i refuse to even consider this a possibility
3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.
The Old Man is coming. The Old Man.
The Old Man is coming.
The McCrayken is alive. All of the internets to user mdoc, who responded to the winged-helmet-kraken request instantly:
This blog is rooting for Mike McCray to be a destructive force so hard.
Penn State's death has been greatly exaggerated. OR: look what we can do when we have a head coach! PSU's 2012 class was terrible. All their good recruits ended up with Urban Meyer and they replaced them with two stars snatched from the MAC. That's going to hurt for a while. Despite that, Nittany Lions fans are probably feeling more chipper than they thought they would about their program's intermediate-term prospects. They've recently swooped in on the following recruits:
- QB Christian Hackenberg, a consensus four star claiming offers from Alabama and Florida.
- DE Garrett Sickels, who is rated a lot like Mike McCray (ie: top 50 on Rivals, solid four-star elsewhere)
- CB Ross Douglas, a three/four star tweener.
They are almost certain to add five-star-ish TE Adam Breneman tomorrow. By doing so they've become the only Big Ten team kind of sort of keeping up with the big two when it comes to shiny stars next to high schoolers' names. The Sandusky effect is looking pretty short-lived.
All you have to do is look at OSU's last class to know that this is good for Michigan. A strong Penn State takes recruits from teams who play Michigan all the time and puts them on one that plays Michigan 40% of the time; also it would be really nice if there was someone strong enough in the East to prevent an annoying B10 championship game instant rematch.
I'm with Fitz, sort of. Pat Fitzgerald does not want 6-6 teams to be excluded from bowl consideration:
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes the Big Ten does not support potential legislation to limit bowl games to teams with at least seven wins.
"The best part of bowl games is about the opportunities -- not just the teams, but for your students, your fans, your alumni, your fans in the area," Fitzgerald told the Tribune on Tuesday. "I'm not for limiting it."
Paging Captain Renault. I agree that if a couple teams want to play some football it's better than watching ping-pong, but I'm not a fan of goofs in blazers bleeding college tuition out of the system. Leave it at 6-6 and severely reduce ticket guarantees. That will cause a bunch of bowls to collapse and solve the problem organically.
And this is 95% of the reason I linked the article:
"I'm not for five-win teams even being able to receive a waiver," Fitzgerald said. "That's tough noogies. If you have a losing record, you are out. A .500 record should be the benchmark."
I love Pat Fitzgerald. May he coach at Northwestern for 30 years.
Al Borges and the interesting things. Borges was on the Huge show recently and the resulting conversation had an unusual density of interesting things said. Borges admits that the early-season (and Iowa) forays into a more pro-style offense were a mistake:
"I think had we had to do it over again, we would have been a little more spread offense early on and gotten better at that. We kind of weaned ourselves into more spread offense as we went. That's really what was best for Denard at the end of the day."
He also makes a great observation about where Denard is at his most dangerous in the passing game:
"Denard is better in the pocket than rolling out," Borges said. "The thing with Denard, where he scares the defense the most, is when he sits in the middle of the pocket, comes underneath the rush, and poses not just a passing threat to the defense, but a running threat too. If you roll him out all the time a lot of time what they did is they would pin us into the sideline where Denard's improv skills aren't used near as much."
Whole thing is recommended. Borges references the "drastic leap" from year one to year two in his passing game. If Denard can just set his feet regularly and not throw into double coverage, Michigan will be cooking.
Sounds good to me. Andy Staples has a fascinating article on the potential impact of full cost of attendance scholarships:
For years, doomsayers have predicted a scenario in which the wealthiest 50 or 60 schools compete only against one another. If such a scenario ever came to fruition, it would have its roots in the debate over the full-cost-of-attendance scholarship.
Doomsayers? As long as we're talking about football here that sounds like heaven.
The article goes into arguments both for and against, with the small schools making arguments that moving some of the money currently going to coaches and facilities to players exacerbates competitive inequity. They don't make the case that this isn't a good thing, and then Nebraska's chancellor just blows it up anyway:
"You can tell me that I can't give them bagels with cream cheese and I can't give them more scholarships and I can't do this and I can't do that, and I follow those rules," Perlman said. "But then what I do to recruit competitively is I spend the money on other stuff. So I build facilities where there is no limit on what I can do, and I make those facilities far beyond what normal students live in because there's no limit on that. There's a standard understanding about regulatory environments that if you regulate something, people will move to the part of their activity that isn't regulated."
At worst the proposal takes the middleman out of competitive inequity.
It sounds like the big schools are getting increasingly exasperated with small schools with no financial weight imposing restrictions on them because they like to pretend they're DI schools when they're really just Indiana State. Eventually some sort of split is coming.
BONUS WASHINGTON PRESIDENT MICHAEL YOUNG PROBABLY WORKS FOR ADULT SWIM ZINGER:
"The kids who are on solely need-based aid can basically work 20 hours a week or whatever and earn a little pizza money or earn a little money for tattoos or whatever they want," Young said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Our athletes, on the other hand, work 40-50 hours a week for the school, and they don't get anything except what these other kids get without having to work for it. It seems when one thinks about simple equity, from that perspective, it's hard to argue that these kids shouldn't get something."
You're all right, Washington president Michael Young.
Wat. Brady Hoke is going to loathe this:
Hoke, Beilein and Brandon —along with U-M softball coach Carol Hutchins and a handful of business professors— will host a six-day executive education program intended to teach business leadership through lessons learned in U-M sports. Those lessons, according to a recent U-M announcement, include the trick to "transformations in times of crisis," as well as how to teach people "new ways of doing things" and how to "take on fierce competitors and produce winning results."
Only $15,000! Some people have too much money.
Etc.: Possibly random Hardaway renaissance is retconned into narrative. Please be true, narrative. Mitch McGary's "defensive impact" draws high praise—that would be nice, wouldn't it? If you've got ESPN insider this Wolverine Nation piece in which recruits are anonymously surveyed on recruiting tactics they've faced is a must-read. Excellent Yost student section retrospective. John Beilein for everything.
Trade mag article on how Michigan Stadium amplified the band. Maybe next year they'll have a piece on how they made it sound better in section 44. : (
[ED: Parts one and two here. Book on sale Tuesday. Bacon will be giving his first local book talk and signing at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate Shopping Center on Friday night, October 28, 7 p.m.; other events can be found on his website’s appropriately-named Event page.
Cave people: Three and Out is a book about the Rodriguez era from John Bacon, who was given unprecedented access to the program by Rich Rodriguez because Rich Rodriguez does these sorts of things.]
6. WHAT'S NEXT?
“What books are you going to write about now that Michigan won't let you within a mile of any of their programs anymore? I mean, it's not easy to piss off everybody.”
Well, first: Despite the sacrifices I mentioned in the first installment – time, money, and possibly professional opportunities -- writing it was my decision, naturally, and I don’t regret it. Given my choices, trying to write an honest book is certainly more appealing to me than trying to keep everyone happy and produce a book I could never respect.
Plus, I had the chance to see a big-time program form the inside that no fan, and no reporter, has ever had—and probably never will again. If there was one great privilege that I hope every reader can share, it was getting to know these young man not as gladiators but as human beings, some of the best I’ve met. If you were proud of Michigan football before, I can tell you this: getting to know these guys can erase much of the cynicism we all feel for college football these days. They were, quite simply, the real thing.
None of that, unfortunately, solves the problem in the question. Mr. Brandon and Mr. Carr, through various means and channels, have made their contempt for the book (and its author) plain enough. I have no idea what’s going to happen with my various ties to Michigan, including my teaching arrangement, but I’d probably be foolish to count on anything.
It’s almost impossible to write anything interesting without at least some cooperation and access, and I might find those in short supply under the Brandon regime. I will likely have to go “off the reservation,” if you will, to pursue future projects. And perhaps it’s time.
But I also believe this book would cost me a lot more if I were writing about Kentucky basketball under Eddie Sutton or, say, Ohio State football (as a convenient example). Those schools and fans generally don’t want the truth, and will attack anyone who attempts to deliver it (witness Mr. Herbstreit’s forced move to Tennessee). Michigan football fans are very demanding—they expect a first-class program on and off the field—but they also want the truth, and they can handle it.
I feel the same way. After all, I learned how to do all the things I needed to write this book – researching, writing and thinking critically – from world-class professors at the University of Michigan. But the most important principle Michigan taught me was the central importance of pursuing the truth without fear, wherever it leads.
For those who say this book will hurt Michigan, I can only respond: not the Michigan I know.
7. Does the idea of being a "Michigan man" emerge as tortured shibboleth in need of burial or does Bacon make the case that there is something valuable in it, something RR just really didn't get?
This is why you have to love Michigan fans. What other school’s backers would inquire if their culture’s central concept emerges as a “tortured shibboleth in need of burial”? It was such fans, by the way, that made it easy for me to persuade our highbrow publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, that our readers would have no trouble getting through a 438-page book with no photos, nor digesting the word “crucible” in the subtitle. (Arthur Miller, after all, went to Michigan.)
The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan. But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since.
Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches. But the phrase really took off in 1989, of course, when Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season. This prompted Schembechler to bark: “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan!”
Pundits have wondered exactly what Bo meant, but I think it’s pretty simple: anybody coaching at Michigan better be completely committed to Michigan.
The phrase took on more weight four years ago, when a reporter asked brand-new head coach Rich Rodriguez if the Michigan coach had to be a Michigan Man. He joked, “Gosh, I hope not! They hired me!”
He was criticized for that—and not without some justification. The question was inevitable, and it exposed Rodriguez’s superficial knowledge of the program upon his arrival, and the athletic department’s failure to prepare its new coach for his mission.
From that point on, the phrase was used more often to beat somebody over the head—usually Rodriguez—than to underscore the values it’s supposed to represent, much the way extremists use “patriot” to castigate someone as un-American.
At the “Victors’ Rally” held in February 2010, Rodriguez wanted to show that he’d gotten the message. So, he closed his speech by saying, “I’m Rich Rodriguez, and I am a Michigan Man.” This time, he was criticized for being presumptuous.
Finally, with great humility, he told the crowd at his final speech at the Bust in December 2011, “I hope you realize, I truly want to be a Michigan Man.” But this time his critics said a true Michigan Man wouldn’t have to ask.
And thus, the silliness of the entire exercise had come full circle. The phrase had become so distorted, Michigan’s critics started using it as a mocking insult. Much like the word “classy,” it seemed, whoever uses it, probably isn’t.
Despite my temptation to chuck this overused and little understood phrase forever, I still think there’s something to it. Everyone knows the values it’s supposed to stand for: honor, sacrifice, pride in your team, and humility in yourself, all in one. But ultimately, to define it, I have to resort to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
Pardon the comparison, but when it comes to the phrase, “Michigan Man,” I know it when I see it, too. They might be Big Men on Campus, but they don’t act like it, in college or afterward. The men I’ve been lucky enough to get to know—many as good friends—really do put their team and their school before themselves, and become the kind of adults you want to be your employee, your colleague, your boss, your neighbor, your brother-in-law. Not because they played football for Michigan, but because they represent its values. And they really are different than the players I’ve met from other schools.
I can cite too many men who fit this description, and too many examples of their conduct, simply to dismiss it.
Here’s a small one: a few years ago the football alums of Ohio State and Michigan were invited to an event in Columbus. The Buckeyes showed up wearing everything from sport coats to sweatshirts and jeans. But the Michigan alums arrived wearing coats and ties. No one told them what to wear. Bo had already passed away. But they simply knew, reflexively, if you represent Michigan, this is how you do it.
A bigger example: a few years after graduating, Scott Smykowski, a former backup under Schembechler, discovered he needed a bone marrow transplant, but his health care wasn’t going to cover all his expenses. That’s all Schembechler needed to hear to rally Michigan Men from coast to coast. And that’s all they needed to hear to raise $150,000 in just a few weeks – even though most of them never played with Smykowski or even met him. That’s what being a Michigan Man meant to them.
When I speak at Michigan events, I often end with a quote from arguably the first important Michigan Man, Fielding Yost. Near the end of his life, they held a big banquet for him called, “A Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast,” which was broadcast nationwide by NBC. After all the speakers had paid tribute, he got up in his eponymous Fieldhouse and said, “My heart is so full at this moment, I fear I could say little else. But do let me reiterate the Spirit of Michigan. It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways. An enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts. And a conviction that nowhere, is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours.”
It gets me every time. But what really gets me is the response from the people in the audience. None of them ever met Fielding Yost. Most of them weren’t born when he passed away in 1946. Most of their parents weren’t, either. And yet, when they hear these words, they nod involuntarily, the words resonating with something deep inside them, and they are often glassy-eyed when I finish the quote.
If you could stand on that podium and look out on those faces, you would not have to wonder if the idea of the Michigan Man is for real.
Despite the best efforts to kill it, it is still very much alive.
Internet: frighteningly comprehensive. Don't ask about Rule 54 here.
Update on a deceased fellow. I made some offhanded reference to Horace Prettyman, how ridiculous a name that was, and how it was obviously a few guys on the football team having a laugh a couple days ago, but a reader points out one Horace Greely Prettyman has his own extensively researched wikipedia article detailing a life full of accomplishments. Specifically, he scored the first-ever touchdown in Ann Arbor:
In 1883, Michigan resumed a schedule of intercollegiate football, and Prettyman played "forward" for the team. The team played its first ever home game at the Ann Arbor Fairgrounds in March 1883, a 40-5 win over the Detroit Independents. Prettyman scored the first touchdown at the Fairgrounds at the 14-minute mark of the "first inning" and went on to score a second touchdown before the end of the inning.
The team played its remaining games as part of an Eastern trip in November 1883. The trip consisted of four road games in eight days at Wesleyan and Yale in Connecticut, Harvard in Massachusetts, and Stevens Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The trip cost $3,000 and was arranged "to both represent and advertise the college among the Eastern cities and universities."Prettyman was placed in charge of the trip, and The Michigan Argonaut praised his management: "All the boys are most hearty in their commendation of Prettyman's excellent management of the financial interests of the trip and his success is seen by the fact that every expense of the trip has been paid to the last cent."
If Prettyman hadn't died in 1945 there's a good chance he would have tracked me down—he was the local postmaster for a long time—and strangled me.
And as long as we're looking up very old photographs of football players, here's Yost with a killer mustache in 1896:
Mustache Wednesday? Come on, baby.
Er, well then. Yesterday's post on Full Cost Of Attendance—apparently this year's conference expansion— made a large assumption: the change would be localizable to certain athletes. Adam Rittenberg says this is wrong:
If the proposal is adopted at the NCAA level (more on this later), it would affect every athlete on a full scholarship. A women's soccer goalie would have the same scholarship structure as a quarterback. "What we're talking about is not limited to football and men's basketball," Hawley said. The proposal wouldn't impact athletes on partial scholarships.
Or is it? The only "headcount" sports—no dividing scholarships—are basketball, football, women's tennis, women's gymnastics, and women's volleyball. Schools that don't wish to put the world on FCOA could just offer partial scholarships in sports that aren't the above.
But that still increases the burden of FCOA considerably, especially at football schools that almost universally feature volleyball for Title IX purposes. Jim Delany Machiavelli Rating: incremented.
Happening? Happening. Mike Slive is on board with this, by the way. SEC + Big Ten equals probably happening.
Good advice for anyone. Nate Silver is an interesting guy, and here's a speech he gave to a bunch of prospective journalists about what they should do in This Environment. The Big Lead contrasts this with Rick Reilly's "don't write for free" speech. The former is useful, the latter clueless.
This is good advice for anyone:
Learn how to make an argument. This is something that came naturally
to me as a former high school debater. One of the things that distinguishes (quote unquote) "new journalism" from some of its more traditional forms is that the reader is really going to be looking for analysis, meaning, context, argument. Unless you come across some really fresh and proprietary information ‐‐ it's great to get a scoop, but it won't happen very often ‐‐ it's not enough just to present the information verbatim.
One of the flaws of political journalism, in fact, is that a lot of what amounts to spin is given authority by being reported at face value.
Instead, the reader is going to be asking you to develop a hypothesis, weigh the evidence, and come to some conclusion about it ‐‐ it's really very much analogous to the scientific method. Good journalism has always done this ‐‐ but now it needs to be done more explicitly.
If you don't know how to make an argument you spend a large amount of time putting together statistics on how many college athletes get arrested only to find yourself widely ridiculed for not even bothering to provide context. In the past you could just say something and the worst that would happen would be a nasty letter to the editor from a crotchety old guy; now your arguments have to be bulletproof (or at least, you know, try a little) lest you get eviscerated.
Silver also suggests journalists learn what to do with numbers, which is something I harp on consistently.
APR bite. While football APR penalties have generally been restricted to the San Jose States of the world, small squad sizes and NBA departures have made the APR an actual toothy thing in college basketball. A couple years ago Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State all got hit in the offseason. This year UConn feels the wrath:
The national champion Connecticut men's basketball program will lose two scholarships for the upcoming season as a result of a poor Academic Performance Rating from the NCAA. …
The rating puts the basketball program's four-year rating at 893, below the NCAA minimum score of 925. The score for the 2009-10 academic year is 826.
The NCAA's real minimum is 900 but it's interesting that UConn is failing where Kentucky is apparently succeeding. I wonder what they're doing differently in Lexington. The Huskies won't be getting off the mat any time soon, either: their score from last year is 844. Barring a miracle their APR is going to be under 900 for the next few years.
The full report is supposed to come out today; I'll get Michigan's scores up ASAP but probably not as quickly as the guy with the fastest trigger finger on the message board.
What's this oh those are my multiple defense hives welcome back hives I hate you I hate you I hate you aaaah. You may have noticed that Michigan has recruited a lot of linebackers. Farmington Hill Harrison's Mario Ojemudia, a high school defensive tackle who people are projecting as a WDE, wasn't supposed to be one of them but showed up at the recently completed Columbus Nike camp looking like a linebacker, and not one of those linebackers you can turn into a WDE. This may be the cause for another round of "are we moving to a 3-4" last featured in a mailbag here; this time it's a post at Maize N Brew detailing the various teams that moved to the 3-4 and how they mostly got a bunch better.
I don't think this is happening. As I mentioned in that mailbag post, moving to a 3-4 does not reduce your linebacker overage because a well-stocked spot—WDE—becomes a linebacker spot filled by—surprise—those WDEs. I think Mattison has explicitly stated he will run a 4-3 under at Michigan and only a 4-3 under even if I can't find the quote right now, and GOOD LORD LET'S JUST DO ONE THING FAIRLY WELL BEFORE WE START CHANGING AGAIN AAAAAAH—
Etc.: Yost Built profiles new defenseman Mike Chiasson, who does mean no Burlon next year. Unusually for Michigan, Chiasson is 20 now and will be one of those 24-year old seniors popular amongst teams that don't have a lot of NHL draft picks on their rosters. Chad Langlais was the most recent example at Michigan and that worked out well.
Bring the Payne. MI CB LEVITICUS PAYNE has just achieved more than most of us will over the course of our lives: he's made the Name of the Year bracket.
[click for big.]
He's a 12 seed in the Bulltron regional against a "Silverberry Mouhon," which is mellifluous but is no LEVITICUS PAYNE. The Mercedes Bunz/Col. Many-Bears Grinder winner in the second round might be tough.
College football is also represented by South Carolina uber-recruit Jadeveon Clowney and former Michigan recruit Quinta Funderburke, who ended up signing with Arkansas. 2013 Purdue basketball commit Basil Smotherman Jr. also makes it. I'm pulling for Smotherman because for the duration of his career I'm going to pretend everything he says on the court is a Fawlty Towers quote.
Also everything Matt Painter says is going to be "BASIL!" I might watch every Purdue game during this era.
Schedule bits. The Big Ten released conference schedules for 2013 and 2014. Illinois and Purdue rotate off; Penn State and Indiana rotate on. Michigan won't see Wisconsin until 2015. That's why the Big Ten will add a ninth conference game sometime in the near future—four years off is a bit much.
At least that's good in terms of schedule strength… unless that thing where any team that doesn't play Michigan is guaranteed to collapse keeps happening. If Illinois and Purdue are insanely good next year our curse continues. Illinois could actually… naw, nevermind.
Monocle follow-up. Women's basketball is out of control:
Some schools paid their coaching staffs many times what their teams earned, the data show. The Texas A&M staff received $1.36 million, or 114 percent of operating revenue of $1.19 million, and Michigan State paid out $833,931, or 87 percent of operating revenue of $954,779.
At Auburn University, salaries and benefits cost $1.14 million, or 1,783 percent of the Tigers’ operating revenue of $64,225, and the program posted a $3.16 million operating loss.
Auburn continues to live by the motto "go big or go home." The 53 BCS schools vulnerable to FOIAs collectively lost over two million dollars each.
Those numbers are insane. Money is being transferred directly from football and basketball players to women's basketball coaches. At least with revenue sports there's some justification for paying the head of your program a lot of money—he's in charge of something that makes money and might stop doing so if you suck. There's no reason any women's basketball coach not at UConn or Tennessee should be making more than 100k. What's going to happen? Are the empty seats going to stop coming?
There's a lot of blather in that article from administrators talking about "the market," but that market is shaped by all the extra cash sloshing around because revenue athletes get the same scholarship as everyone else. Even UConn lost nearly a million dollars last year because it paid its head coach nearly two. There's an easy way to close that gap.
Do it or I'll burn you with my eye lasers. Outstanding find from MVictors, as he runs across a wire photo showing what Yost used to look like in the days of Cazzie Russell:
Greg advocates putting the old man back up—"Extend the Yost brand," he exhorts—and this is obviously the most fantastic idea ever.
BONUS: it reminded me of the Martin Van Buren alert system, wherein Old Man Murray put up a picture of MVB on their page and would change it to a "dramatic approximation of Martin Van Buren as he would appear if he were alive today" in the event some random person important to misanthropic gaming nerds* in 1999 updated her "page":
MVB, devil MVB
Michigan could do the same whenever Michigan State came to town or something. Best idea ever? Best idea ever.
*[so, so guilty as charged.]
Exit Fiesta. The NCAA's going to meet about the Fiesta Bowl whatnot soon and could pull the licenses from both the Fiesta (which would be a big deal) and the Insight (which would be a big deal to Minnesota). The shocking, shocking abuses uncovered have caused at least a few guys within the ivory tower to grumble about a playoff:
“The bowls ought to be put under the control of the N.C.A.A.,” said William E. Kirwan, the chancellor of Maryland’s university system and co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which discusses and sometimes makes recommendations on the major issues of college sports.
“One way to accomplish that is to go to a playoff and let it be an N.C.A.A. championship. That would be one way of breaking the back of the B.C.S. I’ve never been in favor of a playoff, but given what I see going on, I think it’s time to press that issue.”
He's got a point. Money currently being spent on strippers and golf by bowl executives could instead be used on strippers and golf by women's basketball coaches.
Nervous yet? In an article heavily laden with moody pictures of confetti, Luke Winn drops the bomb you've been bracing for in a way-too-early top 32(?):
13. Michigan John Beilein is on the verge of a breakthrough in Ann Arbor — that is, if point guard Darius Morris returns for his junior season. Tim Hardaway Jr. was perhaps the nation’s most underrated freshman in ’10-11, and the Wolverines showed flashes of their potential by nearly knocking off Duke in the “third” round. They could make an outside run at the Big Ten title.
Deliciously, Michigan State does not feature. Draymond Green's reaction to this:
As for the Wolverines, that 13 is uncomfortably close to the #15 ranking they got in the preseason AP poll before they imploded two years ago. It's also ridiculous to make these lists before the NBA draft deadline, not that it stops CBS (16) or ESPN (also 16).
Etc.: Corn Nation covers Bo's final season as part of their countdown to joining the Big Ten. Via On The Banks, here's an academic economist who actually seems to have a clue about college athletics. Polynomial efficiency margins from Maize Colored Glasses.
Hello. Things that transpired in my absence:
Basketball got splattered by Purdue. Hello, reality. You suck. Michigan hadn't played terribly in a game anyone could see yet this year, but they did so yesterday, and those NCAA bubble dreams should be shelved. From the first Jajuan Johnson undefendable hook shot it was clear Purdue was on another level from Michigan's previous victims, especially on defense. Michigan had far too many possessions where the ball barely approached the three-point line until there were ten seconds on the shot clock. The resulting chuck-fest was reminiscent of Amaker's teams.
Michigan's comeback at the end of the first half was nice to see—Stu Douglass was so on fire he drove to the basket for an easy layup that wasn't blocked into the third row—but even as it was happening I was thinking "this can't last." Lo, it did not.
A side note: Purdue employed a strategy I've long thought is a low-cost way to lower your opponent's efficiency: a token press. Don't trap, don't get yourself out of position for easy buckets, just defend all 90 feet. Michigan crossed the half-court line four or five seconds later than they would have normally and often struggled to initiate the offense when the ballhandler picked up his dribble just past the line. On a half-dozen possessions Michigan had no semblance of an offense until half the shot clock was gone.
A kicker committed. I've searched for this a million times already so I know it's not out there but this, truly, is news that should be met with that bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail wherein the animated peasants give a desultory "hurrah." The tubes don't have this because if you type "holy grail peasants" you get this a billion times:
Which is fine and all but doesn't have much relevance to Michigan's kicker situation. He's Matt Goudis, Tim all typed him up and stuff, and he should be a massive upgrade for Michigan's national-worst field goal kicking.
I'm most encouraged by the bit of the ESPN profile that says he's a "refined ball striker"—yes, yes, that's what she said—with a "motion that's very repeatable"—ditto—since Michigan went with a guy who didn't have great technique but made a lot of high school field goals in Brendan Gibbons and that didn't so much work out. I don't really care if kickers can hit 50-yarders since in most situations you're better off going for it in that portion of the field; give me a Garrett Rivas any day of the week.
Anthony Zettel committed… to Penn State. Guh. If Zettel was going to wait until the 28th of December, what's one more week to see if Rodriguez is retained or booted and if the latter who his replacement would be? That's a major loss for the class and a guy who will rankle every time he does something for Penn State, and one that would have been averted with one more win somewhere along the way this year.
Tate Forcier said a bunch of stuff. Angelique Chengelis scored an excellent interview with Tate Forcier at some of the Gator Bowl festivities. The bit most directly relevant to the "will he or won't he" stuff:
But not long after the UConn game, a posting on Twitter [ed: by that swimsuit model] said Forcier would transfer.
"That was like the fourth time I'd heard that," Forcier said. "I would have left if I was leaving. You just never know what can happen. It's God's plan. You don't know who's watching, and it's really what you make of it. So I stuck it out. It was actually after the UConn game that I just decided I'm going to stick here at least for this year.
"I think it took time for me. If I were to leave, I didn't realize what I would be leaving. One of the things I noticed, everyone who left would have had a shot to play if they would have stayed."
Forcier also says Michigan's system is "tailor-made" for Denard, that he "knows he can run" the offense but that "Denard is better in it, honestly." All of this sounds like a guy resigned to the idea he's a backup at Michigan if he stays, which is a mature way to approach things… and almost certainly provides strong motivation to depart after the year. He's certainly going to think about it:
"Anytime somebody says something to me about leaving, I say, 'I'm still here, aren't I?" Forcier said, pulling his jacket hard to make sure the Michigan logo is properly displayed. "You still see me with all this Michigan stuff on me. This is me. I'm already acclimated to everything here. The education is something you can't pass up.
"You never know what could happen. I just think it's really about what you make of it. When I get in (games), I try to do what I can do and make the most of it. I'm pretty much going to ride my own road. It's up to me."
I do have a credible-seeming email in the inbox about Montana getting a big time I-A QB transfer from a "west coast kid not on the west coast," FWIW, but even if that points to Forcier no names are in it. Since Forcier has a redshirt available it would seem to make more sense for him to transfer to another D-I school, anyway.
I hope he stays but you can't blame him for leaving. We'll always have triple overtime against Illinois.
Old man yelled at cloud. A guy in the News who literally writes Gil Thorpe wrote some thing about how Rich Rodriguez is a slippery money-grubbing so-and-so with a distinctly Hun disposition that's about what you'd expect from Gil Thorpe:
wsg Ming The Merciless
I'm not going to rehash the usual defense of Rich Rodriguez's contractual whatnot—in brief it's "John Beilein, saint"—but here's an oh snap from MVictors in response to the assertion that "Fielding Yost didn’t sign contract extensions and then flirt with other schools to extort raises":
“No matter how long Yost’s contract was (one-year, two-year, five-year) in his first decade, it was always a source of relief in Ann Arbor every late-Nov/early-Dec when he announced he was for sure coming back. Occasionally, there were reports he was considering an offer from, say, Wisconsin — or from the East. One year he even boldly and publicly disputed the wording of his contract as to whether he’d be allowed to coach elsewhere if he opted out of coaching Michigan. Another year he threatened to retire, he was so discouraged. Yost worked it masterfully to his own advantage."
If you think the response to this column has been harsh check out the comments on any Gil Thorpe online, wherein a bunch of snarky hipsters snark at each other about how terrible Gil Thorpe is.
Jim Harbaugh was like "oh no he di'in't." The report about Harbaugh signing an extension and staying at Stanford from the Stanford AD—always questionable—was obliterated by one Jim Harbaugh:
Harbaugh has yet to sign with Stanford, and when asked about his supposedly pending contract extension he stated:
"I haven't even discussed it."
Perhaps more interesting, when asked to respond to remarks from the Stanford AD implying that Harbaugh will sign the contract, "Maybe he misspoke."
Denard said he was "100 percent." Eeeee:
“He’s not banged up anymore,” receiver Roy Roundtree said. “He’s ready to go and he’s just getting the offense ready.”
Robinson didn’t divulge how much of an impact the injuries had on his performance, but he said while speaking at the team’s hotel that he was now “100 percent.”
Martavious Odoms became available for the Gator Bowl. Michigan's wide receiver depth gets a boost:
"Rodriguez says Odoms has been able to do everything in practice and should be good to go in the bowl game."
7-5 Iowa, fresh off a loss to Minnesota, beat Missouri. Good start for the Big Ten and a reason for the conference to be thankful the bowl matchups shook out the way they did—would Michigan have any chance to stay within two touchdowns of Blaine Gabbert and company with their secondary? Probably not.
The big story as far as 2011 goes was Marcus Coker bulldozing the Missouri defense for 200 yards and establishing himself the next obvious target for the wrath of Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God. If he's not struck down by providence, it looks like Iowa's got themselves a version of Beanie Wells the next few years.
Billy Sauer fought Bobby Goepfert. Seriously:
Billy's in the ECHL now. This kind of stuff happens.
Etc.: Ryan Mallett is an "overrated prospect who definitely should return" to Arkansas because he's got a bad case of the Stanzis (Stanzi as a junior, anyway). A few players had trouble getting to Jacksonville because of weather. There was also an "impromptu dance-off." Smart Football emerged from hibernation. Michigan will not have Jon Merrill and Chris Brown for the GLI (which starting tonight with a game against Michigan Tech) as both made the World Junior team. Craig Roh is a nice dude.