"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
The story: boy gets RSS feed, boy searches every week for loss-aftermath venting on the internet, boy reads post, boy falls in love with post, post disappears. What to do? C&P, as I need this for This Week In Schadenfreude, since it's, um, like the very platonic ideal for TWIS. BGS yanked it but since I have dozens of tabs open I still had it. Enjoy! (Screenshot here for veracity purposes)
(Warning: bad language follows. This is an R-rated post -- please skip it if you are sensitive. If you choose to read it, please picture Chevy Chase in Vacation or Steve Martin at the rental car counter in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and you should get the sense and tone of my exasperation here.)
BUG-EYED mad. Pissed off. Spitting bullets. Even after a night of sleeping on it, I wake up supremely angry. Maybe even angrier than when I went to sleep. So mad I can't even see straight.
I can't figure it out. You have a chance to WIN THE GAME IN REGULATION and you just pass on it. You just waive it. It's the singular worst call of the Charlie Weis era. My foundation of trust is shaken to its core. Any slack Charlie had with me for this shitty season was just squandered and used up.
I just can't wrap my head around it. It's the dumbest call I've seen in years. You might have to go back to Bob Davie at the end of the game versus Purdue when Jarious got sacked; at least then they called a play, and it looked like a miscommunication. This was ALL on Charlie. I never thought I would see the day where Charlie Weis would cost us a ballgame. Those kinds of meltdowns are reserved for gameday idiots like Davie and Willingham and Faust, aren't they? Not Charlie: master of the judicious timeout, ruler of the clock, player of the odds. Even when he made calls that blew up in his face, you sort of saw where he was coming from. Not this time.
Who cares about the goddam streak. Hell, I'm HAPPY for the Navy players and fans. This has nothing to do with that. It's not just about losing the game (which, unbelievably, I had already mentally prepared myself for; this is how low this year has sunk - I'm girding myself to lose to Navy). It's about FOREGOING THE CHANCE TO KICK A FIELD GOAL TO WIN THE MOTHERFUCKING GAME.
Did ANYONE with a Motorola headset question this decision? Latina, Haywood? Corwin, where the hell were you? Charlie Junior -- you wearing that thing for decoration? ANYONE? Ahh, hell, forget the headset -- he should have listened to the crowd. Fifty thousand people yelling "KICK IT YOU STUPID SON OF A BITCH!"
And what did we do instead? A PASS ON 4TH AND 8? THAT'S a better option than a 41-yard try, with a guy with plenty of leg from that distance who has already booted a 48-yarder earlier this year? "We were kicking into the wind," Charlie said, "and we weren't hitting it before the game." SO FUCKING WHAT. You line it up and give it a shot. If you miss, you miss -- but at least you TRIED. AT LEAST YOU TRIED TO WIN THE GAME.
I can't even start with the 4th AND FIFTEEN FAKE FIELD GOAL or the goddam screen passes that got blown up EVERY SINGLE TIME (and honestly, you knew they were going to suck, didn't you? Because we've been running them for EIGHT GAMES NOW and it's clear we can't execute them. WHY ARE THESE PAGES STILL IN OUR PLAYBOOK?) or the crucial moments when you put the game on the shoulders of Evan Sharpley (a game, but let's be honest, a flailing player who's more lucky than good) instead of trusting your rushing attack which had been eating up chunks of yards all game long.
Instead, we play for OVERTIME. Now I don't know a team in the country that is better suited to play in overtime than Navy. YOU KICK THE BALL AND YOU TRY TO END IT IN REGULATION BECAUSE NAVY CAN GET 25 YARDS WHENEVER THEY GODDAM PLEASE. What are those rules again? Never get involved in a land war in Asia, and NEVER GO IN AGAINST NAVY WHEN OVERTIME IS ON THE LINE. I knew it. My friends I was sitting with knew it. Everybody in section 10 knew it. THE WHOLE GODDAM STADIUM KNEW IT, except for some idiot who calls himself the head coach.
"We weren't hitting it before the game into the wind." Give me a break.
You stupid goddam idiot. I'm talking to you, shithead. You just cost us a chance to win the game. Where did you learn your trade, you stupid goddam idiot. You Bob-Davie-versus-Nebraska motherfucker. What you are hired to do is to help us win. Not to FUCK US UP.
And when we lost, I was...angry. You know what? I've never been ANGRY after a loss under Charlie. I have been variously deflated, humiliated, or resigned, but never really angry. The games we've lost we were either overmatched or a victim of our own mistakes. Have I questioned calls in various situations, questioned gameplans, questioned personnel decisions? Absolutely. But I never pinned a loss totally on Charlie until now. I stood in stunned silence. The entire stadium did. Absolutely stunned. Of all the losses in the last three years, this is the first one I hang on his head, and his head alone.
After the game we choked down our anger and congratulated a nice Navy couple sitting in front of us (the older gent in his 70s was literally crying tears of joy) and you couldn't help but think what a great moment for those guys. Good for them. They deserved it. Hell, I'm even going to keep the ticket stub -- it'll probably be worth something someday. We shook their hands and wished them well, and congratulated them on a good game. After all, they outplayed us when it counted.
We trundled out of the stadium and marched directly to the car. Stunned silence. Waves of people emptying out into the parking lots, and nobody saying a goddam thing. Seething. It wasn't the loss - hell, we've had seven of them already this year. Not because Navy outplayed us in overtime -- nope, you knew that was a losing matchup for us. We're seething because maybe, just maybe, it should have never come to that.
We jumped in the car and turned on the postgame show, catching Jack Nolan sounding like he's under seige and barricading the door. "PLEASE, people, if you're going to call in you have to TONE IT DOWN. I know you're upset, but we can't put you on the air if you're going to curse." Fucking hell, Jack -- cursing is all we've got right now.
A final injury rumor update: both Hart and Henne will play, though neither will be at full strength. (Rumor validity: multiply-sourced and solid.)
Can you see yourself working here someday?
Oh yeah, I plan on being the head coach here. Definitely.
Someone get me a new trapper keeper and a glitter pen, STAT.
Alan Weymouth on Minnesota and MSU:
We won again, behind a true frosh at QB and behind a OL that remains in constant flux. It took a while for the offense to get going, but once the OLs decided to have at Minnesota, and our backs started running a little harder AND we negotiated our way through our early mistakes, we got the result we thought we'd get. Minnesota's defense was slow... very slow. Shouldn't have been that difficult, and wouldn't have been with Henne and Hart.
MSU's offensive line is very vulnerable in pass pro. The right side especially, as both Miller and Martin don't move their feet very well. They struggle to keep a pedestrian Iowa team off the QB last week. The left side isn't much better though. We can have a lot of fun against this team, if we can stuff the running game. Caulcrick doesn't scare me at all ...a big bruising back who they use at the goal line and in short yardage.
Run Offense vs. Michigan State
First, Mike Hart's status: he has a high ankle sprain of unknown severity and rumors have been flying left and right about his availability all week. I have nothing solid; I do believe he will play given the quotes he offhandedly gave the Daily whilst walking off the field after the Minnesota game.
Will it matter? Maybe not. I'm not sure how Michigan State currently boasts the #38 rushing defense in the country, because, uh...
By any reasonable measure, they were completely full of fail against everyone except Indiana and Omar Conteh, Backup of Northwestern. I mean, seriously, Michigan State lost a game in which Jake Christensen was 5 of 15 for 53 yards. And they gave up 100 yards to a Notre Dame running back. Hell, Michigan State has given up 42% of Notre Dame's net rushing yards on the year, and that was with 32 yards in sacks!
So please ignore the kindly statistics: this is an awful run defense and Michigan should crush it no matter who's running the ball. It would certainly be nice if it was Hart, but over the past couple weeks Brown and Minor have proven they can ramble for large quantities of yards against defenses of BB gun caliber.
Key Matchup: Boren/Kraus/Ciulla/MacAvoy versus Reach/Scoop Blocks. The MSU linebackers are really bad and will provide little opposition if Michigan can just execute those tough blocks where you end up chasing DTs who lined up playside of you. Boren did a great job several times against Minnesota, Rotating Right Guard not so much.
Pass Offense vs. Minnesota
Yeah, if the MSU run defense is bad, uh...
- Todd Boeckman, OSU, 15/23, 193 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt
- Kellen Lewis, IU, 13/19, 171 yards, 9.0 yards per attempt
- CJ Bacher, 38/48, 520 yards, 10.6 yards per attempt
- Tyler Donovan, Wisc, 17/24, 247 yards, 10.3 yards per attempt
...the MSU pass defense may as well be sporting Jaren Hayes.
Christensen, as mentioned, was clubbed to death. The other QBs MSU has faced: Jimmah Clausen, true freshman Kevan Smith at Pitt, and whoever's playing at UAB and BG these days. There is a clear grouping here: the resolutely awful and those who have shredded the State secondary.
The pass numbers do conceal one salutary aspect of the State defense: sacks. As mentioned, MSU is sixth nationally in sack yardage, and this isn't all because of the nonconference schedule. (It is, however, partly because of it: 21 of MSU's 32 sacks came against their candy nonconference schedule; against conference opponents MSU is averaging a respectable-but-not-horrifying 2.2 a game.) Jonal Saint-Dic, hilariously dubbed "The Sackmaster" by his coaches, is sixth in the country with nine. Michigan, meanwhile, is average at conceding sacks (51st nationally at 1.67 per game).
If Henne plays (and is not unduly affected by his shoulder injury), this will be a massacre on a par with the bullets above. The Michigan line is better than anyone up there save Ohio State; the Michigan receivers are way, way better than anyone up there as long as Manningham retains the form he's come into over the past few weeks.
Mallett, on the other hand, is a dodgier proposition. Free touchdowns and screens winged to Tacopants -- Tacopants don't do screens -- created an uncomfortable first half against the worst team in the conference; against Michigan State they might create a loss. The best prescription might be a steady diet of bombs. Mallett's unlikely to go 5/5 on them, but a few should hit home and the downside on them is low. As long as his completion percentages on 40 yard passes and 0 yard passes remain the same, bombs away. A Moeller-style offense where the ground game pounds ahead and the killshot comes from above would squeeze out a decent number of points.
Who will it be? Again, I have to ple
ad ignorance. I have heard both things from the grapevine. I honestly don't know; I think Henne is more likely to be out than Hart, especially given Angelique Chengelis' public airing of a belief you'd see "a lot of Mallett." If you put a gun to my head, I would say Mallett starts. Then I would be like "dude, I think you should calm down." [UPDATE: Now if you put a gun to my head, I believe Henne starts. WOOOOOOO internet rumors! -ed]
One serious concern: Steve Schilling's pass protection. The freshman right tackle has been responsible for most of the pressure getting through to Michigan quarterbacks the past few weeks, and Michigan State's defensive ends will pose a stiff (ha!) test.
Key Matchup: Schilling versus Saint-Dic The Sackmaster. Obvs. Time for Michigan quarterbacks will yield many yards.
Run Defense vs. Michigan State
Unfortunately, you could take the damning text in the "Run Offense" section above and reapply it to Michigan's run defense, albeit with a significant reduction in ferocity if you wish to retain credibility. Like MSU, a bunch of sacks has obscured the true quality of the run defense. In Michigan State's case the quality is "atrocious"; in Michigan's it's merely mediocre.
Michigan, so used to the zone read by now, will have to change gears and take on the first traditional rushing attack they've opposed since Penn State and, if you reasonably discount Notre Dame as an actual threat, only the second they've faced all year. There is surprisingly little data to be had against "conventional" offenses, as they now defy convention. The Penn State numbers:
A replica of those -- one long run from Kinlaw, one twenty-yarder from Scott, and 2.3 YPC otherwise* -- would surely result in a twenty-point win. That seems unlikely given the quality of the Michigan State backs and the troubles Michigan has had to date up the middle.
Meanwhile, Michigan State ran over Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame before getting crushed by Ohio State (59 yards on 28 carries) and stalemated by Iowa (148 yards by the tailbacks but on 42 carries, 3.5 per). Jehuu Caulcrick is the short-yardage battering ram and all around YPC killer; Javon Ringer is the one who's actually good. To date the pair have come close to splitting carries, which is either evidence of a lot of third and short or certified insanity on the part of Michigan State coaches: Ringer averages 6.3 YPC but is only getting 19 carries a game.
This will be difficult, especially with Michigan fully in zone read mode, but in the limited time Terrance Taylor has had against traditional run attacks he has been disruptive; a steady enough diet of 0 yard runs should keep Michigan State from pounding its way down the field. Ringer is a serious threat to break a long one, however, and an Iowa-like performance would be a win.
*(not counting Morelli carries.)
Key Matchup: The Usual: Michigan linebackers versus hesitancy, fullback blocks, misdirection, and inability to get off their blocks. (Yeah, I didn't even bother changing this for this game.)
Pass Defense vs. Michigan State
To look at Brian Hoyer's stats is to disbelieve in the power of statistics. Whenever Michigan State has flicked through my consciousness this year, he's been winging things wide and looking generally horrible. The stats, however, say otherwise.
Michigan State is a one-receiver sort of team this year: JUCO transfer Devin Thomas has 51 catches and almost 1000 yards, but the next guy on the list is Ringer with 28 catches. True freshman Mark Dell, sophomore Deon Curry, and tight end Kellen Davis have totals in the mid-teens. Davis could be a problem on play action, and Dell/Curry are likely to pick up a couple possession catches, but the mission is clear: stop Thomas.
Michigan doesn't have a corner lockdown enough to bother with a straight matchup, but both starters have been very good this year and freshman Donovan Warren is rapidly maturing into one of the Big Ten's better corners, always in the hip pocket of his assigned covers unless he's blown the coverage and is busy giving up an easy 30 yard touchdown. Freshmen will be freshmen. Meanwhile, Morgan Trent has gone from liability to strength and nickelback Brandon Harrison has jumped all sort of slot routes this year.
And then there is the pass rush. Michigan is just four sacks behind Michigan State in this category and has consistently gotten to quarterbacks unless they were terrified of losing containment, -- Illinois featured lots of time for Williams and McGee, not that it mattered; Oregon not so much -- something that does not figure to be an issue against Brian Hoyer. Michigan will tee off in third and long. The results will be gory.
Key Matchup: Warren and Trent versus Thomas. To win the game Michigan State needs 100 yards from Thomas; to stay in his pocket -- he's always the first read given the catch numbers -- and force Hoyer to come off him equals sack, sack, sack.
A secret reason why MSU kind of sucks, their special teams may be as bad as Michigan's. The first problem: horrible punting. Aaron Bates is 86th nationally with about 39 yards a kick; Michigan State compounds this by giving up around 7 yards a return and falling to 102nd in net punting. Punt returns are another sore spot: at 5.4 YPR, Michigan State is 108th. Zoltan should have full license to pull that Incandenza stuff this week after several games lofting unreturnable fair-catches.
Oddly, Michigan also appears to have an advantage in the kicking game. Kicking Competency Lopata is 8/8 on the year and hit a 42-yarder against Minnesota. He appears to be pretty good. Meanwhile, MSU's Brett Swenson has dropped off after a strong freshman year, currently just 10/16.
The one fly in the ointment: Michigan State's outstanding kick return teams are 2nd without a distorting touchdown return. Devin Thomas is remarkably consistent and good at these things; expect a lot of popups to the 30.
Key Matchup: Kick coverage versus Thomas. It's doubtful we see many long kicks, but if we do there's serious danger of a big return.
- Henne does not play, or is off because of injury.
- The issues against runs up the middle are not limited to the read option.
- Schilling can't handle Saint-Dick The Sackmaster.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Gashing lanes appear in the run game and MSU is forced to choose their poison.
- Taylor dominates.
- MSU's line is as shaky in real life as it is on paper.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Their Offensive Strength Points At Our Weakness, -1 for Their Defensive Strength Appears To Be Cowering, -1 for Hart... Returns! Probably, +1 for Henne... Does Not! Probably, -1 for Their Special Teams Are Worse Than Ours, +1 for This Would Be So Michigan State To Win).
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for It's State, And They Are Annoying When They Win, Or At Least I Think I Remember Them Being Annoying, +1 for This Locks Up A Shot At Pasadena, +1 for If Hart's Back And Has A Big Game And We Win The Heisman Thing Is Still A Possibility)
Loss will cause me to... install a countdown clock in my house to the next Michigan State game.
Win will cause me to... light a candle for Chad Henne's shoulder.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
This is the second spread this year I have completely failed to understand. The first: Michigan -7 versus Oregon. This one seems just as nonsensical but in the opposite direction. State's defense is a bunch of sacks and a bunch of crap, likely to fold in the face of Jake Long and Co no matter who is carrying the ball behind them. The secondary can't tackle or, apparently, cover. The Michigan State sackfest has been greatly muted by Big Ten competition. Despite the five wins there's hardly any evidence this team is any good at all.
Hoyer has good efficiency numbers that I don't believe given what I've seen of him, and Michigan State's sacks yielded combine with Michigan's sacks gained to paint a picture of one slow white dude running for his life most of the day. Third and long will be a near-automatic punt.
Getting the Spartans in third and long might be difficult, though. It's hard to get a feel for how the run game will go, since Michigan's last and only effort against a similar offense was against Penn State's prehistoric attack. (There were a number of carries for Illinois down near the UI endzone run from the I-formation. The results against these were highly encouraging.) Meanwhile, the zone read has consistently gashed Michigan up the middle. I expect one long Ringer run, a lot of ineffective pounding from Caulcrick, a lot of Terrance Taylor, and Michigan State drives that pick up a first down or three before the inevitable punt. They don't have the pass protection to move the ball consistently and will struggle to put up points without being provided a short field.
In the end, this is a mediocre conventional offense and a bad defense going up against Michigan. "Throw out the records" and all that, but, uh, don't. This shouldn't be close.
If Mallett plays, retract the above prediction of a blowout. The dropoff from Henne to the freshman is enormous and the result will be a lot of drives upon which Michigan stops itself; still, this is not a good Michigan State team and a loss is not likely even with the freshman in the game.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart plays.
- Henne... doesn't.
- Prediction One (With Henne, Hart): 35-10, Michigan.
- Prediction Two (Without Henne, Hart): 21-13, Michigan.
- Prediction Three(With Hart, Without Henne): 28-13, Michigan
Reminder. I've received a couple emails about the availability of this week's Michigan State game in regions of the country that aren't getting the ABC feed. To remind: over the offseason the Big Ten signed a new TV contract with ESPN that includes "reverse mirroring." In parts of the country that don't receive the ABC broadcast, the game will be on ESPN. All ESPN/ABC broadcasts are national now except the exceedingly rare instance in which Michigan plays a night game that's broadcast on ABC.
Correction. A couple emailers note that on a third-quarter Brandon Minor draw it was not Carson Butler making an excellent block but rather Martell Webb, who had replaced a gimpy Butler by that point in the game. Play description now reads:
Eight in the box for Minnesota. We have an inverted TE set with Webb [erroneously IDed as Butler earlier. -ed] in a two-point stance on the line next to Moundros in the backfield; we run a draw off this. Webb(+1) gets an outstanding block on the linebacker attempting to contain; two guys come up inside; Moundros does a good job with one. This time Minor makes the right read, shooting outside into acres of space for a big gain. Long also excellent here.
Availability. Angelique Chengelis on our wounded warrior-poets:
Q. Will Chad Henne and Mike Hart play for Michigan on Saturday?
A. Hart has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and Henne missed last Saturday's game with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder.
My understanding is Hart is close to being completely healthy and will play against the Spartans. He has been running well in practice, but obviously, practice and game-speed action are completely different. Regardless, having Hart on the field will give the Wolverines a huge emotional boost.
Henne is a different issue. This is his throwing shoulder, after all. What he did in the fourth quarter against Illinois should be valued for what it was -- a monumental effort by a guy in incredible pain. This is not an injury that has been taken lightly.
Of course, Henne wants to play at MSU. He understands the magnitude of this game, not only as the in-state rivalry that it is, but also its importance in the Big Ten race.
Henne will do everything he can to be on the field, but my hunch is we'll see a lot of freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett.
The Hart stuff fits with what the Daily reported earlier this week; the Henne stuff is new. Chengelis is probably the best-connected member of the Detroit media, so I tentatively suggest she's correct. But if Henne is healthy enough to relieve Mallett should Michigan find itself in trouble, he's healthy enough to start. No doubt either would be a courageous act, but Michigan State is not Minnesota. I assume if he can, he will play, and Michigan will try to rest him when they can.
And so it begins. Michigan squashed Ferris State 78-40 last night. Didn't see the game; reports were that there were many turnovers, just as many open shots, and Manny Harris looks like he's all he's supposed to be. Highlights from the BTN:
Love the backdoor layup, and say what you want about the BTN but that level of coverage for a hoops exhibition is very cool.
OMD. Readers respond to Monday's query about the Oversized Metallic Dandelion:
My name is Mike Roarty and I am responding to your post about the giant metal dandelion thing at halftime. I work for thepalestra.com and I was on the sidelines and asked them what they were doing. They, in fact, were measuring the decibel levels within the stadium and what parts generated more noise. I have no idea if they were affiliated with the university but they all spoke Russian to one another and I was worried that they were trying to send a message to one of their old satellites or if Mir was secretly still in orbit. I have no idea why they made no mention of what they were doing over the PA system.
The Daily had an enlightening article on this:
When Navvab and his team took measurements during Saturday's halftime, they found that the sound - almost exclusively from the student section - was 100 decibels, or the equivalent of a chainsaw.
With the skyboxes, which will stand about 10 feet higher than the scoreboards and further enclose the stadium, the sound level of the stadium would reach 110 or 111 decibels, about the noise level of a loud rock concert, Navvab said.
Decibels are logarithmic, so that difference is almost impossible to believe: those numbers, if true, would mean the luxury boxes would double the noise level in the stadium. (I think. I looked it up on Wikipedia: 100 decibles creates an effective pressure of two pascal; 110 six. There's something called a sone, though, that has this text:
...a doubling of the number of sones sounds to the human ear like a doubling of the loudness, which also corresponds to increasing the sound pressure level by approximately 10 dB, or increasing the mean square sound pressure by a factor 10.
So +10 db == 2x perceived loudness.) That would go a long way towards erasing Michigan Stadium's reputation as an unintimidating place to play. Executive Goober Stevenson
must be having shaking fits just thinking about it.
Hound of Dracula! Uh... yeah.
Pity poor Zoltan. Once he was a peasant's happy dog. Then, after interrupting Dracula mid-bite, he was forever enslaved to the bloodsucking ways of his new master. After a couple centuries, Zoltan resurfaces in 1970s California, intent on terrorizing the family of Dracula's distant relatives, starting with their dogs.
Our punting space emperor vampire dog. And probably some other stuff, too.
Historian. UM-OSU 1990:
Etc.: Ezeh sentenced to probation for a May DUI; should have no effect on his playing time. Braylon Edwards is awesome; Wetzel says Long for Heisman(?); more from Bill Martin on the BTN, please contrast his straightforward approach to that of cable spokespeople; Stadium & Main envisions a titanic Carr-Miles battle in the bowl game.
Don't click here. It's Tiller-licious.
A key point in the stadium renovation kerfuffle is this: is the addition of luxury boxes financially sound and is there a reasonable alternative that allows the university to finance long-overdue structural improvements to the stadium? The argument in this space has been a little unfulfilling -- basically "I trust Martin and every other AD who has added luxury boxes" -- but without the financial acumen to parse out the details of the competing proposals that's all I'm left with.
This has been a huge failing on the part of the MSM when discussing the renovations: no newspaper has actually sat down with a neutral business-talking professional and hashed out the details of the competing (<-- might want to scare quote that) plans. Instead they just quote Pollack and various university administrators and provide no useful information whatsoever.
What follows is a discussion that took place on The Victors, a Michigan message board. The format of the board is such that posts die after a couple days and links within hours, so no links are provided; you'll have to trust that I didn't go insane and have this argument by myself and decide to post it as a discussion amongst other people.
Anyway, after a couple days of extensive conversations about the renovations, a poster named "rekker" came forward with a look inside the finances of the project. Rekker, like myself, is clearly pro-boxes, so keep that in mind. He is also clearly well acquainted with some inside baseball of the athletic department and has seen reports that have not been released publicly (or, if they have, have not been well-publicized):
I read the various threads on Big House renovations earlier. This is an attempt to clear up some misunderstandings about renovation costs and various financing options. These are informed, but not official Athletic Department, numbers.
1. The situation:
The Big House is an historic structure that many people love. But it is also far below modern standards in almost every area. This includes:
- Concourse areas at about 50% of recommended area per patron
- Flow into and out of the stadium at less than half the recommended rate (10-15 minutes to enter just prior to game time)
- Far too few concession areas. Temporary nature of these limits food quality as well
- Far too few restrooms and conditions that are medieval
- Until recently, a crumbling concrete foundation
- Aging and inefficient systems (power, water, HVAC, etc.)
- A press box that is (literally) a safety hazard. It is in danger of falling down.
All these things need to be addressed. Because so little was done to the stadium for so many decades, the fixes are incredibly expensive. Addressing all of these things (with the exception of the press box) will improve the game day experience for EVERYONE who attends a game.
2. Cost Breakdown:
It is somewhat difficult to separate the various categories of costs, because many costs serve multiple purposes. A key point of dispute is how to allocate common costs. For example, rebuilding the press box alone requires quite a bit of structural work (somewhere in the range of $30 million). Adding luxury boxes to the press box structure (west side only) increases the cost only incrementally (around another $20mm).
Since much of the renovation will benefit everyone, I believe it is reasonable to:
(a) Start with the things that absolutely need to be done and cost those out. These are (concrete replacement, replace benches, redo utilities). The cost of these "must do" items is around $45 million (+/- 10%); then
(b) Add items that benefit everyone and cost these out. These include improving concourses, adding second level concourses, and rebuilding concessions ($30-35mm), widening aisles and improving bathrooms ($15-20mm), and rebuilding the press box ($30mm)
-- total for categories (a) and (b) is $120mm to $130mm
(c) then add the discretionary items (club seats, boxes, club level, etc.). These total around another $100 million.
3. Translating this into annual costs. We have two potential projects to consider:
"Basic" project -- (a) and (b) alone, with a project cost of around $125mm. If we assume a capital cost of 4.5%, and repayment over 25 years, annual payments on this "basic" project would be just about $8.4 million.
"Luxury" project, with a total project cost of around $225million. If we make the same assumptions about cost of capital and repayment, annual payments on the "luxury" project are $15.1million.
4. Options for paying.
So, how should the AD pay for the projects? There are three basic options.
4.a We could charge all existing ticket holders a per game surcharge until the project is paid off. Quite a few schools have done this.
Assume 7 home games per year and 107,000 purchased tickets per game. The PER GAME ticket surcharge would have to be $11.22 per ticket per game for the next 20 years. If we chose to exclude student tickets, the surcharge on everyone else would go up.
4.b We could add more seats to the stadium. Pollack often suggests this, but the math doesn't work out.
Assume 10,000 more seats (ignoring for the moment that this would suppress demand and cut the waiting list dramatically). For the 10,000 new seats to pay for the "basic" renovation, the seats would have to sell for $120 per seat per game ($8.4mm / 7 games / 10,000 seats). Put another way, assume these seats averages $50 per ticket, they would only generate about $3.5 million annually, or approximately 40% of the cost of the basic renovation.
So, this option does not come close to paying for the basic renovations.
4.c Let the 4100 people who would like a premium experience pay for the whole thing. The basic math is as follows:
3200 club seats. Average required donation is 2500, plus the $350 ticket cost. Add in some parking and concessions and call it $3000 per seat per season (this is very conservative and does not assume any extra donations). This leads to $9.6 million in incremental revenue.
83 boxes at an average license fee of $70,000 per season. This leads to another $5.8 million in incremental revenue.
So, the "luxury seating" costs around $6.7 million per year, but generates around $15.4 million in incremental revenues. The cost of the total project is around $15.1mm, so the revenues generated by the luxury seats pay for all of the improvements!!!
=== === ===
The bottom line is that the "luxury seating" pays for the entire project, even though it accounts for only around 40% of the project costs. The only way Pollack and the "Save the Big House" crowd show it doesn't work is to assume that the entire $226million cost is only for luxury boxes. They then add things like interest to the cost--which anyone who has taken even basic finance will tell you makes no sense because it is double counting.
Note that this analysis also assumes that every box and club seat holder contributes only the minimum amount. Because locations are determined by donations, many people will contribute much more than the minimum, thereby ensuring that the people in the premium seats pay for everything.
Pollack his buddies refuse to acknowledge a couple things.
1. That major renovations are badly needed and that the majority of the costs of this project will benefit everyone at the Big House.
2. That their alternative financing options don't come close to paying for badly needed renovations. Martin's plan puts the entire cost on 4000 people who are happy to bear it. Pollack's approach hoses everyone and doesn't cover the cost, he just doesn't like to admit it out loud.
3. That the Big House has never been egalitarian. Regents sit in a Regents box. Until the PSL was implemented, tickets between the 20s w
ere allocated on a "who you know" basis. I know people in the AD, so I was able to acquire 45 yard-line seats a few years agoâ€”no payment, no waiting list. This is the antithesis of egalitarian. Pollack likes this mythical kind of egalitarianism because he is connected. But it shuts out everyone who is not. Scarce resources have to get allocated somehow. Given that the AD needs money to compete, allocating seats via donations is much more "fair" than doing it through the old boys network.
4. Demand for both the boxes and club seats is strong. The AD just sent out a brochure to Big Ballers (annual 5k contibutions) about two weeks ago. They already have deposits on 35 boxes and around 1,000 club seats. 90% of Victors Club members have not even been contacted year and inventory is already running short.
5. Finally, the fact that opponents are whining about "process" just shows that they have lost on the merits.
The stadium renovation came before the Regents four times. Pollack spoke to the regents once. He asked for and was given a spot to speak at a second meeting, but he didn't show up. He is whining about being denied a chance to make his point FOR THE THIRD TIME!!! Does anyone think that if Pollack would have been allowed to address the Regents one more time, he would have changed any votes? Obviously not.
Everyone who knows about other schools experiences with luxury seating, and about the finances of the project believes that this is a slam dunk. 99% of the objections are either of the type "I don't understand and you can't proceed until I do" or complaining about process.
None of that matters now. Martin and the AD are bringing the Big House into the 21st century and creating a financial model that will allow U-M to compete for decades.
An initial complaint:
Ignoring the rest of the post for a minute, do you really think that point 5 is valid?
If I come thump you on the head and take your wallet, you might well complain both about the outcome (I now have your money) as well as the process by which I got it. Just because you complain (or as you say "whine") about the process doesn't "show" that you are "wrong on the merits".
Come on, if you are going to try to be levelheaded and analytical here, resist the urge to chuck in stuff like that.
I don't agree. Pollack and most opponents major talking point over the past few months has been that he couldn't get on the schedule for the final Regential approval.
I am not trying to say that the process was perfect. It wasn't. But then no process is. It was not, however, snuck through. The renovation came before the regents 4 times--with public comment. Martin and the AD discussed it in numerous interviews and held a series of public info sessions, also with long and long-winded public comment.
The people who make the decisions are fully aware of what the objections are. They allowed opponents to make their case and then made their decision. That is very different than suppressing comment. Pollack (and I assume your) position was heard loud and clear. You just lost the argument. Your voice wasn't supressed.
If the opponents best argument is about whether the agenda for the 4th hearing was announced 48 or 72 hours in advance, that tells me the rest of their argument is pretty weak.
From a strict logic point of view (like your wallet example) opponents could have both a process and a substantive point. But since 99% of the objections are now about trivial process points, I think the best interpretation is that they really don't have a substantive point.
A rebuttal from an off-board person who's pro-Pollack:
This is from a friend of mine who is very pro-Pollack and the other Save the Big House folks. I thought your take was great. What's your response to his?
I guess i just didn't realize michigan stadium was such a sh!thole. no wonder most people only make it to one game a year. i'm trying to figure out how we can sucker 110000 people to put up with such squalor for 2-4 hours every saturday, i guess we can just chalk it up to billmo's brilliance...
this is one guy's opinion, he can make up numbers and "facts" and twist them anyway he wants. the big house plan is another guy's opinion, they can call each other all the names they want but it doesn't change the actual facts. below are the high level points of the big house plan, but most importantly for me it doesn't destroy the stadium visually or alter its character...and it increases capacity by 10000. Also, keep in mind all this bullsheeet about how they'd HAVE to raise ticket prices to pay for the project without Martin Boxes is a load of crap. The PSL's bring in an additional $12 mil/year, 99.99% of that is pure profit baby. The department has $40 mil in cash stashed away. The true cost of all of the renovations minus the Martin Boxes is more like $50 - $60 mil (this is directly from an Ann Arbor News graphic of the different proposals based on info provided by the Athletic Department). Do the math on how long it would take to pay off with no ticket surcharge.
The Big House Plan:
1. Was developed by a national, all-volunteer team of Michigan architects
2. Adds 10,000 bleacher seats instead of private luxury boxes, bringing capacity to 117,001
3. Achieves all consensus goals outlined by U-M officials for the stadium, including a new press box with modern facilities for U-M officials and the media, wider seats and aisles, ADA-compliant seating, and more restrooms and concessions
4. Costs $93.1 million (including debt service)
5. Pays for itself without a ticket surcharge and generates net revenue from day one
6. Protects Michigan Stadium's quos status as the biggest in the country
First of all, my numbers are solid (based on documents from the AD and from Barton Malow, the construction company).
Second, there are a couple of logical errors in your friend's response. The PSL money and the cash on hand already exist. You can't start new spending and say "it pays for itself" because your plan involves raiding the cookie jar.
The "basic" plan described below comes in around $125 million, or $8.4 million per year. The "Save the Big House Plan" people used to say they could do things for $60million, then $90million. But it was pointed out that they leave a lot out (utilities, second level concourses, etc.). My impression was that they had stopped talking about the financials of their plan because they are so farcical.
As to the raiding the cookie jar fallacy, consider the following. Let's say you have saved $100,000 for retirement, but you wife wants to buy a Mercedes for $105,000 and wants to spend the retirement money. She indicates that she thinks she can make $10 a week ($500 a year) with the new car by delivering meals on wheels. If she came to you and said "the new car pays for itself over 10 years" ($10/week * 10 years = $5200) would you agree? If so, I hope you never plan to retire.
That is what the STBH plan consists of. Grab a bunch of resources already commited to other things and claim that this grab "pays for" their plan.
Doing the financials the way I did (project incremental costs, project incremental revenues, match them up and discount) is the right way to do this. The STBH financial plan is three card monty.
These guys have a goal and are simply backing into "plans" that support the goal, whether these plans make sense or not. They then try to shift the burden to the Athletic Department to prove their farcical plans are wrong.
That's not how these things work. U-M has a system. The athletic department is responsible for its own finances. It works with the U-M CFO to work out details and make plans. They then present these to the President and
th Regents for approval.
All of this has happened, with input along the way from the public. Just because some joker like John Pollack makes up some numbers and demands equal billing with the officials authorized to make these decisions does not mean that everything must come to a halt until he is satisfied (which we all know he never will be).
Another anti-box complainant:
...it will take 25 years or so to pay this off, so on an economic basis, it won't generate any new revenues for the athletic department until about 2035.
What it will do is change and update the stadium and, as you say, use the well-heeled folks to pay for it all.
However, your financial scenario predicts a revenue income stream of only a few hundred thousand more than the required debt servicing on the project.
It also assumes that all 83 luxury boxes will be rented each season for the entire payback period and that the preferred seating also will be purchased during that time.
To quote Aesop, you are counting your chickens before they've hatched.
In my experience, that's a pretty large and likley very wrong assumption and I would bet a large sum of money that every box will not be leased each season over a quarter century as competition for entertainment dollars grows, the Michigan economy fluctuates, and the fortunes of Michigan football ebb and flow.
In your economic scenario in only takes 5 luxury boxes to not be leased, and that puts you under the required annual revenue stream needed to be generated to service the debt.
Also, you cannot assume that the average $70,000 yearly rental fee will stay the same (I would assume that it will increase), and that as a result of increases, tenants will be gained and lost.
My guess is if you keep a lease rate of 90 percent (about 74 suites), you will be doing well.
As Winged Victory has stated, there are private donations the university is trying to generate and counting on to help offset the initial cost of the project. But once again, that makes another assumption -- that the cost is going to remain $220 million.
No doubt this is the price as best can be figured today. But U-M will be extremely lucky if that is the end cost for such a large project (I'm going to make an assumption that Bill Martin has already accounted for that) because cost overruns are almost certain to occur.
As you've probably heard, the prices of metals is skyrocketing currently because of growing demand for steel in Asia, and given the amount of steel in this project, it's going to be affected.
Also, you cannot be sure that ADA compliance and other architectural unknowns aren't going to pop up and push the cost higher. And then you have the weather, which can either lower your costs by cooperating, or increase them by not cooperating.
Overall, you've nailed the numbers pretty good, but I still think the numbers your state are too rosy a scenario given the unknowns.
However, as you say, what are the alternatives? Funding stadium upgrades by raising ticket prices to the point where you risk alienating your core base of customers seems like a bad bet. And a ticket surcharge might work, assuming it will be dropped after the improvements are paid for. But I have seen few public entities willing to do that. Once they get a taste for the extra money rolling in, they find a way to make it permanent.
1. The key point is not whether the club seats and boxes generate a few hundrew thousand more or less than the entire carrying cost of the rennovation. The key point is that they cost around $100mm and generate enough cash (to a first approximation) to pay for a $226 million project.
2. Most of this stuff has to be done anyway. using my assumptions, these "have to do to bring us up to acceptable" items cost around 8.4 million a year. The AD COULD fund that stuff out of it's overall surplus, but why do so if people like Rick Waggoner, Bill Davidson, and Steve Ross are saying "let me fund it". The incremental cost of the luxury seating is around 6.7mm per year (15.1 - 8.4). If the luxury seating generates 14.5 instead of 15.4 mm per year in revenues, U-M is still FAR FAR ahead of where it would be without the luxury seating.
3. Most assumptions in the AD projections are very conservative. For example, carrying costs will be fixed but required donations are likely to increase 3-4% annually.
Also, I have assume NO donations beyond the required minimums. These levels will clearly be exceeded--probably by 7-10 million per year.
You are right that there are potential downside risks. But these are more than offset by the deliberate ignoring of a lot potential upside risks.
If this were an investment in which they were selling equity, I would be buying lots and lots of equity. That's not to say it is riskless, but the overwhelming majority of the uncertainties are on the upside, not the downside.
A second response from an informed poster:
you hit on an important point, which is why the Athletic Department hired a firm to research the demand for the boxes, as well as prices ect. I have never read a copy of the report, but seem to recall that their recommendations were that M could build as many as 100 or so boxes and that the average cost could be much higher than it is, and that the demand was there. The athletic department intentionally chose a number of boxes (83) that was well below what it was projected they could sell them at, and an average cost that was well below the recommendations ($70,000 or so). In fact, I believe the minimum cost was raised from $45,000 to $55,000 based upon the fact that the research showed the $45,000 figure was way below market value.
And I believe that the only stadium that had trouble selling all of its luxury boxes and club seating was MSU. Even then, the reports from MSU were that, even though there luxury boxes were not all sold, the luxury boxes led to a very significant increase in private and corporate donations directly from the box owners, and more than justified the construction of the luxury boxes.
This gets to an important point, which is that Martin's projections did not include any increase in donations, income from selling the names of the luxury boxes (apparently there is some demand for this), income from selling the names of the concourses and common areas, and a very significant bump in advertising revenue from having permanent concessions areas with far more visible advertising space, as well as the second level concourses and the staircases. This income will be very significant and was not included in any of the calculations.
How much will the naming rights bring in? Rekker:
The donation for naming each tower was well into seven figures.
I don't think the AD would be happy to see the exact number out there, but it was several times more than a million.
Right, all this comes with an "OMG INTERNET" disclaimer, but I see no reason to believe any of these people are taking the gullible for the proverbial "ride". If there is an anti-box counterpoint to the numbers expressed above that's significantly more rigorous than the one Rekker demolished, send it to me and I'll post it up for people to evaluate.
I kind of doubt such a thing exists, but, hey, Notre Dame won a game against a BCS school. Miracles happen.