this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
A request for assistance from the Hoover Street Rag:
Normally I would have just posted this on HSR and hoped for the best, but it just came into me and is mildly time critical.
A small favor to ask, and while I don't think it's in the cards, I would be remiss if I didn't ask.
My pal at work is getting married next weekend. She and her father want, for the father/daughter dance at the wedding, this jazz vocal version of "The Victors" by a woman named Pat Suzuki. Apparently it was played about once a year back in the day by JP McCarthy. Anyway, I know it's a long shot, but if you or the readers could help me out, even just letting me know where to look, it would be huge. Thanks in advance.
Anyone have any ideas? Email or leave it in the comments.
Remember that national-champion, undefeated (club) lacrosse team? Well, check this out:
FYI - a first in Major League Lacrosse:
In the fifth (and final round of the MLL draft) round, a Michigan player was drafted - no player from a non-NCAA program had been drafted before. Also, he was picked ahead of Notre Dame's highly regarded face-off specialist, who was still on the board.
Brekan Kohlitz, M, Michigan
Whoa. This is a first. An MCLA guy taken. Never heard of this guy, but I know Michigan won the MCLA title this year and John Paul is one of that division's best coaches. This kid's got good size and can face off. So maybe the Bayhawks had this guy tucked away all draft and that's why they passed on Brennan and Eck.
I've always kinda liked lacrosse; hopefully Michigan will bump it to varsity status once the capital projects are done.
Some questions I have on the 'Boren situation':
1. Will he be good enough to start at OSU? Granted he would have been one of the better M lineman this year, but that isn't saying much really. Any productivity he had last year was somewhat a function of the fact that nearly all the pressure and focus was put on Long and Boren really only needed to be adequate, which he was only sporadically.
2. Given player comments with regard to Boren's attitude and lack of drive in term of workouts and preparation, is he in for a big surprise at OSU and will he run into the same problems? He grew fat and lazy, it would seem, on the Gittleson laissez-faire approach to conditioning and obviously had problems with the new regimes focus on conditioning and the intensity of their practices. While I do expect there to be massive improvements from the Barwis effect, it really is only returning us to a level that is competitive with other programs. Won't Boren be entering a system at OSU that has high expectations for conditioning and likely an intensity level that might make him a little 'uncomfortable', especially when his status is at zero?
Before he committed to OSU I wished him the best and wasn't too bitter, but afterward I think it is OK to hate. Now I just want to see him whine himself onto a bench seat this year as not only he abandoned his team and left an even bigger gap in a position of need for the season. Probably more the latter, if pressed to choose.
What thinks ye?
Boren was really really good against Notre Dame's Trevor Laws, blowing a soon-to-be second round draft pick all over the field in FBDII, and I thought he was destined to be awesome. That did not so much happen. He wasn't outright awful or anything, but he did nothing to distinguish himself. I don't know what OSU's depth chart looks like, but I believe they lose both guards after this year and Boren's got a year of starting under his belt... it's likely he plays. I know all that stuff about him being a wussy coddled quitter and so forth and so on, but the guy was an Army All-American, passed on a redshirt, and started as a true sophomore without being notably terrible.
I think Boren's issue wasn't an inherent laziness but a sense of entitlement stemming from his last name. Rodriguez came in, declared every starting position open, and demanded his linemen run everywhere whilst being called uncomplimentary names. It's a culture shock from "I'm Mike Boren's son." Rodriguez's response to that was undoubtedly "who the hell is Mike Boren?" I've heard that Carr let Boren miss certain workouts to go help with his dad's landscaping company. If true... uh... yeah. Things are mighty different these days.
Boren's a talented guy who will no doubt find plenty of motivation at Ohio State. He'll probably start, and probably be pretty good. Should Michigan fans care? Well, yes. His asshat father orchestrated his transfer to Michigan's top rival and needlessly blasted a program willing to let him go quietly, and with a completely unrestricted transfer. No one gives unrestricted transfers. Some thanks Michigan got. The next time that guy tries to show up at a football alumni function someone should punch him in the face.
But also no. Rodriguez has proven he can instill a winning culture in a program and he has set about doing that. Michigan will be better off without people who, for whatever reason, whine and complain. Both parties are better off.
On to fellows still with us:
I was just curious about how the current roster will adjust to the spread, and also how RichRod will recruit for the new offense.
Who is going to take the role of Owen Schmitt and be the rumbling beertruck? I have watched West Virginia the past few years and I think he was just as valuable as Slaton or White because of his blocking and the power he brought to the run game. Right now it seems that we are not recruiting any of these guys, and I am not convinced that we have a guy sufficient for this role on the current roster (Helmuth? Moundros?)
Also, it seems to me that the new staff must have seen a sale somewhere on jitterbug slot guys because Michigan seems to be recruiting every one of these guys in the country. Do we really need all these guys? Personally, I don't want a USC situation where we have 10 guys stacked at one position and we just waste talent. (Even though that is a good problem to have)
This unidentified emailer makes an excellent point. Yesterday Mark Richt was quoted saying you needed a "big, thick joker" in the middle of your defense who could take on blocks and pound tailbacks, and that the spread has started a shift away from the Sam Swords of the world. If they felt like it, teams facing West Virginia could just dump the middle linebacker entirely and line up with eleven gazelles.
Except they would then get 260 pounds of rage in their face in the form of Owen Schmitt. As the thunderous counterpart to Slaton and White, Schmitt kept defenses honest. Actually, that might sell him and his 5.7 YPC short.* Schmitt kept defenses scared.
No one on Michigan's team is going to be Schmitt, who was that once-a-decade fullback who becomes a crunching fan favorite despite his infrequent deployment. But I'd watch out for Helmuth, the top-ranked fullback in his recruiting class and a big, pounding runner for Saline when he was in high school. Michigan's other option is to go with two running backs, one a speed merchant like Brown or Horn and the other a Grady-Minor north-south type.
As to Michigan offering every 5'6" electron-fast WR/RB/QB they can find: this could be something of a mirage. The recruiting board has given up on listing every kid with a Michigan offer because Rodriguez and Co are sending letters to way more kids t
han Carr ever did. Naturally this includes a large helping of electrons, who are always more notable than another safety offer because they have zippy highlight films and weigh 110 pounds.
Keep in mind that Michigan had zero of these guys on the roster when Rodriguez arrived, and only has two now. Most teams like to have four guys with a pulse at every position, so it's reasonable to recruit somewhere between two and four more this year. Four? Well, some of them might end up in the backfield and some might end up at outside receiver or in the secondary. This is not recruiting 6'5" water buffalo quarterbacks. Guys who get beat out at slot receiver have options.
Michigan will probably take two, which is reasonable.
A little more on playoffs:
I wholeheartedly support a playoff system that also preserves the regular season. But I thinks it very important to note how the current system seriously waters down the 'all-important' regular season. The current ranking system is so dominated by number of losses that the contenders and everyone else schedule patsies to avoid losses at all costs. At the top of the heap, the contenders try to make a BCS bowl, and the middle to lower tier try to get to bowl eligability. Number of losses must be around 80% of the rankings basis - see Hawaii and other unworthy WAC teams with 0 losses, and their drop from top 5 or 10 to oblivion with a single loss, or their unjustified inclusion in the top 10 to begin with, based solely on 0 losses (except of course for Boise State). Its well-known that the football factories play about 4 serious games a year. I think Michigan v osu needs to stay meaningful, but I view the Utah, Toledo, MAC crap as extortion of the lesser team and of me paying for a full-priced ticket to see an exhibition scrimmage that just happens to count. The "regular season drama/every game counts" crap that seems to be 1 of 2 or 3 serious negatives to a playoff is itself as much a myth as the MNC. A playoff would so magnify a team's credentials by making someone beat 2 or 3 top 10/top 5 teams consecutively.
In a word: word. The problem with BCS blowouts is not so much the uncompetitive nature of the games themselves. The problem is that the system picks two and only two teams when college football usually offers up somewhere between 4 and 6 candidates only slightly distinguishable from each other, then pairs up the excluded teams with other excluded teams nearly as good (or randomly selected 9-3 teams with quarterbacks who can't hit the broad side of Charlie Weis). The frequent result is an arbitrarily awarded crystal football.
A small playoff includes all reasonable "best" teams and naturally results in the winner having the best resume of any team in college football. Team #7 might have a grumble they should have gotten in over team #6, but by the playoff's conclusion they have no claim whatsoever to having the best record.
*(Distorted by the "runaway beer truck" event in the Fiesta Bowl? Undoubtedly, but remove that entirely and his average is still 4.7 YPC, which is pretty decent for a feature back, let alone a fullback.)
As an alum who witnessed mid 90s success but has suffered through the last few years of football stagnation, is it premature to be excited by this early recruiting success by Rodriguez? I know Lloyd and staff were relatively strong in the recruiting department, but it seems like a new kind of athlete is being recruited by this staff - the speedy dread-locked guys that may not translate that well to the pros but cause hell in college. With Barwis and the early recruiting returns I am more excited about Michigan football than I have been since 97 through 2003, when I really believed Michigan could contend for national titles every year. Basically, I am asking, even before Rodriguez has even coached a game, if there is some momentum in this program. Is Michigan becoming the new "hot" destination for recruits, ala USC, LSU, and Florida the past 8 years, or is this just my hopeful bias acting up?
Well... no on the "hot destination." Don't get me wrong, Michigan is doing well on the recruiting trail and has locked up all manner of exciting skill position players, but you'd be hard pressed to separate Michigan's results to date from their results the last several years under Carr. Michigan's recruiting of late (numbers, as per usual, are Rivals'):
(2003 is perhaps the best example I can find of how screwed up the recruiting sites' team rankings are. Michigan finished a lowly 17th that year despite raking in Lamarr Woodley, Prescott Burgess, Leon Hall, Shawn Crable, and others. Michigan had two five-stars, eleven four-stars, and just four guys with two or three stars, one of whom was a kicker. They finished behind Oklahoma State's class of 31 losers and Cal's class of 28 non-losers. Those teams had eight four-stars between them. In 59 players. WTF?)
You can see the epidemic of southern oversigning and attrition in the disparity between Michigan's class rating and their star average. Every year save 2005 -- an unusually large class of 23 -- was better in the latter metric, usually by a significant margin. Over the time span listed here, Michigan finished between 6th and 7th nationally in star average. It would be hard to improve that in any meaningful way without kicking MSU into the MAC.
However, the point about the little guys with dreads is an apt one even if none of the guys we've reeled in actually have dreads. Guys like Odoms and Robinson and (Pitt signee) Cameron Saddler are routinely downgraded for their size. If Rodriguez can regularly take little three-star guys and get five-star production out of them, Michigan could start to outperform their recruiting rankings. Or, like, just perform to them. That is the Barwis hope in a nutshell.
The other side of the coin:
I've been noticing Ohio State's recruiting of late. They're starting to look
like a Midwestern USC, as one of my friends pointed out. Could you
please discuss this topic?
Maybe a little. Last year they were third in star average, the year before that fifth, and
this year they're off to an extremely strong start. If the smug truckers with names like "BucksLOL!!1!" on their message boards are right -- and since internet confidence usually trickles down from insiders on high, they probably are -- they're the favorite to reel in another set of OMG shirtless sorts. This is a slight improvement on their results from earlier in the decade.
But this is nothing particularly new. Ohio State and, except for a period when Willingham was incredibly inept, Notre Dame have always recruited well. The numbers above show that Michigan has, too. It will always come down to coaching. And luck.*
Anyone expecting Ohio State to drop off in the near future is going to be disappointed. Tressel is 55 and at least ten years from falling off into Bowden-Paterno senescence. They're going to be a power. Michigan is hoping for Ten Year War II.
*(consider how differently this Tressel-Carr thing looks if 1) Drew Henson doesn't sign a baseball contract, 2) Braylon Edwards doesn't get a dodgy offensive PI call in the 2002 game, 3) Carr goes for it on third and four in the 2005 game, and 4) Chad Henne's shoulder exists in 2007. You figure #1 is a clear win and Michigan probably takes one of the other three, which would put the Tressel-Carr record at .500. Thin margins, always.)
On the APR:
I attended Central Michigan, until I graduated last year. My first two years there I was one of the "lucky" kids who wasn't able to get into the normal dorms, and instead was put in the athletes dorm. Basically, I got to know many of the football players on CMU. Many of those guys left before their 4/5 years was up, but it had nothing to do with the reasons you outlined (money) as to why small schools suffered in the APR.
First, especially at the time, CMU wasn't a known football power. Kids want to be loved, respected, and have some sort of fame. Yet, when you play at a bad MAC school or something, nobody cares. It isnt a big campus with 80,000 people every Saturday. They dont see themselves on TV a whole lot, and when are on TV, nobody pays attention to them. Players at the bigger school have much more incentive to stay because they are better players, have more fame, and have more going for them.
Next, many of the kids schools in the MAC, Mountain West, etc. recruit aren't from the area. CMU has their share of Michigan kids, but needs to recruit kids a whole hell of a lot more from Florida, Georgia, etc. than schools like Michigan and MSU do. Thats because the talent pool isn't as big in Michigan, and Michigan and MSU scoop all the talent up. CMU and other MAC schools needs to get players from the south so they can compete. This is hard though because not only will those kids have the same problems as I stated in the previous paragraph, but they are waaaaay more likely to get homesick and leave. I saw many time where CMU would recruit a kid from inner city Miami, then redshirt him. The kid isn't happy being redshirted, has trouble adjusting to a MAC town, and then once that first snowfall and bad weater hits, boom, they are outta here for Christmas break and never return.
It is just very hard for teams in smaller conferences to retain players than it is for bigger schools. Yes, sometimes it may have to do with what you said, but that is a lot smaller of the percentage. I can see why you feel that way since you went to a big school. However, until you attend a smaller school and see the disadvantage first hand and hear it and see it from many of the players you are friends with, then you don't really know the whole story.
Central Michigan, though it was one of the teams to get hit by APR penalties, was not one of the teams referenced when I was advocating for I-A to get 20 teams smaller. When not coached by Mike Debord, Central is one of the better teams in the MAC and has the resources to compete at a reasonable level. They'll get their scores up soon and will avoid serious punishment.
I don't have much sympathy for smaller schools even if it's tougher for them to keep scores up for reasons beyond their control. You can make an argument that a player at Michigan or Oklahoma or wherever is being completely reasonable when he puts
everything into being an NFL caliber football player. Not so much at San Jose State, where any kid who flames out is going to be lifting boxes.
Yesterday, I mentioned that WVU's possessions were some way short of what seemed like an average number, but I didn't go back and calculate those numbers myself. A reader chips in:
I've been an avid reader of your blog for quite some time and appreciate all the work you do. I post under this handle on Rivals premium and Scout free boards. I'm also an amateur nerd and play with numbers in my free time. One such venture was to calculate the scoring efficiency of certain offenses. Specifically, I calculated the points per drive of the Michigan offense (and others.. did this during the coaching search) over the past 4-5 years using data available from the ESPN website (it's good for something). An offense that scores 35 ppg while reducing the game to 10 possessions per team is more dangerous than the offense that racks up the same total but expands the total number of possessions in the game (Purdue, Cal).
Obviously the flaw in this research is that some offenses try to build a small lead then sit on the ball while others simply try to score as much as possible. However, I found it to be an interesting endeavor nonetheless. To do the calculation I counted the number of "meaningful" drives (I excluded the apparent take-a-knee-before-the-end-of-the-half drives) and counted only offensive points. Throwing out pick-sixes and punt-return TDs was difficult since they do affect the thinking of the offense, but ultimately they're not the result of the offense.
I have all this data broken down on a spreadsheet into the single game performances, but here are the year-long results...
'07 Michigan -- 13.2 drives/gm, 27.2 off ppg, 2.07 pts per drive (ppd), 2:16 per drive (TOP)
'06 Michigan -- 12.6 drives/gm, 27.2 off ppg, 2.15 ppd, 2:39 per drive
'05 Michigan -- 12.8 drives/gm, 27.0 off ppg, 2.12 ppd, 2:29 per drive
'04 Michigan -- 13.0 drives/gm, 28.1 off ppg, 2.16 ppd, 2:28 per drive
'03 Michigan -- 12.2 drives/gm, 32.5 off ppg, 2.65 ppd, 2:38 per drive
'02 Michigan -- 12.8 drives/gm, 27.2 off ppg, 2.13 ppd
'07 West Virginia -- 12.6 drives/gm, 38.5 off ppg, 3.05 ppd, 2:23 per drive
'06 West Virginia -- 11.2 drives/gm, 39.6 off ppg, 3.55 ppd, 2:46 per drive
'05 West Virginia -- 11.8 drives/gm, 28.3 off ppg, 2.41 ppd, 2:38 per drive
'04 West Virginia -- 12.3 drives/gm, 27.8 off ppg, 2.26 ppd, 2:23 per drive
'03 West Virginia -- 13.0 drives/gm, 27.3 off ppg, 2.10 ppd, 2:12 per drive
The Florida spread-option...
'07 Florida -- 11.2 drives/gm, 40.3 off ppg, 3.61 ppd, 2:41 per drive
'06 Florida -- 11.1 drives/gm, 27.4 off ppg, 2.46 ppd, 2:48 per drive
'05 Florida -- 11.8 drives/gm, 24.8 off ppg, 2.09 ppd, 2:46 per drive
Ultimately, I think RRod's offense will reduce the avg number of possessions by 0.5-1.0 per game. While Carr's offense was good at eating up clock, I think a lot of that had to do with the defense giving them the ball back. The offense neither reduced the number of possessions nor sat on the ball particularly long when they got the ball.
The "13 or 14" cited in the UFR appears to be a little high. Over the spans provided here, Michigan averaged 12.7 drives per game; West Virginia averaged 12.2. The PPD numbers show that West Virginia's performance against Rutgers (3.44 PPD against a top-twenty scoring defense) was statistically excellent, if reached a little flukily.
You've done a great job comparing Beilein's UM recruits with his WVU recruits. [Have I? -ed] Do you have any opinion on Rodriguez's UM recruits as
compared to his WVU recruits, or is it too early to tell? It seems from much of your coverage that Rodriguez is, in large part, targeting not only the same type of recruits but also the same recruits at UM that he was targeting at WVU. Has there been any appreciable difference in the quality of his recruits (e.g., more 4-stars, more top 100 guys) at UM as compared to his recruits at WVU? One would hope so, since that is one of the advantages UM should have over WVU, but, again, maybe it's too early to tell.
Before I answer, note that this email was sent before the recent Beaver commitment.
And on to answering: there has been a notable uptick in Rodriguez's recruiting. A third of the way into Michigan's 2009 class he's picked up three top-100 players and four players given four or five stars, and it seems highly likely Bryce McNeal will join them. His record at West Virginia (all rankings are Rivals' because their site is more navigable):
- 2008: (this is a lot of Stewart but I think it's illuminating) instate OL Josh Jenkins is a soft commit for most of the year and does end up signing with the 'Eers. There are three other four-stars, one a JUCO and one a prep school kid who signed with WVU in 2007 but did not qualify; we should not double-count him. This class hasn't gotten to campus yet so we don't know their fates.
- 2007: Noel Devine headlines. Other four stars include a JUCO and troubled LB Pat Lazear; Bradley Starks and Terrence Kerns (who would prep and re-sign in 2008) are four-star high school recruits. Starks is a real fringe four-star type with other offers from Iowa State, Temple, and Marshall. Not exactly Kevin Newsome.
- 2006: No four star players.
- 2005: A five star, but it's Jason Gwaltney, who for a lot of reasons is horrifically overrated. He fails out his first semester.
- 2004: Two four stars. Brandon Barrett is an instate wide receiver who ends up #45 in the Rivals 100; Raymond Williams is a fringe four-star back from Cleveland. Barrett was a non-qualifier who got in trouble as a sophomore and failed out before his junior year. Two months after he signs his letter of intent, Williams robs a drug dealer with a fake gun, getting one of his teammates killed when the dealer unsurprisingly has a real gun. WVU withdraws his offer.
- 2003: No four star players.
- 2002: WR Broderic Jones never gets to campus, sits out 2002, and eventually ends up at Tulsa.
Rivals doesn't go any farther back than that, but I think the point is made. During the whole of Rich Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia, he got use out of one player given four or more stars: Noel Devine. (Lazear will start this year after special teams duty his first season; Rodriguez's teams were not particularly aided by his talents.) Every single other highly-rated player bombed out.
That doesn't surprise me. West Virginia has no instate recruiting base and had zero national cachet until the White-Slaton era. Chances are any player who was highly rated and didn't have a better option than West Virginia had grade or character issues. Or, if you're Jason Gwaltney, both.
Here's the scorecard. Seven years at West Virginia: seven four or five star recruits that made it to campus. Five months at Michigan: ten.*
Is Rodriguez recruiting the same guys he was at West Virginia? Probably. The difference is he's getting his first or second choice instead of #10.
*(Tentative numbers since WVU and Michigan obviously haven't gotten the 2008 and 2009 classes in the boat yet; Michigan's number only counts players that committed to the new staff.)
Hi Brian,I want to know what you think of the new changes for the football program now that everything is more settled. Even though as a great a coach as RR is, I wonder if that's enough. UM for the past two decades have been putting a lot of people in the NFL, which I think is a big plus when it comes to recruiting. Under Carr, his philosophy was that as long as he could get a good passing QB, then he'd be able to attract top-flight receivers. That way of thinking has worked considering the number of QB's we have in the NFL and Rivals.com has labelled us "Quarterback U." We also have a good number of receivers in the NFL, although Braylon is the only one that's actually doing well. But the point remains -- UM, under Carr, put kids into the NFL.Now that everything is different and RR has taken over, I'm not so sure that that is going to be the case. With his run-option spread offense, there is too little emphasis on passing. I'm afraid that not too long from now, we'll start seeing a major drop-off in the ratings of the QB's and WR's that we can recruit. In this year's NFL draft, only 3 players were picked from W. Virginia (Schmitt, Slaton, and Mundy(?!?)) vs. the 6 from Michigan. Granted Pat White is still at W. Virginia, but even if he was in the draft, I doubt he'd get picked up by anyone. He's not a good passer and even though he's a good play-maker, it won't be that easy in the NFL.Maybe I'm just having a hard time of letting go of the memories of 4th quarter comebacks (vs. MSU '04 and '07) and LAST second TDs (vs. PSU '05). And then there are all those other spectacular pass plays against ND in 2006. All of those would not have been possible without a great QB and WR combo. I'm starting to wish we could've gotten Les Miles because then maybe things wouldn't be changing so much.So what do you think? Are my concerns unfounded? Or am I just being a wuss about letting go?Thanks for reading.DavidUM Class of 2005
How convenient that this question comes directly after a discussion of West Virginia's recruiting, which was obviously not conducive to being an NFL factory. Let's focus this discussion on the offense, since the defense isn't changing in any way that might damage the NFL prospects of anyone on it.
Rodriguez's lack of NFL draftees is a chicken-and-egg argument. There's a reason Pat White was not recruited as a quarterback by anyone other than Rodriguez, and that's the same reason he's going to be an NFL wide receiver: he's not much of a thrower. That's why he was the #55 "athlete" in his recruiting class, and why he was a three-star prospect. If Rodriguez could have gotten, say, a guy who anchors a winning 100-meter relay team and is listed by Rivals as a pro-style quarterback because he's that comfortable in the pocket, he would have, and West Virginia's offense wouldn't have been so run-heavy. Same goes for players like Stonum and Mathews and so forth and so on.
The thing about recruits is this: they just want to go places, really, and justify the place they want to go in a post hoc fashion. Terrelle Pryor said he wanted to play in a pro-style offense so he would be prepared for the NFL. Kevin Newsome said NFL scouts would find him no matter what sort of offense he played in. PA CB Corey Brown cited Penn State's lack of cornerbacks in the NFL when he dropped them recently, but left both Michigan and West Virginia on his list when the only DB the 'Eers have produced in recent times is legendarily troubled Pacman Jones.
Part of the reason recruits want to go places is the style of offense and NFL prospects but, IMO, it's a much smaller part than you'd think by listening to their quotes, which are often an effect of their commitment and not a cause.
As far as the ratings of
QBs we can recruit... I think the Newsome/Beaver double dip combined with heavy interest from Jason Forcier and Eugene Smith blows that up. It's true Michigan is cutting itself off from the Hennes of the world, but before they cut themselves off from the Newsomes and Pryors. There might be some cause for concern at outside wide receiver -- I assume Michigan is going to have a parade of slot guys eager to be featured at a marquee school -- but at the moment we've got guys from Houston practically begging for an offer and guys from Minnesota decking their myspace pages with more block Ms than you can shake a stick at.
Everyone assumes that West Virginia running 70% of the time (and throwing screens another 10-15% of the time) was a choice. But what would you do with a freshman/sophomore/junior Pat White and Steve Slaton? Michigan has been notoriously run-heavy (57% during Henne's healthy junior year) despite having a multitude of downfield options whenever its quarterback is anything but a senior, and WVU was using an underclassman most programs saw as a wide receiver. And they averaged six yards per carry. And they had little receiving talent outside of the slot. Under the circumstances it would have been crazy to throw more.
At Michigan, Rodriguez will have highly-rated guys who can throw and run and more receiving talent than he's ever seen. We've seen that when he has a superior talent like Chris Henry, he uses him: Henry had 1872 yards in about one and a half years at WVU, and those were his freshman and discipline-ravaged sophomore years. IMO, Rodriguez will always be run-heavy but at Michigan the percentage of runs and short passes will be more like 65% than 85%. Since Michigan has been a magnet for receiving talent despite having a similar percentage of safe stuff you'd figure they would be able to reel in a similar level of badass.
There might be a rough year or two in 2010 or 2011 if (more likely, when) whichever inexperienced quarterback ends up seizing the job struggles and numbers fall, but if I'm right and once the quarterbacks hit upperclass status and Stonum or Clemons or Hemingway or some highly rated recruit from this year blows up, that will blow over.
Honestly, I'm more concerned with the defensive side of the ball, where Jay Hopson has been recruiting the hell out of every safety and linebacker in Mississippi and environs and most of them still favor the in-state hell schools (USM not included, SMQB, since there is the prospect of something other than four years of misery there). Whatever weird gravitational pull the state has only relaxes to the south, it seems.
I am pretty sure you have received this email before, and you have probably answered it, but here it goes again... will all this BCS +1 or BCS playoff talk ever come to fruition? I really hope not. Wouldn't a playoff undermine the "every game counts" concept of college football? Let's say 2007 Michigan, who lost to Appalachian State, ended up beating OSU in the finale and became Big Ten champs. Therefore, we had the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. If we end up winning that game, do we deserve to play for the championship? HECK NO! On the other hand, should Michigan still deserve to play in the Rose Bowl? Call me a traditionalist, but if the Big Ten and Pac-10 (or Big Nine and PCC or AAWU or Pacific 8 or whatever the heck they were) have been playing in this bowl game since the beginning of time, then why should the honor of playing in the game be taken away from them?
The point of the whole BCS championship is to pit #1 vs #2 to determine the true champion, and the only recent year the BCS championship contenders were wrong was 2004 when USC was sniped from going to the big game in favor of LSU, and even that is debatable, but college football is SUPPOSED TO BE DEBATABLE. Football is a debatable sport, and you will never find a real champion unless you have playoff series like pro basketball, baseball, and hockey. Even with an NFL style playoff, it can be iffy. Who is a better team, the Patriots or the Giants? If New England and New York played 10 games against each other, the Patriots would probably win 7 of them. Also, the Giants got lucky beating the Packers in Green Bay. So I guess you can say that the Giants did not deserve to be Super Bowl champs either. What is that you say? The NFL DOES have a playoff system? And there is STILL debate if the champions were good enough to be champions?
Even with a playoff, the teams left on the outside looking in will feel they were sniped from playing for the championship. So what is this whole playoff thing going to solve?
Thanks for your opinion,
Oh... here we go again. Oh, well. Onward.
I am a very specific playoff advocate. I agree that preserving the tension of the regular season is important, so my proposal is a six-team playoff in which the top two teams get byes and games in the first two rounds are played at home. The final is at the Rose Bowl. The teams are selected by a committee that heavily emphasizes nonconference schedule strength; there are no autobids. The bowl system lives on in parallel, selecting any team that doesn't make the playoff (and maybe the first-round losers, since I envision those games happening in December).
Keeps tension in the regular season. There is a huge difference between finishing 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and a huge difference between 3 and 4 and 5 and 6. The big issue with a playoff, as I see it, is that it makes something like WVU losing to Pitt late a minor deal. In this system the number of bids is restricted enough (remember WVU already had one loss) that WVU might drop out altogether, and even if they stay in they've gone from a bye and a home game to a first-round roadie.
Helps de-wussify nonconference schedules. Amen.
Actually increases the number of important late-season games. If you are seventh or eighth in the pecking order, everyone above you and nine and ten want you to lose. Now if you're anywhere below fifth late in the season your games have no national title implications.
Has a semblance of tradition. It might be a bit hypocritical to make the Rose Bowl a permanent host and then rail against the Plus One, as I'm about to do, but it's either that or rotating the game between the epicenter of college football tradition and, like, the Superdome. Duh.
Mostly preserves the bowl season. Hey, everyone likes random college football games.
Now, the BCS:
Even if college football is supposed to be debatable, the BCS has killed that debate by instituting a two-team playoff. One team wins and is given an NCAA-approved crystal football, and everyone else can pound sand. Now that the BCS has adopted an overwhelmingly poll-driven ranking system, the events that led to a split national title a few years ago are exceedingly unlikely to happen again, so you get what you get "#1" versus "#2" for "the national title." In the days before the BCS, national championships truly were mythical and were as such acceptable topics for debate. Now our only debate is which team would have put up a better fight than Ohio State. It is truly the worst of both worlds: a playoff that settles nothing.
Virtually anything would be better than it. A return to the ante-bellum bowl system? Check. A true "Plus One" that restores traditional bowl ties and has a national title game a week after? Check? A reasonably sized playoff? Check.
It's depressing that the only thing worse -- a seeded Plus One that almost entirely obliterates traditional bowl ties and imposes ridiculously unfair travel constraints on teams outside of California and the south -- is the thing that actually got proposed at the BCS
meetings. I reject every anti-playoff argument except this one: any group of people that could oversee the majesty that was ten years of the BCS would undoubtedly screw it up.
What is the chance of us getting a prime time night game at U of M? There is a ton of exposure goes on with night games and the athletic department can't just sit and watch other schools take away that exposure. Now that Rich Rod is here is it more of a possibility?
I would assume that it's more of a possibility with Rodriguez around, as WVU was willing to play on a Tuesday at 3 AM if it got them on TV, but probably not a strong one. Rodriguez can change some things by fiat; this is not one of them. For evidence of this check the Michigan stadium renovation plans, which do not include lights.
The opposition to night games is an institutional and cultural one that won't go away overnight. The administration doesn't like the idea of a night game because
- Old people would fall asleep in the third quarter and maybe die from cold
- Young people would pass out in the third quarter and maybe die from drink, and
- Middle-aged people would get cranky about driving back to Chicago.
I wouldn't mind a night game or two, personally, but I understand the admin's reluctance. It's not like Michigan is suffering for television exposure.
One idea I think might work: pick a Big Ten opponent and play one night game every other when that opponent comes to town. That would provide said game with extra cachet and maybe amp up the stadium experience for that particular contest. Ideally, the team should be consistently good and not have any extant tradition or rivalry. This rules out Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana. Purdue... meh. Illinois must never get the impression that we care about them in any way whatsoever, so they're out. Candidates, then: Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
I have one question for you, regarding two certain web sites I think you have had plenty of experience with. Which site would you recommend subscribing to: Scout.com or Rivals.com? I only want to join one, and I am hoping you say the better site has the better mag as well.
I must confess to having considerably less experience with Scout than one might expect. I was briefly a subscriber there but let it lapse. (Subscribing to two separate recruiting websites is a bridge too far even for me.) Also, I've never gotten either site's magazine. I've leafed through a copy of The Wolverine or two and it seemed fine for something on "paper" or whatever you call it. From what I've gathered, Scout's mag is weak sauce that only exists so the U can't turn them down for press credentials and the like.
I do have some experience with both, and participate -- mostly lurk -- on a message board where opinions about the sites are often bantered. What follows is a combination of personal experience and the collected wisdom of said message board.
Scout and Rivals are extremely different sites. The Wolverine is amongst the most professional recruiting sites out there. Go Blue Wolverine is a cult. This isn't all bad for GBW, since the cult is based around Tom Beaver, the chief koolaid purveyor* in all of Wolverine land. Name a personality disorder and Beaver probably has it: megalomania, workaholism, ellipses fetishization, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Slightly over half of these are very annoying; the other half are useful. The end result is the premium message board at GBW, a "TJBlog"-laced minefield of unreadable crap, hero worship, outright speculation, and a really spectacularly annoying system of "percentages" wherein a wink-wink lock is "50.1" to Michigan and a no-way is "49.9" and it's just all very grating.
HOWEVA, within that minefield is more information than is generally provided at Rivals, for a given definition of "information." Occasionally GBW will be out ahead of a story; occasionally they'll be out ahead of a story and just be plain wrong, which cues another round of highly annoying recriminations. Eight now they've collected a set of program insiders and coaches who are providing a wide array of spring practice information that Rivals is getting a shadow of.
- Hockey coverage. Though much of it is free, it's much better than GBW's nearly nonexistent version of same and you should support it on principle if it's important to you.
- Prose. Rivals isn't David Foster Wallace but Beaver and the people he hires sometimes seem nearly illiterate.
- Software. Scout was programmed by gibbons and it's damn near impossible to navigate. Rivals has a more navigable, more usable site.
- Professionalism. This is a matter of taste. Rivals will let you read between the lines when they know a kid is going to commit to Michigan but not come right out and say it. The annoying hero-worship aspect that overwhelms at Scout is still present at Rivals but toned down.
- Big stories. Rivals killed Scout during both coaching searches. I think it's clear they're much closer to the administration. This is no surprise since Beaver lives in Texas, IIRC.
- Insiders. Often the best content on the premium sites is provided gratis by mysterious program insiders that just want to be internet heroes. With the dissolution of Fort Schembechler their importance is lessened in some ways (injuries and the like are no longer state secrets) but heightened in others (open practices attended by high school football coaches are a goldmine of information). Right now GBW has an array of guys providing their takes on what they've seen that outstrips Rivals' considerably.
- More updates. If you're the sort that needs to know what's going on NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, and NOW, GBW is probably for you.
- They don't delete MGoBlog links on sight. I'm just sayin'.
Both sites have pretty weak basketball coverage.
What it comes down to is your tolerance for bad information and general stupidity versus your desire for every tidbit, dubious or not, you can scrounge about Michigan football. The choice is yours.
*(usage note: references to "koolaid" and the Jim Jones suicide cult have been driven into the mainstream by Jim Rome and his robot followers and now rank amongst the greatest crimes any sportswriter can commit, but in this case the metaphor is highly apt and must be used.)
I disagree with people who think common sense should trump objective methods in tournament selection. My reasoning, though perhaps not all that satisfying, goes something like this:
Arguing about what team is "better" in any sport ever is completely useless whenever the teams are reasonably close. We know for sure that LSU was better than Akron in football last year, but you can never settle the question of whether LSU was better than USC. Even when two teams actually play, it is always possible to argue about the conditions, or about the matchups, because winning is not transitive (otherwise, the best team could only be an undefeated team).
With that in mind, if we want to set up an objective method of determining a champion, it's not all that important that we make absolutely sure that the "best" 16 or 64 teams get into the tournament. That's the whole purpose of having so many teams in the tournament. We already know that Michigan is probably the best team (in hockey), Miami is probably the second best team, and so on. But instead of just giving Michigan the trophy, we allow a bunch of teams in there, just to make sure we haven't actually left the "best" team out. Thus, Mankato doesn't really have that much of a complaint: even if you could argue successfully that they were a hair better than Wisconsin, who cares? They would still only be the worst team in the tournament. The tournament would be rigged against them in order to make it as unlikely as possible that there would be a fluke and they would knock off a team like Michigan, who we already are pretty sure is better.
Every year teams are all upset about not making the big dance, but I have little sympathy. If you're on the bubble, you can be thankful if you get in, and if you don't, that's only because you weren't really in the running for Champion anyway (this means you, Syracuse).
Computer Engineer '03
A clarification before I start to address Anthony's main point: I don't think committees should pick teams based on who is "better", but rather who had a better season. Anthony's right that the former item is inherently unknowable (especially, especially, especially in college football, which is the primary reason a playoff makes so much more sense for it than any other sport). The latter is often significantly clearer.
I do agree that arguing about whether Minnesota State or Wisconsin (or Notre Dame) deserves to be the last team in the tournament is a pretty marginal pursuit. But (but!) I think the rigid adherence to the Pairwise in all things does more than occasionally screw over the 13th or 14th best team in the country. The Pairwise not only selects but seeds the tournament and due to systemic flaws often sets up terribly questionable draws where one or two regions are obvious death regions while a couple ECAC lambs putter around and grease the path of, say, horribly undeserving 2007 Michigan State. The "Team X got screwed," which is something that happens quite frequently, points to weird little flaws that affect the entire tourney. If you think this is a small effect not worth mentioning, let me remind you that there's a huge gap between the #2 seed and the #3 seed because of the autobids.
The common argument against this is that you have to win four games and so forth and so on and real champions are real men and don't need easy draws and all manner of different things that completely ignore the effect of luck in a single-elimination hockey tournament. There's a reason #1 overall seeds hardly ever win the national title. No team enters any game with a 100% chance of victory -- so say the Gophers -- so it's important to reward the teams that have earned the easiest path with the actually easiest path. I think the PWR fails to identify those teams on a regular basis and fails to provide the teams it identifies with the greased skids they deserve.
There's a lot of stuff in PWR that just doesn't make sense, and it's important to point these things out since the committee's formed a cargo cult around it instead of using it as an advisory tool. Are there alternatives? Maybe. In last year's edition of "Annual Complaint Against Obscure Ranking System" I proposed a version of the PWR that would use the RPI as a base number and things like COP and TUC and H2H as modifying factors:
Then take your modifying factors and add them to your RPI starting point to come up with a final modified RPI:
In this hypothetical world, BC's slight advantages in the PWR categories help them run up the RPI ditch they've dug for themselves but not all the way. This system is still fairly intelligible but has enough fine grain to kill 99% of the silly comparison-flipping and volatility that math-inclined college hockey fans know and loathe so well.
(This comparison was based on one of two Michigan lost to HE schools based on one early-season loss to Northeastern despite having huge RPI gaps on said HE schools; the direct result of that was Michigan ending up in the Bracket Of Death in Colorado.)
And then there's KRACH. KRACH is a very clever mathematical doohickey with some cool recursive properties that many people think is a better system even though the current incarnation of KRACH has a much more mathematically rigorous version of the same problem PWR does -- namely, way overrating a scant few nonconference games. While the PWR managed to shake out of its WCHA love affair soon enough to only put 60% of the conference in the tournament, a KRACH-based process would see no fewer than eight WCHA teams in the tourney. In a word: no. I'm intrigued by this idea of "fictional result KRACH," where some number of fake results against an imaginary, perfectly average team are artificially inserted. (Usually a win and a loss.) This reduces KRACH's infatuation with schedule strength and brings it more into line with what the universe outside WCHA campuses perceives as reality.
Anyway, this is yet another long excursion into college hockey's obscure mathematics that I'm sure about 5% of the reading audience doesn't hate, so I'll cut it short: the problem with the PWR does not just impact the bubble teams, and college hockey can do better with a few fairly simple changes if it realizes something is amiss. Whining == morally required.
I really hope the "We're all gonna die" was sarcasm. It's apparent that the new coaching staff is different and basically used to doing more with a lot less. When you have people in the system who don't believe in it, there is no system. It seems quite obvious that this is the kind of attrition we can afford... Football player is lazy on a team that has lost to Ohio State every year he has been there, something needs to change. Another apparent fact is that we cannot afford to lose everyone, but if you are on a team that is physically weak and the team as a whole wants to get stronger, but one member doesn't; I say goodbye. It's not doing anyone any favors to keep people around that don't work. It's harder on the coaching staff and the players around that person. For the last few years at Michigan we have had the "cream of the crop" talent; with poor training and very mediocre results. What is one more season, if it is in fact the season that will allow players and the team to get better even if the record doesn't show that.
Marc R. Burton
Yes, "we're all going to die" was sarcasm. Justin Boren's departure does not shorten the life expectancy of anyone save the poor sap selec
ted as Michigan's quarterback in 2008.
And yes, in one sense this is the sort of attrition we can afford, but it's in the "I only want players who want to be at Michigan" sense. With that mindset, every departure and every recruit who goes elsewhere is a positive. Where has "I only want players who want to be at Indiana" gotten the Hoosiers? Eh... not far. Given that Justin Boren is the kind of guy who really doesn't get along with Rodriguez or Frey, this is probably for the best. But I kind of wish Boren wasn't that kind of guy and Michigan had more than three scholarship interior linemen on campus.
As to the point about people who don't want to work and saying goodbye, absolutely. I don't think it's a coincidence that under Andy Moeller Michigan's offensive line hovered somewhere between adequate and awful despite receiving a prototype NFL left tackle from heaven. Something was deeply wrong with either talent identification or development. (The latter is more likely, since offensive line is the position at which you basically take a bunch of big guys and try to mold them.)
Matt Lentz was a three year starter who didn't get a sniff from the NFL, something that would have been unheard of at any point up until his existence. Heck, various uniformed commentators put him on All Big Ten or All-America teams simply because of his status as a long-time Michigan starter. Adam Kraus hasn't had the same misguided boosterism behind him, but he is also a three-year starter who will not get drafted because he is not good. The last couple years Michigan was forced to forgo a Boren redshirt and play a wildly unprepared Steve Schilling because there were no other alternatives. Fat and coddled Alex Mitchell was re-inserted into the starting lineup despite showing no real inclination to block anyone. Highly-touted recruits (Mitchell, Zirbel, Gallimore) were more likely to go bust than actually play -- or, in Mitchell's case, deserve to play. The last Carr recruiting class had two linemen in it, one snatched from the MAC. Now, the "Junction Boys"-ish attrition -- Mitchell, Ciulla, Boren, one other rumored departure that did not come to fruition -- is all coming from one place.
In this environment, is what happened against Ohio State surprising?
I've defended the Athletic Department's tendency to ram through renovation-related things in the past, but this bit of "surprise!" is far less defensible:
I am currently a senior engineering student here at UM. It has come to my attention (being that I have family at UM-Dearborn) that without notification of any kind, the university has changed its student football ticket policy regarding students at the Dearborn and Flint campuses.
For years (including from when my parents were students at Dearborn) the student ticket policy has been the same for them as for the Ann Arbor campus. However, as students are attempting to purchase football tickets during these two weeks, it is just coming out that they now have had 800 (of what was originally 1200) tickets stripped, thus leaving only 400 tickets for both campuses. Also, they will not be able to attempt to purchase these tickets until June / July. These tickets have been removed to make room for more alumni tickets, which of course provide greater monetary funds for stadium renovations.
Also, as usual, this decision was made behind closed doors during a meeting that no one knew about (sounds familiar i.e. stadium renovations). It was not even at the attention of the administration at the Dearborn campus. The athletic director and chancellor were both not made aware of this decision until this week when students began to complain. This is just another example of the problems with decision making at the University, where the Board of Regents and other administrative positions take the power just to themselves, while making decisions without regard to anyone else.
I believe even Ann Arbor students would be upset by this. I have been attending UM games since I was about 5 years old (with my parents, UM-Dearborn alums), and holding season tickets all five years I have been at the university. I am also in the process of applying for alumni season tickets, yet I am still outraged by this. I am confident other Ann Arbor campus students will also be upset by this, 1, because of the decision making process, and 2, because our students section will be made smaller, for more alumni who will not be cheering as loudly as students would be!
Thank you and Go Blue (from no matter what campus you attend),
I had no idea Flint and Dearborn students had the option to buy student tickets and am not sure if they should, but if they're going to take away student seats -- always a bad idea -- it probably shouldn't be from the sorts of people who are willing to drive in from Flint or Dearborn to see the game. How about the sorority/frat goofs that show up after the first quarter?
In re: the St. Cloud game at Yost: I remembered parts of it wrong. A reader picks up the slack:
Just reading through your Hockey tournament preview and have a few tidbits/discrepancies to share. First off, I was volunteering for the Athletic Dept at the time doing stats and stuff up in the press box for the hockey team that year (2001-02), so I was up there for the UM-St. Cloud State game. While the fans were great with their dollar bills and "Jer-sey Cha-sers" chant, and Komisarek was being his usual intimidating self, you might have missed this. The cheerleaders/mascot were taking up the entire blue line-to-blue line portion of center ice and as you
know, UM liked to do their warm up skate by circling around behind the goalie all the way up to the red line. So these cheerleaders are taking up part of their space, but the team is still going out to the red line and then doing a weird roundabout zig zag to avoid the cheerleaders.
We, in the press box, were saying how "if you're going to bring your skating hockey cheerleaders, then stay on your side of the ice" and commenting on how funny(/great) it would be if one of the UM players tripped the cheerleaders as he was skating by. I comment to one of the other guys that "if it's going to be anybody, it's going to be Komisarek" and immediately after saying that, he does just that! He gives a little tug with his stick on one of the girls skates and she almost bites it, but is able to regain her balance, while a few of us had a hearty laugh about it. I'm almost positive this is what led to the mascot being rather "frisky" with the UM team as he saw this happen. When they were doing the starting lineup announcements, the mascot kept getting real close to the UM players as they were skating up and pointing his stick at them (this must have been when Komo slashed his stick, which I don't remember but is very believable).
You were right in saying that the mascot wasn't done trying to ruffle feathers, but the events you say happened I don't quite remember it that way. I do know the mascot took a while to get off the ice (waiting for the right moment I guess) and he poked his stick at one of the players as he bolted off the ice. Backup goalie Kevin O'Malley goes absolutely Gwen Stefani bananas at this and is foaming at the mouth trying to get at him, while some people (refs, senior citizen volunteers, goal
light guy, not sure who)
are restraining O'Malley. I don't remember that some of the players did actually get a hold of the mascot and pummel him though. But I'm way up in the press box and doing a few things here and there pre game so it could have happened that they got ahold of him. I just remember seeing O'Malley going crazy post-incident.
Here are a couple other tidbits about that game -
1) 2002 was the year Canada won hockey gold and there was the famous loonie that the ice/zamboni guy (who was Canadian) put in the ice as a good luck charm. Well, the UM staff did the same thing by putting a block M in the ice, but word got out before the games and some SCSU player dug it up with his skate and removed it, which obviously did not sit well with UM team.
2) I'm not sure if I remember this correctly, but didn't SCSU force UM to use the visitor's locker room because they had the right to? Thus, also infuriating the UM team. Again, I know this happened but I wasn't sure if it was the SCSU game.
3) Jed Ortmeyer made one of the greatest hockey hits I have ever seen along the boards that broke Ortmeyer's stick....even though he only had one hand on it! The stick was stuck between the two players at the time of impact, but Ortmeyer had his right hand on the top of his stick that was basically above each players shoulder and it broke over his shoulder from the brute force of the hit. We have the privelige of having a TV with the game feed on it in the press box and I must have seen that hit about 10 times over and it ranks up there as one of the top 3 hits I've ever seen. The guy from SCSU needed smelling salts to get off the ice and just sat at the end of the bench for the rest of the game. The cameras kept showing him later in thegame and it looked like he didn't know what century he was in. He ended up being fine thankfully.
4) Mark Hartigan, SCSU's Mr. Everything and Hobey Baker Finalist, biffed it when it mattered most. UM was up by 1 in the 3rd when Hartigan had a breakaway that would have tied it.
There was no one within 20 feet of him, so he had all day to come up with a move and move in as fast or as slow as he wanted. And if you remember the Josh Blackburn era, you know that stopping breakaways was not one of Mr. Blackburn's strong suits. He always bit on the first move the guy made, so of course Hartigan fakes the forehand, making Blackburn flop down into the butterfly, and then goes to the backhand with a gaping wide open net....which he misses because he shoots the puck wide. I was in the press conference and Hartigan was a wreck about it, crying
and barely audible when he responded to reporters' questions.
Definitely one of the greatest UM games I've witnessed and obviously
one I remember well,
Re-remembering based on Jerry's remembrances: I did remember some of the Michigan guys really getting to the mascot, then being separated from him; it was at that point that O'Malley went bats trying to get to him. And, God bless him, the third string goalie is exactly the guy who should be doing that.
I believe that was the year Michigan got booted from their locker room, but I think it was Denver -- the #1 seed -- that did it to them.
I also remember the Hartigan breakaway, and the immense relief as the puck whistled by the net, a foot from the post.
Jed Ortmeyer had not one absolutely crushing open ice hit, but two, both of these early in the game. That pair of hits and the goal he scored the next night against Denver solidified Jed as my favorite Michigan hockey player ever and a challenger for favorite athlete, period. There's so much to love: his name is Jed. He's from Nebraska. He was a two-year captain and managed to anchor the top line despite having no real skill except working like a dog at all times. And in the most electric environment I've ever been at for a sporting event he was nails.
Those regionals also gave me my irrational and abiding affection for Eric Werner, the tiny, swashbuckling defenseman they had at the time. (One time at the GLI Michigan was short on forwards against Tech so Werner skated up; he scored a hat trick.) I don't remember which game it was, but I do remember staring at a one-goal Michigan deficit after the second period and just watching the clock tick down. A few minutes into the third, Werner yo-ho-ho-ed his way down from the point -- incredibly dangerous, no one was coming back to cover him -- and one-timed a slick pass into the top corner of the net. I was directly on-line with the shot and the play and saw every detail as it developed. I think that must have been the Denver game. I continually root for Chad Langlais to do stupidly dangerous things because I miss Werner.
Anyway, moral of the story: Yost is bidding for regionals in 2010 and 2011. Hope like hell they get one and sell a kidney to go.
Brian, I currently work in collegiate athletics and want to provide some more perspective on the Carty article. (My background quickly, if it matters...UM BA in Econ 2003 [started in Civil Engineering!] / worked in Midwestern mid-major athletic dept. from 04-07 / start work in Ivy League athletic dept. in T-minus 8 days)
First, you are correct in your assertion that "a similar examination of any program in the country would turn an equal or greater level of academic offense." Just because it's happening everywhere doesn't make it okay. Also, we're talking about one very particular situation at UM with Prof. Hagen. Clearly, there is something funny going on there. However, your response doesn't talk about the questions/issues/problems that Carty brings up.
I agree with much of what you say, but UM should be held to a higher standard than 'any program in the country'. Seriously, today's student-athletes lead extraordinary lives - the amount of time that each person spends on his/her sport (practice, strength & conditioning, travel, competition, study hall, community service, etc.) is astounding. And on top of all that, they still have to find time for school. However, todays student-athletes receive an incredible amount of assistance (tutors, study hall, breaks on missing classes/tests, specific advisers, etc.). That's all well-and-good in my eyes. The university pays it back for the dedication and commitment.
But, a student-athlete shouldn't be receiving special assistance from individual professors, any moreso than the rest of the general population. Is it so hard to believe that Hagen is a rogue professor that gives special breaks to UM athletes? Is it also so hard to believe that UM investigated Hagen and found sketchy stuff going on but 1) received a bunch of pressure from Athletics to not do anything about it (believe me, it does happen) and/or 2) didn't want to throw esteemed Prof. Hagens name in the dirt because it would make them look bad, or for fear or repercussion.
The fact (or assertion) that academic services staff funneled student-athletes into Hagen's classes isn't surprising, but it doesn't make it okay. I'm not really sure where the fault lies, you can't blame the staff for trying their damndest to keep kids eligible, you can't blame the student-athletes for taking an easy A, and you can't blame cool Prof. Hagen for wanting to be an insider. For me, it comes down to 'lack of institutional control' by UM administration.
But, Brian please don't use the argument that you can't graduate student-athletes without 'hijinks' as your response to Carty.
Multiple part-response. Part I: "Everyone does it" does not make it okay, that is correct. What makes it okay is the bizarre system in place wherein the only way to make it into a potentially lucrative career in the NFL (and various pro basketball leagues -- one-and-done guys are exceedingly uncommon compared to guys who stay two or three or four years and either make the NBA or head to Europe) is to go to a school you (very probably) aren't prepared to go to.
Michael Oher is the platonic ideal here: a guy who has no business in anything approximating a University except on the football field, but as long as he can maintain his eligibility will get the specialized coaching and training required to turn his massive frame into a golden ticket. Is it more moral to say "sorry, Mike, but please return to the Memphis ghetto"?
I am not bothered by the idea that Michigan admits a certain subset of students who are amongst the 99th percentile in ability in their chosen field -- sports -- but lag badly in other areas because I don't see a difference between sports and other sorts of entertainment-based fields that are academically sanctioned.
The argument I'm trying to advance is different from "everyone does it": everyone should do it, within reason. No one is served by stripping a kid of his eligibility and, later, his scholarship, because he can't hack his coursework. "Won't" is different, of course, and in cases where players aren't going to class and aren't putting in an honest effort there have to be repercussions. But these are largely remedial students; it shouldn't come as a surprise that they need guidance.
Part II: I've never subscribed to the whole "Michigan should be held to a higher standard" thing. Michigan should be held to the exact same standard everyone else should be: to do their best to educate and provide a platform for a stable adult life for their athletes. A large number of athletes deemed eligible by the NCAA are so far behind an average Michigan undergraduate that they would have no chance of maintaining eligibility without the full-time academic support Michigan provides. I think they care about their kids' outcomes and try very hard to keep them eligible, educate them as much as they can given each individual's starting point, and get them degrees. Nothing in the articles changed my opinion on that.
Part III: The Hagen stuff looks bad, and in certain cases it's clear Michigan has exploited him to keep players eligible. That shouldn't happen. But there's enough of a non-athlete population (about 50 over the three years surveyed) for comparison, and it appears that Hagen's just an easy A for anyone.
It does bother me that Hagen appears to be an option for multiple classes for a few students. I don't mind the possibility of one Get Out of Jail Free card, as long as the appropriate amount of work is done. But, like, Chad Kolarik appears to be taking a major in Professor Hagen. Though I love Chad (woo Friday hat trick!), that shouldn't happen.
I'm not trying to excuse the U entirely here: the Ann Arbor News did indeed turn up a few incidents and one general trend that should not be repeated and should be stopped, respectively. But, man... other than the stuff on Day I the rest of it has been weak sauce.
Part IV: This is obviously not ideal. Ideally, you could major in the thing you came to campus to do and spend most of your time on -- say 30 pass-fail credits available in it -- and the University could come to grips with the fact that many of the guys in this major need some remedial courses to get them up to speed. The important thing here, IMO, is to measure progress from a benchmark set when the player arrives on campus. Measure his academic ability when he arrives and when he leaves, compile an index and always strive to improve it.
I'm tired of living in this fairyland where universities have to lie and athletes have to struggle and fans have to close their eyes at the purported sausage factory; we should acknowledge the reality of the situation and just go about the business of doing it. We're here. We're sports teams inexplicably attached to institutions of learning that have drifted pretty far from their original intent anyway. Get used to it.
I'm already resigned to the fact that you will bash and denigrate Carty, and basically say one of the following:
* There's no problem with academics in the Athletic Department.
* Carty is a blowhard.
* Harbaugh doesn't know what he's talking about, and is a traitor to boot.
* Every big time school does it.
To me, it's all just self-justiification, and shows an inability on the part of many Blue fans to be honest with themselves about what's going on. It's a little bit like an alcoholic saying "I don't have a problem with drinking. I drink. I get drunk. I fall down. No problem . . . what's the big deal?"
The statement of Horton in the last segment rings true to me.  Blow off a session in the weight room, or with Rodriguez, or with Beilein, and see what happens. Blow off a class, and Acho and her gang will cover for you. The priority is on maintaining eligibility, and on sports teams winning. Whatever it takes to achieve this, do it.
However, I don't have a problem with
this. As long as colleges are functioning as an unofficial minor league, the academics will always be an afterthough. Whether it's Greg Oden, or Terry Mills, or Petway, or Gabe Watson, they'll jump through the right hoops to stay eligible, knowing that they're really just honing their skills for the pro leagues. We all know that's what is really happening, and I don't really have a problem with it. They don't care to get a degree, I don't care whether get one either. Just win, baby, and maybe bring home a National Title every ten years or so.
There are, however, two things that bug me.
1) I'm tired of Michigan homers bragging about our academics, and dissing USC, or OSU, or Florida, or FSU, or LSU, or even ND. I can't see that we're significantly different, at least in terms of Athletics and Academics. If we want to really be academic, we need to go the way of the Univ. of Chicago or Harvard or Princeton or even Northwestern. Either academics really matters for all students, or it doesn't. Sure, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that LSU and FSU are several notches below Michigan academically, both for athletes and across the board. But the differences with OSU and USC and ND and UT (Texas) are much smaller. I suspect that one of the reasons OSU gets to Michigan so much is because in many ways, we're so similar. Ok, for academics alone, Michigan is rated higher, but let's face it: both are the flagship state school in two loser rustbelt industrial states.
2) It bugs me that athletes who do have a brain are pushed away from actually getting a worthwhile degree. I used to like seeing that there were engineering students and pre-med and pre-law students among those on the football team. Those days seem to be over. Let's use Harbaugh as an example. Could he have studied history and succeeded? I believe so. Would he have been able to devote as much time to athletics? Undoubtedly not. But so what. I feel like saying to athletes interested in academics, go to Stanford. Go to Northwestern. Go to Princeton or Harvard. Don't come to Michigan, because you'll be shielded from the real student body, and from real profs, and real academic standards. You'll be pushed into 3 or 4 joke classes a term with joke grades so you can daydream and play video games on your laptop during those classes you attend, and focus on the REAL reason you're here: win baby, just win.
Nothing's gonna change, so why don't you just go back to covering sports. That's what most of us reader geeks are really interested in anyway.
Steve in the Chicago area
I don't know whether to be angry at Steve for obviously not reading anything I've written about this or happy that he's making virtually the same arguments. As for the bullets:
There's no problem with academics in the Athletic Department. The AA News turned up a few things that are obvious abuses and a systematic acknowledgment of a thing called "reality". There are some small problems and one action item: independent study by athletes should be severely curtailed.
Carty is a blowhard. I'm not sure why the entire Michigan internet is so pissed at Carty specifically when there are four names on all the stories and this is a big seven-month investigative push by the Ann Arbor News in general. He's part of it; I blame I Are Serious Editor more than Carty.
And, yeah, there's some blame. For seven months of investigation the Ann Arbor News had better get some mileage out of it, so they put their headlines in WAR-sized caps and spend an entire week when they had about a single story's worth of actual news. They also credulously accept assertions from other schools that they're shocked, shocked Michigan would do something like this. They misleadingly headline a piece "General studies uncommon at Michigan's 'peer' universities" in an article with a chart of majors that shows severe clustering at half the Big Ten schools and Notre Dame. Majors named "general studies" are indeed uncommon; majors with the same effect are universal. They refused to interview Mary Sue Coleman because she wanted to do it over email. They finish the article on the Ross Academic Center with a damning quote from a women's basketball player... who was at the U for one year six years ago.
How many positive quotes did they leave out? How can we be sure of the general tone of their conversations with former athletes? Why choose to, at every turn, emphasize detractors and the disgruntled? I'm about the worst judge available for this, but I'm not impressed by the standard of journalism in these pieces. There is a small story here spun out into a BIG STORY.
Harbaugh doesn't know what he's talking about and is a traitor to boot. Harbaugh does know what he's talking about but suggested Stanford doesn't do similar things (wrong) and sold out the university that got him into the NFL for some notoriety and a bit of a recruiting boost. So... yeah.
Every big time school does it. See above.
As to the things that bother: I am dead with you on #1. I do think that maybe Michigan is more concerned than many schools about actually having their kids go to their easy classes and do their easy assignments based solely on anecdotal evidence, but it's a matter of degree.
On #2: I sincerely doubt Harbaugh actually gave a crap about history; I think maybe he had a vague idea he'd be a history major because he liked history in high school and was quickly disabused of that notion when he got to Michigan. And Northwestern and Stanford shield their football players like mother hens, man.
As to the larger issue: when I got to Michigan I had a lot of AP credits* and thus could take some upper-level courses as a freshman. I visited my academic advisor with a plan to take something like 17 credits, including a 300-level biochem course. The advisor told me I was biting off more than I could chew and I should scale back. I scoffed, and blew through my first semester without problems, resolving that the advisor was a douchebag and not returning. My second semester I signed up for History of Africa after 1850, a 400-level CAAS class that fulfilled the U's race & ethnicity requirement. There was a guy in it who looked like he owned every Arrested Development bootleg out there; everyone in the class seemed about 35 and was angry. The first grade was halfway into the semester; I argued that Heart of Darkness was not a racist book no matter what Chinua Achebe said, provided some shiny happy people handholding towards the end, and got a C-. I'm pretty sure was the first C I'd seen on anything ever. I freaked.
Three days later I was the proud recipient of a W (for "withdrawn") on my transcript; the next semester I enrolled in Anthro 101, a class with multiple-choice scantron finals.
Moral: shielding is probably a good thing in most cases. And where it's not, the magic of Zoltan (a B-school enrollee) happens.
That said, you're right. It's bothersome that for 90% of football players a challenging major is completely unrealistic. I would like to see the NCAA institute a policy change that allows players one or two years of scholarship after their eligibility expires so guys like Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla can get whatever degree their academic ability allows. I don't see how it's realistic for Michigan to fix it on their own.
*(note to high schoolers planning on attending Michigan: take every AP class you can get your greasy mitts on, especi
ally physics. Unless something's changed recently, each is worth 4 or 5 credits or so -- physics is a whopping 10! -- and if you have 40-something you register with upperclassmen. Result: nothing you would reasonably want to take is ever full.)
Items of interest sent to me that don't require such a lengthy response:
My general reaction is that the NCAA tends to look for disparities in
how athletes and non-athletes are treated, and that the only hint of
disparity from Carty's article is that athletes were advised to enroll
in one particular professor's independent study section. There's no
evidence that, once enrolled, athletes were treated more favorably in
his section than the rest of the student population. I also don't
understand why it's surprising that advisers for the athletes would
favor enrolling them in one professor's section over another: if
athletes have been successful in his section before, enjoyed it,
and/or were able to enroll in it, why not try to enroll more of them
As for other criticisms levied at this prof: one of my labmates was
retroactively enrolled in an independent study course more than 12
months after the enrollment dates for which it appeared on his
transcript, and retroactively assigned a grade of satisfactory. That
is, he enrolled for it in 2008 but it appeared on his transcript for
2006. This type of thing happens all of the time, especially in
graduate programs. As an undergrad, it's a matter of meeting with
your advisor and getting their signature.
You're just as aware as I am that college is what you make of it.
Just as there are courses that don't require you to show up, do
reading, or even do any work in general other than the occasional easy
paper or exam (e.g. Astronomy 101/102, any American Culture class, any
of the Geology mini-courses) there are plenty of courses on the other
side that require much more than the estimated 4 hours per week *
credit hours (e.g. EECS 470). There's nothing in the Carty article to
suggest that athletes are being treated any differently than the
Another item that addresses the really late independent study add:
I disagree with your first point that adding IS midterm is by default, a scam. All I can relate is a personal experience.
I added IS midterm because I decided to withdraw from another course in which I was significantly struggling. I was accepted to every graduate school of my choice, turned down MIT, and was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which is an extremely competitive award. Academic aptitude and work ethic weren't a problem.
I was failing a math class. I'm not a football player, quite obviously, so there is a distinction: I was overextending myself with physics classes and the most difficult math classes that served no purpose other than challenging myself. There is a big difference between failing rocks for jocks as a natural science requirement, and failing topology, an abstract math course that you take for nothing other than fun.
It was clear after midterms I was going to fail the course despite going to office hours every day and sitting in on another section taught by another instructor. The instructor told me as much. I dropped my most easy class before the drop date to make more time for this course. Rather than suffer a D+ in that class, and witness my grades in others go from the A level to low B's, I dropped the class, took the W, my grades went back to A's in my relevant classes, but because I had previously dropped the earlier class, I needed credits mid-term. I took IS. I didn't take it for 4 credits, it was 2, but I think I added March 1.
Nowhere in the article does it say they received 4 credits. For all we know, it was 1-2. Now I'd agree, every time a football player struggles, the answer isn't "take a W, and let's add an IS so you don't lose eligibility." But if those players only had 1-2 W's on their transcripts during their time at Michigan, it's not fraud. It would be fraud if the number of credits they received was more than the work they performed.
I am disappointed they sent those athletes to Professor Hagen. In my opinion, proper academic advisement would be "withdraw from the class, but we need to add a mini-course or independent study to keep your credits above 12. It is your job to find someone." If those advisers contacted Professor Hagan and said "we have a problem, these kids need to drop a class or they will lose eligibility, so can you take them on?" that is fraudulent. But if it only happened once or twice in their careers, and the work they did meets the standards of the academic department, it's a gray area, one that is unfortunate, but not necessarily wrong.
I personally know several other students who withdrew from classes and added IS mid-term -- them all in graduate school at top 10 institutions in their fields -- and the right decision in that situation is to withdraw. Then, your advisers need to ensure that the next semester, you are taking a balanced course load, are in the correct classes, and you have the resources so it doesn't happen again. But a one time midterm W and adding credits with IS does not equal fraud. It happens to common students too. Obviously, the reasons behind a student struggling will vary, and there is logarithmic separation between the difficulties of some classes. But with 100 people on the football roster, it doesn't strike me as odd for 1-2 to drop a class midterm and add an IS or mini-course last minute to boost their credits. I honestly feel they are receiving proper advisement in that situation as long as the work they do for their IS is commiserate with the professors (and thereby departments) expectations.
If those players were advised to do that so they'd maintain eligibility, is that any different than me deciding to have a W on my transcript and 3 A's rather than a D+ and 3 B's one semester because I wanted to go to graduate school?
Topology for fun! Jesus! John Blum frightens me.
And he is right, the AA news does not reveal the credits received by Riley and Watson. If it's two, then the late IS add might be reasonable. (Did they provide this information? No. Did they have it? Yes. Is there any reason to omit the number of credit hours? No. Does this bring the integrity of the reporting here into further question? Yes.) It is possible that nothing untoward happened here.
But this is a slope more slippery than Sam McGuffie. I know the school makes all sorts of allowances for kids who find themselves in academic trouble whether it's for not being able to spell "cat" or signing up for topology on a whim. Here, however, the university has a powerful incentive other than being nice to juggle schedules and the end result is very beneficial to the U. These situations are begging to be abused. This is not 'Nam, there are rules, and it looks very much like Michigan skirted them so a couple players would not be ineligible for the bowl game when they probably should have been. Michigan should have bit the bullet, put them in the Hagen class the following semester, and dealt with the consequences.
Caveat: I don't have the full story here and am going by appearances in a story designed to provide the appearance of wrongdoing. I acknowledge this could be a legitimate occurrence; Occam's razor suggests otherwise.