Seeing as we just had the annual heights and weights delivered to our doorstep with nary an emotion beyond “these large men either got slightly larger or slightly smaller, and that is good”, there really isn’t much else going on until the season starts. Sure, there was the BBQ and a couple of commitments, but I’d be surprised if much else happened until a couple of days before The Horror II – Horror-ier comes into our lives at the end of August. So yeah, figured I’d dust off this diary and expound a bit on the UM sports landscape, the upcoming football season, college sports in general, and a couple of other topics.
Best: Are You Ready for Some Football!
So it’s been over 8 months since UM last played a down of football (and, frankly, many more months since those downs felt meaningful). I know a great deal has gone on both locally and nationally to put a dour tone on the upcoming season, but I’m just excited for the sport to return and for my fall weekends to have a bit more entertainment. Living in NY but being a Lions fan, I’m forced to watch the Jets and Giants try to out-dryhump doorknobs for 3 hours most weeks, and can usually only catch games with teams I care about on postage stamp-sized feeds from random “sports” sites hosted in countries Russia hasn’t realized they might want to take back yet. But basically every Saturday from August until November I know that I can turn on the television and find some channel with Michigan on it, and for a couple of hours I can be unabashedly zealous over something pretty inconsequential but still incredibly endearing to my heart. That’s why I love the fall, and why I love having Michigan football back in my life.
[After the JUMP: lots more things that are either the best or the worst.]
There has been much debate around our AD and his success (or lack-there-of) in fulfilling his job duties. Many strong, passionate sentiments have come forth on the board. While I love a good “back-and-forth” as much as the next person, there does seem to be a large amount of apples vs. oranges, non sequiturs, straw men, and other nonsensical musings. In an effort to add some clarity to things I created the following Venn diagram. As this very lively discussion continues perhaps you will find this tool useful to better organize your thoughts and make your arguments.
A1 - A place everyone agrees does not exist
A2 - Miami (YTM) circa 1984
A3 - A place fans fear more than death itself
A4 - Brian’s own personal Hell; why $5 is what you will receive from a scalper in exchange for taking his Horror Part II tickets.
B1 - Boise State
B2 - Exists only in Dave Brandon’s Mind; The reason he hired Lochmann
B3 - Slippery Rock at the Big House
B4 - “I am proud to introduce the next director of athletics for Eastern Michigan University, Mr. Hunter Lochmann”
C1 - Oregon
C2 - Alabama
C3 - Duke vs. Arizona Basketball! Prime-time!! For the championship!!! Of the Preseason NIT
It seems to me that the rationale behind these novelty uniforms is that they appeal to players and make the program more attractive to recruits. I have my doubts about that but I'm not in a position to know.
Seems to me though that there's one way to know for sure: put it to a vote of the players. So we do a secret ballot. If they like the unis, the rest of us can put up with them. If the players don't like them, we send them back.
Let the players decide -- whaddya say Brandon?
The article is short, give it a read. I'll post some quotes from it, though, and save my personal comments for a post below.
Brandon said that the department expects to incur about $145.9 million in expenses, giving it a surplus of about $5.2 million.
"Our projected surplus will be a little below previous years, but we'll be ample and our operating surpluses will be reinvested in the facility plans we have (over the next four years)." [Brandon]
Salaries, wages and benefits of department employees account for the largest year-over-year increase. The department budgeted an increase of $3.6 million in salaries for department personnel, making it the largest expanse at $53.2 million.
Team and game expenses are expected to increase to $23.9, up $1.4 million from the previous year, and "other operating and administrative expenses" are projected to increase by $1.1 million.
Nearly $20.4 million is budgeted for financial aid scholarships for student-athletes.
Emphasis mine in the last block quote.
Per a retweet from Ace we should all remember the glass house that is Dave Brandon's Block M Branded Michigan Athletics brought to you by Lowes.
@Leo_Blavin, U-M Student TV Reporter tweets "U-M will be wearing alternate jerses against OSU according to players I have spoken with"
How could this go poorly? Remember that awesome time that some bumblebees in all white played Baylor?
Because why should the best rivalry in sports look anything like it has for years and years when you can try to make a few bucks?
After Saturday’s embarrassment in East Lansing, we’re all asking: Is this merely the inevitable rough patch for any coach digging out of the hole left by late-era Carr and Rodriguez? Or was the MSU game Hoke’s “turning point game,” as MGrowOld asked yesterday – a sign that under Hoke, a CEO-style coach with no reputation as an X’s and O’s innovator, Michigan is doomed to perpetual 8-4 mediocrity no matter how well he recruits?
I sure as hell don’t know the answers, but perhaps it might be useful to look at the criteria set forth by the man who’s paid big bucks to ultimately answer these questions: Dave Brandon. When he fired Rich Rodriguez, Brandon laid out his reasons for that decision, and what his expectations would be for the next Michigan coach. So let’s revisit his comments:
Brandon said Michigan’s coach
“has to be able to compete at the highest level. The expectations here are extraordinarily high … That puts a coach in a position where they have to have the ability to stand up to that pressure and perform against it. We play difficult schedules. The Big Ten is a challenging conference. It’s a smash-mouth conference with big teams … you saw how difficult it has been [under Rich Rodriguez] for us to go nose-to-nose with the big guys in this conference.
We have what I call the "benchmark competitors" as part of my review here at Michigan. It’s important that we win all our games; and it’s important that we are competitive for all of our games. But I look at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, and any bowl opponents – as my coach [i.e., Bo] used to call those, "red-letter games." If you want to be successful at Michigan, you better win more than your share of those red-letter games. And those red-letter games over the last three seasons, we’ve been 3 and 15. And we have to have a coach who’s able to come in and put us in a position where we can compete with those programs, because they’re good.
Later at that press conference, Brandon said that “first and foremost,” winning the Big Ten Championship and going to the Rose Bowl “every year” is the goal of the Michigan football program. He said if you do that,
all kinds of good things are gonna happen nationally [...] If you defeat the people you need to do to do that – and I would say with the advent of Nebraska starting next year, the high bar has just been raised – if you can effectively win the Big Ten Championship and win that trip to the Rose Bowl, in my opinion, if you’re the coach you’re doing a great job, if you’re the fans you’re happy…”
Three years in, we’re still without a Big Ten Championship or Rose Bowl, and Michigan fans are … not happy. But let’s take a closer look at Michigan’s results in these “red-letter games” under Brady Hoke, and see things through Dave Brandon’s eyes. I’m including all the teams he mentioned above, and given his comment about Nebraska, it seems safe to add them to his list of “benchmark competitors”:
Notre Dame (home) – W
Michigan St. (road) – L
Iowa (road) – L
Nebraska (home) – W
Ohio St. (home) – W
Virginia Tech (bowl – neutral site) – W
Total in “red-letter games”: 4-2
Alabama (neutral) – L
Notre Dame (road) – L
Michigan St. (home) – W
Nebraska (road) – L
Iowa (home) – W
Ohio St. (road) – L
S. Carolina (bowl - neutral) – L
Total in “red-letter games”: 2-5
Notre Dame (home) – W
Penn St. (road) – L
Michigan St. (road) – L
Nebraska (home) – TBD
Iowa (road) – TBD
Ohio St. (home) – TBD
Bowl – TBD
Total in “red-letter games”: 1-2, with four such games remaining
Brady Hoke in “red-letter” games to date:
Neutral site: 1-2
Of course lots of factors affect these results, from home vs. road, to luck, both good (Tressel’s resignation; the Glanda catch in the 2012 Sugar Bowl) and bad (scheduling Alabama; the non-call on Iowa’s end-zone pass interference in 2011; Denard’s boo-boo at Nebraska). But while 7-9 (with a chance to at least even things up before the end of year 3) is certainly better than Rodriguez’s 3-15, by any fair measure Brady Hoke has yet to win “more than his fair share of red-letter games” -- and the utter failure to win any of them on the road is really disturbing. The four such games left on this year’s schedule (assuming a bowl game) will tell us, and Dave Brandon, a lot. (Finishing year three at 11-9 w/a win over OSU looks a lot better than 7-13 or 8-12.)
Brandon also said his evaluation and decision to fire Rodriguez was based on six fundamental “performance measures”: “Performance in competition; recruiting and retention; academic performance; leadership; university image as it relates to our players; university image as it relates to our coaches.”
No one can complain about Hoke’s recruiting and retention, or the kids’ academic performance. He’s bringing in top-notch recruiting classes full of solid kids who are unlikely to flame out because of academics or character issues. Regarding “University image as it relates to players/ coaches” – presumably Brandon means things like how off-field incidents are handled, how Michigan players and coaches represent the program “in the community” etc. Again, no one can fault Hoke here – he’s disciplined guys the right way when they’ve made mistakes (e.g., Frank Clark, Fitz Toussaint), and sent packing the ones who couldn’t get their act together after multiple chances to shape up (Darryl Stonum, possibly Will Hagerup).
So if you’re Dave Brandon, Hoke is meeting a lot of his benchmarks quite well. Now your evaluation gets down to “performance in competition” and “leadership.”
Saturday was, to put it mildly, a significant data point in the negative column for Brady Hoke, and as shown above, his record so far in “red-letter games” is not anything you can describe as winning “more than his fair share.”
Finally, “leadership.” Brandon never explained this, but I assume he meant things like: Does this guy seem to have the program going in the right direction? Do the players respond to him? Does he inspire confidence? Does he make good personnel decisions re: his staff? Do his words match his actions?
One can’t read Brandon’s mind, but today we hear that after watching MSU film with the coaches on Sunday, Brandon says Hoke is still “the right guy” to lead the program.
When a head coach is under fire, you can only play the “this is my guy, and he’s the right guy” card once. Given Hoke’s recruiting success and the positive vibe he’s built around the program since 2011, there’s little doubt Brandon gives Hoke at least four years, and probably five – heck, maybe even his entire six-year contract – before definitively deciding whether he is the long-term answer as Michigan’s head coach. But judging by Dave Brandon’s own criteria, especially that of “red-letter games” against “benchmark competitors,” I’m far less confident than I was three months ago that Brady Hoke is the coach who will get Michigan back to the standard everyone (Brandon and Hoke included) expects.
Anyway, as we all sift through Saturday's wreckage and judge Coach Hoke's performance, it's useful to remember the criteria being used by the only guy whose opinion really matters -- his boss.