Hey kids. John's answered your questions in an extensive post below. I know his points hit close to home as we approach the last time Michigan Stadium will host Notre Dame for the foreseeable future. The book is Fourth and Long, and it's available now.
Is there a way of putting the genie back in the bottle, or have the aggressive, business-oriented strategies of highlighted in the book (and there are MANY instances therein) put Michigan on an irreversible, faulty trajectory?
[My question is in his estimation, where is that "tipping point" for Michigan, and what happens when we reach it?]
Great question, and one I’ve examined from as many angles as possible for this book. Really, for Michigan fans – and fans of college football generally – it is the central question.
Michigan happens to make a great case study, on two fronts: the loyalty of its fans, and the department’s profitably, both of which are virtually unequaled in college football.
First, the good news, from the book:
“Brandon’s style might not please everyone he deals with, but he delivers what he promises. Under Brandon, the department increased its operating surplus to $15.3 million in fiscal year 2012, 72 percent higher than the previous fiscal year. In 2012, the Michigan football team alone generated $61.6 million in profits, second only to the University of Texas, which has the considerable advantage of its exclusive twenty-year, $300 million TV deal with ESPN.
Brandon has delivered more than dollars, too. After hiring Brady Hoke in 2011, the Michigan football team beat Notre Dame on the last play of the Big House’s first night game, defeated Ohio State for the first time since 2003, and won a thrilling overtime game over eleventh-ranked Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, Michigan’s first BCS bowl victory since a young man named Tom Brady beat Alabama in the January 1, 2000, Orange Bowl.
In the 2011–12 school year, the hockey team earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament; the men’s basketball team won a share of its first Big Ten title since 1986; and the following fall, Michigan’s other twenty-nine sports combined to run a close second behind Stanford, and ahead of such perennial all-sport powers as Texas and UCLA, in the Directors’ Cup, which Michigan has never won.
If the Michigan athletic department had issued a 2012 annual report to its shareholders, it would have been the shiniest publication in college sports, packed with enough good news to make the competition envious. By those measures, its creator could be considered an all-American athletic director.
The Wolverines are not alone in spending millions, of course, engaged as they are in an arms race with the Buckeyes and the Southeastern Conference that shows no signs of slowing down. In Brandon’s speeches to alumni clubs, service groups, and the press, he has been unabashed in laying out a simple equation: if you want titles, this is what it takes.
But it can come with some unexpected prices.”
One of them, of course, was the initial decision to leave the Marching Band in Ann Arbor for the Alabama game in Dallas – about which former band director Scott Boerma was willing to clarify several misconceptions in our interviews.
But the bigger price might be the disaffection of thousands of loyal fans, some of whom have dropped their tickets. At Michigan, as of this writing, those numbers don’t seem to be too great, and the Big House still attracts over 100,000 passionate fans each game. But just down the road at Penn State, whose fans are every bit as rabid as Michigan’s, driving an average of four hours to see their team play in State College, you can see the effects of squeezing your supporters too hard.
The scoreboard scroller at Penn State’s third game, against Navy, announced the game’s attendance at ninety-eight thousand. As I write: “This would have brought heartbreak to the Michigan crowd, which had never dipped below one hundred thousand since 1975. But the Lions’ six-year streak had already been broken at the opening game of the 2011 season, months before Sandusky was arrested, thanks to the overpricing of tickets through a misguided and ill-timed seat-license plan called the “Step Program.” This had caused attendance to drop by about three thousand a game in 2010, when the program was introduced, again in 2011, and would again in 2012.”
My sources tell me the trend is likely to continue in 2013, and this brings us to a central issue for meccas like Beaver Stadium, the Horseshoe and the Big House: faith. From the book:
College football fandom depends on the same force that buoys our nation’s currency: faith. Since the United States left the gold standard, the US dollar has value only because billions of people around the world think it does. When a critical mass of people stop thinking that, our dollars will be worth no more than Confederate scrip—without the eBay memorabilia value.
College football isn’t nearly as important, of course, nor as serious. But the ecosystem works the same way. Going to a football game at Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State is great largely because over one hundred thousand people at each stadium think it is. If the sellouts stop and the empty seats increase, the fans start questioning why they’re paying such incredible fees for a “wow experience” that cannot attract a sellout.
One friend calculated that taking her husband and two kids to the games—without dinners or hotel rooms—costs about $500 per Saturday, more than a day at Disney World. And Mickey never loses or snows on you.
“Just because you can charge them more,” Bill Martin told me, “doesn’t mean you should. You’re not there to ring up the cash to the nth degree. It’s a nonprofit model!
“Look into how much is spent on marketing, then look at how effective it is,” he said. “Look at the increase in men’s basketball attendance this year,” he added. Michigan’s top-10 men’s team played twenty games at home, attracting capacity crowds of 12,693 for fifteen of those games, with only two under 10,000. “That would happen if you didn’t spend one penny on marketing. You don’t have to do marketing at Michigan. We have the fans. We have the support. We have a great reputation. All you have to do is win. If you win, they will come. You just need to make it as affordable as possible for your fans.”
For all these reasons, my friends—who developed what they thought were lifelong habits of attendance as kids—have found themselves in the last few years rarely going to the stadium anymore.
The straw man of the hour was Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon. Brandon talks a lot about “brand loyalty,” but that combines two words that, to a college football fan, aren’t related. College football fans are fiercely loyal, but their loyalty is to something they most definitely do not see as a brand, rather something much deeper. If Michigan football ever lost loyal fans like my friends in the living room, who were raised on Michigan football, could it win them back?
Clearly, Brandon was betting that the endless branding would keep them in the fold. And perhaps if not, other fans could replace them.”
Both those questions, I believe, will be answered in the near future. And they will be answered by you, the loyal fans, who will vote with your feet, and your credit card.
[After THE JUMP: is college football worth saving? Does Bill O'Brien want to strangle Tim Beckman? What does the U stand for?]
Stephon Tuitt, All-American defensive end and all-around terrifying human
Notre Dame opened the season with a 28-6 victory over Temple that could've either been much worse or much better, as both sides missed plenty of opportunities to put points on the board. To wit:
- The Irish scored 14 points on a pair of Davaris Daniels TD receptions in the first five minutes of the game, the failed to score a single point on their next three drives, all of which ended in Temple territory.
- Temple, meanwhile, mounted an impressive ten-play drive in the first quarter that ended with a missed 32-yard field goal. Their next drive covered 54 yards in 13 plays, with the final play being—you guessed it—another missed field goal, this one from 43 yards out.
- After finally breaking through and scoring a touchdown to cut ND's lead to 14-6, Temple's extra point was blocked.
- Notre Dame looked to have an easy touchdown when Daniels got behind the defense (again) on a third down play early in the second quarter; Rees put the throw right on the money, but Daniels pulled up lame with poorly-timed groin injury. He sat out the rest of the game, robbing ND of their best receiver; he'll be back this weekend, though, and could've returned to the game if needed.
- On the opening drive of the second half (score: 21-6 ND), Temple had a first down at the Irish six-yard line. That started this sequence: overthrow on wide-open corner route, dropped TD pass over the middle, high snap that ruined the third-down play, desperation chuck falls incomplete when ND brought huge pressure on fourth down.
That last drive effectively ended any chance of Temple making the game competitive, as Notre Dame drove 94 yards in seven plays to give the game its final margin. In the end, the Irish scored "just" 28 points on 543 yards of total offense—Kyle Brindza added another missed field goal in the fourth quarter—while the Owls managed just six points on 362 yards. This one could've been very competitive had Temple not attempted to play man coverage on Davaris Daniels for both of Notre Dame's early touchdowns; at the same time, this could've been even more of a blowout if the Irish could've converted on a few more of their long drives—each of their kickers missed a field goal, and Kelly called for one hell of a Zookian punt in the first half.
Anyway, on to the breakdown. If you're curious to see what's changed from last year, here's the Notre Dame FFFF, 2012 version.
TOMMY REES BACK
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. While ND was almost exclusively a shotgun team in years past under Brian Kelly, however, they're now running a whole bunch of pistol; it's the new hotness, apparently.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. Almost all of Notre Dame's runs feature some form of zone blocking.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Behold! I have destroyed Heiko and taken hold of the Opponent Watch. My plan is almost complete. For those new to the internet, every week we’ll take a look at the happenings amongst Michigan’s past and upcoming opponents. This week provides us very little evidence, simply because we still have way more variables than equations. What we can glean thus far though is, once again, BIG TENNNNNN. So let’s take a look.
About Last Saturday:
The Road Ahead:
Notre Dame Fig Things (1-0)
Last game: Notre Dame 28, Temple 6 (W)
Recap: I didn’t watch this game, because I only watch the most rival-y of rivals. However, I know we have a bunch of MSU and Purdue readers, so we’ll cover the game anyway. Notre Dame won comfortably over a meh Temple team who finished 4-7 in the Big East last year. Tommy Rees (16/23, 346 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) had a statistically solid game, hitting home run balls to TJ Jones and TE Troy Niklas. Notre Dame fans seem generally unenthusiastic about their linebacking corp through one game, but Notre Dame fans being famously reasonable people, I’m sure they’ll give their defense time to develop. From what I saw, their defensive line remains gigantic and immovable. And I might be the only one, but I love seeing a perfectly-round 340-pound defensive tackle wearing the number one. He looks like a walking power symbol.
Brian and company will preview this game in detail. For now, Rudy was offside.
This team is as frightening as: Tommy Rees. They might completely implode into a pile of ruined expectations. They might become Joe Montana for an evening. They might knee a cop in the stomach. You just don’t know. Fear level = 7.5
Michigan should worry about: Tommy Rees. No, for srs. He’s senior with a bunch of starts, and who has had a decent amount of success against Michigan. He’s the only college quarterback with experience under the lights at Michigan Stadium. He threw for 315 yards in 2011. He threw for 346 yards last week.
Michigan can sleep soundly about:
When they play Michigan: ALL OF THE LIGHTS
Next game: vs. #17 Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: You will feel much better about Michigan’s prospects this season for reasons that have nothing to do with Michigan]
An old tradition around here was to team up with a blog that covered the team we're about to play, ask each other some burning questions about what they see in themselves, and wait for the respective message boards to blow up about how tinted that guy's glasses must be. This week I meant to bring it back by interviewing ND's puppet quarterback depth chart, however when we got there we learned they had all been poisoned by Blazing Sea Nuggets. So, second choice: we now bring it back with founder of the very large blog/message board for ND fans (the ones who aren't psychopaths, or at least the good kind), Frank Vitovich of UHND. Part 1, where I answer his queries, is here.
Let's peel this right away, (CUCK-CUH-CAW!): Where does Michigan stand in the pantheon of Notre Dame rivalries and how do the fans feel about [CUH-CHEE-CHAW!] pulling out of the series? Was this really necessitated by the [COO-COO-CA-CHAH!] ACC or was that an excuse? [A COODLE DOODLE DOO]
That depends on who you ask. Some Notre Dame fans will down play the rivalry because of all of the gaps in the series and some of the early history and controversy. I am not one of those fans. I am going to miss the series because of the genuine dislike fanbases of the two schools have for each other.
|If we're not rivals then why is your band
clearly worshipping our former punter /
space emperor? [Upchurch]
I am not saying that as a bad thing either. Quite the contrary. Part of what has made Michigan and Notre Dame games so much fun over the years is the fact that each teams fans really don't care much for the other institution. That might actually be putting it mildly.
Yes, it is true that Notre Dame has played schools like Michigan State and Purdue more times, but those games rarely, if ever bring with them the hype, excitement, and intensity of a Notre Dame - Michigan game.
USC still have to be considered Notre Dame's top rival given the deep history of that series just as Ohio State would be considered Michigan's top rivals, but after the Trojans, it's hard for me to thing of a rivalry I've enjoyed watching more over the years. Part of that could be because I grew up in the 80's and haven't lived through the large gaps that a lot of older Notre Dame fans have, but all I know is that the Michigan game is one of the games I circle every year and there isn't a single opponent I have seen Notre Dame play more times in Notre Dame Stadium than Michigan.
I do see the rivalry coming to an end because of Notre Dame's new ACC commitments and not simply wanting to get out of the series. Hopefully something gets worked out and the two are back on each others schedules in the near future.
[Rest after the jump]
I always have trouble sorting what's real and what's not when it comes to Notre Dame, especially because they're so darn active on Wikipedia these days. Did they really push Lou Holtz out the door so he wouldn't exceed Knute Rockne's record?* Did Michigan really refuse to play Notre Dame after 1909 because they were upset over losing 11-3?† Did the Gipper really give a dying speech in the locker room of the Army game imploring Gorbechev to tear down this wall?‡ Did O'Leary really invent sticky notes?§ We peel back the myths in this week's roundtable, getting answers this time from such legends as:
- Brian Rockne
- Ace Parseghian
- Sethib Ismail
- Blue & Gold in South Holth
And the question:
Separate the real Notre Dame from the legend: was last year's 12-1 season against an apparently brutal schedule a thing of luck, a thing of talent (here or gone), or the first sign that Kelly has managed to recreate Grand Valley State in BCS form?
BiSB: Notre Dame deserved to be in the National Championship game. They also deserved to get their doors blown off in the National Championship game. The 12-1 wasn't exactly awe-inspiring, but it was legit. They beat Stanford, Oklahoma, Michigan, USC, and Michigan State, and you don't get to 12-0 with those teams on your schedule without being pretty good. The part that bugged people was the close games and sheer luck against some pretty crappy teams. Pitt alone missed like eleven game-winning field goals against the Irish. But while nailbiters against Purdue and BYU do not scream "national title contender," but go back and look at the 2002 Ohio State national title season some time (do not actually do this). Most teams need some ridiculous luck, and to survive some close games against inferior competition, to go undefeated.
[Continued after the jump]
- Courtney Avery will probably be available for Saturday. If he is, he'll be in competition with Jarrod Wilson for the safety spot opposite Thomas Gordon.
- Joe Reynolds is fine. Will play.
- The offensive line may be subject to change. Graham Glasgow is still taking snaps at center.
"We had a good practice yesterday. Good preparation. Little bit of a Tuesday practice, first day of school. You look at the game plan, you add a couple things, you maybe tweak some things, and that always happens, so there's some learning that goes on Tuesdays. Overall I thought we had a good day."
When you finally punted, Kenny Allen was the punter. Was that only because it was late in the game?
"Well, it was late in the game, basically, is why we wanted to punt him and get him out on the field. He's worked real hard at it."