I did not make this headline up
Today, I went for a walk. I left my central campus apartment and headed south on State St., hoping that if I walked slowly enough, by the time I got to the stadium, there would be someone at the gate to take my ticket and let me in. I seriously even took my ticket along, just in case. I walked because I could not read another word or watch another video about Michigan Football (yes, when it comes to Michigan Football, you capitalize the ‘F’). I had no intention of writing anything, but as I walked, I could not fight the urge.
I walked by the ticket office, and saw a couple dozen people picking up their tickets. “Who could possibly wait until today to pick up their tickets,” I wondered. But then again, I called the ticket office in a panic when a friend’s tickets arrived in the mail and I had not yet received mine yet. I hadn’t even checked my mail yet. They were there. That day, I took out my tickets, snapped a picture on my phone and sent it to my brother, a Michigan alum living in Chicago, who wasn’t as much jealous as excited, and will be here with me as many Saturdays as work will allow this fall.
I walked by Schembechler Hall, and thought of Bo. I never met the man, and am not even old enough to have seen the games he coached live, but have read about and watched everything I can about his legend. I like to think that his handshake could have told you all you needed to know about him. Strength, confidence, a touch of brashness and a genuine human-beingness that makes you try to make up words like human-beingness. Probably what it’s like to shake the hand of a 4th generation plumber, his hands strong from wrenching the steel inner workings of his teams, who loves what he does and couldn’t give a damn if you don’t respect his craft. I thought of how many people’s lives he must have touched, how many large, grown men probably heard the news of his passing, silently walked to a room away from their wives and children, and wept. How his death deeply affected millions of people who probably never got closer to him in person than the confines of Michigan Stadium’s railings would allow. I saw what appeared to be two grandfathers with their grandsons walking to take a peek inside Schembechler Hall. I thought of how one day I hope I’m lucky enough to do the same. To pass on what is one of my greatest passions to another generation like so many have before.
As I walked, I saw a pizza delivery car pass with a Pizza House sign atop its roof, and thought of Rich Rodriguez. A couple friends and I would occasionally go to the coach’s radio show on Thursdays to drink beer, eat pizza and listen to Brandstatter and whomever the guest of the day was. There, I met Rich Rodriguez several times. While I had hot and cold feelings about him throughout his tenure, it becomes much more difficult to dislike a man when you meet him. When he turns to your table in commercial breaks, asks you about your future and jokes that he wishes he could have a beer with you. When he meets you only a couple times, you’re nothing more than another fan, and he remembers your name. When you watch him order the free pizza Pizza House provided him with to take home to his wife and kids. I thought of how, regardless of your feelings on him as a coach, you have to be so thankful that he brought Denard Robinson to this program. A young man who redefines his position, loves playing football more than anything in the world, and encapsulates humility and what you want in a student-athlete in a way that is indescribable. I literally hate that last sentence because it falls so incredibly short of capturing everything great about Denard Robinson. Ronald Bellamy’s Underachieving All Stars does the best job I’ve seen. Brian’s not too bad at it either.
I walked past the Al Glick Field House and noticed something I had not seen before. By the Southeast entrance is a stone sign with ‘2009’ engraved in it. I realized its significance. When myself and everyone reading this are long gone, it will remain. There will be a 232nd year of Michigan Football, and 332nd and on and on. The magnitude of a tradition that great and sacred filled me with pride.
I walked past the field hockey fields and thought of Charles Woodson. Strange, right? But the color and texture of the field reminded me of what used to be at Spartan stadium (yep, they get a lowercase ‘s’ in ‘stadium’) when Charles Woodson went on a solo mission into space and landed perfectly back at Cape Canaveral, with his intergalactic pigskin in tow. The man in black and white stripes who could not even contain his own amazement as he reached back and made the most deliberate first down signal for Michigan I’ve ever seen. “Neutrality be damned,” thought that referee, “that was awesome and deserved to be called like a home plate umpire who rings someone up in the bottom of the 9th of a perfect game in game seven of the World Series on a nasty curveball thrown by Cy Young striking out Babe Ruth.” Except more exciting and historic. (Boom, Fred Jacksoned.) I thought of how Charles Woodson an idol to me in my childhood. How when I recently found a journal from my elementary school days, scribbled in awful penmanship and grossly misspelled was, “My hero is Charles Woodson. He plays cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. He went to the University of Michigan. I am going to go to the University of Michigan.” I thought of Saturday afternoons when I would sit with my friends glued to ABC watching every amazing second of every game, then going out in the brisk autumn evening to throw a football around until it got dark. “I’ll be Charles Woodson,” my friend would say. “No, I will,” I’d argue back. We all wanted to play cornerback. Kids who like football do not grow up wanting to play cornerback. They want to be Joe Montana or Barry Sanders, but after 1997, they wanted to be Charles Woodson, too. When I played football in seventh grade, I was a quarterback and the smallest middle linebacker in the history of the universe, because that’s where my coaches wanted me to play. I was number 24, Sir Charles’ number for the Raiders. I wasn’t number 2 only because one of my best friends on the team had a name before mine in the alphabet and got to pick his jersey number first, that bastard. When I left middle school and they let us have our jerseys, I scribbled ‘Woodson’ on the back with a Sharpie. Obsessed probably doesn’t do it justice.
I turned right and headed down the train tracks. I thought of the men that built those tracks, and I bet they liked Michigan Football. I’ll bet they were the kind of households where if someone asked to watch a different game at halftime, the father would say, “we only watch one team in this house. Michigan.” (I’ll confess I stole that from Rudy. And if the timing of black and white TV and railroad construction and televised football don’t match up, screw you for caring.) I thought of warm apple cider spiked with a little whiskey, bratwursts sizzling and smoking on portable grills, the smell of a cigar or two, and the feeling that everything is right in the world on late chilly fall Saturdays in Ann Arbor.
I walked through the parking lot and was in awe of the pantheon that is Michigan Stadium. Or Cathedral. Or Mecca. There’s something magnificent about a building that’s awe-inspiring even when it’s completely void of its purpose and patrons. Like a church you walk around even though there’s no priest or parishioners in it (if you’re into that kind of thing), Michigan Stadium begs to be explored even when you’d be only one of one in there instead of one of 113,000. I can think of no other stadium in the world I’d rather have my favorite football team call home.
I walked as close as I could to the tunnel and saw the Rose Bowl Years painted by the player entrance and thought of Lloyd. A man who I think I’d be proud to be like as a father. A man who supports Mott’s Children’s Hospital as if every child there is his own. If you asked me who the best football coach in the country was, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say Lloyd Carr, right or wrong. Someone who pretty much anyone would love to play golf with, or just talk life. I’m upset with myself right now for waiting this long to talk about Lloyd. My attention span is waning and there are only so many analogies and adjectives left in the keys right now. Suffice it to say, I’m proud to know that Lloyd Carr was a coach for my favorite team. He’s a great man and a pillar of hope in the sometimes selfish, cold and calculated world of college football. If he ran for political office, I wouldn’t vote for him, but not because I don’t think he’d be good at it, because I think he’s above that world, and I’d want to protect him from it.
I walked a little further, and this long walk reminded me of Brady Hoke. A man who would have walked from San Diego. Yes, it’s been talked about so much by idiots like Drew Sharpe that it’s almost annoying, but I still love it. Because I believe him. Like many people, the Brady Hoke hire was scary for me. I wanted Harbaugh. I don’t resent him for going elsewhere. I kind of wanted Les Miles, but was a little leery. I did not initially want Brady Hoke. I knew who he was only because I am a college football NUT, but I wasn’t excited. Then, he had that press conference. Words can only do so much, but sometimes sincerity and emotion can make a big difference. Brady Hoke belongs at Michigan. He has already achieved his dream. Not just to coach college football, but to be the Head Coach at the University of Michigan. People will feel that. I doubt there will ever be a time when Hoke really wants to talk about how many hours he puts in, because he doesn’t care. Not talking about your new salary until after you quit your old job and move your family across the country is kind of crazy. But it’s not crazy if it’s for your dream. I think he would have accepted a 10th of what he’s earning if that’s all Michigan could have afforded. As long as he could’ve provided for his family, he would have been A-OK with that. You know that question from Office Space about what you would do if you won a million dollars ? What would Brady Hoke do if he won 100 million dollars? He would coach the University of Michigan Wolverines, I think. Also, buy lots of sausage. Maybe commision the invention of a time machine to go and convince Chris Farley never to play that Matt Foley guy. Regardless, I have faith, and maybe it’s partially blind faith, about the direction he’ll take Michigan. But that blind faith is part of what makes being a fan so great. The hope for the future success for your team and the belief, even the deep-rooted feeling of a knowledge that your team will be great again. It also is part of what makes the offseason so painstakingly long.
I walked back up Hoover and decided to write this, knowing it would get me that much closer to tomorrow. And tomorrow, I’ll walk back down State St., surrounded by tens of thousands of people who love and believe in the same thing that I do. That walk will be filled with less thoughts, mostly because I’ll just be awash in excitement and anticipation. But there’s a few vague words or feelings concepts or horribly cliché ideas that will run through my brain. Winning. Pride. Championships. Character. Tradition. Michigan Football.
P.S. In the most uplanned and awesome timing ever, we’re now 24 hours from kickoff.
There’s a widespread theory that Lloyd Carr’s career can be split in two phases: a “good” young Carr and a “senile” old Carr. But is it statistically sound?
If you look at straight winning percentage, this seems, well, inconclusive. But, the argument goes, there’s more to success or failure than just winning more than you lose. There’s whom you beat, and who beats you. There’s wins-versus-expectations-of-wins. There’s where you end up ranked. There’s whether you play in a major bowl game, and if you win it. Most importantly, there are those three pesky rivalries, particularly the one with Columbus.
As some have argued, Carr put really competitive teams on the field early on, but later ones tended to disappoint, to flag late in the game, and to underachieve. The four-game stretch between OSU 2006 and Oregon 2007, it has been said, is the worst in recent memory, and this is mentioned as proof that Lloyd Carr had lost it at the end. But did he really?
You could try answering this with winning percentages, bowl appearances and clever argumentation, but mgoblog is a well-known haven for quantification nerds, whose denizens crave robust new measures that capture things the dinostats can’t. After all, aren’t away wins more dramatic than home wins, and home losses more embarrassing than the away ones? Isn’t it more consequential to lose in-conference than outside of it? Doesn’t it feel just that much better to beat Sparty than Purdue? Notre Dame than Illinois? OSU than everyone? My mission was to create new indices of success, measured across the course of a season, that capture more than just wins and losses—also heights soared to, depths plumbed, the intangibles. I created two, which are related to one another, but capture somewhat different aspects of success or failure.
Constructing the Indices
Constructing the indices begin with regular season games. A baseline score is produced for wins and losses, valued at 10 and 0 respectively. To this baseline measure, a series of intangible weights are added for all regular season games. It’s all a little long-winded for here, but I can make it available to anyone who wants to know. The categories are: 1) Who the opponent is; 2) Relative ranking to UM; 3) Home/away; 4) Margin-of-victory; and 5) Performance versus expectations. All scores are ordinal, so it required some subjective decisions on relative worth of these categories, but the same criteria were applied to each case, so it should be reasonably objective.
Let me break down a couple. The best single-game score for the period 1994-2010 was the ecstatic 1996 win at Ohio State, which received a score of 21:
10 (win) + 5 (OSU) + 3 (top 5 opponent) + 1 (away win) + 0 (win by less than 20) + 2 (performed well above expectations) = 21
The worst single-game score (surprise surprise) is The Horror, which received a score of -8. It breaks down like this:
0 (loss) - 0 (non-conference, non-BCS game) -5 (lower league + FCS opponent) -1 (home loss) -0 (loss by less than 20) -2 (performed well below expectations) = -8
Bowl Games and Ranking Bonuses
Bowl games are treated somewhat differently. On the one hand, it’s not right to penalize a team for what’s basically a value-added bonus to the season. On the other, winning is still better than losing. So scoring looks like this:
+5: making any bowl game
+2: making a BCS bowl game
+5: winning the bowl game
+2: winning a BCS bowl game
+/-2: failing to meet/exceeding expectations (broadly defined)
Some examples: 1997 vs. Washington State = 14; 2001 vs. Tennessee = 3; 2004 vs. Texas = 7; and 2007 vs. Florida = 12.
Ranking bonus averages the final BCS and AP rankings, or if prior to the BCS, the Coaches Poll and AP rankings. It works like this:
Which are then granted a bonus or penalty based on preseason expectations. So the 1996 team, with a preseason ranking of 12/11, and which ended up with a final rank of 20, gets a penalty of 1 for ending up below preseason expectations: 2 – 1 = 1. 1997, which ended up with a rank of 1 (we all know the Coaches’ Poll was fixed), began with a preseason rank of 13/14, so that team gets this bonus: 9 + 2 = 11.
EVG and IVG
Total points are added together, and then divided by the number of games played to produce the expected value per game (EVG). The intangible value per game (IVG) index compares subtracts the baseline value for 10 per win with no intangibles, and 0 per loss with no intangibles from total points, and then divides by number of games played (with a 0 value for a missed bowl game). This measures the intangibles solely. Yes, wins produce more positive scores (and losses negative scores), but this measure basically measures elation minus disappointment. As you’ll see, the distributions are similar, but actually more variant than EVG.
Winning PCT, IVG and EVG by Year, 1995-2007
As you can see, EVG and IVG capture more fluctuation from season to season than straight winning percentage does. IVG is something of a counterbalance to Winning PCT, looking solely at the aforementioned intangibles. EVG takes both into account.
A number of things are immediately apparent.
1. EVG and IVG capture more fluctuations than Winning PCT. Carr had an average winning percentage of 0.753. There were 5 seasons when Carr’s teams beat this average, 2 which were basically at the average, and 6 below it.
By contrast, only 4 seasons beat the average EVG of 9.51, while 9 fell below it (while 5 seasons beat the average IVG of 1.99 in terms of IVG, and 8 fell below it). As you can see, there are more discernable peaks and troughs in these indicators than with straight Winning PCT. EVG in particular appears to successfully capture the big picture while taking the significance of individual games into account.
2. Though The Horror was the single-worst game of the Carr era, 2007 as a whole wasn’t Carr’s worst season. It was still on the bottom half of the Carr years, but in terms of EVG it was third worst, after 2001 and 2005. In terms of IVG, it was only fourth worst, after 2001, 2002 and 2005. By EVG, 2005 was Carr’s worst season; by IVG, it’s 2002.
3. Carr’s career does not divide neatly into a “good” early period and a “senile” later period. As the figures show, Carr’s career had four peaks—1997, 1999, 2003 and 2006. By both measures, 1997 was far and away his best season. I had thought that the intangibles might have elevated Tom Brady’s near-NC year in 1999 and/or the Navarre-led 2003 squad that lost to (compliance-dodging) AP national champion USC in the Rose Bowl above the 2006 squad, but they don’t. 2006 scores as Carr’s second best according to Winning PCT and IVG, and third according to EVG. What’s more, when I ran a regression of EVG and IVG by year for 1995-2007, neither produced a statistically significant result, meaning there’s no clear upward or downward trend over time during this period.* Unless we decide to completely ignore the great 2006 team, or some of the disappointing teams from earlier in his career, the good/senile theory looks like a myth we can safely bust.
4. Carr’s teams were most consistent in the middle of his tenure. In terms of EVG, we can say that the years 1995-2000 were more consistent, and less prone to dramatic fluctuations from year to year, than 2001-2007. While not quite good/senile, this does potentially lend itself to critical arguments. With IVG, there’s a sustained trough in the middle (1998-2002), which reflects higher expectations due to the 1997 national championship and too many losses to Michigan State, Notre Dame and marquee non-conference opponents. That makes them the most disappointing stretch of years, when solely considering results versus expectations. That jives with what I remember, especially the 1999 team, my sentimental favorite of the Carr years and one that got so tantalizingly close, but just didn’t make it. 2005 and 2007 also factor in as IVG troughs, but are broken up by 2006, which got a very high IVG score.
So what does this all mean? Some things should already be obvious—Carr had some good years and some bad years, The Horror was horrific, 1997 was awesome, etc. On the other hand, the strongly suggest the “early good/late senile” theory is a myth. Statistically speaking, it didn’t shake out that way. Doesn’t mean we can’t, or shouldn’t, criticize some aspects of Carr’s head coaching career—but let’s look at it dispassionately. The man gave us some great years, and some disappointing ones; they were just more evenly distributed than we remember them.
If enough people want, I’ll do a second round looking at only Big 10 games for Carr. Additionally, I’ve already collected the data for Rodriguez’s 3 years, and thought I could do Moeller’s 4 as well. It’s a lot of work, so I doubt I’ll ever expand to include other teams, though if anyone else finds it interesting enough, I’d be happy to share the methodology.
*True, this violates assumptions of sufficient randomness and sample size, so it’s not conclusive. But it does show that there’s no evident trend among the small number of data points we have.
Coach Carr was the Grand Marshall at today's NASCAR event at MIS. Not sure if anyone else caught it, but I'll have some video to update late. No use of "Tremendous", but he looked pretty good and very ethusiastic!
One of the pressing topics around the whole implosion of Ohio State University Football is how that team dominated the Big Ten illegally. The team won games they shouldn't, with the most obvious being the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Ohio State shouldn't have played as well in that game, and frankly shouldn't have been in it at all.
Everyone seems to be talking about what Ohio State's record books will look like when all this is done. Seasons getting voided, players getting wiped out, all of that.
With that in mind, I'd like to take a look back at what truly should have been. What seasons should have gone differently for the various schools tormented by Tressel? What teams got screwed out of bowl games, out of national championships, out of huge victories? There's many victims of Ohio State's illegal run besides us here in Ann Arbor.
Let's take a look back, year-by-year. Here are the basic ground rules to keep in mind:
- Ohio State wouldn't have realistically lost every game. At worst, they'd have been a version of the 2009-10 Wolverines: losing many games, but not completely out of it. So, close games in Columbus will now tip towards the visitor, and fairly close by the Buckeyes will also go towards their opponents. I'd assume that Ohio State would still be pretty good, just not great. Or, if they were amazing, simply great.
- I'm not going to go back to look for specific players, instead the entire team will be downgraded. Specifically, i don't want to wade through Ohio State game logs to figure out how much of an effect a replacement RB would have had over Maurice Clarett, for example.
- Except when it ties into Michigan, no frivolous extraneous circumstances. So, no jobs will be saved by a miracle win over the Buckeyes that leads to a random Big Ten coach keeping his job. I don't want to open up too much alternate history.
- I'm mainly focusing on the Big Ten championship race, and the national championship race, when applicable. No September non-conference wins that led to some opponent winning another conference.
- No recruiting alternate histories. The only players that would be added to different games are the guys that picked the school in the first place. This opens up one scenario later on. Existing transfers can still happen though. Ohio State gets the same general recruits they had before, only they are universally downgraded. The assumption is that Ohio State, even in bad times, would still get some great players, as they are Ohio State.
- Things in bold are major changes.
Okay, on to the games...
(More To Come tomorrow, as I do 2006-2010 then.)
Lloyd Carr was almost a Spartan at one point. The article says how he was good friends with Perles and if Perles had gotten the job over Waters he would have hired Carr away from West Virginia. Instead, Waters got the job and Lloyd became the DBs coach at Michigan under Bo.
Three years later Perles got the MSU job and offered the DC position to Carr, who eventually turned it down to stay at Michigan.
Pretty interesting stuff. I never knew his connection to Perles. There is more in the article, interesting read.