Proposal for a Better Big Ten Schedule

Proposal for a Better Big Ten Schedule

Submitted by Seth on February 9th, 2017 at 12:12 PM

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Can you name all the Michigan players in this photo from the last Purdue-Michigan game in Ann Arbor? [photo: a much younger Eric Upchurch]

Since going to 14 teams the Big Ten schedule has been a mess. Some teams rarely face each other, other teams face each other twice a season. The divisions are historically and presently uneven. The last two years in a row this resulted in a Big Ten “champion” that had a demonstrably worse season than at least two other Big Ten teams. Congrats Penn State and Michigan State, but I think we can do better. In fact I have an idea how.

I’ll get into the details below but the idea isn’t for everyone to have to memorize the details. The simplest description is every year you play three locked-in rivalry games, three games of your choosing, and three games against schools near you in the standings. Your biggest rivalry is played at the end of the season, and its result (half) carries over to next season.

On FiveThirtyEight’s Solution: Nate Silver’s proposal and mine share a few concepts: locked in rivalries early in the year, a mini-playoff at the end of the year, and eradicating divisions (which is essential to any good schedule reform). But it has two big flaws I tried to avoid:

1) It puts The Game in September, which: no, or in Week 7, which again: no, and then you’re seeding with less information.

2) Teams at the top will rarely face those at the bottom. I don’t like that because it cuts down on variety and could easily lead to things like long droughts between Michigan-Purdue tilts which are one of the things we’re trying to fix. Also it’s not good for the long term health of the conference since it would redistribute more losses from the bottom of the conference to the middle and middle-high. In effect it would result in fewer and lower ranked teams at the top, and fewer bowl-eligible teams from the conference. A few more competitive games is good, but 538’s proposal takes that to an extreme to the detriment of other important considerations.

Goals:

  1. Maintain the annual rivalries and maximize their importance, keeping the big rival games at the end of the season.
  2. Play 9 conference games.
  3. Split up rivalry games so every team has a compelling schedule every year to sell to season ticket holders.
  4. Produce a fair and least disputable conference champion by playing all or most of the relevant games during the season.
  5. Play as many competitive games between similarly ranked teams as possible.
  6. No rematches!
  7. See a variety of opponents over a 10-year period.
  8. Encourage Power 5 opponents in non-conference scheduling.
  9. Be relatively simple.

The system I came up with hit all of these benchmarks to varying degrees (#9 being measured in Kelvin). #5 conflicts with #7 so I left it up to the schools themselves to prioritize between them. As for #9 it’s actually complicated, but can have the appearance of simplicity.

The schedule has four components:

  1. Three locked-in games versus your annual rivals.
  2. Three games where the top teams draft their opponents.
  3. Three games where you play like competition, and the top four teams all play each other.
  4. A “Big Ten Showcase” invitational during conf championship week to play the best three games that weren’t played.

DIVISIONS

This is the easy part. The teams are all separated into four pods of three or four with rivals they ought to be playing every year.

Grp Big Two,
Little Bro
East Coast Cable Subscribers Intercollegiate
Conference
of Maladroit
Representatives
Corn Corn Corn Corn Cheese Corn
Corn Corn
A Michigan Rutgers Illinois Wisconsin
B Ohio State Maryland Northwestern Minnesota
C Michigan State Penn State Indiana Iowa
D x x Purdue Nebraska

The division names are not important but the order is—if you want a clue as to why, look at the A-B and C-D matchups. Teams in your pod are the two or three teams you play every year. There are two ways to handle the three-team pods and I haven’t decided which I like better—either works about the same:

  • Option 1: Lock in rivals. Each team gets an annual rival from the opposite division, e.g. Michigan-Maryland is played the week of OSU-MSU, PSU-OSU always comes when Michigan plays State, and Rutgers-Michigan State is played annually on the last week of the season for bragging rights and the Situation Trophy.
  • Option 2: Rotate every 2 years. So after two seasons of the above, Michigan plays Rutgers on week 1, Ohio State plays Maryland, and the Land Grant Trophy becomes the end-of-year rivalry for MSU. Then after two years it becomes M-PSU, OSU-Rutgers, MSU-Maryland.

I sorta prefer Option 1 but Option 2 seems more feasible.

[HIT THE JUMP to see how I worked it all out]

Ding Dong, The Divisions Are Dead (Again)

Ding Dong, The Divisions Are Dead (Again)

Submitted by Brian on April 22nd, 2013 at 2:48 PM

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HOW IS CAN DO I MAKE NAMES SWEDISHES

After months and months of leaks to the effect that the Big Ten would use the opportunity presented by their (nonsensical) expansion to ditch the current divisions and go with a straight East-West breakdown, the Big Ten… actually, wait.

The proposed Big Ten West includes the six teams located in the Central time zone -- Illinois,Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern andWisconsin -- plus Purdue, sources said.

The proposed Big Ten East includes Indiana,Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State,Penn State and Rutgers.

"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.

A source? Didn't we just do this last month? ESPN?

ESPN.com reported last month that the divisions debate was down to whether Purdue or Indiana would go to the West. Purdue's campus is located west of Indiana's.

Yes. We did. Every Big Ten blog has a post on this today. The news: Purdue and Indiana have been situated. This came out in the middle of a surreal terrorist manhunt, and we still care. News is weird, but let's get swept away in the tide of history.

Competitive upshot

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cowboys ride for free wait, seriously, Kansas?

Anyone with a keyboard to tap at is making a Big Ten West == Big 12 North comparison, and… yeah, down to the school that'll probably be making the conference's last stand against the dual hegemony in the other division. The best team out of Iowa/Illinois*/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Purdue/Northwestern will probably be pretty good. They'll be a dog in most every championship game, but this is what happens when you expand with absolutely nothing other than the rapidly-fading cable television model in mind. More like NONsense and NONsensibility and zombies, amirite?

Meanwhile, the other division is Michigan, Ohio State, and Also Ran until such time as Penn State gets off the deck from their NCAA sanctions. Michigan State's trying to puff their chest out, but it's over for them. State's recent run of quasi-relevancy (still no BCS bowls… ever) coincided with a three-year period in which

  1. Michigan was busy punching itself during the brief Rodriguez era
  2. Ohio State was off the schedule (2009 and 2010) or having their one-year tatgate implosion.

MSU has one win over a good OSU team since 1974, and four total. While they've been a little less futile against Michigan, before the Rodriguez run their record the previous 20 years was 5-15. With Michigan and Ohio State poised for decade-plus long runs of coaching stability and recruiting dominance, there aren't going to be a lot of opportunities to pick off easy wins against teams struggling to .500 records or worse. It's over.

More interesting is Rutgers. New Jersey is fertile recruiting ground. With Penn State down, eastern Pennsylvania should be easier to get into. They've been recruiting on a level commensurate with a middling Big Ten team despite being stuck in the Big East. If the financial and prestige boost from their move bumps them up a notch, they could become the most annoying ankle-biter in the division.

Penn State has to dig out, obviously, and then who knows what they're like without Joe Paterno? Early returns are good, as they managed to acquire some serious talent despite the sanctions. Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman signed up for a team with three more bowl ban years upcoming—that says something about PSU's enduring pull with Pennsylvania recruits.

They still have no chance to keep pace. They have to be down to 65 players this year and are currently on track to have a recruiting class of eight guys this year even with some attrition that's 10 to 12 players. Doom awaits. By the time they're good the Big Ten will probably be at 84 teams. Short term thinking, that's our motto.

Indiana and Maryland enjoy basketball.

*[Yeah, Illinois. Every ten years they have a good team and then implode.]

Should we be thinking long term?

The ACC is trumpeting a very long "grant of rights" deal that hypothetically locks the TV revenue from the 15 member teams—ND included minus football—to the conference they're currently in until 2027. This will save the conference unless something totally improbable happens. That thing: lawyers!

Unless a league member decides to go to litigation to escape this down the road, the ACC believes a Grant of Rights will protect it from conference realignment poachers.

Because lawyers never get involved in these things. While the GOR provides an extra hurdle, it's a deterrent designed to look super scary. Just how effective it'll be in the event of a departure is unknown. See: Maryland, currently involved in that litigation stuff over a $50 million exit fee the ACC voted in just before they left. Maryland will likely pay something less than that in a settlement.

People in charge of things are just in charge of them

Goodbye, Successories Conference.

leadership[1]

leadership is more about not being clueless than eyebrows

Let us pour out some gasoline for our dead homie division names, and light them on fire. Burning is the most terrible way to die, but as the wisps arise from the charred notions that were "Legends" and "Leaders" it seems far too kind. If that debacle doesn't prove to you once and for all that our tendency to worship any bushy-eyebrowed dim bulb who manages to ascend to the talky bit of any enterprise is destructive, I don't know what to tell you.

Whenever someone cocks their eyebrow at you and condescendingly says that you don't have the vast amounts of information and knowledge they do about complicated geopolitical processes like conference realignment, just remember that those guys are the ones who made the conference a national laughingstock for years. They did this by doing something that was such a bad idea from the start that they promised they'd reconsider after literally every person who heard it laughed in their face.

Therefore their projections that media markets are still going to matter in 10 years…

Nine games

At least there's that. Starting in 2016, Big Ten teams will play nine conference games each. It looks like there's an easy way around the unbalanced schedule issue: have all the teams in one division have four one year, five the other.

I'd rather play more Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa than any nonconference opponent you care to name save Notre Dame—RIP, ND series—so I look on this as no downside. With Michigan buying home games from the Oregon States and Cincinnatis of the world, they can have their seventh home game with a nonconference schedule that consists of one cupcake, one interesting guarantee game against a midlevel foe, and one marquee matchup. Well, most of the time. The 2016 nonconference schedule is now locked in: Hawaii, Ball State, and Colorado. Er.

Complicated solution to problem time

Time to re-iterated my desired solution for the basketball situation: everyone plays round-robin, and then the conference is split into a top seven and bottom seven, whereupon another round-robin commences. 19 total games, best overall record wins. Pros:

  • Conference championship is almost entirely fair. Home-road is unbalanced in the first half, but none of this "you didn't play team X" business. The regular season championship is a really big deal right now; this would make it bigger.
  • No divisions. Divisions kill the importance of the regular season title.
  • The last six games for the top half are a must-see all-out war. Dude, take this year's league and do this to it and imagine a stretch run where IU-OSU-M-MSU-Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota OR Illinois OR Maryland only play each other. That would be nuts.
  • Doesn't require you to expand the conference schedule too much to get coverage. No 20, 22 game conference schedules but you don't get all that discussion about how team X doesn't play team Y.

Cons are obvious and large: potentially problematic ticket sales since you don't know who you're playing or when, a potential for teams near the bubble to get blasted off it (if you're #7 in the top half) or have little opportunity to climb out of it (for #8 stuck with the little people). I stole the RR-split-RR system from Scottish soccer, which has a compelling narrative at the bottom as teams try to avoid relegation that doesn't exist in college sports.

In any case, they could at least try it and see if the upside outweighs the downside.

Big Ten Expansionfiasco: Silver Linings

Big Ten Expansionfiasco: Silver Linings

Submitted by Brian on January 30th, 2013 at 12:41 PM

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via Savage Chickens

In recent days there's been enough new talkin' about the reshaped Big Ten that it seems like this is a deliberate trial balloon being floated. Penn State's AD:

Penn State athletic director David Joyner expects the addition of Rutgers and Maryland will lead the Big Ten toward a "geography-based" realignment.

In an interview posted on Penn State's website, Joyner said that the conference is leaning toward re-grouping its 12 teams based more on geography. As a result, Rutgers and Maryland could join a division with Penn State.

Rittenberg has a story with similar sentiments from Dave Brandon

"We will likely be a little bit more attentive to geographic alignment," Brandon said. "If Michigan and Ohio State being in the same division turns out to be what's in the best interest of the conference, that would be great."

…Iowa AD Gary Barta…

"I do think we have a chance to have a little bit more of a geographic look to it, which I think is great," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. "It's great for fans, it's great for student-athletes, it considers travel, rivalries. With us, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, those just make great sense.

and Northwestern AD Jim Phillips:

"Maybe it was competitive balance last time," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips told ESPN.com. "Maybe geography wins the day this time. … It wasn't the most important [factor in 2010], but we should look at it this time because we are spread farther than we ever have been."

Previously, Gene Smith had asserted he wants a Michigan-OSU division, balance be damned. With this many athletic directors more or less openly saying geography will be a factor and downplaying the competitive balance angle it would be a shock if anything like the current alignment is maintained when Maryland and Rutgers are—oh God I'd forgotten—admitted the year after next. That's not the way PR works.

Presumably this would heal the current Michigan-OSU rift, thus ending the possibility that the Game gets moved to midseason and allowing Michigan fans to watch Ohio State games like God intended: hoping they lose, without reservations.

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I still prefer the Eye Of Sauron alignment since over the long term it should provide more balanced Big Ten Championship games, but since they're just going to add more teams there is no long term.

The long term is unattractive. Things get hairy if you tack on two random ACC schools to get to 16 and still want to execute divisions based on geography. In that case whichever school from Indiana or Illinois that gets lumped in with the east would flip over to the other division and Michigan would play most of their traditional rivals once a decade or so.

Mitigating That Bit

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one of two ways to play ten conference games

Nine conference games is on the table again. Prepare thy palm, reader, as this quote will no doubt cause you to put face to same:

"As the conference expands, it would be unfortunate if a student-athlete came to the University of Michigan, played in the Big Ten Conference for four years and never even got to play or compete against one of the schools in the conference," Brandon said.

I can think of a way the Big Ten could have avoided this problem.

In any case, Brandon says the Big Ten should "at least" move to nine; Smith says he "would like to go to nine or ten," and then everyone says they need seven home games or their department will implode. "Leveraging assets" is spoken. Ten seems unlikely, as it either prohibits you from playing anyone interesting in the nonconference or brings you down to six home games and forces you to fire every nonrevenue coach. Or something. Possibly just pay them somewhat less.

I'm not sure replacing games against good teams with Maryland and Rutgers is a good thing, but when the alternative is almost never playing Iowa or Wisconsin you have to do what you have to do.

The only way ten games seems feasible is if the NCAA institutes the I-AA-game-as-preseason-contest idea that Rich Rodriguez mentioned a couple times. That would act as your seventh home game without putting too much wear and tear on the kids—the guys who actually play during the year would be lifted after a couple drives. Then you can do what you want with your two nonconference games without having to set the soccer stadium on fire for the insurance money.

The Last Word

From mGrowOld:

I fear this speculation is meaningless as whatever path makes the most sense to all parties concerned will  be immediately discarded by B1G leadership in favor of something noboby likes or understands.

Unverified Voracity Plays Navy

Unverified Voracity Plays Navy

Submitted by Brian on January 21st, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Old school item. Michigan-Navy, newsreel 1967:

72,000 was announced, which seems high for the end of the Bump era.

Not bad. A Lion Eye is considering the wreckage in Champaign by adding up football and basketball conference records over the past two years. Results:

Michigan 29-10
Michigan State 28-12
Ohio State 27-12
Wisconsin 26-13
Purdue 20-19
Northwestern 18-21
Nebraska 17-23
Indiana 16-22
Iowa 16-23
Penn State 16-24
Minnesota 13-26
Illinois 9-30

He admits it's a dumb way to put together a statistic. I like it anyway.

In which Gene Smith, who bumbled his way to a bowl ban for a 12-0 team, is more sensible than Michigan's athletic director. Kind of, anyway:

"I kind of lean toward having us in the same division," he said. "But I'm open to keeping it as it is, based on what my colleagues might share."

Meanwhile:

In an email to ESPN.com, Brandon said, "I would certainly not be opposed to being in the same division as OSU if it was in the best interest of our conference. I look forward to the discussion with my colleagues and our conference leadership."

"If it was in the best interest of our conference" should not even come into consideration. The conference doesn't pay the bills. Hopefully this is just PR; I miss the days when someone in charge of something had a greater-than-zero percent chance of saying something that he thought.

We had a shifty season. Probably.

"We had a s****y season, to be honest with you," Hoke said at the MHSFA's Winner’s Circle Clinic. "Bad year, to be honest. Proud of the kids, how they kept moving forward, but it wasn't the year Michigan deserves."

The comparison is left to the reader.

Lol Adidas. I keep comparing the alternate hockey jerseys to replicas you'd get off the rack at Wal-Mart, but apparently the basketball jerseys are literally that:

Four of Michigan’s blue road jerseys ripped in the Wolverines’ 83-75 win over Minnesota Wednesday.

Impossible is nothing, right, Adidas?

Trey Burke’s No. 3 was the first to rip, so he played most of the game wearing No. 12, which was also ripped later in the game. So after Jordan Morgan used Michigan’s second and only other extra jersey — the redshirt junior played the second half wearing No. 30 — Burke and, later, Caris LeVert were forced to play with holes in their uniforms.

I can’t remember the last time the Wolverines beat a top-10 opponent on the road after four of its jerseys were ripped since no official statistics are kept on road games won with ripped jerseys. I can assure you, though, that no Michigan team has won a road game over a top-10 team since the Wolverines beat No. 10 Duke, 62-61, on Dec. 8, 1996 until Wednesday. That was more than 16 years ago.

I did not think it was possible for an apparel company to fail so spectacularly as Adidas has and still exist. The level of incompetence they've shown over the last couple years is incompatible with a still-extant huge company. At some point they should have had a company-wide party during which everyone put on their new GasolineTech line and then lit a bonfire.

I have never taken any economics courses but I'm pretty sure this is ignorant of basic economics. Something called the "Delta Cost Project" at something called "American Institutes for Research" released a study about how much colleges spend on athletes. Surprise: it is a lot relative to students that don't have skills that cause hundreds of thousands of people to want to watch them do things.

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I wasn't going to mention this because it is blatantly dishonest to not even casually mention that the big time schools with all of these expenditures are raking in piles of money, but Deadspin flogged it.

The obvious takeaway: the SEC is insane. SEC schools spend more than 12 times as much on each athlete as they do on their regular, non-revenue-generating students. They spend 40 percent more than Big Ten schools, and 60 percent more than Pac-10 (now PAC-12) schools. The SEC's nearly $164,000 median cost per athlete is almost twice as much as the FBS average, and four-and-a-half times as much as the median FCS program. Becoming the country's undisputed college football elite conference doesn't come free, and it doesn't come cheap.

And remember, these figures are per athlete, not just per football player. Considering the costs of running a girls volleyball program, feel free to slide the football expenditures upward.

The imbalance isn't just an SEC problem, though. The average D-1 football school is spending 6.7 times more money on each athlete than on each regular student. The question then becomes: where is that money going? Those athletes sure as hell aren't getting paid.

I hear you about the getting paid thing; when the biggest individual hunk of the athletic spending is on compensation for coaches and ever-growing numbers of athletic department staffers it grates. But the reason there is spending is that there is revenue. Find me a chemical engineer making revenue for the school on the order of the quarterback, and then get him to file patents for you, and then come to me and say "look at this chemical engineer."

It is in fact the lowest schools on the totem pole who are setting money on fire to do this:

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The top ~60 schools that approximately comprise BCS conferences are in those first two quartiles, and spend relatively little money from students and the institution. Get below that and it's fees and tuition. We could have a discussion about whether this is a good idea. I don't want to bother talking with these people since they are framing the "problem" of college sports spending without noting that colleges don't have shareholders to provide dividends to and that at the top schools money in is therefore destined to equal money out, and there is a lot of money in.

BONUS: The one interesting thing about this is a glimpse into how the Big Ten's supposed money advantage evaporates in the face of the SEC's laser focus on football. That per-athlete number is 50k more than the Big Ten despite revenues being close to equal because SEC schools carry many fewer sports than the Big Ten does. Call it the Six Million Dollar Rower gap.

I find you guilty of the passing blasphemy. Lloyd Carr is now on the Committee on Infractions. In related news, teams that do anything that seems tricky will be ejected into space.

Random dude says implausible thing about Big Ten expansion. Given what happened last time, the dumber and less credible the rumor, the more we have to pay attention to it. First, this comes from a guy whose bio reads like so:

Chris usually writes using the pseudonym "Honus Sneed" is known as the "Dude of WV". He's sometimes controversial and sometimes funny but his love of the Mountaineers is always apparent. He is married to smartest, most bad-ass, derby girl who is as beautiful as she is tough. They share their life with the iirrepressible Fozzie Bear of Chaos who denies he is related in any way to Bo Obama.

So take it for what it's worth. He says the Big Ten is aiming for Virginia and would like to add UNC or Georgia Tech. I put no credence in it, but it's clear the Big Ten isn't done and has adopted a strategy of stealthily making stupid moves because their previous approach—doing intelligent things publicly—was totally square.

As previously stated, at this point I am in favor of the Big Ten adding six more teams and putting all of them in the other division so we can pretend none of this ever happened. So whatever. Add away, deranged fang-beasts with MBAs. You already blew it all up.

Slice. A fairly large deregulation package just passed one level or another of the NCAA's governance structure. I think this is the stage at which the thing gets passed by a small group and then Indiana State tries to override it because it's not fair they're Indiana State, so some of these proposals could meet the same fate as the cost-of-living increase did down the road.

If these things do get through, they're for the better:

Several of the 25 changes adopted Saturday are small and fairly obvious. Schools, for instance, can now provide "reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice," which means the old joke that athletes could be provided bagels but not cream cheese – yes, that was an actual NCAA rule – no longer applies. And a new rule that will allow athletes to receive "$300 more than actual and necessary expenses" as long as they don't come from an agent or booster will save a ton of paperwork and compliance headaches for things that used to be considered secondary (or minor) violations.

But there are also some significant ways in which recruiting has now been deregulated, ways that could favor the bigger schools with bigger budgets.

Coaches can now make an unlimited number of contacts with recruits via text messages or social media. Printed recruiting materials sent through the mail are now completely deregulated in terms of frequency or expense. And schools will now have the ability to hire a recruiting coordinator who isn't a head coach or full-time assistant coach, which is a particularly big deal for football.

Think of all the paperwork that will no longer be done. You should be in favor of anything that 1) moves the focus away from nothing secondary violations onto big issues *cough*OLEMISS*cough* and 2) allows Michigan to use its money firehose to either distance themselves from schools with less or close the gap on schools operating outside of the framework, cough OLE MISS cough.

This was the easy bit. Emmert's got a bigger reform package on the table that won't be as easy to shove through since it deals with big, big things like transfer rules and agents and, uh… "meals." What exactly they'd like to do isn't something I could google up. Hopefully it includes some accommodation with the realities of agents these days and maybe some movement towards allowing some money to flow to the players.

BONUS: When you want to name-check a 'have', you go to one place.

"There are universities that made investments 100 years ago that, by historical accident in some instances, have set as their role, scope and mission, things that give them competitive advantages in their ability to fund and support ahtletics," NCAA president Mark Emmert said Saturday. "Michigan has been Michigan for a long time.

Etc.: Sportswriters now pondering whether anything was ever real. That's actually a good column by Tim Layden about the inherent uncheckability of a lot of stuff. Will Campbell is reprising his high school camp performances. I guess Will Hagerup really has a chance to come back; must be Stonum-style double-secret probation. Michigan's defense is short of national-title expectations.

Kate Upton. We win.

Unverified Voracity Likes The Great Eye

Unverified Voracity Likes The Great Eye

Submitted by Brian on December 13th, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Volleyball final four tonight. 7 PM, ESPN 2.

Probably not important but for God's sake we have to at least try. Go here and vote for anything but "Existing Divisions plus one." I like what I'll be calling the Eye Of Sauron Configuration:

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Ace with the quick photoshop for the win:

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You have the two triangles of hate plus Nebraska's desire to make one of them a parallelogram of hate plus everyone else in the other division. The balance is as fair as possible: M-OSU versus everybody. The straight East-West split is a lot less drivable and places the three teams with the most recruiting muscle in the same division.

They will release results for this on Monday at 6:30, FWIW, and then ignore everything so they can create the JUSTICE and BEATIFIC TOLERANCE divisions while introducing the league's new logo, which is a stained glass window of Jim Delany with a halo.

BONUS: "*Actual Division Names TBD"

Line of the week.  From the MZone:

Thankfully, our pal Surrounded in Columbus is always good for a nugget or four from deep behind enemy lines.  Today he sent the picture below with the following email:

Most people would be disappointed to be 12-0 & staying home.  They're not most people.

No word yet on when Tressel Boned Us But We Still Hoisted Him on Our Shoulders Like Morons Lane is going up.

Ohio State hosts a "celebration of perfection against reason" Tuesday during which Galileo will be burned at the stake and the sun declared to revolve around the earth.

Tell me something I don't know. Maurice Clarett:

He was a hard worker in practice and in games. But off the field, he was living a completely different life. "I took golf, fishing, and softball as classes," Clarett says. "Away from class, anything you can think of I did in my 13 months at Ohio State." Drugs and women were two of the things. Cars were another—he owned three of them at a time, including a brand-new Cadillac and Lexus. "I was living the NFL life in college," he says. "I got paid more in college than I do now in the UFL.

Hey, guys who were interested in Marawatch: now is a high-leverage time for some private investigations of OSU.

Scorched-earth bombing of the week. From Patrick Hruby on the insane levels of subsidy thrown out to nonprofit entities like… the NFL.

In the eyes of the IRS, the National Football League is considered a nonprofit outfit. Just like the United Way. Read that again. The NFL -- a league that makes roughly $9 billion in revenue per season and will collected a guaranteed $27 billion in television money over the next decade -- enjoys the same tax breaks as, say, your local chamber of commerce, because both are classified as 501(c)6 organizations. Under federal law, 501(c)6 organizations -- essentially, business leagues -- are defined as associations of persons having some common business interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Does that sound like the NFL to you?

It's been said before but the contrast between socialist NFL and the largely capitalist, competition-driven way European leagues are set up is kind of amazing. I envy soccer fans their league structure in which teams at the bottom are punished, not rewarded, and poor performers drop out of existence. Imagine a world in which the Lions are a fourth-division team and some other Michigan outfit is competing in the NFL. Mmmm. Justice.

Instead, William Clay Ford has been allowed to ruin pro football in Detroit for 50 years. Down with antitrust exemptions for sports.

Speaking of, OH MY GOD. This is from Bylaw Blog proprietor John Infante is… bizarre. Probably unworkable. It has a zero point zero percent chance of actually happening. And it was posted in February, at which point I missed it. But it's kind of amazing to think about:

The College Basketball Champions League (CBBCL) would be the premier college basketball competition. It would consist of the following stages:

  • A qualifying stage of up to three rounds;
  • A group stage over six weeks;
  • A knockout stage of four rounds.

The CBBCL as currently configured would consist of 56–58 teams. All bids to the CBBCL would be automatic bids based on winning or finishing high in your conference. A rating or coefficient system would be used on the conference level, and would be based solely on a conference’s performance in the CBBCL.

Basically, throw over the current model in favor of a Euro soccer model, cups and all. Again, never never happen but thinking about it is pretty cool. No more Binghamton games for top teams as they compete in their conference and the Champions League, just wall-to-wall killer games.

Again, never happen in a million years but it's always fun to think of ways to make revenue by increasing the excitement level of the sport instead of just making fans more and more resentful. One way to do that is to add more silverware. Right now most American sports are structured so that there is one thing to strive for and that thing is determined by fairly random playoff at the end of a regular season.

The February NBA game is the quintessential example of the disease this leads to, and while I find complaints that no one cares about college basketball until the tournament to be unconvincing, people are thinking about goosing the rest of the year:

“Once the reforms to the college football postseason are complete, we have a responsibility to think long and hard about how we can improve the basketball regular season,” said Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pacific-12 Conference. “The game deserves it.”

Here's an idea: play every nonconference game at the same time on the same court. Yeah! /markhollis'd.

Here's a better idea: expand the preseason tourney exemption to move away from one-weekend events played on neutral courts to a mini-me version of a cup competition in which regular season champions from the previous year square off on randomly-drawn home courts until you get to a final four, which is at MSG or bid out. There are 33, so one play-in game, three weeks of Friday night games, and then a Final Four. Silverware that means something and packs out home floors. HOME FLOORS, people.

Consider your travel plans today. Not those travel plans. Joe Lunardi threw out an updated bracket because ten games into the season's as good a time as any. The bracket has Michigan a one seend(!), bringing forth a question and a statement.

The question: what does Joe Lunardi do nine months out of the year?

The statement: for the first time it looks like the NCAA tournament's decision to break everything into pods and try to get as many top seeds close to home will benefit Michigan, as they're slotted into Auburn Hills in this and any other bracket that bothers to list where people will be.

It will be hard for them to exit that territory since top four seeds usually get priority close to home and there aren't many teams projected to make the top four who would prefer to go to the Palace: MSU, obviously, and then Cincinnati, Notre Dame, and maybe Illinois. With Dayton as another outlet for any of those teams, three or four of them would have to pass Michigan to get that Palace spot. So, yeah.

If Michigan makes the Sweet 16, they'd probably get bumped out of Indianapolis unless they finish above the Hoosiers on the S-Curve. That might not be so bad since they're not playing the regional finals at the basketball arena, but rather the Colts' Stadium. While it will be funny to see Indiana basketball outdraw the Big Ten Championship game significantly, most of those seats are going to be terrible.

Aw man, the other travel plans make you feel baaaad. After hemming and hawing about going to the bowl game I finally did get a flight, and now I feel like a jerk for doing so:

8:54PM EST December 11. 2012 - No bowl game in college football pays more money to one person than the Outback Bowl in Tampa Bay.

His name is Jim McVay, the game's president and chief executive officer.

According to tax forms, the bowl paid McVay $753,946 in fiscal year 2010, $693,212 in 2009 and $808,032 in 2008. His pay has nearly doubled since 2002, when he earned $404,253. This year, his game matches Michigan (8-4) and South Carolina (10-2) on Jan. 1.

"He's done a fabulous job," says Mike Schulze, a spokesman for the game. "It's about being fairly compensated based on what the market dictates."

Dammit. This is why I don't go to bowl games.  McVay made more than the CEO of the American Red Cross, which has revenues of $3.5 billion. The Outback Bowl brought in 10 million, of which they are paying this joker 7.5%. Also:

The median salary for the 15 bosses at the non-profit bowls reviewed by USA TODAY Sports is about three times higher than the $132,739 median for a nonprofit chief executive, according to a study of 3,786 mid-to-large charities in 2010 by Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog.

I mean seriously I feel bad for supporting this in any way.

Q for a non-Rose Bowl rookie: should I just scalp in Tampa? I assume that face value is for suckers, right?

Rutgers lollercoaster. The Big Ten is going to threaten cable companies in the newly expanded Big Ten footprint unless they cut the league the same deal the Midwest does, except this time this is their leverage:

The fact that Maryland and Rutgers are joining the Big Ten Conference doesn’t guarantee that their games will be on the Big Ten Network. In fact, several of their games may not be available locally at all — TV or broadband — when they kick off their Big Ten seasons in 2014.

Maryland and Rutgers face the possibility of having at least two football games and at least 15 basketball games go untelevised locally when they join the conference in a year and a half.

That’s because the Big Ten Conference is looking into a strategy that could keep all Maryland and Rutgers games — encompassing all sports — off of the Big Ten Network unless local distributors place the channel on an expanded basic tier. The Big Ten used that strategy successfully in Nebraska last year when the Cornhuskers joined the conference, and the conference is expected to use it again in 2014 when Maryland and Rutgers join.

I think that'll probably work in DC thanks to Maryland's lacrosse and basketball outfits but if it doesn't it is going to be delightful to see Comcast get into a fight because of the team that plays in the Comcast Center. I cannot wait for that standoff to go down.

I find it difficult to believe many—if any—New York area cable companies are going to look at the threat of not getting two Rutgers football games a year and cave; not having Rutgers basketball is probably a selling point. Here's to a decades-long ban on Rutgers content on the BTN.

Etc.: Get out while you can, Catholic schools! form a sensible 10-12 conference from Milwaukee to DC and watch people like it! Maryland gets money up front to leave the ACC. Chesson and Darboh called out as impressive players early in bowl practice, which yes please. Burke declares M elite. Hardaway's recent shooting is the closest thing Michigan has to a concern right now. Surprise Michigan still doesn't run zone.

The Survey to Save Michigan-Ohio State (but won't)

The Survey to Save Michigan-Ohio State (but won't)

Submitted by Seth on December 1st, 2012 at 2:51 PM

WheresWeems_BigTenLogo

HT DIABEETUS.

The Big Ten doesn't actually care what you think about the destruction of longstanding rivalries so they can have more NYC/DC viewers in the duration of tiered cable's death throes. However BTN has put up a survey for the purpose of discussion points on their Monday show that represents the first crack I've yet seen in the conference's apparent immunity to public opinion on its expansion plans. This, like the survey when they announced the division names, will of course be duly ignored; I say let's tell them anyway.

Take the Survey on Facebook.

Take the Survey on the BTN homepage.

Call your friends and family and that girl you studied abroad with what's her name, and make them take it too. Whatever you answer in the rest, say "VERY IMPORTANT" for Question 9, and use 17 to ask they put Michigan and Ohio State in the same divisions.

The questions, and opinions:

1. What is your favorite B1G school?

This one is thrown in there to weed out the hardcore fans when they break their mouse by clicking on this SO HARD.

2. My favorite school is in which division?

???? I think it says "Leaders" in the song; I'm guessing that one. Also I'm guessing if everybody says "I have no idea" that can become a talking point against the division names.

3. As the conference expands beyond 12 teams, should the new teams be added to an existing division or should new divisions be drawn from scratch?

Start from scratch please.

4. What do you think of the "Legends" and "Leaders" names? (Strongly Like to Strongly Dislike.)

Again, this is put here to make you break your clicking device. Gently. Gently.

5. Should the B1G change or keep the current division names?

Gently!

6. If you think the division names should be changed, what should they be changed to?

This is an input box; write what you want. Like most old timey NHL fans I prefer divisions named for historical guys, so Yost-Stagg or Bo-Woody. Brian likes East-West. North-South. Plains-Lakes. Big Ten-Little Four. Persistence-Perseverance. Wait no not that last one, they might actually go for that.

7. If divisions were to be changed, what criteria should be used to determine them? (Rank by importance Competitive balance, geography, protect traditional rivalries.)

I suggest putting "Protect traditional rivalries" first because they're all important but at least that might put M-OSU in the same division.

8. How important is it for IN-STATE rivals to be in the same division? (Very important to not important.)

Irrelevant. Every in-state school is already traditional rivals with the other one.

9. How important is it for TRADITIONAL rivals to be in the same division? (Very important to not important.)

VERY important. Rivalries need something at stake, and beating your divisional rivals counts as virtually two wins if you're against them for the championship invite. If we're not with Ohio State the game becomes a "protected" rivalry, which means we'll see them every year while our division rivals face them maybe twice a decade.

10. Currently, the number of conference games the B1G plays is 8. Should this increase?

The answers they give here include "Yes, increase to 10 games (2 non-conference games; 5 home conf games and 5 road conf games)" which, hell yeah (now that ND is gone I think 2 games is plenty to have a warm-up and an interesting matchup) except it will never happen because they make their money off of home games and more conference games means more losses at the end of the season and fewer bowl-eligible teams.

11. What is your preference on a B1G Basketball Tourney? (Every team qualifies, or 12 of 14 teams qualify.)

They don't let you go less than 12. So 12, obviously.

12. Currently, the B1G has no divisions for basketball. Should this be changed?

I'd go for a tiered system before divisions. Don't care either way; if I knew they wouldn't screw it up I might be more inclined.

13. If yes, why should there be divisions for basketball?

Text entry. Share your opinion; mine is above.

14. If no, why shouldn't there be divisions for basketball?

Text entry.

15. When people reference "B1G", do you recognize that to be the Big Ten Conference?

Obviously you do, but think about what this could mean in context: if everyone is saying "no" then the talking point becomes "Nobody even knows what B1G means." I'm all for talking points that hurry along the demise of that embarrassment of a logo.

16. With 14 teams currently, should the B1G remain the "Big Ten", or should its name be changed?

I don't have a better name for it; we should have sued the Big XII and the Big East when we had the chance because "Big" is the nickname that grew up organically and should be the qualifying piece of information in the name, not the number.

17. Do you have any further thoughts on B1G expansion?

PUT MICHIGAN AND OHIO STATE IN THE SAME DIVISION! Also don't add Maryland and Rutgers, name the divisions from whatever's on the motivational poster in your boss's office, make another stupid looking logo, etc.

GO VOTE!

Unverified Voracity Et Al

Unverified Voracity Et Al

Submitted by Brian on November 20th, 2012 at 3:31 PM

The Michigan Difference. From the Iowa game:

the-michigan-difference

et al

I will take this radio host's opinion and trust it because that's what I want to do. Gene Smith just stopped by the local sports talk radio station and said the following things:

Gene "probably leaning to playing more conference games considering the amount of teams we are at"

And said this as well, paraphrased:

Gene was emphatic that preserving that game is job one. Good news as far as Im concerned.

And the guy doing the interview got this impression:

Get the feeling talking to Gene just now that OSU and Michigan in same division will be a likely endgame.

At least there's one guy maybe trying to do the thing that makes sense. Good job… Gene Smith? We have reached a strange place indeed.

Mitigating damage. We've heard this before only to have it beaten back by the need to squeeze every penny out, but if they don't expand the conference schedule now come on man:

After announcing the addition of Maryland to the league Monday, Big Ten commissioner said during a national teleconference that the league's conference football schedule could increase to nine games, and the league's basketball slate could jump up to as many as 20 contests for each team.

"I think more games is on the table," Delany said. "One of the reasons we stayed at 11 (members) and stayed at 12 is because we love to play each other more, not less."

My wacky idea for the basketball schedule is to play everybody once, draw a line in the middle, and then play six more with the top teams facing off and the bottom teams facing off. Never happen, but it would at least make the regular season title a nonrandom event based heavily on who you didn't play.

Meanwhile, a nine game conference schedule in football with the current protected rivalry setup would mean teams played opponents in the other division 33% of the time. Better than twice every twelve years; still less than is necessary to support any true rivalry with the opposite divisions.

Guaransheed! Mark Dantonio:

"When we win Saturday -- and I'll say when -- we'll be a 6-6 football team, not climbing out of the cellar as a 2-10 football team," Dantonio said.

Would you like to backtrack like whoah, though?

It sure sounded like a guarantee. So I asked Dantonio later on the Big Ten coaches' call whether he was, in fact, guaranteeing a victory.

"I don't guarantee anything," he said. "I'm saying that's the mindset we bring when we come."

Aw man just roll with it.

The hate. MVictors has created a grid of hate.

HeHateMe_thumb[1]_thumb[5]

I assume that ending the losing streak has cooled off some of the Penn State hate; when I went in 2006 I would have classified that as orange. Also, Illinois should be red for them and green for us—when my wife, an Illinois undergrad not too up on sports, came to Michigan for her PhD she was under the impression that Michigan was Illinois's primary rival.

Meanwhile, fire up Rutgers and Maryland versions: all Big Ten teams totally indifferent towards them, Maryland and Rutgers getting continually more pissed off that Big Ten fans would like to see their universities vanish from the planet.

This is not about TV? Delany:

Delany said that, in his opinion, too much has been made about the move to add Rutgers as a pure cable television play. He emphasized how difficult it will be to integrate the Big Ten Network into the lucrative New York and New Jersey market.

"It's a difficult business," he said. "It's not always successful. You have to be good and lucky and hardworking at it. People treat it as if there's a no-risk assessment. There's always a risk. This initiative has risk. If it was so easy why didn't it happen a long time ago?"

Delany said the media has a perception that growing into cable homes in the East and mid-Atlantic regions is easy. He strongly disagrees with that notion.

"It's not that way," he said. "We went a year with the Big Ten Network without distributing in core areas. We decided we wanted to do that we did it and hung together. We'll have discussion with people."

Hmmm. I am not sure this is the best idea I have ever heard.

How will we spend the money? This is the saddest thing I've read about all of this, a post from On The Banks about what they'll do with all the money:

That being said, staff raises and respectable budget should be in order all around.

Awww.

Yes. Get The Picture takes apart an annoying Andy Staples article:

This is Staples’ blessing of the situation:

None of us grew up with Ohio State-Maryland or Michigan-Rutgers. This is different, and different is always scary. But the Big Ten saw a chance to add value, and Maryland saw a chance to make more money in a time of economic uncertainty. This marriage may not square with your idea of which teams should or shouldn’t play in the Big Ten, but in this economy, none of us should be criticizing a school for making a sound fiscal choice.

It’s not that it’s scary.  It’s that it’s boring.  It’s like shopping for an insurance policy instead of a new car.  We’re fans.  We don’t give a rat’s ass about our schools making sound fiscal choices.  (Just ask Tennessee fans about that right now.)

This is soul-numbing.  And it’s been done in such an in-your-face way that it won’t even be worth making an effort to laugh the next time Delany has the stones to invoke tradition when he talks about the television programming he schedules, er… conference he leads.

Money is a zero-sum game. It can only be used on the facilities treadmill and coach salary treadmill. It does nothing for the people the money actually comes from, especially when the richest conference in the country goes out and hires Jerry Kill and Danny Hope and Tim Beckman.

The overwhelming feeling of adding Rutgers and Maryland is boredom. No one is going to wake up the morning their team plays either of those schools and do anything but shrug, and as the expansion continues that will spread to other teams. Michigan State and Wisconsin have a nice thing going; now they don't meet for four years. In the future there won't even be a way for those nice things to get going, because oh God Rutgers is on the schedule again.

More on the dissolution of the bundle empire. Conveniently timed SBJ article:

Nobody thinks that the World Series or NBA Finals will be on YouTube any time soon. But top executives with MLB and the NBA said they’ve seen increased interest from digital media companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple in recent months.

“They are sniffing around,” said MLB’s Brosnan, who just negotiated media deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner. “Pay-TV services are never secure, but with TV Everywhere starting to gain some traction, pay TV is looking like it’s building a model that might have some traction and will be here to stay.”

Stern, whose NBA is in the fifth year of eight-year media rights deals with ESPN and Turner, said he anticipates a time when digital media companies place a bet on sports rights in the same way that Fox Sports invested in the NFL in 1994.

The problem for the BTN model is not going to be actual fans signing up to pay but increasing numbers of sports-indifferent cord-cutters who opt out of subsidizing sports fans and just Netflix/Hulu/whatever everything. The current model is going to be the newspaper business in short order here, wheezing out a decline.

The 60 Minutes thing. It is here:

And there is a bonus thing.

Oh right Ohio State. This could have waited a week maybe, Mr. Delany? Articles from Maize and Go Blue and two from Eleven Warriors, one on the New War, the other on Goebels past and present.

Etc.: Fake conversations with Jim Delany are about to become a cottage industry. Penn State loses Tim Frazier for the year, which just obliterates them. They were outscored 53-24 by Akron in the second half after Frazier went out. He'll be back next year. Weinreb bombs everything. The Iowa game from the Hawkeye perspective.

Mailbag: What Is Wrong With You People? Seriously.

Mailbag: What Is Wrong With You People? Seriously.

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Arizona-Wildcats-head-coach-Rich-Rodriguez[1]

no no no no no no no no no
BTW: you can only admire Rodriguez's daughter if you are <18

Let's schedule Arizona!

Brian,

I read with interest your article on “Who replaces Notre Dame?” and was wondering if Arizona might qualify as a worthy replacement.  Seems to me they’d be a step down from Notre Dame but my guess is that RichRod would do just about anything to get Michigan on his schedule.  I’m not even sure if we’d want to play him but I suspect that this matchup would generate a lot of interest.

Ken

I didn't think a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998 was going to be a hot ticket, even if Rodriguez is there. FWIW, the Wildcats have a game at Nevada in 2015 but nothing else on the docket in the relevant time frame.

I'm opposed to an Arizona series, because the upside is low—you beat a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998—and the downside is high. By 2015, Rodriguez will presumably have some fleet-footed bastards to scare the crap out of you (or he'll be fired, but… probably not). Casteel will still be there and they'll have a weird defense that's kind of like playing Air Force on the other side of the ball. And Rodriguez will start gameplanning for the thing as soon as it's announced. That is a dangerous situation leading to much mirth if it comes off poorly, and you're just a bully if it doesn't.

It is a very Dave Brandon thing to do, though. Not including them was a wishful-thinking-based oversight.

No, seriously!

Thanks for putting the thought into the open scheduling date; interesting stuff (as always).

But is the MGoBook putting odds on the open dates turning into additional MAC snacks?  And the better question; given the incentives that the current BCS/limited playoff creates, wouldn't it be completely irrational (and, frankly, negligent) to actually schedule a competitive opponent?

Also: I pledge the first $1K to whatever institution (charity, UM, MGoBlog) that would help apply enough influence/pressure to turn this into an Arizona-Michigan home-and-away.  Do you think Brandon could ignore a pledged collective $500K to Mott's Children's Hospital by fans if Michigan were to schedule a home and away with Arizona?  I think he'd find a way to ignore it, but I would revel in the all the headlines if the story gains traction.  And I'd also be interested to see how much fans would be willing to pledge to see these games take place (I realize there is a difference between "pledge" and "pay," but perhaps there are ways around that as well).  And we already know RichRod would take the games in a heartbeat ...

scott

Why? Why do you people want this? For revenge? Revenge on a guy Michigan fired after three years? I know Rodriguez was a disaster here but it's not like he was trying to be. Playing Arizona is beating up on the guy we already beat up on for three years… or losing to that guy. Just say no to Arizona.

As far as the 2015-2017 ND games turning into MAC games—snacks is out the window after last weekend—they might be able to get away with it in 2015, when they've got Utah and Oregon State already on the docket. 2015 is an ND/Nebraska home year. In fact, expect that slot to be filled with a one-off guarantee game.

2016 needs a marquee home game. The current home schedule: Colorado, MSU, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa. Unless the Buffs get it turned around in a major way, that's a repeat of this year's lame schedule minus the Dallas game. The Dallas game may have been a stupid thing to do but it was at least a hook for donors. Michigan needs one of those in 2016 and will have to return a trip in 2017.

As far as the limited playoff structure's incentives, I think the new system will be more inclined to reward quality nonconference schedules. Moving to a committee from polls makes it much easier to come to an agreement about the importance of tough schedules and promote last year's Oregon team over Stanford. Polls would never do that because no one is talking to each other and no common goal is settled upon.

Most years there will be a throng of one-loss teams arguing for one of two or three playoff spots, and those teams will be sorted out by schedule strength.

Let's not schedule Arizona!

Brandon won't schedule Arizona because…

I don't think Brandon would schedule Arizona because the risk / reward isn't there. If Michigan loses or splits with Arizona and Brandon's decision to replace RR with Hoke looks very bad. If Michigan sweeps Arizona, he's somewhat vindicated but given the number of down years Arizona has had, the expectations to win will clearly be on Michigan. Just my two-cents.

P.S. If RR came back to A2 with AZ, I would give him a standing ovation. Three years can change a lot of things, but if the game were played tomorrow, I'd probably be (secretly) rooting for RR to upset my own team. Does that make me a bad fan? Am I the only one who would feel that way? I wonder, though I doubt we'll ever know.

Pete

This is the thinking of a rational man. The first bit, anyway. I am not down with defecting to Team Rodriguez. Yeah, we screwed him. He screwed us, too. Let's just move on and not have that awkward conversation at the DMV.

In re: why Brandon won't do it, that's the same argument that everyone makes against the Horror II and that's still on the schedule. He does not think like other people. He likes to do things that get attention, no matter what sort of attention that is.

Let's fix our things!

Is Brandon going to take this opportunity to fix the odd-years-good-season-ticket, even-years-bad-season-ticket issues?  Perhaps, making it a point to schedule our new games so that they are not away in years we go to Braska and Hell-hole?

Presumably!

Side note: it is amazing how screwed Michigan got in the conference alignment breakdown. Not in OSU's division—which means I'm rooting for the bastards this weekend because it's in my self interest. The four other teams in the division who aren't Minnesota have crossover games with Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue. Michigan gets Ohio State. And Brandon couldn't even wheedle out a tiny concession like splitting the Nebraska and OSU games. Hell, when Wisconsin comes on the schedule again Michigan gets all of them on the road in 2016.

The Big Ten division split literally could not have been any worse for Michigan.

They really should flip MSU and Michigan into the other division and hand Illinois and Wisconsin back. That's got better competitive equity now, especially from an intra-division standpoint. It preserves all the relevant rivalries without requiring awkward crossover games and provides a lovely parallelogram of hate between Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. And you can call them "East" and "West".

152590948_standard_1348608045_730[1]

Gardner slant suck.

This will just turn into more "you love Denard and cannot be trusted", but FWIW:

Brian,

I don't know if this means much but I played WR at a small college so I have some background when I say that the slant-interception was on Gardner. My HS or college coaches would have chewed my ass for days had I come out of a break that slow.

The key to the slant is your third or fifth vertical step is a hard jab with the outside foot and a sharp turn at less than 45 degrees to the inside. You get low over your toe on the break and accelerate across the middle. The DB is
going to be closing hard and when you round your cut or get out slow they beat you to the ball. I watched that in real time and thought right away it was on Gardner and the replay only confirmed that. He comes out of his break standing straight up and his first two steps are not full speed. Little guys run slants well because they are quicker out of breaks, big guys are better targets because they can block out a crashing DB. Gardner was slow out of the break and he was standing straight up so the jab step wasn't as convincing. That throw was on the money if Gardner runs a good route.

Now, the DB was in great position so that may mean Denard should have gone elsewhere but if Gardner runs a great route the worst that happens is a PBU.

Just my two cents,
Keegan

Denard throwing it directly at the CB actually lends this credence (also, like, this guy knows what he's talking about) since the DB is expecting the slant to go where he is so he can tackle; Gardner is not there and CB is like "look what I found."

This does not change my depression level because it just moves some of the incompetence to another guy who is critical to the success of the whole thing.

Fair catches.

Hey Brian,

I was wondering how effective you think it is to call for a fair catch when the ball is inside the 10. Shouldn't the returner gamble on the fact that it might bump into the end zone. Is there any real advantage to getting it at the eight instead of say the two?

The conventional wisdom seems to be shifting a bit on punt returns. Previously it was heels at the ten and no steps back. Now punts at the seven or eight often get fair-caught. Until someone charts the percentage of punts that end up in the endzone after landing at the five, six, seven, etc., we won't have a yes or no answer to this, but I think catching punts a couple yards inside the ten is the right move. The value of field position is close to linear for most of the field but plunges once we start talking about the one or two yard line:

2723338601_713161096f[1]

The reason for this is obvious: most coaches will trade a down for a yard or two instead of risking the safety. I had the Mathlete take a look at whether this was correct strategy a while back, but unfortunately can't find that post. IIRC, he said that was the right move given the costs of a safety and how frequently you'll suffer one if you just run your usual offense.

By catching the ball at the seven or eight you're giving up the shot at a free first down, essentially, but you're also removing that awkward situation where you're burning a down and still trying to get out from your own goal line. It's the safe play, and probably the right one.

Internet, you are called out.

Hi Brian,

Amidst all the whining about football refereeing these days, people are STILL complaining about Mike Lantry's kick in 1974.

You would think after almost 40 years of controversy that you or one of your nerdy engineering friends could use modern technology and run a computer simulation to end the dispute once and for all.

This is much more important than the Kennedy assassination.

Best regards,

Jay McNeill
West Bloomfield, MI

Well? I mean, he's right. Computer engineers, assemble!

Legends And Leaders: Less Popular Than Pop Evil

Legends And Leaders: Less Popular Than Pop Evil

Submitted by Brian on February 23rd, 2012 at 11:10 AM

A little over a week ago I surveyed the readers here about the Big Ten Division names in the aftermath of 1) the Big Ten declaring they found generally positive feedback and 2) the internet saying LOLWUT in response.

A non-random sampling of internet-savvy Michigan fans says:

bigtensurvey-1

Aaaand:

bigtensurvey-2

That speaks for itself, I'd imagine.

Dear Diary Re-Names Divisions

Dear Diary Re-Names Divisions

Submitted by Seth on May 15th, 2011 at 8:22 PM

Mappituppic

Dear Diary,

Before we start, do me this favor: Make a fist, then straighten your arm at about a 45 degree angle from your body. All set? Now say this with me:

hailtosoftball

"HAIL!"

It came out earlier this week that HC Carol Hutchins, along with Jenny Brundage and Bonnie Tholl, helped save a recruit's father's life in late April. Then on Friday and Saturday softball twice made Little Sister cry uncle (ie 8-0 mercy rule). Friday it took 6 innings in Ann Arbor; on Saturday it was a 5-inning no-hitter in East Lansing to take the Big Ten title outright. They're on to the NCAA Regionals starting Friday with a 51-4 record, 16-0 on the road, and feel like a team headed for the Golden Palace.

Aside: Unfortunately for Mark Dantonio, there's no mercy rule for in-state recruiting. Onward and upward!

I've been kicking this entry around ever since the stupid logo with the stupid names came out. As Six Zero noted at the time, there's a lot more that goes into a branding job than drawing something on Photoshop. However it's not the 20-page booklet explaining proper branding uses and sizes and colors that caused a region-wide facepalm.

Ever since the moment about 20 minutes after the unveiling when we realized this wasn't Delany et al. pulling a DeAnthony Arnett commitment hat dance, the Internet has taken it upon ourselves to propose something better. Brian suggested East-West as a throw-up-hands consensus just so we don't have to use the official ones – and since this is his blog you are instructed to do the same – but personally I hate the cardinal direction convention almost as much. Herein are a handful of those collected, plus a few of my own:

Leaders / Legends:

1213522917738.jpg_595

Reason to Like: None if you have a soul.

Reason to Hate: That such an idea ever got past an ESPN message board.

Awkwardness ensues when: National reaction to unveiling of names was "Ha ha; no really…"

What's the catch: Keyword is "surprising."

"I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating," Delany said during the interview. "But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising."

Now remember the people who were surprised by this reaction later said they're not going to make any changes this year in the hopes that the divisional names grow on us. Where have I heard this reasoning before? Oh yeah, that's exactly how I ended up playing clarinet for 5 years instead of 5 minutes.

West / East:

compass3

Reason to Like: It's simple and neutral, I guess. "Champions of the West" in the song means something again. Deep thought: While we're fixing fight songs, wouldn't MSU's be more accurate if "vim" meant "D.U.I.?"

Reason to Hate: Trite, boring, and inaccurate.

Awkwardness ensues when: I am Funnybot. Where can you get from Michigan to Wisconsin by going East? In the Big Ten! Awkwaaaaard.

What's the catch: Thankfully this is off the table.

Griffith / Palmer:

JohnLSullivan-22 palmer
Did you know: That guy's not Griffith

Reason to Like: History of the Big Ten 101: Griffith was the first commissioner, Palmer House was the venue in Chicago where the conference was founded.

Reason to Hate: History of the Big Ten 101 is a prerequisite

Awkwardness ensues when: Could have honored James H. Smart (the "brains" behind the formation of the original Western Conference) but whoever's not in the "Smart" division would raise hell.

What's the catch: The Gary Bettman-itude of the shirts who decide this means there's close to zero chance of division names that your typical Ohio State fan won't recognize. Meijer & Wal-Mart Divisions are more likely.

Great Lakes / Heartland (or Great Plains):

GreatLakes1

Reason to Like: Neutral and highlights regional nicks.

Reason to Hate: Completely interchangeable. Favored by Lynn Henning.

Awkwardness ensues when: Generations of young Big~Ten fans grow up sucking just as much at Geography as counting.

What's the catch: Either Nebraska and Iowa are not "Heartland," or Michigan and Michigan State are not "Great Lakes."

Black / Blue:

blackandblue

Reason to Like: Because the region is mostly in the footprint of the NFL's black & blue division. Or because we tend to have entire positional depth charts wiped out by injury by the time the conference season starts.

Reason to Hate: Think how tired this will get after the umpteenth headline featuring the conference getting bruised.

Awkwardness ensues when: In the conf. championship game, (Black Division Champ) Michigan fans take up the "Let's Go Blue" chant.

What's the catch: This isn't a trait the conference really wants to focus on.

 

Lakes / River:

Mississippi-Valley-River-001
Early French explorers brought back tales of the wonders of Michigan, plus some stuff.

Reason to Like: Best shot at a geographic split. Mich&MSU are surrounded by the Great Lakes, Minn, Neb, & Iowa have 1,000s of Lakes, and Northwestern's on the Lake; the other division's schools are in states (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania) either along the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers. Okay, it's a stretch.

Reason to Hate: Like we're the only place in the world that has lakes and rivers.

Awkwardness ensues when: The rule of silly recruit names means we'll eventually have a kid named Lakes representing a Rivers school playing a kid named Rivers representing the Lakes Division.

What's the catch: Like "Lake Michigan" somebody will get offended when something's named after the Ohio river.

Bo / Woody:*

woodybo
Unless you went to one of these schools, this apparently wasn't important.

Reason to Like: Is perfect.

Reason to Hate: If you're Michigan or Ohio State: none. If you are not Michigan or Ohio State: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

Awkwardness ensues when: Michigan State wins the Bo Division, burns the trophy, and replaces it with another piece of schlock from Forwards in West Branch.

What's the catch: The newer members won't care as much – Penn State and Nebraska are two proud programs with history and tradition that rival M/OSU - but the years and years of being one of the "Little Eight" are not fond memories for the rest.

Where's Wisconsin? / Why Do We Have Wisconsin?:

Whereswisconsin

Reason to Like: ha ha, yer funny.

Reason to Hate: Hey, these division names recognize a school that isn't mine! WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!! (just kidding, guys. Could you imagine if we were like that?)

Awkwardness ensues when: Wisconsin thinks we're playing peek-a-boo and keeps yelling "I'm right heeeeeeere!"

What's the catch: Levity is underappreciated in formal settings.

Like one more than the other? Take the poll.

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Asterisk_black Hello, elephant in the room. If I may address you for a moment.

The minute the Big Ten announced it would have divisions, fans of 9 other schools* immediately screamed "Don't call them Bo and Woody!" This is because the most obvious binary convention in the conference are two iconic coaches who for a tenth of the conference's history were the Big Ten. When people talk about the Big Ten it's not how Randy Walker and Joe Tiller revolutionized passing from the Spread, but how Hayes, Schembechler and their acolytes did things that are manly. The two schools account for over 45% of the conference's football championships, and that number's over 50% when you stop counting the Purdue and Iowa's with 2 losses in the early 1900s who claimed one anyway in those Wild Western Conference days.

Without intervention, this would be the organic standard. Obviously Michigan and Ohio State fans (of which we are many) are leading this charge, but Nebraska fans and non-Big Ten followers seem to also be coming around to a split of "The one with Michigan & its rivals" and "The one with Ohio State & its rivals" since that's the most natural way to remember it. As for placating the other schools, I recommend we rename all the trophies:

  • Champion: Paterno Trophy
  • MVP: Red (Grange) Award (can certainly have some fun pouring red paint on the MVP each year, right?)
  • Coach of the Year: Osborne Award
  • Kinnick Award: To the Big Ten player who shows the greatest combination of outstanding athletic performance, sportsmanship, academic achievement, and service to his community, as embodied by Nile Kinnick
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg Award: To the player or coach who makes the greatest contribution to Big Ten football (through outstanding innovation, service, or play).
  • Offensive POY: Randle El Trophy
  • Defensive POY: The Bucking Bronco (Unfortunately Nagurski's taken by the NFL for the same thing)
  • Special Teams POY: Biggie Munn Award (so we can tell both Minnesota & Michigan State they got two)
  • Best Passer: Griese Trophy (highlights them as Cradle of QBs)
  • Best Back (QB/RB/FB/WR/TE): Paddy Driscoll Trophy
  • Best Lineman (Offense or Defense): Big Joe's Slab of Bacon (Since they play for an Axe now, we could repatriate the old Slab for the best lineman. Big Joe is Joe Thomas)
  • Best Defensive Back or Linebacker: Webster Trophy (I totally had to Wikipedia this one -- you try to find a Spartan football player other than Kirk Gibson or Plaxico whom anyone outside of Michigan can name!)
  • Bo Div Champ: Schembechler Trophy
  • Woody Div Champ: Hayes Trophy

* Nebraska was still too giddily checking out the house like Little Orphan Annie to care. Plus their online community is, for the internet, pretty level.

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Diaries

UMSsolar

Sparty

Above, that's Michigan's Solar Car Team's 2010 build, which won the U.S. solar car race thing. Below: that's Michigan State's entry in the same race. These are from Bronco648's (short) must-read diary UMsolar and the FSGP, which includes pics of M's even sleeker 2011 car apparently en route to Australia for the international competition. Before you rip on Sparty just remember which one you'd rather find in your basement years later when you're desperate for a beer pong table.

NOLA Blue did a comparison of Michigan's 2011 opponents and returning starters. The concept's there but then he kind of inexplicably ignores backfields and how good the players are, just listing number of returners at OL, TE, DL and LB as his basis for predicting games. This is the classic Charlie Weis-era Notre Dame mistake: Returning Sam Young again doesn't make you better.

As for the Diary of the Week, it's Part I of one man's journey from Pee Wee Hockey in Ontario to (hopefully) Yost Ice Arena.

"This is the biggest game of your career so far, their captain, like you, is also one of the best players in Ontario. If we win, people will say you're better than him. We always support you, but if we lose, people are going to blame you and say that he's better than you. Do you want that? Get to sleep early tonight, make sure you eat lots of carbs, protein tomorrow, and drink water all day. When I talk to your teacher, I want to hear from her  that you were asking to go to the bathroom all day."

I was 8 years old.

Part I tracks JimLahey's journey from top Ontario prospect to waiting for a scholarship to Michigan or heading to the OHL. FTR he's not Caporusso so stop guessing he's Caporusso. Caporusso Mention Rule still applies: