Our latest thing/apology cycle comes courtesy of the president, who told a large faculty meeting that he didn't really get it when it came to sports.
"We admit students who aren’t as qualified, and it’s probably the kids that we admit that can’t honestly, even with lots of help, do the amount of work and the quality of work it takes to make progression from year to year,” he said. “These past two years have gotten better, but before that, the graduation rates were terrible, with football somewhere in the 50s and 60s when our total six-year rate at the University is somewhere near 90 percent, so that’s a challenge.”
Schlissel said an individual’s academic deficiencies are often overlooked to fill competitive rosters.
And that's fine. It's fine that he said it, fine that people reacted to it, and fine that the next day the university issued the lawyered-up CYA statements that large organizations always do when someone does something remotely controversial.
The main disconnect here is the opposite of the "muggles" thing. Muggles supposes that student-athletes are a breed apart when I guarantee 99% of them would self-destruct in EECS 100, let alone that f-ing networks class. That's fine. Guys like that one hockey player in my EECS 380 are true marvels. That kind of dude is not nor should be required for universities to feel good about their big ol' sports programs.
Sports are a valid pursuit for someone in college. They are hard as hell.
College sport is a weird enterprise where people are admitted to a University because they have a particular skill, are expected to hone that skill upwards of 40 hours a week, and also get a meaningful degree in something totally unrelated. I do not think I would have done well at football practice after yet another f-ing night spent trying to convince the automated grader that I had in fact replicated TCP/IP precisely.
We have a model for this: music. Applicants to Michigan's School of Music have to submit a headshot, a resume, a "repertoire list", and submit to an audition. Also this:
Pre-screening recordings, portfolio, video interview, studio teacher preference, and/or writing samples required by your Department
SAT scores are not really that important. Music gets lumped in as an acceptable academic pursuit; sports do not. Music people get to go music and then get a liberal arts degree around it; sports for credit is ludicrous.
Why? Tradition and momentum. Sports started out as an extracurricular thing and the history of the NCAA has been a futile attempt to keep it from moving to its rightful place. I mean, scholarships used to be controversial.
The unfortunate thing is that football's towering media profile blots out the various other extracurricular-type activities that fulfill the same purpose. Poke a newspaper sports section in this country and you will find Daily grads crawling all over its staff. When I was in school some friends and I started the Every Three Weekly, and contemporary alums from that include this guy who writes movies and this lady who writes for Modern Family. They did not get their jobs by having a shiny GPA.
There are a number of professions out there in which chops are everything. These often follow models that boil down to "show me." Football is one of these things, along with any creative pursuit you care to name. A degree in it is a valid idea, and erases a bunch of the supposed hypocrisy that comes along with the model. You know, the stuff that causes some yob at the WSJ to lead off with this:
Who believes in the myth of big-time college sports anymore? The polite fantasy of the student-athlete playing gratefully for pride and tuition has been stripped away by an overwhelming financial reality that became too big and rich to ignore. The hypocrisies can be seen from outer space, and public opinion—not to mention the courts—are catching up.
The force of my eye-rolling threatens to detach my optic nerves. Over the past few years I have met many former players, and they are universally impressive. From Vincent Smith to Marlin Jackson to Brandon Williams to Todd Howard, all of these guys got out of the University of Michigan what they put into it: a ton. I bet some of them didn't pay too much attention to their grades because that is a reasonable thing to do when you are doing something as demanding as football. People do not have infinite reserves of energy, and their grades won't matter—even if they end up in something else. For history majors, GPA is a demonstration of effort. For athletes, that's assumed.
Universities would be better off saying "yes, this is weird but it is valid" instead of clutching their pearls. Michigan needs to take kids and prepare them for existence outside the university; in my experience they are terrific at this.
Let them graduate in their field, with a liberal arts distribution attached. Test them when they arrive and when they leave to make sure you're doing a good job of educating them. I'd much rather be affiliated with a university that takes kids with some academic questions and turns them into the guys I've met than one that snootily says "not you" because of things outside that kid's control.
We're in a brief dead period for basketball recruiting, which seems like an ideal time to check in on the latest developments. I'm keeping the focus on the 2015 and 2016 classes for now; Michigan is still in the early stages of reaching out to 2017 recruits, and there's plenty to cover in the '15 and '16 classes, anyway.
2015: Dozier to SC, M Interested In German Prospect
After Michigan took transfer Duncan Robinson, it appeared they were all but done with the 2015 class, but the coaching staff is still pursuing a few talented prospects, including a couple players who've only emerged on M's radar in recent weeks. Michigan won't land anyone during the early signing period, which began yesterday and runs through the 19th, but they're in on a few players that could sign in the second period (April 15-May 20).
First, let's take one target off the board: PG PJ Dozier ended up surprising many with his decision yesterday, but it wasn't the surprise Michigan fans hoped for—instead of choosing Louisville, as expected, Dozier decided to stay in his home state and play for South Carolina. Happy trails to the young man.
Even operating under the unlikely assumption that no underclassman leaves the program after this season, Michigan has an open scholarship to work with for 2015-16, and they're focusing on a handful of top targets.
One of them just the radar: Berlin (GER) forward Moritz Wagner, whose highlights grace the top of this post—the 6'9" forward very much has the look of a classic Beilein big. Beilein flew to Germany recently to personally invite Wagner to campus; if he visited, he'd presumably get an offer. Duke and UConn have also reportedly shown interest, and Wagner also will have the option of going the professional route, per UMHoops:
“To study has always been my goal and that is parallel to the sport in the United States at the best,” Wagner recently told Berliner-Zeitung (translated). “On the other hand, it was always my dream to become a professional. Because the temptation is great, tackling issues. This is both cool.”
Wagner was born April 26th, 1997 and would be a member of the 2015 class. He recently told BZ-Berlin that he will make a decision on his future, signing professionally in Germany or attending college in the United States, after the season. He has reportedly been offered a four-year contract by Alba Berlin.
Obviously, this is a wait-and-see situation.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the recruiting outlook, including Michigan getting into the mix for the nation's #2 overall prospect.]
ON HAVING THINGS. I don't have anything. Nobody has much. This appears to be because the Schlissel quote about how the AD search would get underway in a couple weeks was accurate, and of course the coaching search consists of "we still have a coach" and "HARBAUGH."
Have heard that Harbaugh is very interested, no foolies. Again. But you know how much that means.
ON THINGS SAID BY SAM WEBB ON THE RADIO. There have been a number of threads about what Sam's saying that are a bit panicked. This is seemingly because the panicky people tend to be the ones running to post the threads about the slight possibility something seemingly bad might happen.
I have not gotten any vibes to get panicked about from him. I've actually urged him to be more explicit about his thoughts, and Sam says "THAT'S WHAT I'M DOING!" and kind of vibrates in frustration. So. Either the situation has changed from what some were panicking about or these threads are wildly inaccurate, because we just had our WTKA roundtable and Sam asserted that:
- Hoke has no chance unless he wins out.
- Even that is no guarantee.
- Hackett is likely to be around for the coaching search in the event Michigan does, say, get beat by 20 by OSU.
If you don't like #3, okay. But at this point the chance that there's a chance Hoke returns is slim indeed. And given the timing here if your top priority is a new coach that's fine. Hackett can make a reasonable decision and then go search.
I guess I have to talk about this pipedream
ON STOOOOOOOOPS. Fresh off an emasculating blowout at the hands of Baylor comes Bob Stoops, who's an indisputably really good coach in a weird Lloyd Carr holding pattern: he wins, a lot. He frustrates his own fans more than he probably should. Carr let teams hang around and reaped the occasional whirlwind; Stoops gets blown out a shocking amount for a guy who wins 11 games a year.
Still, you're probably all like "Bob Stoops? The persistent ND fever dream? Why not just bring up ESPN goblin John Gruden?"
Hey, I'm with you. But Dan Wetzel's urging it:
The odds of San Francisco 49ers coach, and Michigan alum, Jim Harbaugh returning to college look longer each week. The perception around the NFL is that if he's let go by San Francisco, a shot with another franchise (New York Jets? Oakland? Miami? A new L.A. team?), featuring more control and money, seems far more likely.
If so, Michigan should try to convince Bob Stoops not just how he'd be great for Michigan, but how Michigan would be great for him.
There is nothing in this article resembling concrete information; it's just a "hey, do this" thing. Okay, I guess, we would look into doing that before heading down the list but a move like that is just about unprecedented in the last 20 years of college football. Oh, and Stoops just signed a contract that pushes him to around $5 million annually. Michigan would have to match that and pay a hefty buyout just for starters. Doesn't seem at all likely.
There is a little bit more substance to Travis Haney's ESPN piece:
“I think it’s very real,” one coach said when I asked him generally about OU's staleness. “Fans get spoiled. A lot of coaches move on to keep it new, keep energy high. Look at Urban [Meyer].”
Maybe it was just a contract leverage play, which worked, but I believed some coaches when they told me Stoops had genuine interest last winter in the Cleveland Browns job.
“I think he’s looking for other options,” a coach said Saturday.
Stoops is 54, FWIW. I got dollars to donuts less than nothing comes of this chatter.
ON PATTING PEOPLE ON THE HEAD AND SAYING "THAT'S NICE." Mike Shanahan could be convinced to take the Michigan or Florida jobs. Mike Shanahan, who is 62 and has not been in college since 1983. Thank you for your interest, Mike Shanahan.
But he's a young 62!
Shut up, bolded alter ego.
ON ROTE NON-DENIAL DENIALS. Brad Bates was asked the inevitable question and said this:
“It really doesn’t distract me at all,” Bates said “I love it here at Boston College, my values align with the institutional mission and we’ve really enjoyed living in New England, one of the greatest cities in the world. It hasn’t been a distraction at all.”
When asked if he knows if UM has been contacting candidates or has even contacted him, he elected not to directly comment.
“There’s no value of me commenting on other institutions and their processes,” Bates said. “I love it here at Boston College, my values align with this institution and I hope to be here a long time.”
"…unless I am offered the Michigan AD job, whereupon I will leave so quickly my clothes will hang in the air for a comical moment before collapsing in an empty heap."
The Detroit News headlines this "plans to stay as Boston College AD," which is not at all what that passage says unless you are unfamiliar with rote non-denial denials. Also in this vein:
Sources: UConn AD Warde Manuel has no plans to go anywhere. // He's been on a list of potential candidates for the Michigan AD job.
— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) November 7, 2014
Burns is a former Daily guy so he's probably got a good connect. But, as always, sources say things they don't 100% know or mean. I've heard he'd also leave an empty pile of laundry if offered the job.
News bullets and other items:
Dennis Norfleet will play against Maryland
Derrick Green may or may not be back against Maryland. He, like Devin Gardner and Jake Butt, are getting healthier every day
President Schlissel called Hoke to apologize for his comments regarding academics and athletics. Hoke said that they recruit kids that fit the Michigan blueprint and that it’s not for everyone
Hoke said the Northwestern game was the offensive line’s best of the season
Nussmeier and Fred Jackson make the decision on which RB has the “hot hand,” and the decision can be made as early as the third series
“Thanks for coming out. Number one, yesterday we had a good chance with the players to look at the Northwestern film [and] make the corrections we need to make, but really emphasize the good things because really that's what you want to see are the good things. We've got to keep emphasizing those things. We practiced and it wasn't long but there was a lot of energy and a lot of good timing, and the one thing when you talk about bye weeks a little bit is the timing. You don't want to lose that part of it or if you need to get a little better you need to get a little better, especially in the pass game and all those things, so that was really productive.
“Start a little bit on Maryland today. I think the most exciting part of it is we are going to scrimmage some of the young guys against some who have played a little bit and those who haven't. We'll do about 30 minutes, probably 25 to 28 plays. When we do that we have to make sure it's going to help the team because those are your look teams going into the next week so I think it will be very good for us.
“Bye week again gives us a chance to rest some guys. I think getting Dennis [Norfleet]back will be very good for us. He'll be healthy. I think the health of Devin keeps – Gardner keeps improving and so in a lot of those guys there's a lot of guys who're just beat up a little bit. That's the way it is in football.
“The other thing is the president made some comments and I've talked to him. He called and apologized for his comments and I'm not going to speak for him. He put out whatever statements or interpretations that he needed to. We have always believed that this is truly an academic University. I was here for eight years before, as you all know, and I think the one thing you know being a former player and a coach is you only play so long and that's what this degree, a Michigan degree, is all about. And being the truly academic institution that it is, that degree will last forever so we take it very seriously. We try and recruit the best football players, the best student-athletes, and people that fit the blueprint here at Michigan. It's not for everybody because it is demanding and that's the way it should be.”
You kind of had the incident with Jake Butt. How much is he a work in progress on and off the field in terms of what he can be?
“I think Jake, he – from an athletic standpoint and all those things he continues to get healthier. He's one of those guys who another week, if we continue to do the right things with him… and the double edge sword is the timing of the routes and all that because you do want to rest guys so that they get a little healthier. I think he’s always developing and we are happy with his development.”
Have you seen the jerseys that his family where is when they come to games?
“I have not.”
Papa butt and headbutt and stuff like that. Have you seen him embrace that? He talks about getting teased about his last name.
“Yeah, he gets teased but… he gets teased.”
[After THE JUMP: We are grinders. It is stupid. Also some academic stuff.]
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2, Mailbag Part 1
Who will get the bulk of the minutes at center? The panelists disagree. [Fuller]
The preview is almost done, but first, Alex and I attempt to answer perhaps the longest mailbag question in this blog's history. Without further ado, a five-part query covering everything:
Can you predict the minutes by position for the roster this year given the unique nature of this team compared to the past rosters?
I'm very intrigued to see how Beilein deals with the youngest but probably deepest and most versatile roster he's ever had. For most years we were scrambling to find 8 usable scholarship athletes and this year we have 11 guys who could see meaningful minutes in any given game. How will he handle that? How will he handle the frustrations that come with so many freshmen learning a complex system? How will he handle the unique skills that guys like MAAR or Wilson offer if they aren't quite the fit into his system?
Ace: I'm going to start from the end—first of all, Wilson is an ideal fit in the system (more on him later), and second of all, if a player is good enough to get on the court, Beilein is going to adjust his team's approach to fit his personnel, as we've seen time and again.
Also, talk about good problems. There really are 11 players who could see at least a consistent bit role this season, though I highly doubt Beilein is going to go with an 11-man rotation; I think he'll whittle it down closer to eight or nine as the season goes on.
My best guess at how the minutes breakdown will look when this team settles into a rotation—in the early going, I expect some experimenting as Beilein figures out what his freshmen can and can't provide:
1) Walton - 30, Albrecht - 10
2) LeVert - 35, Albrecht - 5
3) Irvin - 30, Dawkins - 10
4) Chatman - 25, Wilson - 15
5) Doyle - 20, Donnal - 10, Wilson - 10
Positions matter less than minutes distribution here—Irvin and Dawkins can both play the two, and LeVert can play the three, for example, and those positions very similar in Beilein's system, anyway.
Of the freshmen, I think Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman is the most likely to fall out of the rotation. Michigan has plenty of guards that can handle the ball, Walton's ability as a spot-up shooter will allow for the Walton/Spike backcourt to get a good amount of run, and Rahk's iffy shooting is going to hold him back, especially once M hits the meat of the schedule—Beilein's system doesn't work nearly as well if defenses don't have to respect the outside shot of one of the guards.
Aubrey Dawkins, meanwhile, has the skill set to be an immediate bench contributor. He can defend multiple positions and he can shoot the three; add in his outstanding athleticism, which should make him a good finisher on the break, and it's easy to see a role for him as a three-and-D guy with some upside.
I'm of the mind that all three freshman centers, including DJ Wilson, will get extensive time, and their minutes will wax and wane depending on the matchup; Wilson should see more time at the five against smaller, athletic teams, while Doyle may be leaned upon heavily against a bigger squad like Iowa. I believe Doyle will end up playing the most minutes at the five; I'm a fan of his combination of size and ability to finish near the basket, and for some reason it doesn't feel like Donnal is currently living up to expectations.
[Hit THE JUMP for Alex's guess at the rotation plus our outlook on DJ Wilson, picks for this year's breakout players, and comparable players to this year's freshmen.]
A man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridikuhlis.
Ace: Brian and I did a segment on this week's podcast in which we each listed our top five most ridiculous games of the Hoke era. Not only were our bottom three picks entirely different, but between Twitter and the comments at least a dozen games that didn't make the cut were suggested as meriting inclusion, and... it was really hard to argue with a lot of them.
So let's try this again. List and explain your top five, perhaps mention a few dishonorable mentions, and feel free to explain your methodology—I'm intentionally leaving "ridiculous" open to interpretation.
BiSB: I just drew up a quick list of candidates. There are 16 games on that list. I HATE ALL THE THINGS.
Ace: Now remember that the very first game Hoke coached featured two Brandon Herron touchdowns and was called due to a biblical storm before the third quarter ended...
Even the wins, man. Even the wins.
[After the jump: we discuss 60% of the games under Hoke]