spoiler alert: i linked this
2016 Coaches Clinic- The best of the rest (as boiled down as possible).
Coach Hoffman, St. Joe's Montvale, N.J. and Coach Tyrell, Arkon Hoban, gave talks on running power.
Running power: Formation is key. You want lots of looks even if the basics of the play is the same.
Dress it up with motion. You need a nasty attitude. Get vertical as quickly as possible off blocks and as the running back hitting the hole. Double teams must kick ass at point of attack and if they do then on many plays designed to get 4-5 yards you can just forget blocking the LB as you will have 2-3 yards before he can get to the running back behind the double team. A good fullback is essential. If you are running one back then TE is crucial. If you are basically a power team you must still run some zone read as it forces your opponent to prepare for it. It helps to get an extra receiver outside the box as it forces a LB out of the box. Tail back must have patience on off tackle plays to let blocks develop and may even need to take a first step back to get the timing right. Pull two on sweeps.
Juan Castillo Ravens O line coach
Pass Blocking: I have attended the last seven UM coaches clinics and, in my opinion, this was the most clearly explained technique session ever. Each of the pass blocking techniques was shown on film as the drills were being done by the Ravens OL at practice. He then showed game film of the O line using these same techniques in game situations. He left me believing I could coach pass blocking technique to any young player. I certainly wish that someone had taught me these techniques when I was playing center in high school. I wish I could show you his talk on film. Below is my best attempt to do in words what he demo'd in person then showed in filed drills and then game tape. Wow!
You require these drills for ½ hour every practice as muscle memory is a must. Each drill must reflect what happens in the actual game. Use game film to show the technique and how these techniques relate to success and failure.
Body position is key: head up, shoulders back, hands in front of chest. Ar the snap, the lineman steps back at 45 degrees with the outside foot and re-square by quickly dragging the inside foot back to re-square. One foot on the ground at all times. Do it over and over to build muscle memory. Have the linemen hold a sand bag while doing it to keep hands centered and arms up and strong. The punch technique is important. Punch up and with elbows in and the hands punch into opponents armpits as this makes it harder to knock hands away. Hands can switch a bit higher and lower to avoid being knocked away. You must work on timing the punch at the best distance to get the best effect and must work on replacing the hands if they get knocked away. The the hand replacement move should circular, up or down and around the defensive opponents arm that knocked the hand away to be quickly replaced back to the arm pit. Practice mirror drills to keep separation without leaning in which allows the defensive lineman to throw you down or off balance. Practice mirroring and hand placement on spin moves as well. Against a bull rush, hop back with both feet and sink the hips to get leverage.
Mark Trestman Ravens OC and Mike Martz (past Rams head coach) spoke on QB play
Trestman -“A good coach needs three things: a patient wife, a loyal dog, and a great QB.”
QB must engage and embrace adversity, show humility in success, be the point of interconnection for all the players throughout the game, serve the team and expect and ask nothing in return. QB must be willing to listen to coaches and fellow players. The attitude is that we are better together. QB must be obsessive about drills. He must be relentless, demanding, detailed and creative and always want what is best for the team.
During the game job #1 is to protect the football. This means obsessively drilling on the technique of the center exchange, protecting the ball on the way to hand off, protecting the ball in the confines of the pocket, understanding how to locate the ball when passing to avoid interceptions, protecting the ball exiting the pocket and outside the pocket when scrambling.
Must practice with the back up center as well using real play calls and action. He must know the run sets and blocking scheme and the strengths and weaknesses of his O line. He must practice steps and drops and must know the course of the running back on the way to hand offs. Drops must be precise. QB must know the pass protection used by the D and the routes of his receivers.
He must learn to find a quiet spot in the chaos of the pocket. He must know what to do if a lineman misses a block, if there is a front side or back side blitz and if the wide receiver blows his route. QB must have courage to stand in and throw knowing he will get hit. He must know how to take a hit to avoid injury. The ball is held with two hands in the pocket with the tip of the ball at the bottom of the neck and never below the waist. Must practice movement in the pocket, climbing up, sliding to one side or the other and escape moves. Must protect the ball from the nearest defender. Must know when to take a sack and when to throw the ball away. Scrambles can lead to big plays but not at the expense of a turnover. Use tape as drill to make sure you are practicing the skill set that needs work to have success. Was an open receiver missed? Was the ball caught but in a bad location that did not allow for yards after catch? Avoid awkward throws or throws across the body. Coach must find drills that isolate these fundamental skills and find drills to effectively teach them and then practice these drills at game speed.
Martz- This was a session of detailed advice about QB play and impossible to summarize accurately but here goes:
Stance- Slight stagger helps to get first step back on pass and easier to turn to running back on runs or play action. Knees slight bent and head and eyes up to check coverage and for check offs related to defensive set.
Hands- Under center with index finger of throwing hand right up the crack of the center and heels of the hands with slight pressure together to keep the snap from separating the hands as this could lead to fumbled snap. Pass grip should be with palm slight off the ball and knuckles angled down. Carry the ball back with two hands with the ball over the sternum, tip down and shoulder relaxed and elbows tucked hands in tight to reduce the risk of getting the ball stripped. Never have the ball below the belt buckle.
Cadence- QB must practice this and can use clap drills with linemen clapping together at snap count. Hand offs- QB should bring the ball back from the snap at his belt buckle. Punch the ball into the target with eyes on the target all the way through the hand off. Settle and slow down just a little to get the ball to the target.
Toss plays- The toss should be dead ball with no spin and let the running back run through the football to get it.
Traps- QB must rotate the hip a bit more to get legs out of the way
Draws- Keep eyes down field and the drop must be the same as any other passing play.
Play action- Put the fake hand into the running back like a hand off and let the RB turn the QB back open ready to pass.
Drops and throws- 3 step is 4 yards deep and use for pass of 4-6 yard up field. Finish with feet apart and slight knee bend and weight slightly loaded on the back leg and the back toe and hip slightly rotated out as you start the throw. The shoulder should be parallel and turn the belly button to the target with the throw. If throwing left or right, get the belly button left or right. 5 step drop is 6 yards deep and use for pass of 10-12 yards. Deep ball and play action uses a 7 step drop and never any more than 9 yards deep. Hitch with the feet to buy time with the weight centered. Must not tip direction with hips or body on the drop. The come out should always be the same regardless.
Against Zone- be very specific about where the ball is to be thrown and it does not fell like it is then then go to check down receiver.
Man to man- Need to know who has the best route likely to be open and make the best aggressive throw.
Deep Ball- throw early with lots of air and let the receiver run under it. The throw for best distance should be at 45 degree angle. If a defender is running with the receiver throw the ball to keep the receiver on line. Make the defender adjust.
Knowing the defenses and terminology is essential for QB. Must know what and why. You and QB must spend lots of time on this.
Throw on run- Key to arc back toward the line of scrimmage and step down toward the receiver.
Teryl Austin- DC for the Lions
Developing a Defense.
Meetings- Everyone come prepared players and coaches. Must learn a lot in as little time as possible.
Dress- Look like a team in issued or agreed upon gear. Not sloppy
Practice- Practice with speed, purpose, and precision. Be competitive but not combative. Game standards in practice. Fight and you are out. Bitch and you sit.
Off the field- Communication is key and you must be clear in all aspects as coach to player, coach to coach, and coach to staff. Better communication leads to fewer foul ups and fewer hard feelings. Teachers need to know about your expected behavior standards for the players and your desire to have them communicate with you about your players.
Desired player traits- Look for toughness, football smarts, a great motor, production, and the right size and speed for the position.
Team traits= B.E.T.A.
Body language- Demonstrate team togetherness and encouragement only. Do not show negatives.
Effort- Best effort at all activities: classroom, weight room, training room and field
Timely- Be punctual and ready to work.
Attitude- This determines success. Ask where else would you rather be? Devalue stars. You are only as good as the whole team. Everyone has a role from scout team to special teams to the best player. Each person is integral and you need to find a role for every player and make sure they see their importance to the team.
Proper technique-Allows players to rely on basics no matter what the overall scheme is. You need thousands of reps on technique for every 10 plays run. Proper technique makes for efficient practices. Fewer reps and fewer repeats of plays. In games, you do not get repeats. Every practice needs at least 20-30 minutes of individual and small group work on technique.
Foster and develop leadership-this starts with the atmosphere the coach creates. Some players are just best at playing and they do not need to all be leaders. Leadership can come from anyone associated with the team and encourages and engages more players to help the team. Do not let a bad guy lead your team no matter how good a player. The past does not matter. What you do now is who you are.
Be physical and tough-Win against the guy across from you
Be smart-know your assignment, no penalties, know the scheme and game situation.
Be fundamentally sound- Play with great technique, great effort. Play fast (you can if you practice this way and are prepared). Maximum effort with a minimum of mistakes. Look for all the things you practiced in the game tape. Finish every play in practice and it will show up in the games. For example, DL runs to tough the RB on every practice play and everyone picks up every loose ball no matter how the ball got on the ground.
Game philosophy- Convey to the team the most important winning factors. Play each game, and each play like it is your last. The past does not matter. This play is what matters. Try to play to your strengths.
Defensive Goals- Best in turnover margin and best at avoiding big plays.
That's it. See you next year (maybe)!
This didn't really merit a front page post but I thought you might find it interesting. These are my notes from things we hadn't covered yet on the front page while re-watching Michigan's 2016 spring game:
-Bobby Henderson is a good blocking FB vs. the starters, and murderous vs the walk-ons. Hard to bring down too. New Kerridge right here.
-Lawrence Marshall played SDE, was technically very sound, fought to a stalemate with Mags/Bunting. A bit undersized but looks useable in a Pierre Woods sort of way.
-Grant Newsome looked worse than he did live. Taco ate his lunch. Carlo Kemp (playing WDE) ate his lunch. Reuben Jones (playing SDE) ate his lunch. Brandon Watson(!) ate his lunch.
-(Possibly related) Braden was playing left tackle. Did okay not great against Winovich.
-Winovich Jake Ryan-style two-gapped Mags for a TFL.
-Brandon Watson looked as exploitable against Grant Perry as he didn't against Darboh et al last year.
-Isaac's cutback run where he ran past Peppers was on Mone. His other long runs were both Washington losing contain bad.
-On Butt's TD Michigan had #46 Mike Wroblewski (an ILB despite being a DE on the roster) playing free safety. Live I thought it was a pick play on Devin Bush Jr. but this was a Cov2 "safety" getting way out of position. The Shane Morris rub route got another walk-on LB, Cheyann Robertson (who was pretty bad all day) way out of position. I don't think this is something where M was hiding their answer. I think when O'Korn sees a bad linebacker in man with his crossing TE the call is that drag, and those LBs just played it exceptionally badly.
-Not counting Peppers, Mike McCray is our best LB by some distance. Very good closing speed.
-M lined up in a hurricane punt formation then motioned to the spread punt. If they yelled "ha ha fuck you cook!" while doing so the audio didn't pick it up. Later they lined up in an Ace 11 then motioned to the spread punt.
-I could watch Godin use his hands all day. I get the feeling Mattison does.
-Ulizio can't pull but he's pretty good downfield. Patrick Omameh comparison is strong. They also had him playing RT for white.
-Runyan played LG next to Braden. He did fine pretty okay against Hurst and walk-on 3-techs. (and Wheatley).
-Kugler looked fine. He made the block to get O'Korn that last scramble TD.
-Speight's walk-in TD was a bad blitz by a walk-on (Dunaway) playing Backer.
-Brown had at least 4 CB blitzes, usually with Washington. These are run blitzes.
-Mone had a play where he started in the backside A gap, shed Mason Cole and made a TFL on a power play the other way.
-White team was using Wheatley as a 3-3-5 DE. He was two-gapping against Jon Runyan and a lot of O'Korn's scrambles came from picking the other gap.
-Winnning stop on the 2pt conversion was Hurst standing up to a triple team and Winovich coming around from behind.
(Note: I'm not sure how to insert links for all the quotes, but if someone can tell me or send me somewhere that will tell me, I'll go back and give credit for every quote and such.)
If you’ve been alive for the past few weeks you’ve heard more about satellite camps than you care to know, which is why I’ve written an extensive diary about them. You’re welcome.
Tom VH’s piece on how coach’s voting can bring down the ban on satellite camps sparked my curiosity as to which schools are actually in favor of the ban, which are opposed to the ban, and which don’t give a crap because they’re smarter than you (I’m lookin’ at you, David Shaw).
From Tom’s article: “The April 8 vote that bans coaches from holding high school camps off campus did not pass by 85 percent majority, which leaves the door open for coaches and athletic directors to try to rescind the vote. Behind closed doors, that's exactly what seems to be happening right now.
“One of the options Harbaugh and Manuel have is trying to get a 66.7 percent of the majority of 128 FBS programs to request that the ruling be rescinded within a 60-day override period. Since the original vote only received 66.6 percent approval, well below the required 85 percent, the programs that disagree with the ruling can still get the ban relinquished.
“The original vote to ban the camps was done by conference representatives, whereas a reversal would require individual votes from programs. Getting roughly 85 programs to request the repeal might be difficult, but there are a growing number of coaches speaking out against the ban.”
He’s rounding down to get to that 85 number, so let’s assume 86 just to be safe. There are two different ways to look at this: From Michigan’s perspective, we need 86 programs including ours to vote to undo the ban. But from the other side, the SEC and their minions need over 43 votes in favor of the ban to uphold it. They already got 66.6 percent approval from the original vote; however, the votes there don’t seem to represent every program very effectively (even though they should in theory).
Thus, determining which programs have spoken out against the ban and which have spoken out against the camps can give us a clearer picture of if such a vote is even plausible. Looking at each of the 128 FBS programs, this is what I came up with:
AGAINST BAN: 39
IN FAVOR OF BAN: 20
HAVEN’T SAID YET: 51
ON FENCE, LEANING AGAINST BAN: 10
ON FENCE, LEANING IN FAVOR OF BAN: 6
NO OPINION; UNSURE: 2
I came up with these numbers by simply googling each program by name, the coach’s name, or the AD’s name with satellite camps. If there isn’t anything relevant on the first or second page, I put n/a. It proved fairly true that if a coach or AD spoke up about the camps or the ban in any way that someone wrote about it from somewhere and it’d end up on the first two search pages. We’ve covered it to death at mgoblog, but so has just about everyone else it seems.
The programs that are on the fence are interesting. Some of them I put there simply because they had camps scheduled but I couldn’t actually find that they gave any kind of a response to the ban itself. Some are there because they’ve openly come out as neutral or have suggested some other changes to the rule. Lots of “I can see both sides to it” quotes coming out of these programs. Some were much more interesting, in the case of Texas State, whose coach came out vehemently against the ban, but whose AD represented the Sun Belt by voting for the ban, an action for which he received some backlash. In the breakdown below, I give more explanation to these cases.
One variable that jacks up this data is proven in the Texas State case, where the AD and the coach might disagree. In this case, the AD likely overrules the coach, however there were few cases where both the AD and coach had spoken publicly about the subject (as Harbaugh and Manuel have), and only that one where they openly disagreed. However, if it comes down to a vote, these instances might have a big effect on how schools vote, so keep that in mind.
The current position of every FBS football program, by conference (those who take any position are bolded):
AAC: 3 against, 9 n/a
Cincinnati: against ban
East Carolina: n/a
Tulane: against ban
USF: against ban
ACC: 1 against, 1 neutral, 5 in favor, 7 n/a
Boston College: n/a
Clemson: in favor of ban
Duke: in favor of ban
Florida State: in favor of ban
Georgia Tech: in favor of ban
Miami (YTM): n/a
North Carolina: n/a
North Carolina State: made statement praising Harbaugh: “You want to have as many opportunities as possible to not just recruit but have your brand out there. What Michigan did was smart. They took advantage of an opportunity. They had the budget to do it. Being a northern school, which I've been before, being able to get down into the South where there's a lot of talent, for them, was intelligent.” – Dave Doeren, head coach
Pittsburgh: in favor of ban
Virginia Tech: n/a
Wake Forest: against ban
Big 10: 7 against, 2 neutral, 1 in favor, 4 n/a
Iowa: in favor of ban
Maryland: against ban
Michigan: against ban (obviously)
Michigan State: against ban
Nebraska: against ban
Northwestern: against ban
Ohio State: against ban
Penn State: ok with ban: “If it's legal, we're going to do it, as long as everybody's playing by the same rules is what I care about... There were some real positives to it, but there were some things people had concerns about. You can make arguments both ways. Obviously this is something that we were doing, and enjoyed doing, but I also like the fact we are going to back on our campus, spend more time with our current players, and then the same thing with our families." – James Franklin, head coach
Purdue: hasn’t said, but had camps scheduled
Rutgers: against ban
Big 12: 4 against, 2 neutral, 4 n/a
Baylor: against ban
Iowa State: against ban
Kansas State: wants to revise rule: “Our satellite camps, for the most part, were in the state of Kansas, trying to get out to western Kansas, because western Kansas youngsters sometimes just can't get here. We did them in Kansas City, we did them in Wichita. We were in-state. I would prefer the rule still allowed you to do that.” – Bill Snyder, head coach
Oklahoma: against ban
Oklahoma State: against ban
Texas Christian: n/a
Texas Tech: n/a
West Virginia: ok with ban: “Camps were once formed for developmental purposes and they’ve turned totally into recruiting tools... I think it’s forcing your institution and camp to move all around the country. In reality, how many of those kids are really coming to your school?” – Shane Lyons, AD
Conference USA: 4 against, 2 neutral, 8 n/a
Florida Atlantic: had camps scheduled
Florida Int’l: n/a
Louisiana Tech: against ban
North Texas: n/a
Old Dominion: against ban
Southern Miss: n/a
UAB: against ban
UTEP: had camps scheduled, coach made neutral statement: "It won't affect us too much... We'll have to adjust but it won't affect us as much as it will other people. Our main focus is on El Paso, the big camp we have here with 150 kids." – Sean Kugler, head coach
Western Kentucky: against ban
Independents: 1 against, 1 neutral, 1 n/a
Notre Dame: against ban
BYU: ok with ban: "I can see both sides of it. I understand where everyone is making statements, has an opinion. I get that. But my job as head coach is whatever the NCAA says to do, we do it. It doesn't matter what my personal opinion is. I can see both arguments. But right now, the camps are off-limits, so we just plan accordingly." – Kalani Sitake, head coach
MAC: 4 against, 2 neutral, 6 n/a
Ball State: had camps scheduled
Bowling Green: against ban
Central Michigan: against ban
Eastern Michigan: against ban
Kent State: n/a
Miami (NTM): n/a
Northern Illinois: n/a
Toledo: ok with ban: “I see both sides of it. I think it’s a positive that everything is going to be done on your own campus, but I certainly know the benefits of what we’ve had in the past, where we’ve been able to go out and see a bunch of young men at a central location.” – Jason Candle, head coach
Western Michigan: against ban
MWC: 4 against, 1 neutral, 7 n/a
Air Force: n/a
Boise State: against ban
Colorado State: against ban
Fresno State: n/a
Hawai’i: against ban
New Mexico: n/a
San Diego State: n/a
San Jose State: against ban
Utah State: n/a
Wyoming: had camps scheduled
PAC 12: 6 against, 2 in favor, 1 neutral, 1 “it’s complicated,” 2 n/a
Arizona: against ban
Arizona State: n/a
Cal: in favor of ban
Colorado: against ban
Oregon: against ban
Oregon State: had camps scheduled
Stanford: no opinion: “I’m great with whatever college football says, because it doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t make sense for us to go hold a camp some place where there might be one person in the entire state that’s eligible to get into Stanford.” – David Shaw, head coach
UCLA: in favor of ban
Utah: against ban
Washington: against ban
Washington State: against ban
SEC: 11 in favor, 2 neutral, 1 n/a
Alabama: in favor of ban
Arkansas: on fence: "We were gonna jump in; We were gonna jump in with both feet." – Bret Bielema, head coach
Auburn: in favor of ban
Florida: in favor of ban
Georgia: in favor of ban
Kentucky: in favor of ban
LSU: in favor of ban
Mississippi State: in favor of ban
Missouri: in favor of ban
Ole Miss: in favor of ban
South Carolina: ok with ban/no opinion: “"You ever been to Michigan in March? I'd go to Florida if I were them," Muschamp said, in reference to the Wolverines' spring break excursion to IMG Academy in Bradenton. In the next breath, Muschamp was sure to point out that Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines did nothing illegal per the NCAA rulebook and said he couldn't care less what other teams are doing this spring.” – Will Muschamp, head coach (via Brad Crawford, 247)
Tennessee: in favor of ban
Texas A&M: in favor of ban
Sun Belt: 5 against, 1 in favor, 2 neutral, 1 “it’s complicated,” 2 n/a
Appalachian State: wants to revise rule: “I can see both sides of the argument for satellite camps, and I do agree with the fact more student-athletes get seen when you’re able to have the satellite camps. You’re doing camps in a place where there’s an abundance of players, and you may have 10 to 20 colleges of all levels there to see these kids... I can see a happy medium coming down. It may not happen this year — maybe next year — where you can work your state and go anywhere in your state.”- Scott Satterfield, head coach
Arkansas State: had camps scheduled
Arkansas Little Rock: against ban
Georgia Southern: against ban
Georgia State: against ban
Louisiana Lafayette: in favor of ban
Louisiana Monroe: against ban
South Alabama: n/a
Texas State: had camps scheduled, coach against ban, AD in favor of ban: "I think it was a snap decision. Not very good for kids that need coaches like myself in the Sun Belt and the MAC to be able to go to Texas and Ohio State camps and see those kids." – Everett Withers, head coach
"The Sun Belt voted on a controversial issue to eliminate these satellite camps. Six of ten FBS conferences voted to eliminate these camps. The pros and cons of these camps can be debated, and I am sure there will continue to be discussion on this matter, but for now the majority has spoken and it's time to move on and the Sun Belt football programs will continue to get better with or without these camps." – Karl Benson, Sun Belt Commissioner (in response to Larry Teis, Texas State’s AD, voting for the ban on behalf of the conference)
UT Arlington: n/a
Troy: against ban
To reiterate the summary, here it is again:
AGAINST BAN: 39
IN FAVOR OF BAN: 20
HAVEN’T SAID YET: 51
ON FENCE, LEANING AGAINST BAN: 10
ON FENCE, LEANING IN FAVOR OF BAN: 6
NO OPINION; UNSURE: 2
If every program had to vote on this matter one way or the other, we could simplify it to this:
AGAINST BAN: 49 (goal: 86)
IN FAVOR OF BAN: 26 (goal: 43)
Needing 37 of those 53 undecided votes is quite a bit to ask. But let’s look at those undecided programs a bit more closely to see if we can narrow that down even more:
Undecided programs by conference:
Big 10: 4
Big 12: 4
Conference USA: 8
PAC 12: 2
Sun Belt: 3
Let’s also look at how many are against the ban...:
Big 10: 8
Big 12: 5
Conference USA: 6
PAC 12: 7
Sun Belt: 7
...and in favor of the ban:
Big 10: 2
Big 12: 1
Conference USA: 0
PAC 12: 2
Sun Belt: 1
Beyond the ACC and the SEC, no other conference has more than two programs that have spoken out against the satellite camps or agreed with the ruling. Plus those same conferences are the only ones to have only two or less programs against the ban. This pattern is key to gaining the necessary votes to repeal the ban on satellite camps.
Another pattern to notice is that power 5 conferences have more programs that have spoken up one way or the other about the ban. Only 18 of the 53 undecided programs are from power 5 conferences, leaving 35 from group of 5 conferences. This is also key, as the ban seems to really hurt these smaller schools, particularly if they are in smaller markets (anyone feel bad for Hawai’i here?). It is likely that the majority of those 35 schools be against the ban. Which, with 37 more votes needed, that bodes well for the good guys.
Geography doesn’t seem to matter in the group of 5 programs, as the AAC, CUSA, and Sun Belt all either have schools in the south or are totally in the south, yet from just those 3 conferences only 1 school (Louisiana Lafayette from the Sun Belt) has come out in support of the ban while 16 have come out against it. The MWC as well has 5 against it with 0 in favor, which is even better than the MAC can say with Toledo’s Jason Candle being ok with the ban. Programs in the south and west might even be more affected by the new rule as even camping at schools within their own state would likely help them in recruiting, whereas a program in the midwest or elsewhere might not have the same opportunities to see top level recruits within their own state or even nearby.
This explains why many schools in the Sun Belt, MWC, CUSA, even the PAC 12 are against the ban. It also explains why there is so much outrage that some of those conferences inexplicably “voted” for the ban. In the case of the Sun Belt and the PAC 12, conferences that voted for the ban, over half the conference oppose the ban!
Moving forward, as more of these undecided programs come out of the woodwork either opposed or in favor of the NCAA’s ban on satellite camps, it is clear that we can expect most of them to side with Harbaugh and high-schoolers everywhere on this one. Whether or not it will be enough to rescind the vote by June 7th remains to be seen, but there is hope.
This is meant as a self-indulgent thank you. It's an expansion of a comment I once made, so I apologize if you've read some of it before.
I'm not from Michigan. My mom, however, was born and grew up in Northville. My parents met in Detroit. I visited the state just once, when I was about 3-4 years old. So why have I become a Michigan fan?
I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area almost my entire life. As a young kid, I loved the Raiders. The Immaculate Reception game remains my most devastating sports moment, probably because I was a little kid when it happened. But then the Raiders got rid of Kenny Stabler and Dave Casper, which cooled my feelings, and moved to Los Angeles, which ended the relationship. A Giants fan can't possibly root for a team from LA.
After a period of mourning, I turned to the 49ers, which wasn't hard to do, since it was the Bill Walsh era. But I'm no front runner; I remained just as much a fan through the lean years of Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Singletary.
College football isn't a big deal here. Cal and Stanford have their followings, but they don't seem to have the same passion as the fan bases of the pro teams. As a sports fans, I followed the teams' fortunes, but didn't care much about how they did.
But as the 49ers struggled through successive years of mediocrity, or worse, I took note of what was happening at Stanford. Jim Harbaugh was in the process of taking a one win team and turning it into a national power. Stanford? A national college football power? Not even Bill Walsh, in two chances, had been able to pull that off. Looking at Harbaugh's young coaching career, I also admired that he had gone against everyone's advice, as well as conventional thought, and taken the Head Coaching job at the University of San Diego where, of course, he had turned that unknown program into a winner. I laughed when he ran up the score on the mighty USC Trojans, which I saw as being similar to punching the neighborhood bully right in the nose. It was clear that this guy was a rare and extremely gifted coach, and also that he didn't really give a shit about what anyone else thought. Even though I wasn't familiar with the phrase at the time, he was all about the team, the team, the team.
So when the 49ers fired Singletary, and talk began that Harbaugh was a candidate to replace him, I agonized until the negotiations were completed and exalted when he was announced as the new Head Coach. I knew that the fortunes of my team were going to change, and quickly.
He began by bringing back the much maligned Alex Smith, who the media and entire fan base had assumed had played his last game for the team. Smith responded with, by far, his best season ever. Not a coincidence. Harbaugh was the only one who saw it coming. He didn't care what anyone else thought. They went from 6-10 to 13-3 in that first year, and missed the Super Bowl only because of two fumbled punts.
The success continued with a trip to the Super Bowl the next year and a near miss the year after, but then the reports began to circulate that Harbaugh was on his way out. I doubted them, at first. In a sport where coaching is most important, how could an organization decide to get rid of one of the few truly great coaches? But then it became clear. As it turned out, Jed York and Jim Harbaugh reside on the opposite ends of the manhood spectrum. Not content with merely being stupid for firing Harbaugh, York revealed himself to be gutless as well. In an attempt to justify the idiotic decision he was about to make, York orchestrated anonymous, anti-Harbaugh leaks which undermined the Coach and the team. Then Harbaugh was gone.
That was the end of it for me as a 49er fan. York ruined it. I will never root for them again. I root only for York's continued humiliation, which began quite nicely last season. I hope it continues forever.
Now I wasn't sure what to do. I first hoped that he would stay local, sign with the Raiders, and begin the process of rubbing York's nose in the dirt at close range. Instead, he signed with Michigan.
Of course, like any sports fan, I've always been familiar with the Wolverines. I'd watched them often, including during Harbaugh's playing days. I enjoyed the HBO documentary on the Michigan-OSU rivalry. But I had no rooting interest.
Still angry at York's stupidity, but interested in seeing the impact Harbaugh's hiring was having at Michigan, I Googled "Michigan fan blog." One of the results was Mgoblog. I clicked on the link, and I'm pretty sure I've been on the site every day since.
I was immediately very pleased at how happy and excited fans were about his hiring. Or maybe excited and happy is an understatement. Even with all of his success, Harbaugh was never fully appreciated by Bay Area fans. When he was fired, a significant portion of the 49ers fan base was actually happy about it. I think that was because this region is very impressed with itself. Many people here look at themselves as smarter and cooler than people who live elsewhere (see David Shaw's quote). Harbaugh was never cool. He didn't fit the image. As we all know, he's a somewhat awkward, possibly even geeky, football maniac. It's not cool to be a football maniac here.
But he went home a hero, and I was glad to see it. His opening press conference was awesome (a lesser athlete would've gone down). I quickly found that the more time I spent reading Mgoblog, the more interested I was becoming in Michigan football. A lot of it had to do with Harbaugh, but a lot also had to do with the blog. I was extremely impressed by the guys that ran it and the number of smart and funny commenters who seemed to know every detail about the team. And then I quickly went from being interested to being a fan. And pretty soon after that, I didn't care anymore that he had been fired by the 49ers. Being a Michigan fan was more fun.
I don't claim to rank with those of you that are alums or have been fans for years, but that doesn't matter. I'm having a great time. I was able to watch every game last season and, like most of you, agonized on signing day and follow all the recruiting news in obsessive detail. I can't wait for the next season to start. I look forward to someday making the trip to see a game in person. So thank you, Mgoblog writers and participants, for showing me what I had been missing.
I've been a cop for more than 20 years. A few years ago, I went to a burglary call at the home of a young couple who were both Michigan alums. They seemed like very nice kids, but as I looked around and noticed that their entire house seemed to be decorated in U of M memorabilia, I wondered if they might also be a little crazy. Now I know that they weren't crazy. They just loved their school. Now I get it.
Looking forward to a rewarding student athlete experience at the University of North Carolina.
I've been patient.
My credentials as a certified college hockey fan are long. I have spent seasons seeing virtually every game Michigan has played. I have traveled to college hockey games in seven states, in venues as diverse as Omaha, Marquette, Minneapolis, Madison, and even Dayton. I come from one college hockey town (Ann Arbor) and I live in another (Duluth). I have attended two Frozen Fours and many NCAA regional games. I have written loving reports on great moments in the sport's history. So know I do not say this lightly:
I have a hard time calling myself a college hockey fan right now.
Yes, this is prompted by the recent, absolutely disgusting snub of Kyle Connor from the award. Jimmy Vesey is a nice player, but the Hobey Baker has allegedly never been a career award. Awarding it to Vesey this season on the strength of 46 points and 1.39 ppg over a player who scored 71 points and half a point more per game cannot be anything other than a career achievement award or a consolation for losing to another freshman who scored exactly the same number of points last year.
But it is far more than that.
College Hockey, as an institution, seems dead-set on destroying itself. And it does so with the eager approval of much of its groupthink intelligensia that exists east of Pennsylvania.
Let's consider, for example, the unjust and completely disastrous NCAA Tournament Regional system. Much effort has been wasted discussing it, including not inconsiderable amounts of my recreational time, because there is nothing quite so idiotic as broadcasting games on television that are alleged to be the most important of the season and seeing thousands upon thousands of empty seats on ESPN.
I used the word "unjust" advisedly, because the reason the regional system persists as it does is that it actually well serves two important constituents: Small, low-money schools, which predominantly exist in the East; and larger, bigger-money schools that are also in the East.
It serves the small schools well because an empty arena is an easier place to pull an upset, especially against a #1 seed that had to fly hundreds of miles because the closer arena happens to be reserved for the hosting team. And it serves the larger Eastern schools well because most of them are clustered in such close proximity that they have not one but two regionals that they may attend in easy driving distance.
Seriously. Since the four-regional system was introduced in 2003, all "Eastern" regionals save one (there are two per year; the sole exception is Rochester in 2007) have been located within in a quadrilateral encompassed by Albany, Bridgeport, Providence, and Manchester. (The favorite regional location, Worcester, is right in the middle of that space). The longest driving distance between those cities is 2.5 hours, between Manchester and Bridgeport; all other distances are shorter.
The result is that a team like Boston College almost never has to travel far for the NCAA tournament. In fact, since the four-regional system debuted, BC has attended a regional within an hour's drive of Boston in every season except two: 2011, when they had to travel to St. Louis, and 2009, when they did not make the tournament.
In contrast, teams like Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan Tech can NEVER hope for a Regional closer than 2.5 hours away and if they make the tournament almost invariably have to travel much further. The Colorado teams only have a hope of a close regional in those rare instances one is placed in Colorado, and a team like Minnesota State can have a dream season ruined by a "luck of the draw" regional where the only available "Western" Regional is in South Bend, 8 hours away. And in this context regionals have been awarded to places like St. Louis and Cincinnatti, cities with zero college hockey support.
Plenty of better alternatives have been proposed. I've proposed them. Others have proposed them. The reason they have not been taken can no longer be attributed to "neutrality" or "let's see how this works." The reason is that the people making the choices don't care about the teams and the fans that aren't near the Eastern Regionals.
But the Frozen Four is great, right?
I dunno. Plenty of tickets are available for the Frozen Four in Tampa, which is hosting its second FF in four years. Other college hockey non-hotbed destinations include cities like Washington DC, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Since the turn of the century, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston, and Detroit (the three locii of regional college hockey, flagships of states that have most of the best teams and fanbases) have been granted five Frozen Fours total. It has been a couple of years since the FF has even sold out ahead of time; if they cared about casual fan interest, they might hold the event in places where fans actually cared.
There is a serious fanbase for the sport out "west." Despite the indignity of distant regionals, fanbases like North Dakota and Michigan regularly send thousands of people on drives of three hours or longer to watch their teams play. Michigan Tech sends large groups of fans 8 hours downstate for a holiday tournament. Places like Duluth build fancy new arenas and give their teams the star treatment.
Yet, it is harder for these fans to engage with the way the sport is structured. Right when a dedicated fan of the sport should be getting most engaged, the games are taken away from them.
Burn It All Down
I could engage in serious western suspicion of "Eastern Bias." It's getting harder, in the wake of decisions like today's, to overlook it. But Occam's Razor suggests that the conclusions I should draw as a frustrated fan are less sinister, but more discouraging: A lot of people making decisions about college hockey honestly don't care. They don't care about the product, they don't care about the teams, and they don't care about the fans.
The truly dreadful thing about this is that even corrupt leagues like the OHL seem to be better run and more authentic. They even took strong steps in a situation like what happened in Flint, leadership that does not exist in college hockey. And it sickens me to say it.
I'm never going to stop rooting for Michigan Hockey. And I'll probably continue to follow what goes on nationwide.
But I care less about the sport as a whole than I used to. And as long as the sport continues to wreck itself, many will feel the same way.
Do stupid stuff. Ruin the NCAA tournament. Choke out the Frozen Four. Let small schools with decent fans struggle and die. It's not worth my effort to pay attention. It's tempting to just say, "let it burn."
It's hard to care anymore.