i refuse to even consider this a possibility
The PAC-12 announced an enormous media deal this week that’s worth a reported $22 million per school per year. The Big 10 and SEC have monster TV deals in place that virtually ensure profitability for their member athletic departments for the near future. That’s life on the top of the FBS division, and there’s no doubt that football is the key driver of both revenue and expenses.
This diary is about the other half. The financial straights of the lower tier of FBS, specifically the MAC, Sun Belt, and post Boise State WAC are also largely driven by football. Unfortunately for them, the train has fallen off of a cliff instead of chugging towards the land of monocles and gold toilets. These schools are reduced to selling home games to artificially increase attendance numbers and playing body bag games to pad revenue.
Specifically, this is about Eastern Michigan football and EMU athletics. What, if any, benefits does the school derive and what are the costs associated with those benefits? Why do they field teams at all on the D-1 level?
College sports have a purpose. The NCAA says that its purpose and the larger point of intercollegiate athletics is to promote things like sportsmanship, integrity, the pursuit of athletic and academic excellence, respect and leadership. These are all good things to promote and I believe athletics can help cultivate those qualities. However, a good club program or the intramural programs that most universities run with student fees can accomplish the same goals and provide much greater access than D-1 athletics. Thus, in my mind, schools must derive some other benefit from D-1 athletics than simply promoting certain values in its athletes—of which Eastern has about 465.
Every FBS school should probably ask itself what benefits it derives from big-time football. It’s a shockingly expensive undertaking, can give the school tons of press (both good and bad), can generate enormous revenue, and can be a significant drain on student funds. It’s easy for the University of Michigan to make a cost-benefit analysis for its football team and athletic department in general. It generates many millions of dollars for the athletic department and is a self-sustaining enterprise. Sure, it’s attached to the school, but it costs the school nothing. The Board of Regents never needs to worry about eliminating a student program to fund football.
Eastern Michigan has a tougher time. Last year, EMU’s athletic expenses were $24.64 million, a whopping 9.2% of the school's General Fund. For a little perspective, there are about 23000 students enrolled at EMU, of which about 2% are intercollegiate athletes. They use their share of the 90.8% of the budget spent on items other than athletics, but 9.2% of the budget is used exclusively to support athletics. Sure, some of that $24 million comes out of TV deals, sponsorship, and ticket sales, but the database shows that to be only about $1.7 million. Everything else comes from the General Fund in some way. By the way, tuition went up 3.8% in 2009-10 at EMU.
However, EMU could still justify athletics if the non-monetary benefits made athletics worthwhile for the school. I think sports teams at U of M make valuable contributions to the student body. Aside from pride, I firmly believe that the Michigan diaspora—I see shirts everywhere—stays engaged with the school in large part due to the visibility of the sports teams. This has benefits for job seeking grads, networking alums, and helps donations to the school. Maybe this is the case at EMU too, but it doesn’t help too much. They only received about $3 million in gifts last year. Even if all of those were directly the result of athletics, there are still almost $20 million that the school gives each year to athletics. People don’t go to games and EMU athletics aren’t on TV unless they’re getting drilling by a Big 10 team in September.
The world has changed. Regardless of why (and let’s not get into it), Michigan doesn’t have money to waste. Why is a public university spending almost 10% of their General Fund on entities that only directly benefit 2% of the student body and don’t produce discernable benefits for the student body, alumni base, or school? Michigan and Michigan State are different. Their athletic departments aren’t a choice of resource allocation for the school. If the department closes, the money disappears. If EMU closes its athletic department, there are over $20 million, by my count, that can be reallocated to improving education, facilities, or even lowering tuition.
Why can’t EMU de-emphasize athletics and expand its club offerings? They could bus to CMU, WMU, Northern Michigan, Toledo, etc and play at a rented high school field on Saturdays. The players could work out at a student gym instead of a team gym. The same could be done with other sports. Just as many students could play, but for millions less. If I was a Regent, I’d ask why.
[ED: Moved to the diaries. This obviously took some work beyond the level of a standard post. ZL]
Part of UUDD’s argument is that player development (and, in particular, playstyle) is a driving factor behind the Big Ten outperforming (and the Big 12 underperforming) expectations with respect to defensive players and offensive lineman. Brian had an alternative/additional explanation: a combination of recruiting service bias and difficulty in evaluating high school lineman.
I think there may another element at work: scouting services overrating certain sections of the country and underrating others, particularly the Midwest. Rivals (the source of the rankings used) doesn't even have a Midwest analyst. Meanwhile, OL rankings are particularly inaccurate since many high school kids need to put on 50 pounds before they can play in college. The flipside—skill position players more easily projectable—sees a much, much lower spread amongst conferences. The worst-performing conference is the ACC at 94% of expectation; the best is the Big East at 108%. That's a much lower spread than you see in the D and OL numbers, one that looks like an even distribution distorted by a little randomness.
If there was a regional bias in recruiting rankings, hard-to-evaluate OL would be the place it would show up most prominently. I think there is. Your ratings are just wrong when Wisconsin has two four-star linemen in the last five years, as they do on Rivals. They are not evaluating linemen correctly. I'm not sure what Big 12's hole of suck on defense represents but I'd be more convinced it was a playstyle thing if they were running 3-3-5s or something. Going up against Blaine Gabbert and a bunch of other passing spreads doesn't make much difference to anyone but a few linebackers, it seems.
Not content to let our fearless MGoLeader’s assertions hang out there without poking around the data a little bit, I asked Mr. UUDD for his dataset* and set to work determining (1) whether Midwestern recruits are underrated by the recruiting services, and (2) whether offensive lineman are comparatively more difficult to evaluate.
Specifically, I looked at (1) whether non-5 star Midwestern recruits outperform the “percent drafted” expectations for their star ranking,** suggesting that Midwestern recruits are underrated, and (2) whether the spread is smaller among the “percent drafted” numbers for offensive line recruits relative to all recruits, suggesting that the rankings are relatively less accurate.
Midwestern Recruits Slightly Outperform Expectations
The first piece is that there is a bias by the recruiting services against Midwestern recruits because the services spend relatively less time and resources tracking the Midwest. That bias translates into lower recruiting rankings for Midwest recruits, resulting in underrating of those recruits. Chart:
|Recruiting Stars||Overall Percent Drafted||Midwest Percent Drafted|
Midwestern recruits of the 2-4 star variety slightly outperform draft expectations relative to their peers from other parts of the country. However, the sample sizes here are way too small to reveal whether or not this difference is significant.
Of course, the chart doesn't disprove my mildly paranoid belief that Midwesterners are consistently being slighted by the jerks on the coasts, so let's call this a win.
Note that the Midwestern 5 star recruits underperform the mean. This has no impact on the claim (5 star recruits can't be underrated), but it's interesting nonetheless. Really small samples for 5 stars is all the explanation I need.
Stars Matter Less for Offensive Line Recruits
The second piece is that the big boys are harder to evaluate because they are less prepared for college football than their smaller brethren. Offensive lineman in particular often need a redshirt and a whole lot of S&C before they can show potential. Thus, recruiting rankings for offensive lineman are less accurate because the evaluation essentially comes down to "he's big and does not apparently soil himself."
|Recruiting Stars||Overall Percent Drafted||OL Percent Drafted|
Once again, the data is consistent with the claim, but not at statistically significant levels. The spread between the chances of being drafted as a 2 star offensive lineman and a 5 star offensive lineman is much smaller than the spread for all positions. In other words, stars may matter less for the big guys, but we need more recruiting cycles to know for sure.
* Huge, huge thanks to UpUpDownDown for sharing his work. As I found out very quickly trying to replicate the dataset, the data is extremely difficult to cross reference because a lot of recruits have the same name or slightly modified their name during their college career.
** Note one small wrinkle in the dataset: players that are eligible to declare for the draft, but haven’t, are counted as undrafted. Thus, a number of players from the recruiting classes of 2008 and 2007 that will eventually be drafted are nonetheless included in the denominator, but not the numerator, in the percent drafted numbers.
Edit: More Fun
In response to comments, the following charts reflect the overall percent drafted for only the 2002-2006 recruiting classes, and the N values for each set. I agree that including '07 and '08 players that haven't declared isn't ideal, but I wanted to be able to compare apples to apples with UUDD's analysis.
|Recruiting Stars||Overall Percent Drafted|
|Recruiting Stars||02-08 Overall||02-08 Midwest||02-08 OL||02-06 Overall|
Akron Buchtel safety Jarrod Wilson (6'2", 190 lbs) has been relatively quiet about his recruitment lately. With around 15 offers already, Wilson has seen his recruitment steadily increase as we approach summer camps. I caught up with Jarrod's head coach and former Wolverine Ricky Powers. Here's a look at Wilson's film and what his coach had to say.
TOM: We haven't heard too much about Jarrod lately. I know he's kind of quiet, but do you know if he's close to narrowing his list down?
COACH POWERS: Jarrod is a smart kid, and I know he's planning on narrowing it down soon here. I don't know who it will all be narrowed down to, of course Michigan will be on the list. I think he'll have schools like Michigan, Stanford, and Notre Dame which shows you his intelligence.
TOM: What have the Michigan coaches been saying about him, and have they come down for an in school visit yet?
COACH POWERS: The [Michigan] coaches really like Jarrod. They're going through the process, making sure Jarrod knows that he's wanted and that they really like him. They haven't been down here yet, but I'm sure they will be soon.
TOM: To go back a little bit you said he's a smart kid, what all does that entail?
COACH POWERS: He's an extremely smart football player and a smart kid period. His football IQ is really high, he'll line everyone up on defense for us. We call him the quarterback of our defenses. He's probably going to be our starting quarterback going into camp, which I hope changes. Corey [Smith] is probably one of the best receivers I've ever seen, he's just a smooth receiver and his routes are flawless. I'm not just saying that because I'm his coach either, I really believe that. I also believe wherever they go they will both graduate.
TOM: You mentioned Corey Smith, Jarrod's teammate. I know they had originally said that they wanted to be a package deal and they were going to school together, is that still the case?
COACH POWERS: No, they're not a package deal. I think they wanted to do that at first, but one may not fit with the other. Corey is a great kid too, but he might have a different situation than Jarrod.
TOM: To add on to that, Jarrod does have a Michigan offer while Corey is still waiting for one to come through. Do you think they will end up offering Corey as well?
COACH POWERS: I don't think the coaches have seen a lot of film on Corey yet. I think they want to see without a doubt that he can play at Michigan. They want to see if he fits and is right for them first.
TOM: Since you are a former Michigan football player do you have any past relationships with the current coaches?
COACH POWERS: I know Coach Mattison, who is recruiting Jarrod. I've met the new head coach and I love him. His heart is in the right place and he knows what Michigan is about. One thing about Rich Rodriguez that not a lot of people get is that he did what he knew how to do and what he was successful with, it just didn't work though. I do think Brady Hoke is bringing an energy that Michigan has been missing for a long time. You can see how excited he is about it. Michigan has always been great and sometimes I've wondered if everyone is excited about it. I think he's in at a great time and I hope people understand what he brings to the table.
TOM: Is it difficult for you to separate being a coach for Jarrod and Corey from being a former Michigan athlete?
COACH POWERS: What I do with my guys, it's going to be their decision. I provide them with as much information as I can. Look, Michigan's not for everbody. The average guy can't go to Michigan. Can these two be Michigan guys, heck yeah. But I don't want to push them there because it's not my choice. If they ask me I would tell them my experience at Michigan. I know just seeing Coach Hoke I think Michigan is going to be an awesome place. Jarrod will be able to see that. He'll be able to look around and see that. None of these other schools are slouches either, they bring a lot to the table. I think Michigan is a special place, but they need to figure it out for themselves.
TOM: With Jarrod's recruitment, do you know if he has a timeline to make his final decision?
COACH POWERS: I think he has a timeline, but I try not to talk to him about it too much. He's quiet, but he's a great kid and he really will break down different things to make a decision. He'll make the right choice.
As most of you undoubtedly have, I’ve been struggling to figure out my expectations for the 2011-12 football season. On the defensive side of the ball, things are looking up. On offense, however, there are signs of inclement weather, which may pose problems come September.
Galactic Punter II aside, special teams remains the foul abode of ancient demons and Boschian nightmares. On the other hand, it's still very, very early. So I tried to work through the most plausible scenarios rationally, to assess their relative likelihood based upon what we know now, and where things may be headed. No fancy statistics or charts here, just old-fashioned logic and informed speculation. Take that with a grain of salt, and please tell me what I’ve got right and what I’ve got wrong.
1. Roses-Tinted Glasses
Scenario: Basically everything goes right. Mattison’s schemes and emphasis on fundamentals produce not improvement, but a seismic shift in our defensive performance. We tackle, we swarm and we don’t lose contain. The young, middling recruits of yesteryear turn into MEN who play MANBALL. Over on offense, Borges shows his utilitarian side, keeping plays and formations that were effective last year, but also introducing new schemes that dramatically improve our scoring efficiency and flexibility against stout defenses. A running back or two establish themselves as go-to guys, putting less pressure on Denard’s feet and keeping him healthy. Denard does still dazzle us with his running ability, but he also looks comfortable in the pocket and shows maturity as a passer. Hagerup ensures we dominate the battle for field position, and thanks to Matt Wile, we can actually kick field goals!
Record: 10-2, or a really good 9-3 in a parity-filled year, a chance to play for the inaugural Big 10 Championship game and a possible trip to Pasadena.
Odds: 9/1. Given our recent luck with injuries, a big and uncertain transition on offense and the gauntlet-style conference schedule we face, I’d rate this as possible, but highly unlikely. Too many things would have to come together: too many gaping holes on defense filled with underwhelming sophomores and rusty seniors, too many apparent problems in our execution of the West Coast offense wrapped up quickly and emphatically, too much pressure on a true freshman kicker and too many depth issues at key positions all over the field solved with fairy dust and magic wands.* Of course, surprise performances do happen from time to time. How about PennStatein 2008-9? That was a team that had been decent but kind of “meh” the year before, and had a host of pre-season issues making a championship campaign unlikely. Another example closer to home would be our 2006 team—lots of returning starters but some uncertainty based on staff changes. Still, those were teams that could consistently win with defense. We’re just not there yet. And besides, if there’s one thing we’ve come to expect in 4 of the past 5 years, it’s the ruthless smashing of dreams by Angry Michigan-Hating Gods. Don’t get your hopes up.
*An 11-1 scenario would also likely require some help, in the form of criminal charges beyond the pale of re-instatement in East Lansing, Apocalypse Tressel in Columbus and locust plagues just about everywhere else in the conference.
2. Remember the Alamo…er…Outback Bowl!
Scenario: Mattison’s coaching and more experience on the DL and in the secondary produce immediate dividends on defense. We upgrade from “historically bad” to “somewhere in the middle.” Teams just can’t score on us like they used to, we hold steady on 3rd down with some regularity and tackling is as tackling does. We adjust to life in the West Coast offense pretty well, do better in the field position battle than last year and manage to kick some field goals here and there. However, we do suffer from some transitional pains on offense, and, despite improvement, are still not great on defense.
Record: 9-3 or 8-4, with a signature win over “Little Brother” or “Ohio.”
Odds: 6/5. As I see it, this is the most likely scenario. We win a couple we’re supposed to lose, but lose at least one we’re supposed to win. Iowa and MSU, in particular, look ripe for the pickin’. Perhaps we even beat the boys from Tatville! That said, we should probably splash ourselves with the cold water of reality: our schedule is still brutal.* Going 5-3 or 4-4 against ND, SDSU, MSU, Northwestern, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and OSU seems like a plausible outcome for a team with a still-explosive-but-somewhat-slowed offense, a still-questionable-but-fast-improving defense and an extra year of experience and conditioning for our pantheon of returning starters. Beyond that lie clouds, fantastic things to stare at and imagine as corporeal, but are in actuality little more than concentrations of moisture in random shapes. This is where we appear to be headed, or perhaps more accurately, this is where we should be headed. So wax nostalgic about the Lloyd Carr years, friends, for they may be back.
3. Gator Vu All Over Again…
Scenario: Our defense may get better, but it’s still not up to snuff against proper competition. Our offense, on the other hand, has a rockier-than-hoped-for transition to Borges’ West Coast scheme. The combination of these two factors doom us to a different kind of the same mediocrity we experienced in 2010. Or, things do go according to plan, but injuries rear their ugly head and things fall apart during the toughest part of the season. Either way, at times we put it all together, and at others, nothing seems to work.
Record: 7-5 or 6-6, and a rematch with the
Odds: 9/5. Sadly, this is another plausible scenario, and an obstacle to our return to Big 10 relevancy. Basically, start with all the factors outlined in the Outback scenario, and then add a few drops of cyanide. Said cyanide can take multiple forms. Take, for example, the home-and-away factor in the pivotal 8 games mentioned above: ND, SDSU, Nebraskaand OSU are at home, and MSU, Northwestern, Iowa, and Illinoisaway. Location held constant, all those away games are winnable; playing them away makes them less so. The home games, by contrast, include the two we’re least likely to win no matter where they are played. Despite everything I said in the last entry, this is a problem. Another one is depth, and what a few unlucky injuries could mean to the best-laid plans of mice and men. Can you imagine us going 3-5 or even 2-6 across that stretch? I can. Of course, our roster doesn't appear as frighteningly thin as it was last year,* and all that experience will count for something. Hopefully it will. If not, 2011 could look a whole lot like 2010.
*It didn't look quite that bad in May 2010 either.
4. A Moonwalk to Oblivion
Scenario: In this final scenario, everything that can go wrong does. Mattison’s coaching can’t turn this ragtag bunch into anything even approaching competence, and Borges goes all square-peg-meets-round-hole on our offensive personnel. Our RBs continue to sputter, and our WRs, it turns out, really aren’t suited to a West Coast offense. Denard gets injured, or regresses into an interception machine. We still can’t kick a damned field goal.
Record: 5-7 or worse. No postseason and another hard sell on the recruiting path.
Odds: 9/1. We can sleep relatively well tonight, because this isn’t too likely. But it does happen sometimes. In 2009, Charlie Weis took a Notre Dame team stacked with upperclassmen and promptly went 6-6. Though our expectations aren’t as high or as delusionary, our schedule is likely tougher. We’ve also had a string of bad luck and poor coaching decisions the past few years, which contributed to our historically bad defenses and—in 2008 and 2009—our sputtering offenses. If this string of luck and poor decisions continues (albeit in different form), it would severely complicate the transition currently under way. As I see it, this would take another injury-and-attrition apocalypse like the one that produced our Decimated Defense in 2010 combined with another “shock-therapy” transition on offense like we had in 2008. To be frank, I don’t think it’s too likely for lightning to strike twice in two years, and a return to 2008 production is unlikely, given differences in personnel.* All that said, our vat of returning starters, apparent upgrade in defensive coaching and reassuring noises from Borges about using shotgun sets and QB keepers make this is about as likely as going to the Rose Bowl. In other words, not very.
*But the consequences would also be more painful, given what we expect from Denard n’ Co.
Inevitably, some readers will draw connections to our recent coaching change and the on-going feud between the Rich Rod loyalists and the Hoke brigade. I do have my opinions on this topic, but I’d rather not go there. Suffice to say, Rich tried his best to put something special together here, and it just didn’t turn out the way he hoped. Dave Brandon made a decision to change things because he didn’t see a roadmap to sustained success, and felt the Michiganbrand was suffering as a result. Only time will give us a concrete idea as to whether Brandonmade a good or bad decision. I’m not trying to comment on the wisdom of that decision, or lack thereof.
A narrow miss on KY QB Zeke Pike leaves Michigan looking for another quarterback in the class of 2012. While there are still some big name options left on the board, the Michigan staff is expanding their search and exploring all options. New York QB Chad Kelly (6'3", 205 lbs) is one of the prospects being evaluated. Kelly made a trip over to Ann Arbor this past Monday after taking in Purdue and Michigan State. Here's a look at his film and what he had to say about the trip.
TOM: Tell me about your trip, what did you get to see in Ann Arbor?
CHAD: We basically took a visit through everything, the academic center and the Big House.
TOM: Was that your first time in the Big House?
CHAD: Yeah it was. It was pretty sweet. I didn't realize how big it was and how if you yell it echoes within. It was just crazy how big it was, it was really special.
TOM: I know Michigan hasn't offered you yet, but what were the Michigan coaches talking to you about on the trip? Did they tell you what you need to do to earn an offer?
CHAD: Yeah, they said that I have to go to camp, but we will see after Friday. Coach Mallory will be at school on Friday to watch me throw. We talked to Coach Hoke and Coach Borges basically about the same thing.
TOM: So you might still camp then, depending on what happens Friday?
CHAD: I might be.
TOM: What was your overall impression of the trip? How did it compare to the other two visits, Purdue and MSU?
CHAD: My impression was that it was a great program and they're turning it around from the past few years. I think it compared pretty well and overall it was a good time.
TOM: For any fans that haven't seen you play, what do you think you do well and what are you working on?
CHAD: I think my strengths are keeping the play alive and looking downfield to throw. I'm working on better decision making and for people that might not think I'm a pro style quarterback I have a very strong arm.
TOM: I'm sure you get asked this in every interview, but I have to ask if your uncle, former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly, has been helping you through this process.
CHAD: Yeah he has. He's helped me with knowing where to go check out and everything. Sometimes I work out with the Bills and get insight on everything so that helps too.
TOM: As far as your overall recruiting process, do you have a timeline set or do you know when you want to make your decision?
CHAD: In the process I'm just checking everything out, trying to find the pros and cons of all these schools. I will make my decision before the season though.
TOM: What about narrowing down your list, do you plan on doing that soon?
CHAD: Yes, right after my visit to Alabama in early June.
[ed: press release. dump all your "he's not working out!" hopes]
May 4, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan sophomore guard Darius Morris (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward HS) has decided to forego the remainder of his college eligibility and remain as an early entry for the 2011 NBA Draft.
"There have been long discussions with my family, friends and my Michigan coaches," said Morris. "After gathering all the information possible, I have decided to stay in the NBA Draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball.
"This was a difficult decision; however, in the end I decided to go with my heart. Playing professional basketball has always been a dream for me. I feel this is the right time for me to pursue that goal. It will be hard to leave the University of Michigan; however, I truly believe the basketball program is moving in a very positive direction.
"First of all I want to thank everyone at the University of Michigan and all its great fans. I would not be in the position I am today without the guidance of Coach (John) Beilein and his staff. I appreciate all the support I have received from all my teammates and everyone involved with the program. I will forever be a Michigan Wolverine. Lastly, and most importantly, I must thank God for blessing me with this opportunity."
"We, as a staff, have watched Darius grow as a person and as a player these past two years," said U-M head coach John Beilein. "His improvement on the court has been the result of his God-given talent and his intense desire to become the best player he can be. His work habits, especially in our individual skill development time, have been outstanding, and we all witnessed the results of his efforts this season.
"Over the past month, we have worked with the NBA advisory committee and several NBA teams by gathering information to assist Darius and his family in exploring his options. We know they put a lot of thought into this important decision.
"Darius has been a catalyst in the continued growth of our program and we wish him nothing but the best in his professional basketball career and beyond. He will always be a Michigan Wolverine."
Morris, who was an All-Big Ten Conference third team selection by both the coaches and media, helped the Wolverines to a 21-14 record and a trip to the NCAA Tournament third round in 2010-11. He recorded the largest margin of improvement in scoring in the Big Ten, jumping from 4.4 points per game as a freshman to a team-best 15.0 points per game this past season.
Morris broke the U-M season record for assists with 235, becoming just the third Wolverine to record 200-plus assists in a season. He recorded the third triple-double in U-M history with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Iowa (Jan. 30). Morris tallied seven double-digit assist games, including a career-best 12 helpers against Concordia (Dec. 6) and Bryant (Dec. 20). Overall, Morris led the Big Ten with 6.71 assists per game, putting him fifth in the nation.
In two seasons in Ann Arbor, Morris started 53 of 67 career games, compiling 666 career points (9.9 ppg), 197 rebounds (2.9 rpg) and 319 assists (4.76 apg).
The NBA Draft, comprised of two rounds and 60 total selections, will be held Thursday, June 23, at The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.