Harbaugh of Michigan

Harbaugh of Michigan Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 27th, 2015 at 1:00 PM



Jeff Holzhausen first walked through Forest Hill cemetery over twenty years ago. He wanted to honor two Michigan legends during The Week before The Game, and he decided the best way to do so was to visit their graves. Holzhausen led his first tour group on that same walk a few years later, and he’s been doing so ever since. I went on the grave walk last year, and afterwards I wrote a piece that was (thankfully) never published. The thesis was basically that Michigan fans had too tight a grip on the past and how that grip would need to slacken if the football program was ever going to become healthy again. It took one year, one speech, and one chance encounter with Jim Harbaugh to show me that I entirely missed the point of the grave walk.

“We want the Big Ten championship and we're gonna win it as a team. They can throw out all those great backs, and great quarterbacks, and great defensive players, throughout the country and in this conference, but there's gonna be one team that's gonna play solely as a team.”

The University of Michigan is brutal. You will come in idealistic and looking down innumerable paths as realistic options and at some point you will be a confused shell of that self, drained and defenseless and lost, wondering not only what your next move is in the bigger sense but what you’re going to do just to get to the next break. Michigan is more than those who have downed a pot of coffee because how else are you supposed to prep for that orgo exam and an econ exam and finish this stupid worksheet for Spanish? That’s a college experience, but it’s not unique; you can find that at almost any campus across the country. At Michigan, there comes a point where you will look around and feel like everyone is better than you; Michigan’s seeping into your soul in that moment as much as it ever will.

“No man is more important than the team. No coach is more important than the team. The team, the team, the team, and if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my team?”

No one associated with Michigan takes the “Leaders and Best” line lightly. The power in that comes from a bunch of high strung, neurotic, obsessively achieving individuals working toward common goals. The goals aren’t the same; the endgame for a research team investigating the genetic causes of a certain mental health issue is different than it is for the football team, but the overarching theme is the same: use your collective talents to achieve something great.

“Because you can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here. You will never play for a team again.”

Michigan has a fortunate history of having the right person show up at the right time, a new captain to right the course of a ship just slightly off course. At the same time, Michigan has had leaders in place that have had an ability to spot a fine-drawn mistake in course; Yost was hired after the dissatisfaction born of four losses and a tie in the twenty games played in 1899 and 1900.

The expectations for on-field performance have been high for over a century; expectations for traditional football powers will always have death-and-taxes status. Somewhere along the way, though, a new component of those expectations was wrought. It’s not enough to win at Michigan. It has to be done with integrity, honesty, and through a ceaseless pursuit of perfection.

[After THE JUMP: Schembechler, Yost, Ufer, and an unexpected guest] 


Unverified Voracity Demands To See The Cheesekeeper

Unverified Voracity Demands To See The Cheesekeeper Comment Count

Brian November 10th, 2015 at 12:15 PM

Same as it ever was. Nothing changes.

The king stay the king. Harbaugh twitter will always be delightful.

If you do not listen to this song, this whole song, he will find you.

The equivalent Harbaugh story here is doing pushups with mom at 3 AM. De'Veon Smith was on Inside Michigan Football last night, and said things that make you… uh… notice a contrast between recent Michigan coaching staffs. For one:

"Coach Hoke was a great coach, he meant a lot to me," Smith said. "He came over to my house one day and literally just fell asleep on the couch."

I hope this was unannounced. De'Veon Smith comes home finds that one of his windows is broken. Inside, Brady Hoke is splayed out on the couch covered in cheeto dust and pinecones. Smith ventures a poke in an attempt to wake Hoke up; Hoke mutters "I am the cheesemaster" and rolls over, inert. There he stays for the winter. When he awakes he demands to see the "cheesekeeper" and runs into the forest.

For two:

"I guess until this year I wasn't really taught properly how to pass protect and what are my keys exactly," Smith said. "And (running backs) coach (Tyrone) Wheatley is instilling that into in all the running backs.

"In previous years, we tried to cut-block somebody. We weren't aiming at the right spot to cut down somebody and now coach Wheatley has taught us to get up on them and get low on them whenever we have to cut them. All the coaching points are definitely the main difference from this offense and last year's offense."

Smith has been excellent in pass protection this year. Michigan ran a couple of smash combos in the Rutgers game in which he was tasked with cutting an unblocked DE and did it with aplomb.

Mizzou chaos. Mizzou's president resigned, their chancellor also got booted, and because the football team decided they'd join the protest several people are poking me to talk about it. So here we go. Hold on to your butts.

  • If you don't understand what's going on, Bill Connelly's explainer is the best that I've found. I still fail to grasp why a few unrelated racial incidents—one of which saw the perpetrator expelled—blew up like it has, but the impression given off by the Connelly piece is that the upper echelons of Mizzou were taken over by Brandon types with an eye on the bottom line and the incorrect assumption that they had infinite political power. Yanking grad student (read: teacher) health insurance the day before classes is a Total Brandon Move. The inciting incidents here were a spark in a dry forest, to borrow Mark Bernstein's analogy.
  • The football team joining the protest promises to be a watershed moment. The president was likely on his way out anyway, but for the axe to fall so quickly after the football team announced a boycott indicates the latent power athletes have. Mizzou was about to get hit very hard financially because the football team simply decide to not do stuff. That is power.
  • This is still far away from the dread strike-for-money that will happen in the next decade, probably at the Final Four. The climate on the Mizzou campus during a campus-wide protest the aftermath of Ferguson is going to be a lot different than the climate if a team says it simply wants a piece of the pie. Whatever team does that is going to get it from both barrels nationwide. Mizzou's football team has largely been praised by non-ideological* media.
  • Gary Pinkel trying to walk it back afterwards by saying it was about nothing other than the health and well-being of the student on a hunger strike is disappointing. If you're going to do it, do it. That's some phony PR right there.

The merits of the protest, its interpretation of what the First Amendment means,  and the larger campus climate nationwide are outside the scope of this blog until such time as Michigan gets stuck in a similar morass. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

*[yes yes all media is ideological especially that newspaper or that website here's a cookie]

Okay, Bill Plaschke. I'd link Drew Sharp if he was talking to Keith Jackson.

It is a voice still so memorable, people still call his home and hang up just to hear his greeting.

"If you're calling the Jacksons, you have succeeded," the voice says. "Help yourself."

I don't think that's how it works. The idea of a medical redshirt for Mario Ojemudia came up again:

Elsewhere, Harbaugh said Monday that the team is still in the process of appealing for an extra year of eligibility for injured senior buck linebacker Mario Ojemudia. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder suffered season-ending Achilles tendon injury during the second half of the team's fifth game of the year -- a 28-0 win at Maryland.

Per the NCAA rulebook, medical hardship waivers (also known as medical redshirt years) can only be obtained (in a team sport) if three separate conditions are met. The injury must occur during one of the player's four seasons of eligibility, the injury has to have taken place prior to the second half of the player's season and the player has not participated in more than three contests (or 30 percent) of his or her season.

Ojemudia appeared in five games, which is obviously more than three/30 percent. Still, Harbaugh said the process of an appeal is still ongoing.

"There's an appeal process," Harbaugh said. "It's a process."

I assume this will get shot down because the NCAA has been very strict about keeping that rule intact, especially since they moved from 25% to 30% a few years back. I'd be really surprised if Michigan wins here.

Kickering, evaluated. SBN Auburn blog College & Magnolia piles field goal attempts from the last decade into a couple of graphs in an effort to evaluate kickers by the worth of their kickery. Average point value by distance:


Surprised a 50 yarder is a 50/50 proposition but I guess they don't throw you out there if you obviously can't make it.

Gets choppy at the end there for obvious reasons. C&M assigns points relative to expectation for the nation's kickers and finds Kenny Allen in a tie for 40th. That's about right since he's mostly hit mostly short field goals.

There are a couple of problems with this approach, It tends to give guys who don't have a big leg a pass for not attempting long field goals and it might underrate guys who end up with a lot of limited-upside chip shots relative to equivalent kickers who get more valuable attempts.

But it's a good first approximation, and Allen is about what we've seen: above average and not outstanding. FWIW, OSU currently is 116th. Jack Willoughby is 7/11 on the year and hasn't hit one from 40+. Just something to keep an eye on.

Smart Football back. Chris Brown has revived his blog until such time as someone else snaps him up. He talks packaged plays and how defenses are adapting to them:

In the below clip, Mariota is reading the backside inside linebacker — who is unblocked as the backside tackle is blocking out on the defensive end — to decide whether to hand off on an inside run or throw a slant into what should be a vacated area.


Yet even though the linebacker steps up for the run — and thus Mariota’s read takes him to the slant — the nickel defensive back had been reading Mariota’s eyes the entire time and he simply steps in front of the slant for a too-easy pick-six.

Does this mean defenses have figured these plays out? Not even close; one of the many reasons Whisenhunt got fired was because he had only superficially begun integrating these plays into his offense, rather than truly understanding how they fit together. But I’ve seen other examples of plays like this so far this year, and it’s evidence that defenses are catching up. That, of course, shouldn’t be a surprise. In football, nothing stays easy for long.

The Borges-Denard parallels are obvious.

Michigan hasn't had a ton of trouble with packaged plays this year since they tend to play a lot of man, FWIW.

Etc.: List of top uniforms has Michigan #1, Oregon #2, which is kind of an amazing list. Leaders have leadership. Dedicating Yost Field House. The Slippery Rock story. The dumbest game theory decision ever. Probably literally. LeMoyne things. Harbaugh's got it all.


Unverified Voracity Rents Monster Truck

Unverified Voracity Rents Monster Truck Comment Count

Brian October 6th, 2015 at 12:23 PM

Event. The Alumni Associations big homecoming tailgate is this weekend. It features many things:

Five stations of delicious tailgate themed foods.

Cold beer brewed by U-M alumni-owned North Peak Brewing Company.

Performances by student groups.

Appearances by special guests including: University President Mark Schlissel, MGoBlog creator Brian Cook, and New York Times bestseller John U. Bacon.

A performance by the Michigan Marching Band.

The Exclusive Member Lounge - Alumni Association members can meet Sara Moulton between 12:30 - 1:30 and try out some of her favorite tailgating recipes.

One of them is somehow me. I have been tasked with emceeing the event, so send me all your John U Bacon short jokes. Tickets are available here. Teaser: I hear John U Bacon is not very tall, you guys! /rimshot

Whoops. Accidentally left this from LongLiveBo out of the game column:

Felt like this for a while


Ended up feeling like this.


You will agree that it is good I have repaired this mistake.

A man who knows his history. Michigan went way back in the annals of football and dug out the T-formation against Maryland. I'm charting it and trying to figure out what the accepted lingo for T-formations with receivers is and hit up the Wikipedia article, and bang:


That is from Fielding Yost's 1905 book "Football for Player and Spectator," which sounds amazing. Also, the section in which this image is found is headlined "Obsolescence," to which Jim Harbaugh would like to say not so fast, my friend.

Another tale in which Michigan is prepared. From Doug Karsch:

"I spoke with D.J. Durkin this week before the game, and he said, 'Look, Caleb Rowe is fine, until he gets pressured. That's where the turnovers have come from. So we're going to need to pressure him.'

"Sure enough, they did. All three of his interceptions came under heavy duress. Desmond Morgan said after the game about his interception, which came on a screen pass, before the ball was snapped, he knew in that down and distance that they liked to go screen. He told the defensive line to watch for the screen."

Michigan got Hurst in on Rowe so quickly he ended up hammering the ball at a running back about five feet from him. The deflection that followed was partially forced by the D.

So many ORs it sounds like a seal convention around here. Looking ahead a little bit to next week, Michigan State's depth chart on offense is certainly uncertain:

Pasted image at 2015_10_06 10_18

Jack Allen is a very good center. As a 6'2" left tackle he's gonna die. MSU really needs Conklin back posthaste. I imagine if there is any way either he or Kieler can play next Saturday they will do so.

It's fatal. Start over. The immediate aftermath of hiring Mike DeBord at Tennessee has exceeded even Michigan fans' extraordinarily jaded expectations:

The Vols are 108th in Bill Connelly's "explosiveness" metric. They've scored a total of 13 points in the second half of games against Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas.

The optics here are really bad. Tennessee essentially does not have a quarterbacks coach. That task has fallen to Nick Sheridan (yes, that Nick Sheridan), who is a grad assistant after a couple of years as Willie Taggart's QB coach at WKU and then USF. No offense to Sheridan, but that's an incredibly thin resume for the only guy a major college has with any claim to be a QB coach. Dobbs has seen his completion percentage drop six points and lost 0.6 YPA this year. You want those numbers to go the other way when your QB hits his upperclass years.

You really have to wonder what the hell Butch Jones was thinking.

The love is real. If Cracker Barrel's latest viral marketing campaign was based on kidnapping and hypnotizing Jim Harbaugh, someone needs a raise.

BTW, there is now a hidden subplot in Harbaugh twitter:

This happens a lot in his mentions now. A lot.

Possibly because Licensed Twitter Troll Tim Kawakami is retweeting him. Well done, Licensed Twitter Troll Tim Kawakami.

Cumong man. I am happy with the state of the team. I am getting a little punchy about the outside perception of it from both humans and numbers. Vegas moved Michigan from essentially infinity to 1 for the national title to 22 to 1, which is insane. S&P is not a person but a series of carefully selected numbers; now that Michigan bludgeoned Maryland and all preseason numbers have been dropped Michigan sits third(!) in it. FEI, at least, is more skeptical—Michigan is 22nd.

Pat Forde has a gimmicky column on when the undefeated teams lose in which he essentially says Michigan is goin' to the the playoff:

Northwestern (1)

Expiration date: Oct. 10, at Michigan. Saturday the Wildcats play in the Big House, in front of roughly 75,000 more people than have seen them play at any point this season. First team to 10 may win this matchup of the best defenses in the conference – and that team will be the Wolverines.

Michigan State (8)

Expiration date: Oct. 17, at Michigan. If this comes to pass, the Mitten may lose its mind. But which team is playing better football at the moment? The Wolverines.

Ohio State (20)

Expiration date: Nov. 28, at Michigan. And if it comes to this, Lord have mercy on the scarlet and gray.

I think the Lord's already done plenty for Ohio State, thanks. We have to fire our coach for blatant cheating—oh look Urban Meyer is tanned, rested, and ready. Hooray.

Dadrock is everywhere. The HarPod dominates all sports.

As basketballs bounced on the hardwood, the arena filled with noise: "You get up every morning from your 'larm clock's warning, take the 8:15 into the city."

Yes, Michigan basketball's official opening practice of the 2015-16 season actually included Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care Of Business."

The Dads. They are rocking.

Quinn also has some useful takes from the open practice:

Speaking of Robinson, yes, he's as advertised. The redshirt sophomore can shoot — really shoot — from all over. It's effortless; more net than rim. As Derrick Walton Jr. told us before practice, "Like, it's weird when he misses."

Now all that Robinson has to prove is that he can get off his shot in live action, defend on the other end, and rebound his space. As for the athleticism question, Robinson rose up and tossed in an ally-oop with ease on Friday. He can jump. Quickness? I'm not sure yet.

I don't know where he got the impression Doyle had any baby fat; guy was as built as I've ever seen a freshman post at M. IIRC his tendency to become exhausted was more because he was constantly ill last year.

It's back! Jim Hackett has resumed wearing his I Got Harbaugh outfit.

This is a welcome development.

Etc.: Russell Bellomy departs UTSA. "A retrospective on Tom Crean's mediocre sext game." A history of moved Michigan games. Aubrey Dawkins oh man oh man oh man. Official site stuff on the Yost renovations. Gary Danielson being himself. ESPN adopts a sensible strategy for game overlap.


Stagg vs Yost: Willie Heston And The Battle Of Aught-Four

Stagg vs Yost: Willie Heston And The Battle Of Aught-Four Comment Count

Brian July 30th, 2015 at 11:48 AM


Hello! We've been fortunate enough to have John Kryk, the Toronto Sun's NFL columnist, write for HTTV these last few years. Kryk is an invaluable resource when it comes to the early days of college football and has applied that expertise to a book about the intense rivalry between Fielding Yost and Amos Alonzo Stagg around the turn of the 20th century.

What follows is an excerpt from that book detailing Willie Heston's seventh-year-senior season, and the fights it set off.

00026_1[1]Willie Heston (right) returned for a fourth and final season as a Wolverine in 1904. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a law degree in the (then) requisite three years, he studied literature in a tag-on semester.

Amos Alonzo Stagg -- the University of Chicago’s head football coach, athletic director, faculty head of physical education and self-appointed cleanser of Midwestern college sport -- disapproved. Although Stagg had had players at UC who similarly squeezed out every drop of eligibility, and he himself had played sports for six years at Yale (and even suited up for the Maroons in their inaugural 1892 season), he couldn’t resist slamming Michigan and Heston in the Chicago Evening Post on September 27: “The maroon coach cited the case of a rival institution that had a graduate return to take a post-season law course [sic] so that his great value could be utilized in the football eleven this fall.”

Stagg’s hypocrisy aside, this was after all Heston’s seventh season of college football, after three previous at a California teachers college now known as San Jose State University. But that experience at San Jose Normal never counted against Heston’s four years, presumably because of the conference rule that discounted any experience a student might gain at a college whose academics, or even just its football, were of a particularly low order. The conference arbiter, Clarence Waldo, in these years tabulated the Big Nine’s official list of colleges that did make the academic or football grade, and evidently San Jose Normal did not qualify.

Despite being injured in an elevator in St. Louis that summer, Heston probably was healthier in his senior season than he’d been since 1901. As Michigan’s opponents lamented.

In Michigan’s third game, a 95-0 obliteration of vastly overmatched Kalamazoo College in just 40 minutes of play, Heston might have rushed for more single-game yards than any running back before or since, at any level of college football. “As usual, Willie Heston’s performance was the headliner of the matinee,” the Michigan Daily reported. “A review of the game shows that the captain advanced the ball during the afternoon 515 yards — considerably more than a quarter mile.” Heston continually broke away on long gains and scored six of Michigan’s 16 touchdowns, four on runs of 65, 70, 85 and 65 yards.

How fast was Heston? The fastest man in the world in 1904 just happened to be a fellow UM student — Archie Hahn. At the Summer Games in St. Louis that year, the “Milwaukee Meteor” became the first man to win the Olympic sprint double: gold medals in both the 100 and 200 meters. Back then there was a 60-meter dash too, and Hahn won a third gold in that race. Two years later, Hahn won the Olympic 100 metres again. In 1901 he had tied the world record in the 100-yard dash (9 4/5ths seconds) and set a world record of 21.6 seconds in 200-meter straightaway dash, a race long since discontinued.

Michigan’s nationally respected track and field coach, Keene Fitzpatrick, doubled as the Wolverine football trainer. He marvelled at Heston’s breakaway speed and had this idea to help Hahn with his: pit the two men against one another in 100-yard match races on campus. Fitz did so some 200 times. Heston led Hahn at 30 to 40 yards every time. “At that point,” Heston recalled, “I could hear him go by.” Heston occasionally pressed Hahn to the finish but never beat him.

By 1904 Heston had refined his abilities as a running back that would have made him a standout in any era. His stiff-arms were viciously effective, with either arm. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, he was stout enough to be an effective inside power runner. Perhaps best of all, and to a “remarkable degree” as a Michigan sports historian wrote in 1948, Heston was able to “maintain his feet” upon being hit, or leaping, or spinning, or making a harsh cut. “Willie Heston always ran low, with a wide-spread, pumping knee action. He had a cat-like ability to land on his feet, no matter how hard he was hit, his legs still driving forward.” He was unafraid to hurdle sprawled players, or low-charging tacklers — such as Eckersall in the 1903 UM-UC game. Heston first coined the phrase that became a mantra for running backs in the first half of the 20th century: “Use your searchlights and jump the dead ones.”



By 1904 Yost had tired of defending Heston’s strong play on the other side of the ball. Asked by a reporter in October if Heston was as good on defense as he was on offense, Yost “without thinking” quipped: “Why, really, I don’t know. None of my backs has made a tackle this year.”

[After THE JUMP: "a long ton of meat and bone and the thing moved with an average velocity of about eight yards a second"]


Unverified Voracity Grumble Rumbles

Unverified Voracity Grumble Rumbles Comment Count

Brian June 11th, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Laser third downs and such. Wolverine Historian pays tribute to John Navarre, and even manages to get a still of the Buffalo Stampede selected as the introductory picture:

That's some youtube wizardry there.

Congrats on Olympic trials… and not dying. Michigan men's gymnast Sam Mikulak finished third in the men's gymnastics senior nationals and will appear at the Olympic trials as a result. He escaped a scary situation to do so:

Determined to make a good impression this weekend in St. Louis after missing last year's U.S. gymnastics championships with two broken ankles, Mikulak didn't flinch when he realized the parallel bars were loose.

After he had already started his routine.

"I thought the bar was going to fall and I was going to die," Mikulak conceded.

This comes a year after Mikulak managed to break those ankles on the floor exercise. Mikulak taped his ankles up and finished the meet because he only thought he'd badly bruised himself. The Olympic trials are in three weeks. USA Today has more on Mikulak's story.

Camp, basketball version. Michigan's Elite Camp was over the weekend, and while the effects were significantly less dramatic than last year's when the entire 2013 recruiting class was gathered, one Keita Bates-Diop was in attendance. Joe Stapleton on his appearance:

Keita Bates-Diop (2014, Wing, Illinois Wolves)

Keita was probably the only player in attendance who is a “lock” for a Michigan offer on June 15th. He didn’t appear to be in his element during the 5-on-5 scrimmages but his skillset was more than evident in the drill portion of camp. Everything he was asked to do he did easily. His concentration and coordination was on display and it separated him from his peers. During the 5-on-5 scrimmages Keita didn’t exactly stand out but did what his team needed from him in this guard-filled camp: he rebounded the ball well, finished in the post, and played smart defense. Bates-Diop’s performance jives with what we’ve seen this spring: he has all of the tools but needs to become one or two notches more aggressive within a game setting. Still, he was solid and definitely the best player in attendance.

As the blockquote says, Beilein only offers after that's officially allowed in four days. At that point you'll see Bates-Diop and a few others like Devin Booker get them. It doesn't seem like anyone will drop right away, but I don't think anyone other than maybe the coaches was expecting to get four commitments last June.

There was one surprise 2013 name to watch, a kid named Vitto Brown out of Bowling Green, Ohio who you may remember being the one tall guy in that video where Mark Donnal goes bonkers. He was impressive but remains a 6'7" post player. I'd guess Michigan keeps him on the radar in case they get more attrition than they expect. Right now they're full.

There's also a bunch of stuff on 2015 recruits at UMHoops if you're interested.

Camp, fantasy version. Both the Women's Football Academy and the Men's Football Experience also happened recently. Fluff video ho:

Also there is one for the men. The big news resulting is Devin Gardner switching to #12 and Drew Dileo possibly switching to #9. Angelique Chengelis participated. Money was raised. I have no comment about this.

Brady Hoke is irascibly old-fashioned about something. He's like that about everything, yes. Here's a specific instance:

"You can take all these stars and the way all these guys are rated and all that, and that's great for the fan base and the public," Hoke told reporters last week. "But we've had some pretty good players here that probably would have been two-star guys.

"Tom Brady probably would have been a two-star guy. He turned out OK, I think."

Other recent Hoke rumble grumbles concern the playoff format—concerned about too many games and too much travel for parents—and year two with the same team.

Could have gone better. Michigan lost to Army 27-6 in 1954. Newsreel footage of that:

That bomb is totally offensive pass interference.

This game would be Michgian's last loss against Army. Michigan won the next two years and then a couple times in the sixties; the two teams haven't played since 1962.

Lines. Some real actual lines from Vegas:

  • +12 vs Alabama
  • +1 at Notre Dame
  • -6 vs Michigan State
  • -2 at Nebraska
  • -2 at Oho State

That Alabama line has gotten a little less depressing after periods where it was supposedly +14.5, though I'm not sure you could have gotten a bet on that in an actual casino at any point.

Most of these lines are in the "I don't have any idea" range. When team X is favored by less than a field goal that's basically a coinflip. Could be a nervous fall.

Old school UFR. MVictors enjoys old-timey diagrammed wire photos of the Mad Magicians, and I'm with him:


What's wrong with Fielding? Peregrine falcons have been named inconsistently:

After receiving hundreds of submissions through the university's Facebook page, four peregrine falcon chicks that recently hatched in a nesting box atop University Hospital have been named Bo, Fritz, Lloyd and Yost.

The university selected the winning names after inviting the community to participate an online naming contest. The names reference former head football coaches Bo Schembechler, Herbert (Fritz) Crisler, Lloyd Carr and Fielding Yost.

This drives me crazy.

Etc.: Caris LeVert signs a thing, is now official. Hockey will play Cornell at MSG on November 24th, the day of the OSU game. Glenn Robinson continues to throw down dunks. 2011 four-star C Brian Bobek leaves the OSU team after plunging down the depth chart. Red Hot Chili Peppers troll Columbus.


Unverified Voracity Is Immobile

Unverified Voracity Is Immobile Comment Count

Brian April 11th, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Hello. When awake, I'm lucid, and I've got all these tabs driving me crazy. So here are the tabs.

We've really done it now. Not satisfied with tight shots, the official site's practice video now goes field-level:

For their next trick they'll make a video from a helmet cam pointed inward at Denard's face.

The Old Man speaks. Great find by MVictors to get an audio clip from "A Toast To Yost From Coast To Coast" in which we here the genesis of Ufer's famous "Meeechigan":

Perhaps the best thing about the internet's transformation of fan culture is our ability to connect with the past of the program. Wolverine Historian and Greg have provided a sense of the whole program from its beginnings to the present day. We're extremely fortunate to have those two—I don't think there's anything close in any other fan base.

#JUSTIFYYOUREXISTENCE. An experiment designed to see whether a newspaper would publish any press release issued by the athletic department no matter how minor succeeded today with the news that everyone considers putting a twitter hash tag on the field for the spring game "news."

They're burying the lead, which is that an alien who can only badly mimic the English language has wormed his way into the athletic department:

"This initiative will help our athletic department use technology as a competitive advantage to engage and connect to fans, build brand loyalty, grow the digital audience and monitor and listen to what is being said through the digital engagement cycle," said Jordan Maleh, U-M's director of digital marketing.

Whatever said that is not human. It is probably from Trafalmadore.

I've got a great explanation about why things like this rub me the wrong way bouncing around in my skull but when I try to express it the vitriol overwhelms whatever point I'm trying to make. In itself, putting a hash tag on the field is a non-event. As part of the pattern we've seen since Brandon's hire it's another piece of evidence that what you get when you hire a bunch of MBAs into makework positions is a bunch of makework. There's no such thing as a bad idea as long as it's something that hasn't been done before.

Events other than actual Michigan football games at the stadium increasingly serve as a glimpse into the dystopian future in store for the program once Brandon gradually wears resistance down: presenting sponsors, endless distractions, curly fries on the field. Etc.

Five star flip. Rivals made good on its repeated promises to elevate Glenn Robinson III into five star territory. He's now the #11(!) player in the country. Mitch McGary slid to 30th, which seems fair. Stauskas crept up a little bit as well; he's now #71.

Please be sandbagging. Hoke's not a fan of where both of his lines are. This is not so good:

"On either side, it's not very good right now, I can tell you that," Hoke said Tuesday afternoon on a teleconference with reporters. "I think the kids are working, I think they're coming in here with energy and all those things, but I think the expectation level, how physical we want to be as a football team, I would say we're not where we need to be."

I know Omameh is never going to be the ideal guard for Hoke but he's an established starter with a decent to good track record and the only other spot on the line that's really an issues is the other guard. I get that the DL is going to be a work in progress much of the year, but that OL should be good. If it's not… erk.

At least Hoke's long term vision for the Spring Game is considerably less sour than Carr's was:

"If we had the choice, I think we'd really like to draft and split up the teams and go at it that way, but we really don't have that luxury because of our depth at our offensive line, our defensive line, a little bit at the receiver position, and it just isn't going to work out that way," Hoke said.

"We'll formulate some ways to make this as game-like as possible."

Carr gave off the impression he'd cancel the thing if he could get away with it. Drafting and playing an actual game-game would be far more entertaining than anything Michigan's ever done. Rodriguez wanted to do the same thing but had the same problem with line depth, which of courses invites the question WHY DIDN'T YOU RECRUIT SOME LINEMEN ARGLB.

I also have no idea where those tattoos came from. The Hayes story on Urban Meyer was light on Charles Robinson-esque bombs but heavy on evidence that Meyer's more Les Miles than Brady Hoke. Meyer then helped that along by flat-out lying:

Meyer adamantly denies the reports of course.

“I’ve never heard of Circle of Trust before in my life,” he said.

Internet says I remember all things:

Certainly there will still be opportunities for other players to advance into the "Circle of Trust" as the season unfolds. We all remember — and if we don't we are often reminded by No. 15 — how David Nelson came out of nowhere in the middle of last season to become a go-to-guy in some of Florida's biggest games down the stretch.

But after Saturday, Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow will know who belongs in the Circle of Trust.

"I think so," Meyer said. "I know I trust the Pounceys. I trust Tim. Who else are we going to trust? Who is going to be the fifth or sixth lineman? Who is not going to blow a coverage because we're more multiple back there.

"So, yeah, that's what you're trying to get done."

This worked out so well the last time. Via Brooks. [UPDATE: Nevermind. That's what I get for repeating anything Brooks says.]

Not that this is new. Remember this from Darryl Stonum's recruitment?

"He told me that he talked to Coach Carr and Coach Soup and that they told him that I would be a much better fit in the Florida offense than I would be in the one at Michigan," Stonum recalled.

"I thought, wow, my coaches are selling me out?  I confronted them about it.  I asked Coach Carr and Coach Soup about it, and they said they never talked to that guy and that there was no way they ever said anything like that and that they think I should be a Wolverine.  I believed them.  Right then, I knew just how Florida rolled."

Ohio State may have picked the wrong guy to lead them through probation.

Rock someone else, Amedeo. Michigan canceled Amedeo Della Valle's visit in the aftermath of Burke's return and Albrecht's commitment. Sam Webb mentioned something on the GBW message board about potentially bringing in that grad-year guy, so it's possible they'd like to get that extra bit of guard depth they lack right now without committing to a guy for four years (or, like, two years, I guess). Unless that comes off it looks like your roster right now is what Michigan will go into 2012-13 with.

Michigan technically does not have a spot open in 2013 but that makes some dodgy assumptions. Austin Hatch is likely to reclassify and Michigan is all but guaranteed to lose someone to the NBA draft after the season, possibly multiple someones.

The nice thing is that Michigan doesn't have any truly pressing needs for 2013. They've got a PG, a center, and a high-quality wing committed. They will lose Vogrich and may lose a PG, a high quality wing, and a combo 4 type (if McGary or Robinson is really good right away). They can swing for the fences at any position from the 2 to the 4 and see if anyone bites without being too down on their chances in 2013-14 if they don't connect.

Legacy. Did we know that Drake Johnson's step-dad is Tom Slade?

"It wasn't so much pressure as it was expected because my whole family's gone to Michigan. It runs in my family to go to the university. My mom is the head cheerleading coach (Pam St. John). My dad went there; my grandfather went there. My step-dad played quarterback at Michigan (Tom Slade). . . . Yeah, he's my step-dad and he passed away almost six years ago, coming up. . . . When I was really young, my mom used to be really afraid of me going to games because there was like 110,000 people walking around and she didn't want me to get lost, but then at like age 13 I'd go to maybe four or five games a year."

In that interview at Touch The Banner he claims to run consistent 4.3 40s at 206 pounds and talks about an affinity for wide receiver as well. That'll be a backup plan if Johnson gets squeezed out by Hayes/Smith/Isaac/Shallman.

Etc.: Elsewhere in calling out silly lies, Jalen Rose pwns Skip Bayless. UMHoops on Burke's return. Open letter to the GT athletic department from a designer who knows his stuff. Interesting to think about what a Michigan analogue would look like. This week in the Inevitable NCAA Split On The Horizon. Tim Hardaway Jr. didn't even put his name in for an eval. Blake Countess interview.

Tough stuff on deck for the hockey team: Michigan plays Ferris, Western, Notre Dame, and MSU four times in conference next year. Those are the top two teams in the league, a team that should bounce back big time if they can just find a goalie, and… uh… Michigan State.

What if Will Campbell is really good?


The Old Men Of Yost

The Old Men Of Yost Comment Count

Brian March 12th, 2012 at 12:18 PM

3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals


This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.

That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.

A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.

Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.

It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.

Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.

I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.

Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.

It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.


It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.


Hunwick on his last game at Yost:


The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall. 

I want more flags. All of the flags!





That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:

Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.

Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.

Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:


If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.

Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.

Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.

Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.

The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.

Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.

Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.

The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."

This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.

I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.

Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.

Pairwise Situation

MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.

Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.

Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.

As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.

It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:

  • Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
  • Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
  • Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team

In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.

That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.

As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.

One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.


Unverified Voracity Brings Back The Old Man

Unverified Voracity Brings Back The Old Man Comment Count

Brian March 8th, 2012 at 4:47 PM

The Old Man is coming. The Old Man.


The Old Man is coming.

The McCrayken is alive. All of the internets to user mdoc, who responded to the winged-helmet-kraken request instantly:


This blog is rooting for Mike McCray to be a destructive force so hard.

Penn State's death has been greatly exaggerated. OR: look what we can do when we have a head coach! PSU's 2012 class was terrible. All their good recruits ended up with Urban Meyer and they replaced them with two stars snatched from the MAC. That's going to hurt for a while. Despite that, Nittany Lions fans are probably feeling more chipper than they thought they would about their program's intermediate-term prospects. They've recently swooped in on the following recruits:

  • QB Christian Hackenberg, a consensus four star claiming offers from Alabama and Florida.
  • DE Garrett Sickels, who is rated a lot like Mike McCray (ie: top 50 on Rivals, solid four-star elsewhere)
  • CB Ross Douglas, a three/four star tweener.

They are almost certain to add five-star-ish TE Adam Breneman tomorrow. By doing so they've become the only Big Ten team kind of sort of keeping up with the big two when it comes to shiny stars next to high schoolers' names. The Sandusky effect is looking pretty short-lived.

All you have to do is look at OSU's last class to know that this is good for Michigan. A strong Penn State takes recruits from teams who play Michigan all the time and puts them on one that plays Michigan 40% of the time; also it would be really nice if there was someone strong enough in the East to prevent an annoying B10 championship game instant rematch.

I'm with Fitz, sort of. Pat Fitzgerald does not want 6-6 teams to be excluded from bowl consideration:

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes the Big Ten does not support potential legislation to limit bowl games to teams with at least seven wins.
"The best part of bowl games is about the opportunities -- not just the teams, but for your students, your fans, your alumni, your fans in the area," Fitzgerald told the Tribune on Tuesday. "I'm not for limiting it."

Paging Captain Renault. I agree that if a couple teams want to play some football it's better than watching ping-pong, but I'm not a fan of goofs in blazers bleeding college tuition out of the system. Leave it at 6-6 and severely reduce ticket guarantees. That will cause a bunch of bowls to collapse and solve the problem organically.

And this is 95% of the reason I linked the article:

"I'm not for five-win teams even being able to receive a waiver," Fitzgerald said. "That's tough noogies. If you have a losing record, you are out. A .500 record should be the benchmark."

I love Pat Fitzgerald. May he coach at Northwestern for 30 years.


Al Borges and the interesting things. Borges was on the Huge show recently and the resulting conversation had an unusual density of interesting things said. Borges admits that the early-season (and Iowa) forays into a more pro-style offense were a mistake:

"I think had we had to do it over again, we would have been a little more spread offense early on and gotten better at that. We kind of weaned ourselves into more spread offense as we went. That's really what was best for Denard at the end of the day."

He also makes a great observation about where Denard is at his most dangerous in the passing game:

"Denard is better in the pocket than rolling out," Borges said. "The thing with Denard, where he scares the defense the most, is when he sits in the middle of the pocket, comes underneath the rush, and poses not just a passing threat to the defense, but a running threat too. If you roll him out all the time a lot of time what they did is they would pin us into the sideline where Denard's improv skills aren't used near as much."

Whole thing is recommended. Borges references the "drastic leap" from year one to year two in his passing game. If Denard can just set his feet regularly and not throw into double coverage, Michigan will be cooking.

Sounds good to me. Andy Staples has a fascinating article on the potential impact of full cost of attendance scholarships:

For years, doomsayers have predicted a scenario in which the wealthiest 50 or 60 schools compete only against one another. If such a scenario ever came to fruition, it would have its roots in the debate over the full-cost-of-attendance scholarship.

Doomsayers? As long as we're talking about football here that sounds like heaven.

The article goes into arguments both for and against, with the small schools making arguments that moving some of the money currently going to coaches and facilities to players exacerbates competitive inequity. They don't make the case that this isn't a good thing, and then Nebraska's chancellor just blows it up anyway:

"You can tell me that I can't give them bagels with cream cheese and I can't give them more scholarships and I can't do this and I can't do that, and I follow those rules," Perlman said. "But then what I do to recruit competitively is I spend the money on other stuff. So I build facilities where there is no limit on what I can do, and I make those facilities far beyond what normal students live in because there's no limit on that. There's a standard understanding about regulatory environments that if you regulate something, people will move to the part of their activity that isn't regulated."

At worst the proposal takes the middleman out of competitive inequity.

It sounds like the big schools are getting increasingly exasperated with small schools with no financial weight imposing restrictions on them because they like to pretend they're DI schools when they're really just Indiana State. Eventually some sort of split is coming.


"The kids who are on solely need-based aid can basically work 20 hours a week or whatever and earn a little pizza money or earn a little money for tattoos or whatever they want," Young said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Our athletes, on the other hand, work 40-50 hours a week for the school, and they don't get anything except what these other kids get without having to work for it. It seems when one thinks about simple equity, from that perspective, it's hard to argue that these kids shouldn't get something."

You're all right, Washington president Michael Young.

Wat. Brady Hoke is going to loathe this:

Hoke, Beilein and Brandon —along with U-M softball coach Carol Hutchins and a handful of business professors— will host a six-day executive education program intended to teach business leadership through lessons learned in U-M sports. Those lessons, according to a recent U-M announcement, include the trick to "transformations in times of crisis," as well as how to teach people "new ways of doing things" and how to "take on fierce competitors and produce winning results."

Only $15,000! Some people have too much money.

Etc.: Possibly random Hardaway renaissance is retconned into narrative. Please be true, narrative. Mitch McGary's "defensive impact" draws high praise—that would be nice, wouldn't it? If you've got ESPN insider this Wolverine Nation piece in which recruits are anonymously surveyed on recruiting tactics they've faced is a must-read. Excellent Yost student section retrospective. John Beilein for everything.

Trade mag article on how Michigan Stadium amplified the band. Maybe next year they'll have a piece on how they made it sound better in section 44. : (


Three And Out Q&A: Part Three

Three And Out Q&A: Part Three Comment Count

Brian October 21st, 2011 at 11:06 AM


[ED: Parts one and two here. Book on sale Tuesday. Bacon will be giving his first local book talk and signing at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate Shopping Center on Friday night, October 28, 7 p.m.; other events can be found on his website’s appropriately-named Event page.

Cave people: Three and Out is a book about the Rodriguez era from John Bacon, who was given unprecedented access to the program by Rich Rodriguez because Rich Rodriguez does these sorts of things.]


“What books are you going to write about now that Michigan won't let you within a mile of any of their programs anymore? I mean, it's not easy to piss off everybody.”

Well, first: Despite the sacrifices I mentioned in the first installment – time, money, and possibly professional opportunities -- writing it was my decision, naturally, and I don’t regret it. Given my choices, trying to write an honest book is certainly more appealing to me than trying to keep everyone happy and produce a book I could never respect.

Plus, I had the chance to see a big-time program form the inside that no fan, and no reporter, has ever had—and probably never will again. If there was one great privilege that I hope every reader can share, it was getting to know these young man not as gladiators but as human beings, some of the best I’ve met. If you were proud of Michigan football before, I can tell you this: getting to know these guys can erase much of the cynicism we all feel for college football these days. They were, quite simply, the real thing.

None of that, unfortunately, solves the problem in the question. Mr. Brandon and Mr. Carr, through various means and channels, have made their contempt for the book (and its author) plain enough. I have no idea what’s going to happen with my various ties to Michigan, including my teaching arrangement, but I’d probably be foolish to count on anything.

It’s almost impossible to write anything interesting without at least some cooperation and access, and I might find those in short supply under the Brandon regime. I will likely have to go “off the reservation,” if you will, to pursue future projects. And perhaps it’s time.

But I also believe this book would cost me a lot more if I were writing about Kentucky basketball under Eddie Sutton or, say, Ohio State football (as a convenient example). Those schools and fans generally don’t want the truth, and will attack anyone who attempts to deliver it (witness Mr. Herbstreit’s forced move to Tennessee). Michigan football fans are very demanding—they expect a first-class program on and off the field—but they also want the truth, and they can handle it.

I feel the same way. After all, I learned how to do all the things I needed to write this book – researching, writing and thinking critically – from world-class professors at the University of Michigan. But the most important principle Michigan taught me was the central importance of pursuing the truth without fear, wherever it leads.

For those who say this book will hurt Michigan, I can only respond: not the Michigan I know.

7. Does the idea of being a "Michigan man" emerge as tortured shibboleth in need of burial or does Bacon make the case that there is something valuable in it, something RR just really didn't get?

This is why you have to love Michigan fans. What other school’s backers would inquire if their culture’s central concept emerges as a “tortured shibboleth in need of burial”? It was such fans, by the way, that made it easy for me to persuade our highbrow publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, that our readers would have no trouble getting through a 438-page book with no photos, nor digesting the word “crucible” in the subtitle. (Arthur Miller, after all, went to Michigan.)

The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan. But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since.

Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches. But the phrase really took off in 1989, of course, when Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season. This prompted Schembechler to bark: “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan!”

Pundits have wondered exactly what Bo meant, but I think it’s pretty simple: anybody coaching at Michigan better be completely committed to Michigan.

The phrase took on more weight four years ago, when a reporter asked brand-new head coach Rich Rodriguez if the Michigan coach had to be a Michigan Man. He joked, “Gosh, I hope not! They hired me!”

He was criticized for that—and not without some justification. The question was inevitable, and it exposed Rodriguez’s superficial knowledge of the program upon his arrival, and the athletic department’s failure to prepare its new coach for his mission.

From that point on, the phrase was used more often to beat somebody over the head—usually Rodriguez—than to underscore the values it’s supposed to represent, much the way extremists use “patriot” to castigate someone as un-American.

At the “Victors’ Rally” held in February 2010, Rodriguez wanted to show that he’d gotten the message. So, he closed his speech by saying, “I’m Rich Rodriguez, and I am a Michigan Man.” This time, he was criticized for being presumptuous.

Finally, with great humility, he told the crowd at his final speech at the Bust in December 2011, “I hope you realize, I truly want to be a Michigan Man.” But this time his critics said a true Michigan Man wouldn’t have to ask.

And thus, the silliness of the entire exercise had come full circle. The phrase had become so distorted, Michigan’s critics started using it as a mocking insult. Much like the word “classy,” it seemed, whoever uses it, probably isn’t.

Despite my temptation to chuck this overused and little understood phrase forever, I still think there’s something to it. Everyone knows the values it’s supposed to stand for: honor, sacrifice, pride in your team, and humility in yourself, all in one. But ultimately, to define it, I have to resort to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

Pardon the comparison, but when it comes to the phrase, “Michigan Man,” I know it when I see it, too. They might be Big Men on Campus, but they don’t act like it, in college or afterward. The men I’ve been lucky enough to get to know—many as good friends—really do put their team and their school before themselves, and become the kind of adults you want to be your employee, your colleague, your boss, your neighbor, your brother-in-law. Not because they played football for Michigan, but because they represent its values. And they really are different than the players I’ve met from other schools.

I can cite too many men who fit this description, and too many examples of their conduct, simply to dismiss it.

Here’s a small one: a few years ago the football alums of Ohio State and Michigan were invited to an event in Columbus. The Buckeyes showed up wearing everything from sport coats to sweatshirts and jeans. But the Michigan alums arrived wearing coats and ties. No one told them what to wear. Bo had already passed away. But they simply knew, reflexively, if you represent Michigan, this is how you do it.

A bigger example: a few years after graduating, Scott Smykowski, a former backup under Schembechler, discovered he needed a bone marrow transplant, but his health care wasn’t going to cover all his expenses. That’s all Schembechler needed to hear to rally Michigan Men from coast to coast. And that’s all they needed to hear to raise $150,000 in just a few weeks – even though most of them never played with Smykowski or even met him. That’s what being a Michigan Man meant to them.

When I speak at Michigan events, I often end with a quote from arguably the first important Michigan Man, Fielding Yost. Near the end of his life, they held a big banquet for him called, “A Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast,” which was broadcast nationwide by NBC. After all the speakers had paid tribute, he got up in his eponymous Fieldhouse and said, “My heart is so full at this moment, I fear I could say little else. But do let me reiterate the Spirit of Michigan. It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways. An enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts. And a conviction that nowhere, is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours.”

It gets me every time. But what really gets me is the response from the people in the audience. None of them ever met Fielding Yost. Most of them weren’t born when he passed away in 1946. Most of their parents weren’t, either. And yet, when they hear these words, they nod involuntarily, the words resonating with something deep inside them, and they are often glassy-eyed when I finish the quote.

If you could stand on that podium and look out on those faces, you would not have to wonder if the idea of the Michigan Man is for real.

Despite the best efforts to kill it, it is still very much alive.


Unverified Voracity Is Twitchy About 3-4

Unverified Voracity Is Twitchy About 3-4 Comment Count

Brian May 24th, 2011 at 11:47 AM


Internet: frighteningly comprehensive. Don't ask about Rule 54 here.

Update on a deceased fellow. I made some offhanded reference to Horace Prettyman, how ridiculous a name that was, and how it was obviously a few guys on the football team having a laugh a couple days ago, but a reader points out one Horace Greely Prettyman has his own extensively researched wikipedia article detailing a life full of accomplishments. Specifically, he scored the first-ever touchdown in Ann Arbor:

In 1883, Michigan resumed a schedule of intercollegiate football, and Prettyman played "forward" for the team. The team played its first ever home game at the Ann Arbor Fairgrounds in March 1883, a 40-5 win over the Detroit Independents. Prettyman scored the first touchdown at the Fairgrounds at the 14-minute mark of the "first inning" and went on to score a second touchdown before the end of the inning.

The team played its remaining games as part of an Eastern trip in November 1883. The trip consisted of four road games in eight days at Wesleyan and Yale in Connecticut, Harvard in Massachusetts, and Stevens Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The trip cost $3,000 and was arranged "to both represent and advertise the college among the Eastern cities and universities."Prettyman was placed in charge of the trip, and The Michigan Argonaut praised his management: "All the boys are most hearty in their commendation of Prettyman's excellent management of the financial interests of the trip and his success is seen by the fact that every expense of the trip has been paid to the last cent."

If Prettyman hadn't died in 1945 there's a good chance he would have tracked me down—he was the local postmaster for a long time—and strangled me.

And as long as we're looking up very old photographs of football players, here's Yost with a killer mustache in 1896:


Mustache Wednesday? Come on, baby.

Er, well then. Yesterday's post on Full Cost Of Attendance—apparently this year's conference expansion— made a large assumption: the change would be localizable to certain athletes. Adam Rittenberg says this is wrong:

If the proposal is adopted at the NCAA level (more on this later), it would affect every athlete on a full scholarship. A women's soccer goalie would have the same scholarship structure as a quarterback. "What we're talking about is not limited to football and men's basketball," Hawley said. The proposal wouldn't impact athletes on partial scholarships.

Or is it? The only "headcount" sports—no dividing scholarships—are basketball, football, women's tennis, women's gymnastics, and women's volleyball. Schools that don't wish to put the world on FCOA could just offer partial scholarships in sports that aren't the above.

But that still increases the burden of FCOA considerably, especially at football schools that almost universally feature volleyball for Title IX purposes. Jim Delany Machiavelli Rating: incremented.

Happening? Happening. Mike Slive is on board with this, by the way. SEC + Big Ten equals probably happening.

Good advice for anyone. Nate Silver is an interesting guy, and here's a speech he gave to a bunch of prospective journalists about what they should do in This Environment. The Big Lead contrasts this with Rick Reilly's "don't write for free" speech. The former is useful, the latter clueless.

This is good advice for anyone:

Learn how to make an argument. This is something that came naturally
to me as a former high school debater. One of the things that distinguishes (quote unquote) "new journalism" from some of its more traditional forms is that the reader is really going to be looking for analysis, meaning, context, argument. Unless you come across some really fresh and proprietary information ‐‐ it's great to get a scoop, but it won't happen very often ‐‐ it's not enough just to present the information verbatim.

One of the flaws of political journalism, in fact, is that a lot of what amounts to spin is given authority by being reported at face value.

Instead, the reader is going to be asking you to develop a hypothesis, weigh the evidence, and come to some conclusion about it ‐‐ it's really very much analogous to the scientific method. Good journalism has always done this ‐‐ but now it needs to be done more explicitly.

If you don't know how to make an argument you spend a large amount of time putting together statistics on how many college athletes get arrested only to find yourself widely ridiculed for not even bothering to provide context. In the past you could just say something and the worst that would happen would be a nasty letter to the editor from a crotchety old guy; now your arguments have to be bulletproof (or at least, you know, try a little) lest you get eviscerated.

Silver also suggests journalists learn what to do with numbers, which is something I harp on consistently.

APR bite. While football APR penalties have generally been restricted to the San Jose States of the world, small squad sizes and NBA departures have made the APR an actual toothy thing in college basketball. A couple years ago Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State all got hit in the offseason. This year UConn feels the wrath:

The national champion Connecticut men's basketball program will lose two scholarships for the upcoming season as a result of a poor Academic Performance Rating from the NCAA. …

The rating puts the basketball program's four-year rating at 893, below the NCAA minimum score of 925. The score for the 2009-10 academic year is 826.

The NCAA's real minimum is 900 but it's interesting that UConn is failing where Kentucky is apparently succeeding. I wonder what they're doing differently in Lexington. The Huskies won't be getting off the mat any time soon, either: their score from last year is 844. Barring a miracle their APR is going to be under 900 for the next few years.

The full report is supposed to come out today; I'll get Michigan's scores up ASAP but probably not as quickly as the guy with the fastest trigger finger on the message board.

What's this oh those are my multiple defense hives welcome back hives I hate you I hate you I hate you aaaah. You may have noticed that Michigan has recruited a lot of linebackers. Farmington Hill Harrison's Mario Ojemudia, a high school defensive tackle who people are projecting as a WDE, wasn't supposed to be one of them but showed up at the recently completed Columbus Nike camp looking like a linebacker, and not one of those linebackers you can turn into a WDE. This may be the cause for another round of "are we moving to a 3-4" last featured in a mailbag here; this time it's a post at Maize N Brew detailing the various teams that moved to the 3-4 and how they mostly got a bunch better.

I don't think this is happening. As I mentioned in that mailbag post, moving to a 3-4 does not reduce your linebacker overage because a well-stocked spot—WDE—becomes a linebacker spot filled by—surprise—those WDEs. I think Mattison has explicitly stated he will run a 4-3 under at Michigan and only a 4-3 under even if I can't find the quote right now, and GOOD LORD LET'S JUST DO ONE THING FAIRLY WELL BEFORE WE START CHANGING AGAIN AAAAAAH—


Etc.: Yost Built profiles new defenseman Mike Chiasson, who does mean no Burlon next year. Unusually for Michigan, Chiasson is 20 now and will be one of those 24-year old seniors popular amongst teams that don't have a lot of NHL draft picks on their rosters. Chad Langlais was the most recent example at Michigan and that worked out well.