"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Hockey summer. The hockey season is over, and that means one thing: months and months of waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to sign an NHL contract. There's always at least one, so let's run down the possibilities:
- Aaron Palushaj. Palushaj was heavily rumored to be out the door last year and is even more heavily rumored to be out the door this year. The Wolverine's Michael Spath is basically saying "he gone," as is (ugh) Hockey Buzz.
- Chris Summers. A first round pick entering his senior year is always a flight risk, but Spath says a projected second depature "isn't Summers." Also, when Jerry of the Joe Cribbs Car Wash was a Saline Reporter… uh… reporter he interviewed Summers and got the distinct impression he was in for the long haul. About that second projected departure…
- Scooter Vaughn. By the end of the year Vaughn was Michigan's eighth defenseman and was being tried out as a fourth-line forward. On the blue line the only graduation loss is Mitera. With Summers returning, no other defensemen seeming like huge flight risks (Kampfer, I guess, but there haven't been any rumblings to that effect), and freshman Lee Moffie arriving in the fall, Michigan will again have eight defensemen and Vaughn is staring at an uphill battle for playing time. Unsurprisingly, he might look elsewhere.
- Caporusso, Hagelin, and Rust. There hasn't been any buzz on these guys either way because none are expected to leave. Caporusso and his shiny point totals are the biggest threat, but he was a late third round pick and Ottawa is not a team with a rep for signing kids just for the hell of it. That said, this is Michigan hockey so someone will kill us with an unexpected departure.
If the only departures are Vaughn, who is probably going to spend most of next year in a suit, and Palushaj, who everyone had already written off, that would be a win.
Spot on. Joe Posnanski's blog post on what ails sportswriting is a version of my usual complaint, except much less snotty about the whole thing:
There is still great, great sportswriting being done in newspapers, I believe this with all my heart. But that professional thing — maybe in places, there is a lack of joy. Maybe in places, there is an honorable distance. Maybe in places, the professional skepticism that we have built up through the years turns our coverage of games into hard-nosed city hall reporting. And last I checked, nobody wears jerseys that say “City Hall” on them.
That's at least part of it, with a large section of the other part being blithering stupidity. (Of which the internet has none.) Elsewhere in the post, Posnanski—who is an Actual Journalist for the KC Star and SI, if you don't know who he is—relates a formative anecdote in which he won a team-sponsored raffle and had to give it all (cooler! golf trip!) back when his hard-nosed city hall editor took the stogie out of his mouth and muttered something dark and deflating. It's an excellent example of the culture that was installed way back when, and how it turns young bucks into bitter donut-inhaling old men.
Not that Posnanski is one; he's my favorite Actual Journalist because he's the kind of person who maintains a personal blog and gets it in a way people who think typing a gamer your browser window is being "internet savvy" don't.
For a section dubbed the "toy department," there isn't a whole lot of fun on the sports pages. The erratic attempts at it only serve to confirm that the worst thing in the world is someone with an inflated impression of how hilarious they are; they're more sad than anything else. The exceptions (Wojo at the News, for one) only serve to reinforce the dull stentorian grumbling of the rest of it.
Thank you. Y'all can stick little needles in your Jim Carty voodoo dolls as you read this, but the man has done us (or at least me) a service:
Kirk Bohls is a very good columnist for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Texas. We've been fortunate to meet and interact a little at the Rose Bowl. He's used Kentucky's recent firing of Billy Gillispie to compile a list of the 10 toughest jobs in college sports.Here's the excerpt for No. 8:
8. MICHIGAN FOOTBALL: Wolverines chased off proven winner Lloyd Carr for Rich Rodriguez, but the 108,500 fans who crowd the Big House won’t tolerate losses to Toledo — much less Ohio State — for long.We'll deal with why the contention Carr was changed off in a minute, but even more amusingly, Bohls lists the Texas football job behind Michigan at No. 10. The only problem with that suggestion, of course is ... well ... actual historical record. Michigan has had four coaches since 1968. None of them were fired. The only one who resigned under pressure did so for reasons that had nothing to do with football.
The news about the News:
The Ann Arbor News will close in July and will be replaced by a Web-based, media company called AnnArbor.com, Laurel Champion, publisher of The News, announced in a 9 a.m. meeting with staff.
Ah but not so fast: the "web based company" will be run by the same people, hire some of the same people, and put out print editions twice a week plus print a "total market coverage" thing, whatever that means, once a week. This is basically a rehash of the Free Press/News changes with some extra frippery I assume is a way of avoiding Booth Newspaper's longstanding no-layoffs pledge. Or something else that has to do with financial wizardry. In any case, the way the story is framed—by the newspaper itself!—is a little dramatic.
If you're interested in some serious back and forth sniping, check out Jim Carty's blog. Journo commenters can't just call you a d-bag, they have to write an article-length comment to do it. Fun for the whole family.
As for the Michigan sports upshot… eh. Chances are the new web-based company will focus about as much on Michigan sports as the existing newspaper; they'll actually have more motivation to do so as an online-oriented product.
I did love that mere days after interviewing Dylan of UMHoops for a story that mentioned he authored a Michigan basketball blog but didn't link to or even name it, the News managed to cram no fewer than eight links to their new URL in the story announcing the News' demise. Dips. I'm nofollowing links to the Ann Arbor News for the next week, starting with the above.
The above amply demonstrates that the current leadership of the News is extraordinarily ill-prepared to make this transition. They fail to understand the currency of the internet, that linking out spurs linking in. Trying to trap readers in a box made of a million holes is archaic; I wonder how long it will take for someone to thwack Unfrozen Caveman Newspaper Exec in the back of the head and stage a coup.
(Sorry if the tag seems insensitive; it's just what media discussion goes under around these parts.)
Programming note: I'm jammed up, as I'm headed to the hockey game tonight and that will take up a big hunk of time. I plan on getting another numbers-centric preview up for the Oklahoma game tomorrow, hopefully by 2-ish.
via the Fairbanks News-Miner
Also the other team. The hockey team—which is very, very good—takes on Alaska tonight at 8 in the CCHA semifinals. Yost Built has your ten things; this one gives the best picture of what Michigan is up against tonight:
Weird team. They've shut out their opponent on eight occasions this year. They've been shut out ten times. You want to know why Ocho Cinco [Alaska goalie Chad Johnson -ed] won CCHA Player of the Year? They scored 54 goals in CCHA play and still finished fourth. That's 1.93 goals per game. The only team that scored fewer was FYS with 43 (43??!!!). The saving grace for them was that they only gave up 51, tying them with Michigan for the fictional "Jennings Trophy" of the conference, and finishing one ahead of Notre Dame.
First goal will be very important because there don't figure to be many of them. FWIW, KRACH says Michigan has a 73% chance of victory; Michigan and Alaska split in Fairbanks with Alaska winning 4-1 Friday and Michigan taking the Saturday game 3-2.
The latest from practice has Robbie Czarnik definitely available and Ben Winnett questionable; Scooter Vaughn is also practicing as a fourth-line forward.
Northern and Notre Dame are in the other semi; you are rooting for Northern, but without any real hope it will matter.
Good news from elsewhere: Minnesota ended its regular season last night with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA Final Five. The Gophers are currently the last team in the tournament at #14, but most of the possible results from the weekend knock them out. They're in if all favorites win, but all it takes is one more Duluth win or one unexpected autobid and they're at home. Patman's latest tourney update has the Gophers with only a 23% shot at making it in.
Minnesota missing the tourney makes a potential Michigan game in Minneapolis far less likely to be a defacto road game. Duluth can still make it, but 1) Duluth is far away and their fanbase is considerably smaller, and 2) Duluth can get shipped; Minnesota, as a host, cannot.
And hardware. Michigan took home a couple awards at the CCHA banquet: Tim Miller was the best defensive forward and David Wohlberg was rookie of the year. Alaska's Johnson was the POY, as you might expect.
Also, Louie Caporusso is a Hobey finalist. This is a really weak year for the award, so it's not out of the question he wins. However, he's a sophomore without a commanding resume and Kevin Porter just won last year, so it's not likely.
Cooper, a Saline High School graduate, and Burkhardt, a Pioneer grad who runs his own Michigan basketball blog, enjoyed every minute of it smack-dab in the middle of Section 117, where most of the 2,000 or so Michigan fans were gathered.
No link provided, obviously. Eyerolling goes here.
Uh? Far be it from me to harp on typos excessively, as they get through here on a daily basis. But… uh… MLive article on the dynamite Rust-Hagelin-Palushaj line, excerpt of which is sic:
Matt Rust couldn't recall the game and Aaron Palushaj wasn't sure about details, butthere is no comma here Carl Hagelin got the memories going.
Well, copy editor guy, if you're going 100% by the book there isn't, but commas are often a stylistic device used to make a sentence flow differently. Some are optional. Also optional: leaving your corrections in the finished copy.
Ball transfer with 19 minutes left in a close contest:
"Something must be done about Michigan basketball … [Beilein] must get control of his program."
Flying elbow with under a minute left in a twelve-point game:
"There was nothing wrong with Hansbrough going after that rebound. There was nothing wrong with him trying to score, or with Henderson fouling him. The problem was it was an excessive foul. The rule as written has nothing to do with intent. I don't think Henderson intended to hurt him, but that's not the issue. It was a foul that was too hard. It doesn't make either of them bad kids."
It's been brought up again and again since Tommy Amaker was deservedly fired: Jay Bilas has completely lost his head about Michigan and shouldn't talk about them, ever. Two years ago ESPN ranked the most underachieving programs from 1997 to 2007, and Michigan was #1 with a bullet. Bilas left them off his ballot entirely. A month earlier he attempted to paint the Michigan basketball program as a decrepit wasteland completely demolished by sanctions then ten years old. Midway through Beilein's first season Bilas laid into some harmless comment by Beilein in a manner so stupid it drew a fisk from Jim Carty, who at that time was not a blogger but a sportswriter. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski picked it up, too:
The more Bilas shills for Amaker, the more people in basketball laugh at him. Unlike Amaker, Beilein never had the ultimate coaching godfather to pick up the phone and get him a job.
“C’mon Jay, that is terrible,” an NBA scout who watched Amaker’s team regularly in the Big Ten emailed me this week after reading Bilas’ blog rant. “Almost laughable, really.”
Even when Bilas is attempting to defend his ridiculous comments about Michigan in the wake of the Harris ejection he fabricates:
"I respect his right to protect his kid and stand up for him, and I respect that, but that doesn't mean I have to buy it. I don't buy it. I saw (the play) 100 times. That's not a basketball play. That's not the way the game is played. How many games are played every day, high school, college or pro, and players execute rip-through moves, and how many noses are broken?"
This is in reference to Beilein describing it as a basketball play. Bilas leaves something out, though:
Players and coaches from both sides said afterward they thought it simply was a "basketball play." Kramer said he didn't consider it a "dirty" play.
Both Painter and Kramer said they saw nothing dirty in the play. Again: Bilas is suggesting that Harris intentionally clocked Kramer in the face because he was frustrated with 19 minutes left in a game Michigan was leading. But Gerald Henderson didn't intend to hurt Tyler Hansborough when he gave him a flying ninja elbow in garbage time. One of these things is "not a basketball play". The other doesn't consider itself a basketball play, it considers itself a leader.
Every time Bilas opens his mouth about Michigan he flushes more of his credibility down the toilet.
Etc.: Carty goes to town on Bilas on WTKA.
Site notes. Items of interest:
- The "MGoBoard" tab has been updated to have a consistent interface: comment counts appear on all tabs now and, more importantly, each tab has a pager in it so you can scan MGoBoard painlessly from the front page.
- Hopefully in the near future the tabs will load only when you try to display them, which should speed the page up a little bit.
- I looked into Drupal's mobile support. It's not good. The relevant modules are out of date. I'm still going to try to get something up, but it will take some more time.
- I have returned the leaderboard ad to its place, as it appears the evil reckless driving woman and her page takeovers are permanently banished.
More changes are in the works.
Chip. Oh, Ann Arbor News. It's been a while:
In the 1970s, Col. Steve Austin became a household name as the lead character in the dramatic television series "The Six Million Dollar Man."
Last year, the University of Michigan had its own $6 million man: Football coach Rich Rodriguez.
Setting aside the middle-school quality of that lead there, that's 1) completely disingenuous and 2) not news. The majority of that six million didn't go to Rodriguez but was a one-time payment to West Virginia for all that buyout noise. Michigan forked over 4.1 million total (2.5 million plus taxes) to West Virginia. This was known in August. Also known in August: the terms of Rodriguez's contract.
It's hard to escape the idea this is a hit piece, then, especially when the opportunity is taken to contact two academic sorts to bitch about the (completely fake) number. Can't say it better than some snark-merchant in the comments:
Posted by cruland on 01/22/09 at 9:40AM
Anyone with a calculator could have figured that out, and you needed the Freedom of Information Act as leverage to make you look like a clever, investigative reporter. Sweet.
A waste of time and trust on the paper's part. BONUS: Fanhouse bitchin', too, as it was either I or someone less inclined to call BS to write it.
Changeover. Tim Jamison's going to get drafted sometime in April, and Tom Kowalski has an interesting article on his current status:
While many experts applaud Jamison's physical skills, he gets marked down because his fundamentals aren't as strong and as consistent as other players.
Much of the reason for that, though, is the difference in coaching philosophy that happened between Jamison's junior and senior seasons. There was a radical change in how the coaches taught the importance of footwork.
"We had a new coaching staff for my senior year. The old staff taught us to shoot out our hips first and use our hands and our step was second. Our new coaching staff taught us to step first,'' Jamison said.
Jamison's being told by everyone that pad level is the thing it is all about; this naturally freaks out Lions fans with bad memories of Marinelli. Items:
- Another symptom of the coaching changeover and reason for optimism moving down the line: less confusion as to how you've been taught.
- Except we just hired a new defensive coordinator.
- If pad level's really what it's all about I can't wait to see Craig Roh's weird crab-stance hit campus.
Greg Gregory, who already suffered from the mediocrity seemingly inherent in the double named, now has to deal with his demotion from offensive coordinator at USF. The move came after Gregory admitted an interest in interviewing for the now-taken TE coach spot at Florida, a move that sent Leavitt first into anger, then into tears, and then into setting Gregory’s car on fire, and then into a kind of peaceful, composed and confident space where he told Gregory to move on, playah after draining his bank accounts and finding a hotter, younger assistant.
…with Rodriguez's hiring of USF assistants Rod Smith and Greg Frey two years ago and you have a recipe for bitchy, unprompted press conference quotes.
- The top four teams play each other in 1-4, 2-3 matchups.
- The next four teams play each other in 5-8, 6-7 matchups.
- Top four winners get a bye. Bottom four losers are eliminated.
- Top four losers play bottom four winners in the second round.
- The four remaining teams after the second round play out semifinal and final games. No rematches in the semifinal.
If that's confusing here's a visual aid:
Setting aside the obvious retort ("this will never happen"), the Aussie system has many of the same pros this blog's pet playoff proposal has:
- powerful motivation to finish in the top 2, top 4, and top 6, plus motivation to finish top 8.
- a difficult road for low finishers, which helps legitimize any hypothetical championships for them
- lots of home games
To this it adds room to go to eight teams, which helps get a couple non-BCS teams in when they deserve to make it. The major drawback is the slight possibility of a title-game rematch (pretend Alabama beats Florida above and you get a rematch of a first round game) and a slight possibility two teams go 1-1 against each other with one being declared the national title winner. But no proposal is perfect.
On ignorance. Due to a personal obligation or two I missed most of this weekend's action, and since the only thing I did catch was the Friday night hockey game wherein Michigan was Bowling Green first CCHA win in seven attempts I rather wish I had missed the whole thing.
So I can't offer much other than a "WTF?" about said hockey game, which was just horrible to watch. No matter what happens the rest of the way out, Michigan is going to look back at this game and that 2-1 loss against Western ruefully. Yost Built has a recap of the Saturday game.
Meanwhile, the basketball team had a two point lead when I checked in with the internet and then proceeded to score once more before the game was totally out of hand, dropping M to 3-3 in the league and reviving panicked talk about the NIT. The Ace of Sports and UMHoops have a glimpse at what went down.
Also, I'm about to be in a car for an extended period of time so this and the TomVH interview I'll frontpage shortly are the sum of the day's content. On and popping, as the kids say, tomorrow, with Tuesday Recruitin' and all that jazz.
Return of the mack. The advent of the season had many, many deleterious effects on morale around these parts. One of the more underrated ones the discontinuation of articles about Mike Barwis making you vomit and then turning you into Teen Wolf. I guess the media decided to focus on things like "humiliating losses" and "the second worst season in eighty years" instead, because they hate Michigan.
It's now the offseason, though. What better time for a reprise?
One thing they’re not used to … Barwis Beach, a new sand pit in Oosterbaan Field House. They like it now, said Barwis, adding they won’t when they find out throwing up in sand is just as unpleasant as vomiting on a hard surface.
“It’s utilized for speed and explosive training,” said Barwis. “Forces dissipate more on sand than they do on a hard surface, a rigorous surface, so by doing explosive drills in there with extension we can make sure we really get triple extension from the ankle to the knee and hip to allow for the body to be its most effective running position. Doing acceleration drills in sand will allow them to do more things they can’t do on hard surfaces.”
Vomit, Teen Wolf, extremely reassuring mumbo-jumbo about explosive triple extension acceleration: it's good to have you back, Barwis Porn. I missed you.
Tangentially related. Rodriguez was invited to speak at the high school coaching convention and spent a lot of time attempting to explain that he's not Satan McRecruitsOnlyFlorida. The Battle Creek Enquirer has a brief story on and some video of the event—no embed possible, sorry—if you're interested.
This is the tangent: at the end of it, Rodriguez has finished his speech and is answering a couple questions from a reporter as someone else speaks to the coaches in the background. Someone very loud. Someone very distracting. Someone who sounds like he's gargling gravel. So I'm listening to this and getting sort of annoyed that it's hard to hear Rodriguez when I have an epiphany: holy pants, that's Barwis.
Meetings of doom(!). The NCAA's having one of their many annual meetings in which various ways to shorten football games without enraging the public are discussed. Other topics of interest this year include academics:
Two committees are looking into potentially startling remedies — a fifth year of playing eligibility, a non-playing "year of readiness" for junior college transfers and others with academic deficiencies, scheduling constraints in basketball — and will brief the Division I board of directors during the four-day gathering that ends Saturday.
Another, more radical measure being weighed by the football academic enhancement panel headed by Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione: earmarking a portion of revenues from non-conference "guarantee games" to cover summer school costs, add academic staff or provide other academic support. "We're certainly not trying to make institutional decisions," Castiglione says. "But we think people have to move away from the excuse of not having the necessary academic resources.
…and what to do with the coaches poll, including this horrible idea:
As for possibly going back to having every vote anonymous, Teaff said professional pollsters have told the AFCA there will be a more honest vote if the balloting is done without being attached to a name, as the final December vote is that helps determine the teams who play in the BCS title game. He said coaches might feel pressure to cover themselves with their conference teams.
The only thing worse than having a group of people suffused with naked self-interest vote on who should be in the national championship game is having that group of people do so anonymously. The coaches poll shouldn't be allowed to participate in the selection process unless it's willing to publicize their ballots, period. If that causes coaches to cover themselves with conference mates, the issue is not the open ballot, it's having vast conflicts of interest in your pollsters.
If Mack Brown or any other coach is serious about killing the BCS as quickly as possible he'll take the opportunity provided by the final ballot of the year and, for example, vote Texas #1 and not vote for Oklahoma at all. Coaches poll = dead. BCS = some wack computer rankings and a bunch of ancient men who don't even watch football.
As for the academic stuff: the fifth year of eligibility is academic reform? We have a situation now where a lot of schools are shuffling marginal players onto medical scholarships or encouraging them to transfer or outright cutting them (in Ray Ray McElrathbey's case) so they can cram more guys aboard the SS Sketchy; adding a fifth year of eligibility will only exacerbate this trend.
If you want real academic reform, remove the motivation to ever have a kid leave the program: once a player is signed or enrolled, his scholarship counts against your total for four years even if he fails out or transfers or shoots up a Dairy Queen or is lost to injury. Naturally, you'll have to increase the number of scholarships available to account for average attrition. This will never happen, obviously, but I'd encourage any portion of it: a two or three year commitment from a school for signing a LOI would be a step in the right direction, too.
Missed one. I mentioned the midterm Central Scouting rankings from the NHL last week, hitting on the whole of the 2009 class but missing one of Michigan's 2010 recruits: Mac Bennett. Bennett is a defenseman from Rhode Island ranked #63—third or fourth round—by Central Scouting. Also his hockey coach might have literary ambitions:
"I first saw Mac as an eighth grader competing in a bantam tournament at the Berkshire School and you could tell right away that he was the smartest player on the ice," White told NHL.com. "He had terrific vision, could pass the puck very well and made very good decisions. He's a tough kid in the sense that he never shies away. He's not afraid to go into the corner with anybody; he's comfortable in dark places."
That's part of an extensive article on Bennett from NHL.com. Michigan beat out Boston College for Bennett's services and he should be a fixture on the blueline upon arrival.
Cowherd: still stupid. Not that anyone needed confirmation of this, but to set the record straight on the Great Cowherd Douchebaggery of 2007:
Earlier this week Colin Cowherd was talking about the necessary separation of communication between fans and folks like owners and the media. The ESPN radio host discussed his own experience and loosely mentions the incident years back between he and the now defunct M Zone. He tells his listeners, “that guy, at the M Zone, is the reason you guys can send me emails all day and I can’t send them back.”
This is a warped version of reality. When you are an ESPN "personality" and you respond to a curt but basically correct email with this:
WE WERE SENT IT....WE HAD NO IDEA..BUT THE INCESSANT WHINING...MEANS I WON'T GIVE YOU CREDIT NOW..GET OVER IT
The reason you can't send emails to your readers is because you're a douchebag.
Etc.: This Bill James essay is 20 years old but remarkably prescient about "insiders" and "outsiders." MVictors has an interview with Pete Tiernan of bracketscience.com. Rumeal Robinson is not a fan of Steve Fisher. College hockey realignment seems to be coming, but UNO won't be a part of it.