this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
I think it's really happening. Mike Babcock-to-Michigan rumors have just been turned up to 11:
Mike Babcock says not worried about negotiating for extension, will either remain coach of Red Wings or be assistant at U of M/ Berenson
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 29, 2014
That is quite a statement: "eh, if I don't continue to coach one of the most storied franchises in the NHL I'll just go be Red's assistant." If Michigan sticks to the plan that would be a one-year apprenticeship before the job came open.
Oh really. Paging Captain Renault: Mitch McGary's drug test won't impact his draft stock.
"No, not really, because you know what, probably 70 percent of the league does that (smokes marijuana)," the scout told MLive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
But what about the spirit of sport, NBA? What about the spirit of sport?
"Appropriate." Matt Hayes walks up to the unionization issue on a tee and takes a Casey-like swing:
So if we’re going to do this; if we’re going to call athletes employees (or whatever you want to call them) and expand benefits and increase their ability to market and make money off themselves, the consequences for violating rules must be swift and appropriate.
Gone are the days where Troy Smith can take $500 from a booster, sit out a bowl game, get reinstated and two years later finish his career by winning the Heisman Trophy.
If you take $500 from a booster now, you lose eligibility. Permanently.
Hayes, prone on the ground, cartoon birds circling his head. The tee, untouched.
The average Troy Smith is still going to get the money, but will not be punished. Ramping up penalties for infractions that 99% of offenders will not get caught for is like throwing people in jail for speeding.
I mean, who cares? Who cares that Troy Smith now has 500 dollars? Level playing field, you say?
Gone are the days of second, third and fourth chances as it relates to— take your pick— arrests (and convictions), academic failure, failed drug tests (performance enhancing or recreational), or any behavior that harms a university’s reputation.
Let me just direct you to the quote above about Mitch McGary. Or, you know, society. The society in which those first time arrests and convictions generally result in probation or diversion so that people can have a second chance. If people were held to the standards Matt Hayes is advocating for newly professional-ish college athletes, unemployment would run around 50% and include Matt Hayes.
Let's goooooo. The News profiles now-critical Mark Donnal, collecting the various encouraging quotes about him that have been dropping in the past couple months:
“He’s definitely displayed a couple of specific skill sets,” Alexander said. “Mark is a tremendous passer, both in traffic and on the perimeter. His shooting range makes him a capable and reliable pick-and-pop jump shooter on the perimeter.
“He has a great face-up game in the post. The thing he discovered through added strength is the ability to rebound the ball in traffic.”
With sufficient three-point range to drag posts out to the perimeter, Michigan's post guys are liable to find shotblockers absent when they get by their guys. It'll be interesting to see what happens Walton and LeVert's shooting percentage at the rim when Donnal is out there providing Beilein his first shooting five since his arrival in Ann Arbor. I'm more concerned about his defense and rebounding—by the end there, Jordan Morgan was in beast mode.
Bacari is at least making the right noises about where he's headed:
“The thing that really excites me as his position coach is that nasty edge that he brings to the table, as well.”
He also has an interesting quote about how at Michigan "you are who you can guard," and the offense takes care of itself. Donnal will start at the five—out of necessity now—and has some ability to move out to the four as he "continues to improve his conditioning and lateral quickness." Given the composition of Michigan's roster the next couple years it doesn't seem like he'll be spending much, if any, time at the 4.
How much thing X irritates coaches, officially. Michigan's defensive grading system seems a little out of whack to me:
Like… forcing a fumble—hit the ballcarrier with enough force to make him drop the ball—is way harder than recovering one—get lucky, fall down. And what counts as a "missed tackle"? Missed tackles come in all shapes and sizes: you can let someone outside of you for a huge gain, which is super super bad, or you can not quite get a guy down but delay him enough that the cavalry rallies to stop him a yard after you would have. I'm guessing that latter probably counts as a tackle and the former gets a CRITICAL ERROR added to it.
Even so, it seems like "missed assignment" is the worst of all possible things. Missed assignments are touchdowns waiting to happen. When I do the UFRs some guy doing something that doesn't make any sense gets a serious downgrade and most of the coach types who have commented seem to agree with that assessment.
But being a coach is always a compromise between what you actually think in your head and what you think is the best way to get 85 guys doing a complicated thing well. See: the entire concept of "coachspeak." Or "Devin Gardner might start."
Just don't advertise it during games. Michigan Stadium is now open for prom:
Michigan Stadium is getting ready for prom season as part of a push to use the home of Wolverines football for more events during the offseason.
About 230 students from Durand High School, about 45 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, will take the field May 10 — the first time the Big House has hosted a prom, The Ann Arbor News reported (http://bit.ly/1mQvHXn ). And Dexter High School's prom is there May 17.
Hooray incremental revenue, as long as incremental revenue is not flogged at my ears during the games. See also: weddings, facebook, twitter, nonrevenue sports.
Everywhere, all the time. Ramzy on Ohio State's version of creating the future is worth your time:
Ohio State does not belong to you. You just happen to work there at this moment - you're stewards for a rich inheritance you're passing along to someone else that no one will ever cash. That's what Ohio State is. You did not build this brand. You can only damage or improve it.
And you should find as many ways as possible to give it away for free. Businesses do this all the time because it gives them a great return and it's terrific exposure for future buyers. Future buyers. This is where we talk about the children who don't have wealthy parents or opportunities to embark on a wallet-crushing fall Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
Also in this genre is a post from Get The Picture, a Georgia blog:
It’s not like money is a problem in Athens. It’s just that there seems to be little thought to spending it in a way that makes the fan base content. I think back to the shameful way North Campus was treated before Michael Adams had his hissy fit and essentially shut down the tailgate experience; much of that could have been resolved with better security, more restroom facilities and a reasonable amount of attention paid to trash removal. None of that is exactly back-breaking from a financial standpoint for a school with Georgia’s resources. It’s just that no one in a position to improve things could be bothered with it. And that’s a story you could repeat in many other ways.
Instead, we’re offered enhanced wi-fi, ever more intrusive piped in music and goofy sideshows like yesterday’s mascot abomination as a solution. But I don’t weigh the prospect of live attendance on the basis of my short-term attention span. The home experience is about greater comfort and convenience. I don’t wait to go to the kitchen for a drink, my bathroom smells nice and I can always find a place to park. This is the lesson I’m afraid McGarity and his AD peers are missing. I want what I got yesterday – a feeling that the money I’m shelling out is somehow being spent to benefit my experience in a way that gives me what I have at home, while making me feel glad I came.
I also recommend the comments, this one in particular:
UGA AA for so long thought that buying a ticket was the only way to gt a good view. Then 27 inch crt color television gave ay to 60′ HD home theaters and the Butts-Mehre suits haven’t yet figured out how to compete without creating something to sell.
Georgia fans are basically the Michigan fans of the SEC and they're experiencing the same things, albeit with less of a swoon with their football program. The comparison they're making here is to the Masters, which is a fantastic example of an organization successfully creating a culture of otherness that makes it in fact special. While that comes with costs—see women and minority membership—they're holding onto their fanbase because they make it feel good to be a fan. I can't say I remember the last thing Michigan did that was a step in that direction.
That reminds me of a thing I think I failed to relate when it happened: before the Nebraska game this year I was walking to my family's tailgate. As I neared the stadium the jumbotron was showing me the previous week's game… against Michigan State. Devin Gardner got annihilated and intercepted and I was like "feels bad, man."
It was the previous week's Not Michigan Replay, it turned out, and I just thought to myself "is there literally no one in the athletic department with the common sense to not show Michigan fans highlights of a game in which they rushed for –48 yards?" People are just in charge of things for no reason.
The ultimate Pandora's Box question. Oh, man. As scaremongering anti-union/reform questions go, this is the best/worst:
Could boosters treat recruiting like the Wild West?
oh no what would that look like
Etc.: Why the O'Bannon case is a duel to the death. At least everyone hates the way the McGary thing went down. More evidence that Michigan's upper reaches are inappropriately secretive. Jordan Morgan report card. Talking with Ricky Doyle. The Big Ten basketball powerhouse.
There are no more opponents to watch, and the Twitterverse is a sad, scary place these days. As such, I am a man without a column. Anyone with ideas should tell me what to write about. In the meantime, I shall snark upon whatever suits my fancy. Today, that topic is Microeconomics.
So, as you may have heard, season ticket sales are really, really not going well for the University of Michigan men’s American Football teamsquad. Now, some might see this as an opportunity for a hearty I-told-you-so. Or to remind certain people that you can shear a sheep many times, but skin him only once. Or to recite The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs in a somewhat condescending manner (I do a really good goose voice). But we try to be solution-oriented here at MGoBlog, and Aesop doesn’t know crap about marketing, so instead I’d like to offer a few suggestions for improving ticket sales:
Play Someone Interesting – This may seem counterintuitive, but some fans have suggested that the quality of the opponent bears some relationship to their willingness to pay to witness them in action. Now, I question the premise here, as those Twilight movies made a metric crap-ton of money despite that actress being the theatrical equivalent of a botox injection, but nevertheless the program might want to consider a few more intriguing foes:
- Kansas Jayhawks – Kansas is a power conference team, which makes them automatically a big name, and a chance to watch Michigan beat up on a Charlie Weis team is almost always worth the price of admission. Also, reminding people about the Trey Burke things doesn’t hurt either.
- Arizona Wildcats – A matchup against a former head coach? What is there to NOT like about this? Think of all the plotlines. The game practically markets itself.
Minnesota State Screaming Eagles – Not a traditional powerhouse, but they made a surprising national championship run a few years back. It would probably produce a win, too, as the Screaming Eagles are still in a transition phase after losing head coach Hayden Fox to the Orlando Breakers in a move that didn’t make a damn bit of sense to anyone.
But Jerry Van Dyke was still awesome.
- Harlem Globetrotters – Another tradition-heavy program, and bring the WOW Factor Michigan needs in an opponent. Again, this one should produce a win, as the Globetrotters style of play lacks discipline and they are limited by a 28-man roster, only two of whom are over 225 pounds.
- Appalachian State Mountaineers – How about a rematch that reminds people of one of the lowest moments in the history of the stadium you are trying to fill? Wait, never mind. That sounds terrible. Don’t do that. And whatever you do, don’t LEAD with that.
Move Michigan Stadium closer to the fans – Dave the Brandon recently opined that he wants to improve the “driveway to driveway” experience for fans. And I know my experience would be a lot better if my driveway was closer to the stadium.
Move the fans closer to Michigan Stadium – Related to the previous point, a fan relocation/resettlement program could get people closer to the stadium, and therefore make them more willing to buy tickets. But given real estate prices in the Ann Arbor area, moving an 87-year-old football stadium in every direction simultaneously might be the more feasible and cost-effective solution.
Everyone who attends home games should receive the following:
- App State – A hand-held memory-erasing device (a la Men In Black), or, if that technology isn’t developed in the next four months, a handful of forget-me-nows and a flask of moonshine.
Miami (Ohio) – A free iTunes download of a replay of Michigan beating someone good. Presumably those can be uploaded from 8mm tape somehow.
- Utah – A Joe Pesci bobblehead
- Minnesota – Smelling salts.
- Penn State – A copy of the award-winning documentary “27 for 27”
- Indiana – Three catches for 41 yards against the Indiana secondary
- Maryland – 38 pounds of pointy scrap iron.
Name a Starting Quarterback – Okay, this one is unrelated. It would just make us all a lot happier. It’s Gardner. We all know it’s Gardner. Just say it.
Cooler Game Monikers – "Under The Lights" was cool. So was the "Big Chill." And "Under The Lights II." And "Michigan vs. Notre Dame." No one gives a crap about Michigan vs. Miami (Ohio), but who wouldn’t want to attend the Battle of Bo? Or “App State 2: The Revengening”? Or the “Footprint Classic” against Maryland?
Hashtags – Like game monikers, everyone loves hashtags. Fortunately, Jim Delany had the foresight to bring in a couple of schools who really get this whole social media internet thing. There is much genius to be gleaned from #BlackoutSparty and #ChopMichigan.
Fan Involvement – Give season ticket holders the chance to win some cool prizes. For example, have a randomly selected student be a “Player for a Day.” They would basically be an honorary member of the team, and do everything the team does on game day. They would dress with the team, run out of the tunnel, warm up, and then play sixty snaps at left guard. Or they could bring Score-O to the football field; have a couple of adults try to throw a football through a hoop from 20 yards, and then have a young kid try from like 5 yards and then the kid plays sixty snaps at left guard. Or stage an alumni golf tournament where your handicap is 100 x how much your name is Steve Hutchinson, and the winner gets to play left guard.
|Tell me you wouldn’t pay a PSL for this.|
Better use of the Jumbotron – Michigan is overlooking a huge and largely untapped asset: the two giant-ass televisions in the stadium. At this point, between plays they are mostly wasting those screens with the occasional replay and a bunch of videos of players telling me to get up get up I can’t hear you get up. They could be showing other, probably better games. They could be showing reruns of The Big Bang Theory (surely the stadium must have TBS). They could hook them up to an old school Nintendo, and then let people play huge games of Contra; if no one uses any cheat codes, all 112,000 should be able to play a turn. The possibilities are endless.
Monkey Rodeo – Obvious.
Ticket Prices – Maybe, and only if all of the above items fail, just MAYBE the Athletic Department should look at ticket prices, and whether it is a great business idea to double or triple ticket prices over the last decade, especially when the product on the field has gone to shit and the best games are shipped off to Dallas and you allowed the Big Ten to give you alternating years without either of your rivalry games at home and people can’t even bring a goddamn bottle of water into the stadium and the band has been largely replaced by BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP and you just implemented and then rescinded a disastrous attempt at the FREEKING EASY concept that is General Admission seating and you implemented a “dynamic pricing” scheme that acts as a one-way ratchet on single game tickets and Athletic Department revenue is soaring as is the Athletic Department’s spending on the Athletic Department and you have otherwise done just about everything imaginable to milk every possible nickel out of our brand loyalty. Just a thought.
WiFi – Never mind, just get some free WiFi working in the stadium. That’ll fix it.
YOU'RE GONNA HAVE A BAD TIME
You asked today “how Borges is Nuss?” I think equally appropriate is “how Gibson is Funk?” It seems to me that their respective backgrounds, personal ties to the HC and seeming invulnerability in the face of terrible performances on the field are quite similar. And, my fear is that loyalty to Funk – like RR to Gibson before him – will ultimately lead the HC’s demise.
Do you agree?
I am about to conjure forth a firestorm of controversy and despair. Be warned.
Gibson's miserableness is likely overstated. Back when everyone was like "this secondary is the worst secondary in the world" I went back and looked at WVU's passing D performances under Rodriguez and found that they were decent. Tony Gibson coached Ryan Mundy well enough to get him drafted by the NFL—something that did not seem in the cards when he was at Michigan. Tony Gibson is… possibly not a complete twit.
/rain of blood
/skies turn black
/rabbit graveyard sees rabbit corpses assemble itself into evil zombie rabbit voltron
He is obviously not great, as secondaries he has been around since tend to be disaster zones. But the things that made him look like a twit at Michigan are some of the same things afflicting Funk: his coordinator doesn't know what he's doing week to week and therefore his players don't know what they're doing, everyone is confused and miserable.
Then someone shoots the glass in your underwater research lab. When the structure is so broken there's only so much you can tell about which part of the rubble was marginally less sound than other parts of the rubble.
You are right that we can take a look at heuristics in an attempt to find out if there are reasons other than perceived competence that Funk is around. Funk does not appear to meet Good Ol' Boys standards. Whereas Gibson came up with Rodriguez all the way from Glenville State, Funk has bounced from coaching staff to coaching staff on his way up the ranks. Hoke hired him from Colorado State just before his last year at Ball State, whereupon the Cardinals rushed for nearly five yards a carry. San Diego State went from 115th(!) in yards per carry to 28th in the two years Funk was there. And he did rather well to start at Michigan before the full weight of Rodriguez's recruiting came to bear.
Funk's track record with Hoke is pretty good, and he is not a guy who has been around forever-forever. I'm not sure we're going to get much clarity about whether he's a good coach this year given the issues with personnel, but it's put up or shut up time no matter what.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on using an opt-in system for student tickets. In my opinion, this would solve several problems. First, it would immediately reduce the number of empty seats by identifying non-attending students and allowing the University to resell their tickets. Second, it would condense the student section which--in the opinion of a recent alum (2006-2013)--would improve the stadium experience for students and, in turn, encourage more students to show up.
Under the system I envision, you would pay a fixed amount (approximating the price of season tickets) which gives you the right to opt-in to each individual home game for no additional fee. During the week leading up to each game you have the ability to "claim" your ticket online, up until some cut-off period. For example, maybe you have until 12:00am the night before the game.
If you don't claim the ticket by then, you cannot attend (I have mixed feelings about whether you should get some sort of small refund. maybe $5). Any unclaimed tickets would then be assigned the upper-most seats in the student section and then be resold by the university the morning of the game. The students would have to be alerted, somehow, as to which rows of the student section have been resold and are no longer part of the general admission section.
There would also have to be some penalty for students who claim their ticket but are no-shows. For instance, if on two separate occasions you claim your ticket and don't show up, you lose your right to claim tickets for the rest of the season. Obviously the University would have to start tracking student attendence (maybe by putting the tickets on the MCards like in bball), but I dont imagine that would be difficult.
This is what Michigan did for basketball this year except presumably Michigan will not be overbooking the student section by 50%.
I'm opposed. A claim system does allow the university to sell seats that would otherwise be empty; it's a pain for people, though, and as part of my withdrawal from the field of the War On Students I'm in favor of making the process of going to games as easy as possible for everyone but especially the fickle next generation.
The question then becomes: how do you reward loyalty without annoying overhead? Michigan's revised student section policy is a major step forward:
By 2015, seat reservations will be based entirely on loyalty. Attendance points will be accumulated the following ways: each game attended is three points and arriving 30 minutes prior to kickoff earns an additional three points per game, for a total of six points per game.
Groups of up to 100 students can reserve seats together.
Groups get the average priority of everyone in them. That's simple and effective; it does not put any onus on the students except to show up early, and it was obviously concocted by the student government because I mean seriously the guys in suits have been trying to fix it and came up with HAIL and the world's worst GA policy. (I hope that my repeated rants on the subject had some influence there, but probably not.)
It's a step forward. Others can be taken. The new priority system does not solve one of the main reasons the student section ends up looking empty: it is extremely difficult to flip tickets. The university decided it wanted full price for a student ticket not used by a student way back in the day and put a cumbersome validation process in place; if that was ditched most of those tickets not being used would get sold and deployed.
This brings back the unpleasant specter of the dudes I knew in college who bought tickets just to put them on eBay. I don't think that's going to be nearly the problem it was when student tickets cost $295 for the privilege of watching Penn State and nobody else. If Michigan's not capturing full value there they have to be close. Michigan should let tickets be sold normally while still scanning M-Cards for priority, and if you don't go to at least three games you no longer get to buy tickets.
Ugh. Capturing full value. I'm going to go take a shower now.
What's your solution to the Bag Man?
I put up a post on this on Bag Man Day that was immediately stepped on by the Horford transfer; I wanted to expound on some questions I got in the mailbag and picked this guy's email from about a half dozen.
Part of college football's draw is amateurism; kids playing for education not money. Obviously this is all smoke and mirrors anymore, but it's hard to let go of that aspect of it (if for nothing other than nostalgia's sake). I have a passing interest in the NFL as compared to college football. There's just a sense of cynicism when everything is commercialized and athletes are getting paid big money to play a kid's game while the "rest of us" slave at work for crumbs. Here are some questions you may be able to give your opinion on assuming some sort of compensation is awarded to student athletes.
Shouldn't we just make college football a D-League or create one for those who want to skip college?
Is the draw amateurism or the fact that these guys are students like the other students? Amateurism proponents are quick to mention the Insane Dollar Value of their scholarship. Some even go so far as to include all the world-class training and such in their effort to portray the college athlete as already well-compensated. If they're successful in their arguments, don't they just defeat themselves? They're already being compensated. Now we're just discussing the price.
Might as well go all in and not try to walk some line between amateurism and professionalism right?
Walking a fine line is dumb but neither should we upset the entire apple cart if we can at all help it. College has a lot of good effects for players even if they're not getting engineering degrees, and with most of them headed for brief pro careers at best the current model does a lot of good for a lot of people. We've done a half-dozen events with Carr-era players, and man they make you glad that college football is the way it is instead of being minor league baseball or the CHL.
Why stop at a fixed stipend? Should there be some kind of salary cap? If there is a stipend or other form of compensation, won't there still be bag men to get top recruits extra money to attend certain universities?
A stipend is only one way to approach it. The Olympic model is another. If the NCAA was to say "we won't pay you, but we don't mind if you get paid for your likeness" that sidesteps Title IX issues and mitigates bag-man issues. The difference between ten grand and zero dollars is a lot more compelling than 40 grand and 50 grand. While it'll still have some influence, other factors actually become more prominent.
I mean isn't this really just bidding wars for free agents that we see in pro sports?
Even if this is a negative, and I'm not sure it is, it is already happening.
Should all the athletes get the same wage and who decides the pay scale? Wouldn't there then be problems with different "salaries?"
We seem to have figured this out for everyone else in America. I don't understand why this is a particular issue for athletes.
Do "student athletes" also get a scholarship?
Yes. I mean, it's a perk that costs the university almost nothing and has great symbolic value.
Is competitive balance a casualty? Poorer and smaller schools certainly won't be able to afford top recruits, and maybe not even the stipend, so do we just have the same handful of teams who can actually afford to be competitive and get national exposure, eliminate the "Cinderellas" and certain universities' football programs altogether?
Unless you can find a kid who chose the MAC over the Big Ten right now this is just the status quo.
I guess I just don't see a fix to an already broken system. There's a ton of money to be made and everybody wants a cut. Paying the athletes, which I'm not totally against and there are legitimate arguments for, isn't going to solve the problem entirely because the NCAA doesn't have any teeth to enforce their rules. Athletes will get a stipend but then there will still be bag men steering athletes to certain schools. In essence, they'll be getting paid twice.
There isn't a fix, other than dropping the Victorian-era approach to amateurism. Probably the most ludicrous regulation of all is that athletes can't sign with agents and maintain their eligibility. An agent! Someone who's job is to be an advocate and aid for your career, and you can't even say "you will be my agent" even without getting money and the NCAA yanks your eligibility. It's ridiculous.
Simply, the NCAA needs to look at the rules and decide which of them are even vaguely enforceable, then dump the rest.
For a brief period a few years ago, there was some weirdo in the student section who would head up to the concessions at halftime, drop fifty bucks on hot dogs, return to his seat, wave his arms about, and chuck foil-clad meat missiles at the most enthusiastic folks around him. He was a hero. A couple games into this era, the students started a rhythmic chant for him.
"HOT. DOG. GUY."
"HOT. DOG. GUY."
This was fun! It was ours.
Michigan kicked him out of three consecutive games, until he stopped. Or stopped coming.
It's time for another internet-wide fret about the kids and how they don't like the live football anymore, this one spawned by a Darren Rovell article. (I know, I know. This article is good and does not expose you to Rovell's personality.) In said article, there's the usual platter of disturbing stats…
Arizona sold 10,376 student season tickets this year. But 47.6 percent of those students, for an average game, didn't even show up.
This year, the University of Michigan drew the most fans of any school for the 16th year in a row. But 26 percent of students who paid for their tickets didn't show up at an average home game this season. That's an increase from 25 percent last year and 21 percent in 2011.
"We have to solve this because we are talking about the season ticket-holders of tomorrow," said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. "But interests and attitudes are changing so rapidly it's not easy to quickly identify what we need to do."
…and the hope that having wifi will fix everything, which it won't. (But don't let that stop you.)
While this is a nationwide problem, Rovell's article touches on Michigan specifically in a couple spots. He talks to a reasonable-sounding Michigan senior:
"I've kind of accepted that I'm not getting reception in and around Michigan Stadium," [Adam] Stillman said. "The problem is in all the other areas. There's nothing to do while I'm waiting on line for an hour to get into the stadium, and there's little added value from being in the stands watching the game."
I was pro-general admission when it was announced, but if its goal was to get more students to the game on time, it is a failed policy. The slight increase in no-shows is worse than it looks—possibly much worse. 2012's home schedule had one attraction, Michigan State. The other games were against Air Force, UMass, Illinois, Northwestern, and a 4-8 Iowa. 2013 had a night game against Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. The only games after the season took a turn for the grim in East Lansing were those Nebraska and OSU games. What is the no-show rate going to be next year? I'd be shocked if Michigan doesn't crack 30%.
Is there anything that can be done about this? I mean, you're just not going to reach the people I had to deal about ten years ago who would wander in during the second quarter smelling like an overturned truck of Jack Daniels. Those folks seem to be proliferating, and the only thing you can do is figure out ways to punish them and drive them away.
The university's attempts to rein in bad actors with first the validation program and then general admission have made it difficult to flip student tickets and then made them unattractive to non-students. Tickets remain cheap enough that a large chunk of the students don't care about wasting that money. The result is large pockets of empty seats.
It's time to end the war on crappy student fans
Yes, some of these 18-year-olds are intolerable. But fighting them doesn't do anything for you. The main thing it does is make things worse for the 75% who do show up. Michigan has continually raised the bar on the students at the same time their interest level is dropping. The results are, in retrospect, predictable.
The alternative is to offer carrots instead of sticks. Michigan tried that with the "HAIL" program, which was a failure in year one, totally revamped in year two, and is probably two or three years away from being quietly assassinated in an alley. This is because it offers you a t-shirt; it was always an attempt to give the appearance of a carrot without spending any money.
The right move is to be good to your fans. Michigan has gotten continually worse. Blasting an ad—and yes, it is an ad—for renting out the stadium or exhorting people to follow you on twitter is unpleasant. Having to scream at the person next to you to be heard is the kind of thing that makes you walk out of a restaurant. Michigan does that at every available opportunity. Ever-increasing prices, hour-long waits to get into the stadium, ushers who kick you out for throwing marshmallows… all of these things are a drag on your future revenue base.
It's time to be less focused on the next quarter's budget and more focused on building an environment that will induct the next generation into your cult.
Instead, the athletic department is more concerned with policing behavior that they cannot change. The current generation of suits spent their days at Michigan buying tickets for their kegs and throwing toilet paper willy-nilly. These days, a weirdo who buys hot dogs at halftime and tosses them around the section gets kicked out.
Football is supposed to be fun, and it's not really that much fun these days. The athletic department took the initiative to stomp on every student tradition they found 1% threatening. Now the students have taken the initiative away from the athletic department by not caring anymore. They win.
I'm not sure trying to make Michigan athletics the most awesome place in the country to see a game is going to work, but it's clear that something has to change if this slide is going to be arrested. Being mean didn't work. Try being nice. Meaningfully.
The student section is going general admission next year, which basically confirms a long-standing nonpolicy in which your ticket was checked at the section entrance, but the actual section was a free-for-all. Students hate it!
Here's the poll on the
@michigandaily facebook page: 589 "hate" GA policy. 104 "love" it. 44 "dislike but understand." 30 are indifferent
I love people who vote "I don't care" on polls.
Anyway, the given reason:
“This change in policy from reserved seating was put in place as the student section is the driving force behind our home field advantage and we need students to get there early and often to create a loud and full student section for kickoff.”
I guess that whole "you can get a t-shirt for going to every game on time" thing didn't work out despite being a Best In Class Loyalty Program. These are people involved in the decision to expand the Big Ten to 14 teams. We should not be surprised this was apparently unforseeable.
Michigan's also upped the price of student tickets by about eight bucks a pop. Sucks for the actual students. Might convince some of the DGAF crowd to pass, thus opening up seats for actual fans, but the kind of people who drop 200 bucks on season tickets and don't show up on time or sometimes at all are probably not going to be dissuaded by another 50 bucks on top of their tuition and whatnot.
I really wish I could find this email from a mewling brat of a student from the last time it was Complain About The Students time on mgoblog, because it was dripping with entitlement so vast it would have established a new frontier in Michigan Man jokes. It's lost in the deep recesses of my inbox, unfortunately.
In any case: I don't care about you, guy who shows up late. At all. If you're hungover or don't have time to get drunk or are too tired to show up on time, terrible subsection of students who think this blog is an inexplicable acronym, I don't care. I can't conceive of a world in which I, or anybody else, would find the slightest bit of sympathy for you. It's six or seven Saturdays a year—five or six now that they're going to have a night game annually. If you can swing that because of… actually, if you can't swing that for any reason whatsoever, I don't care. That is your problem.
For the students who read this blog this is a good thing. You can swing into the stadium at the appropriate time and plop down on the 20 yard line 30 rows up like I used to and get an excellent view of proceedings. Since I'm always in the stadium 45-60 minutes early I'll keep you guys abreast of the seating situation on the twitters so you can time your entrance to snag the seats for people who actually want to watch football. Since people will cram the first few rows overfull, anyone in the stadium sweet spot will probably be comfortable. And a drunk girl with JEALOUS on her ass can't show up in the second quarter to kick you out.
Problems: Still Extant
This isn't going to do much for the grey ring of apathy at the top of the section, which has always been a combination of the aforementioned crowding near the field and people who either don't show up at all or show up late, don't care that they're far away, and leave early. These people must be found and scolded personally.
I still don't understand why Michigan isn't using the ticket scans to give priority to people who show up on time. A subsection of primo seats for early-arrivers would do more to help out the future superfan types; I wouldn't mind telling perpetual late-arrivers they can get tickets at the full sticker price or not at all.
The reward gradation from awesome fan to terrible fan should be a lot steeper. Right now it is Free T-Shirt versus No T-Shirt. Do you know how many old free t-shirts I still have from my student days? Dozens. (AMD ROCKS!, says one.) I cannot think of a less valuable item than a t-shirt to a college student. The good half of the student section is the best subsection of Michigan fans, and right now they're getting too much of the crap for the other half without much in the way of tangible benefit.
What does bug me about the student ticket prices is that they're a terrible idea from a marketing perspective. Hook 'em young and you've got a customer for life. Continually piling annoyances on the new generation of fans bodes unwell for the future. Throw 'em a bone, starting with a kickass stadium wifi setup*.
*[YES IT'S FOR THEM AND NOT ME. I actually get out stuff just fine most of the time. I should see if my cell phone company wants me to advertise this fact for them.]
UPDATE: Kyle Meinke tweets that Michigan averaged an astounding 5400 no-shows per game last year, or 25% of student tickets sold. Anyone who missed more than one game should be told to pay full price, at the very least.
Goodbye beard. Also the rest of Elliott Mealer at winter graduation:
Goodbye to you sir. Michigan suspends Hawthorne, Floyd, and Will Hagerup for the bowl game. A couple people told me this a couple days ago, and they both seemed to think Hagerup would not return. After a dramatically-timed suspension against Ohio State and another for the first four games of 2011, it would be surprising to find out Hagerup had a fourth strike.
But the AD didn't announce Hagerup was gone, so there's probably a last-ditch straight-and-narrow chance he can get back a la Stonum, except hopefully not a la Stonum. Michigan will be fine with Matt Wile for the bowl anyway.
Cornerback, on the other hand… yeah, Floyd spent the year tempting fate but the alternatives there are… uh. Moving Courtney Avery to the outside—probably to field corner since he's a lot smaller than Raymon Taylor—is probably your best one, and then your nickel guy is either Delonte Holowell or Terry Richardson. I'm still not sure that corner environment is any worse than Michigan's options at tailback, but at least the Norfleet-to-corner move makes some sense now. Hopefully it's temporary.
Hawthorne had been limited to special teams this year; his loss isn't impactful.
Now has more time for dancing. MGoVideo caught this oddly-timed dance festival just posted on youtube featuring Floyd:
I rate it an 0.8 Mike Cox.
And so it does not begin. Presenting Michigan's secret weapon in their recruitment of Derrick Green:
Dead period for football begins today and runs through January 3. No on- or off-campus contacts/evals permitted. Calls/email permissible.
Green plans on enrolling early; if he sticks to that plan he should be announcing at the Army game on January 5th, leaving virtually no time for anyone to catch up with announced leader Michigan. Does yoga, is huge.
This trend will probably stop soon. Will Leitch on the way the cable bundling model is going:
Not that many people are going through all the trouble to do this yet, but as cable fees keep going up, and more workarounds can be found (and we haven’t even gotten into pirated feeds), more people will cut the cord. We live in an information-wants-to-be-free age, and we’re still being held down by these media-company gatekeepers. In the real world it’s 2012; in the cable universe, it might as well be 1988. Eventually, this will have to change. It’s too insane and rigged-against-the-consumer for it not to. The problem, of course, is that, like so many capitalists before them, leagues and teams and sports networks are all assuming that it’ll always be like this, that these revenue will keep growing forever and ever, that this golden goose will always keep laying eggs. There are decades upon decades of Darwinian consumer trends that contradict that. In 30 years, we may have all unplugged our cable bundles and be paying a la carte. This is the nightmare situation, but I’m not the first person to suggest we’re living in a cable sports television bubble. Someday it’ll pop. Then, suddenly, we’ll look and think: Why in the world is Maryland in the Big Ten?
Rutgers is even more of an outlier but the point is a good one. At some point the rickety dam keeping all of these channels unnecessarily bundled is going to break, and then having teams that can't fill not-very-big stadiums is not going to be an asset.
Bacon. He considers the PSL increase:
Former Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham sold the experience – and we bought it. Canham was a great marketer, but what impressed me most was what he would not do for money: solicit donors, put advertising on the uniforms or in the stadium, host night games, charge for tours – or ask for a raise. He had already made millions in business, and didn’t feel the need to squeeze more from his alma mater.
The current athletic department now aggressively seeks donors and corporate sponsors. It has brought advertising back to Crisler, in a big way, and has started sneaking advertising into the once-pristine Big House, too. They now charge to host corporate events, wedding receptions, and even school tours, which had been free since the Big House opened in 1927. Heck, until a few years ago, they didn’t even lock the gates during the week.
Michigan’s not alone, of course, and they will tell you it’s the cost of doing business – but what business, exactly? When current Athletic Director Dave Brandon said on “60 Minutes” that the “business model is broken” – what he failed to grasp was that it’s “broken” because it was never intended to be a business in the first place. After all, what business doesn’t have to pay shareholders, partners, owners, taxes, or the star attractions, the players and the band?
Raise your hand if you're sick of being told you can rent out the Big House for a wedding. That is everyone except the guy who emailed me pictures of his Michigan Stadium wedding over the summer in case I wanted to post them, which seemed like an awfully mean thing to do to a guy.
Brandon clearly sees the lack of advertising in the stadium as an annoyance, and has put it in anyway: just because the blaring thing trying to market something is a wedding or Michigan's facebook page doesn't mean it's not advertising. By pushing the boundaries wherever he can, Brandon indicates where he'd like to take the Big House experience if not faced with a potential fan revolt.
Bacon makes a great point: it's to the point that whenever you're putting down your money you feel like kind of an idiot for spending it. Thus the multiple "I bet I can scalp for cheap" projects on the internet and the regular stories about how you can get into most Michigan State games for two dollars or the Big Ten Championship for ten.
Speaking of: College Football Is This Other Thing post using Wall Street as the other thing is creepily accurate.
The Guys Running The Big Ten are Bain Capital
Step 1: Take over asset. Step 2: Exploit that asset with no regard for long-term consequences. Step 3: Laugh, buy a bigger summer house or a dressage horse or something.
In the Big Ten's case the dressage horse is a fancy building for a sport that brings in no revenue.
Yes please return. This will help the floundering hockey team:
Michigan coach Billy Powers on WTKA: "There's a good chance we could see (Merrill) immediately following the holidays."
I'm not holding out much hope for the GLI with Trouba at the World Juniors, and by the time Merrill makes it back Michigan's fate may already be sealed. Michigan is currently 36th in the RPI and would have to win 75% of their remaining games to get into the top 20, where a bid is vaguely possible. Either they rip off a streak for the ages starting right now or it's conference tourney or bust.
Etc.: can Rob Parker please stop existing now? On TV, I mean. He can remain in existence as long as he is not given a platform to express his thought-type-substances to the masses.