in town for free camps
*This is a 'fluff piece' with no breaking news - merely a recounting of the first event with the 'Big Three' UM coaches in recent history.*
The UM Alumni Club of DC held a meet-and-greet with coaches Rodriguez, Beilein, and Berenson, as well as AD Bill Martin tonight. Matt Cavanaugh (I think - former drum major) and a guy who looked a lot like one of Beilein's assistants were also there, on the rooftop of a DC office building. Bill Martin said that this was the first time he knew of that all three coaches had met for an event outside of Ann Arbor. Kudos to the UMDC!
The evening started with an autograph session during which each coach was scattered around with throngs of people surrounding. The first humorous event of the evening was watching Bill Martin wander around with... fewer people, and at one point introducing himself to a confused little boy for someone to talk to. Rodriguez obviously had the longest line, but listening in on some of the conversations, the coaches were refreshingly honest and down-to-earth in their dealings with the fans.
The speeches started with Bill Martin, who said mostly boiler-plate stuff. He mentioned that both Beilein and Rodriguez were hired without ever setting foot in Ann Arbor; something I didn't know. It was really awkward/funny when he was talking about Carol Hutchins' softball team, and said, "boy, they have some real horses on that team!" Uhhhhhhhhhh, whatever you say, Bill! He blabbed a little about our success this year with the APR, how some other institutions in the B10 didn't, and how well the athletes are doing academically. Had a direct quote of "Don't ask me any questions." He introduced Red as the 'Dean of Coaches' at Michigan, and the guy that he uses as a mentor for all new coaches. Also told the story of Red scoring 6 goals in one game in the NHL. Also plugged the December 2010 hockey game at the Big House. Oh, and there are only 24 private suites still for sale btw. Oh, and Red has one hell of a championship ring. Wowsa.
Bill then introduced Beilein and mentioned that Beilein's team this past year had the biggest improvement in GPA of all varsity teams. No mention of practice facility. Mentioned the SI coaches survey that proclaimed Beilein as the most creative coach in the game. Also said he talked to Ben Howland recently and Ben told him that he would never want to play Beilein again in his lifetime. While Beilein was being introduced, he was pre-occupied with helping a child fix a chair:
A few moments later, the arm fell off again :) Beilein spoke a little of recruiting, and how his biggest recruiting success recently was keeping Sims and Harris on the team, which got a lot of applause. He fondly recounted the season, particularly Selection Sunday. Nothing else of much note but a very endearing speaker.
Then time for Martin to introduce Rodriguez. Like Beilein, stressed that his creativity, success at building programs, and doing a lot with a little are what most impressed Martin. In short, Rich Rodriguez is massively gifted at working a crowd in a 'down home' way. Snake Oil Salesman extraordinaire, to the max! I told my friend before he came onto the stage that I thought the over/under on "tickled to death"s should be set at around 8. To our dismay, there were NONE! However, the Lion King story about the monkey getting hit in the head or whatever made its standard-issue appearance. Aside from that, it was about 10 minutes of non-stop one-liners, self-deprication, and good-natured humor. When he first got the mic, said "when they told me that, after going 3-9, that I should come up to the top floor of a 20-story tall building to face 600 alums, I was pretty suspicious", and "I think I'll stand back here by this wall!" Mentioned that, even over a year later, West Virginia is still "pissed" at him. Said, "I should have murdered a family of 5 with an axe - I would've been less hated". Also, when responding to a question about his Twittering, said he isn't much of a technophile because "West Virginia just got cell phone coverage about a month ago," to which Beilein stole the mic and said, "see, he can get away with saying that stuff, but I never could!" Then Rodriguez said in response, "Hey! After the way I got sued, I owe 'em somethin in return." Much applause. Also, in response to questions about Detroit-area recruiting, said, "some may say that another school up north is doing better, but we actually get the recruits that we want." Zing! In response to questions about young quarterbacks, joked that he'll be taking many QB recruits every year because he never wants to be in the situation he was last year. Rich said that, on an academic front, that this year should break at least a 25-year record for the football team's average GPA. Also significant was his discussion of 'buying in' - he said, "last year, some people said that certain team members didn't buy in. That's not true - everyone bought in, but with questions. This year, they all know about the system and what they should be doing."
*Thanks to my friend Bonners for the photos.
All in all, this was a wonderful evening, attended by around 600 alums. Signed basketballs and footballs were auctioned, and all those proceeds, plus the ticket sales, went to the UMDC scholarship fund. The kid who won it this year was introduced. Again, thanks to the UMDC Alumni Club for organizing this. In the last year or two UMDC has become what I believe is a great club. For example, during the winter and early spring, we had 2 - 3 locations around DC reserved for members just to watch regular season basketball games! We even watched hockey *gasp*! Anyway, a great time, and 3 very impressive men. Plus one accomplished sailor :)