I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
money money money
Hey kids. John's answered your questions in an extensive post below. I know his points hit close to home as we approach the last time Michigan Stadium will host Notre Dame for the foreseeable future. The book is Fourth and Long, and it's available now.
Is there a way of putting the genie back in the bottle, or have the aggressive, business-oriented strategies of highlighted in the book (and there are MANY instances therein) put Michigan on an irreversible, faulty trajectory?
[My question is in his estimation, where is that "tipping point" for Michigan, and what happens when we reach it?]
Great question, and one I’ve examined from as many angles as possible for this book. Really, for Michigan fans – and fans of college football generally – it is the central question.
Michigan happens to make a great case study, on two fronts: the loyalty of its fans, and the department’s profitably, both of which are virtually unequaled in college football.
First, the good news, from the book:
“Brandon’s style might not please everyone he deals with, but he delivers what he promises. Under Brandon, the department increased its operating surplus to $15.3 million in fiscal year 2012, 72 percent higher than the previous fiscal year. In 2012, the Michigan football team alone generated $61.6 million in profits, second only to the University of Texas, which has the considerable advantage of its exclusive twenty-year, $300 million TV deal with ESPN.
Brandon has delivered more than dollars, too. After hiring Brady Hoke in 2011, the Michigan football team beat Notre Dame on the last play of the Big House’s first night game, defeated Ohio State for the first time since 2003, and won a thrilling overtime game over eleventh-ranked Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, Michigan’s first BCS bowl victory since a young man named Tom Brady beat Alabama in the January 1, 2000, Orange Bowl.
In the 2011–12 school year, the hockey team earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament; the men’s basketball team won a share of its first Big Ten title since 1986; and the following fall, Michigan’s other twenty-nine sports combined to run a close second behind Stanford, and ahead of such perennial all-sport powers as Texas and UCLA, in the Directors’ Cup, which Michigan has never won.
If the Michigan athletic department had issued a 2012 annual report to its shareholders, it would have been the shiniest publication in college sports, packed with enough good news to make the competition envious. By those measures, its creator could be considered an all-American athletic director.
The Wolverines are not alone in spending millions, of course, engaged as they are in an arms race with the Buckeyes and the Southeastern Conference that shows no signs of slowing down. In Brandon’s speeches to alumni clubs, service groups, and the press, he has been unabashed in laying out a simple equation: if you want titles, this is what it takes.
But it can come with some unexpected prices.”
One of them, of course, was the initial decision to leave the Marching Band in Ann Arbor for the Alabama game in Dallas – about which former band director Scott Boerma was willing to clarify several misconceptions in our interviews.
But the bigger price might be the disaffection of thousands of loyal fans, some of whom have dropped their tickets. At Michigan, as of this writing, those numbers don’t seem to be too great, and the Big House still attracts over 100,000 passionate fans each game. But just down the road at Penn State, whose fans are every bit as rabid as Michigan’s, driving an average of four hours to see their team play in State College, you can see the effects of squeezing your supporters too hard.
The scoreboard scroller at Penn State’s third game, against Navy, announced the game’s attendance at ninety-eight thousand. As I write: “This would have brought heartbreak to the Michigan crowd, which had never dipped below one hundred thousand since 1975. But the Lions’ six-year streak had already been broken at the opening game of the 2011 season, months before Sandusky was arrested, thanks to the overpricing of tickets through a misguided and ill-timed seat-license plan called the “Step Program.” This had caused attendance to drop by about three thousand a game in 2010, when the program was introduced, again in 2011, and would again in 2012.”
My sources tell me the trend is likely to continue in 2013, and this brings us to a central issue for meccas like Beaver Stadium, the Horseshoe and the Big House: faith. From the book:
College football fandom depends on the same force that buoys our nation’s currency: faith. Since the United States left the gold standard, the US dollar has value only because billions of people around the world think it does. When a critical mass of people stop thinking that, our dollars will be worth no more than Confederate scrip—without the eBay memorabilia value.
College football isn’t nearly as important, of course, nor as serious. But the ecosystem works the same way. Going to a football game at Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State is great largely because over one hundred thousand people at each stadium think it is. If the sellouts stop and the empty seats increase, the fans start questioning why they’re paying such incredible fees for a “wow experience” that cannot attract a sellout.
One friend calculated that taking her husband and two kids to the games—without dinners or hotel rooms—costs about $500 per Saturday, more than a day at Disney World. And Mickey never loses or snows on you.
“Just because you can charge them more,” Bill Martin told me, “doesn’t mean you should. You’re not there to ring up the cash to the nth degree. It’s a nonprofit model!
“Look into how much is spent on marketing, then look at how effective it is,” he said. “Look at the increase in men’s basketball attendance this year,” he added. Michigan’s top-10 men’s team played twenty games at home, attracting capacity crowds of 12,693 for fifteen of those games, with only two under 10,000. “That would happen if you didn’t spend one penny on marketing. You don’t have to do marketing at Michigan. We have the fans. We have the support. We have a great reputation. All you have to do is win. If you win, they will come. You just need to make it as affordable as possible for your fans.”
For all these reasons, my friends—who developed what they thought were lifelong habits of attendance as kids—have found themselves in the last few years rarely going to the stadium anymore.
The straw man of the hour was Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon. Brandon talks a lot about “brand loyalty,” but that combines two words that, to a college football fan, aren’t related. College football fans are fiercely loyal, but their loyalty is to something they most definitely do not see as a brand, rather something much deeper. If Michigan football ever lost loyal fans like my friends in the living room, who were raised on Michigan football, could it win them back?
Clearly, Brandon was betting that the endless branding would keep them in the fold. And perhaps if not, other fans could replace them.”
Both those questions, I believe, will be answered in the near future. And they will be answered by you, the loyal fans, who will vote with your feet, and your credit card.
[After THE JUMP: is college football worth saving? Does Bill O'Brien want to strangle Tim Beckman? What does the U stand for?]
First some housekeeping things:
One: Meet the new tshirts:
The chicken one is a LIMITED EDITION we're printing just for this game, since afterwards there won't be any more of the cluckers around to show it to. We will be collecting orders and shipping out on 9/3. After 9/3 we will print limited run extra but then when we are out we are out, so get on that now. Also recommended: bringing rubber chickens to that game (we're not responsible if they get confiscated.)
Two: Reminder: Next Friday at MGoTailgate (on Berkeley across from the stadium), free beer, meet Marlin Jackson and others, learn things, be social.
On with the show.
There are just…
…and-a-half hours until Michigan football. As such the users have gone into their regular pre-season epic content production mode. Let's just get right to it starting with Diarist of the Week and personal favorite MCalibur.
Wait, first let's do Things You're Not Allowed to See. The first rule of Fall Camp is what happens in Fall Camp stays in Fall Camp, unless some dude spills the beans to his friend and he puts it in a diary and we confirm things like Garder==awesome, Fitz==awesome, Butt==feasible in a Funchess-last-year kind of way, OL looks like 1997's, DL depth charts are deep, Wilson is still learning, kicking==good.
Also the first rule of Mott Scrimmage is what happens at Mott Scrimmage stays at Mott Scrimmage (unless someone writes it up as a Diary that pretty much saw everything I saw). Speaking of scrimmages reshp1 went and UFR'd everything from the scrimmage featured in Countdown to Kickoff last week.
Also also the first rule of Camp Michigania is what happens at Michigania is really boring and I don't want to hear it. Anyway I can already see everything you did because it's on your kid's activity bling:
Yes, Lizzie has been cited for improper logo use and will serve a three-game 'timeout'
Wait, Lloyd? Okay I'm sorry; tell me tell me tell me tell me!!!! Now on to MCalibur.
[…after the jump. Also after the jump: Gardner footwork analysis, Dave Brandon's rape noodle, and other stuff]
It's still July, barely, which means stories like Michigan banning seat pads from the Big House — while season ticket holders, as if they haven't dropped enough dough, are provided the option to lease an official Wolverine Seat for $35 per season — still move the needle around these parts. Like many of you, I've owned an officially licensed U-M seat cushion, but not the AD-approved permanent rental, and used it at games for years. Those are now worthless, right?
Not so fast, says the M-Den. They're dual-purpose, you see...
A kneeling pad with a handle? This is innovation, not a blatant money-grab. American ingenuity at its finest. In that vein, we crowdsourced some ideas for alternative uses for these totally useful hunks of branded foam.
Looking for something to toss around the Diag? Look no more! The handle provides an easy grip for throwing, and the soft foam interior ensures that nobody's hurt when your toss inevitably lands nowhere near your intended target.
EMERGENCY FLOATATION DEVICE
Why are these women so happy to be jumping out of a doomed plane? With their officially-licensed floatation devices, they know that as long as they survive the impact with that large, rapidly-approaching body of water, they'll be floating in style while waiting for the Coast Guard.
[HT: BiSB and @MikeSmuz]
Dave Brandon himself was kind enough to model the latest in Michigan-branded winter fashion. Perfect for staying warm during November football games or going incognito when the fanbase finally turns against you in full, penniless force.
VERY STYLISH HAT
— Mike Randazzo (@TremendousSW) July 31, 2013
Lookin' good. But if you sit on it, they will shoot you.
MY VERY OWN MGOPANIC ROOM
Provides extra padding for the next time you're waiting out a commit watch/unwanted Buckeye visitor.
ANN ARBOR—Citing the ominpresent threat of terrorism, the Michigan athletic department has announced that all spectators entering Michigan Stadium will be issued blindfolds.
"In our modern age, it is just too risky to allow terrorists the privilege of sight," said athletic director Dave Brandon, "unless they pay a twenty-five dollar fee that drops five dollars per quarter. Twenty-five dollars is our most patriotic fee, until next year when thirty dollars will be our most patriotic fee."
Research shows that terrorists quail at the idea of playing patriotic fees, while Americans do not. This will allow Michigan to easily identify anyone who is a terrorist and shoot them. Anyone removing a blindfold without paying a fee is probably also a terrorist and will be shot. Other people will be shot randomly because the athletic department feels like it can get away with it.
"I don't see what the big deal is," said some guy on a message board who hasn't been to a game since 1982 but enjoys being a prick to people.
In a clever twist, the department has replaced the "n" and "d" in blindfold with a block M on the luxury silk, custom made "bliMfolds," because they have the power of marketing. "Just look at all this concentrated marketing," said marketing whatsit Hunter Lochmann, who marketed himself as "Lochdogg" on the internet for a rather long time, "it is marketing concentrated."
Brandon apologized for the patriotic fees, but stated that someone had to pay for the blindfolds, which are really quite nice. He also conceded that discounts will be offered for games where Adidas issues special uniforms.
In a separate move, the department banned seat cushions because terrorism America love it or leave it.
The most Buckeye. What is the most Ohio State thing? Is it chasing off a touted linebacker recruit with your tilty-head child porn whatnots?
That's pretty Buckeye. Is it getting caught pleasuring yourself in the library by Carl Monday? Is it punching an opposing player because you're mad?
I think the kid who named his tumor "Michigan" is the most Ohio State thing.
Grant Reed is only 12, but the young Ohio State fan has scored a major victory over “Michigan.”
It’s what he named his brain tumor.
According to a report by NBC affiliate WCMH, Reed was recently released from Nationwide Children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio, after completing chemotherapy in a two-year fight with the brain tumor. Doctors give him a good prognosis.
Congratulations, kid. You are both alive and the most Buckeye, at least until a guy wearing an Andy Katzenmoyer jersey poops on Desmond Howard live on Gameday, then punches out Herbstreit for being a "fake Buckeye."
MOST BUCKEYE RANKINGS
- Naming brain tumor "Michigan"
- "Everybody kills"
- Committing insurance fraud with the vehicle some booster provided you
- Tilty-head child-porn selfie fetish that chases away Alex Anzalone
- Library jackin'
- Dymonte Thomas is totally gonna flip you guys
McGary smash. GRIII and Mitch McGary are at the LeBron Skills academy with about a zillion other dudes both in college and high school, and it sounds like McGary is following up his breakout tournament with consistent, varied production. Sam Webb($):
Mitch McGary – “The Monster” looks like a million bucks – figuratively and literally. The sophomore power forward checked in at a toned 6-10.5, 266-lbs. with an 83.5-inch wingspan. His activity level stayed consistently high at times he seemed to catch his opponents off guard with better than expected lateral agility bounce. … While his overall activity level on both ends continued to stand out, his 11-point barrage over a couple of minutes was the true highlight. The run started off with a pick& roll clinic. On three occasions McGary lost Wilson after setting a solid screen and diving to the basket for a bucket. When Wilson finally decided to stay with him, McGary stuck a three. A couple of possessions later he caught the ball on the right elbow, pivoted to face the rim, then calmly stuck a jumper over Wilson’s outstretched arm.
I be like dang.
BONUS IS MITCH MCGARY STILL MITCH MCGARY CHECK
The only bad mark on McGary’s report card came when he attempted a heat check three toward the end of the game. The big fella dribbled into a jumper a full step beyond the three-point line. It was an air-ball, but after everything else he did in the game, you’ll give him that one.
Yup. Ride the lion, buddy.
For his part, GRIII wasn't standing out like McGary. Low usage from the guy in a camp setting is no surprise since he's so deferential; hopefully in a more regimented team setting he can step up.
The least committed. Rivals article on ever-accelerating pace of non-binding verbal commitments "raises issues," but is mostly notable for the best redefinition of commitment ever. Shea Patterson is a 2016 dual threat QB who just moved to Louisiana, and he is in some sort of relationship with Arizona:
"Right now I am committed to Arizona, and if I don't hear anything from any other school for the next three years I will be happy to go to Arizona, but since we moved things have been different," he said.
Shea Patterson's commitment status is "it's complicated." Tulane, get that letter in the mail and he's yours.
FWIW, decommitments are not actually a problem worth solving. Delaying Signing Day until after coach firing season prevents a lot of guys from being locked into LOIs they don't want to honor, and gives everyone time to find the best place for them to be. Moving up those timelines does nothing but create worse matches between players and programs.
If you do want to help this non-problem be less of an issue to raise, two things: allow earlier official visits, so that more kids can get the lay of the land earlier, and create a non-binding pre-LOI that prevents other coaches from contacting anyone who signs up for it but can be withdrawn at any time by the player.
The dynamic pricing thing. A long time coming and I don't really have an issue with it since it allows Michigan to recoup some money that was otherwise being left on the table without increasing season ticket or student prices. I mean:
“They (the consumers) are going to pay more anyways,” Lawrence said. “It’s just a question of who’s making the money? Is it the school or is it the broker?”
As far as ways to increase revenue go, this one is much better than annoying me with max volume exhortations to rent Michigan Stadium for a wedding. Also, it increases the feasibility of interesting nonconference home and homes because the more attractive the opponent the more ticket revenue acquired.
This, on the other hand…
On Monday, Purdue University announced that it too would use dynamic pricing for football season.
…will result in Purdue tickets being exchanged for pogs.
Etc.: Devin Funchess is on the Mackey watch list. Also on the Mackey watch list: you. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan but Rich Rodriguez in a nutshell: "Well, I hear a lot of times people say 'Oh, we gotta have a guy that's a game manager,' and I don't know what that is."
NCAA promises not to send its goons after a current player who joins the O'Bannon lawsuit, because its goons all left to work at Auburn anyway. Both of these teams should be named "Northwestern." Michigan picks up a 2015 forward commit, seems like a second or third liner. Excellent take on the O'Bannon case. Hanging with Trey Burke at the draft. Say bye to Nebraska.
Hello gents. I've been out the last few days enjoying the natural beauty of and extreme numbers of mosquitoes on North Manitou Island:
Your move, Ohio
Protips: stay away from the areas of the island in the lee of the wind—surprisingly, the west side—and punch anyone who tells you bug bands work in the face. Then do it again, and ask them if they're wearing their getting-punched-in-the-face bands. They probably are.
Anyway, exodus was half pretty great, half a nine-mile Mosquito Death March and I kind of feel like I need a vacation from the ol' vacation. But here is a computer and here are open tabs so…
Annual bit on camp commits. It's that time in July when an under-the-radar prospect or two has committed after showing up at Michigan's camp and impressing, causing various message board folks to say that was a dumb move when Player X is out there. With the commitments of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, Player X is Artavis Scott and/or Montae Nicholson, Parrker Westphal, Adoree Jackson, etc.
Leaving aside the fact that people complaining on message boards haven't seen these players do things, I think it's healthy to have a couple of camp commits a year. It shows that the coaching staff doing so is paying attention to that camp, that there's a reason for people to show out, and that the staff can evaluate guys on their own.
Amongst the Michigan fanbase camp commits have gotten a bit of a bad rap because late in the Carr regime they started leaning way too heavily on it and had erratic (at best) results. The camp guys from 2005 to 2008:
Rocko Khoury: Miss.
Mike Cox: Miss, though he did get drafted after transferring to UMass.
David Molk. Major hit.
Steve Watson. Miss.
James Rogers. Miss.
Troy Woolfolk. You could give him an injury INC, I guess. Lean towards miss there.
David Cone. Miss. Coner.
Quintin Patilla. Miss.
Mister Simpson. Miss.
Christ McLaurin. Miss.
Zoltan Mesko. Hit, but, like, a punter.
Mesko was the #1 punter in the country that year and can't be declared a camp find. Also, he's a punter. Leaving aside him, the record of camp commits is one indisputably great player in Molk, one contributor in Woolfolk, seven guys who flamed out—a few of whom had no business in D-I, let alone Michigan—and the special case of James Rogers, who did start on the worst Michigan secondary of all time. He managed to do that and suggest that he was also a miss.
- That's a symptom of imperial decline, but it shouldn't necessarily reflect on the coaching acumen of Hoke and his staff. If it helps, the vast majority of the above guys had zero other decent offers. Most had zero other BCS offers, period. Watson and Canteen both had offers from Tennessee and Rutgers. Little different situation.
Dumars. Dead to me. While I actually like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a selection at #8, the mere fact that Detroit's pick was between 7th and 9th for the fourth straight year is all you need to know about Joe Dumars, post-Rasheed trade. Dumars hasn't been able to put together a team that made the playoffs, but neither has he properly tanked. He signed Ben Gordon to a contract so bad Dumars had to dump a first round pick to get rid of him, he still has No Eyebrows on his bench, he traded Chauncey Billups for the corpse of Allen Iverson while offering Prince and Hamilton extensions, and he is now pursuing Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith in free agency for reasons known only to him, all so the Pistons can end up on the fringe of the lottery or exiting in the first round next year.
So, yeah, I do feel like I can say that passing on Trey Burke is a prime example of why the Pistons suck. This is just offensive:
Dumars said that in discussing the possibility of this decision as the draft progressed, he was reminded of when Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh drafted Reggie Miller ahead of Indiana University favorite Steve Alford in 1987.
Steve Alford went 15 picks later; Burke was off the board on the very next pick, taken by a team that trade up to get him. If Burke takes off in Utah… argh. Seriously considering attending the Palace for the Pistons-Utah game and rooting my ass off for the Jazz.
Pretty much the GRIII thing. One graph on Glenn Robinson's scoring says it all:
Couple that with his 13% usage and you have a guy who is… okay… bear with me… Brent Petway with a three point stroke. Robinson clearly has buckets more potential, but that is the profile of a garbageman exclusively. That the NBA would take that guy in the middle of the first round, well, see above on Dumars.
I agree with folks who say if Robinson was looking to maximize his stock he should have left this year. There are lots of reasons other than draft position to do things in your life, obviously, but if his numbers stay like that in year two his stock will drop precipitously. If he gets a lot better at creating his own offense, it'll rise—and Michigan will destroy. Yes please, sir:
I feel like people have only seen one side of my game, cant wait to see the shock on peoples faces when the see the real GRIII.
Backup plan. Dave Telep on Derrick Walton's game:
I went back and reread my notes from last summer. Some of the buzzwords included “winner,” “set-up man,” “reads defenses” and “thinks pass first.”
Walton is a point guard’s point guard. He’s a player who has a craving to win and will be an extension of his coach. Next year, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary will need the basketball. Walton, if he’s the player I believe him to be, will not only recognize that, but will allow them to be better scorers for the Wolverines.
Walton assist rate will be a stat to watch early in the season.
Hockey guys incoming. A couple of scouting reports on hockey's upcoming, much-needed infusion of talent and desire. JT Compher sounds like the right prescription, and how:
1. JT Compher – F – US NTDP – Michigan Commit
Compher has one of the highest compete levels I’ve ever seen, and while he’s listed between 5-10 to 6’0, we can all agree that Compher plays far bigger than his size. He slams into the tough areas of the ice with abandon and has an excess of offensive prowess not typically found in a player as willing to get his hands dirty. The Team Illinois product is a potential first rounder.
I'd seen Compher take on Michigan with the NTDP and started muttering on WTKA about how he might have to take on a lot of leadership tasks even in year one, and that's why: he goes and gets it every shift, something Michigan seemed to lack. The emergence of Andrew Copp mitigates that need. Still, there aren't a lot of options for second-line center period, let alone guys who bring a two-way energy. I bet he ends up slotting right behind Copp and playing a lot like him.
Meanwhile Tyler Motte is more in the little devious bastard mold:
…he has always been a very strong, agile skater. Motte also added quite a bit of grit to his game this year, showing a great compete level and making up for his lack of size by using his quickness and tenacity to win puck battles. He's also still got some pretty good offensive abilities, finishing second on the U18 team with 26 goals scored on the season.
The other impressive thing about Motte's season is that he seemed to turn in some of his best performances against the toughest competition he faced. He was arguably his team's best skater in a 3-3 tie against Minnesota early in the year, scored a pair of goals in an upset win over his future team, the University of Michigan. He also led the US in scoring at the World U18 championships, with eight points in seven games.
That's very encouraging. TJ Hensick types who are awesome college players without projecting too well to the pros (Hensick never made it in the NHL and just signed in Sweden) are the best guys to have in your recruiting class, and if Motte goes in the third-to-fifth round range he's projected and remains a guy who gets it done at the college level, thumbs up.
Wheeeee. A look at LSU's finances gives some indication as to where athletic departments are stuffing all of the money in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to hide it all:
The major reasons for the ticket price increases are to offset skyrocketing tuition, salary and employee benefit costs, Alleva said.
The athletic department must reimburse the university’s academic side for each scholarship it hands out — even paying the higher, out-of-state rate for non-Louisiana student-athletes. Alleva said tuition costs have been rising about 10 percent per year the past several years.
In addition to ever-rising coach and employee salaries, Alleva said the fringe benefit rate has gone up from about 22 percent five years ago to 39 percent for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“If someone makes $100,000, we had to pay an additional $22,000 to the university for sick leave, vacation, holidays and their pension,” Alleva said. “Now that rate is going up to 39 percent.”
LSU's budget has gone up about 150% in a decade, but only because skyrocketing costs have forced it blah blah blah. The money just makes your suit look lumpy and there's a 20 hanging off your sock, LSU.
Etc.: UF assistant Brian White: if you walk into a room and Urban Meyer is going "ding" in a wheelchair, run. 2015 OH SG Luke Kennard was the main attraction at Michigan's team camp. Elite 11 now overrun by men who write business books. The NCAA title belt, a history. Nebraska has a place to play if it wants to add hockey. Endowing the #1 jersey killed it.