[The Athletic Department made Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger available for short interviews following the BCS bowl announcement. Brady Hoke was not available because he is currently in New York for the Football Hall of Fame Inductions. Hoke will be back for a Wednesday presser, and bowl practice will commence at the end of the week.]
Ryan Van Bergen
How does it feel to be going to the Sugar Bowl and playing Virginia Tech?
“It’s huge for us to be in the Sugar Bowl. It’s a great opportunity for us to this season off strong. We felt like we earned a spot in the BCS with our performance this year. We’re really excited to get one more chance to play as a group. It’s been a special year for us and we get one last chance to make a statement.”
Were you keeping track of all the games yesterday and which teams to root for?
“No I actually stayed off twitter and everything, honestly. I was just sick of hearing the different things and the different scenarios how it all could play out. Just figure let the chips fall where they may. Like I said, we feel like we deserve this spot and we’re really excited about the opportunity to play a good team like Virginia Tech.”
What does this change or add to your legacy?
“It gives us another opportunity. It’s been since 2006 since we’ve been in a BCS game, and I just think it kind of reestablishes what this team has been able to do and how we’ve come, especially with the expectations we had coming into this season. It’s a tremendous opportunity to put a final stamp on this year.”
This is the first time Michigan’s ever played Virginia Tech. How familiar are you with them?
“I can’t lie. I’m not very familiar with them at all. Obviously I’ve only had about two minutes to watch their game film. From the clips on ESPN, they looked pretty good. We didn’t get a chance to watch them too much this season, but obviously we’ll take them very seriously. They’re a very good team, a very talented team. Unfortuantely they’re going to be motivated off their loss to clemson, but they’ve got plenty of athletes, I know that.”
Did you hear what Kirk Cousins said last night about you guys?
“I didn’t catch it. What did he say?”
In a nutshell, that Michigan got to stay home and watch the game on a couch and Michigan State shouldn’t be penalized.
“I mean, if he wants to be able to sit on the couch and watch us play in the Big Ten championship game, then he can do that. We would have loved to trade places and have that chance and have that opportunity. All complaints aside, they had an opportunity to the Rose Bowl sitting right in front of them to grab, and they didn’t seize the opportunity. I think they’ll do well in the Outback Bowl, but best of luck, best wishes -- we’re going to the Sugar Bowl, and we’re excited about it.”
What does the January 3rd spotlight do for this program?
“It’s huge! It’s huge. It kind of establishes national relevance for Michigan as a program. It puts us back on the map, so to speak, as a national powerhouse. It will be great for recruiting, it will be great for the alumni and the fans, but the biggest thing for us: team 132 wants to play again. We’ve really grown close. We have great team chemistry, and the opportunity to play one more game on a stage as big as the Sugar Bowl is huge for us.”
Have you ever been to New Orleans?
“Never been to New Orleans, but I hear Bourbon Street’s pretty cool, so I’ll have to check it out.”
Hoke’s emphasizes winning the conference and rivalry games. Do you expect the same kind of emphasis for a bowl game?
“I know he’s going to emphasize the Big Ten conference and representing the Big Ten conference. It’s more than just about Michigan. It’s about representing the Big Ten conference on the biggest stage as possible. Obviously this is one of the biggest stages you can represent the Big Ten conference in, and we want the Big Ten conference to receive national attention as one of the best conferences in the country. We want to be able to beat out of conference opponents, and then kind of get respect nationally as a conference, and that’s something that we get an opportunity to do representing the Big Ten in the Sugar Bowl.”
How might this bowl game help erase your poor showing in the Gator Bowl last year?
“I think that that’s exactly what it is. It provides an opporunity for the guys who played last year and fell so short in that bowl game -- it provides us a chance to redeem ourselves and show that we can put forth a championship effort in a championship game, because that’s what this is. That’s why I think everyone’s going to be so well motivated and so excited for it.”
What was the reaction like in that room when the bowl game was announced?
“It was huge. It was something, like I said -- we all thought we were going to get it, but we weren’t sure if it was something that was going to happen, but we felt we deserved it. To have it finally and not on some kind of rumor or headline or something like that, having it on good authority that you’re going to that bowl game was huge for everybody I think on that team.”
How did you find out originally?
“We found out upstairs, a couple of us, and then through interviews and stuff like this, we’ve been kind of just notified. It’s been very recent, though …”
Has your roommate David Molk been insufferable since winning Offensive Lineman of the Year?
“Oh you know Molk. He’s such a jabberjaw that he’s so hard to keep contained. That’s all he does is run around the house and talk about how he’s a better O-lineman than me, and I told him, ‘I don’t even play O-line.’ No, I mean, I couldn’t be more happy for Dave Molk and what he’s accomplished. He works so hard, and he’s a tremendous worker, and as far as national accolades go, the sky’s the limit for him. I know that there’s still the Rimington to be announced, and I think he’s the prime candidate for that because he is the best center in the country hands down. I wish him all the best, and I have confidence in the fact that he’s going to be reward for the work that he’s put in.”
Your reaction to Michigan going to the Sugar Bowl?
“I mean, it’s really exciting. It’s a testament to how hard the team worked this year. It’s really good for the senior class. We’ve been through a lot, so it’s good to end on a high note.”
What do you see when you look at Virginia Tech?
“I mean, I can’t say them I followed them a lot this year. They always have good athletes, and I know Marell Evans has a couple friends on their team.”
Van Bergen said he stayed away from everything yesterday to avoid overanalyzing the BCS scenarios. What did you do?
“Oh yeah, I was actually the opposite. I was with a couple of teammates. We were over at Kenny Demens’s house, a few of us. We watched probably every game we could possibly watch throughout the day, and we were going over scenarios and all that. It was a lot of fun, though.”
Who did you think was going to be your opponent?
“We really didn’t know. We kept hearing different stuff. I distinctly remember JB Fitzgerald was so negative the whole day, but I mean we were just going through every scenario possible, googling all the scenarios as each game went on. Like I said, it was a lot of fun.”
What kind of stuff did JB say?
“Just being so negative. He said, ‘Oop, we’re going to the Little Ceasar Bowl in Detroit.’ He was being really sarcastic, and he was basically cheering for every team he should have cheered for. Yesterday if you were following him on twitter you would see that.”
When, where, and how did you find out tonight?
“Actually before our meeting -- Justin Dickens told us earlier, but I wasn’t supposed to say anything, so I kind of had to act surprised. Yeah I found out probably about an hour and a half ago, 7:30.”
What are your plans the rest of the night? Is there a team meeting?
“Yeah we have a team meeting. I guess we’re going to go over all the logistics and all that for about a half hour, 45 minutes. And after that probably just bask in the ambience.”
Ever been to New Orleans?
“Never. Never, but my roommate JB, he has a lot of family down there, so he says it’s a good time.”
What kind of spotlight will the Sugar Bowl provide your team after the season you’ve had and the struggles you had before this season?
“It’ll be a great atmosphere. It’d be great for the team, but it’ll just show everybody Michigan’s back, and we’re serious.”
Did you see Kirk Cousins’s comments after the Michigan State?
“Nah. I didn’t see anything.”
He basically said that Michigan shouldn’t go to a BCS bowl because you guys sat home and watched the Big Ten championship game.
“Yeah. I mean, we did get to recover a little bit, but I’d rather play in the Big Ten championship game. I mean, the inaugural Big Ten championship -- that says a lot of about the teams that played in it. We’d be happy to trade places, but it is what it is.”
Will you make this more of a business trip as a senior and a captain? Do you want this to be very focused?
“Definitely. We went down to Jacksonville and didn’t put on our best performance. It was embarrassing to say the least. We can learn from our mistakes. I mean, we’ll definitely have a little bit of fun, but the main thing is to go down there and win the football game.”
Do you think the focus will be different this time with a different coaching staff?
“No I think the focus is always to win the football game, but I mean it was just disappointing to put all that work into a game and have the outcome we did last year.”
What do you make of the prestige of the BCS games?
“I mean, it’s definitely exciting. One thing that people don’t realize -- I think we’re going to be playing indoors, and a lot of people on the team haven’t played indoors. I have freshman year against Minnesota, but it’s a lot different playing indoors as opposed to playing in Glick. It’ll be a different experience. The lights are a little bit different, but it’s going to be a great stage with a lot of people watching.”
At least it seems that way. [UPDATE: now official.] When infamous Cam Newton "bag man" troll Danny Sheridan was pushing it earlier in the day it just seemed goofy, but via Stewart Mandel:
@DDoughtyOnAir: UVa has advised TV outlets of media coordinates for Chick-fil-A news conference.
That means they've moved up a slot relative to expectations, which means a second ACC team is in the BCS, which means VT is in the Sugar Bowl since all other spots are spoken for. If you need further confirmation, check multiple rumors on this message board that don't come from established insiders but don't really have to at this point.
The Hokies haven't lost to anyone other than Clemson (in dual blowouts) but also haven't played anyone else. They played no BCS teams in the nonconference and their ACC schedule contains no opponent with more than eight wins.
They've got the usual fierce defense (12th in yardage, 8th in scoring) and mediocre run-based offense; former M recruit David Wilson is the nation's seventh-leading rusher and QB Logan Thomas is somewhat mobile. Interestingly, FEI has them essentially equal on both sides of the ball, ranking their units 20th and 21st pending the formula absorbing their Clemosn butt-kicking. Contrary to stereotype, their special teams are eh. They're 108th in net punting; FEI has them 74th in all phases.
Michigan has never played VT.
Michigan finally has a wide receiver in the class, as West Des Moines (IA) Dowling Catholic's Amara Darboh committed to the Wolverines today. He becomes the first of what should be two receivers in the 2012 class, and is Michigan's 24th commitment overall.
Amara Darboh (Photo credit: Public Paul & Media)
4*, #33 WR,
4*, #31 WR,
4*, 93, #19 WR,
The four services essentially agree on Darboh's size, listing him at 6'2" and between 190 and 205 pounds—he's got solid size for a receiver. Scout, Rivals, and 24/7 are eerily close in their evaluation of his talents, all ranking him as a four-star and right around the #200 player in the country, though 24/7 has him well higher than Scout or Rivals in their positional rankings. ESPN is the outlier, and a significant one, rating him as a middling three-star and the #77 receiver in the nation, 44 spots below any other recruiting outlet. Boo, WWL. Boo.
We'll start with the most critical evaluation, from ESPN ($):
Darboh is a combination of strength and quickness as a big receiver with a sturdy build, long arms and nice height. He is part playmaker and part possession player and against this level of competition he can really stand out. He can be an imposing player off the line and shows some physicality when pressed at the line ... Not afraid to go over the middle and will make the tough catch in traffic. Shows good leaping ability and can catch the ball thrown over his head. Tracks the ball well, and does an excellent job of adjusting to the poorly thrown ball or ball thrown to his opposite shoulder on down field throws along the sideline. Can be a body catcher at times, but secures the ball consistently. Has some wiggle in the open field after the catch for a bigger player and displays some natural open field run skills ... We are somewhat concerned about Darboh's top end speed. He does not play as fast as his listed forty times would indicate nor does he possess sudden change-of-direction after the catch.
Sounds like a solid possession receiver without game-breaking athleticism. Also, a decent ability to make big plays despite not being a major deep threat. What say you, Tim Prister of IrishIllustrated ($)?
Excellent size and length help accentuate his deer-like athleticism with the football in the air. Shows nice balance maintaining his feet and running after catches for which he leaves the ground to make. Very fast - probably in the low-to-mid 4.4s - with an effortless running motion. Shows a consistent ability to run away from the crowd in pursuit.
So Prister says he has great speed, and meanwhile lists vision when running after the catch as an area for improvement. It doesn't even sound like ESPN and Prister are scouting the same player, let alone individual game. Can I get some sort of tiebreaker, Clint Brewster of 247Sports ($)?
Darboh shows exceptional speed as a bigger receiver and has another gear once he gets free from a defensive back. Quickness is another aspect that separates Darboh from his competition, as he consistently picks up big gains from short screens or pass patterns. Darboh shows excellent strength and athleticism by breaking tackles from smaller corners and staying up-right. Darboh has a natural feel for the game already by knowing where to sit in zone coverage and also working with his quarterback to find open space when he scrambles. One thing Darboh caught on to quickly was the importance of blocking at the position as he relentlessly blocks until the whistle.
Athleticism: Yes? Yes. Meanwhile, blocking comes up in multiple evaluations as being a strength, while Darboh's route-running and stance—he seems to stand a little high off the snap, leaving himself susceptible to getting jammed—are cited by multiple outlets as relative weaknesses.
Finally, here's his own high school coach on what Darboh brings to the team:
"He's a big, physical player," Dowling coach Tom Wilson said of his 6-2, 200-pounder. "I've seen him compared to Roddy White of the Falcons — a bigger guy that can run very well. He ran 4.42. He's a kid that's had an awful lot of big plays for us in his three years as a starter, and we don't have many three-year starters here. Amara is a special talent."
Roddy White, you say? Why yes, I'd like one of those.
Darboh had a lengthy offer list, with finalists Notre Dame, Florida, Iowa, and Wisconsin joined by Iowa State, Kansas State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt. Rivals also shows interest but no offer from Oregon and USC. Not bad for a player who missed a large portion of his senior season with a shoulder injury.
Despite playing in only seven games this season, Darboh amassed 48 catches for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a junior, he had 49 receptions for 646 yards and 6 TDs, and in his sophomore year he posted 25 for 371 and a TD.
FAKE 40 TIME
Darboh ran a hand-timed 4.42 40 at an Iowa State camp last summer. There are some questions about Darboh's top-end speed, and you usually need to mentally add on a couple tenths of a second for any hand-timed run, so I'll give this one three FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Darboh is going to get a shot at immediate playing time thanks to Michigan's severe lack of depth at receiver. Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms graduate after this season, leaving a solid starting trio of Darryl Stonum—assuming his return after an indefinite suspension due to off-field issues—Roy Roundtree, and Jeremy Gallon. Beyond those three, there isn't a proven wideout on the roster: remaining receivers Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo, and Jerald Robinson have a combined 17 career receptions (this is assuming that Terrence Robinson doesn't get a fifth year, but even if he does, he hasn't been a factor as a WR).
Could Darboh come in and play right away? Absolutely, given his great natural size and athleticism, but it's also possible that there's just enough depth on the squad for him to take his time and develop during a redshirt year—it's going to be a question of whether or not Darboh is a clear upgrade from any of the backup options. After 2012, regardless of his role as a true freshman, Darboh should compete for a starting spot, and he's got a chance to be a multi-year starter with all-conference upside.
No matter what, Darboh should be a great person to have on the team. The original Des Moines Register story is now stuck behind an archive paywall, but here's a sample of what Darboh went through just to survive a turbulent childhood and make it to America, via The Survivors Club:
The civil unrest that erupted in the Republic of Sierra Leone in 1991 initiated the near eleven year war that swept through the country, threatening the lives of residents. In the capital, Freetown, Amara Darboh was just 2-years-old when his father and mother, Solimon and Kadita, were killed during a surge of violence. His father was a member in the military and after his parents’ deaths, he had few options.
Left in the care of surviving family members, their only choice was to flee. Amara spent the next several years living in Gambia and Senegal as a refugee. Life looked bleak for little Amara who had lost his parents and was unable to return home because of the ongoing civil war. Where was he to go if not back home?
The first seven years of his life were spent surviving life and death situations, education seemed impossible, and the hope for a better future was non-existent.
But when Amara was 7-years-old, an unexpected and seemingly impossible event happened. “It was a refugee program. We randomly got picked to come to Des Moines,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Darboh ended up in the care of Dan and Mary Schaefer, whose son Max introduced him to the sport of football. You're strongly encouraged to read the whole article—Darboh is clearly mature beyond his years, and he should be a great presence in the locker room regardless of on-field impact.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now down to four remaining open spots in the 2012 class, and besides a definite need for one more receiver—with Jehu Chesson being the most likely to end up in the class at this point—things are up in the air. Offensive linemen like Josh Garnett, Zach Banner, and Jordan Diamond all have Michigan very much in the mix, and it looks probable that the Wolverines will add one last lineman. Cornerback Yuri Wright has listed Michigan in his top group for a long time, but still needs to make it onto campus. The coaching staff may look to add a tight end to replace Pharaoh Brown, with Taylor McNamara and J.P. Holtz both getting in-home visits in recent days. And of course, there's running back Bri'onte Dunn, who the Wolverines are still trying to wrest from the grasp of Ohio State.
If you asked me right now to predict the final four spots, in order of confidence, I'd say Chesson, Dunn, Wright, and Diamond, but past Dunn there's not a prospect on the board where Michigan looks to have better than a 50-50 shot. That's not to say Michigan won't finish out the class strong—I'd expect they fill it with at least three four-star players when all is said and done—just that it's difficult to project who will jump on those final few open spots at this moment.
You have no idea how long it took to find a Sugar Bowl image without a corporate logo. Thanks to the Bentley Library.
After last night's events one thing is clear: nothing is clear. Oklahoma State's case for the national title game will come down to winning 40% of the hearts and minds out there and Michigan's destination hinges on that decision. That Sugar vs Houston thing is ancient history.
But we can make some educated guesses. Everyone expects Michigan to crack the top 14. Oklahoma and Houston are projected to drop behind Michigan and according to Palm, MSU's awful computer rankings (average of 20.75) mean they'd have to stay two spots in front of M in the polls to stay in front of them in the BCS. That's not happening. So don't worry. M is in.
[UPDATE: Michigan is 12th in the coaches poll, ahead of MSU. They are in. Oklahoma State got only 13 of 59 second place votes—insane—and it looks like the
Fiesta Sugar vs. Somebody.]
Nobody expects TCU to crack the top 16 and earn the non-AQ autobid available to a conference champion ranked above the BE winner. They're out; the available pool of teams once Oregon, LSU, and Clemson are removed from the equation:
- Maybe Alabama
- Boise State
- Kansas State/Baylor/OU
- Virginia Tech
There are two worlds. One in which the rematch happens and one in which it doesn't. Those worlds should be addressed separately.
Alabama in title game
This is the scenario we've been dealing with so far. The Sugar loses the SEC champ. Okie State is locked into the Fiesta. The Sugar picks Michigan first from the motley crew above. The Fiesta grabs the next-most attractive team, which everyone thinks is Stanford, and then it's the Sugar's turn again.
The Sugar Bowl spends several minutes punching itself in the face and then… uh. Mandel says they pick Kansas State. So does Jerry Palm. Other possibilities are matching up RGIII against Denard (ay yai yai!), the Rodriguez Bowl versus WVU, or Boise State getting in because they're actually the best team available.
Your opinion of this will vary with your confidence Michigan can take out a Boise or a Stanford. If you think the chances of that are low, you love taking on a KSU team that can't pass and is in the BCS picture because they beat Texas with 120 yards of total offense. If you think Michigan's got a shot at one of the aforementioned teams, KSU is just Houston except a better matchup.
Oklahoma State in title game
Should sanity prevail—don't bet on it—the conventional wisdom assumes the Sugar takes two nanoseconds to snap up Alabama. The Fiesta then has the next two picks. From this The "BCS Guru" somehow arrives at… Michigan-Kansas State. We can't quit you, Manhattan.
I think that's an error on his part and we will see a Michigan-Stanford matchup in the scenario where the BCS does not condemn college football to a divisional rematch for the "national" title game. That's what some random other website about the BCS has.
If you like ads, there is a two hour block of programming on ESPN in which there is one piece of information requiring ten seconds to relay you care about tonight, starting at 8:15.
EVERYBODY ELSE: 'YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR A BCS BOWL'
All of that is classic, but "Spartans strengthen brand despite loss" is uber.
New Hockeybear. The Alaska hockey series is previewed by Yesman. Alaska means hockeybear. There is new Hockeybear.
Yeah, it's not as good as last year's, but they were due for a comedown after making the greatest hype video in the history of the world. I do like that it makes me think of Take On Me.
UFR update. It is not going to happen this week. It's a long story but I ended up having to disassemble my laptop almost wholly—I still have a half-dozen screws left over, looking for a home—over the course of the week. This was accompanied by the usual shouting and banging that precedes total laptop disassembly. Sorry; look for both halves early next week.
We are 2% of the way to this game. The thing the man said to the people at Tulane about wanting a game against Michigan turns out to be a real thing:
Rich Rodriguez wants a piece of his former employer.
UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday he and the Wildcats' new coach discussed playing Michigan, which fired Rodriguez after the 2010 season.
"He brought it up like, 'Hey, let's look at this down the road,'" Byrne said. "I said, 'Sure.'"
But not a really real thing.
Byrne said the conversation lasted 10 seconds. He has yet to contact the Wolverines.
"It's a two-way path to play a game," he said.
I'd rather not dredge that up again, but if they want it enough to do a one-off at Michigan Stadium it's better than playing East Nowhere.
Something that turns out to not be true. Yeah: the seat filler thing was a hoax that lured me in. Mea culpa. Well played, whoever you are.
Iowa on the decline? The High Porch Picnic breaks out the recruiting stars for a rough evaluation of the amount of talent available for the Hawkeyes next year, finding that the offense will drop a little (from 3.0 to 2.9) and the defense will fall off a cliff even from its current dilapidated state. This year Iowa's average is 2.7; they graduate seven starters and will be dealing with this:
Standard disclaimers about stars not being the be-all and end-all apply but holy dang, man. Remember that window when Iowa was recruiting at a top 25 level? Not so much these days. HPP sums up:
Not only do we lose 7 starters to graduation but their replacements (based upon our current depth chart) aren't highly touted. For guys like Alvis, Hyde and Miller the stars don't seem to matter much. For everyone else, especially the rest of the defensive line, it's one big GOD HELP US. That's just something to think about following the bowl game. Remember when Vint wrote this article and Ross wrote this one? Yeah, just like Penny Lane said: it's all happening.
With a couple of disappointing years in the rear-view mirror already, unless that defense vastly outperforms recruiting expectations this could be the beginning of the end for Ferentz. While Iowa is grateful and patient it will be hard to look at the trajectory there and get excited about it.
BONUS IOWA WORRY: They lost a freshman WR to a transfer in a class Vint says this about:
Grant is the third member of the Class of 2011 to leave the program -- defensive end John Raymond left in September under similar circumstances (Raymon was from the Philadelphia area and got homesick), and Rodney Coe was unable to qualify and left for Iowa Western C.C. -- which, coming off massive attrition in the classes of 2008 and 2009, is a troubling number for a class that Iowa desperately needs on the field.
Boy, we've been there. Now if Ferentz can maintain his puntasaur ways against us we're in business.
Speaking of corn. Iowa State is this weekend. UMHoops has a full preview; the Cyclones are a hodge-podge of former Big Ten players like MSU's Chris Allen, Minnesota's Royce White, and PSU's Chris Babb.
They're better than they were a year ago but haven't really played anyone—Lehigh and Northern Iowa are their only top 100 opponents in Kenpom—and lost games against Drake and UNI, both in-state mid-majors. Their offense is humming along thanks to a 56.8 EFG%; their defense is still pretty crap. They let opponents shoot a lot of uncontested shots (223rd in EFG% D, 300th in turnovers forced, 22nd in FTAs allowed) and rebound well.
Michigan should win. This is a team that was 3-13 in the Big Twelve last year and they haven't so much as played a major conference school to prove they're much different. Kenpom has them an eight point favorite with around an 80% chance of victory.
More NBA draft. The Daily hits up Ford for his opinion on Burke:
“I spend the start of my year talking to our high school scouting guys about who are the freshmen to watch, who are one-and-done candidates — he wasn’t mentioned,” Ford said. “He was a steady kid, not flashy like a lot of the players can be. I think a lot of the scouting guys … see that and they say, ‘He’s not as good.’
“Well now when you see him play that way in college, it’s all poise. He’s unselfish, he’s getting people involved, he gets his own shot, but he’s not out there just primarily looking for his own shot.” …
“One of the NBA GMs said to me, ‘Well look, think of the 30 backup point guards in the NBA and then look at him and what he does and say, ‘Could he do that?’ And I think the answer is yeah.”
There's some one-and-done chatter, which is a bit scary. Michigan does not have a Burke waiting in the wings like they did last year and would have to go with… uh… Brundidge? That's a scary prospect since he's currently behind Eso Akunne. I still think anyone not going in the lottery this year will be inclined to hit up a much weaker draft in 2012, but can a brother get a four year player around here?
Exit Burns. The only head coach in the history of Michigan soccer is gone:
"As a Michigan alum, I'm proud of everything we've been able to accomplish within the soccer program," Burns said in a statement released by the Athletic Department.
"I will forever cherish the relationships that I have developed over the past 12 years with players, assistant coaches, support staff and fellow coaches within the department. However, it's time for a new direction in my life and leadership for Michigan soccer."
Losing Meram, both Saads, and his top incoming recruit was too much to deal with and the team collapsed from a College Cup appearance to a 5-14-1 record. Speculation as to his successor naturally focuses on Caleb Porter, the piped piper of Akron and the Olympic team's coach. It was Porter's team that made Michigan look like the USNT against Brazil in that College Cup game.
Many in a thread with a lot of people close to the situation say he won't leave, but there's got to be a chance. Michigan should punch him in the face with the highest salary in the country; this is a high leverage opportunity to make one of your programs a national power for a relative drop in the bucket.
Montoya on Yost. Bang:
“I’ve played in some great rinks in the NHL and with Team USA, but when you get those 7,000 fans in Yost Ice Arena, there’s not anything like it,” he said. “I’m glad I went to a program like that.”
Etc.: Other Brian unearths self for Genuinely Sarcastic column, receiving bonus points for reminding me of Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat by referencing historical events with no apparent connection to the game in question. If Johnny posts I think we'll have everyone save IBFC covered in the aftermath.
A few days ago, occasional MGoGuestPoster Jon Chait marked the start of the offseason by posting something at NY Magazine about whether or not players should be paid. In a week or so we'll get the annual flood of playoff proposals, all of which are better than the current system, none of which are better than mine. (There is also a long post answering Joe Posnanski's playoff objections.) It is in these ways that we brace for the long, football-free summer.
So let's argue about paying players. Chait makes a few arguments that I agree with: that the "man in the top hat and monocle" who's cackling evilly as he exploits revenue athletes is the nonrevenue section of the department, that the ever-more lavish facilities and resources devoted to revenue athletes are a form of compensation*, that Jerry Sandusky doesn't have anything to do with anything, that the massive Atlantic article that had the bad form to be released during football season is a litany of complaints without solutions.
But I don't buy the idea that it's impossible to answer this question:
This basic conceptual problem casts light on the practical problem: Which athletes deserve to get paid?
This is what markets are for. Chait acknowledges this but says…
Such reasoning is sensible if you regard the ability to produce market value as the sole arbiter of social value. But it’s a strange credo for a reform movement putatively concerned with protecting young people from exploitation. And it bears little relation to reality: Go ask a female basketball player if she’s exploiting her male counterparts, or ask a quarterback if he is being economically victimized by the volleyball team.
Since I'm not a member of this reform movement I can say this argument is a little silly. I'm guessing that quarterback might say yes; ask him about his millionaire coaches and you'll get more affirmatives. He dismisses arguments about low-income athletes by saying the NCAA "unfairly ignore[d]" non-athletes when they voted that cost of attendance increase and that the problem here is that revenue athletes are not getting college degrees.
And like the Atlantic article, Chait weakens his case when he gets down to solutions, which are pitched at the degree problem. He provides three:
…one obvious reform is to make all freshmen ineligible for athletics, as they were until three decades ago.
While this is feasible it is unlikely to make a huge difference in outcomes.
A second, related reform would be to guarantee five years of free-ride tuition to every scholarship athlete who maintains a clean record – the automatic red-shirt season plus four more years of eligibility.
Thumbs up. This is something I've been advocating forever and would be an improvement. If you want to cut a kid, fine. He remains on scholarship.
The explosion in college coaching pay reflects both market competition and a simple desire by schools to use an astronomical salary to signal their coach’s excellence. So why not phase in a cap on coaches’ pay?
Because the NCAA already tried to do this and lost a lawsuit.
Taken together, those reforms don't really do anything. Oversigning gets less odious. This does not stop tediously enormous Atlantic articles from being published because "not getting degrees" is not the issue. The issue is select administrators getting rich while other, poorer people beat their brains out. In such an environment, trips to Miami and free tattoos and loaner cars are inevitable. Fixing that is the real issue.
*[It's worth pointing out that colleges do not have the option to extort local governments for facilities.]
Fixing Everything Forever
Operative theory: the NCAA's prohibition on taking money from everyone is working as well as Prohibition. The following randomly selected picture has nothing to do with this argument.
Right now the NCAA stance in re: professional athletics is to stick its fingers in its ears and go "LA LA LA LA." Enter a draft voluntarily and your eligibility is gone. Sign something binding you to an agent—even without financial compensation—and your eligibility is gone. Get sponsored by something and your eligibility is gone even if you're an Olympic athlete like Jeremy Bloom and you're playing an entirely different sport at an amateur level.
This does not stop the money flowing into the system, it just pushes it underground where no one can control it and it unbalances the playing fields. Steps to fix this:
1. Allow players to sign with agents, and get paid by them. Several restrictions apply. Agents must be registered with both the NCAA and the professional league in question and have clients from a variety of schools. The league in question must project the player as a draftable prospect. And there should be a cap on how much any individual can get paid. The agent system should be phased in gradually and carefully examined for abuse and unintended consequences.
This does a ton of things simultaneously. It lessens the hypocrisy of the system by allowing people who want to pay the kids to do so. It gives the NCAA leverage over a class of people who are banned outright—and therefore uncontrollable—now. It removes the agents' incentive to get kids out of school so they can enter a formal contractual relationship. It removes a big chunk of NCAA regulations, allowing the organization to focus on a smaller list of problems. It levels the playing field and removes a whole host of bad PR. It does not impact the schools' bottom lines.
2. Allow players who enter a draft to retain their eligibility. Hockey players all get drafted at 18 whether they want to or not. They can then play in the NCAA. This has not imploded college hockey. But if a basketball player puts his name in the draft he has to withdraw it ever-sooner if he wants to retain his eligibility. Actually going through with the process terminates his college career no matter the outcome.
If a player enters a professional draft and the team who drafts him doesn't want him on the roster, it doesn't hurt to let the player in question go back to school and play. Every year there are players who enter drafts and are passed over entirely; if they've retained their academic eligibility they should be allowed back. Not doing so is punitive.
3. Drop the QB #16 fiction and acknowledge that players own their images. This is going to happen via lawsuit in the near future; when the NCAA gets its ass handed to it in court they can go one of two ways. They can either force EA to have random rosters or they can give the players a cut. They should do the latter.
The things that have put the NCAA under fire of late consist almost entirely of people outside the system trying to give revenue athletes money. The NCAA rejects this because they uphold the ideal of amateurism, which has as much relevance in 2011 as temperance unions.
What is the downside of acknowledging that players have market value and allowing them to realize some of that value? There doesn't seem to be any. If the NCAA ever derived positive PR from its stance that's dead and gone. Let the players have a taste of their labors.
BONUS: Braves and Birds responds to the same column.