it's a major award
Hey, you: you're probably wondering what's up with high school sophomores. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Check that; there is definitely something wrong with that. You are bad and should be banned from the internet for a long time. But since you're still here: Michigan picked up a commitment from instate junior William Campbell of Cass Tech at camp. Campbell is 6'5", 298, and (kind of obviously) a DT. He's Michigan's earliest public commitment ever and should be one of the headliners of what looks like a strong 2009 Michigan crop headlined by Battle Creek running back Larry Capers, who is -- wait for it -- grrrrrreat. Since Campbell is a junior defensive tackle at a PSL school this the sum total knowledge about him to date:
- He committed to Michigan.
There won't be a googlestalk here; there's nothing to stalk yet.
Meanwhile, Varsity Blue takes a look at the very early returns for that '09 class.
More NHL Draft: mgolicious @ right still has the aftermath of a mock draft orgy; all have Pacioretty in the mid-to-late first round. There's also this article from the AANews that's mostly things noted here yesterday except for this bit:
Rust, whose stock rose during his final season in Ann Arbor with the USA Hockey developmental program, had several meetings set up with teams once arriving in Columbus.
Likely to be the second Michigan player drafted - he's rated as high as the third round - Rust just wants to be taken by a team that has good intentions with him.
"I'm hoping for the best,'' Rust said. "The draft is obviously important, and it's exciting, but I know it's not the end of the world if I get drafted in, say, the seventh round instead of the third.''
Rust is supposed to be a Helminen-esque speedy defensive lockdown center, but I think that third-round projection is very optimistic. Fifth to seventh is reasonable; Helminen himself went in the eighth.
The draft's first round is tomorrow night -- primetime, baby! put it on NBC and watch the ad dollars rake in! -- with the remainder Saturday.
Wanton Comcast bashing.
(Not that I blame the tech here; I mean... comfy chair, hour on hold... I'd conk off too.)
Probably happening right now. The regents are set to give final approval to the stadium project at their meeting this afternoon. Here's a pdf of the request. Here's an irritating article from Jim Carty that lionizes John Pollack -- the Hero of Tiananmen Square -- and gets rid of the fact that yes, the renovations are required if Michigan is going to keep up with the Joneses in a couple paragraphs before discarding that to argue...
if you watched this issue from beginning to end, it's hard not to feel the folks who fought for a simpler stadium and the simpler times it represented come out looking a whole lot more honorable than school president Mary Sue Coleman and the regents who rammed this plan through with all the subtlety of South American strongmen.
Michigan fan and Ann Arbor native John Pollack, former school president James Duderstadt, Yost's grandson, Fielding H. Yost III, and the student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, rallied a small core of faculty and fans around the idea of saying no to commercialization and setting Michigan apart from the other schools chasing every last dollar.
Michigan cannot say "no" to commercialization; Michigan is already one of sport's most powerful brands. Don Canham is hailed as the first successful commercializer of college sports and remembered fondly for it.
And there's nothing honorable about throwing a public hissyfit, claiming massive division in a fanbase that, at least online, has been united in its support of the renovations. Just because tHOST is a media-savvy guy with connections from his days as a political speechwriter and can butter up the New York Times does not mean his cause has any merit. More:
Pollack will fly in from his New York home for Thursday's regents meeting, but won't be allowed to address the board. The slots for public comments were already filled when he learned the stadium issue had been put on the agenda.
That's par for the course.
The two most important votes on this project, the initial vote and now this final vote, have both been added to the agenda at essentially the last moment, seemingly in a move to stifle debate and opposition.
What purpose is served by listening to the same tired arguments about an egalitarianism that has never existed? Rather than let Pollack further waste everyone's time, let's move on. You can call it "stifling debate" if you like, but there was never really a debate. There was one loud, PR-savvy group with no grassroots support that employed disingenuous political rhetoric in an attempt to stall a project that it seems like the vast bulk of the fanbase supports. Three guys with impressive names and a website do not a movement make, and when you are persistently, uselessly annoying you shouldn't expect perpetual fruitless audiences. Not once in this process did Pollack attempt to measure the sentiment of the fanbase, or if he did the results he got back were disconcerting and quickly buried; "but but but Fielding Yost" is not an argument that sways anyone with decision-making powers, no matter how many newspapers it appears in.
Pollack mutters darkly about cards yet to be played -- ADA legislation -- and he'll attempt to stretch this out as long as possible despite the complete and total lack of non-manufactured public outcry. He lost in the battle of public opinion, so now he takes his quixotic crusade to the courts, because in the end he doesn't care what anyone wants for Michigan except himself. My suggestion: go stand in front of a tank.
Also: Steven Ross has dumped five million into the project already.
Mash note. Maloney from the News:
"I love Michigan," Maloney said. "I'm a Michigan man and they gave me the commitment I was looking for. I never wanted to leave Michigan, but I had to look at the opportunity to take care of my family."
Maloney has been head coach of the Wolverines for five years. They have averaged 42 wins the last three seasons, earning NCAA Tournament spots each time.
"I've only had a handshake, year-to-year deal with them," said Maloney of the previous five years. "I wanted more. I met with administrators from Tennessee in Atlanta Sunday and was impressed with them. They never formally offered me a contract, but I felt one was forthcoming. The marketplace down South is much greater, but the commitment (money) Michigan showed me is much better than it had been."
A touching letter from star P/DH Zach Putnam was of great help:
He said an e-mail from star pitcher Zach Putman closed the deal. Maloney was overcome with emotion from the e-mail by Putnam, a second-team All-American who will return for his junior year next season.
"Zach wrote an incredible e-mail," said Maloney of Putnam who threw 9 2/3 innings of no-hit
ball before losing 1-0 to defending national champion Oregon State in the Super Regional. "It was priceless for me. He said, 'I turned down other offers to come to Michigan and play for you. I understand if you leave, but I love you Coach. We have unfinished business to take care of so we can get to Omaha.' It was an amazing moment for a coach to read something like that."
A sigh of relief here; Michigan can now continue building its program without a potentially devastating blow. Is it arrogant to say "kudos to Bill Martin" like he cares? Eh, whatever: kudos to Bill Martin for locking down a guy who has the potential to be the progenitor of another flagship program at Michigan. Martin has made a couple bad hires, but by bringing in Beilein and keeping Maloney he's increased this guy's faith in a positive outcome after a Carr retirement tenfold.
Etc.: Best headline ever.
Late on this, but toll the bells and such:
Tonight, Michigan athletic director Bill Martin announced that Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney has been signed to a five-year contract, ending speculation that the Michigan coach was a candidate for the head coaching job at Tennessee.
Putnam ... used "ecstatic", "delighted" and "awesome" to describe his and the team's feelings that Maloney will still be at the helm, a predictable response for a team that finished the season two wins from going to their first College World Series in 23 years.
This not good. Baseball coach Rich Maloney has been interviewed for the Tennessee job and is reportedly considering it. This is not good. For those unfamiliar with college baseball, it was controversial when only five SEC teams made the tournament this year. Meanwhile, the three the Big Ten sent (and the Vanderbilt upset) was an improbably excellent year for the Big Ten. This is sort of like hiring John L. Smith away from a then Conference USA Louisville to coach at a midlevel Big Ten program. Except Maloney is not likely to implode like John L (not that anyone outside of Charles Mason is likely to do so).
The Daily has the most useful article on the potential departure since they caught up to star pitcher/DH Zach Putnam for some quotes. Most relevant:
"For me, personally, Coach Maloney was a large part of why I decided to come here," Putnam said. "Part of it had to do with being from Ann Arbor, but I'd say that the deciding factor was definitely Coach. I know some of the recruits, but not on a personal level, so it's hard for me to say what it was that attracted them to Michigan - but I would think that the head coach leaving would definitely leave some questions on their minds."
Money probably isn't a major issue. The Daily article...
The Volunteers fired head coach Rod Delmonico after 18 years, three College World Series appearances and a 699-396 record. He will be paid the final three years of his salary for a total of $430,000. This could mean that Maloney, who earns $98,000 per year at Michigan, could see a significant pay increase if he decides to go to Tennessee.
...thinks otherwise, but Maloney is due a significant bump after leading Michigan to its most successful season since Barry Larkin was stroking line drives instead of playing Marcelo Balboa in the booth. $136,000 / 3 years - meaningful bump for successful season == piddling chump change for athletic department w/ multi-million dollar surplus this year.
What it will come down to is the AD's commitment to make Michigan the sort of program that can seriously threaten for Omaha and national championships. The eleven million dollar renovation of the Fish is a good sign; the failure to bid on a super-regional is not.
Regrettably sports-talk-radio-ish soapbox: it's imperative that Martin does what he needs to do to keep Maloney around. College baseball is on the upswing. Major league teams now prefer their kids to have three years of college seasoning. ESPN is now broadcasting the super-regionals and pushing the CWS as a major programming event in the otherwise dead days of late June. A uniform start date, newly implemented for next year, will help level the playing field a bit for northern teams. The Big Ten has become downright mildly respectable in recent years. There is a real opportunity for Michigan to add a fourth major program to football, hockey, and, uh, basketball, but not if they let a potential Bo/Berenson walk. This is a Texas A&M moment for the baseball program; Bill Martin, step forth into the breach and commit. This is not a guy you let go.
Two years ago I only vaguely knew of the baseball program's existence. A week ago I was crushed when a guy named Wong broke up a no-hitter in the bottom of the ninth. (mutter mutter stupid Wong.) When I can watch a baseball game and think to myself "this stabbing pain in my temple reminds me of football... I need a drink" this is progress. Continue progressing.
16. RW Max Pacioretty, 6-2 205 11-20-1988, Sioux City USHL, 52 gp â€“ 19 g â€“ 36 a â€“ 55 points.
++ Vision and play making
+ Size, top gear, work ethic, hands
- questionable finishing ability.
The best forward available for the 2007 draft out of the USHL and deserves a selection in the first round for his intriguing blend of size, speed, and play making ability . He owns a power forwards body at 6-2 205 with long limbs and strong lower and upper body strength. He's sturdy on his feet and shows good footwork to fend off checks as well as impressive leg strength. Displays decent agility with good stops and starts. His first step is a bit awkward but once he gains momentum he has a commanding stride as he can really fly with a superb top gear. Pacioretty's hands are soft with some impressive quick moves. He's strong on his stick and covers the puck well with his big frame. He's blessed with exceptional vision and impressive creativity as he emerges as a gifted play maker. Max can thread the needle with a crisp pass through a small lane and displays good touch as he can execute a nifty saucer pass in limited space. He owns a quick shot with good velocity and a quick release, although accuracy still needs to be upgraded as he gets his shots on net but doesn't pick corners. He does a good job stopping at the net for rebounds and is a useful big body in front to create traffic in front of the goaltender. He began to use his size more away from the puck late in the season. He tracks the puck well as he anticipates the play well and maintains good positioning at both ends of the ice. Pacioretty back checks adequately and marks his man well as he's a decent two way player. Can get feisty at times but isn't a power forward. Will attend the University of Michigan next fall.
Next is USHL sniper Aaron Palushaj:
47. RW Aaron Palushaj, 6-0 185, 9-7-1989, Des Moines USHL 56 gp â€“ 22 g â€“ 45 a â€“ 67 points.
++ Ability to finish or create near the net in heavy traffic
+ Long reach with soft hands and can stick handle through traffic.
- Skating, inconsistent effort, poor defensive play.
Palushaj is a team player who communicates positively with coaches and teammates that will do the dirty work for his linemates and displays good body language on the bench. His skating needs improvement as his first few strides lack power and appear sluggish and his turns can be sloppy but with his superb anticipation and economical approach he gets where he needs to and can slip around the opposition. Is as dangerous as they come from within 15-feet of the net. He has a long reach, is a patient puckhandler with soft, quick hands that can really dangle and can make something out of nothing in heavy traffic using the toe drag to slip off the opposition. Scores many goals with his willingness to get his nose dirty. Has a knack for pouncing on loose rebounds using his quick release to finish and displays hunger, bears down and finishes his chances. He can also make a deft pass through heavy traffic and can draw the opposition and execute a creative pass with defenders draped all over him. Aaron shields the puck well and can maintain possession allowing his teammates to get open. Ever improving defensively, it just has not come full circle yet as he needs to backcheck harder and leaves the defensive zone too early but picks up his man well and will come down low to help. Palushaj pursues the puck adequately, clogs passing lanes, and maintains proper positioning. He handles traffic well and is very effective battling along the board. He fits the mold of a real offensive threat if he fixes his skating concerns. Palushaj had a phenomenal playoff in which he displayed that he can elevate his game in the critical moments and that there is more upside to him. Aaron will play for Michigan next fall.
You probably won't believe who's next. No, seriously.
74. D Steven Kampfer, 5-11 200, 9-24-1989, Mich
igan NCAA 35 gp â€“ 1 g â€“ 3 a â€“ 4 points.
++ Poise, vision, hockey sense
- Does nothing special.
Plays a mature two-way game that goes unnoticed by the untrained eye but he's the type of reliable defenseman that the more you see of him the more you like. He's mobile with exceptional lateral mobility and a strong stride heading forward. He sees the ice well and distributes the puck crisply. Possesses underrated skill that shines through every so often, and it is something that should be on display more next season with increased ice time. His defensive positioning is impressive and he can skate with anyone making him a formidable one-on-one defender. He's not a big guy, but is sturdy on his feet and can land the odd nice open-ice body check. Steven is a smart player with superb two-way awareness. While he's not a first-round prospect he definitely deserves to be drafted before the mid-rounds.
...really? I've watched a lot of kids wander through the Michigan program and the ones who stood out as potential NHLers didn't spend half their freshman year on the bench because they were turnover machines. Last, a guy who many thought would end up rated much, much higher:
97. D Tristin Llewellyn, 6-1 195, 5-2-1989, Tri-City USHL
++ Physical defensive game, confidence
+ Character, untapped upside
- Decision making without the puck.
At one point Tristin was a phenom in the American Hockey system as a possible top 5 pick in this years draft as he was playing in the USHL at the age of 15. Playing against players up to five years older then himself stunted Tritin's development and now he's a mid to late round pick. He likes to stand up his man at the blue and for the most part does an effective job but he does caught flat footed every now and then, as he can be beaten to the outside. He usually maintains a tight gap and takes the proper angle to his man before standing him up with a nice body check. Can get too aggressive seeking the open ice hit but that presence he brings is a plus. Skating is in need of improvement as he lacks that initial burst forwards or backwards and his turns are a bit choppy although his feet are adequate. His composure with the puck has improved and he makes a strong first pass. He makes good decisions with the puck for the most part but his decision making without the puck is the question mark. He uses a long stick and has adequate hands and escape moves. He was sensing danger better by the end of the season. He possesses a heavy shot but he must improve his shot selection as he'll force shots into traffic.
As noted on the sidebar, Pacioretty went in the first round of both TSN and Redline mock drafts. Yost Built found this gem of a quote in an NHL.com article on "Patches" (I am leery of calling a power forward by a nickname more suited for a one-eyed teddy bear):
...models his game after his favorite player New York Rangers' forward Jed Ortmeyer "because he does all the little things right in both ends of the ice"...
I love the guy already. If the Kings take him and sign him I will collapse in a sobbing heap before planning my terrible revenge. (There is also this Hockey's Future article.)
Side note: nine of TSN's first round are college or college-bound; at least nine of Redline's are, and this is with the unfortunate defections of Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane (ack) to the OHL. Actually, this first round is one of recruiting pain, largely. There's Kane, who many people considered a very good bet for Michigan, and defenders Kevin Shattenkirk, Ian Cole, Nick Petrecki, and Brendan Smith, any of whom would look awesome next to Quick and Llewellyn. It would be reassuring to have some more high-end talent in a year of major transition on the blueline.
BCHL center Ben Winnett is also likely to go fairly early. HF rated him the fourth-best prospect in his league recently:
4. Ben Winnett, LW
2006/07 Team: Salmon Arm
2007/08 Team: University of Michigan
6'0, 173 lbs.
DOB: 4/3/89 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 90th among North American skaters
Winnett went into this season in many books as the No. 2 prospect behind Turris, but injuries and surprising performances but other players in the league likely moved him back a few spots. Winnett appeared in just 39 regular season games, but put up very strong numbers including 27 goals and 30 assists in that time. He also added 10 points in 11 playoff games.
The 6'1, 180 lbs winger uses his speed to create chances and beat opposing defenders to the outside. He is an effective attacking player with the ability to control the puck at top speed. At this point his defensive game is very limited and he will need to get a little bigger throughout his collegiate career.
Winnett has committed to the University of Michigan after spending two years with Salmon Arm. Winnett is expected to be a fourth or fifth-round pick. He is a higher risk prospect because it is unlikely that he will effectively convert to a role player in the professional ranks. Winnett is an offensive player who could develop
into a second liner scorer, but it will take a number of years.
FWIW, on the multifarious and neverending mock drafts that go on at HF's boards Winnett is consistently going at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth. The thread that article spawned also had a couple interesting posts:
When the Silverbacks came to Langley, I was much more impressed with Winnett than Nash, but that's just a personal opinion. I thought Winnett was a bit more assertive on the puck and had a lot of tenacity in his game.
"Nash" is Cornell recruit Riley, a guy who is projected at the top of the second. In response:
Winnett is definitely the more impressive looking guy on the ice (compared to Nash). But my understanding is that teams absolutely love the well-roundedness and simplicity of what Nash does on his ice. He's been described as simply being years ahead of most players his age in that regard.
From all accounts, Winnett projects better as a college player than he does a pro. It may be a little much to compare him to Hensick, who lasted until the third round his draft year, but he slots into that draft sweet spot where kids are talented but teams are content to let them develop for three or four years.
St. Michael's Buzzer Louie Caporusso will also go somewhere in the middle to late rounds. "Ferjo" on HF posts in any threads that mention the OPJHL and had this to offer:
I'd take Louie Caporusso late second, or early third, but he will probably be a sixth or seventh round pick. he's a bit like Mike Comrie.
He's only about 5'10, and while a very good skater, could be a bit quicker for someone of that size. built well, great hands, and a rocket of a shot. Good penalty killer, forechecks, backchecks, and great on the powerplay. had trouble earlier in his career at entering the "danger zones", but he seems more willing to take a beating now. the fact that he's heading to Michigan should be a plus as well.
A bit like Mike Comrie? I'll take three. He also provided this on Caporusso in a previous post:
14. Louie Caporusso, St Mikes Buzzers (Jr. A) 150 - 200
5'9, though very strong and
a great shot. also attractive because he is heading to Michigan. an unbelievable release, hes almost unstoppable in the offensive zone. Probably has better skills than Ex-Buzzer Andrew Cogliano, though comes nowhere close to matching his skating ability.
NTDP center Matt Rust, meanwhile, has a chance of going late.
Update 6/18: Removed MO WR Wes Kemp (Wisc), MD RB Josh Haden (down to BC, UF), CA WR Christopher Owusu (no M interest). Linked to articles on AZ RB Covaughn Deboskie (slight Cal lead, moved down to yellow from green), NJ TE Chris Pantele, NJ S Will Hill, OH LB Brandon Beachum (offered?), another on Beachum, OH RB Michael Shaw, TX CB Adrian Bushell. Two headers of note from always excitable GBW: TX WR Daryl Stonum visits; NJ S Brandon Smith sounds enthused.
Scout has updated their top 100. We like Rivals better this year.
Editorial Opinion: Another light week as far as news. The Michigan summer camp is now in full swing and should put an end to that (expect a couple of commits from guys you may or may not have heard of), but for now...
None of the guys who got dropped were strong M possibilities, but Covaughn Deboskie claiming a Cal lead is a negative development. Michigan will get the chance to impress, though:
Michigan is another school with a large and impressive stadium, but Deboskie admits he doesn't know much about the Wolverines yet. "I haven't really developed a relationship with their coaches yet," he said. "Hopefully I'll be able to learn more about them. I want to have a good relationship with my coaches and I want to be part of a team with unity. I need to feel like I could be comfortable there for the next four to five years."
Probably better he hasn't gotten familiar with the program if he says someone else leads.
Adrian Bushell has been listing Michigan among three or four leading schools for a little while now; this quote does not encourage:
"I know for sure I'll be visiting Florida, Tech, and OSU. I will probably visit Michigan as well, but those first 3 are the ones I know for sure. After I am able to see all the schools, I'll have a better idea of the place that is best for me."
Since he's talking about official visits, money and distance are not factors. We're probably trailing.
IL DT Garrett Goebel is visiting soon and then deciding a week or so thereafter. Buckeye Planet thinks he's in the bag for OSU; they're probably right.
Brandon Beachum says he has an offer:
"Michigan has amazing tradition and I actually know a few guys on the team already," Beachum said. "They are still on the rise and have some of the best academics in the Big Ten."
That article also contains high praise for Wisconsin; a second article from Allen Wallace the next day is pro-LSU. Sometimes offers get incorrectly reported due to miscommunication between school and player or player and media outlet, but since the second article specifically addresses the fact that he does not have an OSU offer and does not expect to get one, it's highly likely Beachum is in possession of a bonafide offer. He stopped at camp today; Michigan has a shot.
Michael Shaw is another Ohioan looking out of state. He gets off one of my favorite quotes of the year in a recent Scout article:
Shaw recently took an unofficial visit to Michigan. "It was amazing," Shaw exclaimed. "They are doing a great job with their program. They are always a winning team. Everyone there loves the team and there's a lot of team spirit. They don't have any pro teams there, so Michigan football is pretty much the marquee attraction."
Somone just got liowned.
Anyway: a couple commits should be forthcoming. Will post when they occur.
I has a a comeback. Youtube now possesses a clip reel from the monster Metrodome comeback of a couple years ago:
MGoVideo. This looks like it's still a work in progress, but there is now a dedicated torrent tracker for Michigan stuff at mgovideo.com. Huzzah.
(For those still banging together rocks and downloading from Kazaa: Bit Torrent is a new generation of peer-to-peer file sharing that is entirely distributed, which means it's hard to shut down. It also has performance advantages because everyone who is downloading a file is simultaneously uploading it to the other downloaders.)
Can we get a project together here? There is now a place that will organize and track uploaded torrents. I've been in contact with a couple emailers with large libraries of old games who were looking for a way to share those games amongst Michigan fans. As the kind of site that gets frequented by guys who know why I always use "==" when declaring two things equal, there must be a number of readers who can guide video librarians in the process of turning analog into digital; as the kind of site also frequented by students there must be some other readers out there with some really rippin' upload speeds. The ability to go back and watch old games would be awesome.
So, plan of attack: if you know all about codecs and ripping and such and can spread your expertise to people in possession of lots of old games, drop me a line. Ditto if you are in possession of said games. Hopefully we can get this up and running.
More BTN. The New York Times has an article with lots of interesting quotes from the partisans involved. Tremble at Jim Delaney explaining that they "take risks" because they would like to "stay competitive"! Wonder as he follows up that rousing explanation with this:
"I'm not confident of anything right now," said Delany, who can expect a bruising few months. "All I'll say is I have a hard time seeing many more offerings with more appeal than ours."
! (Also marvel at superfluous "more"s inexplicably not excised by the interviewer.) Boggle at network President Mark Silverman's, um, acknowledgment of free will:
As for carrying the network in non-Big Ten markets at 10 cents a subscriber, he said Comcast would most likely make it available as a subscription service like Major League Baseball's Extra Innings out-of-market package.
"They have a right to do as they wish," Silverman said.
Yikes. Upon review, it kind of looks like the author of the article took every possible opportunity to juxtapose a weak-sounding quote with Comcast tough talkin' and scary precedent, but none of that sounds good at all.
The other side is presented by some Comcast suit who loves taking my irony measuring devices, smashing them into thousands of tiny little pieces, and hurling the irony-ometer confetti skyward:
Comcast is developing a campaign that will attempt to prove that the network is too expensive and too provincial to be broadly distributed.
"I have no doubt that the Big Ten will try to rile up their fans and alumni to say that big bad Comcast is denying their content to Big Ten fans and alumni," said David Cohen, an executive vice president of Comcast.
He added, "We'd like to make the network available to those who want to watch it and not force customers who have no interest in the content to have to pay for it."
...says the man who makes sure that my dial is full of things like "Not Without My Daughter: A Mother's Fight: All Movies On Lifetime Have At Least One Colon In Them... Er, In Their Title" and the Golf Channel. There is a reason Comcast sucks and everyone hates it and this is it.
(The bitchy, power-suit wearing quasi-MILF who snarks on satellite and ADSL is also a good reason. What is up with that woman? Why does she bob her head like she's about to say "oh no DirectTV di'in't"? Does Comcast really think getting nagged by a woman who seems the very embodiment of henpecked married life sells cable? Also there are those fake news ads in which fake talking heads also rip on satellite in the smarmiest way possible. They're atrocious, offensive ads possessed of the same smugness of Lily Tomlin at the phone company. Only a virtual monopoly could get away with it.)
Comcast is right: the Big Ten Network is a money grab. There is no other reason to do it. But unless they throw it on digital and tell me it will cost $1.10 for me to get it, I have no sympathy for their little public opinion pity party. And when the average cost of cable has gone up 93% in the past decade, you cannot possibly claim that it's the Big Ten who is aligned "against consumers."
Games you may or may not be at the bar for. The UM Alumni Club of Greater Boston declares that Michigan's games against Appalachian State, Northwestern, and Eastern Michigan will be sentenced to the BTN dungeon. FYI.
Offsides needs to die. Hockey offsides, that is. It is sort of required in football and soccer. But it is not in hockey, and every time the rule is invoked a little part of me dies. Entertaining rushes are blown dead because one player strayed a fraction into the attacking zone. Power plays go from excitingly set up to regrouping because a defenseman can't hold the puck in the zone. Defenders can stack the blue line and enforce a dump and chase strategy that's about as interesting as watching the Spurs play basketball. And for what? I can't figure it out. It's true the rule gives a certain structure to the modern game, but what would the consequences be if offsides did not exist?
Cherry-picking is not likely. No team is going to voluntarily put themselves a man down in the defensive zone in the vague hope a long lead pass goes tape-to-tape and puts a player in alone. The continued existence of the two-line pass would make the offensive zone verboten until the defending team had cleared their zone with control of the puck. At that point, players could go where they pleased with incurring the wrath of a whistle and a boring neutral-zone faceoff. No, the framework for a penalty-kill-and-breakaway based offense has been in place since the NHL adopted the collegiate two-line pass rule, but no one has seriously attempted to deploy it save for some Swedes in the Olympics. Breakaway passes remain difficult, low-return things; removing offsides is not going to change that.
So, then, what are the negatives? The ability of a team to remove pressure around its own goal by desperately poking the puck out past the blue line has always seemed a cheap maneuver, and there's nothing I hate more in hockey than the whistle that disrupts an interesting rush for no reason. (Except the delay of game penalty you get when you accidentally fling the puck into the stands in your defensive zone. Worst rule in sports? Other than "Anderson Varejao is allowed to participate in them"?) Those are the ways offsides inflicts itself on the sport. Removing both of these things would improve the game
The benefit is obvious: hockey gets to play to its strengths. It's always been a game of flow up and down the ice, players approaching and retreating. One of my favorite sequences in all of hockey came in Michigan's 3-2 overtime loss to BC in the NCAA tournament a few years ago. Michigan had been dominated the entire game until a gorgeous nine minute-plus stretch of nonstop end-to-end action unsullied by whistles. Michigan started to emerge. You could feel the momentum shift. The Wolverines re-asserted themselves as equals, and you could feel the tenor of the game change. By the time it ended and the freaked out network cut to commercial, the tension drained from the room and real-life reasserted itself after what seemed like a lengthy ten minute vacation. (This being Michigan sports in the past half-decade, Boston College would bat in a rebound off the offensive zone faceoff and go on to win in overtime; yea, Angry Michigan Hockey Hating God was wroth that day.)
Dropping offsides would not turn all games into that ten-minute pressure wave but it might do that for some. It would reduce whistles, kill deadly dull neutral zone faceoffs, and make it harder to stand up offenses at the blue line with impunity. It would make hockey awesomer.
Okay, okay: while I would be happy to see offsides disappear entirely, I do realize most observers of the game would file that under lunacy and move on. But there are less radical alternatives:
- Widen the blue line, which is actually part of the offensive zone when you want it to be -- holding a puck in or gaining the zone -- and a part of the defensive zone when you want it to be -- skittering along the edge of the zone with one skate precariously onside.
- A more extreme version of same: make the "blue line" functionally extend all the way to the red line. Once you have gained the zone the puck must pass the red line for it to be lost. When you are taking the puck up ice, once you pass the red line you are permitted to pass to anyone.
Any of these suggestions would be somewhere between a moderate and a drastic change, but... um... they're embiggening the nets in a desperate attempt to increase scoring. Drastic measures are called for.
Everybody loves Rutgers. Good find by Varsity Blue to plumb the depths of the San Antonio Express-News for this scheduling morsel:
Michigan has a hole in its 2008 football schedule, preferring an opponent for the first or fourth weeks of the season. The Wolverines likely won't play a Mid-American Conference school after already booking two games with teams from that conference.
Wonder if a Big 12 team would be willing to accept the challenge of playing at the so-called "Big House?"
The most likely team would be KSU, particularly as OSU already has a tough home game assured with Georgia as the return from their game this season.
But Michigan athletic director Bill Martin told the Detroit News that his preferred opponent would be Rutgers, particularly if a return game could be arranged to play the Scarlet Knights at the Meadowlands in a later season.
(Somehow I missed that News article.) That's an encouraging indication that Michigan will not go for three patsies and ND after this year's anomalous Oregon game goes by the wayside. If the road games end up in 80k pro stadiums instead of 40-60k mid-level college ones, that's fine with me as long as we get the stench of I-AA off of us, especially because tomato cans are becoming less attractive options. The Georgia Sports Blog has an interesting look at the increased demands of patsies. The near future will hold such oddities as Texas at Central Florida, Michigan State and Minnesota at Florida Atlantic, and Virginia Tech at East Carolina (four times!) as a result; hopefully the not-so-near future will be filled with more interesting games as a result.
Sidenote: It's somewhat surreal that Rutgers is suddenly being bandied about as a potential schedule upgrade after years and years of being one of those teams you pick in Dynasty mode when you want to spend a few years toiling before your eight national championship run. When Michigan State managed to coug it against Rutgers a few years ago, everyone laughed at the Spartans for falling to lowly Rutgers. Now the shoe would be on the other hypothetical foot.
NCAA. The game, that is. The revamped dynasty mode will rope me into buying it, though I still harbor severe EA-related suspicions about it. Are my fears assuaged or reinforced by the first quarter of this Michigan-OSU game?
I'm not exactly sure. I didn't notice any linebackers leaping tall buildings in a single bound to knock down what should be complete passes, and finding a fullback open on a crossing route tantalizes. I am tenuously encouraged. There is more if you are so inclined.
Jimmah! I was going to write something about the Jimmah's-hurt-no-he-ain't-then-why-surgery thing, but both SMQB...
The Worldwide Leader - on the heels of Log's Blog [courtesy The Wizard of Odds, as usual] - goes the anonymice route to confirm Clausen had a "procedure" performed on one of his elbows, backing up the Miami Herald report in January that Clausen had bone spurs in his right/throwing elbow and Father of Jimmy's interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in March, when he said Jimmy was "losing velocity" at the end of his senior season due to a vague arm injury. It directly contradicts Charlie Weis' spring assurance that Clausen was "full go," much to The Wiz's consternation, and the hopes of the many, many partisans expecting Clausen to start from day one against Georgia Tech.
...and the Wiz...
Weis was miffed when asked about Clausen and interrupted a reporter:
Question: "You say everyone is full to go, and last time we talked, you said Clausen ..."
Weis: "He's full to go. Contrary to recent reports, he's full to go, too. By the way, just so we can clear that one up, the only one who will answer for the health of our players will be me. So next time, we can just keep it that way, because I'll do the answering for the health of our players."
So there you have it. Can you believe anything Weis says from now on?
...beat me to it. Generally you take the prognoses offered up by schools at face value, but ND has established that they might be something less than truthful when it comes to the golden calf. My money is on Demetrius Jones against Michigan.
Etc.: Naked guy w/ strategically placed sock runs around Michigan Stadium for reasons best described as obscure.
Sorry: late. My laptop keeps shutting off unprompted. I think the heat disagrees with it. Or it's just tired of letting me inflict pain on Michigan sports teams. Either way.
I have received a number of concerned emails about the Big Ten Network's potential failure to exist this fall; some of these have relayed information that may help clarify the situation. Go, readers, go:
Speculation but a reasonable one: it's highly likely that the "40 companies" have all the reach of Earl Boykins.
One of the many, many Andrews/Anthonys to comment asked Chicago Comcast about the potential of adding the network and got this response:
Thank you for contacting Comcast Cable. Currently, there are no plans to
carry the Big Ten network at this time. However, when new programming
and products become available, we will notify Customer's via DCT
messaging, bill inserts, and direct mailers.
Thank you for choosing Comcast.
I love "thanks, go to hell" answers. I have read elsewhere on the internet that this is the standard response Comcast and other cable companies offer whenever anyone asks about any new channel, whether or not they end up carrying it, so Andrew's supplement to the Comcast response...
I'm sure you have received a lot of these, but here is info directly from Comcast's mouth when I submitted a question about the Big Ten Network last night. I live in Chicago, where the BTN is, like, based and all, and things look very, very dim in getting it on cable here. I would assume the response below would be the same for the large number of Comcast subscribers in Michigan. I also called to ask and the Comcast representative I talked to had not even heard of the BTN.
I also received a message on my digital cable that Comcast Chicago will be carrying CSTV soon, albeit on their pricey Sports and Entertainment digital tier. In the meantime, keep up the drumbeat against the BTN.
...may be a little pessimistic, but the whole calling-and-not-even-having-heard-of-it is disturbing.
Mike Brennan has something more hopeful:
I just spoke with Bill Martin on the phone. I'm going to be in touch with Mark Silverman of the Big 10 Network tomorrow. My gripes against the channel arise from your analysis (along with that of the other U-M blogger that addressed this) and aren't so much focused on the possibility of my cable rate going up a few dimes, but rather that there's a chance that this extra channel might result in me being unable to watch some Michigan football games. Judging from the general tenor of your replies and the message board threads, it seems that most people are with me on this.
So he started to explain about how it won't raise cable rates so much before I stopped him and explained that we don't care about a small rate hike; we just want to be sure we'd have the games available on basic cable. At that point he completely and unequivocally assured me that, before the season begins, all the major cable providers will be on board and that the Big 10 Network will absolutely be a basic-cable channel. He said the lawyers have told him that this will go down to the final days before a deal is struck, but that a deal will absolutely be struck.
I feel a lot better. He said they're talking about a monthly boost of $.75 to the cable bill, but this is a small price to pay considering that I would actually watch this channel a lot all year.
Hope this is useful to you. Let me know if you have any questions.
So... hurray? We can expect brinksmanship on the part of both sides as they try to work out a deal; Bill Martin insists a deal will get done. If it does, I get to retract all the nasty stuff I said this summer. This I will gladly do if the reward is a Big Ten Network I can watch, preferably one with lots of hockey. Clarification: road hockey games.
Mike's email makes me feel a little better, but waiting for this eleventh hour deal will be at least mildly nerve-wracking. Only mildly? Well, the network kicks off with its two Ohio State games: Akron and Youngstown State (via SMQB). Expect our riveting clash with Eastern Michigan to be one of our two featured, um, contests.
Postmortem. Game two against Oregon State, for anyone perusing the carnage below, was just as frustrating as game one but in the exact opposite way. As a result, Michigan's baseball season is over. But if you can get past the frustration of watching the flurry of walks, wild pitches, balks that put the season to the sword, the baseball team still appears to be on the upswing.
Most of the team returns next year. Gone are centerfielder Eric Rose, the #9 hitter, rightfielder Brad Roblin, and #3-4 starter Andrew Hess. Juniors Nate Recknagel, Doug Pickens, and Derek Van Buskirk are probably going to return. Only Pickens was drafted, and that was in the 50th round. Without question they'll be the favorites in the Big Ten and should make their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament. Rich Maloney, pictured at right with the late Faz of Hello Faz Pizza for some reason (ask the Daily), has recruiting and onfield momentum, an $11 million stadium renovation on the verge of completion, and his top players returning. Onward and upward. Hopefully someday in the near future we can say hello to Omaha.
Back and probably not gone. Adrian Arrington's, um, "rehabilitation" assignment, as noted on the sidebar a few days ago, has been completed and Arrington has returned to the team. He's definitely on double secret probation now -- any extracurricular mention of him in the paper more nefarious than a picture of him huggling puppies means he's gone-gone -- but that's better than the triple secret, stairs-running probation he's been on for the past few months. So bully for all that. Odd that the one guy of the three -- Arrington, Eugene Germany, and Carson Butler -- Carr mumbled into oblivion before spring practice everyone assumed was gonzo is the one guy who made it back to the field. Knock on wood. He sounds like he's learned his lesson:
"I just put myself in bad situations sometimes,'' the receiver said. "I don't know why. Now, I've got to deal with it. My head is in a whole different place right now, going through this. I let a lot of people down. I just have a whole different mind-set right now. I'm packing it in a lot earlier these days."
One thing: if you find a guy named "AAirlines16" on whatever the PS3 equivalent of XBox Live is...
"I just hang out and play some PS3 instead of going out.''
...for God's sake, let him win.
Also on the wide receiver suspension tip: a couple days ago Rob Parker hinted that Mario Manningham was in serious trouble and could miss the season(!!!) on the TV. I can neither confirm nor deny this, having received no inside info on the matter, but immediately after Parker made his assertion, the program had their annual Carr's Wash for Kids charity event and this was the only piece of information dropped on Manningham:
Carr said receiver Mario Manningham's knee "is in excellent shape," but he needs to improve his "football shape."
Given Carr's history of grumbling about pages and such, it's doubtful he's aware of any issues that would keep him from the field. Chances are Parker is way overreacting to some third hand info about that traffic stop a month ago; given his track record with his insider info I don't think anyone should be concerned. You can insert the standard muttering about the media's standard muttering about the trustworthiness of "internet rumors" when they throw out all kinds of unconfirmed, plain wrong stuff every day of the year. Parker's continued employment should tell you all you need to know about how dedicated the local gatekeepers are to having solid information behind the stuff they throw out: not at all.
(Also there is this:
Carr also confirmed that Carlos Brown is comfortable staying in the program at running back and everyone who missed spring practice with an injury should be ready for fall camp.
I am still jumpy about his return.)
On campus! I was flipping through the pictures from the car wash and ran across this one:
Sam McGuffie on an unofficial visit? You make the call. (Obligatory McGuffie youtube link.)
Also there is this one in which Ryan Mallett looks like an extra from Top Gun with the callsign "Stork":
*(You're probably asking "what?" at the moment. Long story short: I was seven, I was living in Denver, the Broncos were in the 1987 AFC Championship game against the Browns, they were traveling to Cleveland, and for some reason one of the enduring memories of my childhood is the local news station closing the week with a highlight montage set to the (in?)famous Kenny Loggins song. Two days and one iconic Drive later, the Broncos were going to the Super Bowl to lose it (and two more), thus establishing both the song and the idea that reaching the ultimate reward only brings you pain -- something Michigan is working on with gusto -- in my head for all time.
We're gonna take it... RIGHT IN TOOOOOOO...
THE DANGER ZONE!)
Also also, this one...
... made me think Jim Tressel had infiltrated us and was sabotaging Shawn Crable with hydrochloric acid until I realized it was Steve Szabo. I don't think he should walk around campus in sunglasses unless he wants to get tackled and locked in a basement until November.
Also also also, I think Johnny Sears wants to be Andre 3000 a little bit.