At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
A few weeks back, Ira from WTKA sent me an If I Was King article from a Penn State blog. Naturally, this got me thinking about what I would do if I woke up tomorrow and someone told me that due to a quantum something or other I was athletic director.
There are of course many things. I would let that hashtag guy go since he's supposed to be a public relations person but talks like a robot instead of a person, etc. But no one would see these changes. They may hear a deep rumbling basso laugh of evil. See it in their gameday experience they won't. So here are my top five-ish things I'd do in this alternate universe.
1. Start taking attendance, for both stick and carrot
One thing Dave Brandon and I are of one mind on is how gross it is for the student section to be half-empty at kickoff on certain gamedays. Since they're now scanning tickets they know who's coming early and who's coming late. They should start using this trove of data to reward behaviors they like and discourage ones they don't.
All season ticket holders, student or not, should start having an attendance score tracked. Max points are scored by being in the stadium 20 minutes prior to kickoff—bands—and something like 90% are scored by being there at kickoff, with a steep dropoff afterwards. For the first couple years Michigan does nothing with these except inform everyone of their score and their percentile range within their group (each different PSL level is a group w/ students separate) and within the entire fanbase.
Once they have a handle on the numbers they start making some use of this data with the students. Seating priority and away ticket and bowl lotteries are based on the score instead of straight seniority. Figure out the bottom 10% and set a threshold below which you can buy tickets but only at a full-cost rate. Take some of your pots of money and reward the most dedicated fans with reduced prices and special bonuses. What we're building is a religion, not a company.
For the folks paying full price there's not much Michigan can do. They're stretching everybody to the maximum dollar and at some point getting snooty about who you want on the list is going to result in no one showing up when you call out "next." But at the very least these scores should start adding to Victors point levels in some way, so that the guy who sat through the Ellerbe era at Crisler gets some credit for it.
Theme: Michigan's too focused on money as the end result of everything; they should make an effort to make the experience of being at a game better for everyone involved.
2. Stop playing the Penn State alma mater at every game
ignore the content of the song, project as 15 second clip
That would be "Seven Nation Army." I stole that joke from twitter.
Anyway. If Special K is going to run our lives for four hours every fall Saturday, the least he can do is not play the same six stadium anthems every other arena on the planet does. It is possible to both play music and build tradition if you pick something that you make yours.
Michigan accidentally did this when they picked a funky instrumental from a blaxploitation movie to lead Michigan Replay for 30 years. That worked because it was weird and ours and now I can't imagine our podcast without it; losing Across 110th Street was a traumatic experience that killed most of my interest in watching the Michigan Replay replacement (that and the internet making it a quaint relic). Special K should play that.
That should also serve as a lesson for any other in-game stuff. Make it weird, make it yours, stop playing "Sweet Caroline." Dump the overplayed Seven Nation Army and replace it with any of a dozen other White Stripes songs that would be equally or better suited. Make people think "Michigan" when they hear a song.
Michigan may have already tried this with "In The Big House," but the lesson there is never let a middle-aged white dude make a decision about music. Everrrrr. For it to be a beloved tradition people can't largely loathe it:
if anything this is kind since MGoReadership skews very young
Anyway. Figure out some stuff other people don't play that doesn't suck, play it at specific times so people get familiar with it, wait, and down the road you have a tradition.
Theme: By being different you can be loved.
3. Ask season ticket holders what they would like the schedule to look like, and ask them to pay for it
A corollary to this whole Alabama money debate is this: if it's going to cost extra to schedule a real opponent in a home and home, fine. When season ticket renewals are processed ask the people signing up if they would approve a surcharge for X games in X years against a BCS-level opponent in a home and home. Again, don't do anything with this information for a couple years as you gauge where you're at, then if you have a strong base of support for a more interesting schedule in those ND/OSU away years, announce that you're playing Team X and there will be a surcharge Y—or just price the ticket appropriately—for that year only.
You get permission to charge more in exchange for an exciting opponent; you bridge that gap between what a season ticket costs and what it's worth to scalpers.
Theme: Fans are more than teats to milk. We all participate in the decisions, and thereby become more invested.
4. Ask the Old Hat guys to do historical stuff for breaks
The one unqualified success in the modernization of the stadium experience has been the introductory videos produced by Old Hat Creative. Instead of filling dead air with Special K stuff it would be nice if Old Hat was tasked with producing 1-3 minute videos on Michigan history: Anthony Carter, the Virginia Kickoff Classic, Braylonfest, Tom Harmon, etc.
Basically MVictors: The Movie: The Short. The goal here is to do a little bit more than the occasional old highlight they've put on the board. Think little five-minute mini-documentaries about, say, the 1997 OSU game and what have you. You could play them in the nothing at the end of half time or split them across a couple commercial breaks.
Bonus: These can also be repurposed for Inside Michigan Football.
5. Think Carl Grapentine
This is more of a long-term feel than a specifically actionable thing one can do. If you don't know, Carl Grapentine is the PA guy at Michigan Stadium. If you've been to road games (or Michigan basketball ever) you know that he's a rare bird. Even Notre Dame's announcer burst out with something about how a rainbow had just appeared over the stadium—which was at least true—when Cam Gordon got torched for that billion-yard touchdown at the end of Denard's coming-out party a couple years ago.
Grapentine ain't havin' that. He's a just the facts ma'am kind of guy who brings boatloads of gravitas. He would easily win a presidential election contested between PA announcers. The Wings' Bud Lynch is another in that mold.
Many people have joked about The Brand The Brand The Brand in the past couple years as Brandon does whatever the hell he's doing with it. Mostly he's making it clear why we can't be Oregon. Say what you want about the Ducks' outlandishness, but damn if they don't communicate OREGON:
Even if the uniforms are incoherent, that is a coherent brand, one that supplanted a history of suck with success. Michigan has the opposite situation but they're just wobblin' around out there, claiming to be the home of tradition and coming out in no fewer than five different uniforms over the course of a season. That's not The Brand. That's the sad spectacle of a man going through a mid-life crisis getting "clunk" at da club.
Grapentine's the brand. Hoke is the brand. Refocus on that.
Theme: know who you are, instead of who the Knicks are.
And for the Old Hat breaks, why not a "this week in Michigan History" series? They could do all kinds of fun historical things.
Obviously OSU week can focus on previous games against them, same with ND. I'd think that for B1G opponents they could also go back and figure out when we played Illinois in week 7 and talk about that.
Out of conference or random weeks we can highlight individual performances and that kind of thing like you suggest. Why SHOULDN'T we do this?
"Over? Did you say, over? Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
I invited Coach Harbaugh to my wedding. He did not attend.
I think the biggest one has to be the music. The argument that "Well everyone knows Journey, and Sweet Caroline; so that's why we play those songs" is just stupid. You know why everybody knows those songs? Because they aren't original and get played at every karaoke and minor league game!
There's so much music out there that we could make ours, think "Can't Turn You Loose", but instead we just play the same recycled stuff over and over again
If you're doing nothing, how do you know when you're finished?
That's a good point, although with one major caveat. "Chelsea Dagger" is an awful, awful, incredibly annoying song. When we choose our own stuff to become unique, we should definitely not take repetitive and annoying as a template.
Now with 100% less South Bend, 100% more Washington DC.
Plus, it's not like there aren't local bands (both from A2 as well as the whole state) that would be perfect for musical interludes, and I'm just talking about freaking Kid Rock and his Bowitabababababababa (sp?).
I mean, you can pull from Iggy Pop, Andrew W.K., Bob Seger, Von Bondies, etc. - all musicians with recognizable songs that would work without being "7Nation Army" and the Red Sawx/Pink Hat co-opted anthem.
Also stop scheduling so many bloody noon games. After 8 years of season tickets it is harder and harder to get pumped up to arrive at the stadium by noon to watch EMU be slaughtered in ritualistic fashion. It's get up early, get across town, grab an early lunch, and then get into the stadium. Even earlier if you want to tailgate a little or don't live in Ann Arbor. After the game, normally played on a fairly hot Sept Saturday you're pretty much done for the day. You've been baking in the sun for ~3 hours while sitting on a tiny piece of aluminum and going "Oh hey we do have a 5th string QB, I never knew that...".
Push the early season games back to later in the day so I'm not out baking during the hottest part of the day. I appreciate the Noon game come November when we have minimal daylight, but earlier in the year not so much. More later afternoon/evening games would be welcome.
I am usually too anxious to get the game going and I can't really enjoy watching or listening to other games that start at noon. I much prefer getting our WIN out of the way and then relaxing while watching Sparty or ND, etc. get beat.
I don't think so. I know that the TV networks have a lot of power, but if Michigan said "we want to play all our home games at 3:30," they would still manage to get on TV. Michigan, particularly a successful Michigan team, has enough pull that we can almost do whatever we want.
"The trouble with quotes on the internet, is that it is often difficult to discern whether or not they are genuine" --Abraham Lincoln
The contracts the Big 10 has signed with ABC/ESPN and BTN give control over scheduling largely to the TV networks. Michigan literally couldn't say "we're playing all our games at 330" without being in breach of contract.
Brian - I cannot possibly agree with you more on ALL counts. Especially the half-full stadium at kick-off (personal pet peeve). Perhaps if DB is looking for an "idea man" a-la Rockefeller you could apply.
But look more closely. There is no flagpole (on the field) in that pick. That's one of the two FG net poles. It's obscured, but inside the uprights you can see the other one. If you look at teh overhead shot in the other posts you can see the flag pole position.
Besides, that man yellow shirts has to be students.
I'd say something was wonky with the pic and that it was a mistake and the end of a game or something, but in the lower right you can see that section completely full.
I would go find John Wayne, Tupac, and Biggie. This is possible because we all know Tupac and Biggie are partying in the tropics somewhere, and John Wayne can't die because it's impossible. Then just have a vampire/zombie pop/hip-hop/rock twitter/facebook American Idol experience. These three things combined will also work I'm guessing.
Also, I would play the first ever game on Mars in the year 2001. Yeah, I know that's in the past, that's why it's badass and what I would do as my one day as AD.
If you have problems with the stands being empty at kickoff then you have to address the security at the front gate and sections because every game I've ever been too, the crowds lined up OUTSIDE the stadium at kick-off are the exact opposite of the picture of student section you posted.
30-40 minutes from lining up at the front gate to being in your seats is unacceptable. And before you say "just get there earlier," I personally find the pre-game tailgate experience to be a very important part of football saturdays that starting to walk to the stadium at 11am just kills.
I actually use that entrance a lot of times because it does seem to be the less popular one compared to the main street and hoover/keech street entrances. The section entrances are really the problem though and it's totally a crap shoot since some will have no lines and some have lines that go all the way to the outside fence and double back.
I'm in 18, and show up early, and there's still always a line. And if I'm running a little late (meaning coming just before the band hits the field) there's a lot of line. But at the same time, on the same curve, with basically the same demographic make-up of fans, there's no line at 17 or 19. It's so strange. Since I'm just about on the end of one section, I can't count the times I'll just confidently walk into one of the other tunnels and just cut across the section. (It probably helps that not being on the 50 they're not really too worried about people sneaking in for a corner endzone seat). I don't see much difference in ushers or anything else...so over the years it just boggles me.