good luck with that
RIP. Condolences to the friends and family of the deceased Jim Schneider. Madej has a great story:
"I remember (we had a student assistant) doing a press release one year on women’s gymnastics, and he knew nothing about women’s gymnastics, so (he asked) how (should he) write the release,” said former Michigan media relations director Bruce Madej on Tuesday. “And Schneids says to him, very nicely, ‘Don’t worry about it, the people reading it will know less than you do.’"
Words to live by.
pretty sure the building is somewhere in this photo
Hey guys, I'm going to be in Chicago. If you're in town and like terrible terrible powerpoint slides, boy do I have an event for you.
2014 Michigan Football Season Preview with Brian Cook (MGoBlog) and Chris Balas (TheWolverine/Rivals.com)- NEW
When: Tuesday, July 29th, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Where: McGuireWoods LLP, 77 West Wacker Dr, Suite 4100, (map)
Cost: $20 for Alumni Association members; $30 for non-members. Pay at the door for $30 with Cash or Credit Card
Details: Join fellow alumni and several special guest speakers as we preview the 2014 Michigan Football season. During the evening, alums will be joined by Chris Balas from TheWolverine/Rivals.com, Brian Cook from MGoBlog.com and others to be confirmed. You'll get insights on the upcoming season and an opportunity to ask your questions. There will be appetizers and complimentary beer & wine available for those in attendance.
Walk-ups will be available for cash or credit card of $30 day of the event.
I realize that terrible terrible powerpoint slides are not a great and superior attraction, but in my defense they are snappy and brief. Also, complimentary beer and wine. Last year they flagged down Gerry DiNardo and they may also get a BTN Personality again this year.
Nick left, Mike right, please try not to think about how old you are vis a vis those guys, the answer is "old."
Hello, nurses. Hockey picked up a couple of massive commitments yesterday. As per hockey recruiting's wont, their commitment is the first time I'd ever heard of them. They're brothers separated by one year, both forwards. Nick Pastujov, the older, is (probably) class of 2016. He's committed to the NTDP program for next year after tearing it up with Belle Tire's U16 team, and was seriously high profile:
98 F Nick Pastujov commits to Michigan. Starred on Honeybaked U16, serious offensive talent with skill and a power game. Our #2 uncommitted.
— Over The Boards (@OTBPuckWatch) July 24, 2014
His younger brother Mike may be an even bigger prospect.
Despite the commitment, Michael will still be heavily considered for our top ranking on our preliminary #OHLDraft rankings, released Aug 5th
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) July 24, 2014
Michigan with their biggest commitments since Zach Werenski getting NTDP bound Nick Pastujov ('98) and brother Mike my top 1999 birth year.
— Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC) July 24, 2014
The usual OHL disclaimer applies. In this case, Nick's NTDP commitment and the obvious appeal of playing together will hopefully mean defection chances are low. Will be interesting to see if either tries to accelerate a la Werenski.
FWIW, Michigan's 2016 class is looking pretty badass right now with Pastujov, Luce, Sanchez, and a couple more potential NHL draft picks.
Meanwhile. Red on Werenski:
“The most difficult thing for younger players is the maturity level and social change going from high school to college, but Zach is mature beyond his years,” Berenson said. “He's like (former Michigan forward) Jason Botterill in that sense. I think he'll fit in really easily.”
I do not make fun of typos and errors, because we all make them. So I… I'm just going to… I'm just going to…
Cumong man. I know I called Geoff Cameron "Jeff" and Axel Witsel "Alex" during World Cup preview bits but that's a whole additional level there. For one, there are approximately 12 words in this entire image. For two, CUMONG MAN.
(Via mgouser MiGit)
Big Ten media day, circa the paleolithic. Lee Corso was a game show host, Hayden Fry spontaneously impregnated your mom, Bo was just chillin', thinking about your mortgage, Denny Green wasn't angry yet, and everyone else was quickly and gratefully forgotten by history:
Man that back row aside from Hayden is something.
Well, okay. Patrick Omameh is listed as a potential breakout player by ESPN. He's 25th on a list of 25, but that's not bad at all for a guy who went undrafted a year ago. Even if the article comes with one of those "are you sure you're talking about the right player" scouting reports:
Tampa Bay plucked him from there in mid-October, and while he never appeared in a game, the Bucs clearly had plans for him. He goes into training camp in the lead for the right guard position. The scouting reports on Omameh a year ago dinged him for sometimes being unable to finish blocks or move properly to the second level, but he's a consistent and powerful drive-blocker. His greatest attribute, however, is his intelligence. He was offered scholarships at MIT and Princeton before heading to Michigan, where he made academic All-Big Ten.
Um… what? Not to overrate one play or anything but the Te'obliteration is actually a pretty good representation of his career. Omameh was terrific when he was asked to move to the second level and not so good when a burly defensive tackle was put right over him:
Also I just like posting that.
If Patrick Omameh is a year two NFL starter that says something about something, there. Like maybe Michigan should have tried to keep doing the zone stuff they were good at.
NFL draft changes. The NFL is making an effort to tone down the number of underclassmen leaving college despite dubious prospects, at least according to one Nick Saban:
Now, teams can only submit five players for grades from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Last year, Saban said Alabama submitted 11 names.
Also, the NFL will give just three grades of feedback: first-round grade, second-round grade or a "stay-in-school grade." The NFL previously had five grades: first round, second round, third round, fourth through seventh and not draftable.
If the NFL approves extra draft grade requests you can get them, FWIW. John Infante keeps banging the MLS drum here and he's probably right: MLS hand-selects a number of players who sign "Generation Adidas" contracts and makes them available in the draft; anyone not explicitly approved has to go to college. Or overseas or whatever, but they're not available. If the NFL only wants underclassmen who will probably go in the first two rounds, just make that explicit. They'll have to negotiate that into a CBA but current players are always happy to negotiate away stuff from future ones.
Etc.: Tiny Basque club manages to raise enough money to play in La Liga. EA settlement wrangling. Say no to fall weddings. "Embracing debate" is tolerating all sorts of things you shouldn't. The NCAA is Marxist. Michigan participates in Make A Wish. Get The Picture demolishes things better than just about anybody.
Early hockey entries: a trend? One applicable to basketball?
With both Zach Werenski and Noah Hanifin (BC) graduating high school a year early to play for their respective schools, do you think this might be an emerging trend among schools looking to secure top end talent? Or at least secure them for more than a season?
Also, seems like there could be applicability to basketball. If he's academically eligible, bring a guy a year early. A lot of the high-end recruits are probably about as college ready at 17 as they would be at 18. Is this a possibility for schools or do you think Werenski and Hanifin are the rare exceptions?
Don't forget BU's Jack Eichel, who is joining Werenski and Hanifin in college this fall after accelerating. That's three, and that's a trend. And it's one that makes sense. The USA NTDP U-18 plays a schedule heavy with exhibitions against college teams, and they're competitive. You could take the top guys on those teams and put them on a second or third line and they'd be fine, if not better.
Then you probably will get them for a second or even third year instead of one, two, or—increasingly likely as the prospects get more and more touted—zero. One of the most interesting aspects of this new version of early enrollment is that all of these guys are leaving the NTDP a year early. That does not happen often because the NTDP contract comes with a clause that forces you to repay the costs of your first year in the program if you leave before the second.
Given that it seems like this is a concerted effort by the NTDP and college hockey to get the top 15 pick types in the program to college before the OHL can try to sink its hooks in.
As for applicability to basketball, it is something that comes up occasionally as players move in and out of recruiting years in an attempt to find the best fit. Usually this means going back a year, though. And since a lot of high end basketball players were strategically held back so they'd be bigger and stronger than everyone else, moving ahead a year is often just moving back to your natural spot.
But the real problem with accelerating basketball players a year is the academic situation of the top players. In hockey, many of the players are at tony private schools or, in the NTDP's case, Ann Arbor's well-funded Pioneer High. American prospects generally have some money in their family—hockey is expensive—and as a result have gone to good schools for the bulk of their scholastic career. Accelerating is evidently within the capabilities of both the schools and the players.
That combination is undoubtedly a lot rarer for basketball players. These days large chunks of the top prospects are at places like Findlay Prep, which are dogged with eligibility issues. Often those are because the players who arrive at Findlay have been miserably served by their local high schools. There's an entire cottage industry dedicated to taking promising basketball players and beating their transcripts into shape the NCAA might accept. Doing that in a year less and packing an extra year of credits in is going to be a bridge too far for almost everyone.
What's the deal with Manning?
So, looking at coaching changes, is putting Manning, who has never coached DBs as the CB and nickel coach an effort to:
A) get your most dynamic recruiter to your most dynamic, desired athletes and keep them with him when they get to campus
Probably not. Coaches usually take an area rather than a position. The position coach does come into it but after much of the legwork has been done. And Michigan was recruiting CBs just fine before the move.
B) get a guy who has played and coached more physical positions (RB, LB) to take some physicality and tackling ability to the DBs
Maybe? Moving to what seems to be an aggressive man press defense means that a guy who knows what you should to to get under a guy and rock him back can apply his experience. It also minimizes some of his inexperience at the position. If the position is about getting in a guy's grill and reacting to what's in front of you that's something that takes less holistic knowledge of what to do in situation X in a zone.
C) minimize the role of Curt Mallory, who has been rumored to be looking at a head coaching gig elsewhere
Not sure if "minimize" is quite the right word, because just by the numbers he had five guys while the most anyone else had before the move was two. But yes devolving some of those responsibilities seems like a good idea.
D) get rid of overlaps in coaching staff. Hoke will work with Smith on DL, Mattison takes over LBs, Manning and Mallory take DBs. basically your 3 most dynamic recruiters (HC Hoke, Mattison and Manning) all head up a unit on D.
I do think this is a reasonable idea. When Montgomery, Hoke, and Mattison were all dealing with the DL that was three guys for four starters with the other two guys handling seven. Now everyone has about the same number of guys.
E) all of the above
Parts of three of the above.
I like 'em both.
Would you rather see Michigan win a football national championship or the USMNT win a World Cup? I'm a lifelong Michigan fan like most of your readers but I think I would rather have the World Cup. At this point I have more pride and anticipation when watching the USMNT in the World Cup. What are your thoughts?
I like 'em both.
A couple of readers who would prefer not to be identified passed along this:
We are pleased to announce a special offer for our Season Pass Holders. To show our appreciation for your loyalty to Radrick Farms and the University of Michigan's Athletic Department, we are offering complimentary tickets for you and a guest to attend up to two football games at the Big House!
We have LIMITED tickets available for the following games on a first-come, first-served basis:
- UM v. Appalachian State on August 30th
- UM v. Miami of Ohio on September 13th
If you are interested in attending these games, you must let us know at least THREE weeks prior to kick-off.
Football's just around the corner, but World Cup fever (including your soccer columns) has me paying a little more attention than usual to soccer. Last year I caught bits and pieces of NBC's EPL coverage on Saturday mornings while counting down the minutes to actual football and was thinking maybe this year I'd find myself watching more of it.
Here's my question: Who should I root for? Should I pick a team to follow? Pick a team to root against? Root for current/future USMNT players? Root for bicycle kicks or red cards? A quick guide to "What to watch on Saturday mornings before real football kicks off" would be a fun read.
Looking forward to your season previews!
There's not a whole lot of American flavor in the EPL these days, just a couple goalies and various people trying to keep their teams from getting relegated. There was a good eight years or so where Fulham was relying on Brian McBride and then Clint Dempsey as their primary goalscorers, but now not so much.
You can't root for the Yankees, and you probably shouldn't root for whichever random club has been picked out by a petrosheik and driven towards the top of the league through no merit of its own. And you don't really want to pick out some team that stands a good chance of relegation within five years, because a team that gets relegated won't be seen by an American until it comes back up.
With that in mind, options:
EVERTON. Tim Howard, a strong finish last year (fifth, just outside a Champion's league spot), they like Landon Donovan, you know their manager from ESPN, they've been in the top flight since 1955, and haven't won since 1987. Wear blue.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR. Named "Tottenham Hotspur." That's all you need to know. Also have been in top flight forever but hasn't won since 1961. White and blue color scheme M-friendly. Have the money to potentially do something but generally don't. Had Clint Dempsey for a bit.
STOKE. Brek Shea and Geoff Cameron. Probability of relegation is low in immediate future. Long term… they will probably go down at some point. Currently have Peter Crouch, the 6'7" robot-dancing beanpole former England striker.
LIVERPOOL. Along with Arsenal, the most tolerable team that regularly participates in the Champions League. Advantages over Arsenal: still plays at Anfield instead of stadium named after Middle Eastern airline, you might be tired of Nick Hornby, Arsenal's manager is a French guy who wears a ridiculous puffy coat whenever the temperature drops below 70.
ARSENAL. Along with Liverpool, most tolerable team that regularly participates in the Champions League. Advantages over Liverpool: you might rather like Fever Pitch, haven't won since 2004, just like Michigan.
Rooting against is obvious: Chelsea and anyone from Manchester. United is the Yankees, Chelsea plays desultory bore-ball and is backed by a Russian kleptocrat, Manchester City is Qatar FC, basically.
The question: Of those (if any) you've visited, what's your favorite road venue for a college football Saturday? I don't just mean the stadium but the whole package--the city, the burger, the rival fans, the drive, etc. Or which would you want to do first?
Ace: I'm back from Florida and have way too much nothing planned for the next couple days, so I might as well answer the question...
Between my time at school and this job, I've managed to make it to six road venues, one of which doesn't really count because it shouldn't have ever been a college football venue: Spartan Stadium (2007, '09, '13), Camp Randall ('07), Beaver Stadium ('08, '13), Notre Dame ('08, '13), Cowboys Stadium* ('12), and Ohio Stadium ('13). If you looked at that list and said I should never attend a road game again, you're quite astute, and trust me when I say I've considered it.
|Movie night, or perhaps annoying white guy tryouts.|
My favorite, despite the particular game I chose to attend, is Camp Randall. Madison is a gorgeous college town with a phenomenal bar scene—we wandered around so much the night before the game that I can't give a recommendation besides "just go to Madison already"—and while I've heard less-than-complimentary things about their fans, we were treated well despite being a crew of intoxicated students with a couple guys who didn't shy away from stirring the pot. As is the case in Ann Arbor, the campus and stadium are conveniently intertwined with the town, so getting to and from the game isn't a pain like it is in, say, South Bend, where off-campus housing tends to be a very long, boring walk away from the stadium. While the drive to and from Ann Arbor isn't a short one, having Chicago as a stopgap is a major bonus; I'll deal with some extra traffic if it gives me the chance to visit a great city with no shortage of transplanted Ann Arborites and Michigan grads.
it's impossible to take a bad picture inside Camp Randall
Since I'm not the type to be offended by profanity, I love the in-game atmosphere, as well. Our seats in the visitors' section were at the top corner of the upper deck, where visitors' sections ought to be, and feeling the mass of red-adorned fans below literally shake the stadium during "Jump Around" was outrageously cool, albeit a bit unnerving. Despite our high perch, the sight lines for viewing the game were great, thanks to the steep incline of the seats. They don't play the same two songs over and over and over again, giving Camp Randall a decided edge over Beaver Stadium, and they don't play in front of 100,000 Ohio State fans, giving it a decided edge over Ohio Stadium. Even if the drive is a bit long, the tailgating and viewing experiences alone are worth the trip.
As for my least favorite, it's Spartan Stadium, since I won't pretend that Jerryworld is a legitimate answer here. East Lansing is one of the least charming college towns I've visited, parking there is a nightmare, the stadium is a shrine to concrete insipidity, and an all-too-large portion of the fans don't grasp that trash talking shenanigans are supposed to be cheeky and fun, not cruel and tragic. It's the only place I've been where a total stranger has attempted to forcefully remove me from the sidewalk—I did nothing to provoke this aside from wearing maize—and that occurred even though I was accompanied by a green-clad Spartan grad. At least I went there last year, so I'll get a respite this seas—DAMMIT, POWERS THAT BE, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
*The aforementioned "doesn't really count" venue, in case that wasn't painfully obvious.
After the jump: more things Delaney thinks we'd like to see less than New Jersey.
Last year we predicted Dymonte would seize the nickel job. It's still open. [Fuller]
While doing Draftageddon this year Brian told each of us to draft an extra nickelback, or hybrid space player, because these defenses face 3-wide sets (and beyond) about as often as 2-wide ones. Modern offenses were made to take advantage of the run-stopping linebackers teams put on the strong side of the formation, forcing them to cover a jitterbug in space in addition to the running game. Defenses have countered with linebacker-safety hybrids of various forms. We've seen it in practice, and for many schools there's now an official hybrid/nickel position: STAR at Illinois and Ohio State, F-linebacker at Wisconsin, nickel at Michigan, etc. The HSP is the defense's answer to the slot receiver. It's the position we've ticketed Peppers for this season, at least to start.
However as I keep trying to find evidence of this in the stats, they keep eluding me. See: the division of Michigan's tackles (counting assists as 0.5 tackles) between the levels since 1995:
(click does the big thing)
Outliers. Doing this with just one team means we don't get much of a sample; unfortunately cfbstats just got bought out by two dudes who want $7500/year from each blog to use the stats he used to put online for free (i.e. under creative commons). If you downloaded the old spreadsheets from Marty (who does deserve to get paid for the work he did curating them) he says it's fine to use them. If you visit the old site you'll get the most salesman guy in the world who acts all cagey before telling you the $7500 price tag. Such is life.
You'll note some years Michigan went to a 3-4 defense in 2004-'05 there's an uptick in linebacker tackles—that's Woodley being counted as one (for much of 1999 and 2000 they were a 3-4 but as often as not James Hall/Shantee Orr had their hands down, i.e. 4-3 under). And in 2009 and 2010 when Michigan went to a 3-3-5 (effectively three safeties) there's a safety hump. However the year with the largest % of tackles by DBs was 2011, the year Kovacs and T.Gordon were #s 2 and 3 on the tackle charts. Then it went down.
I think there's a couple things going on here. One, I think the transition to nickel happened longer ago than we gave it credit for. And two: Jake Ryan. Remember for the start of 2011 T.Gordon was playing nickel while Woolfolk was free safety. The typical configuration of Michigan's defense wasn't the 4-3 under we'd been told was coming; it was the same base nickel Michigan had before Rich Rod. The 2011 season's formations from the UFR:
|San Diego State||43%||45%||6%||6%||0%||0%|
It was highly opponent-dependent. You'll note the trajectory of the Okie as they debuted it, shelved it, then brought it back against Illinois. But you'll also see Mattison deploying 4-3 alignments more often against spread outfits. Against Kain Colter and Northwestern's spread-option offense they were 80% nickel; against Braxton Miller and Ohio State's they were 23%.
I think what they discovered was they could get away with Jake Ryan as the HSP. Come 2012 and 2013 that was the base.
When did it get Nickel-y?
From personal recollection Lloyd used a lot of 3-3-5 nickel against spread teams after 2000, when his 4-2-5 nickel got shredded by Randy Walker's Rodriguezian offense. The tackling stats don't say. Even when I went through to identify who played "SAM" (Spur in 3-3-5, not the WDE in a 3-4) and nickel the tackle totals told no story:
I'm giving up on this route. Eventually someone will find something useful to do with tackling stats but this isn't that day. If someone has an idea for how to find the rise of the nickelback in statistics, I'm all ears. In the meantime let's watch defense porn.
Caris smash. Caris LeVert came to Michigan after a high school career spent as a mizzenmast. I'm saying he's thin, people. That's the joke. Or at least he was thin. This year's edition of Michigan basketball player is all swole now:
Yes yes, Irvin and Walton are also adding weight (Irvin's up to 215 from 200) but I be like dang Caris. Let's check in with his senior year of high school…
…during which he probably ripped off and reattached his arms nightly. Caris is also a legit 6'7" in shoes, so he is tall and large and is hopefully poised to rip it up this fall.
Freshman dimensions. Basketball has posted a roster. It lists:
- Kam Chatman at 6'7", 210
- DJ Wilson at 6'9", 210
- Ricky Doyle at 6'10", 250
- Aubery Dawkins at 6'6", 190
- and MAAR at 6'4", 200.
Doyle's weight is a positive. Michigan's going to need him to bang, and he's now the heaviest guy available—Donnal added ten pounds but only got to 240. Meanwhile, uncertainty about Max Bielfeldt's status for next year is all but gone: they've ceased listing him as a redshirt junior and now have him as a senior.
Fireworks nyet. I'll have a column type thing about this tomorrow, but to recap the most important completely trivial news of the week: the Michigan regents shot down the athletic departments proposed fireworks for the Miami (NTM) and Penn State games despite separating the votes. Mark Bernstein's criticism was the most pointed:
“We are not Comerica Park, Disney World or a circus ... ” Bernstein said. “I love Michigan football for what it is ... and for what it is not. It remains and should be an experience, a place that resists the excesses of our culture; intentionally simple.
“The fireworks should be on the field, not above it.”
I probably wouldn't have gone with "resists the excesses of our culture" but the overall sentiment is one I can get behind. Mostly I just want Michigan to be like itself, to maintain a separation from other options. Not because those are necessarily worse*, but because a bright line between Them and Us is inherently valuable when you're trying to gin up some fake-ass tribalism.
This is the most fundamental divide between myself and Dave Brandon: he wants to copy the Best In Class Leaders because that's the only thing he's ever been able to do. He could no more start a business than I could be athletic director, because every attempt would be Chipotle 2 or Also Applebees or Pretty Much Still Ponderosa. His one strategy for success is to do the thing that everyone else is doing.
Anyway. The new president is being carefully neutral about the whole situation…
“Personally, I didn’t have an opinion,” Dr. Mark Schlissel, who started his job this week, said Friday during a press conference with the media. “Having never attended a game there, I didn’t have a sense of the cultural aspects of it. The band marching out, I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen them at a halftime show. I don’t have context to really say whether fireworks matter or not. I didn’t really feel like I had a valid opinion.”
…but the message sent by the regents is clear. This is an organization that has just been sued because they decide things in private meetings and show up to vote things in unanimously. During the 116 votes previous to the fireworks there were eight instances of a regent voting no. Brandon just exceeded that in a single day.
The opportunity here was to provide a vote of no confidence without shooting something down that's actually important, like the budget. I mentioned that I thought a number of people towards the top were discontent but unlikely to do anything about it in the most recent mailbag; I must have underestimated the disdain.
Is this the beginning of the end? I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.
*[They are of course sometimes worse.]
Back on the market. Onetime Michigan target and temporary SMU commit Matt McQuaid, a shooting guard out of Texas, has reopened his recruitment.
For a second there it looked like McQuaid was very serious about Michigan, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the two parties reconnect. Everyone seems like a backup plan for Jalen Coleman at the moment, but if Coleman does do the weird thing and pick a Notre Dame program that hasn't really gotten off the ground under Mike Brey, Michigan wants to make sure they've got options. McQuaid is a pretty good one:
McQuaid is arguably the best shooter in the class of 2015 -- and he strengthened his case last week at the LeBron James Skills Academy, when he shot lights-out from 3-point range against the best high school players in the country. There were at least two games in Las Vegas where I didn't see McQuaid miss an outside shot. He can make shots from deep and is also capable of knocking down contested shots.
He's 6'5", so visions of Stauskas are dancing in various heads right now.
Old stuff. Wolverine Historian takes on 1986 Iowa:
Straight shooter. I may disagree with a lot of what Bob Bowlsby thinks but I can appreciate that he's not Bill Hancock:
"Enforcement is broken," he said. "The infractions committee hasn't had [an FBS] hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions."
He probably thinks it's possible to fix that, and that's where we differ. I do wish someone in attendance at Big 12 media days had heard this…
"It is hard to justify paying student-athletes in football and men's basketball and not recognizing the significant effort that swimmers and wrestlers and lacrosse players and track athletes all put in," he said. "Football and basketball players don't work any harder than anybody else; they just happen to have the blessing of an adoring public who is willing to pay for the tickets and willing to buy the products on television that come with the high visibility."
…and asked Bowlsby how much harder he was working than the assembled press corps.
Etc.: Scouting Tyus Battle, Jalen Coleman, and Prince Ali at the Peach Jam. The Game will not be at night, because frostbite. CJ Lee looks back at his time at Michigan after taking an assistant spot at Marist. A preview of the band programs this year. I'm not enthralled with the idea of trying the sing-along thing again. Peppers and Funchess feature amongst the most watchable players this year.
I like lists of sports memories that include bad stuff, because bad stuff happens. So props to the Daily Gopher for including Mike Legg (and Holy Cross) on their list of Gopher hockey moments.
Would Michigan alum Justin Meram have been farther along in his development if he'd found a way to skip college entirely? Probably.
NCAA soccer coaches are proposing a radical restructuring of the way their sport works:
Top college soccer coaches are finalizing plans and canvassing support for changes that would extend the men’s season over the full academic year.
The proposals recommend a 25-game season split between the fall and spring semesters. Individual conference championships would be held early in May with the showpiece NCAA College Cup following in early June.
Proponents of the switch point to two significant benefits for student athletes – improved conditions to aid their development as players, and a lighter fall timetable allowing for greater participation in other facets of university life.
The motivation here is to exist at some point that makes sense—last year's championship game was played on December 15th. Champion Notre Dame played 27 games in a 4 month stretch. There were a ton of midweek games that were problematic for kids trying to go to class. Then as soon as the season was over ND coaches were limited to two hours of ball-work with their players for the rest of the year.
Those restrictions look ludicrous in the context of the global soccer development process, where the years from 18 to 22 are absolutely critical. A ton of players are getting first team playing time in fully professional environments by then, training year-round. Increasingly, top players are skipping college entirely in favor of youth contracts overseas. But there's only so many of those and only so many Generation Adidas contracts to go around. The middle tier is still in school, but for briefer periods.
If NCAA soccer is going to remain relevant at all it'll have to adapt, and there is an obvious success story they could seek to replicate: hockey. Both hockey and soccer are developing players in competition with development strategies (mostly) outside the country in a sport that you can break into the major leagues at 18, or even earlier. (Baseball is somewhat similar, but the nature of the game means you play older and there's no "we do it better" foreign option.) Hockey has one nemesis; soccer has a thousand.
Hockey competes directly with the CHL, and large parts of what make it weird in the context of the NCAA are seemingly because of it. Hockey has by far the longest playing season of any NCAA sport, which allows extensive coaching from October to April. Most others are crammed into a single semester—or one semester and a small part of another—even if that makes zero sense. Hi, February baseball.
Hockey also takes a number of older student athletes; it is common for middling teams to have guys who arrived in college as 20 year olds. While these guys are usually not NHL prospects themselves, they provide a challenge for the guys who are. The long season with plenty of skill work and challenging environment leads to a situation where NCAA players are actually better-equipped to enter the pro ranks than their competition. Don Cherry's mad about it, even.
college hockey is even producing Canadian Olympians like undrafted(!) Chris Kunitz
This system hasn't made the NCAA the #1 choice for first-round picks, who generally don't care to play school. It has created an environment where 30% of the NHL comes from college—an all-time record—and the generally college-oriented USA hockey program is a major contender. And it hasn't impacted success in school at all: hockey's academic progress rate of 971 is way above baseball, basketball, football… and soccer.
The NCAA has responded to the resounding success of the hockey model by occasionally trying to strangle it. Every few years there's chatter about, and the odd proposal to, reduce the length of the season. Hockey often has to scramble to carve out exceptions to NCAA legislation that makes no sense for them. It ends up being tough for hockey to pass things that make sense for their specific contact, like the ability to officially contact players before the CHL drafts them. That was on the table; it got shot down despite having the support of everyone in the hockey community.
Hockey started off long and snuck an extra week here and there to get to its current state. They've reached a compromise between professional development and degree acquirement only because the NCAA didn't notice they were doing the former.
This is a reasonable and well-considered plan to improve college soccer’s ability to compete for talent and remain a valuable, even unique part of the American soccer development structure. It also has virtually zero chance of ever being enacted.
That's John Infante, former compliance officer and expert on the arcanity of the NCAA. The reason? The NCAA desires to knit some more of the emperor's new clothes.
…the last items on any agenda is adding games, in-season time, and hours to any sport’s schedule. Instead, it is more likely that all sports see in-season hours cut, voluntary workouts restricted, and significant student-athlete discretionary time added. College sports seems prepared to move rapidly away from an environment where soccer could even experiment with being a year-round sport, especially where the breaks are timed so that the best players can use them to go play more soccer.
In an effort to keep everything "amateur," the NCAA is willing to toss away proposals that promise to create something newly useful, and may even go so far as to further sabotage an already wonky development model. The idea that developing a player to go pro in something other than "something other than sports" is a problem. Even if there is a clear analogue that has succeeded as both a developer of talent and an NCAA sport.
Maybe autonomy can do something about it. At some point everyone and their network is going to look at the cavernous gulf in their programming that stretches from April to August and try to fill it with baseball, soccer, or both. Maybe lacrosse. Anything that looks like a potential spectator sport in the summer is going to appeal to the people with money, and since they're on the verge of running things for real instead of just mostly for real, you could see a compromise.
But as long as the NCAA is trying to pretend they're something they no longer are, sense will not be made.