a vitally important recap of all the dumb tweets sent during the Harbaugh coaching search
Ten nanoseconds after Saban and Swinney cried that high schoolers might get exposed to football programs that actually care what happens to their kids after it, Emmert moved to quickly fix the loophole that allows a football coach from Michigan to ply his trade across state lines.
Harbaugh is already one step ahead:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) April 24, 2015
World: Wait, you can't create a national college football trade fair at your school.
Harbaugh: Just did.
Jim Harbaugh is legend.
FOR WANT OF GLENDENING
Luke Glendening blocked a shot into the neutral zone to seal his own spin-o-rama shorthanded goal as a game-winner to steal Game 1. Red_Lee was so inspired that he created this:
Last night Glendening's Red Wings were cruising to a 2-0 victory (that should have been 4-0 given the play) and a 3-1 series lead when Luke ill-advisedly decided to check a guy near enough to the boards to trip the sensitivities of hockey players towards that sort of thing. While everyone else scrummed about them some Lightning players were able to mess up Luke's hand (Aside: amputating a guy's hand when you're trying to recruit him is some seriously Urban Meyer sh--, Darth).
Without Glendening shadowing one of the top-scoring lines in the country, that line put up two quick goals and a third in overtime. Detroit didn't backcheck properly, and just looked, I don't know, unfocused. The parallels to Star Wars are there, but the parallels to Michigan since Luke graduated are eerie.
IF YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF MERCYHURST YOU'RE NOT A FAN (OR YOU'RE NORMAL)
Via Spath, Michigan's been having a hard time getting sexy programs to come to Yost unless they're small schools with Utah football-quality hockey programs. Of these, next year's schedule will host Mercyhurst, Robert Morris and Niagara. I bet you two petty Notre Dame administrators that the Domers were one of the "of note"s here:
Michigan wants to schedule top-tier programs but they couldn't get anyone to come to Ann Arbor this year. Everyone of note wanted U-M to come to their venue. And Michigan couldn't do that or it would have ended up with two non-conference home games. They agreed to Union and BU so that they could get those two teams in 2016-17 at home but then they HAD to have home games, and so some of these teams were more willing.
The sooner somebody puts this intra-state round robin thing together the better.
WORDS HAVE MEANINGS
It's offseason alright, evidenced by the feely threads (and one diary) popping up to define words that already mean specific things. To wit:
- A fan is someone who roots for that team. To date there is only one remotely worthwhile adjective that's ever been applied to "fan" to distinguish levels of fanhood: "Loud."
- An alumnus is someone who attended that school; graduation is not required.
- A graduate is someone who graduated from that school.
Last word for today: if you are a graduate or alum who thinks this distinction makes you more of fan, you are an "asshole."
WIFI NAMES ARE 21ST CENTURY NEIGHBORLINESS
Good ideas for Michigan-themed WiFi names? thread is how I learned about the Linden Street Flamingo Heist of 2011:
Shout out to the guy with "HARBAUGH" in a Columbus complex.
Etc. The Royals are the new Sparties of Major League Baseball.
Your Moment of Zen:
thanks to Patrick's drone title is close to literally true [Patrick Barron]
One of the frequent criticisms of the Brandon obit was that it was all napalm. I admit that. That post wasn't supposed to do anything except document the era we'd just gone through.
When I did that I got a lot of requests of varying politeness levels for an alternate vision of the athletic department. This series of posts seeks to lay one out.
First some base principles:
- Michigan isn't leaving the conference and has to work within the confines of the new Big Ten. If this was "conference commissioner time" I would immediately exile Maryland and Rutgers; it's not.
- Michigan is also working within the realities of the current NCAA. Massive changes to amateurism are beyond the scope here.
- Ditto Title IX.
We can look at some base assumptions: that profit is a main indicator of health, that the primary "customers" of an athletic department are the athletes, that you should follow Industry Best Practices so that you can point to them when someone questions a decision you made. We're just trying to work within the system we've got, as goofy as it is.
First: what are we trying to do here?
Michigan's athletic department is many things to many people: marketing for the university, jobs for people directly affiliated and not (hi), a connection to college, a path to an education, an entertainment activity. I've tried to boil things down to the core things, and those seem to be:
- graduate athletes
- win games
- sustain the enterprise
Aside from a blip during the RR/Carr transition Michigan seems to be doing fine with #1 across all sports. Hypothetical athletic director wouldn't have to change a thing there. #2 amounts to "hire good coaches," which is very important and not very interesting to talk about. You and I both agree that it's a better idea to hire Jim Harbaugh than someone else. The end.
Sustaining the enterprise is where athletic directors vary the most and have the most influence. You can play Texas A&M if you're Texas… or not. You can have the most expensive student ticket prices in the conference… or not. You can build a palace for a non-revenue sport… or not.
Sustaining the enterprise is a mixture of generating revenue and maintaining and expanding your fanbase. Don't charge enough and you can't retain your coaches or build the latest fantabulous doohickey to keep up with the Joneses. Charge too much, as Michigan did with their student tickets, and you start eating your seed corn as people drop out of the ticket-buying section of the fanbase—and possibly altogether, long term.
Maintaining or expanding a fanbase isn't just about numbers, either: it's about depth of connection. When the Pistons hit their Joe Dumars Is Definitely Crazy Now period, the Palace emptied out like someone letting the air out of the balloon. Michigan has a much deeper connection with most of its fans and weathered a decade of play that was not much fun at all until the bottom dropped out last year. (Ace is doing some work on Bacon's book and has access to the numbers. They are staggering. WRITE FASTER BACON.)
If hypothetical alternate universe athletic director is going to sustain the enterprise he has to be thinking about creating that connection. Sports fans can be a weird lot: part customer, part captive, part fanatic. The whole point of sports is to be of a tribe. I can say "1997 Penn State" and you will have an emotional response. We can see someone in an Andy Katzenmoyer jersey and have that same response. Balancing the new with the old is difficult but mandatory, and if you don't you can end up with a rebellion on your hands. SBNation has an excellent article on the tumultuous recent history of AS Roma, a Serie A team recently purchased by some Americans who found themselves in for a major culture shock when the Roma "ultras" walked out of the stadium en masse:
The Americani may build Roma their new stadium, they may manage to push reform of the Italian league, curb fan violence, expand their marketing reach, and lure millions of tourists to watch Roma each Sunday. But if they have any chance of really succeeding at breaking the peculiar quagmire that is Italian soccer, they will need to heed the lesson from the Curva Sud. When the ultras walked out of the Stadio Olimpico, the Curva Sud did not just demonstrate that they would not support a team that does not win. Rather, they showed Roma’s American owners that they cannot be taken for granted. They are not merely a “fan base.” They are not a “target audience” or “core ticket buyers.” They are not untapped consumer demand lying in wait for better marketing, an international brand, or a more packaged game day experience.
By walking out, the Curva Sud showed that they are not customers. For better or worse, they are Roma. And without them, the Americani have nothing.
Roma's ultras are hooligans taken to the nth degree. They're also a reason that Roma means anything to anyone when Serie A attendance is in tatters. It is far clearer in Euro soccer that the fans have some form of ownership. While Roma is particularly extreme, Michigan's students demonstrated that if sufficiently pissed off they can effect change.
This is the point at which people get pissed off enough. Television's primacy has provided an alternative and degraded the in-game experience. It has also homogenized things. The history of college football nonconference scheduling over the past 20 years tells the story well enough: there was a great thing that built up a lot of goodwill, that goodwill was completely mined out by a series of spreadsheet robots, and now someone has to build that goodwill back.
Hypothetical athletic director's main goal is to figure out what went wrong between the department and the fanbase and set about making the experience of being a Michigan fan one that is peerless. Actual athletic director seemed to not think about this one iota, and thus he is in Scottsdale watching Wrath of Khan over and over again.
Todd Howard came to Michigan in 1998, following the national championship season. We both grew up in the same middle class suburb (Southfield) before moving to more affluent ones. But he was a highly recruited scholarship athlete who played cornerback for four years on the Michigan football team, while I was sort-of recruited journalism student who played guitar on a couch at the Michigan Daily.
Todd now coaches defensive backs in his post-Southfield hometown of Bolingbrook. We've developed a recent friendship over M football obsession, and some heated disagreements, plus wives pregnant at the same time. His perspective is one of a guy who came to Michigan and had it made clear upon arrival that no player is bigger than the program. His perspective is also one of a player who played in an era when "getting your bell rung" was common, "shaking off the cobwebs" was routine, and everybody "saw" a few more snaps than they actually played. But he's also a modern high school coach with responsibility for player safety, and a defensive back who believes inside routes should be punishable by death.
He agreed to let me share a thing he wrote on Facebook and some bits from our text message marathon last night.
From the texts:
- Supports Hoke, says he's a good coach and the right coach for Michigan.
- Players always play hurt.
- Doesn't know what's going on in the administration and can't affect it.
- Want people thinking long-term: Michigan will be great again. Supports people speaking out, but turning away disgusts him.
- Every effort should be made to show the players they're supported, including showing up to games and cheering for them and not distracting the coaches further.
The Facebook open letter to fans:
Dear Michigan "Fans"...I really couldn't have said it any better myself. You took success for granted. 8 win seasons became the norm and you got comfortable. You never saw the hard work and late hours put in behind those brick walls of Shembechler. The lack of sleep, barely being able to drag yourself to class, minor addictions to pain killers, while fighting to remain academically eligible. PLAYING through injuries most of you couldn't make it up a flight of stairs with. The coaches preparation every week from sun up to sun UP, sacrificing valuable time with their own families so the BEST team possible could take the field on Saturday.
Now your "favorite" team is going through some adversity and look at you! Look at how you respond. Are you a Michigan FAN because it's convenient? Sure, every one loves a winner...if that's the case take your allegiance down I-96.
It's so easy for you to call for Hoke's job. You've never met him, never had a beer with him, never seen him COACH! Only interviews and cutaways on Saturday. If you think you want to win, multiple that by 100 and MAYBE you'll attain the same passion he has for football and an equivalent compassion for his players.
My brothers and myself are Michigan MEN, not FANS! So to read some of your comments and rants is a little disheartening. Is this how you would've ridiculed us had we not been as successful? Would you not inbox us autograph requests?
When you're team is up, cheer! When you're team is down, cheer LOUDER! When your team wins, congratulate them. When your team loses, sympathize and have pride in the fact they gave everything they could. That's a TRUE fan...but instead you're spoiled. It's a privilege to cheer for Michigan. It's a privilege to sit in the Big House...not an obligation. "The Expectation is for the POSITION!" Back to yours!!!
/adjusts Michigan hat
...as you were. HAIL!
[My rebuttal, after the jump.]
Brennen Beyer won't forget that moment. Long after Al Borges is just a name from a past that may or may not haunt us as fans, the Canton native who stayed close to home will delight in telling his family and friends about the time he—a defensive end—scored a touchdown; he'll have the football to prove it, and the final score of the game will be largely irrelevant.
These moments have been frustratingly few and far between this season, especially this month; even in the shadow of defeat, however, they provide fleeting flashes of joy, even when we're doing our best to detach emotionally.
When Devin Gardner rolled out, couldn't reach the corner, then threw aside Tanner Miller like a defective Weeble-Wobble before hitting A.J. Williams for his first career reception—in the end zone, no less—my reaction wasn't to slump back onto the couch, muttering something about Al Borges's doomed waggles; it was "F*** YEAH, DEVIN." Maybe not so profound or eloquent, but damn if it didn't feel good.
Then Michigan lost, miserably, and I drove home in a funk. But they had their moments, and so did I.
[After THE JUMP, basketball moments.]
It is a media tradition to hammer at flailing coaches with frowny-face serious questions about how hard everything is on the players and coaches and such because they have to put up with this howling pack of fans. And I try not to get exercised about anything that comes out of that, just like I try to roll my eyes and move on at every article about a triumph in the face of The Critics. Coaches arrive at press conferences at one goal: to get out without saying something notable. When they do say something notable, it is a mistake.
But I'm pissed off anyway. Hoke fielded a question about what is going to be a sea of red in Michigan Stadium:
"You know, people are fickle," Hoke said. "That's just the way it is. That's the world we live in."
This is of course horseshit. It's horseshit on the level of "we need to run a pro-style offense so we can stop Big Ten offense," i.e., the greatest and grandest horseshit in all the world. Hercules is required to shovel this. The big reveal from the last 20 years of media development is that fans are the only people left who aren't fickle. They can't stop watching, and what's more they can't stop watching live with all those lovely commercials interspersed. Fans submit themselves until they have commercials memorized. Until they are legendary.
In all other areas of television consumption I go out of my way to avoid commercials, going so far as to not watch recent seasons of shows I like until they arrive on Netflix. It will be four years before I see the Patton Oswalt filibuster in context. This is why every time a rights deal expires, networks treat the newly single package of games like it's the last cabbage patch doll on Black Friday.
Meanwhile, the people in charge have decided to test the edges of that fandom with an explosion in ticket prices. Paul Campos:
Here’s the price of a regular admission (not student) University of Michigan football ticket over time.
(All figures are in 2012 dollars, rounded to the nearest dollar. I couldn’t find 1970 and 1980 so I substituted the nearest available year).
This year a seat on the 15 yard line is 129 dollars with the PSL, almost three times as much as it was in 2000 and almost four times as much as it was in 1990, in constant 2012 dollars.
Ryan Field was half Michigan fans, for some reason [Bryan Fuller]
In Michigan's specific case, they have beaten Ohio State once in the last nine years and are two-touchdown home underdogs. They are getting gouged on ticket prices in an unprecedented fashion. The athletic department has made it absolutely clear that it has no loyalty to them with "dynamic pricing" that only goes one way. Up.
There is a breaking point for even the most zealous fan. I'm the guy with the blog that's his career and I'm at mine. The only reason I am going on Saturday is because I would feel shame at not going. Absent the weird moral imperatives of fandom, I would be doing anything else. Like bowling, which I hate.
Everybody in blue in that stadium—and it will still be a majority, probably—is paying for the privilege of having their heart punched. Unlike you, they are not getting three million dollars to watch Michigan shuffle around like a syphilitic pig who thinks everything's a truffle. Collectively they are in fact giving you those three million dollars. Collectively they built the stadium you play in and the opulent locker rooms you dress in.
So take your "fickle" and shove it. Angry, sure. Impatient, sure. Because we are locked into this thing we do every week that we pretty much hate. We do so out of a sense of loyalty that the program goddamn well doesn't reciprocate with its 500 dollar waiting lists and worst access level in the country—the team that is going to stuff you in a locker on Saturday has open practices in front of the entire student section—and scheduling goddamned Appalachian State because the athletic director thinks it's cute. Any reasonable person would look at the recent history of Michigan football and go do anything else. We're here because we're locked in.
You? You've got a buyout.
It is not the fans' fault that this program is awful to be a fan of. It's not Rich Rodriguez's fault. Anyone who sells their ticket for whatever they can get—currently 60 bucks and dropping from 80 yesterday—is only making a logical decision to not get punched in the soul dong on Saturday.
I'll hate them all the same, but half out of envy this time. They are no longer mindless wallets. They don't give a crap if Brady Hoke calls them fickle, and don't write articles on the internet about it. They are logical people.
The reason Michigan Stadium is going to be half-red on Saturday isn't because of "the world we live in" except insofar as it contains a Michigan football team that people at Abu Ghraib wouldn't show prisoners.