none of the lights none of the lights [Bryan Fuller]
Buried in a release about Michigan playing Minnesota at night is this:
With primetime selections through the networks and Big Ten Conference office now complete, Michigan will not host a night game this season at Michigan Stadium. Kickoff times for the remainder of the 2015 season will be announced in coordination with those partners.
Michigan's choices there were OSU (in November), Michigan State, or a middling opponent like Oregon State, BYU, or Northwestern. None of those are particularly appealing, though I thought a BYU at night might have been fun.
feeling that a ticket you have is a precious thing is good
More games should mean things
This is something that Brandon was moving towards getting right, save for the horrible contract that saw him eat an extra Notre Dame home game at the (hopefully temporary) end of that series. And that contract might not have been his doing.
This year's football schedule has one tomato can on it, UNLV, and three actual teams: BYU, Oregon State, and Utah. BYU and Oregon State are one-off home games. They're more expensive, but we've finally reached the point where spending an extra few hundred thousand dollars on an opponent like that has a clear ROI in ticket sales. (That is the reason Brandon was getting that right.) One of the smartest things he said during his tenure was about this.
Unfortunately, I have been able to google it to get the exact quote, but it was along the lines of "we have to get out of the business of scheduling games that feel like exhibitions to fans." He largely put his money where his mouth was in that department. Or tried to, anyway. It still galls that Michigan State landed a home and home with Alabama and Michigan was forced to play a "neutral" site matchup in Dallas against them.
But Brandon was right: repeated tomato can poundings make the fan look at his ticket and feel like a sap. The Product™ boils down to that: you look at the ticket that has a section and seat and opponent on it and you feel a certain way. For years many of these tickets have made you feel like it's another way to pay for the Ohio State game. That is going to remain true, but being less explicit about it is a first step on the road towards making fans feel like part of the enterprise instead of marks.
There's not much flexibility when it comes to college football. Michigan's going to play in their division and they've got three games a year (Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland) that aren't going to feel like much no matter what happens. They've been filling out the nonconference schedule with more respectable opponents; further additions have to happen a decade or more out. The wider landscape of college football will help here: double the number of teams in the playoff means double the number of late-season games that can impact the championship picture.
Michigan's other two revenue sports could use some help. This year's hockey schedule was a textbook example of what not to do: a weird one-off at Ferris State before even the exhibition games, home games piled into the fall when most fans are busy with football, an almost two-month absence from Yost in January and February punctuated by a fiasco of an outdoor game taken in by fewer fans than would have been at a home game.
Meanwhile, basketball plays a lot of nonconference games against the Coppin States of the world. It was seven last year (they just happened to lose two): Hillsdale, Bucknell, Detroit, Nicholls State, NJIT, EMU, and Coppin State. I don't see a great solution there given the way college basketball works: you're going to have a preseason tournament, you're going to have a game just before Christmas no one wants to play, there's not enough room to do anything interesting.
The conference, though… the conference could use some tweaking. Here are a couple of concrete plans to make basketball and hockey games have more wow factor on the ticket.
Basketball: making 14 an asset
Wisconsin ran away with the Big Ten title this year. Their last seven games included matchups against 9-9 Illinois, 4-14 Penn State, and two against 6-12 Minnesota. What if their stretch run was nothing but the other three games—Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State—and so was everyone else's? And what if you could never point to anyone's schedule and say that's why team X won?
This is possible, even in a 14-team conference if you're willing to rethink a conference schedule. You can have a true, fair, thrilling championship in 19 conference games:
- FIRST 13: round-robin amongst all teams
- LAST 6: split the league into top and bottom halves, have second round-robin within.
Everyone in each half plays the same schedule. The last three weeks of the regular season are an all-out brawl for a banner that means something it might not in a world where getting the wrong teams twice could knock you down a peg.
The downsides are real but not insurmountable. You would not know the last six games of your schedule until a few days before. With home sites that's not a huge problem. There will be demand for those games. And teams right around the cutoff could find their path to a bid get harder as teams just above it draw a bunch of tough games and teams below it lose the opportunity to knock off a Wisconsin. That effect is probably marginal (on average it's turning three games into somewhat harder or easier ones).
If they tried this I bet they would never even think about going back once they saw, say, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, OSU, Indiana, and Illinois have a three-week war for a Big Ten title.
Hockey: a state championship
The FA Cup: the only time anyone has ever believed in Wigan
There's not a whole lot Hypothetical Michigan AD can do about the Big Ten or NCAA's playoff format. (It does sound like the national tournament is in line for some long-overdue changes.) But he can probably get the Michigan schools together to provide early-season matchups some additional oomph.
The formation of the Big Ten is something college hockey needed if they were ever going to expand past two western conferences, but it broke up a bunch of 40-year-old rivalries that mean something to college hockey fans. Instead of having every Michigan team save Tech in a single conference, now they're spread across three. The GLI has tried to compensate by inviting a Michigan team for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't do much for the three teams that aren't invited in any particular year.
Nor does it have that much selling power. The GLI is a nice event, but it's always been a little silly that Michigan has a banner for years they won it. It's two games. The trophy doesn't have a name. It's not, say, a 40-pound bronzed cast of Red Berenson's head.
What if the first half of the season had a different competition in it? Soccer does this to excellent effect. A state championship competition that features World Cup/Champions League style groups would be a reasonable time commitment and a way to inject stakes into otherwise fuzzy early-season matchups.
A problem: there are seven Michigan teams, not eight. We will fill in the eighth spot with a guest program. This could either rotate between reasonably local programs (ND, OSU, BGSU, Miami, even PSU) or be permanent.
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
|Notre Dame||Western Michigan|
|Northern Michigan||Ferris State|
Each team plays the others twice, whether that's home and home or not. The next year invert home/road and do it again; then switch the groups up. The only hard and fast rule is that Michigan and Michigan State are separate. The four teams in the bottom two rows are all WCHA members. They can either book an early-season conference series to count for the state championship or schedule bonus nonconference series, their choice.
After that's done, the top two in each group play for the Michigan Themed Hockey Trophy* at the Joe. (The other two also go to the Joe and play because everyone wants to know they've got X number of games booked.)
This is a commitment of eight games—six for teams currently in the WCHA. For teams in the Big Ten (20 conference games), Hockey East (22), or NCHC (24) that is doable. It does seriously restrict the flexibility of WCHA teams (28 games), but a lot of these games are the ones these schools would want to schedule anyway. For example, Ferris's nonconference schedule included two games against State, one against Michigan, and the GLI. Tech played Michigan and in the GLI. They would be signing up for another two or three games only. And the lack of flexibility is offset by the fact that they're locking in a Michigan or Michigan State series annually.
If you can pull this off then your early season, normally something without stakes other than the hope down the road your Pairwise ranking will be good, becomes three weekends in which you hope to qualify for a GLI that means you can print out shirts that say State Champs and kiss let's just say a 40-pound bronze cast of Red Berenson's head.
like this except with Red Berenson's head
Play for things. Give us stakes. A ticket that reads "Red Berenson's 40 Pound Head Tournament" is better than one that just says "Western Michigan."
*[Options: unearth the Ron Mason trophy that went kaput when the CCHA did, inaugurate a Red Berenson trophy for the former Michigan player and Detroit Red Wing, or go studiously neutral but somewhat silly by naming it after a guy who didn't play college hockey.
Gordie Howe played in the defunct minor-pro version of the USHL for a year, not the CHL, and he's Gordie Howe. So he's a good idea if you're going that route.]
Basketball approaches. Save us, basketball.
Schlissel speaks. Mark Schlissel sat down with the Daily to talk about the future of the athletic department. Schlissel has mastered the executive's ability to talk without sending people running for the 72-point font, but there were some interesting bits in there. It seems like the timing here caught everyone off guard:
“I would imagine that we’ll begin the process of organizing a search in the coming weeks,” Schlissel said. “I can tell you with certainty I haven’t talked to anybody at all — no matter what you read in the media — about whether they’re interested in a permanent position here.”
It seems like the decision-making process was winding towards that mid-November date when things got accelerated. Not sure I like the overtones of "begin the process of organizing a search in the coming weeks." That sounds like an extended timeline, and Michigan has some pressing priorities.
Schlissel flat out admitted that the names being floated in the media are people he's "never heard of before," which again shows his refreshing ability to say "I don't know" but I hope doesn't extend to the Michigan guys—at this point you'd hope he had a handle on the Long/Manuel/Bates group. He also said the usual bit about how they're not going to focus exclusively on Michigan guys.
In a second article, Schlissel cited Brandon's resignation as a reason he couldn't say much about exactly what went down but did offer this:
"One thing I will say is I expect everybody who works at this public university to treat the public with respect,” Schlissel said. “That’s a sort of condition of working at this university.
“Everybody should be respectful to the public we serve.”
That's the general outline; I'll round up the AD chatter in a separate post.
A bit of a difference. Nebraska folk are looking at their schedule and that of various Big 12 teams and noticing that one is not like the other:
Let’s pretend that Nebraska stayed in the Big 12 and West Virginia never received an invitation. Let’s give NU the Mountaineers’ 2014 home conference schedule. Ready?
I don’t have enough exclamation points at my disposal for that list. I get pumped just thinking about it. That’s a schedule from paradise, full of teams with speed and skill (OK, not so much Kansas). Or maybe it just seems that way based on Nebraska’s rice-cake diet this fall. Ready? Are you sure?
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Look at those two schedules. Look at 'em! The latter looks like an old catcher's mitt. It must be a sick joke, right?
This really hits home when you look at the basketball schedules: single-plays everywhere, even less balance than previously. Bleah. If the league was as responsive to legit criticisms as individual schools were, Delany would get run out of town on the same rail Brandon's on. But he's got that insulation.
Chaos in Bloomington. The last time things got so wild in central Indiana, Lucy left the barn door open and one of the cows got stuck in a police car. In the immediate aftermath of a freshman hitting one of his own teammates with a car, while intoxicated, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson have been hit with four-game drug suspensions. That brings the number of IU players involved in drug-and-alcohol-related incidents up to 6.
And guess which newspaper just hired the human molotov cocktail that is Gregg Doyel?
Firing Crean for his team's fifth alcohol-related incident in a year could be expensive.He has a $12 million buyout this year unless he's fired "for cause." Would nearly 40 percent of his roster -- five of 13 scholarship players -- being cited for alcohol-related offenses count as "for cause"? A judge might have to decide, if it gets that far. But if a fifth IU player is cited, then that's where it should go. Because the coach overseeing that program, I don't care how much I like the guy, would have to go.
Yep. The Indy Star. Dan Dakich, meanwhile, went off on his radio show:
"Gregg Doyel was dead on. Indiana players, you're getting ready to get your coach fired... I love Indiana basketball down to my core. It's who I am. But not this crap...
"When did you fans become so soft, become so accepting of mediocrity, promotion and crap?"
Sounds kind of like a blogger there.
It's funny because we suck. If we did not suck it would be somewhat less funny.
Something like injury information. Gardner is not right and it's obvious; he limped around to finish the Penn State game and is still hobbled:
After a play broke down in the second half against Indiana, Michigan's fifth-year senior quarterback tucked the ball near the 50-yard line and took off.
His mind said go, but his sore ankle wouldn't let him. He ended up rushing for a first down, but it was obvious things have changed.
"(A year ago) I probably would've scored," Gardner smiled Monday. "But I got the first down, that's what the team needed, it kept the chains moving."
Let's just put that on the pile then. Soon we will ski down Mount Devin Gardner Problems.
Please? The Hoover Street Rag points out that fixing the current schedule imbalance in the Big Ten East is not a difficult thing as long as 1) MSU is also amenable to that change and 2) IU doesn't care:
Since Indiana is in the East, both Michigan and Michigan State play them every season. Fortutiously, Indiana played MSU at home and Michigan on the road this year. Therefore, all you have to do is flip the Indiana game from a home game to an away game and flip MSU from an away game to a home game. Everyone still ends up with the same number of home and away games, and the bottleneck is cleared.
Current 2016 Schedule
UM at MSU, at OSU, vs IU
MSU vs UM, vs OSU, at IU
OSU at MSU, vs UM, vs IU
IU vs MSU, at UM, at OSU
Proposed 2016 Schedule
UM vs MSU, at OSU, at IU
MSU at UM, vs OSU, vs IU
OSU at MSU, vs UM, vs IU
IU at MSU, vs UM, at OSU
Seems like all three programs in the MSU/OSU/M troika would prefer to have one at home and one on the road for balance and ticket sales reasons.
Alert! Alarm! The word from Boston:
If I ran Boston College, I'd be worried about losing AD Brad Bates to Michigan
— Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy) November 4, 2014
Never! Mind! The word from Boston:
This is a big bowl of awkward.
Tommy Amaker is set to coach No. 12 seed Harvard against No. 5 seed Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday, and when the Crimson lose their next game, Amaker is gone. He’s Jacoby Ellsbury gone. Harvard’s loss will be Boston College’s gain.
BC hired Ohio coach Jim Christian instead. On the bright side for Shaughnessy, Jacoby Ellsbury was never found again.
Number one. Would you like a lot of quotes about Jim Hackett? Angelique has them for you:
"Number one, he's nice," Gilmour said. "Number two, thoughtful. Number three, clearly deep. … He is a thoughtful and organized person. And he may be the interim (athletic director) but he won't be a caretaker. He will be moving the athletic department ahead."
The Schiano rehabilitation project begins now. A long Pete Thamel piece on Peter Kings site finds Greg Schiano looking up at nothing in particular while exposing his teeth for reasons he doesn't understand.
I know that feeling of panic whenever someone points a camera at you and says "look like a human being," bro.
Anyway, Schiano makes breakfast, he is enamored with Urban Meyer's juice, he sings songs about chores to Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, he won't be an enormous Brandon to NFL scouts anymore, etc. Schiano's image was run through the woodchipper over his two years in Tampa and he's trying to be… well… that guy above instead of the guy who has his players go after people on a victory formation play.
(Also, what is that diagram? Is he demonstrating Notre Dame's last touchdown in 2011? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?)
Stuffing the Passer is now an animated comic strip, because of course it is.
As rumored last week, Michigan will play a home-and-home series with Texas. The athletic department officially announced the dates a few minutes ago; here are the pertinent details from the release:
The athletic departments at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas have reached an agreement in principle to play the first-ever home-and-home football series between two of college football's most recognizable programs. The two schools rank first (Michigan, 912) and third (Texas, 876) in all-time victories.
The Wolverines will host the Longhorns at Michigan Stadium on Aug. 31, 2024. The return trip by Michigan to Austin will take place on Sept. 4, 2027.
"A match-up of this magnitude doesn't come along all that often, and when it does it's special for both programs and the great fans that support each institution," said Brady Hoke, U-M's J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. "This also is a special series for all fans of college football, and I anticipate great games just like the first contest played between the two programs."
The only prior matchup between the two programs came in the 2005 Rose Bowl, which you may remember as a remarkably fun game with a far less fun ending. Let us all hope Texas hasn't figured out a way to clone Vince Young by the time 2024 comes around.
Anyway, the upshot: excellent work, Dave Brandon. This is the type of home-and-home series that everyone loves to see, even if both programs are currently mired in a historically anomalous funk. Going to a game in Austin will be checking a box off the sports bucket list, and it's tough to ask for much more when scheduling games a decade in advance.
This has been in the rumble stages for a month or so now, but this is the first mention from an actual reporter in the wild:
— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) September 9, 2014
They are "working on dates" that are a decade out, so don't book your plane tickets yet. If this comes to fruition it would be the first games Brandon has booked in the aftermath of Notre Dame's cancellation of the series that come close to the wow factor ND provides.