in town for free camps
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]
Today's recruiting roundup recaps last weekend's visits, attempts to figure out the plans of Su'a Cravens, talks new 2014 offers, and more.
Hey Kid, Come Be Charles Woodson
FL CB/S Leon McQuay III was a relatively surprising visitor last weekend, as Michigan hasn't been mentioned much as a player in his recruitment. That may have changed over the course of his trip to Ann Arbor, however, as the four-star defensive back told GBW's Sam Webb that the Wolverines "definitely jumped up," likely into his top five schools ($). Vanderbilt, USC, Florida, Notre Dame, and Stanford are all in the mix as well. McQuay's visit also revealed the potential recruiting impact of Michigan's "Legends" jerseys:
[Leon McQuay Jr., the recruit's father:] "The one thing that hits me is him possibly wearing Charles Woodson’s jersey. I didn’t know that coming in and the way that they do that with the jersey’s and with the players, that’s major, man, when you can decide what kid is going to have the chance to try to fill those shoes.”
When asked about the idea of wearing Charles Woodson’s #2 jersey, McQuay III was at a loss for words, but managed to eek out a few.
“Definitely the love that the coaching staff showed and the campus is amazing and the Big House is amazing, it’s crazy,” said McQuay III.
While McQuay plays safety in high school, Michigan is recruiting him as a cornerback, which is his preferred college position ($). He will graduate from high school in December and enroll early at his school of choice, though there's no concrete timetable for a decision.
Another big-time defensive back considering the Wolverines is CA S Su'a Cravens, who's been the subject of some confusion this week. HuskerOnline reported earlier this week that Cravens was down to three schools($)—Michigan, Nebraska, and USC—and would visit Michigan and Nebraska later this month, but Cravens took to Twitter to refute that report. Cravens's father told Scout's Brandon Huffman yesterday that UCLA, USC, Ohio State, and Michigan are Su'a's actual leaders($), and Rivals's Adam Gorney tweeted today that Cravens will visit Michigan and Ohio State this week, and he may visit Nebraska after if he's so inclined. He'll also visit USC and UCLA once more before deciding on June 6th. The sense is still that Cravens will end up with the Trojans, but we'll see where things stand after his Midwest trip.
While pulling in McQuay or Cravens would be a coup, the Wolverines appear to have a much better shot at MA DT Maurice Hurst Jr., who has now named a top two of Michigan and Virginia ($, info in header). Hurst has set his visit to Ann Arbor for June 2nd, and he plans to decide after his trip—the signs are very positive here. Still, the Wolverines aren't taking any chances at DT, offering TX prospect Hardreck Walker over the weekend, according to Tremendous. Walker stands at 6'2", 280 lbs., and is a four-star on Scout and a three-star to Rivals and 247.
The other big position of need in this class is still wide receiver, and Michigan isn't banking on a commitment from Laquon Treadwell, or, at least, not putting all of their eggs in that basket. MD WR Paul Harris will visit Ann Arbor this summer, and has Michigan in his top four($) along with USC, Tennessee, and Penn State. Tim Sullivan reports that IN WR Mike Rogers will camp at Michigan this summer in the hopes of earning an offer ($). AZ WR Devon Allen has long maintained that he'll see Michigan as part of a Midwest trip, and while Allen states that the Wolverines are still among his favorites, due to his extremely busy track schedule those plans are up in the air ($).
Quickly: VA DE Wyatt Teller now includes Michigan in his top three with Virginia and Virginia Tech, according to Tremendous. TN RB Jordan Wilkins is looking to narrow his list and tweets that the Wolverines are "up there" with Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. IN DE Elijah Daniel names a top 15 that does not include Michigan ($). Happy trails to VA DE Jonathan Allen, who committed to Alabama yesterday.
While McQuay was the only 2013 visitor last weekend, Michigan also hosted a few sophomore prospects, including four-star in-state QB Chance Stewart. Stewart and OH QB Deshone Kizer appear to be the top two targets at quarterback for the 2014 class, and the coaches want to get a better look at each player before deciding who to offer. Stewart sat down with Al Borges on his visit, according to Tremendous, and Borges reiterated that Michigan would like to see Stewart in a camp setting before extending an offer.
Tremendous also caught up with OH OL Nathaniel Devers, who visited on Saturday and said "Michigan might be my school," though he'll have to earn an offer first—the coaches are still waiting on film. Devers comes from the powerhouse Massilon Washington program, which is the home of 2013 commit Gareon Conley (as well as the former school of ex-Wolverine Justin Turner). OH LB Dante Booker was also on campus over the weekend, and his father told GBW($) that Booker "enjoyed the visit," though he also offered the not-so-lofty praise "he is not ruling them out at this time."
Michigan offered three early Top247 prospects recently. TN WR Josh Malone also holds offers from Tennessee, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and others, and has interest from Alabama—he got his offer from Mark Smith last week ($). CB Nick Watkins plans to check out Ann Arbor this summer while visiting family in Detroit($)—he added Michigan to an impressive early offer list that includes Arkansas, Alabama, and Texas A&M. MO OL Roderick Johnson recently picked up his first offers($) from Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri—at 6'7", 310 lbs., he's got prototypical tackle size as a sophomore in high school.
Brady Hoke's Pet Viking mgoshirt? Yes, at the WTKA Mott Takeover.
be like Steve Everitt without killing a moose with your bare hands
Steve Everitt forever.
Also, Everitt described bounties surfacing during his long NFL career.
Super-regional ho. Congratulations to the softball team, which dramatically came from behind in their tournament opener, then shut the door on top seed Louisville to win their first road regional in a long, long time. The dramatic finisher in Michigan's second consecutive walk-off win… a hit by pitch. The win that finished the weekend off was a more comfortable 4-0 affair.
They'll initiate what appears to be a series of Michigan-Alabama bragging rights contests in a super-regional in Tuscaloosa next weekend. Winner hits the WCWS.
Yes. Do you believe in improbable sporting outcomes. Go. Go. USA. Pam Ward, deadener of Big Ten noon games since time began, is no longer doing college football on ESPN. This will result in marginal improvement, and probably fewer nasty comments about injured players.
Since ESPN started shoehorning Beth Mowins into college football games she didn't seem to know much about last year, the emphasis is on marginal. Insanely fun things were happening in the Northwestern-Illinois game last year and she busted out "it's a Persa party in Champaign!" I'm pretty sure this is not plain ol' misogyny and I have good reason to think both of the female announcers put on Big Ten games are not so good.
He's pretty fast. That would be Jehu Chesson, the lanky 6'3" wide receiver from Missouri who signed in February. The main knock on Chesson was his speed, something his recent track exploits are bringing into question. Chesson won the 300M hurdles (37.73), 110M hurdles (14.55), and 100M dash (10.79) at his sectionals. As mentioned, he also wears cool sunglasses doing this.
According to the recruiting rankings, Michigan hasn't done as well at wide receiver as they have at just about every other spot on the field, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was not a problem during the careers of Chesson and Amarah Darboh.
Yes, do it. The plausible deniability that saw Butch Davis emerge from the UNC NCAA scandal without a show-cause penalty despite the fact that one of his assistant coaches was operating as a runner for an agent may go away in the near future:
Under the current NCAA bylaw, a head coach is "presumed" to have knowledge of what is occurring in his program and "can be responsible" for the actions of his assistants.
The proposed change would do away with presumption. It would make the head coach responsible for his assistants' actions regardless of his knowledge of them. The penalties would range from 5 to 100 percent of competition in a season.
The NCAA included in the discussion material some examples of behavior for which a head coach would be held accountable, such as in-person, off-campus contacts with a recruit during a dead period, providing team gear to a recruit, or multiple phone calls or contacts when they are not allowed.
This is part of a larger overhaul mentioned a few months ago in this space that could see penalties become predictable and massive, but right now that's a long, long way from becoming reality. It's in the "special committee" stage—ie, a spitballing group throwing stuff at the wall without considering how feasible passing it is.
Not enough data, so everyone makes big. Ex-NFL players are dying at a rate half that of the general population after they retire and are 59 percent less likely to commit suicide. May want to slow down on the concussion panic. Small sample size disclaimers apply to that study, but they apply just as much to the panic side of the equation:
We don't need the CDC numbers to tell us that the national debate over head trauma and suicide has long since outpaced the scientific evidence. Just a handful of cases so far support the notion that repeated head injuries (concussive or otherwise) can lead to drug abuse, aggression, and self-harm. No one knows the baseline rate of chronic traumatic encephalopathy among athletes, let alone the general population. No one knows whether the pathological signs of CTE—microscopic spots in the brain, found after death—relate to behavioral symptoms like dementia and depression. And no one can explain how repeated knocks to the head might produce CTE, or how CTE might produce suicidal thoughts. Yet in spite of our near-total ignorance, a moral panic has taken hold: Elaborate explanations are concocted when simple ones will do. Faced with the regrettable facts—a troubled man dies a lonely death—we resort to hocus-pocus theorizing about tau proteins and fibrillary tangles. It's a form of denial: By obsessing over hidden trauma, we ignore what's right in front of us. Many ex-NFL players have sad and difficult lives.
The concern over concussions is taking the usual route of a moral panic, where some stuff happens and some tenuous data connects things to stuff so things are condemned because stuff is bad. Then some more people look at other data and say things might not be that connected to stuff after all, and everyone moves on to the next thing. See: alar, fat people, etc. This is the phase where the noise overtakes the signal and Something Is Done that may or may not affect a problem that may or may not exist.
BONUS: ex-NFL players are really good at not getting tuberculosis.
We have a second challenger. Patrick Vint of Black Heart Gold Pants takes a swing at defending the Big Ten's retreat from home playoff sites. The argument boils down to "remember the last time we all taunted Jim Delany?"
Everything Jim Delany has done as commissioner of the Big Ten -- especially since the summer of 2007 -- has been in pursuit of long-term advantage to the conference as a whole, and its individual teams only by way of that. The Big Ten Network was supposed to be a money-losing catastrophe that nobody would watch and even fewer would pay to see. After a year and a half of publicly negotiating/ridiculing/screaming at Comcast and Mediacom, Delany had transformed it into a massive cash cow, making the Big Ten schools richer than those in the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10, and every other conference. When the SEC responded by signing a big new TV deal with ESPN, it still didn't make the Southern schools as much money as their Northern rivals.
Delany used his newfound financial leverage, and a not-so-subtle call for expanding the conference, to bring the biggest collegiate sports programs in the country to his door. He damn near disemboweled the Big 12 in the process, causing an insurrection that fired Dan Beebe and landed Nebraska within his conference's ranks, all while we were all losing our minds over Rutgers and Pitt. When the Nebraska regents voted unanimously to cut ties with 100 years of tradition because the financial pull of Big Ten membership was too great to deny, Delany was there, emerging from behind the curtain and shaking hands with Osborne and Perlman like Hollywood Hogan joining the Outsiders. A year later, Delany's SEC rival was picking up Big Ten reject Missouri to fill out his own expansion process, an expansion that made his conference exactly zero more dollars and done solely because the Big Ten had done it first.
It's a good point. Vint also notes that the difference here is four Big Ten home games since the inception of the BCS, which is not a big huge deal.
Where he loses me is with the assertion that the Big 12-SEC Never Happening Bowl is the revelation of the master plan:
Delany gave up on four home games in fourteen years, but what he got was hard to understand -- we already had the Rose Bowl, after all -- until the SEC and Big 12 announced their own end-of-season bowl game Friday. With that, Delany's plan became evident. With the conferences poised to create a four-team tournament (as Delany and his athletic directors repeatedly stated this week, the four-team maximum is a deal-breaker) within the confines of the bowl system, Delany, Slive, Larry Scott, and whoever's running the Big 12 now, as heads of the four premiere football conferences, had just effectively locked themselves into the final four. More importantly, Delany had locked out the ACC and Big East (and Notre Dame, for that matter), the other two BCS bowl games, and the distinct possibility of two teams from the same conference making the tournament. There will be four champions in the playoffs, and with the two semifinal bowls effectively set as the Rose and (presumably) SEC-Big 12 Sugar, Delany has ensured that a Big Ten champ will be one of them. That's fourteen spots in fourteen years, with none of them in an opponent's stadium (unless UCLA makes it to the Rose Bowl) (LOL).
Um. The Big 12-SEC game is specifically around in the event that the champions of those conferences aren't in the playoff. There is no bracketed final four that cuts out the ACC or Big East. So… what we're left with is the Big Ten giving up the idea because the… because it's… because the Rose Bowl. There is no way the BCS cuts out smaller conferences, because they'll get sued. Virginia Tech, Miami, and Florida State? Forget it. Notre Dame, if Notre Dame is ever relevant again? Come on.
Protecting the Rose Bowl at all costs is just another example of why the Big Ten finds itself where it is relative to other conferences: richer, but unable to leverage that wealth into on-field success.
Etc.: Get the Picture notes that the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss and seemingly got some support from the judge for the larger trial in the process. Expect more Gardner this fall. Other Big Ten ADs think playing at home is a good idea. Rob Bolden may finally be exiting Penn State.
In honor of SB Nation’s Relegation Week, I thought I would take a deep dive into the world of potential scenarios. Jason Kirk did an outstanding job, but if you are going to blow the whole system up, blow it up all the way. I tossed conference affiliations out the window and created a consistent structure throughout all of college football. 733 teams, five conferences and twelve levels.
Each conference within each level has 14 teams. Two divisions of seven teams each. The season consists of the following:
- 1 Non-counting pre-season game
- 3 Non-conference games with a maximum of one game from a team of a lower level
- 6 Games against division opponents
- 3 Games against teams from the opposite division
- 1 Conference Championship Game, with home site determined by inter-conference record, team from the best division hosts, even if their record is worse
Playoff: An eight team playoff (at the Rose Bowl homesites, of course) featuring the five Conference Champs and three at-large selections with at most one from each league, with no priority seeding for Conference Champs.
Relegation: Teams finishing seventh in their division play a Thursday night game prior to the Conference Championship with the loser relegated and the winner is safe for another week. If an at-large team is selected for the playoffs from the same conference in one division lower, the worst sixth place team plays the winner from the seventh place game on Thursday before the playoffs. Winner is firmly safe for another year and the loser spends the next season in the lower division.
The five surviving conferences are the same as Jason’s, the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. Each conference has a footprint that is consistent across all of the levels.
Current conference footprint minus Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio.
Current conference footprint minus Louisiana and Arkansas. Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. For the lower levels, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are included.
Start at Texas and Louisiana and take everything north from there, except Minnesota. Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota.
Everything including and west of the Rockies. New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
Everything else. East of Ohio and from North Carolina up the coast. North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are only in for current FBS teams.
Conference championship games
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs Michigan St in East Lansing
SEC: Georgia vs Alabama in Tuscaloosa
Big 12: Oklahoma St vs LSU in Baton Rouge
Pac 12: Stanford vs Oregon in Eugene
ACC: Penn St vs Virginia Tech in Blacksburg
Hypothetical playoff bracket
1. Alabama-SEC Champs
2. LSU-Big 12 Champs
3. Oklahoma St-At large #1
4. Oregon-Pac-12 Champs
5. Wisconsin-Big Ten Champs
6. Stanford-At large #2
7. Georgia-At large #3
8. Virginia Tech-ACC Champs
Big Ten: Ohio enters as Level 2 champs, Minnesota and Indiana play for the right to stay in level 1.
SEC: UCF and Southern Miss both earn Level 2 playoff berths so Georgia Tech and Louisville play for the spot out, and the winner plays Auburn for the second relegation position.
Big 12: Houston is in from Level 2 along with Tulsa while Iowa St and Texas Tech battle for the first spot and the winner will take on Iowa for the second.
Pac-12: Oregon St and Colorado are first on the block, with the winner facing Washington St for the right to stay in Level 1 while Nevada and Air Force are in the Level 2 playoffs.
ACC: Temple is in for the next season while Maryland and Duke play for the right to stay in the top level of the ACC.
The relegation system is a bit messy but I wanted to give each team a chance to play their way out of it, ensuring maximum drama. Even the worst team can survive a relegation by winning one or two relegation games. All playoff teams from the lower levels get promoted and only the three worst teams from a League at each level can be demoted, but everyone one of them has an opportunity to survive on the end.
The Pros and Cons
Obviously this is never happening, but the drama of weeknight relegation games leading into conference championship and playoff games would be great. There is a consistent footprint, a consistent league structure, and consistent rules all through the depths of college football. New programs adding football can earn their way up the ladder if they want to invest like the big boys. Traditionally terrible football schools like Duke have to earn their place at the big boys table instead of getting to coast on other programs, all while staying under their conference umbrella. I could see level-specific scholarship levels disappearing. If you want to compete like the big schools go ahead and offer 85 and see how far you can get. If you want to be cheap and control costs you can forgo scholarships and see how well you fare. Ultimately each team is playing against teams that are historically similar producers. Travel, especially at the lower levels, shouldn’t be a significant issue and for some teams might be less than today. Because of the footprint restrictions and the division structure, travel should be manageable.
Rivalries could certainly be impacted but non-conference scheduling would allow series to continue, even if teams were in opposing levels. Divisions would likely be based on geography at the lower levels and competitive balance at the top. If one team really diverged from its historic level it would be difficult to maintain rivalries but the option is always there for at least the main rival.
[After the jump: conference breakdowns in the new world.]
They have been released by pressing. Poor guy with the schedules. He had no idea he would be crushed with rocks until they oozed out of him.
Wisconsin: remember them?
Oct. 3: at Michigan State
Oct. 10: Wisconsin
Oct. 17: Minnesota
Oct. 24: at Illinois
Oct. 31: Bye
Nov. 7: Nebraska
Nov. 14: at Northwestern
Nov. 21: at Iowa
Nov. 28: Ohio State
Dec. 5: Big Ten Championship Game
Oct. 1: Michigan State
Oct. 8: at Minnesota
Oct. 15: Northwestern
Oct. 22: Bye
Oct. 29: at Wisconsin
Nov. 5: Illinois
Nov. 12: at Nebraska
Nov. 19: Iowa
Nov. 26: at Ohio State
Dec. 3: Big Ten Championship Game
How about some bullets?
Again with the brutal home-road attractiveness swings. By lining up Wisconsin with Nebraska and Ohio State the Big Ten has turned the 2016 home slate into a 2012-like dog. It's far enough in the future that maybe Illinois could be good or something, but that is three teams that traditionally hover around .500—if they're lucky, in Illinois's case—and Iowa. Iowa may be going through a painful transition period around then if Ferentz decides to hang 'em up or is in the senescence phase of his career (he'll be 62 when the 2012 season starts).
So, like, bleah. Meanwhile: enjoy storming the @ ND, @ Wisconsin, @ Nebraska, @ OSU castle. Hopefully we have an Andre the Giant by then.
Woo Northwestern night game? Putting MSU and a bye in October severely limits options for a night game in 2016. IIRC, Big Ten teams can't play at night in November—or at least the road team has to agree to it—and Dave Brandon has said he won't let the juggalos burn down Ann Arbor. ND will also be on the road, so unless Michigan lines up an attractive nonconference home game get ready for an 8 PM start against the Wildcats. This may be the main reason Brandon is trying to lock down a Pac-12 home and home before the scheduling agreement kicks in.
2015 will obviously be Wisconsin.
Nicely situated byes at least. Two weeks to prep for important games both years and a break right in the middle of the conference season.
Of course we never see Indiana. Not that I'm making big wavy complaints about that. But after years of accidentally getting tougher than average schedules because of poorly-timed byes, the institutional bias towards tough Michigan schedules really hits home when you think about this: MSU plays Indiana 100% of the time and OSU 40% of the time. Michigan plays Indiana 40% of the time and OSU 100% of the time.