It made me feel better, if nothing else. Even though my identity isn't too hard to find on this site, I redacted some stuff because it makes me feel better.
CC: Board of Regents
I would like to begin this letter by describing my connection(s) to the University of Michigan. In XXXX, I matriculated into LSA as a member of the Honors College; I graduated with distinction and high honors in XXXX, and subsequently completed an MSE degree in the College of Engineering in XXXX. Aside from my personal enrollment in the University, I have numerous family ties to U of M: my father (an alumnus of blah), my mother (an alumna of blah blah blah), my brother (an alumnus of the college of blah), my wife (an alumna blah). I have been passionate about the University in no small part because of the success of the football program, learning the fight song before I knew the national anthem, cheering for the maize and blue on autumn days before I knew how to read a scoreboard, and understanding the excellence that the University prides itself in (in all manners) long before I understood the sterling academic and professional reputation of the University and its graduates. I would be surprised if my personal experience in this manner is singular.
You are no doubt aware that the University of Michigan football program has not performed well of late. Indeed, any number of national sports pundits has been quick to note this. This, in itself, reflects curiously on a University that prides itself in being “the Leaders and Best” in all things. However, competitive sport must have winners and losers and seasons of feast and famine; I do not take professional issue with the performance of the football program, but merely experience the pain of a passionate observer and fanatic, and hope that Michigan football will return to its prominence as a national powerhouse program.
I do, however, find recent events deplorable in which the athletic department has demonstrated a lack of loyalty to fans, an interest in profit margins over fan experience, endangerment of its student athletes, and a general black eye to the University and danger to the professional value of my Michigan education. For instance, my father (every bit as rabid a fan as I) was recently unwilling and unable to purchase season tickets to Michigan football games, due to their continuously increasing costs (no small feat, to out-price a dentist). This price gouging extends to the students, who are yearly asked to pony up more cash for tickets to see the likes of Appalachian State, Miami of Ohio, and University of Massachusetts play in the Big House. As an activity integral to the connection of alumni, students, and prospective students/employees with the University, this unholy pursuit of profit (from a non-profit institution) is beginning to act quite counter to its purpose, and is becoming noted by the media at large. Further, even when students purchase season tickets months ahead of schedule, the University has been recently dumping unsold tickets (to the tune of a ticket for a Big Ten football game with a bottle of Coke) while students and alumni remain holding unfairly expensive tickets.
Even this would be bearable, were the athletic department acting as a general boon to publicity for the University. However, recent events demonstrate this to be untrue. For instance, last year the athletic department paid for a plane to skywrite “GO BLUE” over Spartan Stadium. I don’t need to spell out for you in further detail what a sophomoric act this was. Estimates of the cost (which were never released) were on the order of $3000, a great use of the aforementioned inflated ticket proceeds. Last year, the athletic department also decided it would be a fabulous idea to put a giant Kraft macaroni noodle outside, in order to increase marketing cash flow; you can Google the results to see the public outcry over the ridiculous corporatization of one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world. Most egregiously, the football program has recently been in national news over its handling of the safety and health of its student athletes. I need not expand in further detail on this, as you could simply turn on your television to learn more.
What is truly impressive, however, is the ability of the athletic department to obscure, obfuscate, and deny culpability in the above, always diffusing blame and rejecting alleged wrongdoing:
On ticket prices: "We raised the ticket prices, but we wanted to make sure the ticket price increase was not at all perceived to be an opportunity for us to make more money off of the students.” – David Brandon (athletic director), as Michigan students pay among the most in the country to watch football; how else are price increases to be perceived?
On the “two Cokes, two tickets” promo:"Due to a miscommunication in the approval process, this promotion should not have run as is.” – Michigan spokesman… which raises the question, what exactly was the promotion going to be?
On the noodle: "This is the classic deal: somebody goes by and takes a picture of it and puts it on the Internet, and then they think this is the new hood ornament for Michigan Stadium." – Dave Brandon. A continual thread throughout these statements, that every issue raised is a matter of perception on the part of the fans/alumni/media.
On the skywriting over East Lansing:"There were no locations targeted." – Dave Ablauf (spokesman for AD), in stark contrast to the stated target of East Lansing by the pilot who did the skywriting.
On the endangerment of student athletes:I could copy and paste the entire press statement from David Brandon, but let me highlight the use of ambiguous, non-culpable language: “confusing”, “lack of communication”, “circumstance that was not in the best interest of our student-athletes”, “unique and complex situation” (despite the fact this happens every game-day Saturday), training staff “did not see the hit” (despite everyone else in the stadium immediately understanding what was happening), et cetera.
This is not the Michigan that I grew up with, nor is it the Michigan that I wish to be associated with. Mistakes happen, of that we can be sure; the measure of a man, program, and institution is how we deal with mistakes. It is not difficult (unless, apparently, you’re a member of the athletic department) to come forward and admit wrongdoing instead of deflecting and parrying. Any one of these events and subsequent evasions may be forgivable; in sum, they overwhelmingly demonstrate casual disregard for the truth, disrespect for the intelligence of fans and alumni of the University of Michigan, disinterest in the safety of students, and a deaf ear to the complaints and desires of those associated with Michigan. This athletic department and administration is rapidly destroying the goodwill and esteem of one of the proudest, most revered universities in the world. Never have I been embarrassed to declare my alma mater in a professional setting, as I am today. A losing football program is acceptable, when run with dignity and grace. An athletic department that tarnishes the value of my professional association with the University of Michigan is not.
I urge you to take whatever actions you deem necessary to reverse this course.
[Current professional credentials]
However, as NCAA sanctions and the like were mentioned, I began to see a glimmer of hope:
1. All programs do this. As everyone knows, in college (and high school sports, for that matter) off season workouts are not "voluntary", but mandatory if you ever want to see the field.
2. The coaches never strictly declared they were mandatory. Because of this, I'm not sure the NCAA truly can come back and slam the U-M football program. Besides, what are they going to do, take away our 3 wins from last year?
3. Finally, this seems to be another facet of the "wah wah family values" that we've seen develop over the last year and half. Hopefully the NCAA will take this into consideration when reviewing the situation.
Is our mascot useless*?
Being a student of U of M and being raised in a house where an entire bathroom was created into a shrine for all things maize and blue, I certainly know of the tradition of the Victors, "GO BLUE", and anything else possibly Michigan in character. However, besides a cheap, furry, stuffed "wolverine" with an M on the front, I can't really say I identify anything about the wolverine creature with the great University of Michigan. Is it possible we need to simply can the mascot, and be "Michigan"?
I must admit, one of the factors in my analysis is that, unlike many other (debatably) great sports schools, we really don't do anything with our mascot. We don't have any hand signals (like the Gators or Longhorns), no prancing mascot on the sideline (thank God), or even a wolverine that shoots lasers out of its eyes! With the exception of "the Claw" that we do on fourth down (and I rather liked the straight-up chop better), it seems as if anything related to the wolverine is missing from the University of Michigan.
* Please, at this point, consider my good health and your conscience as a fellow MGoBlogger before negging me into a bottomless pit where the minions of the emperor of space will feed on my soul.
On Aug 3, 2009
Dear Professors Haithcock and Boerma,
As a fellow musician and student at the University of Michigan, let me first
congratulate you on putting a product out in the U of M marching band year-in and year-out that is entertaining, classy, and above all else, skilled. However, something must be done about a glaring problem at the University of Michigan football games : the student section cannot hear much sound from the marching band as a whole, except for the mobile percussion. As a result, students are unable to appreciate the excellent and fun music that is being performed; they are also hindered from cheering as loudly and intimidating opposing teams on the football field.
Increased fan/band participation should be something that is striven towards as part of an integral "game-day experience", giving a two-fold effect: fans (and especially students) are much more able to appreciate the workmanship of the musicians, and by creating a louder, more intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams, the student athletes will benefit as well.
Please try anything possible to maximize our game-day experience.
Thanks for your note and the polished expression of your concerns. I will leave the details to Prof. Boerma going forward. In short, the situation you describe is due to the Athletic Department's decision regarding where to seat the band and the fact that each band student seat within the student section makes other seats available at a more expensive price. This is a recent move after more than a decade of the MMB sitting across the field from the student section.
You are not alone in your concern but understand that the band has limited options as electronic support of the sound is against NCAA rules. In that large space, acoustics can only do so much.
This is basically what everyone has hinted at, but I just thought I'd like to give some solid proof as to where things stand, right from the horse's mouth.
Even when the defense was able to make a stop, I have to lay a bit of the impetus of our statistical suckitude on the fact that Martavius Maximus Rex (or anyone else, for that matter) was unable to hold on to that damn porcine hide long enough to give our John Thompsons enough time to catch some oxygen. What do you think?
I simply have a hard time believing that it was all the fault of the bumbling Shafer or our bad secondary that led to the third and long conversions by the other offense; it seems much more plausible that our players were simply going on fumes. But, I'm still a weanling babe, with nary a hint of the experience of you mighty minds.