Unverified Voracity Is Mostly Pictures

Unverified Voracity Is Mostly Pictures

Submitted by Brian on September 10th, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Quickly:

In retrospect, obvious. Shredder's latest and something I'm kicking myself for not putting in the preview:

denard-as-sonic 
Too bad it's a 100% guaranteed cease-and-desist magnet, or that would be a killer t-shirt.

Nacho dip. Obama's hard edge. Random seven minute video featuring Rodriguez and impressions of Rodriguez from his players:

Via MBN.

This is never good. Remember Brent Petway's rap? Yeah… now there's a Michigan State version:

So they've caught up to us in that department. Let's not return the favor with team-wide brawls. Also, athletes: stop rapping. That is all.

shaq

Not that this is a surprise, but… John Pollack continues saying "it's just a flesh wound" in AnnArbor.com, further revealing reasons no one should talk to him ever again:

“What happened was that Michigan Stadium was a unique stadium,” he said. “With the renovation, it looks pretty much like every stadium in the country.” … “If you take out seat-license fees, the whole financial model collapses,” he said. “And what did the average fan get in return? A quarter-inch. It’s not even worth repainting the numbers.”

1. The bowl has not seen the seats expand to their final size, since that process will take the next three years.
2. The noise in the bowl has gone up 30-40%.
3. Handicap seating is considerably more extensive.
4. Seat license fees were instituted a decade ago.
4. He continues insisting that now Michigan Stadium looks like "every other stadium in the country," which good lord:

michigan-stadium-renovation

spartan-stadium

He also keeps saying that the "mystery and surprise" that Michigan Stadium was just a HOLE IN THE GROUND was an asset since surely no one knew it was called "the Big House" when it was a HOLE IN THE GROUND.

False. If I had a picture of this man I would lolcat it like that. just "FALSE."

On the crushening of Denard. A small amount of chatter in the aftermath of the UConn game has been about how the Big Ten rabble rabble defense rabble linebacker rabble Robinson's spleen rabble rabble rabble. Jon Chait points out a reason the 29 carry(!) outing is not likely to be repeated:

The seminal thing about Connecticut's defensive game plan is that it did not work. At all. Michigan had one punt and zero turnovers. Ask yourself this. If you were designing a game plan against Michigan, would your goal be to make Robinson carry the ball as often as possible? Or would you try to force less dangerous players to get the ball? I predict most defenses who have seen what Robinson can do pick door number two, and his rushing attempts per game drop.

Also as Robinson's passing gains the trust of the coaches, Michigan's run/pass breakdown will retreat from 75% run to 70%, maybe 65%. And probably 50% of his carries will be touchdowns anyway.

On secondary aigh. Notre Dame's got some of its own. Starting safety Jamoris Slaughter will not play this weekend, leaving this in the ND backfield:

Slaughter's injury and freshman Derek Roback's transfer to Ohio University earlier this week leave the Irish with only three fully healthy scholarship safeties for the Michigan game - [sophomore Zeke] Motta, junior Dan McCarthy and senior Harrison Smith.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Kelly says he's not moving anyone to the position because there's a 5'10" walk-on who they're "not afraid to put in the game."

Motta will start his first game tomorrow. He was a pretty big recruit, albeit one the sites all ranked as a linebacker. May his judgment of angles be correct for humans, incorrect for Denard.

Etc.: Good news for people in Denmark: NBC will stream the M-ND game live. This message will be repeated in the liveblog post. Another Michigan blog: Dreaded Judgment. Rodriguez says he "hopes" Forcier stays and competes. Big Ten Network ad revenue increases 22%. And, finally:

Unverified Voracity Is Fiutakin' It

Unverified Voracity Is Fiutakin' It

Submitted by Brian on July 15th, 2010 at 2:15 PM

Open house fluff. If you couldn't make it here are moving pictures that describe the goings-on:

There's also the version of Tim's post yesterday at all media outlets. MVictors has the best one because it has a picture of a fire hydrant wearing a hat. The Daily, meanwhile, provides a noise increase estimate that's more reasonable than the doubling that was initially proposed:

A 30-percent noise increase on the field level was also promised, which will be tested by a sound engineer early in the season.

I'm not sure why they couldn't have tested that last season when the structures were up.

If you just can't get enough, AnnArbor.com has a slideshow and a couple stories that have the same content in a slightly different package. The latter does have this entertaining quote about the 3k+ club seats:

"I came in here, and I was like, 'Wow,'" Neumann said during Wednesday's public open house. "Then they told me how much it cost, and I was like, 'Wow.' "

Word.

FWIW, nary a crab was to be found in the articles. With newspapers typically straining to get "both sides of the story" that's one more indicator that the Save the Big House folks are slightly out of touch. Speaking of…

I am so glad I already have a lolcfn tag. Outrage(!) spans the internets today after CFN's Pete Fiutak talked up Matt James as a promising incoming recruit. Matt James is no longer alive after falling from a hotel balcony during spring break festivities, so this is a very bad idea.

I can only say that I'm not surprised at all. Way back in the day I took a swing at finding all the errors in that year's edition of the Michigan preview and came up with a solid two dozen, and while I can't find that post from before time began here's something they wrote just last year about the relative strength of the Michigan defense:

The real strength will be at safety where some superstar prospects will combine with some established playmakers. That means veteran safety Steve Brown can be part linebacker and part safety in the new system.

That was ridiculous even before the season, when this blog proposed it as "the most incorrect statement ever uttered by a college football preview ever"; now it stands as monument to the magnificent pointlessness of human cognition. Also they declared Obi Ezeh's the team's second best player.

It was just a matter of time before they incorrectly identified someone who is not alive as someone who is. In CFN House, it's always lupus and the patient dies because it's not lupus.

Other things that are not true about Notre Dame. Via Orson, here's a breathless bit of frippery on Brian Kelly:

"Coach Kelly and the entire Notre Dame staff has been very aggressive in recruiting," said Mike Frank, the publisher of IrishSportsDaily.com. "They are getting the offers quickly out the door. They are organized and they grind it and work very hard. This staff is much more aggressive than the previous one."

This is not true at all. Legend has it that Corwin Brown once camped out in front of Martez Wilson's door after being booted from the interior, refusing to leave until Wilson agreed to sign with the Irish. It didn't work—never in the long history of that move has it been successful—but by God it was aggressive. Seriously, the one thing Weis did well was recruit. At least give him that.

Who said anything about an aftermath? This was linked on the sidebar yesterday and has popped up in a message board thread or two, but it is patently offensive that this headline

Charles Woodson Called “A Hero” In Aftermath Of House Fire

…suggests Woodson just became hero yesterday. Pete Fiutak probably wrote it.

Anyway, Woodson and his business partner were just doing what any average Michigan fan might have done on a lazy Friday night: watch highlight videos of Charles Woodson and doze off. As per usual, doing this saved lives:

“The Charles Woodson 1997 highlight tape saved our lives, because that’s what kept us up so late,” said Ruiz. “Seriously, we were up late watching that tape, and that’s what made us stay up so late to find that smoke in the beginning. Otherwise we probably would have been passed out. I don’t know.”

They made a movie of the Todd Howard version of this, by the way.

old-man-yells-at-cloud Old Man Yells At Cloud. John Pollack's got one convert: Chicago columnist Rick Telander. His crotchety old man column complains about the amount of money spent on the renovations, says "you can't go 5-7" and "sure as heck can't go 3-9" if you're going to do that, and then pulls out more evidence for this blog's theory that everything written about sports in a Chicago newspaper is false:

In that 2008 season, Michigan got crushed at home, 33-10, by Toledo.

That's not a typo—crushed—and is only 20 points off on a game that happened two years ago. A bonus Fiutak follows:

Is it a coincidence that Brad Labadie, Michigan's director of football operations, just resigned?

Don't think so.

Rabble rabble rabble, and so it goes.

The usual array of losers. Generic complaint about college football scheduling that sees Michigan named the bravest Big Ten team because it's the one team taking on two BCS schools if we don't count Iowa State, which we shouldn't. Standard whining about faking your way to bowl eligibility by taking on Akron and three schools Akron would kill, as Indiana will attempt to do this fall. Hopeful muttering about rising prices for tomato cans spurring some actual scheduling from Big Ten teams, delivered more in hope than expectation. Continued calls for Eastern Michigan to drop its football program entirely.

Etc.: Ace follows up on his Bo team picture slideshows with one showing the team MVPs from 1926 on. Penn State fans survey their schedule and unanimously (though tentatively) pick Michigan as a potential landmine. I'll take it. An analysis of Nebraska's dominating front, which switched between over and under, last year.

Unverified Voracity Is Looking Corporate

Unverified Voracity Is Looking Corporate

Submitted by Brian on July 14th, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Correction. The recruiting profile of Richard Ash brought up Jason Kates because he's the canonical recent example of a guy whose weight problems prevented him from becoming a player. In that post, I mentioned that Rivals had 'won' that evaluation since they issued two stars to Scout's four. I got that backwards. It was Scout that was skeptical and thus won.

The underbelly of disaster(!). Tim is taking in the official media bit of the tour (lunch!) and is tweeting brooding photos of empty stuff. Full post coming up later today; for those who can't wait UM Tailgate got in way early and already has the first of what will be dozens of galleries posted today. Swanky:

stadium-renovations-interior

Meanwhile, Michigan has released this year's box-engorged seating capacity: 109,901, which puts it back in its rightful place as the largest in the country. Wikipedia was updated in nanoseconds:

image

Michigan Stadium's capacity will drop next year when the seats and aisles are widened but should still check in #1.

Beam me up. I can't control when I get the weird photoshops of recently graduated players, but here's this:

zoltanthespaceinvader_thumb 

His people are Patriots. Thanks to Corey Ray.

Also in graphic stuff, TRSaunders expands his library of MS Paint crazy photo stuff with Cam Gordon.

Raid your own stadium. Tickets for the Big Chill are all but officially sold out as Michigan holds back the last few blocks for incoming freshmen. Unless you head to Michigan State's ticket department, that is. Buy away. Plot in the message board thread.

In graphic form. A poster named BlueMonster threw this chart up on Rivals. It speaks for itself:

Big10Starters_thumb2

Steele can be wobbly on certain things but not wobbly enough to get Michigan out of the overall cellar when they're so far behind the nearest competitor, especially since Steele's evaluation of Michigan's starters is significantly more veteran than the actual lineup will be.

Interesting to note that UConn, which had a rep as a very veteran outfit, comes in towards the bottom of the list.  Penn State, meanwhile, checked in next to Michigan at just below average on the Steele experience ranking but is well up the rankings here. Everything else looks to be about what you'd expect, with that Notre Dame game looming large as an opportunity to start off in a non-flailing fashion.

Expansion of the other variety. Everyone else has an opinion, so I should too: the NCAA has announced that the four play-in games will be contested in two groups: everyone who used to be a 16 seed plays for two spots and the last four at-large teams will play for the other two. So everyone gets slid down one more notch and the three teams that are added have to play for a spot with the team that would have been the last at-large in a 65-team tournament.

I was against any sort of expansion from the start and still think 68 is goofy, but if they're going to do it this is the best way. The 16 seeds are invariably weak opponents and bidding another one goodbye is not going to make anyone shed a tear. While the occasional interesting team finds itself a 15 seed, usually the worst 15 seed is no threat against the best 2. Meanwhile, having the last few at-large bids face off against each other will reduce the "what about X" complaining every year because X will have an opportunity to play Y, settling the argument on the court. More of those third place Mountain West or A-10 teams will get the opportunity to prove themselves better than Clemson or Minnesota.

The Artist Formerly Known As Big Ten Wonk dislikes this, calling it "dumb":

I realize many pundits are fine with this today, but wait until they see it in action with actual team names inserted into these brackets. Inevitably a five-seed will lose to a 12 that emerged from a play-in game and we’ll hear all the usual talk about the “advantage” and “momentum” the 12 had from playing already. And as for talk of 10-seeds being in play-in games, mark me down as absolutely terrified. I’m already on the record as thinking that tournament seeding has far too little to do with reality. (And note that today’s decision only raises the stakes that will be riding on a team’s seed.)

Now, if you’re talking about a team seeded as high as a 10, there’s a good chance that said team is way better than the selection committee could have realized. To require a team that good to win an extra game while every year the 64th-best team in the field is guaranteed a comparatively easy six-win path is antithetical to what’s made the NCAA tournament the best postseason spectacle in major American team sports. We’ve trusted the tournament’s outcomes precisely to the extent that the courts have been neutral, the brackets have been balanced, and the opportunities have been equal. 

I think that's an anticipation about talking heads doing the thing where they have a fierce disagreement over a petty issue because of Stephen A Smith and not an actual argument that this will be a factor, but even so I must dissent from Gasaway's dissent. A case where the second to last at large spot is actually a 10 seed will be exceedingly rare. The equivalent would be the last at large in the current tourney being a 10, which I'm pretty sure has never happened. Meanwhile, the 64th-best team has earned something (the auto-bid) the last teams in have not. It's not entirely fair but if it keeps a bunch of small teams from getting shuffled to "TruTV" in favor of major conference mediocrities, I'm in favor of it. Seeds are mostly guesses and a small conference team that won its championship and avoided the play-in has proven itself better than a subset of college basketball; major conference teams that finish seventh have not done this.

The committee did the best possible job given they had to assemble a 68-team tournament and include a cable channel no one's even heard of.

Leader for real. Now that the World Cup is over it can be said: ESPN has shed its Mark Shapiro skin and has returned to something that people can both love and hate instead of just the latter. Not once during the 2010 tournament did I pine for the Univision that I had in HD in 2006 but not 2010, and this is despite the fact that Univision is such terrific fun that I would occasionally flip on replays of games I'd already watched just to hear someone's head explode because of Diego Forlan. Also, 30 for 30 is an unqualified success, the sort of original programming that ESPN always should have done instead of "I'd Do Anything" or literally everything else Shapiro ever came up with. (His latest trick: running Six Flags into the ground.)

Everything from the play by play to the studio crew was fantastic—even Alexi Lalas was genuinely fun when he ribbed the English. My only complaint was the time spent showing replays when action was going on, and that wasn't even ESPN's fault since FIFA controls the feed. There has never been a greater turnaround between consecutive broadcasts of a single event. Last year we were stuck with Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa.

Why can't they do this for other sports? Well, if you took ESPN's top four college football announce teams (PBP: Musberger, McDonough, Franklin, ?) they would probably come close to the four excellent teams put together for the World Cup. When you get to #8 it's Pam Ward, and by #12 it's that awful Rod Gilmore/Trevor Matich color pairing that had a combined IQ approximately the equal of tapioca pudding that went 12-20 in 15 years as as boxer. Plus ESPN had the pick of any English announcers they wanted. If you could put together an All-Star roster of college football from ESPN, CBS, Fox, and, uh, NBC… well… you'd get Verne Lundquist. Never mind.

Initial NCAA impressions. If you're like me and have gotten tired of EA's consistently lame NCAA franchise, I suggest you check out GameShark folks Bill Abner and Todd Brakke's "Nut and Feisty Weasel," where they'll be posting their annual stream of consciousness reviews of the latest edition. These are always unvarnished and far more useful than any review ever is.

The first impression, as always, is promising. This is something that I don't know if an NCAA game has ever managed before:

John Clay had 88 yards on 20 carries. He was hard as hell to tackle. Michigan? I shut that team down with impunity. I had a chance late to get the ball back against Wisky and they marched 30 yards to nail the coffin shut.

Against UM my DE Cam Heyward was UNBLOCKABLE. He was KILLING whoever the Michigan RT is. 3 sacks, multiple pressures, etc. In years past this would raise a quick red flag. This is a potential pattern that could really kill the game because before--something like this simply meant...the AI blocking sucks.

Against Wisky? Heyward was as non factor. And believe me...I tried.

Abner is an OSU fan, unfortunately. Let's hope the game's projection for Mark Huyge is pessimistic.

Etc.: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get the 2013 and 2014 Frozen Fours. Fine by me; at least Pittsburgh is drivable. Boston fans are complaining about the FF's long absence from their neck of the woods—by 2014 it will be a decade—and I would have some sympathy if the Detroit FF was the first time in forever that the perpetually-screwed CCHA had gotten to host one. Rivals ranks Michigan a job-saving #41.

The Black Knight Of Michigan Stadium

The Black Knight Of Michigan Stadium

Submitted by Brian on July 13th, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Michigan Stadium before renovations:

michigan-stadium-before2Michigan Stadium (almost) afterwards:

image

Cork boat enthusiast, political speechwriter, "Save the Big House" founder, Yale grad, and Hero of Tiananmen Square John Pollack on this transformation:

It’s a lot different and ironically it looks a lot bigger from the outside and it feels a lot smaller from the inside. Going to games there over the last couple years, as the boxes have risen–they are so out of scale with bowl itself that it makes the bowl seem small. And that’s not positive.

Before, as you approached the stadium there was this sense of anticipation whether you’d been there 100 times or never had been there.  Because even if you knew what was coming, you walk in and this mighty bowl unfolds before you. Now you’re walking up to two corporate-looking structures and when you walk in the bowl is diminished because the proportions are all wrong.  Those boxes are literally monuments to self-aggrandizement and unfortunately they diminish the stadium. …

The university has greatly diminished the iconic stadium in the United States of America.

That's from an MVictors interview of the HOTS himself. "Corporate-looking." What does this mean? It means Pollack is a certain kind of leftist. As the renovations have gone up the level of concerned emails in my inbox has dropped to zero, as the structures are both attractive and, with Newsterbaan, part of a unified look for the athletic campus based on Yost that cannot get to Crisler soon enough. The stadium now looks like something other than a hole in the ground. But if you're so invested you could see Michigan Stadium as "the iconic stadium in the United States of America" you clearly aren't going to ever back down.

This site's been over this before, making the case for luxury boxes when a reasonable questioner—of the variety that seems not to exist any more—wondered what that case was. In short, extracting exorbitant amounts of money from relatively few patrons is better for everyone because those people are funding the modernization of the stadium and making the place more intimidating than it was before because instead of their silence we get the fairly significant acoustic benefits of the structures. Also maybe they won't yell at me to sit down as much.

The case against the boxes as made by Pollack is a breathtaking combination of delusion ("One of the great things about college football, especially Michigan football, is that it is a great public space—a place where autoworkers and millionaires can come together to cheer on their team") and arrogance ("Michigan doesn't need to keep up with the Joneses. We are the Joneses") that rests largely on the idea that Bill Martin, who seemingly thought about nothing but money during his tenure at Michigan, is getting the money wrong. A source close to the project has convincingly debunked these ideas in a detailed post on the renovations and a response to a mailbag question. Michigan has to renovate the stadium after years and years of Duderstadt-inspired neglect. They can pay for this renovation by adding a surcharge to tickets for 20 years or by putting in boxes that will do more than pay for themselves and set Michigan up to compete with the likes of Ohio State and its massive spending.

Meanwhile, the "grass roots" effort to stop the renovations is as natural as the turf they just put in. Allow myself to quote myself:

There was one loud, PR-savvy group with no grassroots support that employed disingenuous political rhetoric in an attempt to stall a project that it seems like the vast bulk of the fanbase supports. Three guys with impressive names and a website do not a movement make, and when you are persistently, uselessly annoying you shouldn't expect perpetual fruitless audiences. Not once in this process did Pollack attempt to measure the sentiment of the fanbase, or if he did the results he got back were disconcerting and quickly buried; "but but but Fielding Yost" is not an argument that sways anyone with decision-making powers, no matter how many newspapers it appears in.

Unfortunately, no one has undertaken that measurement; in its absence all we have to go on are the constant "I was by the stadium so I took 20 pictures" posts that pop up on message boards across the Michigan internet and the almost-unanimous excitement about the addition on practical, aesthetic, and auditory grounds.

As for the sanctified tradition we're tossing aside, here's a quote from MVictors's HTTV 2010 (buy now!) piece on the construction of the stadium I wish I'd seen earlier so I could have put it in every post I've made on the subject. It's Yost speaking to Bennie Oosterbaan after the dedication game in 1927:

Bennie, do you know what the best thing about that new stadium is? Eighty-five thousand people paid five dollars apiece for their seats -- and Bennie, they had to leave the seats there!

Unverified Voracity Is Bluffin' With Christopher Walken's Muffin

Unverified Voracity Is Bluffin' With Christopher Walken's Muffin

Submitted by Brian on April 28th, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Yesss. Ace's burgeoning tradition of releasing exciting Spring Game footage of a hot new quarterback comes in two steps. Step 1: video. Step 2: video with Christopher Walken. This one even has the 97-yard touchdown inexplicably omitted from the first video:

The new Shazor. So… yeah, Donovan Warren did not get picked in the NFL draft this year, causing Maize 'n' Brew to dissect his decision. I'm all like "what the hell?" I don't think anyone thought Warren was going in the first round, but to fall out of the draft entirely is a Shazor-like collapse. It's actually worse. Shazor's fall was obvious in retrospect: the guy imploded over the second half of his junior season, failed drug tests, and got tagged with major character issues. All Warren did was run a couple of crappy 40s on gimpy ankles. I'm not sure if you can blame Warren when he was told he'd be a mid-round pick at worst. The advisory board did both Warren and Michigan a major disservice here.

BONUS: Donovan Warren tweets like… um… like there's a cat on his keyboard.

(Side note: Greg Easterbrook fulminating about the advisory board:

This year, the advisory board told Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren he'd be a first-round choice, and told Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead he'd be no lower than a third.

Donovan Warren:

Warren said in announcing his decision to turn pro Sunday that the committee gave him "a broad range, rounds 1 to 3."

"Rounds one to three" is way different than round one. Don't let those facts prevent you from getting your furrow on, yo. The actual facts are pretty damning in this case… why exaggerate?)

Exeunt Morris. Jamie Morris's departure from the athletic department hit the papers yesterday, drawing terse statements from the athletic department and no comment from the people who knew about this a week ago but decided not to tell you.

I don't want to air dirty laundry without cause, but Morris is being tossed around as THE MOLE or held up as a representation of Dave Brandon cleaning house against the Rodriguez resistance. So: Morris was dismissed as a result of some bad decisions about use of an athletic department car and a subsequent attempt to conceal those bad decisions. It doesn't have anything to do with Rodriguez.

If you think it's possible that someone could have skated for a similar offense under Martin (maybe) or Goss (definitely), this is an improvement. Personally, I'm waiting to hear exactly what happened with Michigan's CARA forms—and what happens to the people who failed to file them—before proclaiming the New Era of Accountability nigh.

Morris still plans to be on WTKA this fall with John U Bacon; his takes promise to get more interesting now that he's not employed by the AD.

Auburntron will be ours. Michigan's scoreboards are increasingly outdated in a world of advertising-plastered Godzilla-trons. I would like one Tron, sans advertising, please. Dave Brandon, what say you?

"The reality is those scoreboards are old. They're old technology and they're old."

This is a man who will bring crazy HD replay boards to Michigan stadium, all the better to see Armando Allen stepping out of bounds. The last thing on the hit list: video replay at Yost.

(Catch from mgouser Rush N Attack.)

Somewhat thunderous. We have a final number on the effect of Michigan's boxes on the noise level. Somewhat oddly, it comes from an article on the noise level at Beaver Stadium:

A similar reflected-sound effect was measured at the University of Michigan stadium by architecture professor Mojtaba Navvab. He found that the recent addition of skyboxes there created a wall that reflected sound from lower seats onto the field. That meant an increase of 4 to 5 decibels in on-field noise.

DBs are logarithmic (and base ten) so a 4-5 decibel increase is actually something close to triple(!) the volume. Sort of. A fruitless journey through wikipedia indicates that loudness is a fuzzy concept and an increase in sound pressure does not have a one to one correspondence with the perceived loudness. Until such point as we can blow out the opposing quarterback's eardrums on a critical third down, perception is where it's at. As best I can figure, the luxury box-spurred increase is significant but not game-changing.

Implosion continues apace. Both Detroit papers got hammered over the past six months, with the News falling 10.1 percent and the Free Press 13.3, both considerably in excess of national averages. The web numbers are even more slanted towards the News:

Web traffic has been strong as well. Unique traffic to detnews.com increased 26.4 percent to 4.3 million readers in March compared with a year earlier. Unique visitors to freep.com increased 2.2 percent to 4.7 million, Harshbarger said.

Losing 13 percent of your circulation and gaining two percent on the web is a nasty blow. Extracting a moral from the story is an exercise left to the reader.

(Side note for Mitch Albom: "Uniques" are a wildly varying metric, but in case you're curious Quantcast's guesstimate as to the number of people who visit the Free Press monthly is about 1.3 million. This blog is currently at 10% of that.)

Etc.: Michigan had 23 players in the NHL this year, more than any other college hockey team. College hockey players comprise a third of the league. (HT: Michigan Hockey Net.) Marques Slocum takes his Sprint/Nextel fandom to the Redskins. Fake John Calipari is very convincing. Space Emperor (of Space) gets some pub in Boston.

Noise, Piped-In And Otherwise

Noise, Piped-In And Otherwise

Submitted by Brian on September 15th, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Apparently it's ND Nation week on MGoBlog. Eh.

eminem_lose_yourself_grammys2    vs    mmb

street-fighter-iv-20090108105755337

FIGHT

This is, without question, a first:

I was there too, with a UM friend of mine.  He was at the UM game against WMU the weekend before, and he said the music was not played that weekend. In fact, he said he's never heard music played at any Michigan home game. Yesterday was his first ND/Michigan game in the Big House. Maybe it's just something they do for us. Wouldn't surprise me.

We both thought it was bulls---. With those new press box/fan suite things they've built at the top of the stadium, that place got really loud. The Eminem songs only made it worse.

I guess that's why they call it home field advantage.

Leaving aside this guy's probably-fictional Michigan friend who went to the Western game and didn't notice the RAWK MUSIC, this is an opposing fan complaining about the noise level in the stadium. Even if this is just more complaining to complain, it's still a 180 from the usual laughter at the 110,000 quietest people in America or whatever. As a group of people naturally inclined to laugh at all things Michigan, statements like this are as close to proof as you're ever going to get about the effect of the new boxes:

I thought the place seemed so much more intimidating
by BigEND (2009-09-13 21:09:28)


with the skyboxes there. It was louder and felt like you were really in a "big house". I still can't understand why so many people complained when the plan was originally announced. That stadium will be 10 times better with those boxes finished.

You and me both, BigEND. Meanwhile, email from people who would know confirms the third-party impressions:

Brian -

I attended the WMU game with siblings who are recent graduates and former band members. The word they got from contacts still in the band is that the on-the-field noise is significantly louder, even if it doesn't seem so to the layman sitting in the 67th row.

Without having any sort of technical knowledge, my guess is that the new structures are aiming sound back into the bowl. Clearly not all of it, but enough to make it louder the deeper you are inside. (That's what she said?)

So, it might not seem much louder to us, but clearly LOUDER FIELD > LOUDER STANDS from a competitive standpoint. In other words, my screaming is more directly helping Brandon Graham to murderfy Jimmah this weekend.

Go Blue!

And this was just for Western. The initial take, then, appears to be that the optimistic projections this blog's scoffed at more than once are basically accurate. The luxury boxes are a huge aid to the noise on the field to the point where complaint-inclined opposing fans focus on it. This is a major win.

--------------------------------------------

So, then, the other matter at hand. Last week everyone had a little conniption fit and I posted a poll about whether piped-in music should be slain out of hand or not. The results:

5: I love it.
17% (685 votes)
4: It's better than nothing
26% (1067 votes)
3: It's the same as nothing
14% (573 votes)
2: It's worse than nothing
17% (699 votes)
1: It is the devil.
26% (1090 votes)
Total votes: 4114

Of the 75% who care, respondents were evenly split between pro-and-con, but the con side was more strongly opposed. This was shocking to me, but I guess this blog's readership skews away from bluehairs. I also have one main explanation: it's the band's fault. Multiple band members have sent in emails about the shift in the MMB's focus over the last ten or so years, and 90% are along these lines:

Brian,

I was in the band for the last few years of Professor Nix's turn at the helm, from 2003-2007*, and I would say that there was plenty of "blame" to spread around for the quieter band. During my years, we frowned upon bands like Notre Dame's that would sacrifice precision for loudness. I believe most of us felt this way, and while it's reasonable to say this mentality started at the top, which would mean Professor Haithcock, I think Professor Nix and his appreciation for the newer, drum corp influenced style of a marching ensemble was the biggest factor. And now, with Director Boerma, who also has strong drum corp ties, I'm sure that influence is just as strong or stronger. But, Haithcock did hire them, so we can just blame him.

Steve

I've got other emails claiming Nix was a huge proponent of loud and that Haithcock asked about making the band louder and etc etc etc and I don't care about who is at fault for what, all I know is that the main reason that poll above came out the way it did is because the band is not doing its job. Saturday I could barely make out the Victors on any of Michigan's touchdowns. About the only thing I heard at halftime was the drum corps. I've gotten plenty of complaints from kids in the student section who say they can barely hear the band and it's 30 rows away from them.

This does not have to be the case. I vividly remember going down to Auburn last year. I sat in the upper deck on the 40; the LSU band was stuck in the corner of the opposite endzone, and I could hear them loud and clear. They were blasting it. Auburn's band was also louder than the MMB. Click the link and see where we were, man… we were in orbit around a football game.

And then there's the SWAC:

That's Southern University making a strong argument for Michigan scheduling a SWAC school, any SWAC school, the next time it reaches into the I-AA ranks for an opponent.

What's the point of a marching band? To be audible outside in a stadium of 110,000. If you want musicality, there are a dozen other bands on campus you can join. Scott Boerma and his superiors are completely missing the point, and if the band is being marginalized on gameday it is entirely their fault. Personally, I hate it. I want the band to be awesome and wish piped-in music would die a fiery death. But when "Lose Yourself" gets vastly more reaction than anything you do and large sections of the stadium can't hear you at all, that's on you. What the hell is the point of a piccolo when the only people who can hear it are the ones playing it? Have you ever thought about the poor schmucks in section 16 who have never once heard The Victors after a touchdown? Think of the children, and do this:

On the band:  I used to play clarinet in the Ann Arbor Huron marching band.  (Why?  Beats me.  I should have learned how to play guitar like Slash instead.)  Clarinet, while fine inside, is a waste of time outside.  It cannot be heard.  Ditto the flute and the piccolo. 

What the MMB needs to do is (1) get rid of all the clarinets, flutes and piccolos, and (2) add 150-200 more trumpets and trombones.  Made the band bigger, and sacrifice a measure of technical proficiency (which 98% of the crowd wouldn't notice) in exchange for a big ol' Wall of Sound.

Regards,

Brandt Goldstein

NYC

Or something. Your prime directive should be loud; if it's not no one can help you fight your slide into irrelevance.

PS: and dammit the hockey band director should dance, you communists.

Luxury Box Mailbag!

Luxury Box Mailbag!

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2009 at 4:48 PM

On Thursday I posted my impressions of the luxury boxes going up in 2010 and offhandedly mentioned that Michigan is constructing a money factory, or "mint." A reader challenged those assumptions with numbers:

I am quite surprised that you describe the stadium expansion as a "money factory" or anything like it. Remember, the cost of this project (even if it comes in at budget) was set at $235M. [Editor's note: He later corrected this email: the overall cost for the renovations was $226 million.] 

Looking at the Athletic Department numbers, and assuming they sell every seat and find folks to pay for everything they put a price on for naming rights, I don't see this as anything more than a break-even proposition.  They list $56.3M in naming rights ($33.45M of which is apparently spoken for), which gets the amount they need to finance (I am assuming they are financing it, but even if they are not, there is at least an opportunity cost for the money they are using) down to $178.7M (235 minus 56.3).  Taking your $5.7M number for the Suites revenue per year, you can add $1M for Indoor Club Seats (250 @ $4000 per), $6.2M for Outdoor Club Seats (2750 @ an assumed average of $2250), and $1.3M for Chairback Seats (650 @ $2000). The annual total is approximately $14.2M.  At that annual payment, it would take 30 years to pay off $178.7M at a 6.88% interest rate.  At a 5% interest rate, it would take 20 years.

In 20 years, these "luxury" places will need considerable renovation, I would guess.  If they do not sell all of the naming rights or all of the seats, they will have to pay for a longer time to get this paid off.  Even Mr. Martin never said this was to be a money maker.  He claimed it was the only way to pay for needed upgrades to the existing stadium. However, now, the aisle widening (which I do not really understand, because the bottlenecks are the entrances to the sections, and I don't think they can do anything about those) is not happening as part of this original project (which is to be done in 2010), and the seat widening may not happen at all.  I agree that they seem to be doing a first class job of what they are doing, but, other than to provide a few rich guys with fancy digs, I do not see this project as a financial winner.  Please help convince me I am missing something. 

I thought the assumptions above were pessimistic. Not all of the money in the renovations is going to the boxes and holding revenue constant over a period of ten or twenty years is excessively conservative. Also, the assembled media was told specifically that the seat widening was on and given a timeline for that process. But I am not a business guy and I don't have the numbers at my fingertips to dismiss his point out of hand.

So I asked a guy who goes by the handle "rekker" who's close to the project and has been providing solid information on the construction since it was announced. He responded like so:

[insider]

This guy is reasonably coherent, but his analysis contains a couple of big, incorrect assumptions and logical flaws. I’ll start with the analytical problems. I’ll then present what I think of as the proper way to consider this project.

1. Your emailer assigns the entire cost of the project to the luxury boxes and club seats. That’s wrong. The project consists of three distinct elements. Because they are intertwined, it is difficult to assign a precise share of the cost to each piece, but these are approximations.

  • Long-neglected maintenance – including replacing all foundational concrete, replacing all benches, replacing all mechanical systems, replacing the press box, which is structurally unsound, etc.

    The approximate cost of this (absolutely necessary) work is $60-75 million. Even if it there were no stadium renovation or premium seating, this work would have to be done over the next few years.

  • Improvements that make the game day experience better for everyone. This includes new (double-decker) concourses, wider aisles, wider seats, new and more bathrooms, new concession areas, etc.

    The cost of these “improve everyone’s experience” is about $75-90 million. So for items (a) and (b), we are now up around $150 million.

  • The cost of the towers, which contain the club seats, luxury boxes, and the new lounges. [Editor's note: also the new press box.] The incremental cost of these is around $75 million.

2. The cost and financing details are much friendlier than proposed.

  • The project cost is $226 million, not $235 million.
  • The athletic department is covering $36 million of this cost out of existing reserves. They also plan to raise $40-50 million in naming opportunities ($33mm is in hand). So the net debt needed for the project is actually about $140 million (not $178 as he suggests).
  • Because of the financial crisis, the AD was able to get a great rate on the bonds it issued for the project. They came in at just over 4%. Because the interest rate was so low, the AD decided to finance a total of $190 million, but this allowed it to retain about $50 million is cash reserves as a cushion. Net borrowing (since the cash reserve can be used at any time to pay off the debt) is $140 million.
  • The carrying cost of $140 million at 4% (assuming a 20 year payoff of the principle) is $10.3 million.

3.The likely donations from the boxes and club seats  are likely to be higher than the minimum required.

  • The 82 boxes will provide a minimum of $70,000 per box ($5.7 million), but the AD estimate is that top-up donations given to secure better locations will bring this up to between $7 and $8 million.
  • His estimates for the club seats are reasonable, but again too low. He presents the absolute minimums.

    Club seat (and chairback revenues) will total at least $8.5 million. In reality, competition for the better seats it driving donations up. Zone 1 club donations are averaging about $5,000, vs. the minimum requirement of $3,000. This likely won’t play out over all seats, but the AD is confident that the club and chairback seats will produce more than $10 million in incremental revenue.

  • So the total incremental revenue will come in at between $14.2 million and $18 million.

How to think about the project

UM has a large need. Maintenance had been neglected for decades, the bathrooms are medieval, and the flow in and around the stadium is horrible.

The AD could undertake a $150 million stadium improvement project with no luxury seating (items 1a and 1b above), and no clear way to pay for it. This would mean about $100 million in borrowing and a roughly $7.3 million annual financing cost. Or the AD could add luxury seating for an additional $75 million cost ($225 total), and ask those 4000 rich people people to cover the cost of the whole project.

Option 1 would require something like a $10 per game surcharge on all 100,000 tickets sold for every game for the next 20 years (7 million per year, 7 games, 100,000 tickets per game).

Option 2 has no surcharge for regular ticket holders. The overall project costs about $10.3 million per year to pay off, but the luxury seating crowd generates somewhere between $14.2 and $18 million per year in incremental revenue.

The AD has been generating annual surpluses of $5 million to $9 million for the past few years. Adding $4 – 8 million to this while covering the entire cost of the stadium expansion seems like a pretty great investment. And remember, this is all being done with no cost to the 100,000 plus people who will sit in the bowl each week.

Before someone objects that not all the seats are sold, I’ll admit they are right. But 70% of both the boxes and club seats are sold. And this is with a year to go. Even if not one more seat is sold, the current reservations would generate $9.9 million, just a few hundred thousand short of the carrying cost for the entire project. I’d bet on the over on this one.

While the project is perhaps not literally a “money factory”, it is about the closest thing we’ve seen in Michigan for many years.

[/insider, back to me]

We all love the Big House but we've probably all got horror stories about missing half a quarter because of congestion or excessive lines or (especially for women) bathroom overcrowding. And then there's always that one guy—you know that guy—who will battle you for every millimeter of space in your seat. And don't get me started on Incredibly Pointy Knee Guy.

When I took the tour, the SID repeatedly pointed out the new walkways, concourses, and points of sale across the stadium. The seat and aisle widening will be complete by 2013. And the entire stadium will be brought into ADA compliance. And the net cost to the bowl is zero, with the AD netting somewhere between $4 and 8 million per year above and beyond paying off the loan. Whatever issues you have will Bill Martin—and I have a few—financial acumen cannot be one of them.

Unverified Voracity Shows You The Future

Unverified Voracity Shows You The Future

Submitted by Brian on August 27th, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Programming note. I've accepted the daunting task of getting up at 7AM to sit in for Sam Webb on WTKA's morning show tomorrow. I'll be on from 7-10. Wooo Mountain Dew!

Charity note. If anyone's got some spare roller hockey equipment lying around, L'Hockey Folie would like to put it to good use.

Luxury box followup! Artist's rendition of the 2025 Big House:

bighousejumbo-2

The Shredder explains his masterpiece:

With all the HD Jumbo screen talk(and with my boring 3rd shift) I figured I would draw it using my awesome skills. Now every one can see it. The future of the Big House. Around 2025 I am guessing. I did remove the one press box so you could see the field, so just pretend it's there. I also added seats above the HD screens and on top of the press box. Bringing the total seating to 125,000. In the year 2025 we will have be playing night games and using Maize jersey's. Welcome to the future! Great Scott!

These were not the top secret plans I referenced this morning. But they should be.

Obvious quarterback questioning. Tim's getting frustrated with the nonstop quarterback questioning at the press conferences, but none of you are going so here you go:

The art of saying nothing in 1:14. I don't think there's much chance all three QBs play equally well for anything length of time, and neither does Rodriguez, but he refuses to rule out anything. All things are possible.

Mealer okay? Elliot Mealer's shoulder was severely injured in that Christmas Eve car crash and there were some rumors that the effects of it still lingered and may be a permanent hindrance to his ability to play. Apparently that's not true:

"I've come a long ways," Mealer said.  "You know, My arm is actually stronger, I think.  My bad arm, so to speak, is stronger than my good arm and it's been a long ways.  I still rehab it to this day, and then do a little prehab, as they call it, just to keep it loose and it helps.  So it's come a long ways."

Mealer's not likely to play this year but should work himself into the playing mix in 2010.

BONUS Kevin Koger hype (the article is about Toledo-area players for M):

"Kevin Koger's had a great great offseason," said Calvin Magee, Koger's offensive coordinator and position mentor.  "He's done well.  He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster, and it's a natural progression from freshman to sophomore year.

"He's changed his body.  You know, his weight's around the same.  He's more lean now.  So naturally, he's got more muscle on him.  That allows him to be faster and he's one of those kids that committed himself to the offseason conditioning and it's going to help him a great deal."

The Revsine return. The Big Ten Network has returned from its tour of Big Ten practices and Dave Revsine has superlatives:

Best Drill: The "M" Drill at Michigan. It's the Oklahoma Drill, but with a twist. There are three layers of blocking going on – linemen going 1 on 1, then a FB or TE engaged with a LB, followed by a WR and a DB. The back with the ball then tries to run through all three levels. Very intense and really well done. …

Impact Freshman: Tate Forcier, Michigan. I think Forcier is perfect for Rodriguez's system.  Throws well, particularly on the run, and he runs well. He has everything they need. Seems Rodriguez isn't quite as convinced, given his plans to play three QBs in the opener against Western Michigan, but I still think that, ultimately, Forcier will be the guy. …

Honorable Mention: Vincent Smith, Michigan. Another tiny Smith who packs some serious punch, Smith absolutely bowled over a defender in a tackling drill, then, the next time he had the ball, juked another guy out of his uniform with a great move.

All that's cool, but Michigan didn't show up on any of Revsine's top position groups, or honorable mentions. Not that you expected them to anywhere except tailback, where Revsine bizarrely goes with Michigan State as his third-place team.

You said what? Gary Barnett talked crap about Gary Moeller's substitutions. This did not end well for him.

Isn't it strange that Barnett left Northwestern for Colorado and since that event Northwestern has probably been the better program? What happened to the Buffs?

Required. Hey here's a quote by new offensive line grad assistant Cory Zirbel that contradicts those of the discontent departures and by law I must post it:

"I've had people come up to me and say, 'How can you be a part of that coaching staff?' Those people aren't true Michigan fans. ... People don't understand how I accept my role, but those people don't know.

"It's an honor. It's Michigan, always going to be Michigan. Coach Rodriguez is a great guy, presented me an opportunity, and I took it."

So there you go, family values and so forth and so on.

Coner! It took four years but someone finally mentioned David Cone in a practice recap:

Speaking of Forcier, I'm really started to warm to the way he throws the ball. It looks much better than any of the other quarterbacks. Also, David Cone has an odd throwing motion.

I think I buried the lead there.

Etc.: Herbstreit says the M-ND game is make or break for Weis, which yeah probably. GBMW has a transcript of Rodriguez's appearance on the Dan Patrick show. Michigan's replacing its media guides with online equivalents. Volleyball and women's soccer are test cases.

Luxury In Progress

Luxury In Progress

Submitted by Brian on August 27th, 2009 at 12:06 PM

michigan-stadium-club-seats

So yesterday I tagged along on the tour of the new Michigan Stadium suites/pressboxes/tradition imploders that spurred today's flurry of articles on the things. Favorite bit of opinion:

It's hard to believe that only two summers ago, a segment of Michigan supporters ardently opposed this project, that the group called Save The Big House formed and worried luxury boxes desecrating a timeless landmark.

The Big House was indeed saved, not by groups stuck in the past, but by Bill Martin and his construction shovels.

From the exterior, Michigan Stadium had become dumpy and dated. The interior had become known for its crowded walkways, long lines and cramped seating.

Watching a game at The Big House may have evoked some sort of nostalgia for fans, but using the stadium in a practical sense had become somewhat of a miserable experience.

That's AnnArbor.com's Dave Birkett. Obviously, I'm with him. I'm not sure how anyone can see the gorgeous brick exterior going up and think that tin walls that were so plain that someone thought slapping a halo on them would be a good idea were better.

Tim has a bunch of pictures below and some key numbers, including the number of commitments they have for the 82 suites (58). That's 70% full; club seats are in the 60-70% claimed. That sounds well on its way to selling out, but it seems like that number hasn't budged in a while. Not that selling suites in the face of a 3-9 season and the END OF AMERICA is an easy thing.

My impressions, which are based entirely on a comparison with a Tiger Stadium suite I was in earlier this year because of corporate ticket fatigue:

  • They are swank. The Tigers' digs aren't particularly old but they suffer in comparison: granite versus 50's-era laminate countertops, flatscreens versus tube TVs that seem like they're from the 50s.
  • They are way less inconvenient. If you don't want to order 80 bucks worth of food at a Tigers' game you have to hoof it down to the plebes and get a taco salad or whatever and miss at least a half-inning. I assume this won't be a problem at Michigan since there should be points of sale on that level if the food doesn't come with your 70k.
  • The bathroom thing is a little odd. One advantage for the Tigers: you get your own bathroom; here you get access to a bunch of concourse bathrooms only the patricians can access. That might be better, I guess, since I assume the bathrooms will be so plentiful that one will always be open and that might not be the case in a sixteen-person suite.

There was a fierce debate about whether or not the window configuration—you can open them—blocks line of sight. A lot of media members thought it did but since we were all standing up I think maybe it's not a problem when you're seated. It's probably a ton better than the Tigers, who inexplicably put unnecessary pieces of metal directly in your LOS.

They also showed us around the club seats underneath the new structures. If a magic fairy came down and told me I could sit anywhere in the premium seating I wanted and if I didn't he'd shoot me* I'd probably go with those. They sit below an overhang, which should keep rain and less pleasant things off and also make the stadium seem electrically loud—the Tiger suite had a similar noise-catching configuration and it was surprisingly lively. They've also got access to an air-conditioned Donor Whose Name I Forgot Lounge that's got bathrooms and points of sale and whatnot. But I have different requirements than men in suits with 55-85k.

Speaking of: yes, 55-85k "gift" per suite, which is approximately $5.7 million per year without considering the 3000 club seats. This thing is going to be a money factory. And now I realize there's a word for "money factory": mint. If only I had the power to delete.

Oh also noes! The day's most-discussed topic:

coke-switchover

They're switching from Pepsi to Coke, which several eagle-eyed reporters picked out. I wouldn't have been able to tell you which company had the previous contract.

Greg also points out something I noticed and winced at as we clambered up the stairs:

Crisler looks sadder and sadder with every new touch they put on the renovation.  That place has got to go.

Looking out the window of the brick, glass, and class structure being erected, Crisler looked dingy and old. A new practice facility will help, but only so much.

BONUS rumor debunk/start! Debunk: the classic art deco lettering on top of the press box is going to be saved but they don't know what they're going to do with it. It had previously been rumored to be headed for the entrance tunnel.

Start: I heard tell there are vague plans for another 27 rows in the endzones at some indeterminate future date in case Beaver Stadium ever gets uppity.

Thing that wasn't even a rumor but I asked about anyway, mostly in jest: there are no plans to but bleachers on top of the new luxury box structures.

*(The family heirlooms are season tickets that have been in continuous use since the 50s; they are good seats.)