chance of bowl: 13.6%
blah blah blah
Michigan P Zoltan Mesko ruined the punt return drills by being unable to kick the ball far enough to allow a return more often than not (my rough count was 2 returnable out of 7), and his kicks consistently bounce backwards or straight sideways.
I'm sure this person meant to say Mesko ruined the drills by punting the ball into low Earth orbit. Either that or Jeff Risdon—if that is his real name—of RealGM is a compulsive liar who lies. These are the only two options.
That goes for you, too, "Chad Reuter":
This year's class of specialists is not very strong, and Michigan's Zoltan Mesko has been rated as the top punter on the board most of the year. However, his punts have lacked height and spirals, rarely turning over to gain maximum hang time and distance. He'll need a strong game performance to regain the confidence of scouts.
During the game on Saturday, Mesko will shank a punt that nails both of these fellows in the head.
Yost Hall of Fame. You know the monster Swedish flag that's taken up residence in Yost?
Yeah… it's homemade. Engineering sophomore Rob Eckert's mother is a hero of the people:
“I asked my mom around Christmas time when I saw her if I could borrow her sewing machine," Eckert said. "She was like ‘What are you making?’ I (told) her I was making a Swedish flag, a big one. And my Mom made it for me for my Christmas present.”
I assumed that someone had purchased it off EBay or something, but it was a modern-day Betsy Ross. Someone get her a medal.
Expansion bits. Nominal Chicagoland/Illinois sports blog "Frank the Tank's Slant" has turned into an all-Big-Ten-Expansion-all-the-time sort of place, and it continues its long-running series with an analysis of the main thing: money. The Slant is a weird combo of useful information and totally bats conclusions like "Pitt is a ridiculous idea" and "a 14-team conference is worth spending 1000 words discussing."
I think the bats conclusions come from an excessive focus on money and only money. Pitt doesn't expand the BTN footprint but does make sense in a zillion other ways from academics to providing Penn State an actual rival to geography. A 14 team conference might make more money on average but is a nightmare on the field. Money is important—it's one of the many reasons Iowa State is not a candidate—but it's not everything.
Elsewhere, evidence that Missouri will give the Big Ten a good hard look continues to mount with a KC Star article on Mizzou's willingness to make a move. The main issues are Mizzou's century-long membership in the MVC/Big 8/Big 12 and the hit the Tigers would take in Texas, one of their main recruiting hotbeds, when they don't make regular trips to Tech, A&M, etc.
As always, it's dolla dolla bill ya'll making the most compelling case in favor:
“Illinois and Indiana will make $9 million more from its televisions contracts this year,” Alden said. “Arkansas and Mississippi will make even more. That’s our comparison. In five years, they’ll have generated almost $50 million more than us without selling a ticket.”
If Mizzou is willing to go, I think the additional markets they bring outweigh Pitt's superiority in basketball and academics.
You find a playlist 100,000 people can agree on, we talk. Maize n Brew Dave makes a case for improving the Michigan game day experience re: piped in music. My solution is simple: find Special K and have him transfer to Michigan State. His solution is removing stuff like "Lose Yourself" and "Don't Stop Believing" because while he likes piped in music "only when it's good." He suggests this playlist instead:
Guns n Roses: Paradise City, Nitetrain, Welcome to the Jungle
Motley Crue: Kickstart My Heart, Dr. Feelgood
AC/DC: Thunderstruck, Back in Black, Shoot To Thrill, Highway to Hell, Hells Bells (Defense only), Rock n Roll Train
Motorhead: Ace of Spades
Quiet Riot: Metal Health (opening scream only)
Metallica: Enter Sandman (Defense only)
KISS: Detroit Rock City
Problem: all this music sucks so hard. It's generic. It's played out. It's being RAWKED at an ECHL arena right now. And oh my god:
So how bout "Breakin the Law" by Judas Priest for penalties? "Why can't we be friends" for personal fouls? "Mama's little helper" when the refs screws us? "Sympathy for the Devil" when Tressel's around? "Play that Funky Music White Boy" for Tate Forcier and the "Speed Racer" Theme for Denard Robinson? This stuff isn't rocket sciene.
Dave is Special K. I can (barely) tolerate Don't Stop Believin'. When Special K plays Bob Seger at ear-splitting volume during a critical review I want to die. If he started making stupid little jokes about on-field events when I am on the verge of a panic attack it would make me want to stay home and that would make me feel terrible. The arrow on this points exactly one way: Joe Louis.
Dave makes this argument for piped in music:
The best example I can give is the Jagr-led Washington Capitals* … whose PA dude put together the most awesome montage-collages of heavy metal/death rock this pathetic planet has ever known. That Caps intro would melt your face right into your beer cup. … They knew their target audience and they fed it guitar heavy ROK like you'd feed makrel to a trained seal. We ate it up.
So… let's think about knowing your audience. At Michigan Stadium you have a vast variety of Michigan fans, students, and alums ranging from 18 to 80. Maybe 5% of them grew up driving a Camaro and rocking a rat-tail. "Knowing your audience" this is not. Keep the eighth-grade sense of humor ("boners!") and your 1985 hair metal where it belongs—everywhere else on the planet—, please, and let's go back to the things Michigan fans can actually agree on: Temptation, War Chant, Let's Go Blue, The Victors.
The thing that bothers me is that I really loathe the piped in music and, from the reactions I've gotten it seems like a lot of people do. For the people who hate it, the music ruins one of the few pristine sporting events luddites have left. For people who like it, it's just another opportunity to hear the same fifteen seconds of that one song you hear fifteen seconds of everywhere else. The cost to one group greatly exceeds the benefit to the other.
Rooting interest. I admit that I have no plans to watch ice dancing no matter what personal connection I have to it—I could be actively participating in a routine and be screaming "SWEEP" at my slingbox-enhanced smartphone—but others might be less curling-obsessed so it's worth mentioning that two current Michigan students are the sequined Brandon Graham and slightly-less-sequined-but-still-pretty-damn-sequined Brandon Graham of ice dancing. They are Meryl Davis and Charlie White:
White and Davis, both native Metro Detroiters, are University of Michigan students and die-hard Wolverine sports fans.
They're about to become very famous, as they head into the Olympics as the No. 1-ranked ice dancers in the world. White, a sophomore who has not chosen a major yet, and Davis, a junior in cultural anthropology, could become the most famous Michigan students in the Olympics since star swimmer Michael Phelps.
That's pretty remarkable. This bit goes beyond remarkable into the bizarre, though: the third-place team at nationals, and therefore the third Olympic qualifier, consists of fellow Michigan students Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. Four of the six competitors for the US at the Olympic ice dancing competition will be Michigan undergraduates. Bates and White are freakin' housemates. I bet one dollar the four hit the ice at Yost during an intermission sometime before the year is out.
So, yeah, Tanith Belbin and Anonymous Partner can fall in a ditch. I want big, sequined block Ms on the medal podium.
Ask Vlad Emilien anything! Seriously. However, he will sometimes answer incorrectly:
Who wins: Mike Barwis or Chuck Norris?
i dont really know maybe chuck norris
Has Barwis ever brought his wolves to workouts?
There's a couple of interesting responses, though. Molk is the "strongest, hardest working" player on the team, and this oddly grammatical question shoots down the idea that a lingering knee injury kept Emilien off the field:
Hey Vlad, Just curious, did a lingering injury keep you off the field last year? Did it affect your play? A lot of us expected to see more of you and that was the rumor. I'm looking forward to seeing you play next year. Thanks for making Blue proud!
to be honest i dont know why i wasnt playing... my coach told me he felt i wasnt ready yet
Sammi Sweatheart or Jwoww?
who is these people lol
So there you go.
Programming note: I am headed out of town for the annual approximately week-long Christmas vacation. I'll check in periodically but posts are not likely unless there is major news. I return on the 30th. Update: Tim will be around until Wednesday.
Adios. Donovan Warren is out:
Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren has declared for the NFL draft.
Warren told The Associated Press on Sunday he believes it’s the right time to take his game to the next level.
“I’m confident in my ability,” he said. “I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”
There was a brief window in which it seemed that Warren would come back because Warren said words to the effect of "I'll probably come back," but at the Bust he said he was "heavily" favoring the NFL and after that it seemed like a matter of time. It was.
While Michigan fans aren't quite as attached to Warren as Tiger fans were to Curtis Granderson…
…the vast seeping hole full of pus and regret he leaves in the secondary has elicited a similar reaction. Justin Turner, now is the time to pupate.
About 14. The thing about 14 teams is at that point it's hardly a conference, it's two conferences with a scheduling agreement and a weird playoff at the end. Two divisions of seven have you face everyone in your division and then just two teams from the other division. We'd go from playing Penn State and everyone else in the other division 75% of the time (there are eight teams in the league that aren't protected rivals and we miss two of them every year) to playing them 29% of the time, and there's no way you can protect a rivalry game in the opposite division without making the situation even worse.
Unless you go to nine or even ten games there's just no way that makes any sense. So then you're trying to coordinate three new schools and take away at least one precious nonconference cupcake and argue which team goes in which division and trying to get eight of eleven votes to approve all this.
There is zero percent chance of this happening.
Syracuse thinks the Big Ten is great… for Boeheim to poop on. Jim Boeheim's opinion of the Big Ten was not glowing 20 years ago:
I guarantee, and you can write a story, Penn State basketball will never be successful in the Big Ten. I will give you my heart if they are. I’m talking ever. Just not going to happen.
The whole discussion came from talking about Miami coming to the Big East and how that saved us [Syracuse] from maybe having to go to the Big Ten. What I said was, there is no way Syracuse [football] could win in the Big Ten or the ACC. And I’m talking Syracuse. And now that Penn State is going, they would have an even lesser chance.
Wonk suggests that Boeheim won't be heading up the "Let's Join The Big Ten" committee any time soon, and that would just about preclude their entry into the conference. Playing Villanova and UConn and all those other schools in the Big East in basketball is more important than anything else. We can scratch them off the list of programs to assimilate.
Missouri, on the other hand, is ready to flirt. First, Missouri's governor—pictured with Willie Nelson—is all like "yeah, we should seriously look at it" about the Big Ten. Second, via The Sports Economist comes a fascinating, candid interview with Missouri's athletic director with some insight into just how much money the Big Ten is raking in:
Mizzou may get approximately $9 million in television revenue, all things being equal, and Texas would be about $12 million. Then Baylor would be around $7.5 million.
That gap is there, but more importantly, let’s take a look at Illinois. We’re not only competing against our league, we’re competing against Illinois. The question is, what is the difference between what Illinois is getting in revenue distribution from the league — that’s television, basically — and what Mizzou is getting? Ours is $9 million. Illinois’ is $21 million.
And maybe we should be giving Jim Delany more credit for the aspects of his job that do not involve speaking to the media. I'd like to cut this answer but it's all interesting so here you go:
Q: What was the sticking point for the Big 12 [creating its own network]?
A: It had to do with revenue distribution and fear of the unknown. The unknown being that a network had never been done with college athletics before. We had heard rumors about the Big Ten getting ready to do it. So various voices in the room were concerned that we were going into uncharted waters. We have this pretty good contract with ABC, ESPN and Fox, and why would we want to give up a sure thing for a speculative deal? By us backing away from that, the Big Ten went forward with that. It was fear of the unknown. We had the same presentation at the same time by CSTV. CSTV had talked to us at the same set of meetings about starting our own network based upon the theory of ESPN Classic. When ESPN Classic was started, everybody said, “Who’s going to watch this? Old video of teams that used to play, 24-7? How is this going to be successful?”
The same people that started ESPN Classic came to us as a league and wanted us to use a similar model to start our own network, based upon this pro forma that had been shown. And we couldn’t come to a consensus. It was pretty frustrating. So we stayed the course and continued the same direction we were, and what we found is we found today that the SEC contract is worth $205 million per year, the Big Ten contract is worth $190 million per year — and both of those leagues share equally — and the Big 12 Conference contract is worth $80 million per year and we don’t share equally. That is a significant gap.
Back to the topic at hand. Missouri prefers to stay where it is:
We need to keep making Mizzou stronger and stronger and making the Big 12 stronger and stronger. We need to keep saying — and we are — proud members of the Big 12 Conference. We’re fortunate to be associated. If you’re asking me personally, my preference would be to do everything you can to strengthen the Big 12. That’s what you’ve got to do.
But given the whole "freakin' Illinois gets more than double what we do from the conference" thing, they'll listen. Given that and the Big Ten's academic attractiveness, which is something certain folk might not be taking totally seriously…
[Former Big 12 commissioner] Kevin Weiberg was quoted as saying this a few days ago in USA Today — he was commenting on the Big Ten — he said, “Rest assured, this will not be about athletics.” Everybody in our world thinks this is about athletics, but it’s not. Conference realignments are always based primarily on academics.
…but that doesn't mean people suggesting schools that have nothing to offer except academics haven't swung too far the other direction.
Anyway, read the whole thing if you're interested in the subject since it's one of the best interviews I've read recently.
Digression about those numbers above. Why isn't the Big Ten picking off successful Big 12 coaches? IE: why is Gary Pinkel still at Mizzou? Though I basically dismissed Braves & Birds' SEC fixation relative to expansion, he does have a point about Big Ten schools' hiring decisions. Minnesota fired its coach and hired a TE coach. Not even a real position coach! Illinois hired Ron Zook. Michigan State hired a .500 Big East coach with two years of head coaching experience. Purdue brought in Danny Hope, coach of Eastern Kentucky. EKU made the playoffs once in his five-year tenure, losing in the first round. There are a couple of coaches in the league who were elevated in trying circumstances—Fitzgerald and Lynch, but the guys before that were elevated internal hires or MAC coaches.
The one actual A-level hire* in the league the last decade or so was Rich Rodriguez—not exactly setting the world on fire—and the transitions that seemed like the best decisions other than that were Wisconsin grabbing Bret Bielema, who had been a superb defensive coordinator at Kansas State for almost a decade, as a coach in waiting, and Jim Tressel's hiring at Ohio State. (Tressel may have been a I-AA coach but he was a guy who'd won multiple national titles.) The overall picture is of the exact opposite sort of thing going on in the SEC.
Evidence: an Outside the Lines bit from Mike Fish detailing the absurd lengths SEC teams have gone to with their coaching hires. Some of them border on the insane, most prominently the huge outlay Tennessee has made to hire an idiot:
Tennessee was so hot to rid itself of Phillip Fulmer after a 5-7 record in 2008 that it paid a $6 million buyout. This came a year after a 10-win season for which Fulmer had received a contract extension. Then, UT hustled to sign a deal with his successor, guaranteeing Kiffin $14.25 million through the 2014 season. Kiffin will be due $7.5 million if he is fired without cause.
That's actually not quite as outrageous as it's framed, as Fish loves to give overall numbers instead of yearly ones so they seem crazier. But at almost $3 million a year for a guy that definitely wasn't going to get that much from anywhere else—IIRC, Washington was the only other school interested—is an unnecessary outlay before you get to the unprecedented money given to the assistants:
The elder Kiffin is the highest-paid assistant in college sports, guaranteed $1.5 million this year. His $300,000 retention bonus alone, due after the season, isn't far from the interim president's annual salary.
Two other Tennessee football assistants, Ed Orgeron ($1.95 million) and Jim Chaney ($1.17 million), are guaranteed more than $3 million between them for the next three seasons.
Again this guy doesn't do us the service of dividing, but Orgeron is making over 600k per year. And yet if you look at the revenue numbers, Big Ten schools aren't far off the SEC folk.
There's a gap here. I'm not saying I'd like Big Ten teams to blow as much money on questionable hires as the SEC does, but surely they can make better stabs at winning coaches that Tim Brewster. Why is Brian Kelly at Notre Dame? Because half of the Big Ten passed him up.
*(Conventionally defined as a guy who's built a top ten-ish program himself, right?)
Bler recession bler. The Wiz digs up an article noting that schools are actually spending money to lobby congress in favor of the freaking BCS:
Politico reports that Purdue and Michigan have spent $515,000 and $415,000 respectively, to lobby this year against a bill that aims to cut federal money for colleges that participate in a Division I-A season without a playoff.
I tend to blame whichever congressman no doubt from Texas or Utah decided that screwing with federal funding for universities because of sports is a great idea more than either university; obviously a bill like that would be a disaster. It's one thing to goof around with an annoyance bill; this is on another level.
Delicious. If you're like me and still harbor bitterness towards former ESPN exec Mark Shapiro for things like "I'd Do Anything," Sports Media Watch's list of the ten worst sports shows of the decade is fantastic. Most of the shows on it were his idea, and most include brilliant quotes from Shapiro like so:
"Stephen A. is ringing a bell. People like him and dislike him, but they still watch him. These days, it’s hard to find a talent who strikes a chord that way" (SBD, 8/1/05). (On a related note, Shapiro reminisced about lobbying for Smith's hiring in '03: "There were 28 people in the room, and they were all vehement: ‘No way, never, never!’ I said, ‘We’ve gotta get this guy in here.'"
In fact, no one wanted to watch a shouty dwarf and Quite Frankly was an epic bomb.
Etc.: Despite rumors about seemingly every viable Michigan assistant coach out there (Corwin Brown, Vance Beford, and Scot Loeffler), Buffalo goes with Cincinnati offensive coordinator and presumptive future ND OC Jeff Quinn to replace Turner Gill. Quinn had been with Kelly forever, so this is good. Van Damme anger fairy. Vada Murray's latest update is excellent.