% probability of converting a new set of downs at zero yards to go; pretty obvious as to why, it’s the rules. On 3rd Down however, I opted not to peg it to y3 = 1 at x = 0 because even though the R-squared value doesn’t suffer by much (0.005 lower), the resulting curve significantly over estimates 3rd down success inside of 3rd and 5. Also, I think the gap could be real; how much error is there in spotting the ball (especially on QB sneak type plays)? To me this data implies that the ball is mis-spotted to deny a 1st Down conversion approximately 9% of the time. The incremental error of spotting the ball doesn't matter until you end up at 4th and inches.
- For 1st down plays, I intervened on behalf of noise reduction by only including plays where the distance was in multiples of 5. The reason is that the rules say you start at 1st and 10 and the only way you end up with 1st and something other than a multiple of 5 is A) you’re inside the opponents 10, and B) multiple penalties or 1st down repeats after spot fouls. Plays that were rejected are largely noise; the legitimate plays (ex. 1st and X inside the opp. 10) act like 2nd down plays, so use that in those cases.
Generating Hard Targets
Now that we have a survey, we can use the information to answer the question I asked “what makes a successful play”? The question has been tackled before in the seminal tome The Hidden Game of Football. The DVOA system developed by Football Outsiders is based in concepts discussed in Hidden Game. Hidden Game presents the following goal schedule:
On first down, a play is considered a success if it gains 45 percent of needed yards; on second down, a play needs to gain 60 percent of needed yards; on third or fourth down, only gaining a new first down is considered success.
So, the goal schedule by down should be 4-ish yards on 1st Down10, 3 yards on 2nd and 6, and 3 yards on 3rd and 3. I haven’t read Hidden Game but this doesn’t look right, particularly in short yardage situations. For example, 2nd and 1 is a failure if you do not convert a new set of downs. Sure, the consequences of that failure are small because you are virtually guaranteed another chance to convert but gaining zero yards (we only have whole yard resolution) is failure by definition.
Brian Brown of Advanced NFL Stats fame has a better definition: a play is a success as long as your chances to convert a new set of downs are not hurt by the result of a play. The great thing about this definition is that it considers the opportunity cost of running a play. This simple idea probably explains why a lot of OC’s call conservative plays on 1st and 10, if you don’t advance the ball by about 4 yards, you’re worse off than you started. Brown focuses his work on the NFL and has done this work for the League but he stopped at the first chart leaving the answer to the question abstract-don’t hurt your chances of getting a new set of downs. OK, but how do you avoid that?
Running an optimization routine on our curves gives us the concrete answer, a goal schedule by down and distance in chart form.
- 3rd down is obvious, you need to gain all of the yards remaining or you’ve failed. Fourth down decisions should be avoided.
- The 1st down requirement is virtually flat at a 37% yield, lower than what Hidden Game suggested.
- The 2nd down requirement is asymptotic to 65% yield but reaches a requirement of 80% yield by 5 yards to go. Essentially, you need at least 4 yards on 2nd and 5 to not have wasted the down.
First down is all business, you must move the ball 37% of the way or you’re screwing yourself. Third down is also all business, you need to convert or risk deciding which poison tastes the best. Second down however, depending in the situation, that’s a down you can get jiggy with.
On a generic 1st and 10, there’s a 64% chance of converting a new set of downs. So, as long as you end up with about a 64% chance of converting on 3rd down, you can do whatever you want on second down as long as you don’t lose yards or give the ball away. That means, you need to end up at 3rd and 3 or better. On 2nd and 3 or better call in the B2s and Outkast, baby, ‘cause it’s time to drop bombs (over Baghdad).
The last straw for Run of Play proprietor, Slate contributor, and Dirty Tackle blogger Brian Phillips were two articles on consecutive days citing Franklin Foer's assertion that dictatorships led to good soccer. Many of the nations that have been super good at soccer over the years have been run by dictators if you lump Vichy France in with them and think Hitler and Mussolini have anything to do with anything in the 21st century. The first problem with this piece of intellectual noodling is that the percentage of teams who have won the World Cup during or after a period of dictatorship (86%) is almost equivalent to the percentage of countries that have undergone periods of dictatorship since 1930. Twenty-five of the 32 teams in this year's edition have done so, 78%.
The second is that the statement means nothing. Phillips on the Kuper/Szymanski book Soccernomics, which endeavors to be a Freakonomics for the beautiful game:
You want to say that money is the secret behind soccer success, so you break down international games by GDP and find that, yeah, it matches up fairly well. But it doesn’t work as a theory, because China is terrible at soccer and the US is only okay at it. So you invent a variable called “tradition” and add it into the formula, which helps (now Brazil’s looking really strong), but you’re still left struggling to explain why, say, England doesn’t do better. So you add in population size, and on and on and on. Eventually, you have a delicately balanced curl of math that correctly reproduces the results of most recent matches (even if it accidentally predicts that Serbia will reach the current World Cup final). So you go to a publisher, but no one wants to buy a book about how GDP is covariable with national-team success 40% of the time, or whatever; they want a book that claims to have Uncovered the Secrets of Soccer© Using Funky Mathematical Techniques™. And so you’re led into making grand claims for the predictive power of research that really only demonstrates correlation. And there’s enough data swirling around a complex event like the World Cup that you could get the same results by collating fishing exports, number of historic churches, and percentage of authors whose names include a tilde.
You have no mechanism. Your correlation is extraordinarily weak. You have just wasted everyone's time.
The very same day, Slate (et tu!) published an article by a guy who studies a particular brain parasite claiming a correlation between soccer performance and infection rates of Toxoplasma gondii, a bacteria whose raison d'être is to get in a cat's stomach so it can make babies. An R-squared was not mentioned, but it was gestured to. Regression rules everything around me. This is why most published research results are false.
Soccer is not the only sport suffering from pseudoscience obsessed with elevating correlation above all else, mechanism be damned, and elegant curls of math that prove little other than the academic's talent for obfuscation in the name of publishing. Kuper and Syzmanski actually got to the party late. Princeton economist and Malcolm Gladwell fave-rave David Berri's been here for years, and he's packing the platonic ideal of delicately balanced curls of math that end up ludicrous on further inspection. Behold the best (and sixth-best) players of the 1999 NBA season:
the emperor's clothes are fine indeed.
Berri made a splash in the sports world when he released a transparently silly book that purported to show that Dennis Rodman was responsible for more wins than teammate Michael Jordan. This drew the ire of the basketball statistics community and anyone with a damn lick of sense. People set about showing that Berri was peddling snake-oil. I even had a go at it in one of the erratic Pistons posts that showed up around here a couple years ago, noting that after Ben Wallace left the Pistons' rebounding changed not one percent on either end of the floor. Ben Wallace got his rebounds from his teammates. (It turned out that Wallace's major skill was an ability to keep opponents off the free throw line.)
This did not take, unfortunately, and Berri has been permitted to say silly things about all sports that apparently intelligent people take seriously because he has "Princeton" next to his name. He moved on from basketball to "show" that NFL teams don't care how well their quarterbacks perform, only how high they're drafted…
Aggregate performance and draft position are statistically related. But as Rob and I argue, this is because in the NFL (like we see in the NBA) draft position is linked to playing time. And this link is independent of performance.
…that NHL goalies are indistinguishable from each other…
... there simply is little difference in the performance of most NHL goalies.
…and has returned to state basketball coaches don't understand who their best players are:
"... the allocation of minutes suggests the age profile in basketball is not well understood by NBA coaches."
Berri's at least had the common sense to stay away from baseball, where a horde of men with razor-sharp protractors wait for him to make a false move. (We will see later that collaborator JC Bradbury has not.) The statistical communities in football, basketball, and hockey are considerably more unsure of what the hell is going on in their chosen sport and are thus vulnerable to suggestion from an economist, even if it's one who seems to have never watched a sport of any variety.
The problem with all of Berri's outlandish theories is that they are wrong. Not because of old guys who peer into the soul of Andre Ethier and see a ballplayer, but because of other, more careful numbers from people who are looking for things that are true instead of things that are impressive to Malcolm Gladwell.
Berri's study actually shows that amongst quarterbacks who play a lot, draft position is not a strong factor in their performance. This is his magnificent leap:
For us to study the link between draft position and performance, we can only consider players who actually performed. It’s possible that those quarterbacks who never performed were really bad quarterbacks. But since they never played, we don’t know that (and Pinker also doesn’t know this).
Low draft picks who don't play only find the bench because of bias. A coach's decision to start one player over the other is a worthless signal. Coaches are dumb.
When you restrict your regressions to the top 20 goalies in terms of minutes, about half of the variation in save percentage appears repeatable. A standard deviation of talent is worth around ten goals. These days, a unit of five skaters who finished +50 at the end of the season would be heroes on the league's best team. Berri's undisclosed approach to the data set apparently takes goalies with far fewer than starter's minutes. A quick correlation run by Phil Birnbaum shows radically different r-squared values than those Berri finds just by upping the sample size. Maybe Birnbaum's numbers aren't dead-on—he doesn't use even strength save percentage, for instance—but he's not the one claiming a massive inefficiency. He's just showing that throwing a small r-squared out doesn't actually mean anything:
I don't know how the authors got .06 when my analysis shows .14 ... maybe their cutoff was lower than 1,000 minutes. Maybe there's some selection bias in my sample of top goalies only. Maybe my four seasons just happened to be not quite representative. Regardless, the fact that the r-squared varies so much with your selection criterion shows that you can't take it at face value without doing a bit of work to interpret it.
Age in the NBA
In the NBA, 23 and 24 year old players net more minutes than any other age bracket, and while the average age of an NBA minute is 26.6 this year there's a blindingly obvious explanation for this:
Berri and Schmidt think that NBA minutes peak later than 24 because coaches don't understand how players age. It seems obvious that there's a more plausible explanation -- that it's because players like Shaquille O'Neal are able to play NBA basketball at age 37, but not at age 9.
In sum: wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.
So what's going on here?
When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Berri's hammer is regression analysis, and he goes about hitting everything he can find with it until he finds something that seems vaguely nail-like from a certain angle. Then he proclaims a group of extremely well-paid subject matter experts dumb. When challenged about this, he says things like "regressions are nice, but not always understood by everyone." He calls the protestors dumb.
This is more than a logical fallacy: it's a worldview. In a post on a cricket study by another set of authors, Birnbaum points out the assumption built into a lot of economics studies. It, like most of Berri's work, runs a regression on some data and reports back that something fails to be statistically significant:
The authors chose the null hypothesis that the managers' adjustment of HFA [home field advantage] is zero. They then fail to reject the hypothesis.
But, what if they chose a contradictory null hypothesis -- that managers' HFA *irrationality* was zero? That is, what if the null hypothesis was that managers fully understood what HFA meant and adjusted their expectations accordingly? The authors would have included a "managers are dumb" dummy variable. The equations would have still come up with 4% for a road player and 10% for a home player -- and it would turn out that the significance of the "managers are dumb" variable would not be significant. Two different and contradictory null hypotheses, both which would be rejected by the data. The authors chose to test one, but not the other.
Basically, the test the authors chose is not powerful enough to distinguish the two hypotheses (manager dumb, manager not dumb) with statistical significance.
But if you look at the actual equation, which shows that home players are twice as likely to be dropped than road players for equal levels of underperformance -- it certainly looks like "not dumb" is a lot more likely than "dumb".
The goalie example is the most illuminating here: by adjusting the parameters of your study you can arrive at radically different conclusions. I'm not sure if Berri is intentionally skewing his results to get shiny Moneyball answers, but given how dumb his justifications are for the NFL study that's the kinder interpretation. Running around saying that we don't know that the average sixth rounder isn't John Elway waiting to happen because they can't get on the field is obtuseness that almost has to be intentional. On the other hand, he does blithely state he's "not sure there is much to clarify" about his assertion that NFL general managers are on par with stock-picking monkeys when it comes to identifying quarterbacks, so he may be that genuinely clueless. (The Lions tried a stock-picking monkey. It didn't work out.)
There's often a kernel of truth in a Berri study. When the Oilers were casting about for a goalie, smart Oilers bloggers were noting the glut of basically average goalies available and jumped off a cliff when they signed a mediocre 36-year-old to a four year, $15 million dollar deal when they could have signed two guys for something around the league minimum and expected about the same performance. That's something close to the criticism Berri levels with the volume turned way down. Hockey and football and basketball are not baseball. It is incredibly difficult to encapsulate performance in any of these sports in statistics. So when Berri makes a proclamation that NHL goalies are basically the same based on plain old save percentage—which isn't even the best metric available—he ascribes more power to a stat than it deserves and simultaneously ignores a raging debate about one of the most difficult questions in sports statistics to get a handle on.
At the very least, the questions Berri attempts to tackle with really complicated regressions are murky things best delivered with a dose of humility. Instead Berri and colleagues say there is "simply" no difference, that his research is "not understood by everyone," that a formula that declares Jeff Francouer worth 12 million a year is justifiable and that protestors are making "consistent basic errors in logic, economics and statistics" when any minor league player making the minimum could replace his production, and that David Berri went to Princeton. If he bothers to respond to what's admittedly a pretty shrill criticism, he will undoubtedly state that if only I had managed to understand his papers the many ludicrous conclusions easily disproved by competing studies (QBs, save percentage), simple facts that blow up the idea being presented (NBA minutes), or common sense (Rodman, Francouer) would have come to me in an epiphany.
These things are all ridiculously complicated and it's obvious with every response to another Berri study that declares someone dumb that different views on the data produce different results. Berri's overarching thesis is that subject matter experts make huge errors because they refuse to look at data from all possible angles. Stuck in their ruts, they robotically bang out decisions like their forefathers. Statistician, heal thyself.
There may be some social utility in distracting economists from theorizing about the economy, but there's no utility in the domain they're actually tackling.
The weekly update is a little slim today, with two commits dropping last week, and the holiday weekend. Here's the latest on this week's happenings.
6'4, 285 lbs.
Cyrus is a big offensive line prospect with major offers to his name. Hobbi currently holds around 17 offers including Michigan, Alabama, ASU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and USC. As we've found out with other prospects in Arizona, it's sometimes hard to get them out for a visit, especially when it's an unofficial on their own dime. Well, the Hobbi family just happens to be taking a cross country trip to New York, and they will be stopping by Ann Arbor on the way:
We're coming up next week, on Tuesday (July 13th). We're just coming for the day on our way to New York. I don't know a lot about Michigan, so this visit will help me decide if I'm really interested, or not.
That seems fair. Cyrus told me he played against Taylor Lewan and Craig Roh as a sophomore, but doesn't know them well enough to call them up and talk about Michigan. Craig actually tried his patented spin move on Hobbi and was shut down. He's also planning on stopping by Notre Dame. Those plans have changed:
I'm not going to Notre Dame anymore, they haven't returned any of my calls. I guess they filled up, but they won't call me back, either. I'll just enjoy myself at Michigan instead.
Take that! This visit is big for Michigan, who otherwise probably wouldn't have been able to get him on campus before the season. This will give him and his family a chance to see everything without a group of other recruits there, without any distractions.
6'6", 315 lbs.
Tony Posada recently named Michigan his leader after his visit up to Ann Arbor. That still holds true, and it may just be a matter of time before he ends his recruitment:
We're working out a date with my family and coaches to make a decision. I'd like to do it as soon as possible, it could be next week, it could be longer; we're not sure yet. Michigan is still my leader, though.
So... ya know, there's that. It seems like Michigan should be getting the call soon. I hate making predictions off of information that seems obvious, but an upcoming decision with a declared leader is almost always a decision that's already been made privately.
5'11", 184 lbs.
I spoke with Walls recently about his interest in Michigan. He played it close to the vest, but let out a little insight on how this will play out.
Michigan is a team that I am considering very highly. I will be paying close attention to the beginning of their season.
As we've seen with a number of other recruits. If Michigan wins early, they'll get real shot him. If they get off to a slow start, then it will be an uphill battle. Those first six or seven games are going to be CRUCIAL to Michigan's recruiting efforts.
- PA DB Kyshoen Jarrett will have his narrowed down list today, once he clears it with his coach. He told me that Michigan was on it, and he's very interested.
- Instate OL Jake Fisher says he wants to make his decision in the next few weeks. It's between Michigan and MSU at this point. I think Michigan has the slight edge. He does plan on going back up to MSU soon. and things can change quickly, but we look to be in the driver seat.
- PA safety Dondi Kirby tore his ACL, and will be out for the season. It's an unfortunate time to have that happen, as a football recruit. Not that there's a good time for it to happen, but you know what I mean.
Bwahahaha. Total victory complete. Corey Tropp's last act as a college hockey player was to step on a puck and watch from the box as Michigan's hockey team ended Michigan State's season and permanently established ownership of Munn. He's signed with Buffalo, completing the storyline written by Steve Kampfer's neck, Steve Kampfer's dad, and Steve Kampfer's emphatic "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT."
Other than another three wins at the end of the season, that could have gone no better. As a bonus, State has now lost Jeff Petry, Andrew Rowe, and Tropp early. That's three of their top four scorers. With only one player of note graduating (Nick Sucharski), a Michigan State fronted by senior versions of the above three guys could have been dangerous. Without them, the conversion into Northern Michigan is essentially complete. It'll be interesting to see how that goes; Comely did win a title there.
Karma gets full marks here. I am going to drop an actual bill in the bucket of next Mott panhandler to accost me OH GOD THERE'S ONE INSIDE THE HOU—
Meandering sentence in which your dad tells you what character is. I had one more thing I wanted to get around to when the university announced its self-imposed sanctions for the stretching stuff, the impermissible offseason workouts, and the QC staffers overstepping the NCAA's limits on their activities. It was something about how the newspaper meme about the day of Great Shame to the university was ridiculous given the picture painted by the documents. Don't take my word for it:
Football sanctions bring Michigan down to the level of other programs
It was painful and sad and historic, and depending on your point of view, maybe a bit appropriate, too.
A bowl ban and scholarship reduction are unnecessary now because the University of Michigan took something from its own football program today that it spent the last few decades espousing: It stripped away its own boast that it never committed major rules violations.
At the very least, Michigan's limited admission of NCAA violations is historic. This university has long held itself above all others for running a clean program, at least in football.
Even Wojo can't resist dipping into the Lady Macbeth pool:
There's no denying the everlasting mark on Michigan's program.
Out, damn blue dot. And that's without even touching the Free Press reaction.
Today Georgia's getting some degree of that heat after athletic director Damon Evans was stopped for DUI, pulled the Steve-Buscemi-in-Fargo ("I'd like to take care of this right here… in Brainerd"), and was discovered to have both a comely 28-year-old lass in the passenger seat and what were presumably her panties in his lap. If Gary Moeller's restaurant blow-up was Little Boy, Evans' was the 50s-era H-bomb they blew up on whichever Pacific Island had gotten uppity at the latest UN meeting.
In the aftermath, the usual. From a Dennis Dodd column that loathsomely invokes the DUI-related death of the Georgia governor's intern:
It is not the state university of Georgia’s best day, but don’t cry for the Bulldogs. Your pity and prayers are better directed to the Griner and Scott families. The only damage done, in this case, was to the school’s reputation.
Get the Picture's response to that:
The school’s reputation? Damn, why not blame the school for the George Zinkhan murders? After all, he was an employee at the time the crime was committed. That crime didn’t involve hypothetical deaths, either.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Michael Adams. But it’s hard to fault him or the University for how he handled the situation after Evans’ arrest became public news. Would it reflect badly on the school if Evans remained employed by it? Sure. But that’s not how things played out.
Institutions are comprised of people that take actions, at which point the institution judges whether those actions are compatible with the values of the institution. Surprise: Damon Evans is so beyond fired.
I didn't get around to the column it because I'd said it plenty, especially in comparison to the Free Press's strategy of obfuscation, and it seemed redundant. I did gather up the above links to the running around and screaming, though, and found the apropos Big Lebowksi quote:
LEBOWSKI What. . . What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski? DUDE Dude. LEBOWSKI Huh? DUDE I don't know, sir. LEBOWSKI Is it. . . is it, being prepared to do the right thing? Whatever the price? Isn't that what makes a man? DUDE Sure. That and a pair of testicles.
This is getting long enough that I might as well have split it off so to summarize as briefly as possible: if the university has shown a character flaw in the interminable period of the Jihad it has been that of McLovin. Incompetence in a minor offense leads to flop sweat, proving that the entity in question doesn't have the stomach for hardened criminal activity.
Michigan's prompt, un-redacted release was a step that no major school had undertaken. Maybe the school's transparency was a defensive move against the inevitable FOIA, but that would have come after everything wrapped up and no one cared anymore because the announced penalties were essentially nonexistent. If other universities are any guide, could have come swathed in black ink worthy of Newspaper Blackout Poems. I'm a little pissed that I can make a reasonable comparison between McLovin and something I would like to be good at doing things, but that's what David Brandon is for.
In related extremely necessary expenditures. Michigan's bill for the investigation is hefty and growing:
According to invoices from the law firm Lightfoot, Franklin and White released this week as part of an open-records request, Michigan has paid $446,951 in legal fees and other expenses since contracting attorney Gene Marsh and others to handle its internal investigation last September.
That's for expenses through April. The university's bill is going to easily crack a half-million dollars and might end up close to a full million by the end of everything. Birkett compares that bill with some other recent investigations and finds that Michigan is on the high end of the range. UConn's paid out almost 700k, Indiana about 500k, FSU 300k, Alabama 200k. Is that a reasonable expense to get Marsh, a former head of the Committee on Infractions, so you can go in front of the committee as seriously as possible? Given the surplus the department runs, probably. Kowtow and get it over with. The committee does not like non-serious people.
Individual ticket extravaganza. With Penn State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State on the road Michigan is facing down its semi-annual lack of sex appeal on the home portion of the schedule, no offense to Iowa or Wisconsin. As a result, ticket sales are actually open to the public for the first time in a long while, though you've got to suck it up and get packages if you're going to get the good games because actual games against real opponents have to subsidize the purchase price of a I-AA.
This does not mean the season ticket waiting list has evaporated, by the way. Michigan will be done with the luxury boxes this year but the renovations to the bowl will take place next offseason. Seats and aisles are getting widened, and since moving anyone anywhere has the potential to result in mass panic the AD is holding vacated seats this season to help ease the transition. "Hot seat" prognosticators can look elsewhere for their evidence. Suggestion: 8-16.
Etc.: MI OL Jake Fisher will be dropping a decision($) soon, possibly today. Watch for the "Hello" post. A 1997 championship ring has found its way to eBay. In a move that gets a .5 Tropp, Tennessee pirates USC DE Malik Jackson away.
Additions to the commit list for the Maize and Blue means the rankings go on the front page. There was a ton of action across the league (plus future member and Michigan recurring opponent), with only Purdue and Indiana not grabbing any new ones.
Action since last rankings:
6-28-10 Notre Dame gains commitment from Ben Councell. Northwestern gains commitment from Matt Frazier. Illinois gains commitment from Reilly O'Toole.
6-29-10 Michigan gains commitments from Jack Miller and Kevin Sousa. Northwestern gains commitment from Zack Oliver. Wisconsin gains commitment from Derek Landisch.
6-30-10 Ohio State gains commitment from Nick Vannett. Nebraska gains commitment from Nicklas Sade. Iowa gains commitments from John Raymon and Ray Hamilton. Minnesota gains commitment from Samuel Oyenuga. Illinois gains commitment from Justin DuVernois.
7-1 Iowa gains commitment from Jake Rudock. Michigan State gains commitment from Joel Heath.
7-2-10 Ohio State gains commitment from Ron Tanner. Penn Satte gains commitment from Shawn Oakman.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings have been converted to their "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system, and ESPN uses grades out of 100.
|#1 Ohio State - 17 Commits|
Buckeyes pick up a couple highly-rated guys to stay atop the heap.
|#2 Notre Dame - 12 Commits|
Notre Dame picks up a commit and moves ahead of Nebraska on the basis of average ranking. They have a better average by all three services.
|#3 Nebraska - 13 Commits|
Nebraska picks up a kicker, which actually brings their ranking down to #2, as they're passed by Notre Dame. When a of their commits are ranked, they could move back ahead.
|#4 Michigan - 7 Commits|
Michigan picks up a pair of commits, helping keep them ahead of Michigan State. Don't be surprised if Sousa ends the year much more highly-rated.
|#5 Michigan State - 7 Commits|
Spartans pick up an under-the-radar DE in Joel Heath.
|#6 Indiana - 18 Commits|
Hoosiers still lead the way in number of commits, but their average ratings aren't so hot.
|#7 Iowa - 8 Commits|
Iowa had a couple big days in the middle of the week, but their average rating numbers didn't do so hot. Once all their commits are ranked, they should look much better.
|#8 Northwestern - 7 Commits|
Northwestern bumped past Purdue on total commits, even though their average ratings are slightly lower. Once their guys are fully ranked, this should look better.
|#9 Purdue - 5 Commits|
Purdue stays behind Iowa on the basis of fewer commits with about the same averages. They slide behind Northwestern, because the 'Cats have about the same ratings among their top 5 commits, plus two more guys.
|#10 Minnesota - 6 Commits|
Another week, another as-yet-unranked commitment for the Gophers.
|#11 Wisconsin - 5 Commits|
Badgers are seriously forming a recruiting class composed entirely of tight ends and linebackers. Behind Minnesota on the basis of fewer commits with approximately equal averages.
|#12 Illinois - 6 Commits|
The Illini are set for a big bump once all their commits are ranked.
|#13 Penn State - 1 Commit|
Slightly less lol Penn State, but still some.
Bigger, grungier, made of scraped anger. I've been guessing somewhat wildly that Mike Martin will move away from the nose tackle spot he gamely tackled a year ago. It makes sense in a ton of different ways; Adam Patterson's weird move inside also provides circumstantial evidence. If that guess is correct, there's good* news about the defense's stoutness. FSU blog Tomahawk Nation took a look at the general relationship between enormous angry men close to the opponent quarterback an defensive success, finding quite a bit of it. They then draw an arbitrary line at 1780 pounds (which they say 'one' might argue is arbitrary, so chalk me up as one of the ones) and suggest that being below that line is bad.
They then commit a superior act of link-baiting by relating this post directly to the readers here:
I broke down the Wolverines separately. Michigan comes in at 1828 lbs, which really bodes well for their defense performance this season. Last year they had a front 7 of 1720 lbs. Extremely impressive improvement and the second largest we have seen (Mississippi State +120). Even more so considering the move to a 3-3-5 hybrid.
That does assume that Brandon Graham is getting replaced by Will Campbell. (The three returning starters adding about twenty pounds each seems assured.) If that's the case, Michigan's front 3.5 can hang with anyone on a pure beef level; with Barwis's emphasis on good weight they should be even better on the BEEFCAKE level.
The secondary? Ask again later. Maybe Tomahawk Nation will come up with a way to make me feel better about that other than closing my eyes and hoping really hard.
*(Correlation does not equal causation but after the last two years give me a break here.)
Tom Crean: anti-Brewster. Brewster's twitter machinations establish the TRY FIGHT WIN endpoint of the CFB head coach twitter continuum. And while Crean isn't quite at the Weis point that marks the other end (Went to Bon Jovi concert with son/full stop/advised offensive linemen on awesomest Baskin Robbins flavors/full stop/story continues in next thirty-six tweets/full stop), he's not far off. Watch him bash anonymous opponent skeeze-merchant assistants, then entirely fail to repent and hit up the head men:
“Frankly some of the assistants we go against I wouldnt let valet my car. They either would lose the keys or drive away with it.” – June 29, 3:18 PM
“In all honesty there are some Head coaches that would be the same way. The ones that wake up on 3rd base and think they hit a triple kill me.” – June 29, 3:20 PM
There's no way Crean's talking about anyone related to the Michigan program, which is good and bad.
Given certain NCAA limitations -- talking to you, Trojans -- we're more likely to see a Big 12 North rivalry in Pasadena in the near term (Colorado-Nebraska) than Michigan-USC.
Even if USC is be facing down a two-year bowl ban, they're more likely to to end up in the Rose Bowl than a team that lost to Toledo by 16 and couldn't fire their coach because they didn't have enough money. That's only part of an extended section about how the Rose Bowl is just horrified that Utah might end up in it when the new Rose Bowl contract already all but guaranteed that a mid-major would be selected for the game sometime before 2014.
Dodd then goes on to wildly praise Larry Scott for adding Colorado and Utah to his conference, a move that is extremely debatable financially and athletically, because he had big ideas, and caps that by proposing Big Ten divisions that split Michigan and Ohio State. These are dubbed "lessons."
Skinflint. These numbers on football spending rounded up by Fanhouse and broken down into a convenient Big Ten list by Fight For Iowa…
- Ohio State - $32.30 million
- Iowa - $26.90 million
- Wisconsin - $22.71 million
- Penn State - $19.13 million
- Michigan - $18.03 million
…are so crazy as to be suspicious. Michigan's enormous renovation of Michigan Stadium was in its first year. They'd just hired Rich Rodriguez , paid most of his buyout, and were still on the hook for the Carr assistants who did not take other jobs. Despite all this, Michigan checks in fifth in Big Ten spending and barely manages half of Ohio State's outlay. Clearly, these numbers all come from a big database and have not been sanity checked. I wouldn't put much faith in them.
Irony ironically un-ironic. This is not ironic:
The major sticking point everyone points to is the quarterback situation. In fact, some people are calling it a disaster. Once you get past the irony of a Michigan blogger calling the Penn State quarterback situation a "disaster", step back and ask yourself, "Is it really that bad?" Yeah, ok, we have to break in a new quarterback this year. Welcome to college football where you have to break in a new quarterback every other year. Lots of teams plug in a new quarterback and have very successful seasons.
Irony is a fanbase that roars when Beaver Stadium's chintzy pregame hype-up declares "WE ARE PENN STATE… AND THEY'RE NOT" perpetually accusing another fanbase of arrogance. (Will Michigan EVER make a bowl again, BSD asks, totally oblivious.) Someone with grand recent experience when it comes to disastrous quarterback situations declaring a setup with a walk-on, a couple true freshmen, and Kevin Newsome—who even BSD admits "looked terrible" in the spring game—is not.
100% committed until tomorrow. An update on the status of 2011 hockey commit Alex Guptill from the man himself:
For the time being, Alex is committed to play for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League next season before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall of 2011. However, that may or may not change, following his meeting with Stars management in Texas today (June 30).
“Right now, I’m committed 100 per cent to the Waterloo Blackhawks,” Alex said. “I’m looking forward to stepping up in a little bit higher of a league and improving my game.”
Maybe "100 per cent" is not the best thing to immediately follow "right now," but it sounds like Guptill's strong preference is to play for Michigan next year. If the Kings had drafted him, that quote would be reason to worry. Dallas less so. Haven't had an update since, so we'll see.
Slightly good news? I'm not sure how much this helps but it certainly doesn't help. SEMO, one of the schools that's recently run into trouble for violating NCAA practice guidelines in a similar fashion to Michigan, saw an appeal shot down. But in the midst of saying nein they did also say this:
The presence of a coach before or after an otherwise voluntary workout may be inadvertent, or occur with no intent by the coach to confirm the student-athletes’ attendance or to otherwise engage the student- athlete in countable athletically related activities. Thus, while this committee does not set aside this finding, we note that this general statement in the report should not be construed as the mandatory interpretation of the relevant NCAA legislation without reference to coaches’ intent and other pertinent facts in a given case.3
The Bylaw Blog suggests that Michigan may argue that some of the impermissible events were still voluntary, though they'd obviously have to show that the presence of coaching-type folk had a legitimate purpose. Since they've already responded to the NCAA, that's not likely. It may be a further indication that Michigan won't get anything tacked on in August, not that Michigan seems to expect any additions.
Etc.: Six Zero interrogates MGoShoe, the poster with the highest signal to noise ratio in the history of MGoBlog. (SERIOUSLY)