BONUS Dead Horse Beatin' during Dead Horse Beatin' Week on MGoBlog! A promise: this is the very last thing written about the Free Press in this space.
On the Day of Slight Reckoning I mentioned that the epic seven-page Free Press article addressing it failed to even mention the U's assertion that the initial reports were "greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect." I should point out that Rosenberg's follow up article which, like all of these articles, quotes some guy named Michael Buckner—the News, Free Press, and AA.com have all quoted this guy in the last couple days in multiple articles for each—touches briefly on the University's pointed shot:
"When the media reports painted a picture of serious student-athlete abuse, the university immediately investigated these claims, as its primary concern has always been the welfare of its student athletes. ... The university is satisfied that the initial media reports were greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
Numerous former players, current players and parents of players told the Free Press that the football team violated NCAA rules that govern practice and workout sessions during the season and off-season. The players also described quality-control staff members handling voluntary seven-on-seven scrimmages.
In any event, the infractions committee is unlikely to spend much, if any, time on media reports.
Obviously, this is a response that completely fails to address the criticism leveled by the university: the picture painted by the initial article made it seem like Rodriguez was an uncaring task-master violating NCAA regs willy-nilly in a demonstration of his will to power. It then dismisses the importance of "media reports" to the committee. As defenses go it's… well, it meets the exacting standards of the Free Press. Jon Chait demolished the original piece (again) a couple days ago and I'll just quote him:
The paper reported that "the Wolverines were expected to spend two to three times more than the eight hours allowed for required workouts each week." It further alleged, "Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit." And it further portrayed this alleged epidemic of rule-flouting as the product of Rich Rodriguez's obsession with conditioning, and the near-mania of his prized assistant Mike Barwis - a natural conclusion from the article's anonymous sourcing from players and parents of players disgruntled with the new coaching regime. The Free Press article breaking the allegations is entitled, "A look inside Rodriguez's rigorous program."
Chait has also addressed the infuriating Free Press editorial, for which I thank him because now I can just close it and not write and delete several paragraphs with a curse density immense enough to make a Scotsman blush.
If you want a truly comprehensive breakdown of all the ways in which the article was sensationalized, this site will wear out even the most dedicated torch-bearer. The best high-level view from me is probably the Words on Agenda And Bias in the aftermath of the Great Albom What-Is-Your-Job Debacle. If you're looking for something shorter and in a very narrow column, that guy who still reads the Free Press because he wonders "how was Rosenberg supposed to determine what was true and what was not?"—guh—received a number of responses, the best from Section 1 and M-stache, in a thread that oscillated from dismissive flaming to patient explanation from better men than I.
After all of it poor neg-bombed MgoMatt, the poster of that thread, returned to edit his original post like so:
EDIT: Based on the responses below, I suppose my standards for responsible journalism are pretty low. I blame 24 hour cable news.
True. But Matt's standards are also the exact same ones Rosenberg and the rest of the Free Press hold themselves to. Note the defense above: "players told us this." How were they to know different? People said things, the Free Press reported them. Asking for anything else is madness, and anyone questioning the framing of the story… well, we're objective. We just happen to find it "sad" that Rich Rodriguez is Michigan's coach, you know, objective-like.
ESPN's dealt with a number of screwed up recent stories featuring anonymous sourcing, leading to an apropos column from ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer:
In theory, anonymous sources are a last resort. Reporters are challenged to get people to speak on the record, but sometimes that's just not possible. If the source remains unnamed, it must be a trade-off for candor and quality of information. Of course, there are times when information a source ardently believes to be true … turns out to be false. That's why independent corroboration by a reporter is key. Bad sourcing or lax oversight can result in the equivalent of a journalistic drive-by shooting, aided and abetted by information cloaked in a shroud of anonymity.
Check, check, check, straight outta Compton. So it goes.
[ed: bumped despite deployment of worst photo of yrs truly ever.]
“…if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” –Nietzsche
Son of a bitch. It’s happening. Quit lookin’ at me, abyss.
In 1960 JFK referred to himself as “…a graduate of the Michigan of the East, Harvard University.” I’ve always thought of that as a high compliment towards Michigan. Now, however, I also recognize the glint of the hex that was unwittingly cast upon us on that day. Upon uttering those words, the 35th P.O.T.U.S not only saluted the University of Michigan’s academic excellence, but he also set our crown jewel onto a collision course with gridiron suckitude. Allow me to explain.
I recently came across an article from 1949 in The Harvard Crimson. The article is over 3000 words long, but the first shiver slithered up my spine before I had even reached the byline: “Alumni, Doing Nothing, Scream for Blood After Worst Season Ever.” By the time I had finished reading the article—A Clockwork Orange style—my spine was a full blown electric eel in the throes of a nervous breakdown.
It’s hard to resist full verse recitation of the whole article but, here some highlights:
There are references to Harvard’s recruiting footprint and the need for MOAR
- The authors bitch about being charged “$4.20 or even $3.60 to see Harvard play an obviously poor football opponent.” Oh, the humanity! It’s weird though because throughout the article they vacillate their complaints between playing cannon fodder and actually being cannon fodder.
- There are reports of familiar alumni complaints a la, “Hurr, hurr…get off my lawn with that new fangled, Crisler-style, single-wing offense and two-platoon system; you…you Michigander, you. Gimme back my Power T.”
And two choice excerpts from the article
“[Current coach] ought to adapt his system to fit his players, the way ‘good old [retired coach] used to do.’ "
But the crucial concern right now is that no attempt to change the situation involve the firing of [Current coach], who may not be the genius he was hailed as last year but who is certainly doing his best--and a definitely competent best--with what material he has.
Go ahead and do whatever it takes to rid yourself of those heebie-jeebies; I’ll wait. Seriously, it’s like Brian himself had been warped to 1949 via the way back machine to write that article. It’s impossibly eerie; much like this ancient statue of
Michael Jackson an anonymous Egyptian woman and this authentic picture of Brian some bespectacled dude with long hair in a block M tee shirt.
[ed: more disturbing parallels between Harvard circa 1950 and present-day M after the jump.]
Friday 7:00pm ET
|Bobby Brosnahan||vs||TJ Oakes|
Notes: Michigan is 85-86 all time.
Minnesota is 1-0 in the tourney.
Michigan defeated Iowa in an absolutely dominating performance, winning 18-4. With the win, Michigan moves on in the winner's bracket to face the #1 seed Minnesota Golden Gophers. For Iowa recap and a look at Minnesota, follow the jump.
Published reaction to the Day of Slight Reckoning has mostly fallen into two camps. One focuses on how the prideful block M has been brought low; addressing that is left for another post. The second shrugs at the end result, adds it to the ever-growing pile to strikes against Rodriguez, and quickly segues into a discussion of Rodriguez's presence on the proverbial hot seat, which is deemed hot indeed. Unlike last year, when a smattering of dips said Rodriguez was in danger of losing his job, there's no denying the reality of it: there are 2010 football seasons that end with Rodriguez getting run out of town on a rail.
How many are there? It will come as no surprise to anyone who's read this blog for a long time that I believe there are (and should be) considerably fewer than the popular conception does. Heck, I (and Dave from Maize 'n' Brew) just managed to convince Doug Gillett of this. For the last year and a half this space has been advocating radical patience.
For an example what seems to be the conventional wisdom, Bruce Feldman has a piece($) in which he repeatedly asks for much more than I think is reasonable for RR to deliver next year:
This is still Michigan, growing pains or not. This isn't a normal rebuilding job. Going 8-4 may not even be a strong enough sign that Michigan is rocketing back to the top and all of this tumult in the previous two years were worth it. …
Again, 8-4 might not be enough. Michigan needs to go back to winning like Michigan used to. Now.
Similarly, Dan Wetzel declares that setting the bar at a return to a bowl game is "incredibly low."
I had a twitter conversation with Feldman about this assertion a couple days ago. During that one of the tweets hit my main account—forgot the "d"—and thus the Facebooks, where it drew a chorus of raspberries because I asserted that going from 5-7 to 7-5 whilst replacing Baby Seal U with UConn would be "significant" progress. (It's since been pointed out that Michigan is playing a I-AA team next year so they're replacing with Eastern Michigan with UConn, but it's not like there's much difference between EMU and a horrible HBCU except when it comes to the entertainment provided by the marching band.) Patience is running low.
I know it's my role as the crazy fan blogger to demand the head of the coach when he fails to live up to my crazy expectations, but if we're seriously talking about an 8-4 regular season "not being enough" for Rodriguez to get a year four Michigan should have just fired him already. If this ends up being an 8-4 team the Mathlete's luck chart will have Michigan considerably on the happy side of the ledger.
- Aforementioned schedule upgrade.
- In games against non-baby-seals last year, Michigan was outgained 410-353 on average. They did not outgain any BCS opponent other than Purdue.
- The two-deep at safety, which covers three spots, has two walk-ons and zero upperclassmen. The corner depth is horrifying, as well.
- The quarterback depth chart also features zero upperclassmen.
- The scholarship breakdown looks like so: 11 seniors, 13 juniors, 20 sophomores, and 39 freshmen. The defense as a whole remains extremely young relative to competition:
The 2009 and 2010 classes make up about half of each unit for our rivals; for us it's about 75 percent..
- Only four seniors project as starters.
"This is still Michigan" is demonstrably false. Even in year three this remains a desperately young team with major holes in the secondary and no upperclass quarterbacks. Rodriguez's responsibility for the state of the state of the roster is limited to the absence of Terrelle Pryor, or any marginally acceptable option at quarterback from his first two months on the job, and a couple of would-be-sophomores Rodriguez did not add to the end of his first full recruiting class. You can wave your hands and say "Michigan! Rabble rabble rabble!" all you want but if you dressed these guys up like Generic State University people would expect them to go .500.
Progress is mandatory, but firing a guy because he's not healing lepers is unwise. This is a team that deserved to go 3-9 in 2008 and had four non-freshman defensive backs on the roster last year. Rebuilding from that is not a short-term operation. We've been through why this happened many times before; suffice it to say Rodriguez's margin of error to prevent a wholesale cratering was infinitesimal.
Later in Feldman's piece he says Rodriguez is an "excellent coach" and "proven winner" who "knows how to develop talent and motivate players." If this is the case—and everything in his coaching tenure before Michigan suggests so—why shouldn't Michigan give him the benefit of the doubt? They are not going to hire a coach with two BCS wins to his name next offseason. Patience is warranted. One year now (to be clear: 2011) has the potential to pay off with a 20-year stretch of success. While recruiting has suffered Michigan's classes are well within the range where Michigan can expect to compete for Big Ten championships when it is not operating with literally half the upperclassmen of its primary rivals.
My personal measuring stick for Rodriguez: yardage parity and a winning record. I would be displeased with 7-6 but willing to grit my teeth and give Rodriguez a shot in 2011, when he will return both specialists, every starter on offense save Steve Schilling and all but three starters on defense. That will seem exceptionally kind to many, I know, but literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has.
2008 was a complete waste. To me, this is year two for Rodriguez, and 2011 is when I expect rubber to meet road.
Softball go. Reminder: tonight and tomorrow Michigan takes on Tennessee at Alumni Field for the right to advance to the Women's College World Series. Tomorrow's game is at 7:30 and is on ESPN (just plain ESPN); the Friday games are at 4:30 on ESPNU and (if necessary) 7:30 on ESPN2. Tickets are 5-10 bucks. Actual athletic competition between people! No documents at all!
For the billionth time. I linked this on the sidebar but I think it's worth posting up. Dave Brandon on Rodriguez and whatnot:
Insert the usual hosannas about Brandon and his ability to act as the face of the athletic department in tough times.
Be attractive in private, thanks. Remember Mike Cox doing a bit of modeling for Bivouac? Yeah, that was a secondary violation:
Nov. 11, 2009
The violation: A football player engaged in impermissible modeling for two local stores.
The punishment: The stores were issued cease-and-desist letters to remove all images of the player from their websites, and the athlete was declared temporarily ineligible. His eligibility was later restated.
That was one of nine Michigan football secondary violations since 2005 revealed in the document dump. The rest are pedestrian stuff involving a phone call here, 60 bucks there, etc. Birkett does point out that Michigan's had a relative paucity of secondary violations in comparison to Lane Kiffin, or Ohio State, which has averaged almost 42 per year for its athletic department over the last decade.
Oversigning ramps up.
The single dumbest thing written about the Day Of Slight Reckoning, non Hat Guy Edition. Yes, Hat Guy wrote something, and it exists in its own Hat Guy category, impervious to logic, reason, and the American Way. Outside of Hat Guy territory, the crown goes to Lynn Henning:
Once upon a time it was Michigan State that got into all the trouble. It was East Lansing where there were stability problems. …
Michigan State is now the regional example for how a Big Ten athletic program should be run. There was a bad mess with November's dormitory fracas. But between Mark Dantonio's reconstructed football program and Tom Izzo's spotless work in making MSU basketball an elite and ongoing force, MSU has become the Michigan of 20 and 30 years ago, while Michigan has taken MSU's unenviable place as the campus where too much bad sports news originates.
"Fracas"? The number of kids kicked off the team reached double digits! It was the second consecutive year a large group of Michigan State football players descended upon a group of innocent bystanders and heard the lamentation of the women! Just the most recent incident has outstripped the entire Rodriguez era when it comes to player arrests… by a factor of five! Dantonio was directly responsible for the second incident because he let Glenn Winston walk out of jail and directly on to a practice field! This is brushed off in a single sentence!
You think you could let six months pass without 20% of the Spartan team beating down some engineers before declaring it a paragon of righteousness and virtue. Apparently not. People on the board have mentioned that when you contact Henning he seems like a nice guy—one willing to listen—so there's that, but good Lord that's dumb.
Also, Mark Dantonio's "reconstructed" football program won one (one) more game than Michigan last year, losing to a MAC team along the way. If not for the fact that MSU was the second-luckiest team in the nation in 2008, Dantonio's first three years at Michigan State would look exactly like his three years at Cincinnati and the last 30 years of Spartan football.
Just when you think you're a hardened observer of sportswriters, incapable of being stunned into a series of italics-laced exclamations at the sheer stupidity of an argument, they go and prove you wrong. Hat Guy, by the way, made fun of Michigan for firing Herron for lying to the NCAA.
Maybe we can have something resembling competition? The American Needle decision handed down by the Supreme Court seems like the prelude to something instead of actually something—all they said is the lawsuit can go ahead—but the most relevant outcome may be a weakening of EA's iron grasp on sports games ever since 2K got uppity and EA started shoveling money at the leagues for exclusive licenses. This can only be good, as some of the 2K games were pushing, or far better than, EA's editions of the same.
In other video game news. Hot on the heels of the announcement that CHL teams will appear in NHL 2011, Paul Kelly of College Hockey, Inc. announces that colleges will appear as well:
"We've actually been in discussions with EA for a couple of weeks," Kelly began, "and while we don't have a formal announcement to make at this moment, we are certainly in discussions with EA Sports and they are very interested in having a college component to their game. We, the colleges, are very interested in having that happen and we are just currently in the process of figuring out what dimensions that ought to take."
Hockey players will be under the same restrictions as football and basketball players, but you'll be able to figure out who C #12 is. This might be short lived if the Ed O'Bannon case ends up going in favor of the plaintiffs: while EA will probably have to figure out a way to license likenesses for football and basketball, hockey will just get dropped.
Hockey destinations. Chris Dilks of Western College Hockey has a brief correction on Boo Nieves's plans:
Nieves was drafted by Indiana, but he's actually going to be attending Kent School in Connecticut next year, where he'll be coached by former Michigan captain Matt Herr, and then probably playing in the USHL for his senior year.
FWIW. The OHL is not a threat here.
As far as 2011 question mark Lucas Lessio goes, Waterloo's GM thinks they've got an excellent shot. They're also bringing in Alex Guptill (now Michigan's only other 2011 commit with Derek Deblois arriving this fall) and hope that will suffice as enticement:
We're taking a calculated risk," O'Handley said of Lessio. "We know he has options. Nick Ebert (current Black Hawk) has options, so it is no different. If you get him, to some degree you win the lottery.
"We wouldn't have done it if there was absolutely no way. We wouldn't have done it if it was 50-50. And, we're going to have to work hard to get him."
Note that the USHL has two drafts, the Futures Draft Nieves went in earlier, where players are not eligible this year but you can maintain their rights, and the Entry Draft, in which you get the guy's rights for a year and if you don't sign him you get nothing. Lessio was picked in the Entry Draft, so Waterloo's put a lot on the line to acquire him.
Speaking of that 2011 class, Michigan might need to get cracking on it. They lose Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Vaughn, Winnett, Llewellyn, Langlais, and Hogan after the season. They've got two forwards committed, leaving them to find another three forwards, two defenders, and a goalie if they're going to keep the same levels of roster depth. (Joel Vienneau, the Canadian goalie they were looking at for this year, committed to Minnesota for 2011.) They likely aren't—this fall's Michigan team will be the deepest I can ever remember—but they need at least another forward, defenseman, and goalie to feel comfortable going into '11, especially since there will be a number of flight risks next offseason.
Hockey lack of destinations. The buzz around the hockey program is that they would not lose anyone early to the NHL this year, and here's further confirmation of that from Mike Spath:
There is no rumored candidate expected to bolt for the NHL. In fact, the Wolverines seem to be taking a cue from forwards Louie Caporusso, Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin, who all declared their intentions to return for their senior seasons.
Also I must have missed this, but in April Michigan named captains: Hagelin gets the C (obvs), Glendening is the ultra-rare second captain as an ultra-rare junior (was the last one Ortmeyer? I think I'm missing one), and Rust and Caporusso get As.
Etc.: New Michigan blog Holdin' The Rope takes a page out of the OSU playbook and analyzes the development of Terrelle Pryor in the Rose Bowl. If you're wondering, no, Michigan's baseball team can't swing an at-large bid to the tournament.
Wetzel & Co at Yahoo break a major story about parts of the Kansas athletic department being complicit in Final Four ticket scalping, providing both a major story to blow Michigan's off the front page nationally and an example of how an investigative piece can be scrupulously fair. One complaint: late in the piece Yahoo cites "published reports" about complaints primo seats at Allen Fieldhouse are going to scalpers without even bothering to mention where the report was published.
Thursday 3:35pm ET
Notes: Michigan is 101-45 all time.
Iowa is 1-0 in the tourney (not
Michigan will open up their portion of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament Thursday against Iowa. The winner advances to the semi-finals of the championship round, the loser falls into a pit of despair also known as the loser's bracket.
Iowa owns a 2-1 record against the Wolverines, but they've already thrown their ace Jarred Hippen in order to get to this game. Michigan comes in fully rested and with all its pitchers at Rich Maloney's disposal.
A brief review of the regular season meeting and some thoughts on the tournament after the jump.