Two announcements have come out today regarding Michigan baseball with the announcement of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America's Preseason All-American list and the location of the BigTen Tournament.
Picture by Chris Dzombak
As far as the Preseason All-Americans, Michigan centerfielder Ryan LaMarre was named to the 3rd team of the All-American list. Last season, LaMarre his .344 with 55 runs, 11 doubles, 12 home runs, and 62 RBIs. LaMarre also performed well in the Cape Cod League, college baseball's most prestigious summer league, to help bolster his resume.
"This is a great honor for Ryan with the success he has had in his first two seasons," commented head coach Rich Maloney. "He is a very gifted athlete who we are looking toward for big things this season in helping our team win and reach our goals."
Congratulations to Ryan and good luck next season.
In other news, the BigTen announced today that they will indeed play the next three BigTen Conference Baseball Tournaments in Columbus. This year's game will be held at Bill Davis Stadium, on the campus of Ohio State, and the 2011 and 2012 tournaments will be held at Huntington Park, home to the Columbus Clippers and site of last year's conference tournament, located just 3 miles from the OSU campus.
This is disappointing from a Michigan fan's perspective, but I'm sure it makes the most monetary sense. The BigTen tried to solicit bids from different communities with ballparks that would be suitable to host the tournament, and I can't imagine they received too many bids.
That's 3.6 miles for those counting.
Columbus is the only BigTen team that is both in contention to play in the conference tournament year-in-and-year-out and has a ballpark that could offer a sizeable bid. East Lansing and Penn State aren't quite consistent enough to be guaranteed a spot in the tournament, which means they could end up hosting a tournament without any local support. The rest of the BigTen teams would have to host the tournament at their own facility, something that doesn't always mean profit.
So we're stuck with Columbus for the next three years.
Sigh… 65 days until baseball season.
Unless there is a football power that is available (as Penn State was in the early 90s), the most salient selection criteria should be something along the lines of "institutional similarity" to the schools in the Big Ten. For the most part, the Big Ten is comprised of flagship state schools with very good to excellent academics, research prowess, and well-rounded athletic prowess, in no particular order (were I to pick an order, I would say the first two criteria are prerequisites, but that's just my particular bent). Extra considerations are rivalries with league schools, proximity, and the catchall category of "soft variables."
ACADEMICS AND RESEARCH PROWESS
Colorado is no slouch. It was ranked #77 by U.S. News in national universities, and has strong graduate programs in law, engineering, geology, physics, and education. Additionally, it is affiliated with the AAU.
The football team was a national power in the 1990s, and remains a solid program, with a large national alumni base, and better national brand recognition than any of the schools under serious consideration (with the exception of Nebraska, which is not really under serious consideration).
RIVALRIES WITH LEAGUE SCHOOLS
Michigan fans of a certain vintage break out into a cold sweat at the very mention of the names Kordell Stewart and Micheal Westbrook, and the (in)glorious 64 yard hail mary. The 1994 game was one is a series of good games, including 1996, when Michigan got revenge at Boulder, and in 1997 when Michigan steamrolled Colorado, making it clear the '97 team was special.
There is admittedly not much beyond that, other than a Wisconsin-Colorado bowl game from the early 00s. But other than PSU-Pitt, no other team under consideration offers the rivalry factor, and you have to go back even further (i.e., the early 80s) to find a time when said rivalry had national implications.
Under the rubric of rivalries, it is worth mentioning that only one of Colorado's true rivals (Nebraska) are in the Big 12. They could open the season with Colorado State, as they have always done, and schedule Nebraska non-conference from time to time.
I have been to Boulder, and it feels like a Big Ten campus to me. A great college town. Also lefty, hip, and scenic. Lots of places to see live music, etc. Periodic road trips to Boulder beat trips to Syracuse or Pittsburg, for damn true.
I think that it also has the potential to raise the national profile of the Big Ten in a way few other schools can do. Neither Pitt or Syracuse has the national footprint that Colorado has. An average nationally televised conference game with Colorado has a better chance of getting national exposure than either Syracuse or Pitt (or, for that matter, Missouri).
Geographically, this is a stretch, but maybe not all that much of a stretch if Nebraska and Missouri are in contention.
Football Foursome Named to Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – University of Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch HS), wide receiver Roy Roundtree (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison HS), outside linebacker Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral HS) and safety Jordan Kovacs (Curtice, Ohio/Clay HS) were selected to the Freshmen All-Big Ten Team announced today (Dec. 16) by Sporting News. The Wolverines’ four honorees were more than any other Big Ten Conference school.
Roundtree was the team’s top offensive performer at the end of the season, catching 30 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns in the final four contests. He finished the year as the Wolverines’ top receiver with 32 receptions for 434 yards (13.6 avg.) and three touchdowns. Roundtree played in 11 games at slot receiver and started the final four contests as a redshirt freshman.
Forcier started at quarterback from wire-to-wire for the Wolverines, completing 165-of-281 passes (58.7 pct.) for 2,050 yards and 13 touchdowns. He carried the ball a team-high 118 times for 240 yards and scored three touchdowns. Forcier directed a pair of fourth quarter comebacks (Notre Dame and Indiana) during his initial campaign and had five games with 200 or more passing yards. He joined Chad Henne as the only true freshmen quarterbacks in school history to start every game during the season.
Roh is the first true freshman defensive player to start every game during the regular season. He posted 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and three pass breakups during his rookie season. Roh registered a career high seven stops against Eastern Michigan (Sept. 19), including his first career interception and an assisted sack. He added five-tackle efforts against Purdue (Nov. 7) and Ohio State (Nov. 21).
A walk-on who kept making plays each and every week, Kovacs earned eight starts at safety and played in all 12 games on special teams. He finished the year second on the team with 75 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, one interception and forced two fumbles. He had three double-digit tackle efforts, including a league season-best 17 tackles and 2.5 TFLs at Michigan State (Oct. 3). Kovacs was named to the CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America second team squad.
Graham and Mesko Add to All-America Accolades: Senior defensive end Brandon Graham (Detroit, Mich./Crockett Technical HS) was named to SI.com’s All-America second team and fifth-year senior punter Zoltan Mesko (Twinsburg, Ohio/Twinsburg HS) collected second-team accolades from Phil Steele. Graham earned a fourth-team nod from Phil Steele while Mesko received honorable mention status from SI.com.
Congrats to those guys. For anyone questioning whether or not Michigan was a very young team this year, that's the most All-conference selections of any B10 squad. A couple others had 3 selections.
- I represent the persecuted minority. Woe is us, the playoff deniers. I recognize that the tide is against those of us who would prefer not to turn to a playoff in college football. In order to pander to the majority, idealogues like Dan Wetzel and Pat Forde condescend to those of us who disagree. I believe that a playoff is inevitable, somewhere down the line, due to the tide of support for it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or not go down swinging. But in order to be heard, it sometimes requires drastic measures.
- Gumdrop rainbow playoff ideas. Hardly a day goes by without someone inventing their own playoff. Having come up with their own special proposal and convinced themselves it's perfect, they become entrenched. "I have a great idea, therefore I'm in favor of a playoff." The problem is, people approach it like this:
- I see problems, X, Y, and Z with the current system.
- Here is a system that fixes X, Y, and Z.
They have given zero thought to the actual realities the NCAA operates under. They might fix X, Y, and Z but they break A, B, and C. They come up with ideas that break NCAA bylaws, ignore the considerations that the power brokers deal with, force unrealistic expectations onto the scene, and generally fail to take into account most of the factors that drive the situation. Some are just playoffs for the sake of playoffs. Extremely rare is the playoff proposal that it's not easy to poke a ton of holes in at first sight. Extremely rare is the playoff proposal that the NCAA and conference commissioners wouldn't round-file the moment they saw it. But everyone from POTUS on down has their gumdrop rainbow idea that they like, and having presented it, they see no reason why it shouldn't be implemented and therefore they are playoff advocates.
Even I have my own gumdrop rainbow idea, but it doesn't make me a playoff advocate - I recognize that what I want and what playoff eventually emerges are likely to be wildly different. I suspect many people will find that the end result is as disappointing to them as the current system. At least, though, I've tried to take what I think is the correct approach when designing a playoff, which is to try to think through what the commissioners and presidents would want out of it and then apply those rules to fit what I want into them, rather than start with my own burning desires and convince myself that the result is workable.
- The BCS folks are idiots. The anti-playoff arguments they come up with are at best hit-and-miss and at worst totally off-mark. They aren't much better at thinking through the eyes of a fan than the fans are at thinking through the eyes of the commissioners. Someone has to take up their slack.
- Get off my lawn. I'm a traditionalist at heart, and college football has the best ones. I don't like the idea that we must tear down the old ways because somewhere along the line, we decided the national title is all that matters. And further, many people think you can have it both ways. Well, you might be able to, but not through the methods most propose. Again, I suspect many would find themselves disappointed when the presence of a playoff removes some aspect of college football they thought would be kept. In any case, though, I'm kind of reflexive about it - the default setting should be to keep what you've got if there are doubts, because once you change, you can't go back.
I don't think the BCS is the perfect system, and it could always use a fix here and there. But anti-playoff is not pro-status-quo - an assumption made by too many. That assumption, and others like it, permeate the pro-playoff ranks, and, because those ranks are the majority, are too often accepted as the truth. Too many wrong ideas about why we don't have a playoff and why we should are in every debate. I just can never resist shooting them down.
I recommend that when the Big Ten accepts a 12th team, they initiate a division system that goes outside the box of what has been done before. Instead of having permanent divisions, the divisions should be rotating and determined by conference record in previous seasons. Originally, I thought that the divisions should be reformed after each season, but Seth9 convinced me that a rotation occurring every two seasons was best.
For example, if this system had been in place in 2007 (with a hypothetical 12th team of course) the divisions would have looked like this in 2009:
(Combined Conference Standing from 2007 and 2008 in Parenthesis)
(1) Ohio State
(n/a) 12th Team
Based on this break down, OSU and Iowa would have faced off in the Championship Game (which should be held in Lucas Oil Stadium in my opinion). Again this does not factor in the 12th team, but I wanted to give a tangible example of how this would work.
These divisions would remain like this for the 2010 season, and then be reconfigured again based on the combined conference records from 2009/2010.
On to the analysis:
The major issues that have been brought up by quite a few people in regards to expansion is how to deal with The Game (in addition to other current rivalries).
Most say that UM-OSU need to be in the same division so that they can continue to play on the last week of the regular season without the risk that they will have to play again in the Championship. However, there is another group that thinks that putting UM-OSU on the same side will create a Texas-Oklahoma situation, where you have one extremely strong division that basically beats the hell out of the the other division in the Championship game (yes I know Nebraska used to be really good and I know Kansas State beat Oklahoma once, but in general the North has been terrible the last few years).
In my opinion, rotating divisions is the best compromise possible in a situation where no one is going to be completely satisfied. Some years UM-OSU would end up playing twice in one season and other times one of them would get screwed because they are on a side with the two best teams.
I'm just not okay with saying that OSU, MSU, UM have to be on the same side because they are rivals and have to play every year. Yes, I completely understand the importance of rivalries, but if the Big Ten tries to make divisions that way they will end up with an unbalanced conference, which is a nightmare scenario IMO.
With the rotating divisions, each team would obviously play every other team on their side. They would then each be allowed one permanent opponent (UM-OSU, Minn-Wisconsin, etc) from the other side. If you really wanted to make an effort to preserve all the rivalries in the Big Ten, you could even allow teams to have an alternate permanent opponent that they could play if their first choice is already on their side. For example, when UM and OSU are on the same side, UM could be guaranteed a game against MSU (assuming they are on the other side). I know this is starting to sound pretty confusing, but a lot of things about conference rules and scheduling is confusing.
That about sums up my thoughts on the rotating divisions concept, so I will now turn it over to the MGOBLOG community for examination. I realize that this is extremely unlikely to ever become reality, so some of you may find talking about it a waste of time. But I was bored, didn't want to work on a term paper, and wanted to see what people thought so here it is.
System One: Win-Based
Bottom 5 of the FBS:Eastern Michigan (0-12)
Western Kentucky (0-12)
Miami (Not That Miami) (1-11)
Washington State (1-11)
New Mexico (1-11)
Top 5 (6) of the FCS:
Montana (14-0) - In Championship Game
Villanova (13-1) - In Championship Game
Richmond (11-2) - Lost to App State
Southern Illinois (11-2) - Lost to W&M
William&Mary (11-3) - Lost to Villanova
Appalachian State (11-3) Lost to Montana
Win by Montana would drop out S. Illinois, win by Villanova would drop out Richmond.
System Two: Sagarin Rankings-Based
Bottom 5 Sagarin FBS (it is unlikely these will change):
Western Kentucky: 192
Eastern Michigan: 182
North Texas: 162
New Mexico State: 152
Miami (Not That Miami): 150
Top 5 Sagarin FCS (these might change next weekend):
Appalachian State: 75
So let's say we combined these two lists and dropped the bottom four out of the FBS, just for the sake of making promotion simple. EMU, W. Kentucky, Miami (Not That Miami), and NM State all appear on both lists, and would get bumped down to FCS. Montana, Villanova, William & Mary, and Appalachian State, the top four teams in the FCS playoff, would be brought up to replace. The teams would take opened spots in the most local conferences, replacing the bumped teams on the conference schedules.
William & Mary and Villanova would trade conferences with EMU and Miami, because of location. W. Kentucky would switch with App. State, again due to location, and Montana would switch with NM State.
If the FCS teams managed to win the next year, they would make the cut and get to stay. If they didn't, they would just get bumped back down into their old conferences. The old FBS teams would be required to make the final four in the FCS in order to move up again.
I feel like this would liven up competition in the FCS as well as lighting a fire under the bottom-rung teams in the FBS. Probably will never happen, but wouldn't it be an amazing change?