Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Also Previously: Podcast 5.0.
I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.
We stared at each other. Nobody moved.
This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.
Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.
All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.
Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.
Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.
This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.
This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.
But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.
On fourth down, they're going.
Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.
In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.
The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.
Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.
This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.
Important. Notre Dame is good at football.
"Sign that apparatus up to play football," says Football Coach. "Okay," says assistant football coach. "Now I am a player," says apparatus.
There is no waiting list. Michigan has finally burned out the fanbase to the point that you can get tickets just by ponying up the five hundred bucks it takes to get on the "interest list":
Michigan officials say that everyone on "interest list" who paid $500 got season tickets. No pay, not on list.
And that's a year with Ohio State, Nebraska, and a Notre Dame night game on the schedule! I wonder what will happen next year, when 1) the schedule sucks and 2) it starts off with a slap in the face I don't even want to go to.
"This game is as hot, if not hotter, than two years ago," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Detroit News. "There's enormous demand. Hopefully, that's because the fans who saw the first night game want to come back for more, and also because it's the last Michigan-Notre Dame game at Michigan Stadium for a long, long time makes it really special."
Congrats on your short-term achievement.
At least they're willing to show penalties and such now?
CTK. Schofield's up. Do not stand between him and ham:
Forgotten man? What? He's a three-year starter!
There is also Courtney Avery, who plans on going to law school. No mention of the safety move that he's apparently flirting with right now, which is no surprise. The "no mention" thing, not the hypothetical safety move. I chalk that up to experimentation, FWIW.
Here is a long thing. Here's the 1992 Michigan-Notre Dame game, all of it:
Should I not spoil it? Is that an insane thing to do for a 21-year-old game? I guess I'm not going to say anything about the outcome. (Except it involves a berserk alpaca and ten tons of rubber cement.)
Fourth And Long. We'll have a Michigan-relevant excerpt from the book on the site on the 23rd that will be of local interest, but the most compelling parts of Fourth And Long—John Bacon's new book—are easily the Penn State stuff:
Privately, the staff joked that the less the 84-year-old Paterno got involved, the better things usually went. When Paterno did weigh in, he often confused the situation, got players' names wrong or just yelled at them by their numbers.
Still, his assistants clung to certain symbols of the Paterno Way. "Shave your face, cut your hair," Mauti said, recalling the mantra. "If we weren't shaved for a practice, we would have to work out on Saturdays in the off-season. It got almost to the point where that's all that mattered."
Few programs in college football at the time could have claimed a richer tradition than Penn State's. It looked like Camelot—but only from the outside. Almost every Penn State senior I talked to last season repeated some version of the following: "We felt like we were protecting an image. And only we knew it."
Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich are never going to buy drinks in State College again. BONUS: There's a great story about Jay Paterno almost being eaten by the defensive line that I hope makes it out in the wild that's worth the price of admission by itself.
Oh, for Flansburgh's sake. It is 2013 and are we STILL having Lloyd Carr on lists like these?
Here are some notable Big Ten (and Nebraska) coaching force-outs ...
LLOYD CARR, Michigan (1995-2007)
Lloyd Carr retired by his own choice. The athletic director was surprised by this. That he was surprised was completely insane because everyone around the program new Carr was going to hang it up quite soon. I just… Lloyd Carr was not forced out. Repeat this one thousand times, Adam Rittenberg, and feel bad about yourself briefly.
Previewing basketball. ESPN does it for the conference at large:
Best case: The Wolverines were a dominant Louisville second half from winning the national title in 2012-13, and, while losing the national player of the year is never easy, the combination of Beilein's returning studs and his incoming talent could put Michigan right back where it was in April.
Worst case: There are questions, though. Can McGary produce over a whole season without Burke on the ball? Can Robinson evolve into a more perimeter-oriented, versatile scorer? Can Nik Stauskas be a multifaceted threat? Can Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin keep all these gears in motion? Most of all -- can the Wolverines defend?
Not really, yes, yes, maybe? Meanwhile, Seth Greenberg puts Michigan and State 1-2 in his conference power rankings.
It remains to be seen whether Robinson can be as effective at the small forward position as he was last season at power forward, playing off Burke's penetration. If Robinson concentrates on being a basketball player as opposed to a position player, it will be in the best interest of the Wolverines.
He drops Indiana down to sixth(!), behind Iowa(!). Related: this will be the 65th straight season where I say "watch out for Iowa basketball, they look good" in November only for the Hawkeyes to top out as an NIT team.
I want this to happen just so I can see Jeff Meyer's face the next time he meets Tom Crean. Indiana decommit James Blackmon Jr. is planning a visit to Michigan, whereupon he'll presumably be offered. Why this is delicious:
Blackmon has been to Ann Arbor before, he was sitting next to Austin Hatch this March when Indiana played at Michigan. Blackmon was committed to Indiana at the time and the visit was thought to be at least part of the reason for the rift between Tom Crean and Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer after the game.
Blackmon is a Kentucky legacy with a Kentucky offer, so file under extreme long shot. He would fill the SG slot Michigan currently would like Devin Booker to fill, FWIW.
The worst case scenario. Actually this is Iowa we're talking about, so this should rightly be renamed "thing we expect to happen":
GAME 6, MICHIGAN STATE
Spartan coach Mark Dantonio refuses to bring his team to Iowa City, saying "I'm competitive, but I'm not insane." Offensive coordinator Greg Davis calls out Dantonio in a press conference, saying "Mark ... just ... looking out for ... players. Doesn't want our boys ... to hurt 'em ... too bad. Let's ... give him ... a hand."
The government has turned Minneapolis into a quarantine zone. Chicago residents have erected hasty barricades to separate themselves from the outer suburbs. IOWA WINS BY FORFEIT
Needs more alligators.
Also in worst case scenarios, the NCAA's in the Ed O'Bannon case is "severely damages Iowa State and no one else."
Etc.: ND game is at eight on ESPN, because ABC has NASCAR. What is wrong with you ABC? Christian Hackenberg pulls even with another first-year guy (a JUCO transfer) in the Penn State QB race. Gardner Heisman hype. DOES ADAM JACOBI THINK ANYTHING SHOULD PLAY FOOTBALL?
Illinois assistant gets a two-game ban for tryna murder him some officials after the end of the Miami-Illinois tourney game last year. Guy had a case, though. SI ranks M 18th, hates on their special teams without explanation.
The ghost of Lloyd Carr haunts everything. Oh yes.
Lloyd Carr stopped @Peedi3416 and I one day on the sidewalk and randomly said, "the hardest part about winning is the expectation it brings"
— Anthony Wright (@ItsAntWright) July 26, 2013
Life advice, or just Lloyd Carr musing darkly on a life he perceives as a slate-gray expanse of clouds? Does Lloyd Carr show up at orientation, pick a bright-eyed pre-med student, and tell them "this doesn't make you an adult"? I hope so. It would be very Michigan if one of their former coaches became the Dark Oracle Of Ann Arbor.
Nine minutes of game winning field goals. Right here:
Glenn Robinson III throwing various things down. Also right here:
Kate. I wish you to see this picture. I think the basketball team has gotten their Final Four rings.
A handsome man, now handsomer.
Piling on Emmert. Mark Emmert is getting hammered from all sides these days, with the latest hits a unified front from the Big 5 conferences against the NCAA status quo and an extensive OTL article detailing the chaos inside the organization:
One source said that at least one major conference has gone so far as to send a directive to its representative on the NCAA Executive Committee -- which, among other duties, hires and fires the association's president -- to make it "crystal clear that they were not at all happy with the direction of the entire enterprise under Emmert."
He picked up the dread vote of confidence a while ago.
Meanwhile, with an obviously coordinated assault on the current state of the NCAA launched by the commissioners of the top five conferences, change is coming, and soon. Emmert himself is joining the chorus:
Emmert said he expects significant changes to how the NCAA operates to be adopted within the next year.
At issue is the ability of the richest athletic programs --- which attract the massive television rights fees --- to set policy without the smaller D-I programs stopping them because of financial concerns.
“There’s one thing that virtually everybody in Division I has in common right now, and that is they don’t like the governance model,” Emmert said. “Now, there’s not agreement on what the new model should be. But there’s very little support for continuing things in the governing process the way they are today.”
Emmert actually may have been at the forefront of this, but don't tell anyone that. He may gone about everything in the most ham-handed way possible, but given what he's been trying to do he's likely on board with Division Zero or whatever.
I am too, of course. The gap between programs that are net spenders and those that have to figure out what to do with their buckets of money is untenable, and the players should get some more of the money coming in. If this is the way to do it, great:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday he wants lifetime scholarships for athletes to finish their educations and a non-athletic year for “at-risk” students followed by four years of eligibility.
“There’s no one talking about this being some incremental change,” Emmert said. “I think there’s an interest in some pretty fundamental change in the way decisions are made, both to accomodate those (financial) differences but also to deal with concerns people have about representation ... in the policy debates.”
Etc.: Ace points out that OSU has the best record against the spread in conference games over the past ten years, nationally. Michigan is barely below .500. Baseball brings in 16 kids, including the co-Mr. Baseballs in the state. They are 11 guys over their roster limit, though. That's just how baseball works, I guess?
Charlie Weis has an epiphany. Jordan Kovacs gets hazed. The randomness of turnovers is pretty much why Darrell Hazell got to Purdue. Bill Connolly previews State. Think he's way underrating LeVeon Bell and thus overrating MSU's line, FWIW. Connolly also does Iowa. Targeting is going to be a fiasco.
photoshoppers, start your GNUs
So we did the meet and greet Q&A thing, and other than the liveblog portion being pretty much a disaster, A+++ would do again. I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with all the good info in the Q&A so below I've written up those answers plus some we answered after the fact via email.
We're tentatively talking another one the Friday night before the Notre Dame game, so calendar that. If you're coming in from out of town, Jared of Sports Power Weekends, who sponsored this whole thing, mentioned he's putting together a trip for that weekend that includes tickets for the game and a private tour of the Big House before we do drinks and ALL THE SHANE MORRIS.
Some things went way better than expected and other things not so much. Didn't go well: We had no way to plug our mic into the speaker system, fortunately remembering just in time that bartenders have friends with guitar amplifiers. The other thing that could have gone better is we forgot to warn Brian that Jehu Chesson was in the audience before your favorite blogger launched into his heuristic reasoning as to why Amara Darboh would be more effective this year because Chesson is still a waif.
New heuristic: Chesson sitting = Heiko standing minus an inch.
Did go well: lots of luminaries showed up. Players current and former included Chesson, Countess, Donovan Warren, and John Duerr. An incomplete list of bloggers: Bryan Mac (aka BiSB), MGoPhotographers Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller, Burgeoning Wolverine Star, Lloyd Brady, M-Wolverine, Craig Ross, and LSAClassof2000. Epic shirts: Heiko's bubble screen smile, and a Branch-Morelli sweatshirt.
In things that surpassed all expectations, let me being with actual nicest guy in the universe Marlin Jackson himself. Walking out of the game to his car took about 25 minutes because he signed every hat, helmet, t-shirt or whatever thing put before him. We talked NBA decisions, how the Jake Butt TD was on Jarrod Wilson's as-yet-unadvanced field awareness, and that the biggest difference with this staff is they "teach football."
After being introduced by Brian as "the man who still has Reggie Williams in his back pocket," to kick off the Q&A Marlin talked about his Fight for Life Foundation. He was candid about his youth: Jackson grew up in the projects with a mother addicted to drugs and a father he never met. As you can imagine this isn't the best way to learn things like accountability, the value of an education, or even your own value and that of others. Marlin learned these things through Michigan; it's the goal of his foundation to give similarly underprivileged kids the opportunities he received because of his athletic talents.
Fight for Life runs three programs: Field of Dreams (link) is an in-school and after school program that basically helps get the kids back up to speed with their classmates. Seal the Deal (hyperlink) is a series of leagues and football camps for youth through high school with an educational/character-building component. R.A.P. (reach out and access your peers – url) is an SEL* program that gets kids to open up through, e.g. a discussion of their future aspirations or by presenting a paper on their favorite song lyrics. They need to raise about $200k per year to fund these programs.
* Social and Emotional Learning, the spread offense of education. Full context is linked above but you may cognate as learning that's the opposite of 'Another Brick in the Wall.'
We then talked about things like that one year the Colts paired Manning with a real defense, which receivers were the hardest to cover, and his impressions on the young defensive players at Michigan today. That after the jump. But first here's three generations of next-Woodsons:
Is anyone else paralyzingly bored with media output of late? I mean, I just read these articles in which the answers have become absolutely uniform…
"Right now, I'm just worried about this camp and Sept. 1 and Michigan football," [ANYONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD] said. "I never really felt like I took any steps backward or anything, I'm just going to continue to work hard like I've been doing."
…and I feel a need to link it while at the same time feeling like I am wasting your time by doing so. This is why I said Vincent Smith was a carrot. Because I am bored out of my mind with fall camp. Vincent Smith is not actually a carrot.
Don't even get me started on Countdown to Kickoff, where the most interesting thing is whether or not Doug Karsch's hair tuft will be there. It wasn't always like this:
SOMEONE GET AN UNUSUAL BICYCLE BEFORE I LOSE MY WILL TO LIVE
I think this deserves Henri, the otter of ennui.
Strangely, I feel better. It could be worse: I could be a journalist trying to scrape something interesting out of this mess. Let's move on.
Ringer seems out. If you hit up Kaleb Ringer's twitter and scroll down a bit you'll get tweets from folk wishing him well on his recovery and Joe Bolden saying they can't wait for him to get back. (Also you'll get Ferris State's logo for some reason.) He mentioned something about going through a trial a few days ago, as well.
He's probably injured, is what I'm saying, and given the tenor of the tweets I'd guess it's something with a long-term recovery period. He already seemed likely to redshirt; now I'd say that probability is close to 100%. With Antonio Poole also out long-term, James Ross is going to see the field.
[UPDATE: Hoke just announced Ringer is out for the year. So is Chris Bryant.]
What I am saying. I may flesh this out into a bigger post later; for now, Her Loyal Sons put together a primer on Notre Dame's 3-4 defense. They have "cat" and "dog" linebackers that align strong and weak (or possibly to field or boundary—the post doesn't make it clear) and those guys are frequently deployed like so:
If this doesn't look familiar I have not been badgering you enough about how 1) moving to the 3-4 does nothing to help Michigan's DL issues and 2) that the 4-3 under is halfway between a traditional even 4-3 and the 3-4. Replace "CAT" with "WDE" and "DOG" with "SAM" and voila. ND will of course line up in a traditional 3-4 look and back that WDE-type-guy into coverage at times, but this assertion…
Unlike the 4-3, in which the defensive line almost exclusively rushes (save for some of the more exotic blitz packages), the setup of the 3-4 shines allows fourth rusher can really come from anywhere. While the Cat may be the pass rushing specialist, that doesn’t mean he will always do so.
…does not jibe with my observations last year, when Mattison flung all manner of zone blitzes at the opponent. The fourth rusher was very frequently not the WDE.
Anyway: 4-3 under personnel crammed into a 3-4 does not use more linebackers and only exacerbates issues with having 280 pound SDE/3techs.
Outrage! Not really. Carr told John Wienke to go to Iowa:
"When Coach Carr retired, he was the one — I actually always liked Iowa — but he told me probably to go with Iowa,” Wienke said. “That’s probably the next-best thing that was going to be for me with my style of play.”
Outrage level here is zero. Telling a recruit he probably doesn't fit is a lot different than allegedly telling the players already on campus they had a green light to transfer. Chances are Rodriguez would have phoned the kid up and said the same thing. I probably wouldn't have brought it up except for the fact that the kid is doing all that he can to honor Carr's guidance:
He's a punter now.
It's neutral you guys. The Alabama game is declared the "best of the Big Ten road schedule" by the Star Tribune [HT: Daily Gopher], which is one thing. Another is Countdown to Kickoff straying dangerously off-message at the 1:20 mark:
do not operate heavy machinery after watching countdown to kickoff
Michigan practiced at Ford Field to prepare for "all that road noise." It's a neutral site you guys. Neutral.
Yeah, let's do that. No, nevermind. Brandon said something to justify the Horror II that demonstrated his inability to grasp anything other than "attention = good." Hey, here's a bunch of CBS guys reminiscing about where they were when the Horror I happened. I bet you're going to go read that right now.
He said many other things as well, some of them appalling like moving the spring game to Ford Field. RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE. /is actually rabbling
Nonexistent CHL union still works. That's the argument from London, home of one of the more prominent OHL teams:
The CHL franchises operate as professional franchises. They are a business first and foremost. The scholarship program is great until you play professionally, then you lose it. That's not right.
They trade kids indiscriminately in an effort to make their business successful. They entice kids to come to their programs and when something doesn't work, they are tossed aside like a punctured jockstrap. Teams pay a player $50 a week and own him totally for four or five years.
That's the type of thing that needs to be addressed for the good of these players.
As for the assertion that the CHL is comprised of 60 teams that all operate as individual corporate entities, it sounds an awful lot like the structure of the NHL and last time anyone looked, the NHL had a players' association.
If they are individual entities, the colluding not to pay a class of employees is not kosher. If these guys ever get their act together they would probably get a heap of concessions without even trying.
Etc.: Oklahoma kid will fill one of your commercial breaks at Michigan Stadium this fall, is probably taller than Dennis Norfleet. I want to like this "open letter to Brady Hoke" from Grantland, but open letters are always painful. Hey, writer-guy: Brady Hoke is not reading your stuff. I am. Talk to me, not him. OSU FR Adolphus Washington is 50 pounds heavier than he was when he signed his LOI. That's probably not good from their perspective.
Bob Lipson: awesome
Part I of my interview with Michigan Replay producer Bob Lipson be here, and covers the history of the show up to Bo's last year as head coach.
At that time Don Canham had recently stepped down as athletic director and Schembechler had taken over. For the first 15 seasons of Replay there had been one coach and one athletic director; now would begin a series of new ADs Liposon would have to sell the show all over again. This was no small thing. The show was a considerable side job for the coach, and it needed access to the locker room and players to interview that no other outlet got, and all of this was predicated on the AD's trust of the show's producer. For now, no big deal, right? The new AD was the longtime star of the show, so maybe lose Budweiser as a sponsor and carry on? Not so, as Bo was not as hands-on as AD as he was as football coach, and that wasn't the expectation for him. Bo still made the big decisions, e.g. firing the basketball coach in '89, but behind the scenes, the nuts and bolts of the department at that time were handled by then-senior associate director of athletics Jack Weidenbach.
Canham liked television but was never in love with the show, after 15 years however he had adjusted to it. Weidenbach, who would follow Bo as AD in 1990, maybe liked the show a little less, and wasn't resigned to anything. Jack had been around the program longer than Schembechler, and in that time had controlled everything from OSHA compliance to marketing. He knew the department inside and out, but he didn't know Bob that well.
Twenty Tons of Turf (1989-1994)
For awhile now the show was being taped on Saturdays after the games so it could run on Sunday mornings. "Fourth" network Fox had taken over Channel 2, moving CBS to 62. Feeling bold, they put in a bid to have the NFL's NFC games, and to the astonishment of many (considering the might of the other networks) won it. Fox offered Lipson the 11:30 a.m. spot right before the Lions pre-game show, a perfect lead-in for them, and a perfect place for Michigan Replay to capture more fans as they settled down for Sunday football.
But college football was now leaving the once-hallowed 1:00 p.m. standard. Driving to Detroit and back every Saturday night after a game was trial enough for home games, but on away trips it was torture. It was for Bob as well, who would sit watching games and call in which plays he wanted. If they couldn't get it in before, taping Saturday night increasingly meant waiting until the studio was done with the 9:00 news. Routinely they'd be taping from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. After a game in the dump that Minnesota used to play in (Bob's words for the Metrodome, not the author's) a late taping was a guarantee.
Attributed by Bob to their live background, they would shoot the show straight through, seldom making a mistake and almost never re-shooting something. Occasionally the coach (remember: this is at 3 a.m. after a game day in another city) would refer to "today" instead of "yesterday" but that was about it. "In 33 years we maybe had to stop five times," Bob estimated. Since there were no re-dos, the coaches on the show got a lot of practice at speaking off the cuff for posterity; perhaps this attributed to the rarity of speaking gaffes by Bo or his successors when so many NCAA coaches stumbled over the adjustment to 24-hour television.
This was the routine: taping late at night with Bob and his universally beloved terrier Zipper keeping everyone's spirits high (Michigan wouldn't listen to students' attempts to formalize a mascot but there was no doubt who filled that role for Michigan Replay). Michigan's bleary-eyed head coach would be deposited back in his bed around 5:00 a.m., and the next morning millions would tune in to see what he had to say.
Weidenbach (right/UMHistory) had good reason to wonder if the show was worth it for the '90s. On the other hand, given the positive, semi-national exposure and the increasingly substantial bottom line the show provided, he had good reason to like Bob Lipson. Bob was about to give him another one.
Canham had put turf in the stadium in 1969. That was very cool at the time—the Astrodome opened in 1965—but by 1990 it was falling out of fashion, in part due to the negative effects it was thought to have on players' joints (I've heard suggested on boards, but not substantiated, that other coaches were using it to recruit against Michigan). One of Weidenbach's first moves was to return the Big House to dirt and grass. The turf came up after the '90 football season, was rolled, and put into storage.
Nobody knew what the hell to do with it. On one hand it was 30-year-old Astroturf sitting around being all useless and in the way. On the other hand this was hallowed ground where Bo had beaten Woody's best team in '69 and Anthony Carter had caused Bob Ufer to reference Fielding Yost and Viking folklore in the same sentence.
So Lipson told Weidenbach "You give me the turf and I'll find something to do with it." Bob came up with three items he could cut it into: coasters, picture frames, and floor mats. He used his connections from years of selling ads around the state to find companies who could manufacture these items, used his connections from years of acquiring schlock for the set to make them available to the public, and came back with $800,000 for the athletic department. Today this seems like a drop in the bucket next to department runs a profit up to 20 times that, but this was a serious windfall for the university from something that had been just taking up space. As some of you may have been told on your orientation tour, Weidenbach gave half of that to the library, figuring nobody really donates to the library. The other half went into the improvements the department was making to Michigan's facilities. Bob took home a grand total of $0.00 from the project. It was a magnificent gift to the university that he loved.
Lloyd Protector (1995-'07)
You're awesome. No You're awesome!
In 1995, Lloyd Carr became the head coach of Michigan and Michigan Replay gained a guardian angel. Bo overshadowed anybody you put him in a room with. Mo looked like an uncle trapped at a family event two hours after giving his wife the first "let's go" signal. In reality Moeller was less enthusiastic about the show even than he appeared. Yet the man who succeeded him may have been the most important single personality for Michigan Replay other than Lipson himself. With Lloyd the chemistry with Brandstatter was immediate and palpable. Here were too good buddies, both with evident love for their topic, chatting the same way their viewers had been during the game.
Of the people Bob says nice things about (too many to mention) the kindest words are reserved for Carr. Carr in turn had plenty of nice things to say about Bob's show. Despite more late-night tapings than any of his predecessors due to afternoon games or worse (e.g. flying home after a West Coast game) Lloyd was the show's biggest fan. What he loved about it was that the high school coaches loved it. Across the country wherever the show was on, athletes' parents and coaches saw Michigan's clean-cut, well-spoken players (and Carr's apparent honesty and affability to anyone not in a press room or a Sun Belt referee uniform), and equated Michigan with this idyllic student-athlete experience. Recruiting regulations at this time were piling up as quickly as coaches could think of new ways to pitch their programs, and then here's this big syndicated program (now at 11:00 a.m.) that's in its way a big Michigan commercial reaching Carr's target audience.
As '97 was the apogee of the Bo era, so was it the last peak of the show. Bo of course wasn't on it anymore, but episodes after the Penn State, Ohio State, and Rose Bowl victories that season were some of the most-watched in its history.
Despite its popularity with fans—mostly an older crowd—some in the athletic department were ready to throw out Replay with the rest of the anachronisms of the Canham era. Bob gave me little in the way of explanation for why a vintage Carr defense was necessary—perhaps he wasn't so sure what the fuss was about either—but he left little doubt there were people in the athletic department who were not fans of the show.
If I have to venture a guess, it was the result of several administrations coming through in quick succession, all with their own goals, versus this independent program they weren't really sure of their affiliation with, and which had gotten by all of these years because Bob Lipson had ingratiated himself with the principals. Gone already were the guys who remembered the turf thing, and gone too were their replacements. Now the athletic director was Tom Goss, a Michigan footballer of the pre-Bo era (he graduated after the '68 season) who had spent years in beverages and merchandising. Goss was determined to make not only the Big House but Crisler into a modern facility, and embarked upon the first of the modern round of renovations. The better known result of this was the stadium halo and what Bob eloquently called the "refrigerator magnet" letters on the stadium my freshman year (1998), the baby of a guy named Shapiro though Goss fell on the sword for it.
How this affected Michigan Replay was that the renovations came with a bigger video board and, importantly, a studio within the complex to take advantage of it. Summoning every ounce of goodwill he had left, Bob went to the athletic department to beg that they use the opportunity to build an honest-to-goodness TV studio, as opposed to the mini-booth they were planning. Perhaps with the intervention of a guardian angel (or guardian legend), this was approved. No more driving back and forth to Detroit, and the two hours out of the coach's game day it lost.
Bo used to sit on a stool, taping live in a Detroit TV station across from that network's (Sparty-inclined) sports anchor, while an intern flipped the reel and made Rick Leach look right-handed; now Lloyd Carr and Jim Brandstatter had leather chaise loungers in a tricked-out, purpose-built modern studio inside the Crisler complex. But Goss wouldn't long survive his expenditures, and while new A.D. Bill Martin didn't feel too strongly one way or another about the show—his job as he saw it was to fix the department's finances—more people in his department wanted to kill the show, and they were less shy about saying something. These people carried weight with Martin, and as the 2000s progressed so too did the seriousness of their opposition. What kept it going was simply Lloyd Carr, who would see Michigan Replay end over his retired body.
In 2007, ten years after his national championship season, Carr retired.
That's All the Time We Have (2008)
"Keep this replay going." –Lloyd Carr
People have come up with a lot of theories to explain the sudden and abrupt conclusion of Michigan Replay after 2007. Many claim Rich Rodriguez didn't want to do the show, either out of sansdeference for the well of Michigan or simply because his tantrumic post-loss regimen probably wouldn't play any better on TV than it did in John Bacon's Three and Out. More savvy Web browsers can discover the athletic department hired a new marketing company around that time, and extrapolate that the new agency shirts didn't think two guys sitting across from each other in lounge chairs and cutting through the mysteries of football were the right thing for the brand. There's even an erroneous reference on Wikipedia to "retiring the show in honor of Lloyd," which is impossible to reconcile with Lloyd's words to Brandy on their last show together.
Doubtless the end of Michigan Replay coinciding with the coaching change for fans created the sense that it was one more unnecessary break from Michigan tradition. Those who didn't like Rich Rod went with the reason that blames him. Those who hated Bill Martin went with that. Nature abhors a vacuum, so the public filled it with whatever fit the narrative of what they thought was going on in the erratic and nonsensical late-term Martin athletic department.
What happened was far more simple: folks in the athletic department wanted to be rid of the show long before, but Lloyd Carr had been holding them off. Said Bob, "When I lost Lloyd, I lost my protector."
He made this very clear to me and I'll try to be as clear here: Rich Rodriguez had nothing to do with the show being canceled. He wasn't any more thrilled with the idea of it than Moeller was, and he would only do it Sunday mornings, not Saturday nights (given the amount of late games Michigan now played and his post-loss demeanor, this was smart). The difference was Rich Rod had no idea of its recruiting power, didn't know Brandstatter, and didn't have the sentimental attachment to the show that Lloyd had. Rodriguez upon arrival didn't know the politics inside Martin's department, and certainly had no way of knowing the only thing that could save the show was nothing short of him demanding they keep it in his contract. The sum total of blame on Rodriguez for the end of Michigan Replay is nil.
Minus Lloyd, the elements inside had their way, and the show was canceled. Bob was rightfully sad to see his life's work suddenly ended, but stressed that he wasn't bitter: "There's nothing on television that lasts 33 years!" That's not entirely correct, since of his class of '75 we still have Wheel of Fortune, Saturday Night Live, and Good Morning America. But: Wheel of Fortune, Saturday Night Live, and Good Morning America! Lipson's idea for a chitchat with the local college coach survived exactly as long as Michigan's coinciding bowl streak, and (three channels, remember) was just as impressive.
Last year, under yet another new athletic director, David Brandon (who graduated from Michigan just two years before the show began), Lipson was invited back, this time for the Big Ten Network. However he declined, and also declined to give over the name of his show, hence "Inside Michigan Football." Bob's reasoning had nothing to do with who could control it, or when it would be taped, or anything like that. What had happened over the last three years was that Bob for the first time in his life found what a joy it is to sit on a bench surrounded by his grandchildren inside the Big House, and watch a game of Michigan football. And there's nothing in the world, he says, that's could be better than that.
Q&A and Errata
Seth: What do you think of Brady Hoke and his staff, and how do they compare to the coaches you worked with?
Lipson: I like Brady. I liked him very much during his time as an assistant…the players loved him. I don't know that much has changed now that he is the head man. I choose not to compare!!!
Seth: Something something Dave Brandon and the current state of the program/college football in general?
Lipson: Bo would not be happy. He believed games ought to be played at 1:00 p.m. and wouldn't like the night games and all of the other things. Dave Brandon is the antithesis of Canham in some ways, but that was a different era with different expectations and even though Bo wouldn't like it, there's a lot of things Bo wouldn't like. I think Brandon is doing the right things for Michigan, and that's what he should be doing.
Seth: This is WRONG!!!:
This is RIGHT!!!:
This is a question! ?
Lipson: When I switched songs I received a ton of negative mail and comments saying to go back to the original. After 3 years I did return. Much of the negative comments came from Doug Karsch during his days at WTKA.
Seth: "Whoa cool license plate!"
Lipson: The wife of a couple who sit next to us at the games [had that made for us]. She works at Jackson prison and had the plate made by convicts. We joke and say it was made by Kwame Kilpatrick during his stay there.
To WolverineHistorian for putting up most of the videos I linked to. To D.A. from my office (not sure if he wants his name out there) who provided the contact. To the readers who suggested questions (Bob read them all by the way) and shared their memories on that thread a few weeks ago. And to the incomparable Bob Lipson, for taking the time to humor a blogger with his story. Thank you!