I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
I'm not posting this in the hope that it will change anything. Since Dave Brandon came out in favor of moving the Michigan-Ohio State game to midseason there's been tremendous fan pushback, with opinion running about 10-to-1 against. It obviously doesn't matter, because the men in suits are ramping up the meaningless PR doublespeak to alarming levels:
…the reason the Big Ten is great is because of our fans. We had five and a half million fans come to games [in 2009]. Whether it’s the Rose Bowl or Ohio State-Michigan, we welcome that, and there’s an awful lot of discussion of, generally speaking, how our fans feel about what we do. We're not fan-insensitive, we're fan-receptive and are only interested in doing what is going to grow our fan base.
Whenever someone starts talking about how great the fans are, the fans are about to get it in uncomfortable places, especially when that's the first thing they talk about in the face of obvious, massive opposition. Meanwhile, the SID is trying to calm people over email by saying for Michigan and Ohio State to meet for the conference title they will "have to play their way into the championship game." If it was a trial balloon people would be walking it back by now after the reaction it's received. The thing is far enough along that Barry Alvarez is flat-out stating that Iowa and Wisconsin will be split up. It's actually happening.
So this doesn't matter. But here's why Michigan and Ohio State's athletic directors should be out in the streets rounding up pitchfork-toting mobs instead of rolling over like Indiana:
The financial benefits are almost literally zero. Dan Wetzel cites a TV executive claiming that at maximum, the vague possibility of Michigan and Ohio State meeting in a Big Ten championship game once a decade might be worth two million dollars a year ("it might be half that," he adds). Even taking the most optimistic number, the end result for Michigan is another 150k per year (the conference takes a share). Assuming an average of seven home games a year, Michigan could earn that by raising ticket prices twenty cents. Meanwhile, every other Big Ten team sees the same increase in their bottom line.
Michigan and Ohio State will almost never meet. The Plain Dealer looked back at the league since Penn State's addition and concluded that in the last sixteen years, a Michigan-Ohio State championship game would have happened all of three times.
In the future you can expect that to be far less frequent. Michigan will be guaranteed that 1) they play an outstanding Ohio State team and 2) three of the other five teams in their division do not. If the matchup is going to occur it's going to be the same for Ohio State. The loser of that game is going to have to overcome that deficit against teams that have a much easier schedule. The addition of Nebraska adds another historic power to the league. "Once a decade" is not hyperbole. It's a reasonable estimate.
As a result, you are turning M-OSU from something that will always have stakes to something you hope to do over. This is Delany's reasoning:
"If Duke and North Carolina were historically the two strongest programs and only one could play for the right to be in the NCAA tournament, would you want them playing in the season-ending game so one is in and one is out?" he asked. "Or would you want them to play and have it count in the standings and then they possibly could meet for the right to be in the NCAA or the Rose Bowl?
"We've had those debates. It's a good one. The question is whether you want to confine a game that's one of the greatest rivalries of all time to a divisional game."
Yes. Because the loser of that game is doomed and knows it. Moving it to midseason just makes it a particularly high hurdle that might not mean much—that the conference explicitly hopes doesn't mean much—at the end of the year, when the two teams can do it again, except indoors in Indianapolis. Doctor Saturday:
Keep the game what it's always been, the ritualistic culmination of an entire season in a single, freezing orgy of centuries-old hate that cannot be overturned or redeemed for at least another 365 days. In good years, the division championship (hence a shot at the conference championship) will be on the line, preserving the familiar winner-take-all/loser-go-home intensity that made "The Game" what it is in the first place.
You are doing something your fans hate. The kids don't get paid, the stadium doesn't have advertising, the idea that there is a Michigan Thing that it is possible not to "get" in a way that it is not possible Jim Schwartz does not "get" the Lions Thing: these are the things that separate college football from minor league baseball. For decades Michigan's season has had a certain shape defined by the great Satan at the end of it.
This is where the disconnect between the suits and the fans is greatest. Beating Ohio State isn't about winning the Big Ten, it's about beating Ohio State, just like the Egg Bowl is about beating that other team in Mississippi or the Civil War is about beating that other team in Oregon or any billion other year-end rivalry games that have been played since the Great Depression. M-OSU is the super-sized version of the old-fashioned rivalries based on pure hate. It's not Miami-Florida State, a game entirely dependent on the teams being national contenders for it to even sell out, but the Big Ten is treating it like the country's fakest rivalry game anyway.
It so happens that a lot of the time OSU and Michigan do decide the Big Ten, but did anyone want to beat OSU less in the mid-90s when Michigan limped into the game with 3 or 4 losses every year? Or last year? No. Would it matter less as an October game to be followed by three or four more? Necessarily yes. Is that the worst thing in the world? Yes.
I have no tolerance for anyone too dense to grasp this, much less see it as a potentially good thing, as Dave at Maize N Brew does. I said his post on the matter was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen a Michigan fan write and it remains so. Orson's post on the matter is also the dumbest thing I've ever seen him write. The reason college football matters in a way the NFL does not is the idea it has that some things are not worth selling. Once the date of the Michigan-Ohio State game goes the only thing left is the labor of the players.
I'll still be there. I don't have a choice, really, but the special kind of misery I'll experience when Michigan plays Ohio State at 8 PM in October and Special K blasts "Lose Yourself" during a critical review will make me feel like an exploited sap, not a member of a community in which my opinions matter. They clearly don't. This will matter in the same way erosion does.
AND NOW: A BUNCH OF UNAFFILIATED FOLK SHARE THEIR OPINIONS
Speaking as an Auburn fan on Big 10 moving M/OSU to midseason: If they'd tried that w/ the Iron Bowl I'd have burned SEC HQ to the ground
Because I have a soul, I've already firmly aligned myself with the "armageddon" crowd, made up of those of us who can't stand the thought of one side telling the other in mid-October, "We'll see you again when it really matters." Which probably means I've aligned myself with the losing side. Whatever the motivations of its less influential champions, the prospect of a Buckeye-Wolverine split only has traction among people who matter because the people who matter see a buck in it: If one Ohio State-Michigan game is good, two Ohio State-Michigan games must be even better, and I'm sure they have the ratings projections and accompanying ad rates to prove it. The rivalry has already defined and shaped the national perception of the Big Ten for the last 50 years; just think of the possibility of the rivalry-as-championship game as "expanding the brand."
Saving this game at the end is the culmination of a season-long crescendo.
Michigan-Indiana at the end of the year, for example, doesn’t offer the same cachet.
And it never will.
Are you kidding me? It's been played the last week of the season all but once since 1935, and it's the league's single most important franchise. You would think conference leaders would go to any length to protect it. …
Sometimes leaders make decisions without properly thinking through the issues. This one sounds like a case of over-thinking. Do the right thing, Mr. Delany, Mr. Brandon and Mr. Smith, lest the ghosts of Woody and Bo haunt you in your sleep.
Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns. And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown? One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is -- The Big House and The Shoe.
So… yeah. Join the Facebook page. Maybe it will help. It won't, actually, but maybe you'll feel better about it.
I have terrible news: David Brandon's pimp hand has badly malfunctioned and is now marching, Godzilla-style, on the greatest rivalry ever in the history of ever. This morning he showed up on WTKA to discuss Big Ten divisons and said this:
SAM WEBB: If you are making the decision, are Michigan and Ohio State in the same division?
[pregnant pause in which Brandon struggles valiantly against the malfunctioning pimp hand's electrosteam power source. "NO," he stammers. "MUST… NOT… SUBMIT." He feels like he's trapped in an episode of Star Trek, playing Kirk in any one of the dozens of episodes in which something in his brain compels him to evil. Sweat breaks out on his brow; he begins to tremble. The shaking increases in intensity, threatening to break out into violent convulsions! At any moment David Brandon's existential dilemma will come to a head! Things are afoot—
A twitch. Two twitches. Now a facial tic. All is silent. An unnatural calm descends.]
DAVID BRANDON: …No.
[Deep in a bunker underneath a Kenosha corn field, Barry Alvarez allows himself the deep rumbling bass laugh only the blackest hearts can muster. Yes. All according to plan.]
SAM WEBB: And why? [Ed: …GOD WHY?]
THE UNSPEAKABLE THING THAT POSSESSES THE BODY OF DAVID BRANDON: Because we're in a situation where one of the best things that could happen … would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice.
He said he has received only a couple of e-mails from people worried about the possibility of moving the Michigan game to earlier in the season. Whether those – and other critical opinions expressed on the Internet – are reflective of the broad fan base is impossible to know, Smith said.
"I know one thing for sure - that we're going to play (Michigan) every year," Smith said. "We may end up playing the last game of the year, or not. I just don't know that yet."
The "not" scenario will only come to pass if the two teams can play again and the Big Ten is trying to avoid the farce of a best-last-one-out-of-two scenario. And with both ADs at Michigan and Ohio State trying to prepare the fans for a soft landing, it's clear which way this is going: the stupidest possible way.
ONE: It is extremely unlikely that Michigan and Ohio State would ever actually score a championship game rematch. Splitting the two teams is a pointless exercise in hoping that once every ten years you get another one. This is no longer the 1970s.
TWO: Michigan's year-end opponent: Michigan State? Boy, that will fire up everyone on Rivalry Week: "It's Michigan! It's some team that's been within a game of .500 every year since SEC schools started recruiting black kids! On ABC!"
THREE: Whatever damage the rivalry sustains because of the split is going to vastly outweigh the piddling slice of extra revenue Michigan and Ohio State will get from a 1/12th split of the incremental bump the Big Ten Championship Game gets because maybe once every ten years they'll get to pit Michigan against Ohio State.
FOUR: Dennis Dodd thinks this is the way to go. QED.
Not that this matters. Apparently it's done. Get ready for Michigan-Ohio State sometime in October, not even playing for a division or anything, because the "TV people" really want it. Do I need to remind you about Mark Shapiro?
O let's not, I guess. Sam Webb was on the WTKA this morning, as per usual, and dropped some major news: everyone in the class save two players is good to go academically. The two players in question are no surprise, as they've been rumored to be in danger for months. They are Antonio Kinard and Demar Dorsey.
Webb specifically avoids saying anything definitive, but also makes it clear that his lack of clarity is a necessary evil when talking about something as sensitive as a kid's academic status (for one, if the player is displeased lawsuit noises result) but the money quote:
If I was a Michigan fan I would not be optimistic about that at this point, about Demar Dorsey. … Would not be optimistic about Kinard.
Kinard was a kid Michigan took really early and never got any recruiting traction after that; I haven't taken a hard look at him yet but there's not a whole lot in his dossier to indicate his loss is going to be a heavy blow, especially since Michigan has some time to replace him. Dorsey, obviously, was a major recruit at a position of critical need and his probable loss is bad news for a secondary that needs options this fall. I'm super glad we all spent a week talking about how Dorsey was a menace to society in February. That was time well-spent.
Barwis/Mealer, again. The Toledo Blade spotlights Brock Mealer and his progress towards walking once more. The progress Brock has made in six months has been considerable:
Determining just how close Mr. Mealer is to walking is not precise, but Whiteman believes the squat rack is a good indicator.
When Mr. Mealer began training at UM six months ago, he needed 200 pounds of squat assistance from an accompanying machine - as well as the guidance of his arms - to complete a repetition.
He has since reduced the assistance to 80 pounds, and his arms never leave his side.
The hope is that once Mr. Mealer needs zero pounds of help, he'll remove his harness and be able to walk again.
If he can maintain that rate he'll be 20 pounds short by the time the UConn game rolls around, at which point the only thing holding him back from walking will be his enormous upper body. He's already able to get across the field with crutches.
Youtube victory. No one will ever take Michigan's crown as the college football kings of youtube. Wolverine Historian alone is good enough for the gold, and then here's this random thing that popped up in the feed reader:
I think a few months ago someone around here was talking about "Ecstasy of Gold" as a terribly underrated intro/clip reel song. They were correct.
Dun-dun duh duh. So the Dispatch wanders around and notices this quote from OSU's Brian Rolle:
"It's time for us to get better," he said. "Have guys like Marcus Freeman, who's not our position coach, help us do small things and go over things with him."
Marcus Freeman is a… wait for it… quality control assistant. Though the article later states that support staff "can't help players with football skills in any way," this could be on the up-and-up. If Freeman is certified as an S&C instructor and available to any athlete in the department, he can conduct workouts:
Strength and conditioning coaches who are not countable coaches and who perform such duties on a department-wide basis may design and conduct specific workout programs for student-athletes, provided such workouts are:
- Conducted at the request of the student-athlete.
Since I'm guessing the folks in the OSU football administration actually respond to requests from compliance the Buckeyes have probably figured out a way to make this kosher. Also likely kosher: the activities of the 22 employees added by Tressel over the course of his tenure at OSU.
I've gotten some emails suggesting that if the wool would just be lifted from my eyes I would see the dark conspiracy behind the persistent unresponsiveness of Draper and Labadie, but examples like OSU—where reporting secondary violations is a way of life—further illustrate how complete the fail was on their part. If OSU did something wrong here they'll find it, impose some light tickling on themselves, and avoid a year-long media firestorm. The torrent of secondary violations OSU reports is a healthy relationship between an athletic department attempting to push the edges and a compliance office that is informed about their doings. I'm guessing Freeman has done whatever kabuki he needs to do to be considered a viable instructor-type person. Michigan's main sin with the QC guys was not doing that kabuki because Scott Draper didn't submit three-page job description for months.
The thing about "everyone is doing it" is that this is a literal truth: other teams are literally doing the same things with various support staff. But because they did not have a completely dysfunctional setup in the athletic department they will not get hammered by the law.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is considering major changes to support staff, including the imposition of limits on the numbers available and clarifications on what they can do. That lends credence to the idea that Michigan's mistakes were good faith misinterpretatios.
Further Graham. Brandon Graham is not having any of it. What? Anything:
"People didn't give Coach Rod a chance once he first got there," Graham said after practice Wednesday. "He made us all better players. And I'm happy for what he's done for me the last two years. it's just that a lot people who really just wanted Coach Carr never gave Coach Rod a chance. All of those people making those allegations are wrong because Coach Rod tried to do everything by the book. And he made sure he let us know it's all about family and being together. The people that left (the program) wasn't our family, really. That's why they left."
The 3-3-5 shift… eh… potentially overrated. Rodriguez on the shift to the 3-3-5, this time with some specifics that I think many of us thought might be the case after the spring game:
“The reality is Coach Robinson has run a lot of 3-4 and 3-3-5 stuff in his past and did some last year, even though people didn’t recognize it as much. And all we did in the spring was actually simplify things so there’s not a lot of big differences between what we did at times last year and what we did this spring. … It’s not what we ran at West Virginia, which when we left it was pure 3-3-5 and that was the deal and that’s what they grew up in. This was combining some things we did last year and simplifying some things so our young guys would be ready.”
I'm guessing the defense this year is a substantially more diverse version of the defense last year, and not particularly close to the pure stack Jeff Casteel runs.
Etc.: A man named La'el has committed to LSU. This, of course, is Spanish for "The The." Six Zero profiles the Mathlete who, like me, perceives a football game as an ever-shifting exercise in torturing probabilities. Oversigning.com continues to put the issue on more and more radars, largely by tweaking Alabama. God's work.
CEASE PANIC ONCE MORE. See, I do learn: the most recent twitter panic was a report from Devin Gardner that Denard Robinson had cut off his dreads, and I refrained from having requesting mass panic. MGoUser Raback Omaba stakes his hard-earned Dorsey-commit rep on this report that takes us down from DEFCON 2:
Reports of him shorning them and sporting a "lil boosie fade" were premature. Denard merely trimmed his dreads and styled them differently. However he maintains his trademark Denard Robinson dreadlocks. He did not get a fade, his dreads are still there. Significant amounts of dilithium remains hanging from his head, perhaps more effective than before. Let's worry about football now rather than carry on about hairstyles of future Heisman winners. Move on. Denard still has dreads
He has a fade and dreads? The magic of Denard is ever-expanding.
RESUME PANIC. These aren't happening but the asked-for horrifying new jersey mockups have arrived and are terrible enough to cause you to run around screaming:
These will happen someday, probably when we're flying around in jet cars and pushing a button at our jobs. You know, when Denard Robinson doesn't seem fast.
Jihadexpansion update. Mary Sue Coleman talked to a bunch of alumni at a function in Boston recently that a couple of MGoUsers report back from. Some small amount of detail on the second-to-last event in the NCAA whatnot:
Pres. Coleman stated that UM will be announcing its self-imposed sanctions by the end of the month. She indicated that there was cross communication between the coaching staff and the compliance people. The coaching staff thought they'd been given the green light, whereas the compliance people thought that a different question was being asked. She said that unlike reported in some places, at best the overage amount would amount to roughly 2 hours a week. She also predicted that many football programs across the US will be dropping compliance people to avoid danger of giving "coaching advice."
A later post in the thread gives the 24th as the date on which Michigan will send back the report and announce whatever they're self-imposing. If it's in line with previous violations of this nature Michigan will have to give back the hour overages two-to-one and may have to forgo the use of a coach for some period of time. Assorted minor items will be tacked on; the guess here is that no scholarship penalties will result except possibly a single one this year that's more symbolic than anything—Michigan won't be able to get up past 84 this year anyway.
An old guarantee. MGoVideo gets in on the WH gig by providing a youtube embed of the 1986 edition of The Game featuring Jim Harbaugh's famous guarantee:
Stick around afterwards for a quarterback comparison that Harbaugh dominates on completion percentage not not looking like Sloth.
Upset machine. Michigan alum Mike Cammalleri is rocking Eastern Conference heavyweights as the Montreal Canadiens go on the NHL's annual Cinderella playoff run, and putting his name amongst some of the sport's all-time greats in the process:
With seven goals in a seven-game series victory over the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Cammalleri equaled a team record for tallies in a single playoff series shared by Maurice (Rocket) Richard (1944 and 1958), Jean Beliveau (1956), Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion (1957), Guy Lafleur (1975) and Marcel Bonin (1959)�all of them but Bonin long established members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
How's that for company?
Impressive, rhetorical question guy. Impressive indeed. Here's Cammalleri's seventh and final goal of the Pens series, the eventual game-winner:
(HT: South Bend Wolverine, who we all feel for deeply.)
After a scary injury last year that saw Bree Evans lie motionless on the ground after a home-plate collision in an exhibition game against State, she's returned to the field hale, hearty, and hitting. She's now batting .365 as a sophomore, second-best on the team. The official site has deployed its feature machine in response:
The softball team is now 44-6, 16-1 in the conference, and is cruising towards another top seed in the NCAA tournament. This weekend's regular season finale at Iowa will be televised live by the BTN at 6 on Friday and 4 on Saturday.
New feature. Profile pages now contain a table with the user's most recent comments presented in reverse chronological order. This is mostly useful for mods, but now you can track the progress of your favorite (or "favorite") mgousers. Before you get any funny ideas, the main reason I implemented this was so that we could better judge a poster's body of work when we're considering a banhammer. Applications unrelated to totalitarianism are just a bonus.
Victors. Congratulations to the men's gymnastics team and their shiny national title:
Michigan beat out usual suspect Stanford by three-tenths of a point for its fourth national title and Michigan's first (varsity) title since 2005. You'll see them at the UConn game, no doubt.
One of these things is extremely similar to the other. Ohio State recruit Jamel Turner just got shot. According to his facebook feed he's as fine as you can be after getting shot, but getting lit up is the latest and scariest development in a tumultuous couple years for the blue-chip defensive end. Turner was kicked off Ursuline's team and was declared academically ineligible as a senior. He headed to Fork Union for a post-grad year and was asked to leave. Eleven Warriors calls him "troubled," which… yeah, seems about right.
I don't even have to tell you the local media's reaction to all this, do I? I don't but here you go anyway:
Suddenly, many of the dozens of schools that had once recruited Turner started getting back in touch. But just as Ohio State never pulled its scholarship offer when he got into trouble, Turner would not be swayed from his original choice.
"(Coach Jim) Tressel is a good man, and he stands by his word," Turner said. "So I'm going to stand by my word, and we're going to get it done."
Not that it should be any different. If Turner manages to keep himself on the straight and narrow at Ohio State that will be a win for both parties. If Ohio State decided to cut ties with him he'd be headed for a place with far fewer resources at his disposal and would have a much greater chance of hanging around the sorts of places where you get shot.
Turner hasn't gotten into any problems with the law, but it's not like that matters in the media environment Michigan is facing these days. Drew Sharp is running around saying "we don't know" about the trouble that Dorsey obviously got in after he was diverted from serious legal consequences two years ago. If Dorsey doesn't qualify there will be another round of clucking about how Rodriguez shouldn't have "taken a chance" on the kid. If Turner washes out there will be sad panda columns about today's society.
It is in this fashion—pretending it's not about wins—that the media proves it's all about wins.
(Side note: Turner is from Youngstown, as is Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint's dad got locked up for stabbing his mom's new beau… at a football game Toussaint was playing in. I am moving Youngstown below Somalia on my list of potential vacation destinations.)
Everyone's 6'6". Michigan offered 2012 Flint Powers wing Javonte Hawkins over the weekend:
Hawkins was told by the UM staff he is their "#1 sophomore wing recruit". Hawkins definitely has outstanding upside and potential. Baylor, South Carolina, Notre Dame are the newest schools to his recruitment.
Best of the Best also throws some names out for Michigan's assistant coach job: Dan Fife (not Dane, Dan), the head coach at Clarkson, Oakland assistant Saadi Washington, Bakari Alexander, and Oronde Taliaferro.
Update: Maybe it's Dane after all.
By way of podcast explanation. WH posted up a vintage Michigan Replay intro. It is fantastic. As a bonus, it answers the question "why you using that funky music for the podcast?"
God, remember when Michigan Replay was the only way to see highlights of the previous week's game? I remember installing crazy netscape plugins to download the tiny grainy video of Charles Woodson's punt return on CNNSI in '97, thinking that if I didn't get it right then I'd never be able to watch it whenever it occurred to me. Yeah. Not so much.