alternate headline: man does job
the downside of dave brandon creating the future
So there was a new Bacon book this year. We need to review this book. I'm going to do this with the expectation that you have either read it already or are going to. You should. It is a Bacon book. You are reading MGoBlog; either you are a person who appreciates Bacon or else a visiting Sparty looking for more trolling fodder, in which case help yourself to the board where I promise you there's plenty. Or better yet, read some Bacon—you're in the Big Ten; this concerns you too. And he says the Red Cedar is nice.
This is not a negative review, even though I have a tendency to focus on the "needs work" aspects—I'm the guy who walked out of The Return of the King after five years of unmitigated Peter Jackson man-crushing and complained that there were too many endings. So apologies to John U., who's higher in my esteem than Mr. Jackson and just about everyone whose quotes aren't emblazoned on a wall somewhere, for the plurality of minuses below.
More Bacon. Ever since Bo's Lasting Lessons, the chance to devour a new Bacon book has been somewhat of an event around these parts. As a Michigan fan it would be tough to follow the unparalleled access and insight into the Rich Rod program accomplished with Three and Out, specifically because that unvarnished snapshot was so starkly antithetical to Dave Brandon's meticulous staging of his Michigan show: You knew at the time that no true journalist would be allowed to see behind the bunting again, so it should only come as a mild disappointment that there is little about the Michigan program in this book that you didn't already know.
Fourth and Long: the Fight for the Soul of College Football is four unequal looks at four 2012 Big Ten programs, or four and a half if you count a mini-treatment that Michigan State and Mark Hollis receive as host of an Ohio State road game. In order of detail:
- Penn State from the point of view of its players, former players, coaches, and equipment managers as they find themselves taking the brunt of the Penn State Awful Thing, and the NCAA's and PSU brass's callow responses to it.
- Michigan from Bacon's own point of view of its fans, as those fans interact with Brandon's corporate-itude.
- Ohio State from the P.O.V. of Urban Meyer as he goes from win to win trying to get Zach Boren to like him, and
- Northwestern as the paragon of virtue.
Bacon set out, as is evident from the title and made clear throughout the book, to examine these four schools from different points of view (players, AD, head coach, and president, respectively), and use the findings to determine if any of the Big Ten's current models for college football are sustainable for college football in general. In it he consistently finds players and fans who "get it" while the people in control seek new and better ways to milk it.
But he could only use what he got from each school. With Ohio State the access was mostly restricted to Urban on game days. He brushes against tatgate but doesn't get into the cars or any other "everybody knows, nobody can prove" things—you have to appreciate that Bacon will never accuse somebody without proof (especially considering he's an avowed Michigan fan talking about Ohio State) but it's really hard to talk about college sports and the competitive problems therein without admitting there are relative bad guys. The Gee quote—"I hope he doesn't fire me!"—is in there in reference to the bloated role of college football head coach in America. The closest he comes to pointing out OSU's exceptionalism in this regard is when addressing the carrying off of Tressel after last year's Game:
"The Buckeyes do not run a renegade program, but they once again demonstrated they don't seem to care if their actions make others think they do."
This isn't a complaint; Bacon handled a sticky situation about as well as he could. With Northwestern he got some key interviews, particularly with Pat Fitzgerald, but no warts (this could be because they don't have any).
With Michigan Bacon was outside looking in, so he used some of the Bacon-usual suspects—Carty, the dueling barbershops, the public comments of James Duderstadt and Don Canham, Brian Cook of MGoBlog, etc. There's also an inside look at the Mud Bowl, and most interestingly, a candid interview with Michigan's band director about Send-the-Band-to-Dallas-gate. I was more intrigued by the comments made by Bill Martin on the corporatization of NCAA football, which I'll come back to. The whole Notre Dame saga is covered. Except for the band's comments most of this is old news to you.
The result is a book that's 52% about Penn State trying to survive 2012, with a bunch of stuff thrown in about some other schools and corporations to underscore a point made clear without leaving Happy Valley.
[After the jump: it's just, like, my opinion man.]
They are coming. Hide the mascara. I'm still waiting for the last few survey responses to roll in but, man, people hate In The Big House. This may be an effect of this blog's readership but with the vast bulk of the responses coming from the 22-34 range I'm guessing the results would not be good amongst the much older general population.
So, like, what to do about this?
That is a show at the Blind Pig the day before the Nebraska game in November. If this is a prelude to these guys showing up inside Michigan Stadium I think my head might explode. The only consolation would the groomers getting an Ashlee Simpson reception.
HIRE THESE PEOPLE NOW. So. We have the dog groomers above inflicting their terrible garbage on Michigan Stadium, and then there's Minnesota. Land of misery and no money and people who know what they're doing when it comes to internet videos that transcend irony. Go ahead, watch this with your jaundiced eye. You'll give up your cynicism about 30 seconds in when Goldy Gopher spins his head 360 degrees:
So… I'm just saying… we should fire the entire marketing department and replace them with whoever did that. This is in no way a joke.
GODDAMMIT AGE OF IRONY. I can't even say "this is in no way a joke" without it seeming like an ironic joke. It is not.
Good times. News that the God Hates Figs lunatics will be picketing Ohio State brings back nostalgia for that one time when I was an undergraduate and they hit up Michigan for some fake outrage or another. Tactical error: holding up "M = figs" signs while wearing Kansas City Chiefs jackets. At the time, KC's quarterback was Elvis Grbac and #1 WR Derrick Alexander. A fig to fig connection, as it were, which we loudly let them know about.
Unfortunately for OSU fans, the only Buckeye on the Chiefs' roster is backup DB Donald Washington, so they'll have to come up with something else. Just pretend they're Michigan fans and you'll do fine.
Speaking of. This popped up on the tubes recently. It is an anti-anti-gay PSA that you, the wine-and-cheese-consuming Michigan fan, will be hectored with at some point in the near future:
So that's settled then. No one is ever going to say something inappropriate again. This is all your fault, double-bird guy.
Hey, good point. Taylor Lewan hasn't had a false start/holding meltdown yet, so that's cool:
This year, that has been a point of emphasis. The result?
Zero penalties through four games.
"I'm due, aren't I?" Lewan said, laughing. "I've definitely noticed that. I've been very cautious about penalties. I'm not ever going to let up, just got to be smart. Got to be a smarter player."
What's more, Lewan hasn't even been close to a holding penalty that I've seen. He's been a dominant run blocker and hasn't picked up a pass minus. He's a third of the way to All Big Ten.
You have a Nard dog? Wait, what?
That's our Nard Dog. Thomas Nardo, Iowa's newfound starter at defensive tackle and owner of the porn-iest name in the starting lineup with Shane DiBona on the sidelines, was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Nardo had himself a pretty monster day for a defensive tackle: 12 tackles, 2.0 TFL, and 0.5 sacks. He doesn't do much to help our problems keeping contain on the outside, but he's exactly the sort of plugger we need to keep from getting gashed up the middle.
This aggression will not stand, Iowa. There can only be one Nard Dog. Shotguns at noon on November fifth to settle it.
More relevantly: this Nardo kid is a fifth-year senior walk-on (sounds familiar) who "won't make anyone forget" a half-dozen Iowa DTs of the recent past but is offering "solidity to an Iowa defensive line that was looking woefully porous earlier in the year." Which… whoah. Iowa suddenly has Michigan's defensive personnel?
Apparently they also have a bomber already on par with Stanzi, so don't chalk that win up just yet. Not that any Michigan fan is chalking up a win against a Big Ten team not named Minnesota.
Stick, baby. Fresh hockey commitment Jacob Trouba is a big deal, like top-half-of-the-first round big deal, and unfortunately these days that means his commitment will be questioned until he shows up on campus. He's even been drafted by one of the more convincing OHL programs, and by "more convincing" I mean "freer with under the table payments."
Anyway. Through no fault of his own, Trouba has the profile of a flight risk. Therefore he gets to answer questions about it whenever he's interviewed. An example:
I asked if Michigan fans have a reason to feel confident that they would see him wearing Maize and Blue next year.
"Yeah they do, I'm a Michigan Wolverine," he stated, "That's why I wanted to wait this long; just so I knew, I didn't want my mind to change over a year and I really wanted to know what I wanted to do next year. I wanted to wait because I didn't want to back out on any decisions, I wanted to stick with my word. I waited until I was sure with what I wanted to do."
Prominent CHL defections usually occur because the player in question is tired of cooling his heels in a lesser league, especially Canadian Junior B. (FWIW, AHL equivalencies imply the USHL is not much worse than the CHL, if it is at all anymore.) Once a kid is locked into his final year before he'd be in college he's usually set. John Gibson is a prominent exception to that, but he was staring down a platoon (at best) with Tiny Jesus. Trouba has no such concerns since he'll probably slot right into the top pairing a la Merrill, and he's got no reason to make a college commitment after he's already been drafted by one of the league's Lane Kiffins.
So… I don't think he'll bolt. If he sticks he makes Michigan's 2012 class pretty impressive. F Boo Nieves is frequently projected as a late first-rounder. D Michael Downing was the third pick of the USHL Futures Draft and was the captain of the U17 5 Nations team. D Connor Carrick is on the NTDP and Michigan took him pretty early. Still need a goalie. Who wants to play behind Trouba? Bueller?
BONUS: While w'ere talking hockey, Michigan Hockey Net and local MGoUser Yesman221 have season previews. (Yesman is a a bit conservative with freshman deployment, FWIW.) There won't be one forthcoming from me due to football season, but Ace might have an official one.
Full cost, sort of. It sounds like the NCAA will bump scholarship awards:
A committee weighing a number of potential changes is expected to recommend that the value of individual scholarships be raised by as much as $2,000 in the top-tier Division I, moving them closer to covering the athletes' full cost of attending school. Full grants currently cover only room, board, books and tuition.
The proposal covers the gap between "full cost of attendance" and the current scholarships as long as that is less than 2k. A step in the right direction. There's also a push to allow multi-year scholarship awards, except it's apparently a push to better market the current system:
Multi-year scholarships also are seen as an athlete-welfare issue, and Swarbrick said his committee favors that proposal even though it might not bring athletes the security many expect.
"The process for nonrenewal of an annual grant probably would look just like the process for terminating a four-year grant," he told ADs. "… But we did think the statement that would be made about our commitment to student-athletes was worth doing and made this a change worth pursuing."
So… he'd like to make a statement about committing to student athletes without actually committing to student athletes. The NCAA has always been at war with the English language.
kitten does not like
David Brandon was on WTKA discussing the new(!) varsity lacrosse programs, which you know all about, when he was asked about your favorite newspaper's purported stripey Michigan night game uniform thing:
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was asked during an interview on WTKA-AM (1050) this morning if that was an accurate representation of U-M's uniform.
"No," Brandon said.
Brandon said Michigan's uniform would combine "elements of a couple different eras," but emphasized that the final product has not been revealed.
Before you point and laugh at the Free Press, a good source indicates the mockups everyone's gnashing their teeth about are "one of many possibilities," one that ended up "in the top two or three." The final result is not going to be like the "1960s look" Brian Kelly said Michigan was going to bust out in his press conference. That was never on the table because, as mentioned, the uniforms of the 1960s are hardly different than today's. The end result is going to be spiritually similar to the above: a throwback that attempts to go way, way back—source says "foot-ball yore"—and in doing so discards any pretense of historical accuracy.
This or something like it got so far down the pipe that the biggest holdup is the lack of a number on the front. Brian Kelly hates that because it makes it harder to track the opposition's substitutions. (As the kind of person who obsessively tracks his own team's substitutions and gets irritated at teams who don't put names on their jerseys*, I get that.) Michigan is hoping they can get away with a small number like a C or A on a hockey jersey above the block M or that numbers on the helmets will suffice.
So while it's possible the giant raspberry emitted by the public sees Michigan change direction on this specific design, the end result here is going to be an ungainly Frankenstein that no Michigan player has ever worn before. As Eleven Warriors' Ramzy said: "here, have some of our Pro Combat nightmare juice." The only thing that can rescue it is if all the players have Fielding Yost-level lip brooms by kickoff.
But… hey, new scoreboards, right?
*[Penn State excepted for reasons of tradition.]