Mailbag: About Obviously

Mailbag: About Obviously Comment Count

Brian June 2nd, 2011 at 12:05 PM


via the always brilliant Prevail and Ride. Warning: cartoon genitalia ahead.

Should the Late Carr Malaise be re-evaluated in light of the fact that USC and Ohio State were cheating on epic scales?

The Horror, 2007 Oregon and 2005 Minnesota still happened, of course. But 2003 and 2006 might look very different to us if USC and OSU hadn’t been quite so stacked—in which case we might see 2005 and 2007 as off years rather than symptoms of a systematic decline.

Yours in Michigan Football Historiography,


Possibly? It's impossible to tell how much of an advantage Ohio State got with its Tats For Everyone program and USC got with its Look, Snoop Dogg(!) program, and the list of knocks against Lloyd Carr's career gets a lot shorter if you remove "could not beat USC or Jim Tressel" from the list.

Carr might be regarded on par with Bo today if he'd flipped some scores in USC Rose Bowls and 2006's Football Armageddon, during which Troy Smith torched Morgan Trent. Troy Smith got a wrist-slap for taking 500 bucks, but given what we know now it seems improbable that was all he did. If he was in the supplemental draft, Michigan plays for a national title with Jake Long and a bizarre dominance of Florida instead of still-drunk-from-last-night Alex Boone and a paralyzing fear of the SEC.

However, while Carr's career might have been truly legendary without Cheatypants Sweatervest and Pete Carroll tag-teaming the NCAA rule book, the degradation at the tail end of his career wouldn't have changed. No one did The Horror to Michigan except Michigan; no one else lost that bumper crop of instate talent and left the program with six offensive linemen and only one primadonna itching to leave between Michigan and total quarterback implosion; no one else provided Michigan zero plausible in-house options in a program that evidently needed one.

HOWEVA HOWEVA, a hypothetical win in one of those Rose Bowls or Football Armageddon might have avoided that fate because it would have caused Carr to retire earlier, avoiding a good chunk of the nastiness comprising the last four years. Sans cheating, Carr probably has two or three more wins that swing public opinion of him from solid B+ to Bo 2.0.

Hey Brian,

I was having a facebook conversation with a guy I played football with in high school. He played at a moderately successful IA school from a non-BCS conference, and made the comment that "this goes on at every big-time school." It's important to note that he is NOT any kind of an OSU fan, and that when he said "big-time" it was to note that it didn't happen at his school. Now if "this" means the ebay and the tattoos, I don't really care too much. But if "this" refers to raiding the equipment room and the improper benefits, than I'd like to step off my high horse.

I know he's not really in a position to know, and I know neither are you - but please speculate for me. When the Reggie Bush thing broke, everybody said "well that's how USC dominated." When the Cam Newton thing broke, it was "that's how the SEC dominates." Not it's Ohio, and people say the same thing. But at the same time - Rich Rodriguez did convince an awful lot of people from the south to come to Michigan. Most southerners I know bristle when they hear the word "Michigan" just because of the thought of cold. Maurice Clarett and Terrelle Pryor both took official visits to Michigan. Am I just being paranoid when I get nervous about Brady Hoke kicking butt at recruiting?

I say that we just had NCAA investigators pore over our program, brick by brick. I say that similar scandals to the tattoo scandal broke with AJ Green and at UNC without it implicating the institutions as a whole. But I can't help but be a little nervous - do we have anything to worry about? Do all the "big boys" do this kind of thing?

I think the eBay thing in general has started talk about reforming college sports scholarships and restrictions on activities. But if the shadier parts, of agents and boosters, is widespread - if all the major programs have their own Ed Martin - then can college sports as we know it continue to exist as we pretend it does?

Sorry for the long email - please tell me there are no monsters under the bed.


I can't flat out say "there are no monsters under the bed" after the Jihad. During that I repeatedly assured everyone that Michigan's compliance was Serious Business that would have all this stuff amply documented. Instead we got a lot of emails from Ann Vollano to Brad Labadie and zero in return. Things can break down; what we saw during the Jihad was a broken system that needed a revamp. It could have exposed Michigan to something serious if they had recruited a 6'6" sociopath instead of the world's nicest cheetah strapped to a jet engine and pushed out of a plane.

HOWEVA, in the aftermath a large number of people lost their jobs (or sought other opportunities or whatever other euphemism you would prefer—I like "succumbed to gumball addiction"). With Michigan on probation and Dave Brandon acting as new sheriff* things are on lockdown right now as they're ever going to be. When things are on lockdown the worst thing that happens is some kid does something wrong with some agent and gets suspended a la Marcus Ray or AJ Green. (I'm not so sure UNC is going to get off with just their suspensions, FWIW. Wasn't John Blake in some serious dirt?)

As to your larger point, no, I don't think This Happens Everywhere. That Texas walk-on's story demonstrates there are places that are serious about compliance. Here's beloved MGoStoryteller CRex with a local example:

As someone who once helped a football player fix his car, Michigan compliance was so far up my ass there was a blue lot in my lower colon and I almost got my own blue bus stop.  The player bought the tie rods and I did the labor since I knew how and had the tools.  He paid me for my time in beer and pizza.  Compliance jumped all over this and figured out the hourly rate for a mechanic was greater than the cost of the beer and pizza, thus he still owed me money.  I attempted to lowball my time estimate for doing the job, they talked to a real mechanic and got the official time estimate for tie rod replacement.  They were also unimpressed by the fact I helped all my friends fix their cars in exchange for beer and pizza.  So they basically stood over him while he wrote me a check for what they demanded the difference was. They also made him pay my uncle who let us use the lift in his garage. 

I tossed the check aside and figured "I might cash this if he gets drafted, maybe".  Someone though noticed the money never came out of his account and started calling me about cashing the damn check.  This was old school Carr era though.

The next time I worked on his car I sarcastically sent them an invoice (six page writeup for helping him replace two brake pads) "for their records", they crosschecked all my time estimates and sent me back an approval letter and a genuine thank you for the paper...

While it's impossible to prevent local restaurants from giving players extra chicken wings or free cover, there is a level of shadiness that can be effectively regulated. A debate about whether amateurism is ethical is outside the scope of my brain right now because I'm so happy I'm not wearing pants.

*[While it's obvious I'm ambivalent about Brandon these days what with the whole creeping advertisements, night game uniformz, and failure to put Special K's head on a pike two minutes after taking the job, the way he handled the NCAA investigation both during and after is a huge, huge positive. Our athletic director may suffer a curly fries mascot in Michigan Stadium and refer to the department as "I" but…


…it could be so much worse.

Also, video replay in Yost.]

How does Tresselgate (and rumors of systemic NCAA violations) compare to the Fab Five fiasco in terms of sheer magnitude, and in terms of discredit they bring to the university in question?

-- bjk.

They're pretty similar. In both you have guys taking extra benefits from guys who may or may not technically be boosters, and in both the violations stretch over some years with multiple players. (With way fewer players on scholarship, four basketball players is approximately equal to the 28 Buckeyes SI say are trading stuff for tats.)

The major differences:

  1. Tressel lied to the NCAA multiple times; Fisher didn't.
  2. Michigan fired Fisher immediately and without regret, then went into their Day Of Great Shame routine. Ohio State tried to convince everyone this was worthy of a two game suspension.
  3. Ohio State had plenty of warning in the public eye from the Clarett accusations and the Smith handshake. Michigan had never brushed up against similar allegations.

I'm guessing Tatgate will be worse from an NCAA standpoint. In the end, Michigan got one year of postseason ban and a one scholarship penalty for four years. If Ohio State gets off with the equivalent they'll be skipping and everyone will be outraged. From a program standpoint, it won't be as bad because Ohio State isn't going to hire Brian Ellerbe. From a shame standpoint, probably worse since at least Michigan didn't go around pretending everything was cool.


Unverified Voracity Finds A Comparison

Unverified Voracity Finds A Comparison Comment Count

Brian October 15th, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Ridiculous wallpaper part 7. Via user monuMental and his ridiculous talents:


How could this possibly happen? So when people say things along the lines of "could we really have the worst defensive talent in the Big Ten" and I say "yes," no one believes me. This is usually because one sophomore four star in the starting lineup at a particular position looks like talent and two fifth-year-senior three stars do not. Here's the Iowa two-deep on defense:

  Name HT WT Yr Exp
DE Broderick Binns 6-2 261 Jr 2V
Christian Ballard 6-5 297 Sr 3V
DE Adrian Clayborn 6-4 285 Sr 3V
Lebron Daniel 6-2 250 Jr 2V
DT Christian Ballard 6-5 297 Sr 3V
Mike Daniels 6-1 275 Jr 1V
DT Karl Klug 6-4 270 Sr 2V
Steve Bigach 6-3 272 So SQ
OLB Tyler Nielsen 6-4 235 Jr 2V
Ross Petersen 6-3 236 Sr 1V
OLB Jeremiha Hunter 6-2 235 Sr 3V
Lance Tillison 6-2 215 Sr 2V
MLB Troy Johnson 6-2 235 Sr 3V
James Morris 6-2 215 Fr HS
CB Shaun Prater 5-11 180 Jr 2V
Greg Castillo 5-11 180 So 1V
CB Micah Hyde 6-1 185 So 1V
Jordan Bernstine 5-11 205 Jr 2V
S Tyler Sash 6-1 210 Jr 2V
Tom Donatell 6-2 205 Jr SQ
S Brett Greenwood 6-0 200 Sr 3V
Tanner Miller 6-2 195 Fr HS

There are 22 players. Five of them are underclassmen, only one of those a starter. Nine are seniors, and this is minus a senior starting linebacker who would shove a freshman out the door. Michigan's starting lineup has as many sophomores (Floyd, Kovacs, Roh) and freshmen (Gordon, Gordon) as the entire Iowa two-deep, and where Iowa has seniors backed by seniors or sophomores backed by juniors in many places Michigan has freshmen, freshmen, and more freshmen. This is why it's impossible to tell anything about Greg Robinson yet. You could take an established genius and give him this roster and the results would be, oh, I don't know… somewhat depressing:

Category Rank #
Pass Efficiency Defense 92 139.01
Total Defense 100 428.67
Scoring Defense 71 26
Pass Defense 116 287.5
Sacks 56 2.17
Tackles For Loss 66 5.83

That's not Michigan. It's USC. USC's secondary:

  • Senior CB Shareece Wright, a top 50 recruit
  • Freshman CB Nickell Robey, a top 250 recruit
  • Sophomore S Jawanza Starling, a top 250 recruit
  • Sophomore S TJ McDonald, a top 50 recruit

This is a "talented" secondary. It is also awful because it has one upperclassman; they're trying to bolster things by moving freshman and starting WR Robert Woods to nickelback. That sounds familiar except in Michigan's case it's a guy who should be a linebacker moving from wide receiver and being forced to start instead of being Courtney Avery.

Michigan does not have near that amount of recruiting mojo, nor does it have the veteran consistency of Iowa. Yes, if Michigan is not more experienced and less awful next year it's time to focus the firey finger of blame entirely on Rich Rodriguez. Not quite yet, though.

Parachute in. While everyone was looking at that guy in the parachute he was looking at us:


Alabama-rama. Some final thoughts on the Alabama game, but first Dave Brandon:

"I just thought it was a terrific opportunity for our team, our coaches and our fans," Brandon said. "But we got the numbers right, we worked really hard to make sure there was plentiful availability of tickets, because we wanted to get that right for our fans. We hope to think of this as a preseason bowl trip where we can bring lots of people and really make it a special Labor Day weekend."

Booting the Notre Dame game is not an option, so Michigan will go on the road to face Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Alabama (sort of) in the same season. Have fun, senior Denard. Anyway, thoughts:

  1. I am almost certain the reason introducing a middleman is preferable to a home-and-home are the messed up TV contracts. If Michigan plays a home and home with Alabama they split the extra TV money with the rest of the conference. It sounds like by doing this neutral site thing they are getting the financial windfall all to themselves. If you dislike this trend—and as a guy who would rather travel to Tuscaloosa than Dallas, I do—the only solution is to let teams keep all the profits from their nonconference games to themselves.
  2. As to why it's in an irrelevant place like Dallas: when ND started its "barnstorming" games it quickly discovered it couldn't play anyone in a relevant location because TV contracts prohibit anyone from playing a neutral site game in their conference's geographical footprint unless that game is going to be on the appropriate network. The result was ND-Washington State in Texas.
  3. This will be the biggest nonconference game played against anyone other than Notre Dame in…a very long time. Maybe the 1996 Colorado game? Michigan accidentally played a 13-0 Utah team in 2008 but in terms of pregame hype that pales in comparison. Washington was #9, IIRC, so Alabama will outstrip that.

Etc.: Hockey has a critical road test against UNH this weekend. People are still projecting us for New Year's Day. The Daily takes a look at college amateurism and whether it can or should go away. BWS picture pages the Webb TD.


Unverified Voracity Is Spreadsheet Mad

Unverified Voracity Is Spreadsheet Mad Comment Count

Brian July 9th, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Time-lapse photography. Ace has compiled a slideshow of Bo's team pictures over the years. It's like the Johnny Cash "hurt video" but team-specific:

They multiply and are fertile. We should film a version of that Nike ad with a bunch of soccer players thanking the US team for being inspiring. Ours would have folks in front of spreadsheets running regressions thanking Misopogon and the Mathlete. MCalibur's latest was FPed yesterday and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention El Jeffe's study of how important first down yardage is. It is very math-heavy, but here's a straightforward analysis of Michigan versus itself under Carr, WVU under RR, and OSU:

breakdownsNote how small the margins are here despite the huge differences in the aggregate and observationally. This is the '09 team, remember, not the Threetsheridammit '08 offense, which would make your monitor bleed in strategic points like "-4 to –1" yards on first down.

The biggest difference? "Turnover on series," which is almost double for '09 than it was in the staid Carr era and considerably above either the OSU or WVU lines. The other figure that jumps out is the percentage of plays that lost yards: almost 15 for Michigan '09 and around 9 or 10 for everyone else. If Michigan can stop those two things they can have an excellent offense. That will depend largely on the performances of both tackles and both(?) quarterbacks.

Gah, that's not how it's supposed to work. After a brief period of salivating over the USC defensive backfield when the Trojans' sanctions were announced, things went quiet on the yo-ho-ho front. Then a couple of backups started lighting out for greener pastures, and one of them is going to show up in Michigan Stadium next year. He won't be playing for the right team, though:

Junior fullback D.J. Shoemate told ESPN Thursday night he is transferring to Connecticut.

He said he is making the move because he wants to play running back, and because USC has such depth at the position, he didn't think he would get the chance. USC has used him as a wide receiver and at fullback. He was expected to compete for the starting spot in 2010.

Connecticut returns leading rusher Jordan Todman and his 1188 yards but loses Andre Dixon and his 1093 yards. UConn runs a lot. Shoemate was a Rivals 100 guy as a recruit and could see a few carries against Michigan. Hopefully none of them will go for 85 yards.

Open house. If you're around on Wednesday the 14th, you are hereby invited to check out the new Michigan Stadium. Press release is up at MVictors. Details to know:

  • Free parking at Pioneer.
  • Enter through Gate 2 on the south side of the stadium.
  • WTKA will broadcast live from the event.

There is no word on whether the troughs have returned to the men's bathrooms, but I'm guessing no.

It is more meaningful to score. Hockey numbers guy Gabe Desjardins maintains "NHL equivalencies" lists for all the major feeder leagues that supply hockey's big time with players. These have long maintained that an NCAA point is worth considerably more than a CHL point when it comes to projecting that player's NHL scoring. This has something to do with the average age of both the player in question and his opponents, which are both on average older in the NCAA.

Oilers blog the Copper and Blue has drilled down with some additional age breakdowns that have very low sample sizes but are interesting nonetheless:


Once you get past 21, jumping directly to the NHL becomes rare and generally unsuccessful. Before that the players (all forwards in this study) maintain their scoring rate considerably better than juniors of an equivalent age. Again, low sample size due to the focus on jumps to the NHL. Would be interesting to see about AHL equivalencies since that's a far larger pool of players.

This won't happen. USC's proposed 2011 Kiffin Bowl with Tennessee in Atlanta isn't going to happen for obvious reasons—Tennessee is pretty full up on real games already and is in a position to lose most of those—so the organizers are casting about for someone else. Cue the sexy names and entire conferences:

Regardless of the opponent, Kiffin still wants to bring the Trojans to Atlanta, hopefully for the 2011 kickoff game.

“They’re interested in playing people other than Tennessee," Stokan said.

But who? Notre Dame, Michigan, Big East and Big 12 schools are under consideration.

Notre Dame's presence of a list of potential USC opponents instantly invalidates said list, but it says Michigan there so here's this blurb. Michigan does get the ND/PSU/OSU trio at home in 2011 and could conceivably head to Atlanta without killing the home schedule, but if they were going to schedule USC they'd probably just order up a home-and-home instead of playing thousands of miles away from either campus.

Rub those barrels. Remember last year when Lane Kiffin was running around doing very derp things and otherwise well-adjusted UT folk were sounding increasingly unhinged as they attempted to justify Coach Derp's derpity doo*? Tables have turned. Here's a Conquest Chronicles response to the release of Seantrel Henderson:

Coachspeak aside, this remains a small victory for USC. Even more so in the wake of the NCAA sanctions, USC remains a "big boy" program reserved for athletes with killer instincts and intense competitive spirits, who are driven and motivated to become the best players possible. The right players for this program are not, however, motivated by the possibility of playing in one or two bowl games, as Kiffin echoed the other day.

That statement must have been made with a shotgun in the author's lap. He caresses it gently, telling Wallace the Gun that, coachspeak aside, he remains a very good gun with shiny barrels. One day Wallace might make a very loud noise, and that, too, will be a small victory for USC.

Rocky Top Talk is staging an intervention:

We know from experience the dilemma a fan experiences when Lane Kiffin takes the reigns of your beloved program and that it can drive you to the edge of insanity, but hopefully you come to your senses before walking off the cliff.

*(Att'n Penn State bloggers: you could successfully lob the irony grenade at me here.)

Cancer updates. The latest on Vada Murray is up at their Caring Bridge site. They're on vacation in the UP:

We are making a trip to a local hospital up here every day for bloodwork.  Vada's liver enzymes normalized last week and he was able to go back on the trial, but promptly taken off again two days later.  Vada's oncologist is able to monitor him closely from afar and although it sucks to have to go to a hospital while we are on vacation, it's just what we have to do.

Vada is slightly better since my last post.  The challenges we currently face are controlling his pain, his liver enzymes, & his cancer. 

Phil Brabbs, meanwhile, has gotten a second bone marrow transplant and did an interview on WJR fresh out of the hospital. The interview is on WJR's site. Meanwhile, his blogging pace will be slowing down as he recovers from the various treatments he's undergone. Alarm not necessary.

Etc.: Tennessee probably just landed a major violation.


Unverified Voracity Wonders About Magic Money

Unverified Voracity Wonders About Magic Money Comment Count

Brian June 15th, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Worst State Ever goes national. On cable, but still:

You, too, can own this piece of History Channel-famous clothing. If you already own one, your Grandma needs one.

Why the hell? This is apparently the reason the Big 12 did not fall apart:

No FSN deal has been signed, and nothing is expected for several weeks at the earliest. But sources say FSN has told Big 12 officials that it would increase its annual payout to as much as $130-$140M per year. It currently pays $19.5M per year for the cable TV rights, a deal that ends following the '11-12 season

How in the flaming hell is that a good business decision for FSN? You're increasing your payout 600% for games that are on average less interesting without Nebraska—the Big 12 was recently reassured that ESPN would not demand a "rebate" on their existing contrat.

Sports Business Daily says that along with that payout will come "third tier rights" that include radio, stadium signage, local media, and third-tier TV rights. I'm not exactly sure what the value of that stuff is but since IMG is involved I imagine they're similar to the rights deals M and OSU have with IMG that amount to something like 8-10 million annually, with teams like Purdue getting maybe half of that. Ballpark those at 4 million per school (which is a complete guess*) and Fox is only… uh… more than doubling its commitment to the Big 12 after it lost a good bit of reach and interest.

We may see a system where more rights devolve to the league itself, thus artificially boosting the conference distribution without actually boosting the revenue much. It'll be like a heavily back-loaded NFL contract that's more show than substance. I'm sure the Big 12 will increase its payouts in a real sense, but the demographic realities that almost saw the conference implode aren't going away. I agree with this guy who is cited by USA Today as an expert:

However, he called the projected average annual TV splits of $20 million for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, with the other schools getting $14 million-$17 million each, "too high, just not realistic."

"Now, who knows? Maybe they can break the mold and come up with a model nobody's seen."

More likely they'll just dress it up real purty to save face. Doctor Saturday has more.

*(But I think it's the right range since schools will be able to hold onto whatever other rights they require to start their own networks.)

Appeal not so much. The #1 must-read piece on USC's sanctions comes from the Bylaw Blog, which delves deep into the record-length document to reach some conclusions no one else has the expertise or care to. The main takeaway:

In that detailed account, the Committee on Infractions lays out the case that USC took in two student-athletes with no regard for the amateurism rules, and then failed to notice when they began accept benefits and enter into agreements in violation of the rules. The overall gist of the NCAA’s stance was summed up by one quote from Paul Dee, the chair of the Committee on Infractions during the teleconference discussing the report:

High profile players demand high profile compliance.

IE: no more see/hear/speak no evil for Carroll and Friends. Compliance Guy also provides a heartening opinion on why the document is so long and took so long: the NCAA lacks a true smoking gun and instead laid out its case meticulously in anticipation of a USC appeal. The top priority was making the penalties stand.

At this point a USC appeal would probably damage the school more than help it, as the penalties would just be delayed. So, go ahead, USC. Appeal.

Seriously pissed off, you guys. The hockey committee dropped a couple of major rules changes on college hockey:

  1. Icing always counts even if you're killing a penalty.
  2. Hits to the head are an automatic five and a game.

The second is just another version of the committee's temporary freakout about hits from behind after North Dakota's Robbie Bina was seriously injured by a dangerous check from behind by Geoff Paukovich. The NCAA decided to combat incompetent refereeing by making all hits from behind five and a game, leading to a brief period when every hit along the boards was accompanied by a nervous glance at the ref just in case he decided to toss your guy from the game. Refs started calling boarding instead and a few years later we're back to square one when it comes to hits from behind: still illegal. We'll have an annoying period where routine minors are wildly overreacted to, refs will start calling roughing, and everything will go back to the way it was.

The icing change promises to greatly increase the efficacy of power plays and has been met with fuming, largely because the coaches voted against it… unanimously:

“I think it’s just a crime,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “I’ve been in college hockey for 18 years and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. It was almost unanimous for the entire coaching body. How can the committee overturn the entire coaching body? I think it’s sad, the lack of respect that the committee had for the coaching body.

“We didn’t spend any time even talking about it because it was so radical. We just voted 12-0 and moved on.”

Coaches are also irritated by a change to delayed penalties where a team that scores on the delay still gets the power play, but that hardly ever happens so at worst it's a minor annoyance.

Other changes:

  • Goaltenders now change ends in overtime. This might be a direct response to what happened at the Fort Wayne regional, when Michigan got stuck with the long change for four out of five periods in the double-OT game against Miami. It's not a rule change that will have an impact anywhere else, but it's a good one anyway.
  • Icing modifications. The "obtainable pass" rule where a player who attempted to pass to a teammate who just missed it saw his icing waved off is gone, which I don't like. On the other hand, if an offensive player is clearly going to beat the defender to the puck they will wave it off. Net impact is about neutral, I guess.

The half-shield proposal was tabled so that more studies about injury could take place.

The rules proposals aren't final—they have to be addressed by the "Playing Rules Oversight Committe" in July. One dollar says the icing rule is dropped and never discussed again.

BONUS: That last article suggests the CCHA will drop the shootout. I actually didn't mind it once they went to a system where all games were worth the same number of points.

Etc.: Bacon goes way back to cover Michigan's brief withdrawal from the Big Ten around the turn of the 20th century. All of the CU/NU penalty fees will go to OU, Texas, and A&M. profiles Carl Hagelin. Contrasting Michigan's response to the NCAA with USC's.