I did not make this headline up
Editor's note: Originally published in August, 2007.
Editor's note: The Notre Dame numbers were disputed by some ND readers; ND's site lists two majors for everyone or a major-minor pair or something; it was confusing and I just ticked down a bunch of majors; I wouldn't take the assertions of grouping below seriously. Suffice it to say that guys with 6th to 8th grade reading levels apparently average a 3.5 at ND; they're probably not taking astrophysics.
I'm sure you've all seen this by now: Pat Forde got ahold of Jim Harbaugh, who continues to cram his foot in his mouth so far that his testicles are grumbling about the new neighbors, about this whole academics thing. In the article Forde is shocked, shocked(!) to find out that shepherding is going on at Michigan. He strokes a beard he does not have thoughtfully and comes to conclusions that show deep concern for the welfare of student athletes. He credulously accepts this outrageous statement from Harbaugh...
"I learned from a great man named Bo Schembechler that you speak the truth as you know it. It may not be the popular thing, but you speak your mind. Everything I said is supported by fact, but the thing that has come back is the personal attack on me, not looking at the issue whatsoever." The most bothersome personal attack to Harbaugh came from Hart. Even more bothersome was the fact that nobody within the Michigan hierarchy has publicly reined in Hart for blasting a well-decorated alum.
"Mike Hart is just repeating their messages," Harbaugh said. "When I was a player, there would have been nobody saying anything like what Mike Hart said about me. We would have been too afraid of the consequences. That wouldn't have happened while Bo was there. I'm glad as the head coach of Stanford I don't have to deal with those repercussions."
...without stopping even to mention that the very person Harbaugh's throwing under the bus is that "great man" and to say that Mike Hart wouldn't have said the things he did if Bo was around when his weak response to Jamie Morris claiming the same thing of him was "that's not the point." It's awful and self-contradictory and the work of a man just trying to get some Serious Issues brownie points. (Braves & Birds eloquently presents these arguments, btw.)
Harbaugh is right about one thing: if Bo was around, Hart wouldn't have said those things. But that's because Bo would have said them after turning Harbaugh's larynx into goo with the power of his mind. And yet he persists:
"Everything I said," Harbaugh told me this week, "is supported by fact."
No, Jim, it isn't. You're full of crap.
One of the things that makes (most) college football fans deeply uncomfortable is the increasing implausibility of calling the athletes they revere "student-athletes" in an era when enormous men whose applications would have been laughed out of the admissions office had they been sized like normal humans spend 40+ hours a week on football virtually year-round, taking classes like "History of Rock and Roll," or "AIDS Awareness" or "Golf," to use several unfairly OSU-exclusive examples, solely because said classes will allow them to participate in their chosen sport with a minimum of what can only be said to be extracurricular fuss.
It's this inversion of "extracurricular" that bothers people. Whereas once manly men who are men occasionally deigned to travel around the country beating other manly man men's heads in whilst catching up on their Proust, today a bunch of lunkheads with no business in college are exploited for their cheap labor and then cast aside without any hope of employment because their educations were a sham. Yea, truly we have made our collegiate athletics programs dens of iniquity, striving for the unholy dollar at the expense of these men's future.
I don't swear much on this blog, but I have one word for this. It follows in its own paragraph for MAXIMUM EMPHASIS.
Oh, that felt nice. I'm going to continue. Fucking ridiculous, facile, idiotic bullshit, the exact kind of balderdash fronted by people who willingly fail to notice that the American university experience has changed so radically that 20% of my high school's graduating class, including several people I would be surprised to find out could change a light bulb, ended up at Michigan because it serves their hopelessly outdated and idealistic view of the world.
I find the lazy, stupid athlete stereotype irritating, and always have. Is intelligence a simple vector that you have or do not? I have always been very, very "smart" and felt that I got far too much credit for an aptitude for standardized tests and memorization when I knew that the guys truly marked for success didn't have truculent attitudes towards people that were slightly different from them. There is a certain sort of social aptitude that I lack that, a particular sort of empathy and intelligence far more important in the world than the ability to sort out the Pythagorean theorem in no time flat, but how do you measure that? I'll tell you: find my salary and that of class president Tom O'Neill, a man the entire world liked, in ten years and get back to me. I'll lose. So who's to say that Mario Manningham isn't "smart"? I've watched him perfectly set up cornerbacks time and again, burning them deep when they know what's coming. Even if Manningham couldn't spell his own name -- something I am not asserting is true, for the record -- he would still be a particular sort of genius.
I mean, Jim Harbaugh has to be some sort of verbal moron but he's still in the 99.9th percentile when it comes to being a quarterback. In one particular aspect of his life, Jim Harbaugh is indisputably brilliant. We shouldn't look down on him just because there are six-year-olds with a better sense of what an appropriate public discourse is.
This is my point: the sort of people who end up successfully completing four or five years in a major collegiate athletic program are probably marked for success even if their major is the easiest available. There is academic research that backs this up. Via Malcolm Gladwell:
In the 2001 book "The Game of Life," James L. Shulman and William Bowen (a former president of Princeton) conducted an enormous statistical analysis on an issue that has become one of the most contentious in admissions: the special preferences given to recruited athletes at selective universities.
Athletes, Shulman and Bowen demonstrate, have a large and growing advantage in admission over everyone else. At the same time, they have markedly lower G.P.A.s and S.A.T. scores than their peers. Over the past twenty years, their class rankings have steadily dropped, and they tend to segregate themselves in an "athletic culture" different from the culture of the rest of the college. Shulman and Bowen think the preference given to athletes by the Ivy League is shameful. Halfway through the book, however, Shulman and Bowen present what they call a “surprising” finding. Male athletes, despite their lower S.A.T. scores and grades, and despite the fact that many of them are members of minorities and come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds than other students, turn out to earn a lot more than their peers. Apparently, athletes are far more likely to go into the high-paying financial-services sector, where they succeed because of their personality and psychological makeup. In what can only be described as a textbook example of burying the lead, Bowen and Shulman write:
One of these characteristics can be thought of as drive—a strong desire to succeed and unswerving determination to reach a goal, whether it be winning the next game or closing a sale. Similarly, athletes tend to be more energetic than the average person, which translates into an ability to work hard over long periods of time—to meet, for example, the workload demands placed on young people by an investment bank in the throes of analyzing a transaction. In addition, athletes are more likely than others to be highly competitive, gregarious and confident of their ability to work well in groups (on teams).
Shulman and Bowen would like to argue that the attitudes of selective colleges toward athletes are a perversion of the ideals of American élite education, but that's because they misrepresent the actual ideals of American élite education. The Ivy League is perfectly happy to accept, among others, the kind of student who makes a lot of money after graduation. As the old saying goes, the definition of a well-rounded Yale graduate is someone who can roll all the way from New Haven to Wall Street.
(You must listen to a man who is smart enough to spell "elite" with an accent mark.)
The greatest asset Michigan football players have is their status as Michigan football players. This is true when they are being guided through college and afterwards. The values imparted by the ruthlessly competitive but outgoing and collegial environment surrounding a big time football program are far more useful in one's effort to find a well-paying career than any honors humanities degree you care to name. And the primary role the modern university is to take money from undergraduates in exchange for the ability to get a well-paid job.
So, no, Jim Harbaugh isn't wrong when he says Michigan takes football players who would otherwise not be accepted and shepherds them through majors that are not particularly challenging. No one denies this, but there is a difference between not denying an obvious, universal, and (most importantly) non-harmful tactic that helps a disproportionately minority and poor group of people into the middle class and not denying that Michigan is selling these kids out because they don't care.
One of the frequently useful posters on Michigan message boards summarized a retrospective on the 1997 national championship team that appeared in The Wolverine's season preview magazine. It's not comprehensive but it does provide a significant indication that Harbaugh's assertion that "the people that adulated them won't hire them" is completely off base:
The Wolverine 2007 preview magazine did an article on the ten year anniversary of the 1997 co-national championship team. They profiled some of the players, and here's some of the results:
Zach Adami (C) - I looked at mgoblue.com to find his major, but they didn't have a profile for him. Adami is a trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, trading options on the Eurodollar. He's aslo a partner in a small company, Redrock Capital Management, with former U-M linebacker Dave Dobress and several others.
Jeff Backus (OT) - General Studies major per mgoblue.com and starting O-lineman on the Detroit Lions.
Kraig Baker (PK) - Sports Management and Communications. He's an account executive for Management Recruiters International, based in Chicago. He's also worked for a manufacturing company in Indiana, managed a restaurant in Virginia Beach and played some Arena Football.
Dave Brandt (OL) - School of Education - majored in Elementary Education. Played 3 years in the NFL. Says he's a stay at home dad.
Kevin Bryant (WR) - General Studies. He owns his own company, KB Solutions of Detroit, which privdes a variety of electrical services.
Mark Campbell (TE) - Movement Science. In his ninth season in the NFL.
Clint Copenhaver (LB) - Sports Management and Communications. Sales representative for sporting goods giant Mizuno--covers state of Michigan for the company.
Scott Driesbach (QB) - Physical Education. Playing football with the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League.
Juaquin Feazell (LB) - Psychology. Works as a medical malpriatice attorney in Georgia for the firm Hall, Booth, Smith & Slover. Received his law degree at Georgia State ans has been practicing law for four years.
Jay Feely (PK) - Physical Education. NFL with the Falcons, Giants and Dolphins.
Chris Floyd (FB) - Mgoblue.com doesn't have a profile for him. Floyd played in the NFL for three season. He then worked for six years with Michigan's S&C staff. Now teaches at Westside Christian Academy and works with Farrell Sports Concepts.
Steve Frazier (C) - General Studies. He's a commercial airlines pilot for American Eagle Airlines.
Ian Gold (LB) - Political Science. Seven years in NFL with Denver and Tampa Bay.
Brian Griese (QB) - Griese majored in Environmental Policy--I believe he got permission to design his degree from LS&A. Tenth year in NFL.
James Hall (DE) - Sports Management & Communications. Played with the NFL since college--Lions & St. Louis.
Tommy Hendricks (S) - General Studies. NFL through 2004.
Jeff Holtry (LB) - No major listed on the roster. Worked at Abbott Labs in Ann Arbor. Now serves as an orthopedic equipment representative for Stryker Corporation.
Chris Howard (RB) - No major listed on mgoblue roster. Just says he spent a few seasons in the NFL.
Steve Hutchinson (OL) - General Studies. NFL pro-bowler for two teams.
Jon Jansen (OL) - Physical Education major. NFL career with Washington Redskins.
Diaollo Johnson (S) - Sports Management and Communications. Works in real estate in Detroit.
Dhani Jones (LB) - It just says he was in the Residential College. Has played in NFL through 2006.
Marcus Knight (WR) - Computer Science. Plays with Columbus Destroyers in Arena Football League.
Eric Mayes (LB) - Earned his master's degree in educational technology in 2000. Completed PhD program in educational physicology at Howard University. Serves as an adjucnt professor at Howard and is Dean of Students at an elementary school in Washington, DC.
DeWayne Patmon (S) - Sports Management and Communications. Played two years in NFL. Lives in San Diego and has done a bit of acting.
Marcus Ray (S) - General Studies. Social worker in Columbus, Ohio school system. Will be moving to Ann Arbor to become graduate assistant for Wolverines. Coached football for several seasons at Ohio Dominican.
Rob Renes (DL) - Secondary Education major. Brief career in NFL due to injury. Teaches at middle school in Muskegon and is finishing master's degree in educational leadership at Western Michigan this summer. Looking to be a school principal or athletic director.
Russell Shaw (WR) - No link to profile on roster. He's currently playing in the Arena Football League.
Aaron Shea (TE) - Sports Management and Communications. He's played in the NFL since college.
Chris Singletary (LB) - Sports Management and Communications. Currently Michigan's recruiting coordinator. He spent seven years at International Management Group.
Glen Steele (DL) - No profile listed on roster. NFL career. Currently graduate assistant at Michigan.
Tai Streets (WR) - Sports Management and Communications. Long career in NFL, now teacher and coach back in Illinois (high school, I assume).
Rob Swett (LB) - No profile listed on roster. Owns his own home building company in Austin, Texas. Here's a quote from him: "My career at Michigan, and that year, helped define part of who I am. The success I've had in my life can be attributed to that season and learning what it takes to be a winner."
Sam Sword (LB) - Sports Management and Communications. Spent some time coaching. He lives in Florida and works in the city's recreation and parks department.
Daydrion Taylor (S) - Doesn't list his major, but does say he was in Kiniesology. Returned to Texas and is teaching high school, coaching track and the secondary on the football team.
Anthony Thomas (RB) - Sports Management and Communications. NFL career with Bears and Bills.
Jerame Tuman (TE) - Movement Science. Still in NFL.
Jason Vinson (P) - Biology. Pharmacist at hospital in Memphis, TN and professor at University of Tennessee pharmacy school.
Andre Weathers (CB) - Industrial Engineering. Plsyed pro football for a few year. Currently working as an industrial engineer and coaches defensive backs at Flint Central High School.
James Whitley (CB) - Sports Management & Communications. 3 seasons in the NFL. Doesn't say what he's doing now.
Josh Williams (DT) - Psychology. Just finished his NFL career. Currently involved in building and developing homes.
Eric Wilson (DT) - Sports Management and Communications. He's played football in Florida and Canada with the CFL. Owns a succesful cigar lounge in FL.
Charles Woodson (CB) - Sports Management and Communications. Still playing in NFL.
Chris Ziemann (OL) - Sports Management & Communications. Had a short career in NFL. Works in sales for Cintas in Florida.
Note a distinct lack of homeless crack addicts. (Again... not definitive, but far more evidence than Harbaugh has ever marshaled for his preposterous assertions. Hell, I have more evidence that Harbaugh is not a nice person at all than he has evidence Michigan abandons its ex-players.)
"I see how it's done now at Stanford, and I see no reason to believe it can't be the same there."
Incidentally, portraying Harbaugh as some sort of noble crusader is preposterous. If he had such deep concern for the fates of Michigan student-athletes, why is it only now, when he is attempting to frame Stanford as a city on a hill for D-I athletes, that his concerns come forth? Besides, Harbaugh's full of shit. Yost Built has a terrific survey of the declared majors on Stanford's football team, which look mighty suspicious:
Science Technology & Society: 9
Management Science & Engineering: 7
Poly Sci: 5
Public Policy: 4
Computer Sci: 2
Intl Relations: 1
Yost Built points out that 15.5% of declared football majors are in communications versus 1% of the university at large and this "STS" thing is even better:
So now about that random degree that almost nobody in the school majors in, but a disproportionate amount of football players do....at Michigan it's General Studies. At Stanford, I believe it's called Science Technology & Society. According to the Stanford STS website, there are 58 STS majors in the school. 58. That works out to .9% of the 6,400 undergrads. Want to know how many football players major in it? 9. Or 15.5% of the entire major (which dwarfs the Michigan team making up roughly 10% of General Studies).
I can add a little something to Yost Built's post. A peek at STS shows that it's an interdisciplinary field that requires a certain small set of base requirements, and then this:
# Technical Literacy: A specified computer science course and a four-course sequence in a field of science, engineering, or mathematical sciences in which a B.A. major obtains basic knowledge of some concepts, principles and methods of science, engineering, or mathematics. Faculty in various technical disciplines are available to advise and sign off on this major component.
# Thematic Concentration: A sequence of courses through which a B.A. major acquires more in-depth knowledge of and progressive competence in a particular STS issue, problem, or area of personal interest. The following Thematic Concentrations are pre-certified (students can also design their own concentration):
3. History and Philosophy
4. Information and Society
5. Public Policy
6. Social Change
7. Work and Organizations
Faculty in various disciplines are available to advise and sign off on this major component.
Emphasis mine, because it emphasizes that this is a design-your-own-major thing that is just ripe for exploitation. Hey... you know what that sounds like? General Studies! Mouthy football coach unaware of the consequences of his speech, heal thyself. Stanford shovels its football players into majors just like everyone else, and the most popular degree on the team is a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
There is no difference between Michigan and anyone else on this issue. Penn State and Notre Dame both have reputations for being very serious about their academics for football programs that aspire to something higher than being Rice, but even these two schools cluster kids like mad. A survey of Penn State's majors lifted from Anison on the Wolverine.com's message boards:
Total = 86
Declared Majors = 40
Kinesiology = 10
Parks Recreation & Tourism Mgmt = 10
Labor & Industrial Relations = 4
Crime, Law and Justice = 3
Finance = 3
Economics = 2
Mechanical Engin = 2
Marketing = 2
Rehabilitation Svcs = 1
Psychology = 1
Environment Systems Engin = 1
Letters, Arts & Sciences = 1
Management = 1
Advertising & PR = 1
Half of PSU declared majors are in Kinesiology or Parks, Recreation, & Tourism Management. I went over to Notre Dame's website and surveyed their announced majors:
Film, Television, And Theater: 5
Mechanical Engineering: 3
One each: American Studies, Math, Poli Sci, Bio, Psych.
The Math, Bio, Poli Sci, and American culture majors, along with two of the MEs and two of the History majors, are walk-ons. Bolded majors are in the Mendoza School of business; 14 others are enrolled in that school but have not declared majors. With freshmen all enrolled in "first year studies," this means that about half the team is in the Mendoza School of business. To be fair, Mendoza is a large school that comprises about 18% of the undergraduate population at Notre Dame, but a randomly selected football player is three times more likely to be enrolled in Mendoza than a non-football player. There's also ND football players' inexplicable love of sociology to grapple with, and even amongst obvious joke majors "Film, Television and Theater" stands out as a particularly embarrassing thing to have on a degree. All told, there are four declared majors at ND that are not one of these three things. Maybe Michigan's big problem is that it didn't name "General Studies" the "Rocket Science, Law-Talkin', And Doctor-Bein'" degree.
And you know what? On average, these players from Penn State and Notre Dame and Michigan and Stanford will have happy, successful lives -- remember the Gladwell -- largely thanks to the socialization and opportunity football gave them. Forcing guys whose skills lie in something other than the narrow concept of intelligence that gets you through scan-tron tests and essays through the same doors as those selected for those skills will inevitably cause many more of them to flunk out and lose that opportunity to have a better life, all in the service of maintaining the worthless fiction that football players are students first.
What Harbaugh proposes harms everyone but himself; sadly, it's become obvious we can expect no better from this man.
So... what? The last post was a dump of the various things I've heard/experienced that influence my opinion. There are some other things -- a varsity-jacket clad cadre of large men in my Astro 111 course, my Anthro 101 course, Scott Matzka (hockey player, good shorthanded) posting stuff to the EECS 380 usenet group -- but it's just more of the same.
This is the equation we've set up in all varsity sports to some degree or another:
Large Group of Academically Underqualified Persons +
40-hour-per-week year-round commitment +
Grad rates at or above the University average =
Solve for X, and you get the kind of stuff detailed recently by the Ann Arbor News.
I mean, duh. The only group of people dumb enough to believe you can take star athletes whose uninspiring high school GPAs are almost entirely fraudulent already, give them a full time job, and then get those star athletes to graduate without hijinks are dickwad Notre Dame fans driven mad by their program's 15 years of total irrelevancy. And, apparently, some but not all Penn State fans.
The Ann Arbor News knows this, of course, and knows that a similar examination of any program in the country would turn an equal or greater level of academic offense. So the editor puts on his I Are Serious Cat face and rumbles about "perception" and "reality" and how Michigan believes that it is better than everyone and isn't this troubling, isn't it? And we get sidebars about how poor Brent Petway couldn't get into the music school when he discovered its existence... two years into his time on campus. Thanks a million, AANews.
This was going to be a big long article about the place of the athlete in the modern university; in it I would link the piece I wrote last summer when Jim Harbaugh was shooting his mouth off about the general studies program and the like, but when I re-read it I realized I didn't have to or want to change it, so I'm going to bump it to the front page here in a few minutes.
The executive summary:
- Athletes work harder than just about anyone at a university.
- There is a giant sports entertainment industry in this country.
- There are many not so bright people at the U getting undergraduate degrees in deliberately unchallenging majors; the intent of research 1 universities is to shovel a ton of students through cheaply and use their tuition to build particle accelerators.
- We should stop pretending that something as hugely important to so many people as sports are can't be a valid field of study.
To this, I'd to add... This is the powerpoint summary of Michael Oher's life:
- Born in inner-city Memphis to a single mother with several other children by another father; will eventually be one of ten siblings all living under one roof.
- 0-7: lives with mother, a drug addict who is nice enough but provides zero in the way of guidance or support and disappears for ten days at a time when money is available.
- One day when he's 7: Social Services gets wise and comes to yank the kids into foster care. The boys run, but are eventually tracked down.
- 8-10: alternately lives in foster home run by ludicrously fat woman named Velma who keeps kids in line by sitting them and spends time on the streets when the Velma-home is too much for him. Momentarily hospitalized for psychological evaluation; escapes. During this period of time goes to school mostly because they have free food. Exists as a sort of child hobo.
- 10-15: reunites with mother in hopelessly dystopian, lawless inner-city Memphis project. Does not go to school, ever. Decides he would like to be Michael Jordan. Becomes freakin' enormous. Technically spends a year at high school, ish.
- 16: Driven to Briarcrest Christian Academy by local do-gooder "Big Tony" in the hopes that he and Big Tony's son can attend the school because they're athletes. Oher, at this point, is itinerant, sleeping on whatever floor or couch seems most accessible that night.
- 16-18: Virtually, then actually adopted by Sean Tuohy, a now-wealthy former Ole Miss point guard, given home to exist in. Expensively tutored nonstop for three straight years.
- College: "Dean's List" at Ole Miss, all SEC.
When Oher dipped his toe into the NFL draft waters this January he found he would be a late first round or second round pick and, thus, a millionaire. Envisioning Oher's life without academic fraud is left as an unpleasant exercise to the reader.
Who is served by academic ineligiblity and drop-out players? Not the school, not the player, and not the NFL. There must be some level of academic effort; most of these kids will not become pro players and will have to find jobs. Most of them also have little business being in college proper, which is not surprising since they were selected for other reasons.
College football has conspired with the NFL to become the sole feeder system for an immensely lucrative industry. College football itself makes millions from the efforts of undercompensated individuals who would otherwise never attend college. It therefore has many responsibilities to those individuals, who it has trapped in a hypocritical system. One of these responsibilities is to, within reason, ease their academic passage so that they can attempt to use their standout skill to make a living. Michigan is doing this, and though I described the Watson and Riley one-month, four credits B+ as a "scam," it's a upright scam. The whole system is a scam that declares by fiat that this incredibly taxing mental and physical effort is worthy of no credit while Astro 111 -- which, Ann Arbor News, I am delighted to report that I spent approximately one hour a week on outside of class -- is.
This is Theron Wilson now; I stumbled across his MySpace page and a few other things when I was trying to remember the details of his life.
I have no real idea how he's doing. He played overseas for a few years after the UPS stint. He's got a suit. He details a lot of failed business ventures and frustrations in the real estate market and appears to be attempting to enlist the reader in some sort of get-rich-online scheme of dubious value. He says he's in marketing, says he's got a college degree, says he's got a kid. I think he's doing ok.
Did college do him good? I kinda suspect he struggled through EMU with a lot of easy classes and maybe a smattering of academic fraud -- non qualifier, remember -- and got a degree of some sort. Was it helpful? Where would he be if the skids were not greased? At some point do you stop hanging on, and where do you go then?
Data. Data. Data. Data.
Data: This is a scam. There are a great number of things detailed in the Ann Arbor News article that are questionable and few that are anything more, but this is a scam:
Hagen set up independent study courses for two Michigan football players with just more than a month remaining in a semester. Rueben Riley and Gabe Watson dropped other classes and enrolled in an independent study course with Hagen on March 18, 2005.
Sucking a kid into an independent study with a month to go in the semester and then lobbing four B+ credits at Gabe Watson for writing a single twelve page paper that probably says "FEED ME SO HUNGRY WANT PORK CHOP" on at least six of those pages is something close to academic fraud. The university protests "this isn't Auburn" at one juncture in the article, but on the academic integrity continuum that extends from Vanderbilt on one end to Auburn on the other, that's a lot closer to Auburn.
Michigan is systematically funneling kids at risk of losing their eligibility into independent study courses of questionable content, and will in extreme cases fob some credits at players for four weeks of work in a 15 week semester. The Ann Arbor News establishes that.
Data: Mr. Bancroft, one of my history teachers in high school, was an odd bird, an elderly bald man with wild eyes and tattered ideals prone to grandiose pronouncements and strong opinions. A small but hopefully telling indicator: most people just called him "Bancroft," even his students. Though he was naturally drawn to athletes, when the Quiz Bowl team â€“ yrs truly a member, natch â€“ needed a damn fool to drive us to Washington DC and be our chaperon so we could go about .500, eke into the single-elimination rounds, and get crushed by that goddamn Virginia magnet school, he volunteered. He was a nice guy.
When you are in a van for ten hours you naturally get to talking about various topics, and the subject of Theron Wilson came up during various debates. I don't remember why. But I do remember what Mr. Bancroft said.
Theron was a black kid from Detroit that Bancroft somehow had stumbled across â€“ how was never explained â€“ and kinda sorta taken in for a couple years. Theron was six foot eight. He was also a prop 48, ineligible to play as a freshman. He was the center on the inexplicably great Eastern Michigan teams featuring Earl Boykins. When the Eagles beat Duke in 1996, he had five blocks. A few months later he was selected in the draft, but the wrong draft: Theron was the La Crosse Bobcats' third round selection in the 1996 CBA draft.
A year later, we drove to Washington DC to play the white and Asian kids of Thomas Jefferson, that damn Virginia magnet school, and Theron Smith was driving a UPS truck. "I don't know," said Bancroft. "He's just hanging on."
Data: Michael Oher, star of Michael Lewis' The Blind Side. For the purposes of our conversation, the heart of the book has to do with Michael Oher's schooling, or lack thereof. For a variety of tragic (and probably sadly common) reasons, Oher mostly attends school when he feels like taking advantage of the free lunches provided. From ten to fifteen, Oher lives a virtually feral existence in a little slice of Somalia mysteriously transported into downtown Memphis. He decides he will be Michael Jordan, and he does not go to school, ever. After a quasi-year at a downtown Memphis quasi-high school, Oher is taken out to Briarcrest Academy, a Christian school in the white section of Memphis by a guy named "Big Tony"; Briarcrest hems and haws and decides that the Christian thing to do is have an enormous black guy play on the basketball team.
Oher eventually falls in with a Briarcrest supporter named Sean Tuohy, a former Ole Miss point guard turned rich white guy. The Tuohy family ends up adopting him, and Oher ends up commiting to Ole Miss February of his senior year of high school. Despite three years of nonstop private tutoring, Oher needs a telescope to see the grade point and test score combination the NCAA requires.
At this point, Tuohy spends a lot of money and time tracking down ways to fraud â€“ there's really no other way to put, it â€“ Michael Oher into Ole Miss, striking upon two separate gold mines: a friendly psychiatric clinic that gets Oher declared "learning disabled" mostly because he has an average IQ but hasn't learned anything yet, which allows Oher unlimited, guided, untimed attempts at standardized tests, and a series of "courses" BYU should be ashamed they offer: ten-day remote equivalency courses during which he has to read about famous personages and answer five questions about them. Each set of five questions cleared allows Oher to replace a semester of F with one of A.
Oher qualifies, and starts his freshman year at Ole Miss.
Michael Oher is a very large learning disabled man with approximately three years of actual schooling and a fraudulent academic transcript and Michael Lewis writes this about him in his afterword:
IN THE SEASON AFTER this book's publication Michael Oher started every game as Ole Miss's left tackle. The Ole miss football team was so consistently inept it was hard to believe anyone on it could be any good, but Michael's play landed him on the All-SEC second team, while his grade point average (3.75) landed him, for a semester, on the University of Mississippi Dean's list. (He was honored at halftime during one Ole Miss basketball game for his schoolwork.
#$*#! I didn't carry a 3.75. I knew I should have spent my middle school years roving around inner city projects trying not to get shot.
Data: erstwhile Michigan running back Max Martin, a native Michigander who moved to Alabama for the last few years of his high school career, got in trouble a lot, and it started early. When Michigan checked up on Martin's progress for the first time, they found that Martin hadn't gone to any of his classes. He told the curious coaches that he didn't know he had to go; none the kids he knew at SEC schools had to.
After a couple seasons of fumbling and off-field transgressions, Martin transferred to Alabama. Their coaches' character check was this: "is he in trouble with the law?" At that moment, he was not.
Martin lasted one semester in Tuscaloosa.
Data: I have a friend who is getting her PhD in a humanities field and, as such, spends much time being the best GSI any of her students will ever come across. She is deeply conflicted about the presence and purpose of athletes in her classes and across the university in general, and has presented the following pieces of information in our discussion on the subject.
- When she was the GSI for a large lecture class, two football players three times her size were amongst her students. She was momentarily terrified of having authority issues, envisioning a future wherein the large recalcitrant men set a defiant example for the rest of the class, until she started talking and the two enormous guys were the first in the class to begin dutifully transcribing notes. Both were sweethearts, she says, and passed the class legitimately.
- The professor running this class has a reputation for checking up on the progress of athletes in his classes and pullin
g those who are struggling into... yep... independent study classes.
- Multiple times during the semester, athletic department representatives would drop by the class to make sure the enormous men were where their class schedules promised they would be.
Another semester, she was teaching freshman comp and had a men's swimmer fresh from high school, who struggled badly. At one point he tearfully confessed that he was overwhelmed. Practice was hard. School was hard. Travel was hard. Everything was hard, so hard, and he couldn't just quit one or the other and what was he going to do?
Data. Football takes lots of time:
Division I-A football players reported spending an average of 44.8 hours per week on their sport. That doesn't include the hours involved in taking care of their academic responsibilities.
Any school other than Duke or Vandy or Stanford will take any player who meets NCAA minimums that, on a non-athlete application, would be laughed out of the admissions office, and Duke and Vandy and Stanford (and the Ivy leagues) all bend their admissions standards severely. The NCAA has instituted punishments for schools that do not keep their players in school and on track for a degree.
Think we're still on the bubble? No? No?
Anyway, hockey is way less depressing. Tonight the playoffs open. Items:
Injuries. Kolarik is in, Vaughn and Rust are out. Both Vaughn and Rust may make it back next weekend; Rust broke a "non-weight bearing" bone in his leg.
Teevees. Saturday night's game is on Comcast for the super-duper package recipients of the world; Friday and Sunday are sorta available. Yost Built:
Friday's game and Sunday's if necessary game can be viewed (for free) at MGoBlue.com courtesy of WOLV-TV. Saturday's game will be aired on Comcast Sportscenter or whatever the hell the not-Comcast-Local station is called. It's in the 900s on your digital box. Thank God for Slingbox.
Elsewhere. Root against CC, North Dakota, and Wisconsin in their opening-round CCHA series.
ggggargharagharagh. See, my main concern with the basketball team is this: maybe Manny Harris just isn't good and won't get good. He's a second-team all Big Ten player as a freshman, but there's a severe Bracey Wright effect going on. Wright was the Indiana shooting guard who set Big Ten Wonk all a-frenzy because people kept insisting he was an All-Big Ten player:
Bracey Wright being named first-team All-Big-Ten ranks alongside Milli Vanilli's Best New Artist Grammy as the epitome of travesty-by-award.
Main point cited was Wright's tendency to score a lot of points by shooting without remorse. A table compiled from Kenpom:
|Player||Usage||eFG%||Ast Rt||TO rate||FT rate||Overall O RT|
Freshman Manny Harris is a much, much crappier version of senior Bracey Wright, which is not to say that he's bad, but to say that he's the basketball equivalent of Jimmy Clausen: the perfect kid to overrate. In Clausen's case the factors were multifarious (famous name, ND commitment, overcoaching, being older than everyone, playing solely against overmatched tiny schools). It's simpler for basketball players; all they have to do is take a buttload of shots.
This Harris did, with the 32nd highest usage rate in the country. Harris also had the lowest eFG% of anyone on the team except Anthony Wright and walkons. More damningly, the "best" player on the team also had a higher TO rate than anyone except David Merritt.
There are two large mitigating factors: he's a freshman, and he's dealing with a mini version of the Dion Harris effect wherein a high-usage player on a crappy team ends up taking a lot of horrific shots and turns the ball over a lot because he's playing one on five. This happened to Harris (Dion version) his sophomore year, when Abram missed the season, Horton got suspended for half of it, and the rest of the team was limping in slings and casts and the like. Everyone expected a breakout season when he wasn't playing with Dani Wohl, and they got... eh, pretty much the same.
My winding point: Harris is not one of the ten best players in the Big Ten, not by a longshot, and he will have to improve significantly or draw the wrath of the Ghost of Wonk. And the pained apathy of this space.
Like the other list, except with sad fugee faces.
5. Vince Helmuth and Mark Moundros. Maybe? Though the spread offense seems a wasteland for fullbacks and fellow lumberers, Owen Schmitt's "runaway beer truck" touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl was one more carry than Michigan fullbacks had last year, and Schmitt actually got to, like, carry the ball 46 other times. The Rodriguez system does have a place for a crushing lead blocker who can occasionally accept a dive handoff as part of the triple option, but does either fullback have that sort of ability?
Helmuth might. His final year at Saline he was the Dissolved Salts' main offensive threat, a pounding straight-ahead sort in the vein of Schmitt, and as Rivals #1 incoming fullback that year he has the sort of guru approval you'd like to see. And the offense last year was freakin' nuts for tight ends instead of fullbacks.
You know what? Scratch this. Fullbacks are probably going to be okay.
5. Brandon Graham, Terrance Taylor, Jason Kates, all other defensive lineman and so forth and such and such and so on. OH GOD MAKE IT STOP MAKE THE RUNNING STOP I'M THE SIZE OF A REFRIGERATOR AND MY LIGAMENTS ARE MORE STRETCHED THAN JOAN RIVERS' FACE ZING THAT'S MY ZINGER OH THE PAIN RESUMES NOOOOOOOOOOO
4. Darryl Stonum. Stonum liked Michigan for a lot of reasons, including its inherent Michigan-ness and the presence of high school teammates Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron, but high amongst the list of reasons was probably the Michigan tradition of heavily featuring one bionic deathbot wide receiver who goes on to a long and fruitful NFL career.
West Virginia has not so much had this tradition. Their number one target in the White-Slaton era has been diminutive Darius Reynaud, who is on track to be a sixth-round selection in this year's draft and will have to return punts like a mother to not get cut two years into his career. Stonum, no doubt, has higher hopes.
There is a precedent for a larger, more traditional sort of receiver making waves in the Rodriguez offense: Chris Henry. Though most know him as one of the two legendary asshats (Pacman Jones, of course, the other) guaranteed to be referenced by rival fans in their grasping attempts to paint Rodriguez as Mengele in a track jacket, Henry was also one bad mother on the field. As a redshirt freshman, Henry caught 41 balls for 1006 yards and ten touchdowns, a whopping 24.5 yards per catch. His sophomore season was marred by intermittent suspension and behavior-related reductions in playing time (he only started seven games, though I believe he played in all except maybe Pitt) but still saw him catch 52 passes for 872 yards. Henry was booted after that year, and despite his obvious character issues he was still drafted in the third round. If he could stay out of jail he'd be on his way to a productive NFL career. Presumably the affable Stonum will not have those issues.
So It's not like Stonum is going to see 20 balls a year until he flips out and transfers to Texas Tech. Rodriguez will adjust to talent, and since the quarterback this year is probably going to be water-buffalo-era relic Steven Threet, Michigan isn't going to run 71% of the time. But the projected starting quarterback transferred and Michigan is down to one, maybe one in a half bullets in a sort of anti-Russian roulette game in which you really, really need the gun to go "bang" or you end up at the Insight Bowl surrounded by confused bowl officials asking you if you know where Purdue is, where's Purdue, are you sure you guys aren't supposed to be Purdue?
3. Mike Massey. Whereas Carson Butler has a chance to start over with a coach who he doesn't have a combative relationship with, Mike Massey no longer has the Massey family guardian angel guiding his steps.
Massey hasn't done much other than almost make big catches so far in his Michigan career, and though he's a better blocker than Carson Butler (as there are six-year-old girls who are better blockers than Carson Butler this should be interpreted as faint praise), blocking defensive ends and blitzers has just acquired a significantly lower priority.
But the main reason Massey's hurt by the coaching switch is less complicated: the number of TE snaps just got halved. The short-lived Debord zone scheme was mad for tight ends, always deploying at least one (even on four-wide plays, one of the "wideouts" was a split TE) and frequently (say, half the time) two. Under Rodriguez the only time you'll see more than one TE is short yardage and there will be a hefty quantity of plays with four actual wide receivers on the field; many of the snaps that do have TEs will feature them split out in the slot, where they'll be blocking linebackers or even defensive backs. This heavily favors Butler and sophomore Martell Webb over old-school slow guys like Massey and (probably) Steve Watson.
2. Brandon Minor. Late in Minor's freshman year he looked like Mike Hart's heir apparent, though that was on the backs of a couple long runs that obscured his tendency to pick up three yards at all other times. Minor's talent cleared up his sophomore year, when Mike Hart was out; Minor and Brown split carries in several different games.
In those games Minor had some nice runs, but didn't display any wiggle. His 4.3 YPC was nice, but Carlos Brown's 5.1 exceeded it by almost a yard. (For those skeptical that Brown's meaningless 85-yard sprint against Minnesota distorts those statistics, if you chop those 85 yards down to 46 -- equivalent to Minor's season long -- Brown still has a half-yard on Minor.) He did spectacularly truck a Notre Dame safety towards the end of FBDII, but that pretty much summed up his attitude vis a vis defenders: "maybe I can run through this guy." Sometimes he can. Sometimes you're aiming straight for the SS Concussion.*
Minor was apparently passed by Carlos Brown last year, and that was before Michigan imported a speed freak who likes his running backs short, shifty, and blazing. Brandon Minor is none of those things.
*(hell yes, I'm just waiting for Michigan to finally have one of those guided missile safeties who don't even look for the ball when they've got a 50-50 shot at shoving a helmet through the torso of a defenseless wide receiver so I can call him "the SS Concussion." Although I might call Carson Butler that for his blocking "skills.")
1. Ryan "Whoops" Mallett. Obvs.
Angry Michigan Safety Hating God is wroth at the hockey team for some reason. First, Kolarik went down, then Scooter Vaughn (in one of the all-time stupid Michigan hockey injuries, up there with Josh Blackburn slipping on a nut when carrying a fridge), and now Eric Elmblad may have broken Matt Rust. Yost Built:
Rivals reported yesterday that he went knee-to-knee with Eric Elmblad and apparently Red will update his status after practice today. Keep your fingers crossed on this one, because rumors are swirling that he has a broken leg.
There is a chunk of good news:
Senior Chad Kolarik, who has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury against Lake Superior State Feb. 16, is "99-percent sure" he'll play in Friday's game. He resumed skating with the team last Tuesday.
"I'm just getting my hands back, getting my endurance back," he said yesterday. "I'm feeling a lot better today. I was pretty excited out there, having a good time and joking around."
That article has some noises by Vaughn about trying to go this weekend, too, but those are shot down by Red. He might be back for the Joe, though. Also mentioned: the possibility of moving Hagelin to center in Rust's absence. I've been idly thinking about the composition of next year's top line: Pacioretty is obviously on it, and since Palushaj seemed much more effective with Porter and Patch than Turnbull he's probably next. But who centers? Bork? Bork. Either him or Caporusso, who seems wasted playing with Turnbull and Miller and Fardig and such on the third line, no offense to those fine penalty-killing wingers.
Anyway, the Nebraska-Omaha series opens tomorrow at Yost.
Victory! Michigan's road to San Antonio began today with a thrilling 6-4 victory over Iowa that featuerd a 12-minute field goal drought for both teams combined. Prediction for tomorrow's game against Wisconsin (noon, ESPN): Michigan 7,000, Wisconsin 5. Suck on that, BAD-gers. Zing! (UMHoops on the win-like substance.)
Also, confirmed white guy Kyle Cassity has been offered. You'll love this bit:
In addition to Michigan, Cassity has indicated that he also plans to visit both St. Louis and Evansville, with the possibility of a couple other visits being worked out after that. Nevertheless, a school that we believe is also very much in the picture for Cassity and cannot be counted out is Southern Illinois (Carbondale), as both head coach Chris Lowery and assistant coach Rodney Watson have been in frequent contact with Cassity and have expressed a high level of interest. While the Salukis are currently out of scholarships for the class of 2008, Cassity is without question Southern Illinois' #1 recruiting priority should something open up in that class. Even if it does not, there is still a strong possibility that Cassity could receive preferred walk-on status at SIU next season with the understanding that a scholarship would be available for him for the three years following that.
Why go to Michigan when you can be a preferred walk-on at Southern Illinois? In Soviet Russia, walk-on recruits you! What a country!
There's some speculation that Cassity hasn't actually actually been offered offered and that Michigan still prefers Georgia's Ebuka Anyaorah (given Beilein's tendencies and that guy's name, I should clarify that we're talking about Georgia the state, not Georgia the country), even though Anyaorah couldn't come on a scheduled visit.
And hey, that guy who was the crown jewel of Harvard's recruiting class decided he didn't want to spend four years thinking "for God's sake, put on a tie" and decommitted. Apparently West Virginia was on this guy previously, and we could use another post, no? For those doubting his ability to play at a Big Ten level, 1) alternative: Zack Gibson, 2)
Jackson said that in the past day, he had received calls from Connecticut, Boston College, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, DePaul and Rutgers about Ben-Eze's availability.
A final note in picture form:
That's from Spartans Weblog and is a game-by-game plot of Michigan's offensive and defensive efficency with a corresponding trendline. Is there improvement here? Defensively, it appears so. Offensively... no. And you should keep in mind that Michigan's schedule was heavily frontloaded; this does not appear to be the trajectory of a team on the upswing.
Etc.: Junior day is today; Varsity Blue has it covered.
Lists are one of the hackiest forms of writing anything, but I, too, succumb to the occasional bout of offseason glazomania. The following five players are the people on the team who should be happiest about the start of the Rodriguez era.
Included in these evaluations are recruits who picked Michigan before the changeover; those who signed up afterwards knew what they were getting into and are thus disqualified.
5. Corey Zirbel. You wouldn't know it from the deep insecurity emanating from any Michigan fan considering the 2008 offensive line, but M has a top-100 tackle entering his fourth year in the program ready to step into Jake Long's oversized shoes. The problem is that top-100 tackle is Corey Zirbel.
Zirbel, reportedly frustrated by his inability to move up on the depth chart, believed that the existing Michigan coaches had already decided he was not going to contribute; his effort thus flagged. Now he's starting with a fresh slate in a new offense and there's a big vacancy at left tackle (and, if Steve Schilling's pass protection doesn't improve, maybe right tackle*). It's now or never for him.
*(implication is that Schilling starts at RG, not loses his starting spot entirely.)
4. Avery Horn. The word on Horn from fall practices was "fast as hell, tiny, has no idea what he's doing." The redshirt that followed would normally be a red flag for a program bound and determined to see anyone with a chance of contributing blow a year of eligibility on special teams. Add in Michigan's historical inability to make use of tiny fast guys and Horn's middling guru rankings and you have a recipe for a mediocre career of about 50 carries and a brief stint as a returner ended by a single fumble.
Enter Rodriguez, who hears "fast as hell" and falls into a reverie that makes the buts inaudible. Though Horn has a lot of competition with three juniors in front of him and the McGuffie-Shaw-Cox class behind him, his career prognosis got a lot better when Rodriguez was hired.
3. Marcus Witherspoon. Witherspoon is something of an OLB/DE tweener, a high school defensive end who most project to OLB in college because of his size. Usually this would entail a year or two of learning just WTF "coverage" is and maybe some discussion of "angles" and "not being Chris Graham", and that was likely to be the case with Witherspoon. But when Michigan landed Stanford's Scott Shafer they picked up what looks to be one of the nation's most blitz-happy defensive coordinators. Marcus Witherspoon had 27 sacks as a senior. Marcus Witherspoon likes rushing the passer. Marcus Witherspoon should be happy.
2. Slocum, Kates, Taylor, Jamison, Graham... basically any DL who survive. Though Michigan defensive line finally started moving away from its 90s paradigm of blue-collar white guys who the NFL wouldn't draft in a hundred years, motivation and weight issues still plagued them. Not that this is unusual: you show me a program without at least one 350-pound waddler whose idea of exercise is picking up three Big Macs at once and I'll show you a school with a direction in its name and maybe a "State," too.
But Michigan's program seemed especially content with rolls of blubber around their linemen's midsection. Anyone who had the misfortune to tune into one of many, many Brent Musberger segments on former defensive tackle and moonwalking expert Pat Massey's rigorous weight-gain program knows this. According to Musberger, Massey was told to eat a whole pizza every night in an effort to keep his weight above 285. Pizza? This is the diabolical plan of secret master Mike Gittleson? Argh! Last year even purported speed rusher Tim Jamsion looked pregnant, gut hanging over his belt.
I don't know how much impact Mike "Satan" Barwis is actually going to have, but I am sure that the canary in this particular coalmine will be the composition and performance of the defensive line, and that Mike Barwis eats your soul if you think midnight pizza is a workout regimen.
1. Sam McGuffie. This blog has already chronicled the division of opinion on Mr. McGuffie, which is wide as the sea. The one thing everyone did agree on: get this guy and space and let him spin like a top, and you've probably got something. Skeptical Rivals analysts openly questioned why McGuffie wasn't heading to some place like Texas Tech, where he could become the next Wes Welker. (Welker -- surprise! -- is also white.)
And, you know, they kind of had a point. On the face of it, McGuffie heading to the Michigan zone game, where he would almost never be the target of a a pass (in the last two years, screen attempts by Michigan have collapsed) or be directed to get out to the corner, didn't make a whole lot of sense. Though he's got some nasty cuts, McGuffie is no Mike Hart. When someone hits him, McGuffie just goes down. The thing that struck me when I watched the video from his final playoff victory: "jesus, that guy's tiny." And so he is. Also tiny: Noel Devine.
Please note that grades handed out are strictly results-based. Obviously any recruiting class that undergoes a coaching changeover is going to suffer; given the circumstances faced Michigan did very well.
I know it's a month after signing day, but Pryor's still out there: 2008 is not over. The 1,000 foot view of this recruiting class with links to the street-level:
- Quarterbacks: D. Once Mallett transferred and Rodriguez came in, this became the biggest area of need by a mile. The results: one guy who might be six feet tall and might be able to throw. I like Justin Feagin as a player and a person (and by "person" I mean "disembodied quote machine"), but not so much as the QB recruiting class that will transition us into the RichRod era. Obviously getting Pryor, even with all the warning flags, bumps this up.
- Running Backs: A. Sam McGuffie has the potential to be Michigan's Noel Devine; I am driving his bandwagon. Michael Shaw may be a slot receiver -- though with Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms I think he'll start off in the backfield -- and may be a running back but is definitely fast, fast, fast. Picking him off from Penn State at the last minute was a major boost. Mike Cox provides depth.
- Wide Receivers: A. Darryl Stonum was heavily pursued by USC and Florida and has the ability to be a gamebreaker in the mold of Edwards or Manningham. Roy Roundtree is a possession complement to Stonum. And the two slot guys are exciting, man.
- Tight Ends: A. Brandon Moore slipped as the year went on but had the offers of an enormous national recruit by the time he committed to Michigan; a lot of potential that may go to waste. Michigan won a head-to-head battle against Ohio State for Kevin Koger, a guy just outside of the top 100 to both recruiting sites.
- Offensive Line: B+. Numbers and some quality. Dann O'Neill is a critical recruit, an impact left tackle. The late steal of Ricky Barnum gives Michigan one of the highest-rated interior linemen in the country. Mealer, Omameh, Wermers, and Khoury are in the nebulous mass of OL who can contribute; the way each was recruited implies that they're all worth having around to see if they pan out. Would have been nice to pick up a Zebrie Sanders or Lane Clelland instead of Khoury.
- Defensive Line: D. Michigan only needed one DT and filled that need with Mike Martin, a low downside, moderate upside sort who's very likely to be a multiyear starter. At DT, he alone warrants an A- given the four sophomores in front of him. DE, however, was a crying need and Michigan got no one, which is an F-.
- Linebacker: A-. Michigan needed some quality here and got it. Fitzgerald is a near-blue chip who picked M over Florida and Rutgers; I expect he'll get early PT and battle for a starting spot this fall unless Johnny Thompson turns a corner most think he's already skidded past. Marcus Witherspoon may be a DE, or may be Shawn Crable (who, come to think of it, might have been a DE). Michigan also got him away from Florida. Kenny Demens is kinda shortish but brings wood when he tackles; hopefully he's not Chris Graham redux. Taylor Hill is an edge terror.
- Cornerback: B+. Boubacar Cissoko is a smurf but is otherwise a perfect corner. If he can overcome the smurf thing he'll be smurfy. JT Floyd is generally regarded as slow and didn't get a ton of interest from anyone other than UT and M. Would like to have seen one more high caliber player here.
- Safety: B. Brandon Smith is a moderately shirtless recruit who slipped in the rankings throughout the year as he played all sorts of things for his high school team, including kick returner and quarterback. Though he might take some work he has the athletic ability to be an excellent safety. Again, would have liked to see another player here.
(Specialists were N/A this year with both starters returning.)
An overall grade: B+. There are two howling holes and I wanted one more four-star recruit in the secondary; other than that Michigan did very well. They held on to every recruit the Carr staff brought in except a QB (John Wienke) who no longer fit the system and an h-back (Christian Wilson) who Rodriguez just didn't appear interested in for whatever reason. The Rodriguez closing surge (LB Hill, CB Floyd, QB Feagin, WR Roundtree, RB Shaw, WR Robinson, WR Odoms, OL Barnum, OL Omameh) brought 3-4 of the speed players Rodriguez needs on his offense with McGuffie and Stonum already in the class; it also added two more OL to a group that badly needed more bodies. I was continually skeptical Michigan could fill a 25-man class with quality players, or even get close: they did.
I didn't expound on the WRs when their time came, so let me do that now:
Wide receivers: Stonum has the same high profile and potential as any of the guys who wore #1 (or should have) in years past. He enrolled early and will participate in spring practice; I expect he'll see Mario-esque playing time as a freshman and have a similar career path. Every indicator from offers to guru ratings to high school performance to personality is positive. I expect he'll be a huge success. Roundtree does not have the ceiling Stonum does and is going to have to put in serious time in the weightroom before he finds himself on the field; once there he can be a solid #2 in the realm of Mathews or Avant.
And the slot guys are awesome. Please take this with something of a grain of salt -- I am and have always been irrationally in favor of little ankle-breakers -- but man, I think these guys are good. After I did the WR summary I was stumbling around Scout and ran across a bunch of Klein Oak-Team About To Be Bludgeoned highlight reels (for those who subscribe, they're here: versus Spring, Woodlands, and Magnolia). Sometimes guys turn in dud performances in a single game or their 50 yard touchdown run is a simple matter of taking it off tackle and being faster than everyone who's not going to a BCS school, but in each of these highlight packages Robinson did something sweet.
I know the offers weren't the sort you get excited about (BC and Wake), but Robinson had to sit out his junior year because of a transfer. Since recruiting in Texas is so screwed up, by the time Robinson started lighting up opponents UT and A&M and OU were sitting on 25-man classes or whatever and going "whoah... f***!" Both recruiting services had him a four star largely because of his size, which is understandable, but Robinson's going to a system that wants him just the way he is and has a specific role for a guy with exactly his skillset. He's a five star in the Rodriguez system. Think Steve Breaston, hopefully during his freshman year when we all thought he was Black Jesus.
Klein Oak had a weird rotation going where they had a zone-read offense featuring Robinson and Hales alternate with a more conventional shotgun passing attack where some white guy would throw the ball (on third and long, probably); when this happened Robinson was a s
lot receiver. So he's not totally unfamiliar with what he's going to be doing this fall; I expect to see a lot out of him.
And then there's Odoms, who didn't do anything amazing on film and is short and is just the kind of guy who goes out there and reels in long touchdown catches. If I'm just totally wrong about Robinson they've still got this guy from the muck who everyone except ESPN thinks is the fastest electron they've seen this year.
2009? The board is under assembly and reaching the point at which it will be relased into the wild; probably sometime early next week. Varsity Blue has beaten me to the punch on this and has been flaunting a 2009 board for a few weeks. Though it's redundant to maintain my own, the board is the framework of the recruiting coverage around these parts. Maybe we can wiki-ize it or something and work on the same one.
Anyway, I'll accompany that with a look at Michigan's needs, early prospects, and various recruiting issues facing the program.
We're #2. And yesterday's big news:
The University has reached a settlement that ends the lawsuit over Michigan Stadium's accessibility to disabled fans - and, for the time being, will end the Big House's reign as the largest football stadium in the country.
The pre-settlement project estimate said the stadium's capacity by the conclusion of the project in 2010 would top 108,000, an addition of 500 seats from the start of the project. But because today's settlement will remove an estimated 1,500 seats from the bowl, it's unclear whether that will be enough to make Michigan Stadium the biggest again.
"Over time, we again expect to have the largest capacity of any stadium in the country," Hage said. "We have to wait until 2010 to see how the new seating shakes out."
(FYI: The Daily article is the most informative and in-depth of any provided by news-gathering organizations, which continues a trend started earlier in the year: the Daily out-covered everyone on the Michigan Stadium renovations. Not bad.)
Sounds like there is going to be some hurried rejiggering in the works. I don't know where Hage & Co are going to shake 1,000 extra seats out of the renovation plans unless they cut down on the individual seat expansion. Slimfast for everyone!
I already have requests for snark in both text and t-shirt form in my inbox, but in a foray into Actual Journalism undertaken last summer I conversed with the Bernstein in charge of the case
and came away under the impression that the university was going to have to give ground to a real concern. Notre Dame Stadium is far closer to the 1% mendoza line mandated by the ADA; so is Ohio Stadium. There was no way Michigan was going to weasel out of similar compliance. (Given the parameters of the renovation, the "but it's just repair!" line provided by the U was definitely weaselly.) So no snark here.
Hurdled. Michigan's been working on the renovations for three months now, but the lawsuit still hovered as a possible roadblock to the luxury boxes. With yesterday's resolution, the final hurdle has been cleared and the disingenuous teeth-gnashing of John Pollack -- hero of Tienanmen Square -- and the rest of the "Save" The Big House crew is now wholly impotent and, as such, can be enjoyed in a spirit of schadenfreude. It's a go. Hurrah.
(Why yes to luxury boxes? See here.)
Mailbag addendum. A theory forwarded along from the OZone:
He's never been a guy who recruits blue chips. He runs a system that depends on selfless guys who play team ball and shoot 3s. He's always been a guy who beats you with inferior talent.
But the big advantage of coaching at UM is proximity to Detroit, which produces a ton of blue-chip talent. So how does he make sense there?
Now you have Bielien going out of state to recruit mid-major talent that fits his system. Usually you see the opposite -- coaches in areas that don't produce a lot of 5-star types going out of state to recruit them. Weird.
Sort of reminds me of Eldon Miller -- great at coaching plucky overachievers, lousy at coaching NBA prospects. Wonder if Bielien is another guy who can mold bad talent into a decent team, decent talent into a decent team, and great talent into a decent team.
This, of course, re: the recruitment of Zack Novak and other decidedly melanin-light players. Disagreements:
- Michigan already needed plenty of help going into the year, then lost Kendrick Price, Jerrett Smith, and K'len Morris during the year. Since almost everyone with decent offers signs in the fall period, Beilein has few options other than the "mid-major" talent that's still hanging around. All the high major talent is signed.
- Though the state of Michigan has a rep for producing basketball talent, the 2008 class suuuuuuuuuuucks. There are two top 150 guys, a Utah commit (who, naturally, Tommy Amaker was wary of) in the 80s and MSU commit Draymond Green at #122. Everyone else in-state is Zack Novak at best.
- Michigan is still scared to death of the Ed Martin thing from ten years ago and is running a program so squeaky-clean they've basically written themselves out of every high profile basketball recruit ever. All you need to know about Michigan's paranoia is this: Tommy Amaker was hired by Harvard and immediately ratcheted up the skeeziness.
The point about the "all talent -> decent team" thing may be true but we don't know it yet. IMO, Beilein gets a pass for this recruiting class as long as the kids he brings in are system fits and contributors. If the 2009 class looks similarly uninspiring -- and with Michigan not being mentioned by any high profile players, that seems likely -- I'll be concerned. If the 2010 class is a third, I'll be worried.
Wiggle? Western College Hockey notes an interesting decision in the women's ice hockey bracket: Clarkson was excluded in favor of Dartmouth despite Clarkson being ahead in the PWR and winning the Clarkson-Dartmouth comparison. The PWR is usually followed to the letter when choosing and seeding NCAA hockey tournaments, but the committee does have some leeway.
Some years ago the first-place Atlantic Hockey team could have guaranteed its crappy conference two bids by losing in the AH playoff final, which would have made the playoff champ a TUC and thus boosted the first-place team's TUC record high enough to make it a 3-seed. The committee made it clear that even if the upset transpired only one AH team was getting into the tourney.
Might this open the door for, like, a non WCHA team a bit? There are still seven WCHA teams in the tourney and there remains a strong possibility someone with a record below .500 will squeeze in. Declaring team X out by fiat would open a can of worms, but... maybe said worms should be opened?
Injury. Scooter Vaughn broke his jaw wrestling playfully with a teammate. Which... like. Jesus. He's out this weekend but may return next week or the week after, depending on the type of surgery and the amount of pain he's in.*
On the other side of the coin, Chad Kolarik continues to make noise like he is available this weekend:
"We'll see as the week goes on," Kolarik said. "... It's not 100 percent, but it's getting there."
Kolarik continues to get treatment on his hamstring twice a day.
He's hoping to make a final appearance at Yost Ice Arena this weekend, something that didn't look possible when he crumpled to the ice there in mid-February.
"I didn't want to go out getting carried off the ice like that," Kolarik said. "It's definitely a goal of mine to be out there and hopefully win a playoff series."
With Vaughn out, Eric Elmblad draws into the lineup for the first time in his Michigan career. He might steal five or six minutes against UNO's fourth line; expect to see a lot of the other five guys. Danny Fardig, normally a fourth-line forward, is also a possibility.
A final item: Max Pacioretty was named to the CCHA All
-Rookie team, so good for him, but wasn't Aaron Palushaj jobbed out of a spot? Palushaj tied NMU's Mark Olver for most points by a freshman in all games and was second to Pacioretty if only conference games are considered. Meh.
*(Side note: I scalped a ticket for the Friday Ferris game, and after the transaction the black scalper-guy I got the ticket from gave us a hearty "Go Scooter!")