Because I am a modern person there is always time to catch up with twitter when the photographer doesn't need you, so on Saturday I periodically felt awful for Austin Hatch after his life endured a plot twist Lars Von Trier would have rejected as gratuitous. Words fail me in these instances; I'm not supposed to say the one thing everyone else says but here there's not another option.
So… yeah. There is a Caring Bridge site up for Hatch if you'd like to sign his guestbook. If you are the praying sort he's a great target. Michigan is reportedly working with the NCAA to provide whatever help they can. In the past the NCAA has allowed people like Ray Ray McElrathbey to get some help as he took care of his brother, so hopefully they'll allow a fund for Hatch. If that gets set up you will of course be informed.
This was inevitable. When Michigan took a grayshirt commitment from Kentucky safety Jeremy Clark it was inevitable an SEC partisan would take a swing at Michigan for doing so. The inevitable has transpired, so the inevitable defense must as well.
The whole grayshirting issue got dragged into the oversigning conversation because of Bernie Machen and Les Miles's "surprise, you have to move out of the dorm" hijinks with Elliot Porter. The former blasted grayshirting in a slightly confused editorial; the latter was a focus of the Outside The Lines piece that bombed LSU for its practices. It's never been a focus of the internet zealots except insofar as it's a symptom of the larger issue.
Clark knows what the deal is and still finds the grayshirt offer from Michigan preferable to his other options. There's nothing wrong with a mutually agreed-upon grayshirt whether its in the SEC or Big Ten.
Meanwhile in the land of excellent public relations. Ohio State wide receiver James Jackson has become Wayne State wide receiver James Jackson and isn't happy about it:
"They had an oversigning issue," Jackson said. "They had to free up a few scholarships, and coach (Jim) Tressel told me I probably wouldn't play and maybe Ohio State wasn't the place for me."
This quote could not be better designed for SEC fans tired of Oversigning.com, but it's a strange one. If that's the conversation he had and Gene Smith is telling the truth (yeah, yeah, I know) when he says this…
"Our policy is as James Jackson stated: As long as a student-athlete maintains his/her academic standing, behaves appropriately and handles his/her responsibilities, he or she will retain their scholarship. We have no proof of any conversation between he and former head coach Jim Tressel," he said in a statement to The Associated Press.
…then the rest of the article's focus on Jackson's misconception that he had a four-year scholarship is misplaced. What policy did Jackson state? It seems like an important quote related to Smith was omitted from the article.
From the context it seems like Jackson said he could have stayed if he was willing to give up playing time, but then why would he say this bit at the end:
"My main goal coming out of high school was to get a degree from a Division I program," said Jackson, who now attends Wayne State, a Division II school in Michigan. "If I had known they wouldn't keep me in school for four to five years, no matter what, I would have gone somewhere else."
If Tressel said he wasn't going to play and should think about a transfer but Ohio State was willing to sign the scholarship papers if he stuck around, that seems like a reasonable thing to do. The implication in the article is that they wouldn't. But it's never directly stated and it seems that even Jackson said something to the effect that they would have, except then he says they wouldn't. So… great job, Pat Eaton-Robb, you've confused the hell out of everyone.
Ohio State, meanwhile, has an outstanding alibi: from 2002 to 2010 they averaged 20 players per class, tied with Notre Dame for fifth-least amongst BCS schools and behind only the nerd factories at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Stanford, and Northwestern. If they are having "oversigning issues" everyone is, system fundamentally broken, etc.
Future relevance. Brady Hoke has said Michigan is planning on taking 26 kids in this recruiting class, which is five or six or seven spots more than they currently have. They've only got a couple fifth year seniors they can reasonably give the Firm Handshake, so unless there is a cavalcade of medical issues and other convenient transfers there are going to be some tense conversations that go like this:
BRADY HOKE: So how do you like Michigan despite never playing and never having any prospect of playing and being way too short to ever play?
SLOT RECEIVER: I love it. Angelo's hollandaise sauce, man. I put it on everything. I took a bath in it last night.
BRADY HOKE: /closes Angelo's by fiat
SLOT RECEIVER: And I am very close to getting my degree in astrophysics.
BRADY HOKE: /turns off the stars
If you can't tell, I'm uneasy about this. The system is full of perverse incentives; if the big conferences are really keen on student welfare above all they should move to a system where the only cap is on the number of signees per year, Title IX be damned.
High five! There are three Big Ten teams who can be perfectly happy that former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson has parachuted into Madison to fill the radioactive hole at quarterback that was the only thing standing between the Badgers and breathless, top-five preseason hype. They are the ones who don't have to play Wisconsin this year. Michigan is one of them. (West divisionmates Iowa and Northwestern are the others.)
In the past month we've seen Michigan's schedule go from relatively friendly to large, face-licking dog: Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor exited Ohio State, leaving the Buckeyes without a coach or experienced/not awful option at QB. Michigan State and Nebraska now have to face a souped-up version of the Badgers. If six things go right and Denard can fuse with Al Borges there's a possibility Michigan could get smoked by Wilson in the Big Ten Championship game.
In old news. Michigan has just about blown through its practice time penalties from the jihad:
"We're very close to the end," Brandon said. "We've done a really good job and picked up a lot of hours. We're well ahead of pace, and we're very close to being done."
Presumably they'll get through the remainder by the Western game, and then be in the clear.
Etc.: Chengelis not a fan of mascots. Andy Staples likes the graduate transfer rule. Former Florida linebacker Channing Crowder is all like "I was Terrelle Pryor except not subject to a federal investigation." Michigan State was really bad on passing downs last year. Golf course will allow groups to park for an extra fee, just like everyone said they should last year. Doctor Saturday features Brady Hoke in their "mandate for change" series and is pitch-perfect.
Michigan's athletic department again has an inexplicable, meaninglessly small amount of university support. I wonder what that is.
no sir I would not like to be your neighbor
you smell like deep-fried deep fryers
and you make the new big ten geographically incoherent
STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT AAAH
The Big Ten hockey conference is coming, bringing with it questions like "how do you structure the playoffs in a six-team conference?" Since this is America everyone gets their participation trophy berth, but then you have some options. Specifically these:
A single-elimination format at a neutral site in which all six teams are seeded according to regular-season performance. The lowest four seeds play for the right to face one of the top two seeds.
• A two-weekend model in which the four lowest-seeded schools play a best-of-three series for the right to advance to a final four, single-elimination set-up staged at the home of the top seed.
• A three-weekend arrangement in which the teams are seeded and the highest seeds host a best-of-three series. The four lowest seeds play for the right to face one of the top two seeds in a best-of-three series hosted by the highest seed. The highest seed hosts the championship series.
Wisconsin is supporting the first of these because formats other than the WCHA's Final Five confuse and frighten them. They probably saw a sixth team show up to the Final Five this year* and fled to the comforting bosom of the Big Ten.
If the rest of college hockey was in charge here they would permanently site in St. Paul because the Midwest doesn't exist. Fortunately, the Big Ten is apparently set on rotating the playoffs through Chicago, Detroit, and maybe Pittsburgh should a neutral site be required.
But… like… it shouldn't. The amount of money you can make from five games at a neutral site is way less than you can make from 10-15 games at campus sites unless you're expecting a Big Ten tournament to sell out, which it won't. (And even then it's probably about equal.) You have two sets of fans separated from each other by a lake. Ohio State and Michigan State fans will simply not show up. MSU fans don't show up to their own building, and didn't even when they were good. Penn State fans are undetermined but they are a very long way away from anything except Pittsburgh so banking on Nittany Lions to show up en masse is foolhardy, especially when they're probably not going to be very good for a while.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is not going to fork over extra games to the Big Ten for having an abbreviated playoff. So the advantages of a three-weekend series format are many:
- it is more hockey
- it is more money
- it is less random
- it is more important to finish well so you get home games
- it does not randomly assign home ice to whichever team happens to be closest to the playoff
The advantages of a single neutral site:
- it is good practice for playing an NCAA regional in an embarrassingly empty cavern of a building
- it is less frightening to Wisconsin
The Final Five works so well for the WCHA because they had eight fanbases within a few hours of Minneapolis. (They've got seven now since they traded BSU and UNO for Minnesota and Wisconsin.) Anyone who makes it can show up at the X with no trouble. That won't be the case in the Big Ten, which has only six fanbases, three of which are questionable. The three that aren't are separated by a lake and massive airfares since Minneapolis and Detroit are both Delta hubs, and the fans who would hypothetically go to them are facing down trips to randomly-selected regionals and the Frozen Four the next three weeks. A neutral site is not a good idea.
But this is college hockey, so they'll put it in the Sudan.
OTHER ITEM OF INTEREST: The article mentions that the displaced Big Ten teams "hope to" fill their schedule with eight games against WCHA and CCHA teams, leaving six (or eight if you go to Alaska) left for random nonconference series. Conveniently, eight games is how many it takes for this blog's State of Michigan-ish Championship idea to come to fruition.
OTHER END OF THE BENCH GUY: Via Michigan Hockey Net, a defenseman with 27 points in 122 games as the Omaha Lancers' captain has committed for next year. He's Mike Chiasson, and if that name sounds familiar: yes, he is former Red Wing Steve Chiasson's son. The elder Chiasson died in a car wreck 12 years ago, after which the family moved to Nevada.
Anyone committing this late is almost certainly a walk-on and Michigan has six guys slotted for playing time next year, but depth is depth and it's always good to add junior captains. Also here's Chiasson fighting some dude.
*[The WCHA added UNO and BSU, thus necessitating a sixth team. In a very Big Ten move, the WCHA refused to change the name. That turned out to be prescient.]
Denser than a neutron star. SI's draft profile of Jonas Mouton:
That is a very dense 239-pound human, or it's Terrence Robinson. I'm just amazed someone took a picture of Robinson holding the ball—he's got one career catch.
Not so much. According to GBW's Bret Osburn, hockey forward Jacob Fallon won't return to the team next year($). We haven't seen confirmation anywhere else but the addition of Sinelli could be construed like a kind of a "whoah, we need a guy" thing. He'd be Michigan's 14th forward if Fallon does come back, and while you want a couple extra guys around forward #14 can probably come from the club team. (Krikor Arman say what.) More than next year it's the jam adding Sinelli creates in the next two years that make his addition seem kind of like an either/or with Fallon.
The most convincing possible argument against the BCS. Everyone likes Andy Staples. He writes interesting things, thinks advanced stats might have some merit, and is willing to get in twitter fights with SBN bloggers without being condescending to them. But there is no greater reason to like Andy Staples than his admittedly half-cocked BCS implosion scenario. Specifically, this bit:
The Fiesta, after missing out on Big Ten No. 2, takes Pac-10 No. 2 and matches it against Notre Dame. Every year. Because Notre Dame equals ratings and sellouts.
That's right, Notre Dame: "after missing out on Big Ten No. 2". /Degeneration X entrance in your face
The mouths of babes part XXI. In a Sam Webb article on OH LB Joe Bolden, Bolden drops some super secret future plans:
"They are definitely up there on the list," Bolden said of the Wolverines. "The facilities are impressive. Both indoor fields are as long as the outdoor grass and outdoor turf fields. Then you just walk into the Big House and look from side to side — 115,000 people are screaming for you on a Saturday. There is probably no feeling like it. They told me that they were going to add about 6,000 seats. That's definitely an impressive thing."
Those would presumably be more rows in the endzone, but how that works with new scoreboards is undetermined. Do they flank the scoreboards? Would they move their grand spanking new boards? Do they set one back or something? Someone interview another recruit so we can find out.
The past! Um… was anyone allowed at Wisconsin's spring game? This is a somewhat sincere question. They won the Big Ten, the weather was nice, and most of the shots in this video feature zero (0) spectators:
While you can see some people in the endzones they could be parents or something.
In other news, zero touchdowns were scored, all of Wisconsin's quarterbacks are terrible and they'll spend the next four years going 3-10,000 because they don't play Michigan. Sorry, Wisconsin. We don't make the schedule, we just doom everyone who doesn't play us. We don't like it either.
Tatgate warp. I guess the NCAA has been working on OSU's case since at least December but even so they've pounded out a Notice of Allegations against Tressel & co in record time. When Michigan got their version of that during the Jihad I did an email interview with the Bylaw Blog that tried to get a sense of how final all this was. The answer was "pretty final":
A major violation case, once it gets to this point, rarely is argued back down to a secondary infraction. To get to a Notice of Allegations, especially in this case, the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions would have worked very closely to decide if there were major violations, ultimately the COI's decision.
Individual major violations are sometimes downgraded to secondary violations during the response and hearing. In the Kelvin Sampson case at IU, one of the original five major violations--that Sampson and assistant coach Jeff Meyer gave Derek Elston a backpack and t-shirt and recruited him during a camp--was found to be only a secondary violation. Of course, the COI can add too, like the failure to monitor charge that came after the committee hearing.
Expect all or almost all of the allegations in the NOA to stick. They are:
- Seven different players sold or exchanged memorabilia.
- Tressel "knew or should have known" two of these players were ineligible but played them anyway.
- Jim Tressel lied about this—the dread almost-certain-firing bylaw 10.1 violation.
…and that's it. So much for delicious rumors of point shaving/something much worse/Ohio nuclear apocalypse, at least for now.
Not that the above doesn't constitute something close to Ohio nuclear apocalypse. The Dispatch's article has some raw numbers that are alarming for OSU fans: 13,385, 500, and 6000. The former is the amount of money the seven players got. The latter are the amounts Troy Smith and a basketball recruit got in the recent past. The first is pretty big; the second two expose OSU to repeat violator status. While Michigan was technically a repeat violator when the Jihad started, their eventual infractions were major in name only and had nothing to do with Ed Martin; here this seems like the continuation of a pattern.
As far as Tressel himself goes, the email trail is even more damning than previously known. The Dispatch:
After Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel was alerted that some of his players had traded memorabilia for free tattoos from a suspected drug dealer, he exchanged numerous emails, phone calls and text messages with the tipster, his star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Pryor's mentors.
Documents obtained by The Dispatch also show Tressel called an FBI agent within days of getting the first email warning the coach of the potential NCAA rules violation and a federal drug investigation.
But OSU records don't show a single call or email from Tressel to the Ohio State compliance office in which he could have reported his players' apparent violations of NCAA regulations.
(Some OSU spokesman claims the dozen extra emails between Tressel and Sarniak were "inadvertently omitted" from previous document releases.) Michigan fan disclaimers and all that but I can't see how anyone can construe that as anything other than a deliberate decision to not suspend players known to be ineligible. The text of that email to Sarniak:
"This guy, Chris Cicero, is a criminal lawyer in town. He played here when I was an assistant coach in the early 1980s. He has always looked out for us. jt"
If anything justifies a we-have-to-fire-you show cause it's this case*. I mean, right? I'm betting OSU vacates last season, gets a bowl ban for this one, and gets a show-cause on Tressel. Scholarship penalties could be in the offing but I'm guessing they won't be severe unless the NCAA justifies it with that "repeat offender" status.
*[Um… other than trying to frame a murdered player of yours as a drug dealer.]
Spring extrapolations. Magnus picture-pages the Cox touchdown from the spring game and comes away with some conclusions: no Wilkins this year (he was obliterated by two walk-ons), not so much on Herron, Marvin Robinson is highly inconsistent.
Etc.: Rodriguez says going to Michigan wasn't the best decision he's ever made, which… yeah. Depressing headline. Pete Bigelow claims Cullen Christian's exit doesn't "make for another cornerback crisis," and he's right: it continues and deepens a secondary-wide crisis that has been raging at various levels for going on ten years. Soon pirates will start appearing off the coast of the Michigan secondary. UMHoops scouts a bunch of 2013 targets. Christian transfers to—surprise!—Pitt. Someone owes me ten million dollars. Penn State's first coach is Guy Gadowsky, previously of Princeton.