thanks to Patrick's drone title is close to literally true [Patrick Barron]
One of the frequent criticisms of the Brandon obit was that it was all napalm. I admit that. That post wasn't supposed to do anything except document the era we'd just gone through.
When I did that I got a lot of requests of varying politeness levels for an alternate vision of the athletic department. This series of posts seeks to lay one out.
First some base principles:
- Michigan isn't leaving the conference and has to work within the confines of the new Big Ten. If this was "conference commissioner time" I would immediately exile Maryland and Rutgers; it's not.
- Michigan is also working within the realities of the current NCAA. Massive changes to amateurism are beyond the scope here.
- Ditto Title IX.
We can look at some base assumptions: that profit is a main indicator of health, that the primary "customers" of an athletic department are the athletes, that you should follow Industry Best Practices so that you can point to them when someone questions a decision you made. We're just trying to work within the system we've got, as goofy as it is.
First: what are we trying to do here?
Michigan's athletic department is many things to many people: marketing for the university, jobs for people directly affiliated and not (hi), a connection to college, a path to an education, an entertainment activity. I've tried to boil things down to the core things, and those seem to be:
- graduate athletes
- win games
- sustain the enterprise
Aside from a blip during the RR/Carr transition Michigan seems to be doing fine with #1 across all sports. Hypothetical athletic director wouldn't have to change a thing there. #2 amounts to "hire good coaches," which is very important and not very interesting to talk about. You and I both agree that it's a better idea to hire Jim Harbaugh than someone else. The end.
Sustaining the enterprise is where athletic directors vary the most and have the most influence. You can play Texas A&M if you're Texas… or not. You can have the most expensive student ticket prices in the conference… or not. You can build a palace for a non-revenue sport… or not.
Sustaining the enterprise is a mixture of generating revenue and maintaining and expanding your fanbase. Don't charge enough and you can't retain your coaches or build the latest fantabulous doohickey to keep up with the Joneses. Charge too much, as Michigan did with their student tickets, and you start eating your seed corn as people drop out of the ticket-buying section of the fanbase—and possibly altogether, long term.
Maintaining or expanding a fanbase isn't just about numbers, either: it's about depth of connection. When the Pistons hit their Joe Dumars Is Definitely Crazy Now period, the Palace emptied out like someone letting the air out of the balloon. Michigan has a much deeper connection with most of its fans and weathered a decade of play that was not much fun at all until the bottom dropped out last year. (Ace is doing some work on Bacon's book and has access to the numbers. They are staggering. WRITE FASTER BACON.)
If hypothetical alternate universe athletic director is going to sustain the enterprise he has to be thinking about creating that connection. Sports fans can be a weird lot: part customer, part captive, part fanatic. The whole point of sports is to be of a tribe. I can say "1997 Penn State" and you will have an emotional response. We can see someone in an Andy Katzenmoyer jersey and have that same response. Balancing the new with the old is difficult but mandatory, and if you don't you can end up with a rebellion on your hands. SBNation has an excellent article on the tumultuous recent history of AS Roma, a Serie A team recently purchased by some Americans who found themselves in for a major culture shock when the Roma "ultras" walked out of the stadium en masse:
The Americani may build Roma their new stadium, they may manage to push reform of the Italian league, curb fan violence, expand their marketing reach, and lure millions of tourists to watch Roma each Sunday. But if they have any chance of really succeeding at breaking the peculiar quagmire that is Italian soccer, they will need to heed the lesson from the Curva Sud. When the ultras walked out of the Stadio Olimpico, the Curva Sud did not just demonstrate that they would not support a team that does not win. Rather, they showed Roma’s American owners that they cannot be taken for granted. They are not merely a “fan base.” They are not a “target audience” or “core ticket buyers.” They are not untapped consumer demand lying in wait for better marketing, an international brand, or a more packaged game day experience.
By walking out, the Curva Sud showed that they are not customers. For better or worse, they are Roma. And without them, the Americani have nothing.
Roma's ultras are hooligans taken to the nth degree. They're also a reason that Roma means anything to anyone when Serie A attendance is in tatters. It is far clearer in Euro soccer that the fans have some form of ownership. While Roma is particularly extreme, Michigan's students demonstrated that if sufficiently pissed off they can effect change.
This is the point at which people get pissed off enough. Television's primacy has provided an alternative and degraded the in-game experience. It has also homogenized things. The history of college football nonconference scheduling over the past 20 years tells the story well enough: there was a great thing that built up a lot of goodwill, that goodwill was completely mined out by a series of spreadsheet robots, and now someone has to build that goodwill back.
Hypothetical athletic director's main goal is to figure out what went wrong between the department and the fanbase and set about making the experience of being a Michigan fan one that is peerless. Actual athletic director seemed to not think about this one iota, and thus he is in Scottsdale watching Wrath of Khan over and over again.
I didn't know this was a thing. The NBA kids these days and their "popcorning."
— Nik Stauskas (@NStauskas11) April 14, 2015
That is Nik Stauskas splayed upon the counter in his popcorn-covered home. Urban Dictionary doesn't know what "popcorning" is (top result: "One of the ways a guinea pig shows his/her excitement/affection") and neither do I. Apparently it has something to do with the fact that Stauskas doesn't drive?
I feel like everything about Stauskas's NBA career has gone through the same filter that created "Sauce Castillo."
A brief essay on Sauce Castillo. It was a tweet at first, with a picture to verify. It took off as these things do, and then the Kings stepped in wholeheartedly. They had a friggin' Sauce Castillo night.
This is probably a good idea for the Kings. They are on top of what is happening on The Social Media and provide some intrigue for an early April game played by a team currently 38 games back of the Warriors. (But seven ahead of the Lakers!) They sold some merch, I imagine. A brief survey of the Kings organization shows a marketing savvy that's a bit of a shock for someone focused on colleges that are doing it right if they aren't shooting themselves in the foot monthly. The Kings are the future, when people at the top of organizations actually understand the internet and act accordingly.
And that's a little sad. A few years ago Sauce Castillo would have been a mark of something… probably that you read Bethlehem Shoals and are the kind of NBA obsessive who needs to find similarly-minded groups of proto-marxist revolutionary cells. Now Sauce Castillo is joyously accepted by the organization at large and thus destroyed.
Man I feel like an old man in Portland complaining that Sleater-Kinney's latest album ruins their entire career right now. But it is kind of a thing: there is a lot of value in defining yourself as a separate, weirder in-group in a mass of fans. MLS and the ever-shifting power struggle between various USMNT supporter's groups do a good job of this; the rest of American sports doesn't.
That will have to come from elsewhere in the Kingsfuture when every mildly diverting tweet is swiftly assimilated by the entertainment Borg.
LeVert update. Holding pattern for Michigan but one in which the arrows continue to point the right way. Chad Ford's advocating a return:
He should return. His draft stock was trending down before he was injured. Not sure he'd be a first rounder if he declared. He'd need excellent workouts.
Among underclassmen at LeVert's positions -- shooting guard and small forward -- to declare early are Kentucky's Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison, Arizona's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kansas' Kelly Oubre, Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, Florida's Michael Frazier II, Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvery, Georgia State's R.J. Hunter, Houston's Jherrod Stiggers, Florida State's Aaron Thomas, North Carolina's J.P. Tokoto and UNLV's Rashad Vaughn.
Other wings expected to declare for the draft include Duke's Justise Winslow and Arizona's Stanley Johnson. Mario Hezonja, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Croatia, is also a projected lottery pick.
"Jherrod Stiggers" is a spectacular name.
Let's maybe hold off on that for one sec. After his commitment, Matt Falcon takes a cue from the Lawrence Marshall playbook:
Right now, he says he's focused on three-star receiver Dez Fitzpatrick and four-star defensive lineman Khalid Kareem.
His pitch to them both is pretty simple.
"The best players in the state play for Michigan," Falcon says. "I'm trying to recruit names in the state and trying to get them to join the family."
I mean, continue to do that. Just expect MSUThaBest2009 to be on your case as you do so.
Hello: Samuelssons. I don't have to tell you this is a hockey recruiting bullet, do I? You just saw "Samuelssons" and assumed we were talking about some Swedes, be they from Sweden or relocated.
Well done, reader: Michigan hockey has secured commitments from depressingly young hockey players once again. This time they are the sons of former NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson. The older one, Matthias, is a defenseman. Over The Boards scouts:
RE: Samuelsson, Big 00 D at 6'2 190, strong lower body, imposes will with leverage. Has a hard shot and piles up SOG. Soft hands in own end.
— Mark Bilotta (@mbilotta) April 13, 2015
He is… uh… 14 and his dad is 6'7" so I would expect him to be very large indeed by the time he reaches campus. Luke Samuelsson, his brother, also committed as a 2018 forward. I haven't been able to find anything on him yet, as you might expect in this age range.
Meanwhile in draft hijinks. Not much in the way of intrigue in this year's OHL draft; Michigan's commitments that far out are generally already signed up with the NTDP. There weren't any unpleasant surprises this year. Michael Pastujov, the younger brother of NTDP-er Nick Pastujov, was drafted by Saginaw in the fourth round on a flier. Michael was projected as a top pick—possibly the top pick—in the draft and slid significantly because of concerns over his commitment. Saginaw is not noted as a team that snipes random Americans.
Toronto-based forward Quinn Hughes, also projected as a top ten pick, slid to the third round. Hughes has dual citizenship and is already committed to the NTDP; his father also works in an NHL front office so they're well aware of the pros and cons of each route. Josh Norris went in the sixth round to Niagara.
How does the seemingly imminent retirement of Red Berenson play into these recruitments? I don't know. Michigan has to be telling these kids that it's unlikely Red is around in 2018, so the far-future ones seem somehow more secure than those who might be making decisions in a year or two. I expect there's some attrition when the change is made; how much is hard to tell.
If you were to sort everything in the world by a factor of how much I pay attention to it vs. actual importance, what jersey numbers Michigan players wear is probably just below and to the left of Alan Trammell's snub.
His career was merely "average" for a Hall of Fame shortstop
If you don't care, I respect that; here's a report from BBC news on the rising nuclear tensions in South Asia that probably matters a lot to the long-term stability of the region and the horrifying possibility that our species might some day wipe out the better portion of the lifeforms we know of. If you do care who wears the numeral we associate with Woodson, maybe read up enough on the arms deal first so people will know you've got your priorities straight. All set? Alright here's what I think we should do with the Legends numbers.
The Legends Question
Earn it, Keith
I don't think anybody knows what they'll do with the program now. Hackett seems earnest in this evaluation period. I also have an idea where some of the pushback is coming from, since former players—in email groups, in private, and some publically—are a key demographic against them. Part of that's a get-off-my-lawn attitude among older guys regarding the over-attention paid to jersey numbers by kids these days. Part of it's the same jarring fan sensation of having long associations undone—the Kovacs Principle—and part of it's a new guy wearing sacrosanct numbers every year. I saw more complaints about Funchess wearing 87 while not blocking than Moore wearing it while not playing.
I wish they would keep this program, but only for underclassmen. The Seth Plan:
- Establish a set of attainable criteria for each number. Past Legends have input but this shouldn't be the Braylon gauntlet—that worked for Braylon because Carr tailored it specifically to Braylon.
- Establish a set of higher criteria for getting added to the patch.
- Underclassmen interested in wearing a Legends number apply to their coaches
- Number must be earned before a player either starts his 15th game, or reaches the end of his sophomore season of eligibility, whichever comes first.
- Back-elevate past Michigan greats based on Legends criteria.
- Add 2 (for Woodson, defensive backs), 77 (for OTs: Lewan, Long, Jansen, Jenkins), 46 (Harry Newman, for special teams players), and 27 (Benny Friedman, for quarterbacks) to the program. Make 98 for running backs.
- Establish a set of criteria for having a new number Legendsized (so future HSPs can hope to wear #5)
I imagine if more than one young player wants the same number Harbaugh won't mind competition.
Projecting the Fall Arrivals
I used to try this every year: attempt to predict numbers for the new guys to wear. Before MGoBlog it was an annual rite of rostering the new NCAA game. Last year I missed it; in 2013 I went 12 for 22 with the scholarship guys, but that was in June when some guys already knew their numbers. This year I'm gonna try to do it early and honestly.
[My methodology and sure-to-be-incorrect predictions, after the jump]
Mmmm, sacrilicious. Notre Dame youtube music, you say? I've got my schaden-stick at the ready.
This is way less bad than Freekbass, at least?
Also in Notre Dame. Goodbye, Lou Holtz.
SI.com learned over the weekend that ESPN has parted ways with Lou Holtz, who had been a college football studio analyst with the network since 2004 and worked most notably with host Rece Davis and analyst Mark May on ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final pregame, halftime and postgame studio coverage. Holtz was also a regular contributor to SportsCenter and ESPN Radio. The decision, according to sources, was closer to a mutual agreement between the parties than Holtz getting forced out.
Holtz wasn't exactly good. Once you accepted the fact that he was not there to provide serious analysis but rather to do magic tricks and babble incoherently, though, he was reliably entertaining. That's something you can't say for a lot of television "personalities." He was kind of like Dan LeBatard's dad for college football. I'm not going to actually miss him but since ESPN is 50/50 to replace the Rece Davis/Holtz/Mark May combo with three clones of Craig James I have real trepidation here.
Um, okay? Bizarre sequence of events in basketball recruiting: Shaka Smart takes the Texas job, so top-100 combo guard recruit Kenny Williams asks out of his letter of intent. In the immediate aftermath seven Crystal Ball predictions come in, six of them for Michigan. (The other: Georgetown.) Actual recruiting expert Jerry Meyer is amongst them, and both Rivals and Scout follow up with reporting on it that suggests it is not a fever dream. Georgetown's 247 guy thinks it's M and their Duke guys are somehow insistent on it.
One problem, of course: Michigan has a full roster unless Hatch goes on medical or Caris LeVert decides on the NBA draft, something that doesn't seem to be likely at the moment. And they're already really deep at guard. And they were not involved with the kid before his VCU commitment. And everybody says he committed to the Rams because he wanted to stay close to home in Virginia, which is why he doesn't seem interested in following Smart to Texas. Michigan isn't close to Virginia. And Williams does not currently have a scholarship offer. This is really several problems.
But apparently it might happen? Williams, depending on who you ask and when you asked him, is a 6'2" to 6'4" shooting guard with one of the best strokes in the country. Beilein was just down to watch him play at a tournament, so there's a concrete indicator the interest there is mutual.
A way in which it might make a little more sense. Derryck Thornton's dad has told a few people that Spike Albrecht might end up redshirting after his hip surgeries this offseason. Albrecht has one complete and one to go; the recovery timetable of 4-5 months seemed to give him a month or two to get back in the swing of things before the season.
I have a solution for your problem. NBA owner Mark Cuban bitching about college basketball:
The "horrible" state of college basketball is hurting the NBA, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.
Cuban said he doesn't enjoy watching the college game, but his bigger concern is that the physical, slow-down style that has become common in the NCAA results in prospects who are poorly prepared to jump to the NBA.
"If they want to keep kids in school and keep them from being pro players, they're doing it the exact right way by having the 35-second shot clock and having the game look and officiated the way it is," Cuban said Wednesday night. "Just because kids don't know how to play a full game of basketball.
"You've got three kids passing on the perimeter. With 10 seconds on the shot clock, they try to make something happen and two other kids stand around. They don't look for anything and then run back on defense, so there's no transition game because two out of five or three out of five or in some cases four out of five kids aren't involved in the play.
"It's uglier than ugly, and it's evidenced by the scoring going down. When the NBA went through that, we changed things."
If college basketball is hurting the NBA so badly, it's the NBA's fault for instituting one-and-done. And that characterization of college offense coming from the land of hero-ball and isolations is even more nuts.
Yes, teams emphasize getting back in transition. I'd like someone try to find a rule change for that.
Again, there is no scoring crisis, very little has changed in the last decade of college basketball, people are
yelling pointlessly about a fractional dip in pace caused by fewer turnovers and more transition D that has actually seen offensive efficiency increase slightly over the past thirteen years. If you want to chop the shot clock to 30, fine. That will magically fix all of our problems, because there aren't any.
We just had five excellent offensive performances and Michigan State in the Final Four. Kentucky acquired 1.1 points per possession and lost by seven. And the bitching will continue because… Penn State, I guess?
A bit more on Alabama's pursuit and dismissal of Difficulties Guy. Holly Anderson writes about it, and hits the nail on the head:
Did Alabama consider the risks of bringing Jonathan Taylor to Tuscaloosa, and decide they merited his inclusion on the team? Or did Alabama never need to care about the risks at all?
Right now, it’s the only explanation that makes sense. What risk was there, really, to the program? This sport shifts glacially, and won’t change in time to adversely affect the careers of anyone who had a hand in this decision, or others like it. Neither the Crimson Tide’s recruiting nor their 2015 win-loss record will suffer. It seems most likely that they didn’t properly consider the admission decision, because they had no real need to. Because this little media conflagration that has unfolded over the past couple of days is Alabama’s worst-case scenario for a repeat assault allegation against Taylor: to be yelled at for a little bit.
Real consequences don't exist. The fanbase isn't going to deliver them (and I doubt many, if any, would). The SEC isn't. The NCAA isn't. Recruits and their parents aren't—recruits and their parents have been signing their kids up for Alabama's annual oversigning happily. The media will rattle a saber for a bit and rival fans get a bit of ammunition, and that's it. The end.
Etc.: Now that it's official I plan some passing game UFRs for Rudock; for now here's his game against Wisconsin, which was terrific. (He had some not very terrific games.) Wisconsin set to leave Adidas for UA. Urban Meyer has not pleased Jamal Dean's high school coach after declaring Dean not medically cleared.
Quick note: I'm taking the rest of this week off. Since many have asked, my health is in a good place right now, and a week of relaxation should only help in that regard. Thanks to all who've asked about me, and I'll be back next week.
Michigan In Top Groups For Kelly, Okwara
A couple highly ranked targets on defense announced top groups that included Michigan this week. Five-star CA OLB Caleb Kelly included the Wolverines in a powerhouse-packed unordered top ten: Cal, Notre Dame, Alabama, USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, Florida State, Oregon, Michigan, and LSU. Kelly took an unofficial to Ann Arbor last month that went well, putting Michigan in position to potentially secure an official visit; Oklahoma currently holds the lead on his Crystal Ball.
Four-star NC WDE Julian Okwara named Michigan to his final five alongside Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Ole Miss. Okwara will make his decision on April 30th, and all signs point to Notre Dame, where his older brother Romeo is a senior defensive lineman.
Meanwhile, after four-star MD OG Terrance Davis said some very encouraging things about Michigan immediately following his spring game weekend visit, he flat-out told Rivals' Adam Friedman at a Rivals camp in Richmond that the Wolverines lead in his recruitment ($):
Rivals250 offensive lineman Terrance Davis recently visited Michigan and he is also going to visit Ohio State in the near future. As of now the Wolverines are Davis' favorite, but Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Maryland, Penn State, UCLA, Tennessee and Arkansas are all also in the mix. Davis wants to take official visits to Michigan, UCLA, Georgia and Maryland.
Getting Davis back on campus for an official visit would be a great sign.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Maurice Hurst got after it [Bryan Fuller]
Ira gave me the go-ahead to post our weekly roundtable on the site, so here it is. If you're unfamiliar: on Thursday at 9 we have an hour on The Michigan Insider with Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub. It's myself, Craig Ross, and usually Ed Feng.
Ed was out of town this week, but Craig, Sam and I talk spring game: Maurice Hurst, quarterbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs, etc.