go go go
You’ll have to excuse the Big 10 if they feel a little bit like the counselors from Camp North Star as the league heads into the final night of this year’s Big 10/ACC Challenge.
What, you don’t remember Camp North Star? It’s from the late 1970s comedic classic Meatballs, one of Ivan Reitman’s first breakthrough films. The movie was a pretty standard, slapstick comedy revolving around the antics of the goofiest set of camp counselors ever assembled. It’s one of Bill Murray’s first starring roles, debuting a year before Caddyshack and Carl Spackler was introduced into the world.
One of plot lines of the movie was the camp’s rivalry with the more ritzy and glitzy Camp Mohawk from across the lake. Each year the camps competed in an Olympiad. And, each year Mohawk drubbed North Star like a drum.
That’s how the Big 10/ACC Challenge has played out over the years. The ACC, the more tradition rich and talented league in basketball, has won this challenge, often with ease, every year since its inception. Camp North Star versus Camp Mohawk. Big 10 versus ACC. The results are the same every year.
That might be changing this season. Heading into the final night, the leagues are actually tied at three wins apiece. This is newsworthy because it puts a little drama into tonight’s actions. Usually, the ACC is so far ahead that nothing short of a sweep on the final night would do it for the Big 10.
In the movie, Tripper (Murray’s character) inspired his legion of underdogs with a stirring pep talk, claiming it does not matter if they win or lose and repeating the phrase ‘it just doesn’t matter’ until the whole room joined him.
So, does it even matter if the Big 10 wins this challenge? Probably not. I doubt come March that a random Big 10 team will sneak into the field of 65 based solely on the fact that their conference won the Big 10/ACC Challenge. But, for the individual teams there is a lot at stake.
Ohio State and Minnesota will be two teams sitting on the bubble throughout the winter and their wins last night against Miami and Virginia respectively will only enhance their resume. On the other hand, Purdue, a trendy final four pick, has now lost consecutive high profile games. The drubbing Duke gave them last night--on their home floor none the less—could hurt their seeding in March and make their trek through the brackets even tougher. Illinois, which had been creating a nice resume on their own with some hard fought November wins, let a crucial game slip away at home last night against Clemson. Ohio State and Minnesota boosted their resumes, while Illinois did not. All three clubs figure to be bubble teams and last night’s results could be revisited when the selection committee convenes.
In tonight’s action, there really is not that much at stake for the Big 10 teams. Indiana, Penn St and Northwestern are tournament long shots, at best. Their resumes ultimately will be irrelevant. Michigan St, barring an unprecedented winter collapse, will be in the field regardless of how their showdown with the Tar Heels goes. That leaves one team with a lot of stakes on the line tonight: Michigan.
When Michigan and Maryland play each other tonight, two teams looking to regain former glory will but heads. We all know about UM’s tourney drought, but the Terps, despite being a program that’s considered a power, have missed three of the last four NCAA Tournaments. Both teams are also looking to rebound a little after following impressive victories earlier in the year with ‘meh’ follow up games.
Michigan may have the signature win of the season with their upset of UCLA. But, Michigan was totally outclassed by Duke in their next game and needed overtime to avoid an upset at the hands of Savannah State over the weekend. Maryland, meanwhile, may have the second most noteworthy win of the year when they upset Michigan State on Thanksgiving Day. But, they followed that up by being blown out by Gonzaga and Georgetown.
There is more positive buzz around these programs than originally expected because of those upsets, but the loser tonight risks giving up all that good will. That big November win will be looked upon as a fluke. Both of these teams could spend all season on the bubble, so their head to head outcome will trumpet one program and dog the other all winter long.
For Michigan, this is the front end of an important week as the WolverineS host Duke in a rematch on Saturday. If Michigan can get at least one win this week, they’ll probably be considered a tourney team in most of the early field of 65 projections. Coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, just positioning itself to be a member of the tournament field when the league season begins would be a pretty big step towards ending the decade long absence from March Madness.
According to the experts in the desert, Maryland is favored tonight by 6 points. That’s a pretty reasonable line for a home team to be laying in a fairly even matchup. I like the Wolverines chances tonight, not only to cover the spread, but notch the outright win. The Terps are a perfect matchup for Michigan.
Maryland is a doughnut team, meaning they have no center. They have a #4 playing the #5 and a #3 playing the #4. That works to Michigan’s advantage as they’ve vulnerable to big, bruising and banging teams. That description does not fit the Maryland Terrapins. Michigan might have an edge in the frontcourt, given the scoring and overall sound play they’ve been getting from DeShaun Sims, who will be a sixth man of the year candidate if he keeps up his good play.
Maryland’s best player, Grevais Vasquez, is a turnover machine. The Terps take a lot of bad shots. Both of those will come into play tonight under the scrutiny of UM’s 1-3-1 zone defense. Neither team is very deep, but Michigan has shown a lot more second half legs than Maryland. Plus, the Terps could still be worn out from the grueling weekend tournament they took part in, during which they played MSU, Gonzaga and Georgetown. I would be surprised if Michigan was not the fresher team this evening.
Michigan will have the best player on the floor tonight in Manny Harris. With Sims, they might even have the second best. As long as they don’t shrink in the moment of a tough a road environment, I think Michigan can pull away and win the second half.
As for the rest of the Big 10 tonight, it does not look as rosy.
Camp North Star finally beat Camp Mohawk because the scrappy Rudy Gardner won the final event, a distance race through the woods. The Big 10 will need to channel a whole bunch of Rudy Gardner to come out ahead. Indiana will be taken behind the woodshed tonight by Wake Forest. Expect the Deacons to win by at least 20 points. Penn St has shown some scoring acumen this year, but I don’t like their chances in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. Northwestern at least is playing at home, and are slight favorites actually over Florida St. Still, the Noles will have too much in the end.
The marquee game is UNC and MSU playing in front of 70,000 fans at Ford Field. The Spartans will have a nice home court edge, but nobody expects that to really help. UNC is a whopping 10-point favorite tonight. I am not sold on MSU just yet. I’d be impressed if Raymar Morgan stays out of foul trouble and his coach’s doghouse long enough to keep this game close.
But, like Tripper said, it just does not matter if the Big 10 tops the ACC in this challenge. That scoreboard tally won’t mean much come March.
But, the outcome specifically of the Michigan/Maryland contest will loom large and matter in a few months.
This is going to be long. It will contain a lot of elements that are probably only personally important and may at times be only slightly related to the title of the Diary. So, I apologize in advance for that (but, hey, it's a diary), and offer up front a link to the auctions. It begins with Lot 261 and ends with 290. Contained within is the greatest collection of Michigan Football programs in the world. More extensive than even the Bentley Historical Library. Even if you have no intention of bidding, it is a fascinating look at a collection that, for at least a few more days, I can proudly claim is a party of my family.
This post has three purposes, I suppose. First, I would like to recognize and honor my father's uncle for compiling this amazing collection. Secondly, as mentioned above, I want to share the digital likeness of the collection to those interested in Michigan football enough read diary entries composed by complete strangers on a blog dedicated to a collective passion. Finally, I'd like to simply mark this as a somber turning point in my relationship with Michigan Football (or rather, Michigan Football's relationship with me). Note: that last point has nothing to do with on-field results.
The reason I am here now, typing this, is because my father carried me into Michigan Stadium on his shoulders before I was able to walk up all those steps myself and continued to bring me along for the following 16 years. The reason he did that was because his father did the same for him.
My grandfather and his brother had been going to games for 60+ years each until their minds and bodies failed to allow them to continue. Throughout this time, my great-uncle took up collecting programs. I'm not sure if he started with the intent of amassing a Michigan Football Program Collection and in the process branched out into other sports and events, or if he started with a broad focus and decided to pay particularly close attention to the Michigan Football programs. Either way, he ended up with a program collection to rival any other, private or public. A couple of stories to illustrate just how impressive it is:
- There are only two copies of this program known to be in existence. At one point, he had both of them. He gave the other to a friend of his who also collected programs, and that friend still has it.
- I remember walking through Crisler, probably about 15 years ago now, and they always had those somewhat cheesy museum-like display cases in the concourse. There was one with the Little Brown Jug and a program from the game where that legend was born. The University borrowed that program from my great-uncle.
- He had duplicates of many of his programs. On one occassion, someone inquired about a 1950s Red Wings/Maple Leafs program, and since my great-uncle had two of them, he was willing to sell. They had not yet discussed a price when gentleman came to his house to pick up and pay for the program. My great-uncle allowed the man to name his own price, which he did, at "seven fifty." He wrote a check and left. My great-uncle was shocked when he looked at the check and saw $750.00, as he was happy to let the guy buy it for $7.50.
Even after he stopped going to games several years ago, his connections in the M community and the program collecting community were such that people would buy and mail him copies to ensure that the collection continued to grow. It had long been a hope of mine that when he decided he could not keep up with it, he would entrust my father and I with its upkeep. I probably laid waste to those hopes when I decided to leave the state for college. Despite his own daughters attempting to dissuade him from selling the collection, even putting in a good word for me without my solicitation, he has, obviously, decided to sell. While this saddens me deeply, my respect and reverence for him will not allow me to question his decision. But it does sever the last special tie to the Michigan program and community that my family had.
The first in a series of unfortunate events was my great-uncles fraternity brother committing suicide around 1999-2000. Mr. Calhoun and his bus doubling as a mural to honor the vast history of Michigan football (parked in front of Crisler, right by the main entrance, I'm sure some of you were familiar with it) was the epicenter of my Michigan tailgating experience. It was never the same tailgating without "The Bus."
A few years later, when I moved south for college, my parents shortly followed and my dad was forced to give up our Section 18, Row 20, Seats 9-10. The ones where I cheered for Jamie Morris and learned more players' names at age 4 than most of the grown ups around me; The ones I cried in when Miami came back to win in '88; The ones I watched some other team from Florida tear us apart a couple years later; The ones where I saw Kordell's prayer answered in '94; And the ones where I saw Desmond streak down the sideline against OSU in '91 and Charles do his finest recreation six years later.
That was difficult enough to let go of, but when my gradnfather gave up his season tickets a few years later, after sixty-some-odd years of going to games, it was nearly devastating.
And now, with the program collection being auctioned off, my special connection with Michgan football has probably come to a close. Now, I'll just have to be happy being a "normal" obsessed fan and be content with sharing stories of days gone by.
Lo! Praise and heraldry of the glorious Wolverines has been heard far and wide. Our standard is bright among stars and without peer on this earth! Bring forth your ears with great intent as tales of majesty resound in your mind, for darkness endeavors to consume it. Whence does this commendation arrive in most timely fashion? Reason spake thus: None of humanity but the glorious spirit of Michigan is worthy of praise.
The power and virtue of these lofty Michigan Men has driven them far and wide. Compassionate stewards of Prometheus's flame, into lands most foul they bring glory and greatness unto the unwashed hordes of our vulgar cousins. Though by the nature of those vile knaves who dwell in pestilence shall our heroes' offerings be rejected. Wherefore, then, traverse they thus? Reason spake anew: That which is noble shall ever drive itself into the wicked; light shall proceed into darkness and vanquish it with hasty abandon.
Through battles in sight of the eternal sun and under shadow of cloud or cover have our heroes made their mark. Forsooth! Many a time have they triumphed o’er the profane masses of otherlings. The most recent siege and assault having ceased at Columbus, the Great Rodriguez returned our heroes from the darkest absence of civilization known to man—yet darkness persists therein. Verily, oh brothers and sisters, have the blackened hearts of the weak become many and, by virtue of their numbers alone, grown strong.
And now we, the witnesses to those mighty Michigan Wolverines, in their pride and prime, who, albeit untriumphantly, gave their greatness to the worthy cause of forwarding the Michigan spirit face a dilemma of our own. Shall we despair and flounder at the enormity of the loss? Though we writhe rightly in agony, there is no need to let the shadow into your soul. Though some have already, by corruption’s cruel forces, crashed ruinously into shambles and scattered as sheep with smote shepherd—though they have perished, shall we follow suit and plunge headlong into the void? No! I implore you, though the skies may crumble around you, stand tall and with proud heart! Thus shall we remain ever-full of vitality. Yet a doubt persists—what to do with those emptied husks of the once-proud?
We must strive against those agents of contagion, who seek to undermine the Michigan spirit! Combat their villainy at every turn! Let not fools with the minds of embittered servants tarnish what we know to be ultima virtus. We, the proud and mighty Wolverines, are not creatures of reaction! No! For we are masters of our own destiny, and masters of our values, too, so none but ourselves must define for us our worth among men—we alone are worthy! Our great leaders of yore boast peerless influence among the unfallen in what this greatest of enterprises, this collegiate football, has been and has become, that those who challenge our greatness must also challenge that by which they endeavor to glorify themselves. Fools! Their scorn is akin to a child’s cursing of the gods or a shallow man’s quest to conquer nature itself—enterprises doomed from the start and amounting to nothing but desolation of petty souls.
With these words I bid you farewell, oh brothers and sisters. We are one in our glory, made strong by the spirit that binds us; that bind made strong by the noble ones who came before us; and those noble ones made strong by the merit of their actions performed for one sake—the glory of Michigan! Be swayed not by the doubters and the haters, those envious spirits who mock us in their forged vanity. We remain now and forever worthy of pride and glory, we Michigan Men!
Hail! Hail to Michigan!
Drew Sharp is at it again. http://www.freep.com/article/20081201/COL08/81201092/1048/SPORTS
The gist of the article: RichRod better watch the ND situation closely and learn something from it, otherwise he will be out the door sooner rather than later.
Let's examine the claims. On RichRod:
"He came to Michigan a year ago extraordinarily confident in his role as a revolutionary. He scoffed at those who questioned his strategic intellect because he never doubted for an instant that he was the smartest football guy in any room he entered."
Huh? Where was the scoffing? Where does the claim about him thinking he is the smartest football guy in the room come from? Sure, he is confident; would you hire him if he weren't?. But beyond that?
"Rodriguez passed the buck. He indirectly blamed Lloyd Carr’s suspect recruiting — in what were, nonetheless, highly ranked classes the previous two years — for his first-year transitional difficulties. He chastised fans for what he deemed unrealistic expectations for a new coach stripping a program of its reliable, though staid, personality. Even though he was pretty much correct on both counts, it nonetheless comes across as arrogantly selfish and unaccountable."
Why does the press do this? If Sharp had listened to any one of RichRod's press conferences, he would have heard him repeatedly saying the coaches have to do better and that at the end of the day, he is the head person and most accountable for what has taken place. Repeatedly.
One time, he made the mistake of saying he thought they were short a few players (they are). And perhaps he chastised some fans by saying that people who say awful things to coaches should "get a life". The press takes these comments and blows them up to make news, repeating the untruths until they believe them themselves, distorting reality such that it is little wonder why people bother speaking to them. Journalists complained about lack of access in the Lloyd era, and then, given more access, utilize it to invent this type of tripe about the subject of their venom.
The result of all of this criticism will soon be clear: RichRod will slowly provide less and less access to the press. Who wouldn't? And then we'll soon see an article from Drew Sharp about how RichRod has changed.
And the final dumb quote:
"Michigan should watch closely how Notre Dame resolves the Weis conflict because it’ll next make that same determination — perhaps as early as next year if Rodriguez doesn’t reverse this season’s slide."
Why should Michigan watch closely as Notre Dame fires a coach they overpaid who, in his fourth year, has shown an inability to build a consistent winner? That frankly did much better when his players were trained by another coach? And the thought that Michigan would fire RichRod after two years is so asinine that it should not find its way into print. Why does the Freep keep paying for this substitute for journalism? Or perhaps this is just what journalism is, and always will be: sensational instead of informative, extreme instead of intelligent.
What an ass.
I know that yet another retrospective/plea for patience with Rich Rodriguez is probably overkill, but after continuing to read comments to the effect that RR is “on notice” if he doesn’t turn this team around by the end of next year or, at the most generous, year 3, I couldn’t help but put these thoughts down. If you’ve had enough with this debate and want to instead focus on recruiting, UM Hoops, or playing more Literati, by all means skip this article.
Notre Dame and Nebraska, two schools that hold special places in UM’s fans spleens (Nebraska because of the MNC, Notre Dame because disliking arrogant, overly-pious Midwesterners never goes out of style). Both used to dominate college football, and yet now both are middling through a near-decade of abject mediocrity and irrelevance. And the one aspect that really stuck out to me was the diminished patience both teams have had with their head coaches, especially when said coaches are trying to install new systems or, at the very least, transition away from an ultra-conservative one currently installed.
First take a look at Nebraska – They won 3 NCs under Tom Osborne, who then retired and ushered in the Frank Solich era. Though he had some notable flameouts (against Miami in 2001, 2003 against, well, everyone at the end of the year), the guy still went 58-19 but was canned for not winning “enough.” So in comes Bill Callahan, a hot-shot NFL OC who tries to drag Nebraska into the 21st century with the introduction of the forward pass on 1st and 2nd down. With virtually no viable receivers on the team, difficult recruiting hurdles (Lincoln is a nice city, but no picnic), and an administration/fan base unaccustomed to such sweeping change, he was let go after going 27-22. Now they have Bo Pelini, who has gone 8-4 this season and, I am sure, will start hearing the cries for his removal if he continues the team’s struggles against OU, Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri, etc.
Now let’s look at Notre Dame – They won a butt load of NCs under Rockne, Leahy, and Parseghian (a butt load defined as 9), then 1 each under Devine and Holtz. Holtz retires, though, and is replaced by Bob Davie, who proceeds to go 35-25 but loses too many games against ranked opponents (even though his seasons were pretty consistent with respect to Holtz’s last few years), and Ty Willingham steps in. Bringing in a West Coast offense that many NFL players have trouble adapting to, he was given all of 3 seasons to implement this system with players previously culled for an option attack, and not surprisingly went 21-15. So then comes Charlie Weis, who is currently 28-21 in 4 seasons but who also tried to implement a completely new pro-style offense (which worked with an NFL-quality QB and at least some players recruited to play a similar style of offense) with a horrendous offensive line and a freshman quarterback who may be one of the more overrated high school “phenoms” in recent memory. In all likelihood, Weis will be gone before you finish reading this article.
Notice a theme here – a new coach comes in for a retired “legend”, and after trying to win using the old system is replaced by someone with a “hot” new system that is strikingly different from past regimes. After some initial success with a veteran team, though, fans become disillusioned and charge that this coach needs to go because his system doesn't work, even though in the most generous of circumstances it would take at least 2 years for the right types of players to be integrated into the new system. Yet, instead of employing well-rationed patience, the coaches are let go, a new coach is entrusted to step in an employ a new, “better” system, and the fan base lines up for another spin on the Carousel of Mediocrity.
So what does all of this mean for UM? I'm deathly afraid that a similar fate will befall the UM program and its faithful. Sure, UM wasn’t running the option under Carr, but the conservative pro-style offense he employed never meshed well with the spread, especially the one run by RR. Next year, this offense will either be run by a second-year player with Exploding Elbow problems or a true freshman, and the defense will suffer losses at its one consistently good area (DL). So miracles probably won’t happen. That brings us to the aforementioned 3rd Year of Judgment, and with it cries that RR's system doesn't “work” in the Big Ten, that the experiment has failed and some new coach, with some new system, should step in. Of course, that new coach, let's call him “Smes Smiles”, will step into a program with a bunch of midget WRs, a scrambling QB, and a bunch of scatter backs and try to run a pro-style offense. You see where I'm going with this? Heck, at least above-named coaches enjoyed some early success because they inherited veterans teams; RR was left with a relatively bare cupboard, especially on offense.
Now, I'm sure there are holes with my argument. Heck, I know one already – Weis never was an HC in either college or the pros, Willingham is a horrible recruiter, Davie couldn't coach himself out of an awkward first date, Solich couldn't recruit or coach like Tom Osborne, and Callahan was an unmitigated disaster both because of the type of offense he was trying to install and his abject failure in maintaining the strength of Nebraska (its defense). And, yes, RR has already proven to be a better coach than all of these men before he even stepped into Schembechler Hall. But my point isn't that RR isn't a good coach; it is that I worry the AD and the fans won't give him the time and support necessary to really transform this program into one that can succeed. As we have seen with Nebraska and Notre Dame, a school and fan base has to be willing to accept a transition fully and without reservations, and give it proper time to take hold. If, after 4 or 5 years UM is still going 7-5, 8-4, or 9-3 and they haven't made The Leap, then by all means look in another direction. But aborting a transition, no matter how painful it may initially be, before it has a chance to occur doesn't end the pain – it just changes the source.
Is it just me…
The audio and video equipment at Michigan Stadium seems to have been left in the pre-HD era…Why is this? I took a trip to the Texas vs. Oklahoma game this year and spent four hours at the world’s largest trailer (Cotton Bowl) with one of the best “jumbotrons” I had ever seen. [So, was this game a waste of my time since the “regular season” games don’t matter anymore? As I recall Texas did win this game!] Next, I took a trip over to Tuscaloosa to see Nick Satan and Alabama. They have a top notch stadium with three HD video boards and an impeccable sound system. Texas takes the top prize with its Godzilla inspired video board down in Austin.
If you look close enough at pictures of Michigan’s video boards you can see the rabbit ears sticking out of the top right corners! With all the construction going on why not replace both endzone boards with a solid HD video screen? The area is wide open beneath for concrete pillars to support the structure and it would provide Michigan with a fantastic game time experience.
Take a look around the college football world:
Michigan: [Half of it is a fixed template for time and score!!!]
Am I asking too much for a decent replay and the ability to see the game without watching pixels tackle each other on the video board?
Someone call the W.L.A and tell them their Soviet era technology needs to go! It’s time the revolution transitions to HD.
[And I don't want to hear it's because we play in the cold/snow/north]