chance of bowl: 13.6%
For each week until the season starts, I will preview one of Michigan's opponents beginning with B1G teams. I'm saving non-conference for last when they will be much more relevant; B1G previews will have the same amount of handwaving now as they will have in August.
Holy crap Quarterbacks. For the past couple years Purdue failed to pray adequately to their Angry ACL-hating God, and they paid dearly for it. The PTSD from the experience was so severe that they now have eight quarterbacks on the roster.
“Wow, we go 8 deep at quarterback. Now thats some good ACL blowout insurance.”
(It's also good Snake-Oil insurance, btw)
They return Robert Marve, Rob Henry, Caleb Terbush, and Sean Robinson, the first three of whom have significant game experience. So obviously for the class of 2012 they went out and signed four quarterbacks.
Wait, wha--? How do you even do that? Did these guys not know about each other when they committed? Because that would make it really awkward on the first day of fall camp.
Bafflement aside, I was just thinking that if only they had two more QBs, per modern journalistic convention I would have to use numerals to express the number of quarterbacks on their roster. Which would be nerd-cool.
No way …
Austin Parker (http://www.purduesports.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/parker_austin00.html)
Erich Berzinskas (http://footballrecruiting.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1316762)
Also, Dolap McCarthy was a QB before switching to WR and 2012 commit BJ Knauf will play wide receiver at Purdue but played at quarterback this year in high school.
Eight scholarship QBs and two walk-ons. If every one of them tore an ACL, they could still fill out a two-deep with the remaining healthy knees.
Anyway, the end of the story is the Boilermakers are doing one hell of a job living up to their “Cradle of Quarterbacks” moniker. They have employed a pair of rabbits to make these guys, and they are going to make for one hell of a sextuple pass play.
The actual preview part.
First of all I need to apologize to the Purdue fans who got offended when I said last season that they played in three games after which fans stormed the field. That number is actually one -- the OT win over Ohio State -- and I guess, as Michigan fans, who are we to blame them?
This season the Boilermakers are embracing their darkhorse candidacy for the Woody Division title. It’s a dark, dark horse considering where they ended up last season when their 4-4 B1G record came third to Wisconsin (6-2 B1G) and Penn State (6-2 B1G) in their division. That gap was a mile wide considering that they would have needed two more B1G wins against much stronger teams (Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin) just to tie.
But with Ohio State out of the running in 2012, Wisconsin rebuilding, and Penn State recovering, this might actually be Purdue’s shot. They return 15 starters, good for top quartile-ish in the nation and 3rd in the B1G. More importantly, they return nearly all of their playmakers from 2011. Only two players from that team got drafted -- 5th and 6th rounders -- and both of them were offensive linemen.
Proof it happened once, at least.
- Sept 1, Eastern Kentucky
- Sept 8, @ Notre Dame
- Sept 15, Eastern Michigan
- Sept 22, BYE
- Sept 29, Marshall
- Oct 6, Michigan
- Oct 13, Wisconsin
- Oct 20, @ Ohio State
- Oct 27, @ Minnesota
- Nov 3, Penn State
- Nov 10, @ Iowa
- Nov 17, @ Illinois
- Nov 24, Indiana
If Purdue doesn’t get six wins out of this schedule, it wouldn’t be for a lack of planning. While Marshall and -- I can’t believe I’m saying this -- Eastern Michigan aren’t quite the body bag games they once were, I didn’t know until now that Eastern Kentucky did anything other than give high schoolers credit for correspondence courses in things like Health and US History.
Road games at Notre Dame and Ohio State seem like automatic losses. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State will be home games for the Boilermakers. All three will likely be favored against them, but since those teams each have some figuring out to do between now and when they visit West Lafayette, at this point (you know, three months before the season starts) it’s probable that the Boilermakers might eke one victory out of this group.
Visiting Iowa seems 51/49, advantage Purdue, since the Hawkeyes return QB James Vandenberg, C James Ferentz, and WR Keenan Davis and then about 10 guys whose names I don’t even remember reading. Maybe I'm underrating the Hawkeyes, though. They do do things like “be physical” and stuff, and they’re replacing offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe with a radical young maverick who will bring Iowa’s historically punt-first attack blazing into the 21st century. For those of you who don’t know who Greg Davis is, I’m being facetious.
Back to Purdue, their other road games at Illinois and at Minnesota seem imminently winnable, although the Gophers ended last season on the upswing, and it’s hard to tell what Illini will do with “coaching.” Assuming that neither program figures it all out this season, the Boilermakers should at least be able to grind out both of these the ugly way. The B1G way. The American way.
Indiana will lose just because.
Their schedule is as favorable as: Getting dealt pocket jacks.
X’s and O’s
Henry, Marve, TerBush
Purdue runs the spread, so they will use lots of shotgun, zone running, quick passes, receiver screens, jet sweeps, that sort of thing. The Boilermaker offense is less predicated on a running quarterback compared with Oregon’s or Rich Rod’s spread, but some athleticism is asked of their signalcaller, whoever that might be out of the 10 on their roster. A guy like Dan Persa would be the perfect QB for their system.
That said, Purdue likes to run the ball with their running backs and receivers. Zone running and receiver end-arounds and jet sweeps form the basis of a ground game that averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2011, which was on the cusp of being top third in the FBS.
The Boilermakers return top running back Ralph Bolden (674 yards, 4.6 ypc, 6 TDs) who was limited while recovering from ACL surgery last year, so if anything he should be more productive this fall as their every down back. He’s not particularly big (5-9, 190 lbs) or fast, but he can juke!
Purdue's highlight reels are crowdsourced. Literally.
Behind him is Akeem Shavers (519 yards, 4.7 ypc, 6 TDs) who looks to be a quality backup who might end up pushing Bolden for carries. Shavers is a little bigger (5-11, 203 lbs) than Bolden, but the two seem to fit similar roles.
They’ll be running behind an offensive line that probably has a little bonding to do in the offseason. As I mentioned earlier, only two Boilermaker players (LT Dennis Kelly and RG Nick Mondek) got drafted this year, but both were linemen. The other guys that are returning are reportedly learning new positions, so offensive line development will be something to keep an eye on throughout fall camp and the non-conference.
At quarterback Purdue has three guys who have had significant starting experience. Caleb TerBush (62%, 1905 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT) ended 2011 as the nominal starter with Robert Marve (56%, 633 yards, 4 TD, 5 INT) working from a backup and situational role while rehabbing his ACL. Rob Henry (2010: 53%, 996 yards, 8 TD, 7 INT) sat out for the entirety of the season because of -- what else? -- ACL stuff.
The three signalcallers are reportedly neck and neck after spring practice, but the smart money is on TerBush to take the first snap against Eastern Kentucky. Marve might have an edge in athleticism but hasn’t quite had everything upstairs in order. Henry has been out for a year and wasn’t that good when he was healthy.
Either way, the Boilermakers’ innumerable and interchangeable QBs will be throwing to a WR corps that has some soul searching to do. Their top two guys, Antavian Edison (44 rec, 584 yards, 3 TD) and OJ Ross (33 rec, 356 yards, 3 TD), are sorting through legal and academic issues respectively, so at the moment their return is not guaranteed. That leaves Purdue with KR Raheem Mostert, who has yet to catch a pass from scrimmage.
Purdue’s offense is as frightening as: Shotgun pellets fired from a paintball gun at five yards. Fear level = 3 on a scale from 1 (New Mexico) to 10 (Oregon).
Boilermaker Tackling Fundamentals 101: Grab on to the metal thingy.
Despite not being known to excel on this side of the ball, Purdue has produced a number of talented players in recent years and look to have a few potential stars on this year’s squad. The Boilermakers return most of their defensive line and secondary. Things may get dicey for them if none of their inexperienced new linebackers step up by September, but mediocrity at that position would still make for a unit that could end up in the top half of the B1G.
Purdue played a base 4-3 defense last year and didn’t do anything too funky with it. How quaint, I know. This year they have a new defensive coordinator in Tim Tibesar who spent the last three seasons in the Canadian Football League, who has reportedly tried implementing a 3-4 in closed practice.
… GERG, is that you?
Yes, that is a stupid idea.
As far as the defensive line goes, 1st team All-B1G DT Kawann Short (54 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 7 sacks) passed up the NFL draft to play his senior season in West Lafayette and anchor the line. If all goes well he could hear his name during the first round in 2013. Around him are two solid returnees in DT Bruce Gaston (29 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks) and DE Ryan Russell (32 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack). This defensive line should end up being excellent by most standards, particularly in the middle. Why the Boilermakers would want to take any of these guys off the field in favor of a linebacker is beyond me.
The secondary will be one of the better ones in the B1G, too. 2nd team All-B1G CB Ricardo Allen (79 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 PBU, 3 INT) is a proven commodity, and he’ll benefit from playing another year opposite CB Josh Johnson (63 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 9 PBU, 2 INT), who is also an active B1G corner. Despite losing WHODAT safety, they return WHODAT safety and seem to have a good nickel corner in WHODAT, who had a strong spring game.
So the linebackers … Nobody really knows anything about their linebackers, but five bucks says opposing teams will combo block and option the crap out of this group.
The Tibesar fellow thinks he should have four of them on the field, though.
Their defense is as frightening as: An accordian -- with a nice, soft crumple zone in the middle. Fear level = 7 on a scale from 1 (GERG ) to 10 (Alabama) if they stick with the base 4-3; 4 if they switch to a 3-4.
They lose Punter/Kicker Carson Wiggs (19/25) to graduation. He was their best kicker in school history. They will have to replace him.
Raheem Mostert will probably continue to return kicks and stuff.
That's pretty much it.
Their record will be: 7-5, 4-4 B1G (see above)
When they play Michigan: It could be close if Michigan still can't figure out how to get their act together on the road, but Michigan's ground game will eventually overwhelm their linebackers, and Purdue simply won't have enough playmakers on offense to keep up.
Their chance of winning the B1G is as good as: Raising their bet on pocket jacks. Indiana folds; Ohio State gets caught playing with jokers; everyone else calls. An ace and two kings appear on the flop … Michigan State goes all in.
To watch tonight. If you're starving for something in maize and blue to root on—and you probably are—softball's super regional matchup against Alabama will be on the TV. Game one is tonight(!) on ESPN2 at 8. Games two and three (if necessary) are Friday, with game two at 4:30 on ESPNU and hypothetical game 3 on ESPN2 at 7.
The full Jackie Chiles. I've accused a couple of lawyers who have entered our lives of being Seinfeld Cochran-parody Jackie Chiles, but Jalen Rose just won the title for all time:
"I think it was unnecessary. Flagrant. Defiant."
Rose goes on to say "it"—Mary Sue Coleman saying they won't be putting the banners up again for games that still never happened—is…
"…honest, and I respect that. If they choose not to embrace the Fab Five era, if they choose not to embrace us individually or as a team or the things we brought to the table, I really have no bitterness. I'm not mad at it.
"What's going to happen, though? … When you turn your back directly or indirectly on something that was so good to you, you're never going to get the true foundation of a program to build upon."
"I'm not bitter" is kind of like "I'm not racist, but…" in that it's only said when you're about to be bitter or racist. I can get Rose's frustration and appreciate that he cares enough about his time at Michigan that it bothers him, but the games are vacated. It's over, man.
Well, here they are. Everyone loves them some Phil Steele but whenever he releases these All Conference teams I look at the Big Ten and get suspicious about how closely he's paying attention. This year's edition:
Just amongst Michigan players, the inclusion of Omameh over Schofield, the total omission of Jake Ryan despite 16 linebackers featuring, and Roy Roundtree featuring on the first team raise eyebrows. Also there's no Countess, Kenny Demens is not better than Michael Mauti, and the next time Will Gholston beats a block it will be his… well, his second time. He did it in MSU's bowl game.
The text is really tiny and weird, though. This is Steele's secret weapon.
Hail Mallory. Is JT Floyd too high as well? Yeah, probably. But it's not ridiculous to have him on there. Gibson minus all of the points.
Imaginary depth chart revamp. Based on some things I'd heard I assumed that in the event Michigan needed to fish for a second replacement tackle it would be Ben Braden despite his relative lack of recruiting hype. This tea leaf from Borges suggests otherwise:
Offensive coordinator Al Borges said last week freshmen could compete at any spot this fall, but named Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson as leaders to see the field because of the Wolverines' woefully thin offensive line depth.
“Kalis is a good player and he’s going to get a chance, just like Erik Magnuson,” he said.
Meinke goes on to state that Kalis is expected to compete for the left guard job but may move to tackle in the future, which is inverted from my assumption. That assumption: left guard will be okay, but the horrifying lack of depth at tackle means this college-ready five star needs to be prepped there in case someone gets hurt playing football.
All of this will be torn up and revamped when fall camp hits. Finding out who the #3 tackle is and if the freshmen receiver can play immediately will be priorities.
On fire. With three goals in three games, Justin Meram is officially on fire in MLS JAM. The latest is at about 1:20 here:
That cross came from a man named "Dilly Duka."
Side note: parallels between Meram and Zach Putnam exist. Both brought about a renaissance in a non-revenue sport with potential and a pro league to continue to, both programs collapsed after they left, the absence of both saw their longtime program stewards terminated after about a decade in charge. Whenever I see either I think of some fun times that I thought were sustainable but ended up not being so.
He's on top of it! OSU reported 46 secondary violations a few days back. These were more comedy than crime. Adding to the comedy is Gene Smith as Towlie:
Smith told The Lantern Tuesday the athletic department has 12 pending NCAA violations, and he doesn’t know if they will be deemed primary or secondary violations.
“We’ve got 12 pending,” Smith said. “It may turn out to be secondary. It may not.”
OSU spokesman Dan Wallenberg said in a Wednesday email to The Lantern, that there were actually less than 12 pending violations. Wallenberg did confirm that the additional violations are being “processed,” although he did not “know the status of each situation” in regards to whether it was being processed by the university or the NCAA.
I have no idea what's going on, you guys.
Chances anything serious comes out of this asymptotically approach zero until Charles Robinson arrives on the scene in a superhero costume, but it's good to get further confirmation that the man in charge of Ohio State athletics is maybe not so good at his job. [UPDATE: Smith clarifies that Charles Robinson is not on campus.]
Support the troops. Dave Brandon's opposed to having anything in the Midwest ever, and if you aren't you are pissing on our student-athletes:
"The one thing that kind of gets left out of this discussion that maybe ought to get some weight are the kids," he said Friday during WTKA's Mott Takeover. "Now, I know a lot of people don't really care about that part, but I do, and if you polled our players and said, 'If you played a really tough, successful, long regular season, the award you're going to get is to travel to Ford Field or Lucas Oil Stadium,' they would look at you and say, 'Huh?'
"They love going to warm weather. They love going to some of these locations they, in some cases, have never visited."
…TO PLAY FOR A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME ON SOMETHING APPROXIMATING A HOME FIELD AAAAARGH. I shouldn't even bother repeating the things. They are just infuriating. Next week there will be a sudden reversal and Brandon will talk about how he doesn't consider on-campus sites to be on campus. It's not really a home field advantage, you see, because something something something pasta in a bread bowl.
We made money! Besides, Michigan made bank on the Sugar Bowl:
While the Big Ten conference received $6.1 million for an at-large BCS team and gave Michigan $2.05 million for travel and other expenses for its participation in the game, that was not Michigan's profit on the game.
After expenses were taken out and the Big Ten absorbed the cost of the university's unsold tickets, Michigan brought in $78,916 in profit from its trip to New Orleans, according to records received by WolverineNation as part of a Freedom of Information request.
It's not quite as bad as that. Michigan still has a couple million coming from the league. It seems like the travel and expenses budget is designed to approximately break even. The Big Ten ate about 400k in unsold tickets from the Sugar.
Etc.: ESPN's putting together a "hate week" that seems incompatible with their corporate goals, but if you're writing about Fielding Yost's irrational hatred for something I'll read it.
Derrick Walton still tearing up AAU. Michigan Hockey Net interviews Michael Downing. Troy Woolfolk on stuff. Glick fluff from Michigan Today. I kind of wish it wasn't smack dab in the middle of State Street, since that forced soccer to relocate off campus.
Last fall, Michigan introduced the "Michigan Football Legends" as an alternative to retiring uniform numbers, honoring Desmond Howard before the Under The Lights game with a patch that now adorns the #21 jersey. As one of three Heisman Trophy winners to don the Maize and Blue, Howard was more than deserving of such an honor, and I'd wager that one Charles Woodson is due for a patch of his own in the near future.
I'm a fan of this, and hope that the families of players whose jerseys are currently retired—the Wistert brothers (#11), Bennie Oosterbaan (#47), Gerald Ford (#48), Ron Kramer (#87), and Tom Harmon (#98)—eventually decide it's better to see those jerseys once again placed in the rotation, their accomplishments recognized in a way the fans actually see every week during the fall*. If that happens, however, we'll quickly face the issue of diluting the honor; if all the retired jerseys become "Legends" and you add Woodson to the mix, all of a sudden you have seven jerseys with patches before getting to guys like Anthony Carter, Bennie Friedman, and (eventually) Jake Long.
Where do you draw the line? On one hand, there are a multitude of players who could merit such an honor; it isn't difficult to make the case for such players as Dan Dierdorf, Mark Messner, Braylon Edwards, Mike Hart, Willie Heston (though he didn't wear a jersey number, making it rather implausible that he'll be celebrated in this fashion), Bob Chappuis... the list goes on. On the other hand, the awarding of a Legend jersey loses some of its luster if half of the starting 22 is rocking a patch every year. The way I see it, there are two ways to handle this issue.
The first is simple and obvious: only give out Legend status to a very select few. Edwards and Hart, for example, were remarkable to watch on the field, made their mark on the record books, were wildly popular amongst fans, and in Braylon's case had an indelible signature moment ('04 MSU). Still, I don't think either merits inclusion among the pantheon of Michigan legends, even if the focus is solely on on-field accomplishments; this would be an honor reserved for truly once-in-a-generation athletes. Edwards is probably closer than Hart in this regard, but the shadow of three-time All-American Anthony Carter looms large. If we're going by this method, I'd give out Legend jerseys for the retired numbers, Howard, Woodson, AC, Chappuis, and Friedman. That's it, at least for now.
The second option, which I find preferable, is to be a little more generous with the Legend distinction, but be relatively selective when it comes to handing out those jerseys. While I realize this brings about the same problem as retired uniforms—if nobody merits a Legend jersey, you start running out of numbers in a hurry—there's also an easy solution for that: keep using the honored numbers, but only affix the Legend patch for a player who plays the same position as the legendary player in question. Raymon Taylor wore #21 last year even after the Notre Dame game, but the defensive back's jersey was patchless. With Roy Roundtree wearing Howard's number this year, however, Taylor switched over to #6 in the spring. [EDIT: Taylor actually switched before the SDSU game last year, but the point remains—this can be done.]
Using this method, you have a real drawing point for players from each position group—we saw this week with Leon McQuay III how much of a recruiting pitch these jerseys can potentially be—and also get the chance to recognize even more of Michigan's rich football history. It isn't hard to find a player worth remembering at each position group:
QB: Bennie Friedman (#27)
RB: Tom Harmon (#98), Bob Chappuis (#49)
WR: Desmond Howard (#21), Anthony Carter (#1)
TE: Bennie Oosterbaan (#47)
OT: Dan Dierdorf (#72) or Jake Long (#77) (I'd probably lean towards Long)
OG: Steve Hutchinson (#76)
C: Gerald Ford (#48) (Not sure if coaches would want a lineman wearing a number that low, but I'd love to see it)
DT: The Wistert brothers (#11)
DE: Ron Kramer (#87) (Fudged a little, but Kramer played just about everything)
LB: Ron Simpkins (#40)
DB: Charles Woodson (#2)
Again, not all of these would be given out every year, especially since you might be hard-pressed to find a quarterback who wants to wear #27 or a running back ready to rock a number most commonly found on the defensive line. I really enjoy seeing college players wear numbers that don't traditionally fit their position, however, so I'd love to see some of these, especially a star defensive tackle wearing #11.
Honoring Carter could also help Michigan finally free the #1 jersey from the grasp of Edwards. I realize Edwards funds a scholarship, which makes this a tricky situtation, but I'd hope he would understand the historical impact of Carter and his status as the patriarch of the #1 jersey tradition for Michigan receivers. Or, now that I'm done laughing, Michigan just does it anyway because it's the right thing to do.
This may be spreading the Legend concept a little thin this early in its existence—what happens, say, when we're far enough past the careers of Denard, Woodley, and the next generation of Wolverines?—but it does a great job of acknowledging players of every era, a point I find important for such a historically-driven endeavor. Now, has anybody asked Denard how he feels about wearing #27?
*I doubt your average Michigan fan knows about the Wisterts, which is criminal when you realize that three brothers all were All-American tackles at the same school. That's just ridiculous, and we should be reminded of this fact every time a Wolverine trots out onto the field wearing #11.
Where have you gone, Zach Putnam? [Via Roar of the Tigers.]
Michigan fired baseball coach Rich Maloney yesterday, a precipitous fall for a guy who was being heavily courted by SEC schools a couple years ago. Tennessee interviewed him five years back, whereupon Maloney signed the contract that just expired. Back then there were a number of future major-leaguers on the roster. Now not so much.
What happened? I have a little inside baseball (HAIKM) on this one: when his assistant Jake Boss was hired at Eastern Michigan this crippled his recruiting. Reports from guys being recruited at the time say it was Boss who was the face of the program and that Maloney did not have a boots-on-the-ground approach to recruiting. It's kind of like what would happen to Red if he lost both of his assistants, played in a mid-major league, and was not Red Berenson.
Boss was boss enough for Michigan State to pick him up after just one year and the turnaround in their fortunes has been obvious:
|2005||42-19, NCAA bid||22-31|
|2006||43-21, Big Ten double, NCAA bid||24-29|
|2007||42-19, Big Ten title, reach super-regionals||25-26|
|Boss leaves for EMU|
|2008||46-14, Big Ten tourney title, NCAA bid||26-30|
|Boss joins MSU|
|2011||17-37||36-21, Big Ten champs|
MSU's coach before Boss left to be the pitching coach at LSU. They weren't going to get rid of the guy just for going .500. They loved that. The year before he arrived they were ninth in the league. That's the kind of program we're dealing with. Boss's title year was the sixth-most wins in the history of the program. Their 2011 title was their first since 1979. This is not quite as impressive as Purdue breaking its streak of not winning since 1909(!!!), but it's still pretty impressive.
Meanwhile Michigan cratered a year after Boss left, finishing tenth in the league the last two years. Wisconsin doesn't have a program, so that's last and second from last. It was time to let the guy go.
I won't pretend to have my pulse on the beating heart of college baseball, but it's doubtful Michigan can recapture the magic they had in the middle of the last decade when a couple of local stars who both pitched and hit (Putnam, Abraham) decided to stay local. Their impact on the program was huge, especially Putnam. Unless the balance of college baseball recruiting changes drastically for no good reason, that's the kind of thing that has to happen for Michigan to be the kind of team that can host the charity northern regional.
Failing that, being one of the two or three or four (now that Nebraska is around) Big Ten teams in contention for the league's autobid year-in and year-out is something to shoot for. I doubt they'll make a run at Boss—that might ruin Brandon and Hollis's golf outing—but they probably should.
If they don't latch on to Boss they should hire someone who can make it warm in February. Nothing else is going to help the Big Ten other than leaving the NCAA entirely.
Bob Lipson: awesome
Part I of my interview with Michigan Replay producer Bob Lipson be here, and covers the history of the show up to Bo's last year as head coach.
At that time Don Canham had recently stepped down as athletic director and Schembechler had taken over. For the first 15 seasons of Replay there had been one coach and one athletic director; now would begin a series of new ADs Liposon would have to sell the show all over again. This was no small thing. The show was a considerable side job for the coach, and it needed access to the locker room and players to interview that no other outlet got, and all of this was predicated on the AD's trust of the show's producer. For now, no big deal, right? The new AD was the longtime star of the show, so maybe lose Budweiser as a sponsor and carry on? Not so, as Bo was not as hands-on as AD as he was as football coach, and that wasn't the expectation for him. Bo still made the big decisions, e.g. firing the basketball coach in '89, but behind the scenes, the nuts and bolts of the department at that time were handled by then-senior associate director of athletics Jack Weidenbach.
Canham liked television but was never in love with the show, after 15 years however he had adjusted to it. Weidenbach, who would follow Bo as AD in 1990, maybe liked the show a little less, and wasn't resigned to anything. Jack had been around the program longer than Schembechler, and in that time had controlled everything from OSHA compliance to marketing. He knew the department inside and out, but he didn't know Bob that well.
Twenty Tons of Turf (1989-1994)
For awhile now the show was being taped on Saturdays after the games so it could run on Sunday mornings. "Fourth" network Fox had taken over Channel 2, moving CBS to 62. Feeling bold, they put in a bid to have the NFL's NFC games, and to the astonishment of many (considering the might of the other networks) won it. Fox offered Lipson the 11:30 a.m. spot right before the Lions pre-game show, a perfect lead-in for them, and a perfect place for Michigan Replay to capture more fans as they settled down for Sunday football.
But college football was now leaving the once-hallowed 1:00 p.m. standard. Driving to Detroit and back every Saturday night after a game was trial enough for home games, but on away trips it was torture. It was for Bob as well, who would sit watching games and call in which plays he wanted. If they couldn't get it in before, taping Saturday night increasingly meant waiting until the studio was done with the 9:00 news. Routinely they'd be taping from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. After a game in the dump that Minnesota used to play in (Bob's words for the Metrodome, not the author's) a late taping was a guarantee.
Attributed by Bob to their live background, they would shoot the show straight through, seldom making a mistake and almost never re-shooting something. Occasionally the coach (remember: this is at 3 a.m. after a game day in another city) would refer to "today" instead of "yesterday" but that was about it. "In 33 years we maybe had to stop five times," Bob estimated. Since there were no re-dos, the coaches on the show got a lot of practice at speaking off the cuff for posterity; perhaps this attributed to the rarity of speaking gaffes by Bo or his successors when so many NCAA coaches stumbled over the adjustment to 24-hour television.
This was the routine: taping late at night with Bob and his universally beloved terrier Zipper keeping everyone's spirits high (Michigan wouldn't listen to students' attempts to formalize a mascot but there was no doubt who filled that role for Michigan Replay). Michigan's bleary-eyed head coach would be deposited back in his bed around 5:00 a.m., and the next morning millions would tune in to see what he had to say.
Weidenbach (right/UMHistory) had good reason to wonder if the show was worth it for the '90s. On the other hand, given the positive, semi-national exposure and the increasingly substantial bottom line the show provided, he had good reason to like Bob Lipson. Bob was about to give him another one.
Canham had put turf in the stadium in 1969. That was very cool at the time—the Astrodome opened in 1965—but by 1990 it was falling out of fashion, in part due to the negative effects it was thought to have on players' joints (I've heard suggested on boards, but not substantiated, that other coaches were using it to recruit against Michigan). One of Weidenbach's first moves was to return the Big House to dirt and grass. The turf came up after the '90 football season, was rolled, and put into storage.
Nobody knew what the hell to do with it. On one hand it was 30-year-old Astroturf sitting around being all useless and in the way. On the other hand this was hallowed ground where Bo had beaten Woody's best team in '69 and Anthony Carter had caused Bob Ufer to reference Fielding Yost and Viking folklore in the same sentence.
So Lipson told Weidenbach "You give me the turf and I'll find something to do with it." Bob came up with three items he could cut it into: coasters, picture frames, and floor mats. He used his connections from years of selling ads around the state to find companies who could manufacture these items, used his connections from years of acquiring schlock for the set to make them available to the public, and came back with $800,000 for the athletic department. Today this seems like a drop in the bucket next to department runs a profit up to 20 times that, but this was a serious windfall for the university from something that had been just taking up space. As some of you may have been told on your orientation tour, Weidenbach gave half of that to the library, figuring nobody really donates to the library. The other half went into the improvements the department was making to Michigan's facilities. Bob took home a grand total of $0.00 from the project. It was a magnificent gift to the university that he loved.
Lloyd Protector (1995-'07)
You're awesome. No You're awesome!
In 1995, Lloyd Carr became the head coach of Michigan and Michigan Replay gained a guardian angel. Bo overshadowed anybody you put him in a room with. Mo looked like an uncle trapped at a family event two hours after giving his wife the first "let's go" signal. In reality Moeller was less enthusiastic about the show even than he appeared. Yet the man who succeeded him may have been the most important single personality for Michigan Replay other than Lipson himself. With Lloyd the chemistry with Brandstatter was immediate and palpable. Here were too good buddies, both with evident love for their topic, chatting the same way their viewers had been during the game.
Of the people Bob says nice things about (too many to mention) the kindest words are reserved for Carr. Carr in turn had plenty of nice things to say about Bob's show. Despite more late-night tapings than any of his predecessors due to afternoon games or worse (e.g. flying home after a West Coast game) Lloyd was the show's biggest fan. What he loved about it was that the high school coaches loved it. Across the country wherever the show was on, athletes' parents and coaches saw Michigan's clean-cut, well-spoken players (and Carr's apparent honesty and affability to anyone not in a press room or a Sun Belt referee uniform), and equated Michigan with this idyllic student-athlete experience. Recruiting regulations at this time were piling up as quickly as coaches could think of new ways to pitch their programs, and then here's this big syndicated program (now at 11:00 a.m.) that's in its way a big Michigan commercial reaching Carr's target audience.
As '97 was the apogee of the Bo era, so was it the last peak of the show. Bo of course wasn't on it anymore, but episodes after the Penn State, Ohio State, and Rose Bowl victories that season were some of the most-watched in its history.
Despite its popularity with fans—mostly an older crowd—some in the athletic department were ready to throw out Replay with the rest of the anachronisms of the Canham era. Bob gave me little in the way of explanation for why a vintage Carr defense was necessary—perhaps he wasn't so sure what the fuss was about either—but he left little doubt there were people in the athletic department who were not fans of the show.
If I have to venture a guess, it was the result of several administrations coming through in quick succession, all with their own goals, versus this independent program they weren't really sure of their affiliation with, and which had gotten by all of these years because Bob Lipson had ingratiated himself with the principals. Gone already were the guys who remembered the turf thing, and gone too were their replacements. Now the athletic director was Tom Goss, a Michigan footballer of the pre-Bo era (he graduated after the '68 season) who had spent years in beverages and merchandising. Goss was determined to make not only the Big House but Crisler into a modern facility, and embarked upon the first of the modern round of renovations. The better known result of this was the stadium halo and what Bob eloquently called the "refrigerator magnet" letters on the stadium my freshman year (1998), the baby of a guy named Shapiro though Goss fell on the sword for it.
How this affected Michigan Replay was that the renovations came with a bigger video board and, importantly, a studio within the complex to take advantage of it. Summoning every ounce of goodwill he had left, Bob went to the athletic department to beg that they use the opportunity to build an honest-to-goodness TV studio, as opposed to the mini-booth they were planning. Perhaps with the intervention of a guardian angel (or guardian legend), this was approved. No more driving back and forth to Detroit, and the two hours out of the coach's game day it lost.
Bo used to sit on a stool, taping live in a Detroit TV station across from that network's (Sparty-inclined) sports anchor, while an intern flipped the reel and made Rick Leach look right-handed; now Lloyd Carr and Jim Brandstatter had leather chaise loungers in a tricked-out, purpose-built modern studio inside the Crisler complex. But Goss wouldn't long survive his expenditures, and while new A.D. Bill Martin didn't feel too strongly one way or another about the show—his job as he saw it was to fix the department's finances—more people in his department wanted to kill the show, and they were less shy about saying something. These people carried weight with Martin, and as the 2000s progressed so too did the seriousness of their opposition. What kept it going was simply Lloyd Carr, who would see Michigan Replay end over his retired body.
In 2007, ten years after his national championship season, Carr retired.
That's All the Time We Have (2008)
"Keep this replay going." –Lloyd Carr
People have come up with a lot of theories to explain the sudden and abrupt conclusion of Michigan Replay after 2007. Many claim Rich Rodriguez didn't want to do the show, either out of sansdeference for the well of Michigan or simply because his tantrumic post-loss regimen probably wouldn't play any better on TV than it did in John Bacon's Three and Out. More savvy Web browsers can discover the athletic department hired a new marketing company around that time, and extrapolate that the new agency shirts didn't think two guys sitting across from each other in lounge chairs and cutting through the mysteries of football were the right thing for the brand. There's even an erroneous reference on Wikipedia to "retiring the show in honor of Lloyd," which is impossible to reconcile with Lloyd's words to Brandy on their last show together.
Doubtless the end of Michigan Replay coinciding with the coaching change for fans created the sense that it was one more unnecessary break from Michigan tradition. Those who didn't like Rich Rod went with the reason that blames him. Those who hated Bill Martin went with that. Nature abhors a vacuum, so the public filled it with whatever fit the narrative of what they thought was going on in the erratic and nonsensical late-term Martin athletic department.
What happened was far more simple: folks in the athletic department wanted to be rid of the show long before, but Lloyd Carr had been holding them off. Said Bob, "When I lost Lloyd, I lost my protector."
He made this very clear to me and I'll try to be as clear here: Rich Rodriguez had nothing to do with the show being canceled. He wasn't any more thrilled with the idea of it than Moeller was, and he would only do it Sunday mornings, not Saturday nights (given the amount of late games Michigan now played and his post-loss demeanor, this was smart). The difference was Rich Rod had no idea of its recruiting power, didn't know Brandstatter, and didn't have the sentimental attachment to the show that Lloyd had. Rodriguez upon arrival didn't know the politics inside Martin's department, and certainly had no way of knowing the only thing that could save the show was nothing short of him demanding they keep it in his contract. The sum total of blame on Rodriguez for the end of Michigan Replay is nil.
Minus Lloyd, the elements inside had their way, and the show was canceled. Bob was rightfully sad to see his life's work suddenly ended, but stressed that he wasn't bitter: "There's nothing on television that lasts 33 years!" That's not entirely correct, since of his class of '75 we still have Wheel of Fortune, Saturday Night Live, and Good Morning America. But: Wheel of Fortune, Saturday Night Live, and Good Morning America! Lipson's idea for a chitchat with the local college coach survived exactly as long as Michigan's coinciding bowl streak, and (three channels, remember) was just as impressive.
Last year, under yet another new athletic director, David Brandon (who graduated from Michigan just two years before the show began), Lipson was invited back, this time for the Big Ten Network. However he declined, and also declined to give over the name of his show, hence "Inside Michigan Football." Bob's reasoning had nothing to do with who could control it, or when it would be taped, or anything like that. What had happened over the last three years was that Bob for the first time in his life found what a joy it is to sit on a bench surrounded by his grandchildren inside the Big House, and watch a game of Michigan football. And there's nothing in the world, he says, that's could be better than that.
Q&A and Errata
Seth: What do you think of Brady Hoke and his staff, and how do they compare to the coaches you worked with?
Lipson: I like Brady. I liked him very much during his time as an assistant…the players loved him. I don't know that much has changed now that he is the head man. I choose not to compare!!!
Seth: Something something Dave Brandon and the current state of the program/college football in general?
Lipson: Bo would not be happy. He believed games ought to be played at 1:00 p.m. and wouldn't like the night games and all of the other things. Dave Brandon is the antithesis of Canham in some ways, but that was a different era with different expectations and even though Bo wouldn't like it, there's a lot of things Bo wouldn't like. I think Brandon is doing the right things for Michigan, and that's what he should be doing.
Seth: This is WRONG!!!:
This is RIGHT!!!:
This is a question! ?
Lipson: When I switched songs I received a ton of negative mail and comments saying to go back to the original. After 3 years I did return. Much of the negative comments came from Doug Karsch during his days at WTKA.
Seth: "Whoa cool license plate!"
Lipson: The wife of a couple who sit next to us at the games [had that made for us]. She works at Jackson prison and had the plate made by convicts. We joke and say it was made by Kwame Kilpatrick during his stay there.
To WolverineHistorian for putting up most of the videos I linked to. To D.A. from my office (not sure if he wants his name out there) who provided the contact. To the readers who suggested questions (Bob read them all by the way) and shared their memories on that thread a few weeks ago. And to the incomparable Bob Lipson, for taking the time to humor a blogger with his story. Thank you!
A couple weeks ago, Ace posted the stuff he'd play if he woke up tomorrow morning looking like Seth Greene in Can't Hardly Wait…
…and found out he was the man with the power to play the piped-in music at the stadium. This got me to thinking what I'd play—mostly White Stripes—until I had a thought: what if I could discredit the very idea of piped-in music so badly that they'd burn the speakers after the game? What if I could sit upon my be-goggled perch laughing maniacally with tented fingers as an enraged mob did my secret bidding? Yes. Yes, this is what I must do. I must destroy the institution from the inside.
Ground rule: no working blue. Anything played must be a radio edit, or a hypothetical radio edit of a song that excises naughty words that cause mothers to clap their hands over baby's ears. Otherwise this would just be Peaches songs.
Presenting the diabolical master plan to win hearts and minds by destroying them…
Joanna Newsom, "Monkey and Bear"
Joanna Newsom is a deranged elven harpist who put out an hour-long album with five songs on it. This is one of them. It's also a story of a manipulative monkey that convinces a sweet-hearted bear to flee its home, then exploits her for financial gain until she decides to drown itself. Possibly because she has brain damage. Awkward…
Sigur Ros, "Með blóðnasir"
This could be anything in their discography, really. Sigur Ros is an Icelandic band who invented their own language because all the existing ones were insufficient to express their meandering longing for… Icelandic stuff. Especially good for fourth-quarter defensive stands, as there is a strong chance opposing quarterback will lapse into a coma.
Seth says the title means "I have a nosebleed."
Cibo Matto, "Birthday Cake"
Jarring, high-pitched, probably-intentionally-annoying Japanese-expatriate food-punk containing the line "are you made or broken by the birthday cake" and the chorus
SHUT UP AND EAT
TOO BAD NO BON APPETIT
SHUT UP AND EAT
YOU KNOW MY LOVE IS SWEET
Involuntarily listening to this over and over will drive you insane. People would start eating each other, screaming "TOO BAD NO BON APPETIT."'
[IT GETS EVEN WORSE AFTER THE JUMP]