alternate headline: man does job
I give up. All anyone wants to talk about is potential expansion, so more potential expansion bits.
Inside info! Someone close to the Rutgers athletic department says that RU will push hard for Big Ten entrance. Not like that is surprising, but there you go.
No, just no. Sorry, Teddy Greenstein, but…
Don't discount this: the Big 14.
I am discounting it. It is now 100% off for a limited time only, and by "limited time only" I mean "forever." Just because some guy in the Big Ten office says "anything is possible" does not mean that we shouldn't be shocked if a conference that's attempted to expand three times in the last fifteen years only to come up empty all of a sudden adds three teams to become an unwieldy beast of a conference in which you only play about half the teams every year.
Fourteen is ridiculous. The WAC was sixteen for a while until it exploded because at that point you're not a conference but a Thomas Jefferson-style loose confederation. Where is the common sense? Where is it? Is it in Russia? No.
Lloyd != Bo. This is not exactly "to hell with Notre Dame":
"I'd love to see Notre Dame join the Big Ten," Carr said. "I think certainly it would be a great thing for the Big Ten, and I think it would be great for Notre Dame.
"But, of course, they're fighting a lot of tradition there (at Notre Dame)," which has resisted overtures from the Big Ten previously, Carr added.
This, of course, is not happening. Notre Dame people believe that the Big Ten's only desire when it comes to engulfing Notre Dame is to destroy the university and therefore the very soul of America itself, and in this they are correct.
Also no just no. Sporting News colleague Dan Shanoff is a nice man who has a bad habit of coming up with an off-the-wall idea and posting it without running it through even the most cursory sanity check. Witness his suggestion that Navy should be the 12th Big Ten team:
*Academic credentials are impeccable.
*Football program is solid.
*Triple-option is "3 Yards/Cloud" 2.0
*Can keep trad'l games w/ Army, AFA, ND.
*Better than Notre Dame.
*Nearly beat Ohio State this season.
*Non-competitive recruiting strategy.
*But expands B10 footprint in the East.
*Feds could use the BCS bowl revenue.
*It is entirely uncontroversial.
Wrong, debatable, irrelevant, irrelevant, wrong, tiny sample size, irrelevant, wrong, irrelevant, irrelevant. The Big Ten is not a charity. Navy is not an AAU member, does not have any national TV cachet, would not be a compelling reason for local cable operators to carry the Big Ten Network because no one in DC is going to have a riot as long as the Army game is on CBS.
Simply comparing Navy to Pitt and finding that Pitt was better in literally every way other than supporting the troops—why does the Big Ten hate America?—would have shot this down before it worked its way onto the internet and sat there being embarrassing, like if the GEICO money was made out of shots of you picking your nose when you were six.
Yes, yes, Terrance Cody's gravitational pull makes everything revolve around the SEC. Braves & Birds tends to see things through two lenses: World War II and SEC superiority. So in retrospect this was obvious:
I have no doubt that this move is motivated by a major case of SEC envy. Barry Alvarez was probably sitting on his couch for the first weekends of the past two Decembers, watching the #1 and #2 teams in the country play each other in the Georgia Dome and thinking to himself "man, we need something like that." However, what the Big Ten needs is not the game in early December; what it needs is teams of the quality of Florida and Alabama. …
And so, to come full circle, the Big Ten right now reminds me of the Third Reich in the summer of 1944. Germany was about to get hammered in the East by Operation Bagration and in the West by Operation Cobra. Faced with major issue, Hitler decided that the way to win the war was by firing a bevy of V-2 rockets at London. His decision was a classic case of praying for some sort of saving throw the the dice when faced with basic shortcomings.
Did Clay Travis steal B&B's login information? The Big Ten has looked at expansion every five years since Penn State joined; were those all motivated by jealousy of the SEC, too? Did the Big Ten come off championships in 1997 and 2002 only to think to itself "that god damned SEC" and look at expanding the following year? How many rhetorical questions can I stick in one paragraph? Five?
I blame Joe Paterno for this annoying meme floating around. Here's his quote from March:
We go into hiding for six weeks," Paterno said, referring to the hiatus between the end of the Big Ten regular season and the BCS bowls. The other major FBS conferences play into the first weekend of December.
"Everybody else is playing playoffs on television," Paterno said. "You never see a Big Ten team mentioned. So I think that's a handicap."
People forget that Paterno is an 81-year old man who has little say over his own football team, let alone the conference it is in. The Big Ten is pushing its schedule later in 2010. Which is next year. To get increased exposure late in the season, all the Big Ten has to do is play.
This has nothing to do with the SEC except insofar as everything designed to get money is part of the arms race and the only conference that even competes with Big Ten is the SEC. They'll do it if they think it's a good idea; they won't if they don't. The big difference this time around is that Notre Dame seems permanently off the table and Pitt has built itself into an attractive basketball power with accompanying decent football program. B&B then goes off on the league's mediocre coaching as if expansion and hiring Danny Hope are in any way dependent. They are not linked.
Yes, expansion is an attempt to make the league better on and off the field. I can't fathom why this has anything to do with the SEC except insofar as everyone who lives in the South is legally obligated to assume everything is because of the SEC. Clay Travis is writing up a column right now about how the New York Times is holding up health care reform by wasting their time on recruiting hostesses.
I really, really, really don’t look forward to 18+ months of mindless speculation over Big 11 expansion.
…which I think we can all agree with. But then it appears that what Pitt Blather wants is speculation about Big East expansion that includes adding Villanova, a I-AA team, and Charlotte, a nonexistent team, instead of Memphis, a team with a billion dollars from FedEx guy.
Welcome. Now give us money. I don't actually know about this but I thought it was interesting. Smart Football's Chris Brown asks about a potential holdup with Team 12 (and team 13, and 14, and 52):
Someone sent me a question regarding whether a new Big 10 member could afford to join, and you seemed like the guy to mention it to.
The concern was whether any potential new Big 10 school could afford to "buy-in" to the BTN. Specifically, he said: "News Corp paid $66M to Big Ten for BTN in '07. Rough numbers put the value today at ~$400M. What school has ~$40M for buy-in?"
According to wikipedia, the member schools own 51% and Fox/News Corp owns 49%. The buy-in would not necessarily be 1/10 the value of the overall entity; it just needs to buy enough shares or units to have 1/12 of the 51%. I don't know how it is structured, but I bet the member schools jointly own an entity which itself owns 51% of the joint BTN venture with News Corp. That way a new school could just buy the units from the other schools, or they could issue new units, such that each school would then own 1/12 of the member schools' portion of the entity. Make sense? If you assume BTN really is worth $400m, that means that a new school would just have to buy 1/12 of the 51%, which comes out to around $17m.
But again, how do we know what the BTN is worth? Mandel threw some revenue figures together but those seem pretty darn loose. And in any event the biggest factor would be what kind of growth rate do you see from the Big 10 Network. I think we both agree the business model is fluctuating.
Finally, my friend made the point that he didn't think a school had that much money. I don't see why an athletic department couldn't borrow that money and then pay it down with future revenues; any school but Notre Dame would undoubtedly have their overall sports revenues increase.
Any thoughts on this? Specifically, whether buying into the BTN would be any kind of hurdle for a new member school? Also let me know if I'm looking at the structure wrong. I don't have any firm info and am just going off some stuff I saw online.
That would depend on how much the school in question brings to the table. If Notre Dame got really drunk and decided to sign up I doubt the Big Ten would push the issue much since adding them to the network would be a big win. Pitt or Rutgers or whoever might be asked to pay for their slice of the pie.
I don't think that would be a major hurdle since you're really cutting the school in on something with excellent growth potential; the school in question could justify buying in with a section of their general fund since it's an investment that should grow in value.
For the record. One man's list of the five most insane schools proposed for Big Ten expansion:
5. Iowa State. Yes, their athletic programs are that historically bad that a land-grant university in the geographic footprint makes this list.
At this rate by the end of these 18 months I'm going to be guest-posting trash talk about Iowa State on BHGP.
4. Toronto. Only mentioned because it's in the AAU and Toronto is so starved for entertainment that they'll sell out MLS games. Problems: the pilot program for NCAA induction of a few Universities only applies to D-II and will get a few schools out West in within ten years, Toronto doesn't play American football, and Michigan State would have to forfeit all its games there because Canada wouldn't let them into the country.
3. Navy. Previously discussed.
2. Cornell. Cornell is an Ivy-league school without a I-A football program. And yet…
1. Rice. It's got all the downsides of Texas combined with all the downsides of Iowa State. Its only asset is that its band integrated e^x during the Rice-Michigan game a while back just so they could spell "sex" in front of 110,000 people.
The rotate. Illinois will look to the future on Saturday by rotating in redshirt freshman Jacob Charest, who you can see making sweet love to your whole body with his mind to the right. Hey, baby, Jacob Charest would like to know if you like emo bangs and nonchalant poses from his trip to North Korea. Yeah, baby, Jacob Charest wore his Illini uniform to Pyongyang Stadium. Because Illini up, that's why.
Charest is a 6'4" pro-style QB out of North Carolina who was a middling three star a couple years back. When Juice got pulled (again) against Purdue, Charest came in and did this:
Charest made his debut Saturday, playing in three series while going 4 of 8 for 52 yards. Zook said he was impressed with the way Charest threw downfield.
Read: "Zook said he was impressed that Charest had better accuracy than a random number generator."
So… good or bad? I guess you'd always rather be going against a team that's trying to find a quarterback and is on their third attempt—Eddie McGee is now working at wide receiver—of the season. And Williams was beyond terrifying last year against Michigan. On the other hand: Michigan's clear weakness this year is the secondary, and anyone more capable of taking advantage of that secondary than Williams is bad.
It probably won't matter since Illinois's line is so terrible: the Illini are #112 in sacks allowed despite a below-average number of passes. (212; NCAA average is 228. So it's not a huge outlier or anything; the point is that their stats aren't distorted by a lot of late-game passing because they're bad.)
Bonus: Arrelious Benn has been fighting an ankle sprain since the first game of the year and played with a shoulder sprain against Purdue. He'll play this weekend but is not 100%.
Ortmann carries around a phonebooth on his back. Via Rittenberg, this table of woe from before the Penn State game:
Suboptimal, and probably worse after Forcier got little help from his receivers. The pocket stuff isn't quite that grim as the table implies since this only accounts for throw of over ten yards—I was in the midst of firing off an email suggesting those numbers had to be wrong when I finally understood the qualifier—but, yeah, pretty grim.
This is a confirmation of a number of this: Forcier's bad in the pocket, the receivers aren't helping out much, and so forth and so on. Michigan should really slant its playcalling towards Lloyd-style conservatism, which only maddens when you're running around with a senior Tom Brady, not sophomore John Navarre.
Mumble mumble bands thing. Michigan State may have lost Saturday, but they won the halftime show:
The Numa Numa song is kind of awesome arranged for marching band, isn't it?
I'm still not sure what the MMB played, as I couldn't hear 3/4ths of it. Was it supposed to be four different thematic versions of the Victors? The one I heard had some vague Victors-y parts but it didn't sound like the fight song itself. I was confused by it.
He descended on a cloud and grumbled out some grumbles for us, we used it to season the tacos. Lloyd Carr, perhaps prompted by Rick Leach's intemperate outburst on WTKA a week or two ago, has emerged from the Fortress of Solitude to deliver his benediction:
"Rich is a young guy, (and) he's got a great background for such a young guy," Carr said during his interview with Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter. "What we're seeing here offensively throughout this season is a great thing for the future of Michigan football.
"The transition a year ago you could expect (the struggles) because what they were looking for in a quarterback. Certainly what we have here is exciting. I'm excited for the future." …
"I've had a lot of conversations with Rich Rodriguez down through the last 18, 20 months, and I told him from the beginning if he needed me for any reason, just call me," Carr said. "I did not want to be a coach who's at practice and hanging around and answering questions from the media about what I saw. I didn't think that was good for Rich or our program."
This will slightly staunch the internet paranoia, but only slightly. As always, I wish to avoid this topic as thoroughly as possible. I have zero credible information about it, and learned during the coaching search that different factions can have incredibly different versions of reality.
On the notice. Chengelis's article on the import of this notice Michigan received from the NCAA starts off by broaching the possibility of major infractions but the end of it puts the event that just transpired in context:
Experts said that might well not be a major development.
"I think this is just a natural sequence of events that should occur when you have numerous former and current players making allegations that there have been rule violations, in this case, practices too long," said Rick Karcher, a sports law expert at the Florida Coastal School of Law.
"It's just a first step."
The next step would either be a determination by the NCAA that the accusations are baseless, or a formal "Notice of Allegations" detailing precisely what is supported by evidence.
It appears this is something that was obviously going to happen, and since NCAA investigators have been working with Michigan the past couple months it seems like this is a letter telling Michigan what it already knows. Basically status quo.
Just 40 more years and they'll get the hang of it.
Charts. A diarist at Black Shoe Diaries diarist is rivaling Misopogon with his charts and interesting research. His focus is on Big Ten passer efficiency over the last decade, with a special focus on Penn State that won't be surprising to anyone who's watched PSU play over the last decade. PSU QBs were consistently horrible except for that one year Mills had before his arm fell off until Darryl Clark broke all of our preconceived notions about JayPa. A couple more general takeaways:
- The last few years Big Ten QBs have dropped off a cliff, with this year a bounce-back.
- Passer efficiency continues to skyrocket. Check out some meh QBs of recent and not-so-recent vintage:
Approximately same rank, 12 extra passer efficiency points for the guy slightly worse.
That latter one is a reason to relax pass interference rules, I think. Another reason: right now they are arbitrary.
Etc.: Tempo-free stats make the NBA bigtime. Florida is the current possessor of a hypothetical college football title belt dating back to the first game ever played; Michigan is an eight-time hypothetical champ, most recently in 2004 when they beat… Purdue?
Lloyd Carr has no interest in the athletic director job:
Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr said Wednesday he is not interested in replacing Bill Martin as athletic director.
"I am not a candidate," Carr said.
As per usual, he had no other comment except the boilerplate bits you can find in the diaries.
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Madness! Madness-type object that's not at midnight goes down tonight at 9PM in Crisler, with doors at 8 and a "barbecue" from 7-8 on the east lawn, which sounds like a good idea except it's mid-October. Dylan has a primer for you. In celebration of the basketball team's achievements and in an attempt to make money, allow me to present MGoBlog's sweet basketball shirt:
It is, as per usual, by Six Zero. I know what you're thinking, guy who took Spanish in high school, but you're wrong: "sofa" is irregular and takes a masculine article. I looked it up three times.
While we're on the basketball team, Big Ten Geeks has a two-part preview of the season that focuses on tempo-free stats. The first part shows what you already know: Beilein's second year was a huge leap forward from his first. They ask this question;
Note that leap goes only to 50th, not the 40th you'd expect from Michigan's tournament seeding or the 32nd-ish you'd expect from their advancement to the second round. I expect the team to improve this year, but I'll be marking improvement from 50th.
The Geeks then attempt to answer their question with an array of tempo-free charts comparing Michigan's first two season under Beilein to West Virginia's first three. It appears the offense can expect another step forward in eFG%, but is probably maxing out in 3FGA/FGA and minimizing TOs as much as humanly possible.
Note: a reader gave me the idea for this shirt but a search of the ever-expanding, world-encompassing inbox does not turn up who it is. If it's you, email me and claim your reward.
Bombshell! This is what passes for the biggest story in the Free Press's world:
That's right: "Mom popped hood so boy could get gun, kill" and Taylor Swift (!!!) get second billing to the Free Press FOIAing the University for grade records—the one thing actually covered by the FERPA law that athletic departments abuse willy-nilly—multiple times and Rodriguez saying this:
I have mentioned publicly several times that the football team last year achieved the highest average GPA ever, and I'd like to set the record straight on that statement. Last fall, in order to boost academic performance, I asked the Academic Success Program for the highest-ever team GPA and challenged the players to beat it. The ASP doesn't track team GPAs, so they provided me with an estimate based on their experience dealing with individual performance. They did not make it clear that the number was just an estimate and not an exact calculation
The bastard. In a TLA, LOL. This
is getting has long been comical.
Wolverines, for real. They're remaking Red Dawn, for some reason, but at least they're doing it with proper respect for wolverines:
For former Michigan players Sean Griffin, Charles Stewart, Darnell Hood and Brandent Englemon, playing high school football players -- for a team named the Wolverines, no less -- in the remake of the 1980's movie "Red Dawn," came, in some respects, almost naturally.
"It's just football," said Griffin, a 2008 U-M graduate and former long snapper.
It's not just football, it's a titanic struggle against communism in a dystopic alternate reality, Sean. Let's get with the program.
I once went to the world's worst staging of any play—they sang "Silent Night" at the end—just because Jamar Adams and Jake Long and Chad Henne were vaguely in it, so I guess I have to go see the remake of Red Dawn now. The dangerous precedents I set.
Happy fun time forever hurray! Rick Leach finally followed through on his promise to bring down the thunder on someone for not being all in for Rich Rodriguez. As you've no doubt already found out because I've been studiously avoiding the topic to the point where Doctor Saturday himself pinged me to inform me about this event, it was Lloyd Freakin' Carr:
This morning former U-M QB Rick Leach dialed up WTKA’s Michigan Insider with Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub to sound off about the report that Rodriguez backed off the claim that the team hit the highest GPA in team history. Leach painted it as another attempt by the media to discredit Rodriguez, paraphrasing: “turning a good story into a bad one.”
But then Leach took aim at former coach Lloyd Carr, asking folks to investigate where and with whom Carr sat at the Iowa game. … Per Leach, this act is effectively waving a “middle finger” at U-M.
I find this wonderful in all ways and love everything forever. Like everyone else who reads a lot of Michigan message boards, I've heard dark stories about Carr and Eastern regent James Stapleton—a guy who thought Brian Ellerbe's firing was racist!—and what some brilliant, anonymous person called the "shadow government" in Ypsilanti, all of the vague beyond the point of usefulness and extremely irritating. I've never found anyone worth citing, even if I maybe kind of believe certain aspects of it. Which I think I do. But I haven't heard anything worth publishing. When and if I do, I'll publish it.
Bracelet note. If you clicked the button on the top right to donate to Phil Brabbs and get yourself a cancer kicker bracelet, there is another step you have to execute: email [email protected] to tell them how many you'd like. Details here. Video blog from Brabbs and wife here.
You can see Hemingway two steps beyond his guy, loping down field. He pulls up, thus turning a potential deep completion into an easy interception. This guy's answer: no, it wasn't Hemingway's fault. If he'd kept going on his route he might have had a chance to break the play up but watch the video; watch how long the safety is just waiting for the ball to come directly to him:
Receiver or no, that is not a good throw. Especially with Odoms hand-wavingly wide open underneath.
Inside vs outside zone. I've struggled to recognize the differences between inside and outside zone plays for a long time now, but Chris Brown (Not That Chris Brown) has illuminated it for me, and for you:
On outside zone plays, the "covered" offensive linemen (those with a defender lined up directly in front of them) will take a little bit more of a lateral first step and try to "reach" the defender -- that is, get their body in position to seal the defender from chasing the ball outside. The running back aims for a point outside the tight end, though he can cut it upfield wherever a seam appears.
Michigan hardly ever gets outside the tight end, or outside the tackle, because defensive ends are coached to get upfield and force the play back inside of them. When they do get outside the tackle it's usually a big gainer. A large number of Michigan's outside zone (or "stretch") plays end up going between the tackle and the center; the guard to that side of the field releases downfield to get a block on a linebacker.
Anyway, this causes people to start flowing fast to the sideline, at which point it's time to hit them with a counter. The simplest zone counter is to just execute the same play with a slightly different goal:
Once the defense begins flowing too fast to the sideline, Wilson will come back to the inside zone. The rules are the same -- covered and uncovered -- except this is more of a drive block as the aiming points are inside. The play often results in a cutback if the defense is flowing fast for the outside zone, but the difference between the outside zone is one of technique, not assignment.
So instead of trying to get around your guy with a reach block and sealing him, you just shove him down the line and have Minor cut behind you.
Here's an a-ha I just had. You know how Michigan was blocking the backside end much of the day? All those must have been inside zone plays. These days unblocked DEs tend to crash down on the backside, turning cutback lanes into minimal gains. Blocking that guy gives your moosebot tailback the opportunity to cut back on the inside zone without getting an unblocked DE in his face.
Etc.: Guess what Pryor's running now? The spread 'n' shred. Also this counter draw play OSU is running is something Michigan should put in the Robinson playbook. You can sign up to support Michigan Stadium's World Cup bid. There is a student protest today at City Hall to fight for State Street's right to party. The Beastie Boys would be proud. Correction: the Beastie Boys 20 years ago would be proud. The current Beastie Boys are very disappointed you're not thinking about Tibet.
Earlier this year when one Ohio State blogger who pops his head up around here from time to time invoked what must be the second most-dread name in coaching* to an Ohio State fan considering the leadership of his favored program, I basically scoffed at the comparison:
I'm not saying Jim Tressel is Lloyd Carr, but... what separates Lloyd Carr in say, 2002 or 2003, from Jim Tressel right now? This is a line of thought I've been seriously following for the better part of a year now. I'd like some input from Michigan fans on this.
Here's my input: that's way hasty.
Though Jim Tressel shares many of Lloyd Carr's philosophies, he's been much better at making sure his unwavering belief that he has a kick-ass defense, great special teams, and pounding ground game is accurate. This made his philosophies actually work on the field. It makes way more sense to play Lloyd/Tresselball when your quarterback is Craig Krenzel and your middle linebacker is AJ Hawk than when your quarterback is Tom Brady and your middle linebacker is Zack Kaufman.
And Tressel has consistently displayed an aptitude for pulling out the stops when it comes to The Game. The single play that leaps out to me from Tressel's oeuvre that demonstrates his mastery of Michigan came midway through 2006's Football Armageddon. Ohio State rushed to the line after a nine-yard gain, aligned in a power formation, snapped the ball almost as soon as it was set, and ran play action that sucked Ryan Mundy up and led to an easy touchdown. That touchdown represented the four points separating a win from a loss and spoke of meticulous, wily preparation. (And, of course, the fact that Michigan safety play was consistently awful for ten years.) Jim Tressel is only a dinosaur when it suits him, which is usually but not always.
"Usually" is fine when you're going up against teams you've out-recruited for a decade. It's not when you're going up against USC or Florida or Texas, and in the aftermath of Ohio State's six straight failed attempt to prove themselves something other than a local bully, Ohio State fans got antsy, even angry. Then Chris Brown of Smart Football unloaded on Jim Tressel in a guest post at Doctor Saturday. You've probably seen it already. It instantly became an internet sensation everywhere from here to Ohio State message boards to, apparently (and possibly apocryphally), Tressel himself on Columbus radio. It's remarkable in a number of ways, but mostly for the strident tone Brown adopts. Brown has established himself as the blogosphere's most knowledgeable and perceptive observer of football, and he's done so without depressing a key in anger. The effect of the piece was similar to Bill Cosby calling someone you hate a stupid caveman:
[Tressel] is not good enough of a tactician to win against the national elite who, unlike practically everyone he schemes against in his conference, have the talent to match Ohio State's, and those are the only games where coaching really matters. With his facilities, talent, and resources, winning the Big Ten is not the test.
Look at the numbers. Ohio State's failure to beat a quality opponent since defeating Michigan to punch a ticket to the national championship game in 2006, Tressel's teams have been outclassed, outsmarted, outplayed and outprepared in every big game they've played.
If you haven't read it already, stop everything immediately and do so. The thing is pure porn for Wolverines, especially because the counter-example to stupid is the guy currently calling the plays for Tate Forcier.
You'll note that the other side of the ball was ahead of USC's curve. This seems like less of an accomplishment than it did a week ago, but this kind of statement from an offensive lineman…
“We spent all night trying to adjust to what they were doing up front. They did not come with the stuff we practiced against.”
…is the precise opposite of what Michigan fans will remember hearing and loathing whenever Michigan made a Rose Bowl against teams that would bash their heads in with a stick. That's high praise for the coaches and something that keeps Ohio State afloat even when they've got wonky quarterbacking—which, by my count, has been all but two years of Tressel's tenure.
This is about adaptation. In Michigan's win over Notre Dame, Tate Forcier threw 33 times, which was eight more attempts than Pat White ever had at West Virginia. Meanwhile, Tressel attempts to pound a square peg into a round, arm-punting hole. This goes beyond just the playcalling, though you'd never think it given the postgame reaction.
There was a minor hubbub about Tressel dropping something analogous to Rich Rodriguez's infamous "get a life" quote, albeit in exquisitely Senator Tressel fashion:
"When I read some of them I feel terrible for them because there's no way they're happy," he said. "They've got to be some of the most unhappy people in the world, and I feel bad because we just made them less happy, and I hate to be a part of making someone less happy. I mean, they're already miserable."
Exact same sentiment as "get a life," but respun in a way that defuses the hubbub. Yea, truly, Jim Tressel is a brilliant politician. But Holy God the only person to not totally ignore the big story from that press conference was Adam Rittenberg, who spent a bunch of his post on the matter detailing the ridiculous decisions Tressel made en route to defeat:
Tressel, who said he makes most of the play calls even though Jim Bollman has the title of offensive coordinator, disdained going for a touchdown in favor of an easy field goal on fourth-and-goal at the USC 1 early in the second quarter. He also favored punting on fourth-and-1 at the USC 45 in the third quarter.
With around 8 minutes left in the game and Ohio State gripping a 15-10 lead, the Buckeyes drove to a first down at the USC 35. After a run gained 3 yards, quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw an incompletion and then was sacked for a 4-yard loss that meant kicker Aaron Pettrey would have a 53-yard attempt on fourth-and-11 at the USC 36. Tressel elected to punt again.
That punt led to the Trojans taking control for an impressive 86-yard drive that won the game.
Ohio State is going toe-to-toe with a program they consider their equal. They're actually a significant underdog, with USC favored by seven. And Tressel kicked a field goal from the one yard line, punted on fourth and one on USC's side of the field, and punted from the USC 36. All of these things are insane by the numbers and more so when you've recruited a 6'6" beast of a quarterback who can fall forward for a first down behind the swamp-beast of a guard who you stole from Michigan. Tressel shriveled up and reduced variance in a game he is the underdog in because he finds it extremely hard to shift gears. By doing so he set his team up to lose a narrow lead late. His decisions can be directly blamed for the loss. Ohio State should never have been up only five points in that game. Engineering students of Ohio State, welcome to the same level of hell I was on after the 2005 Ohio State game. May you reside here long and painfully.
This is a failure to adapt. For twenty years Tressel has operated at a significant talent advantage relative to almost all of his peers. With the relative collapses of Michigan and Penn State—who has beaten OSU of late when the talent scales approach even—there has been no local program fit to challenge Ohio State recruiting star to recruiting star, and he's rolled up conference championships and victories only to be smacked down when the big guys from elsewhere roll into town. Tressel is fixed in his ways and has not been challenged sufficiently to re-evaluate his philosophy. At this point it's hard to imagine him doing so simply because of inertia. And the big games continue to roll by without victories. Tressel, at this point, is not a version of Carr waiting to happen. He's Bo Schembechler.
POSTSCRIPT: The exercise of comparing Rodriguez to Tressel, Carr, and Schembechler is largely left to the reader, but I'll refer you to an earlier piece that has been reinforced by the first three weeks of this season and the Smart Football article above. Money (ha) graf:
Rodriguez comes from a wholly different background than Carr, coming up through the ranks at NAIA schools and Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia. Until Pat White showed up he never had a significant talent advantage against the vast majority of opponents. He never, ever had the luxury of lying back and thinking to himself "if we out-execute the opponent we will win," and it shows. He invented a whole new offense and used it to exploit inefficiencies in recruiting. To seal the Sugar Bowl against Georgia he called a fake punt, exploiting inefficiencies in fourth-down playcalling. For the past seven years he has played Moneyball at West Virginia.
You know, I liked Justin Feagin. As a guy thousands of miles away from the man in question and limited to assembling things other people wrote about him, I had just more than zero to go on, but I liked him anyway. He played both ways at a tiny school and smiled big and innocent on signing day and said things that seemed different and bouncier than your average bouncy, meaningless quote from a guy on or around the greatest day of his life.
He said this about Terrelle Pryor's potential addition:
"What if he does go to Michigan? Shame on me if I sit back and think he's better than me. If he wants to play quarterback, we'll have to fight each other for the job. If I win the job, then I'll know I beat out the No. 1 quarterback in the nation."
And I wrote this:
this is one of the recruits in this class I'm baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason. If you're so inclined you can see Feagin doing squats until two in the morning in his quotes. … Feagin sounds like the kind of guy who will thrive under the pressure of the Rodriguez regime and is clearly a high caliber athlete.
This is going to be a pretty stupid statement, but I like the kid's quotes a lot.
Apparently, the ability to give a good quote to a local preps reporter is not highly correlated with success on the field or off. Not giving a good quote to the police when you don't have to might be more valuable. This is noted for the future.
I know what some of you are thinking. I thought it, too, albeit briefly, when the news first broke: An event like this would have never happened under Lloyd Carr's watch. And that's almost certainly true. Lloyd Carr was and is a uniquely gifted and genuine man whose priority has always been the peak mental and emotional acuity of the players under his watch, and I know I am not alone in expressing my gratitude for his immaculate representation of a university that likes to think of itself as superior to all others.
But this is not reality. An enraged Chitownblue, prompted by the idiotic diary that inaugurated the 200-words-or-more era, rounded up a dossier of 29 Michigan arrests of various sorts under Lloyd Carr. Lloyd recruited Kelly Baraka and Eugene Germany and Carson Butler and Chris Richards and Johnny Sears and Will Peterson and another, more internet famous felon chased from the team:
Even Lloyd, whom we would like to believe incapable of such an oversight, could only sit with folded hands as opposing fanbases across the country laughed at the dismissal of defensive tackle Larry Harrison, who was charged with four counts of sexual delinquency and suspected in 16 more. Harrison endangered fewer people than Feagin, certainly, but the fact remains that Rich Rodriguez does not stand alone among Michigan coaches who have seen a felonious embarrassment take place on his watch.
I'm not even sure Feagin endangered anyone. He admitted to getting into some trouble in high school, but the crime here—if he actually gets charged with one—is taking $600 from some burnout and promising to get him cocaine, then not getting him cocaine. The endangerment came when the burnout had his great arson idea. The offense clearly warrants dismissal, but as far as disgraceful acts committed by Michigan football players go it's somewhere between Germany running from the cops (and getting caught!) and Carson Butler's St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre*.
Meanwhile at Michigan State, a guy who put a Spartan hockey player in the hospital and was sentenced to six months in jail got an early release so he could make Michigan State's first practice. This is the way a sane person, in this case AnnArbor.com's Dave Birkett, reacts to the juxtaposition of these events:
…one coach took the proper actions with his troubled player and one coach took an unnecessary gamble for reasons I can’t explain. Sure, everyone deserves a second chance, but that second chance doesn’t have to be at the same school where you committed such a major offense.
So of course Michael Rosenberg's latest article is headlined "Win at all costs a poor formula for Rodriguez." This is because Rosenberg has completely lost his shit about Rodriguez, as detailed in this space before. Last summer Rosenberg threw together a pastiche of assumptions, omissions, and flatly incorrect statements and titled it "Embarrassing ordeal reveals ugly truths about U-M coach Rich Rodriguez"—the ordeal in this case being the lawsuit over Rodriguez's buyout—that permanently submarined his credibility about Rodriguez.
This one is no better. He cites Rodriguez's recruitment of Pat Lazear at West Virginia, who got ten days in jail and a suspended sentence for his role (driving) in an armed robbery (FWIW, the weapon was a BB gun), as evidence Rodriguez will take anyone not wearing an orange jumpsuit. He does not mention the Winston thing which hey pick out which quote here is about Lazear and which is about Winston…
"[Assistant Coach] and I have researched [Player's] entire situation over several months," [coach] said in a statement released by the school's athletic department. "We have talked to a number of people, and after a thorough review, I am reassured that [player] will be a successful student-athlete and a positive member of our university community. We are eager for him to join the [Mascot] family."
"[Player] has done everything that he's been asked to do from a judicial and a team standpoint. He has paid the penalty for his actions -- publicly, legally and athletically -- and he worked hard to maintain his academic eligibility while doing so. We regret the entire incident, however at this time it is important that we support [Player] socially, academically and athletically. He still has a lot of work to do."
…functionally identical except in Michael Rosenberg's eyes. Lazear, by the way, is entering his third year at West Virginia on the Academic Honor Roll. He has not been in further trouble.
And then there's this on Willie Bueno's statement that he didn't know of any trouble with Feagin:
Should Rodriguez have known about Feagin's transgressions? Well, Bueno said Monday that he didn't know. But frankly that raises questions about Bueno, and it shows the importance of relationships for college coaches. They have to really know the communities where they recruit, and they must be sure that coaches and administrators are informed and honest with them.
Christ. Rodriguez talks with Willie Bueno, who says Feagin is a good kid without issues because he apparently believes it, and it's up to Rodriguez to "be sure" that this guy isn't lying to his face. Feagin mentioned a couple of issues in high school that "nothing came of"; as a juvenile he wouldn't have a record unless something extremely serious went down. Nothing did, so even if Rodriguez checked up on that supposed record it would come up clean. Rosenberg suggests that Rodriguez should assume every coach is a liar and undertake investigations of everyone so that a bad apple doesn't arrive. This is obviously infeasible. Hell, Lloyd Carr made that mistake at least 29 times in his career.
To date Rodriguez has dealt with two DUIs (Grady and Stonum) and one coke-deal-that-wasn't in a year and a half. [UPDATE: There was also the Cissoko-yells-at-cop incident, a disorderly conduct.] Michigan doesn't even register on the Fulmer Cup scoreboard (2008, 2009—if Feagin gets charged with something Michigan will get points above their current one), and Rodriguez racked up fewer points in his last two years at WVU than Carr did over the same timespan at Michigan. The numbers say Rodriguez's recent behavior record is better than Lloyd freakin' Carr's, and the guy who just got out of jail and walked on to a Michigan State practice field say that there's one strict program in-state but it's not run by the guy who's an Upstanding Football Coach. But because Rodriguez doesn't stare at you really hard and talk the right way, he's running a renegade program. Right. Rosenberg's just another Drew Sharp now.
Meanwhile, Justin Feagin's transferring somewhere where he'll give a good quote and smile and maybe this time he'll come through on those. But probably not. It's tough to defy your surroundings.
*(The listed in approximate order: Baraka (weed), Sears (weed + performance in The Horror), Germany (possibly joking cell phone theft coupled from dumb running from police), Butler(assault), Chris Richards (assault, B&Eing his own dorm room), Peterson(assault + theft), Harrison.)