At yesterday's final pre-Gator Bowl practice the seniors received the honor of being carried of the field by their teammates. Bruce Madej tells the story at MGoBlue.com with an accompanying slideshow of th final practice.
There was a mix of former, soon to be former and current football letterwinners at Jacksonville University Thursday afternoon (Dec. 30) when Michigan conducted its last practice of 2010 for Saturday's Gator Bowl (Jan. 1).
The last practice is somewhat bittersweet. You have watched these student-athletes grow to adults in a four or five year time frame, and you wonder what the future will hold for the players leaving college life.
Today, they are being hoisted on the shoulders of their teammates as they are carried off the field for the final time at Michigan. Tomorrow, these same players will be headed into their 'real' lives. A career as a lawyer, dentist, sales rep, teacher, etc.
So it seemed apropos that today was also the day the U-M football M Club Letterwinners were invited to practice. This is the same group that sponsors the M Go Blue banner that the team touches as it runs out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel.
Congratulations to the seniors as they make this transition. They will be missed, but they will join an exclusive fraternity of M Club Letterwinners.
As I watched the proceedings taking place, I -- yes, an honorary M Club letterman -- looked at our M Club lettermen and thought to myself if these players being carried off the field today have a life like those former players I have been with during this practice, Michigan and its coaching staff did their 'real' job -- building the young men to be leaders and the best.
Over at MGoBlue.com, Bruce Madej tells the story of four stranded Michigan football players who made team decisions as they struggled to make their way to Jacksonville in the face of this past weekend's east coast winter storm.
Starting offensive lineman Patrick Omameh finally arrived in Jacksonville on evening flight Monday, Dec. 27. He and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint were both in Columbus, Ohio, and when their flight though Washington, D.C., was canceled, they had to fly to Philadelphia.
There was only one seat on the direct flight from Philly to Jacksonville. The players had to decide who would take that one seat and get to Jacksonville on time for the first practice. Tousaaint knew Omameh, a starter on the offense, needed to be on that flight. Toussaint made the decision to put Omameh on the direct flight. He would take the long road to Jacksonville through Charlotte, thinking he was getting his teammate to Jacksonville first.
Ah, but the best laid plans sometimes go awry. The flight from Philly was cancelled and Omameh was stuck, and the Wolverines were without their starting right guard for two practices in Jacksonville. Toussaint, on the other hand, made [it] to Jacksonville late on the 26th.
Junior safety Mike Williams and freshman [defensive lineman] Quinton Washington also tried to make necessary moves to help the team when they reached their connecting flights in Atlanta. Williams' flight on Delta was leaving as scheduled, getting him into Jacksonville on time for the Sunday practice. Washington's flight was delayed. Williams, who played in two games this past year, knew it was important to get Washington, a nose tackle who has played in all 12 games, to Jacksonville first.
The players pleaded with Delta to switch the tickets, but in this day and age of travel, the airline's hands were tied. Williams made it to the Sunday practice, while Washington came in later that evening and was ready to go on Monday.
Decisions on the fly are something football players need to make on the field. These four players had to make decisions about how they would fly and the value to the team of their fellow teammates.
Echoing Madej, these stories show how these Wolverines first consider The Team in their decision making. Quite a contrast with some other behavior we've seen lately.
Nicely done, fellows.
Dave Brandon talks about his vision for Michigan Athletics with Crain's Detroit Business in an interesting article and accompanying set of video clips. Some things that seem new from the article:
- The Athletic Department will soon have a Chief Marketing Officer
The athletic department is conducting a national search for its first chief marketing officer, and Brandon is looking at where money should be spent on promotion.
"The first thing you need to do is resource properly against the areas that are very important. This is a department that's been under-resourced in terms of marketing muscle and expertise," he said, noting that just three people worked on marketing for UM athletics. The new CMO will add more staff. "(We will) craft the message a little better in the media in terms of who we are, what's going on here and why it ought to be attractive to people," he said.
- The Athlectic Department is developing its first business plan since 2003
"One of the things we need to do is have a business plan," he said. "When I got here, it had been since 2003 that we really did any planning." Brandon continues to put together his leadership team and plans to conduct a retreat at which the strategic goals will be discussed. Whatever the goals, money will make them happen.
"We're going to need to grow our revenues, we're going to need to continue to find out ways to stimulate growth in our external revenue streams and maybe create some new revenue streams that afford us the ability to grow," he said. Plans on just how to do that are still being formulated.
- New sports, new facilities projects?
He has no plans to add sports or new facilities -- already under way is a $20 million renovation of Crisler Arena, home court for the Wolverines' basketball teams, and a $226 million renovation of Michigan Stadium was completed this year -- but instead will look at things such as value-added ticketing and improved concessions.
While club seating is likely, there are no plans to add suites or ice-making equipment at Crisler, and the department will renovate Yost Ice Arena by replacing the bleachers, improving food service and adding a new scoreboard and audio system, he said.
The lights scheduled to be installed at Michigan Stadium after the season likely will mean more night football games, which are lucrative to schools because the networks feast on the high ratings.
"We create all of our revenues that we use to support ourselves, we fund all of our capital projects, we cover our own costs," he said. "Our job is to bring in more revenue than we have costs, and then take what's left over and reinvest it in facilities and equipment and things we need to be successful."
- What schools does Brandon measure Michigan against?
UM zealots may consider it heresy, but Brandon pays especially close attention to how archrival Ohio State University operates its $120 million athletics program, with its NCAA-leading 36 teams. "I have great admiration for what they've achieved in their athletics program," he said. "The fact that Ohio State is very good at what it does affords me the ability to look down the road here at a very comparable institution we want to match up against, and we want to win. I have a whole bunch of ways to measure our performance against Ohio State and do that on almost a daily basis."
Brandon also benchmarks Michigan against two other successful large programs, the University of Florida and the University of Texas, looking at revenue, ticket prices, condition and competitiveness of facilities and coaches' records.
In the accompanying video piece, Brandon discusses:
- His view on the firing of coaches. Talks about how Bo never won a national championship, at one point was 1-6 [sic] in bowl games and had no prior connection to Michigan and wonders if it would have made sense to fire him then. Makes it clear he does not have a quick trigger on the firing switch. The unstated comparison of RichRod to Bo is powerful.
- His perspective of the football program's violations of NCAA rules. Explains they made errors and need to be better, but bemoans the fact that there are only two categories of violations (major and secondary) and that Michigan's violations are lumped in with things like gambling, pay-to-play, et al.
- The media's superficial take on the program. Talks about how his perspective inside the program is much broader than that held by bloggers, talk radio types and the rest of the media.
In a related topic (but not covered in this article/interview), in Saturday's pre-game chat with Bruce Madej at MGoBlue.com, I asked a question about former associate athletic director for compliance Judy Van Horn's departure and Bruce replied privately. According to him, her departure was not expected and not engineered by anyone at Michigan. She took the South Carolina job on her own and there's currently a candidate search underway. This makes sense since there was no announcement about a successor in Brandon's abbreviated comment about her move. Pimp hand notwithstading.
[Edit: Video embedding doesn't seem to be working. If you're interested in viewing it, click on the link at the top of the OP and view it at the source.]
The esteemed Bruce Madej tweeted this earlier tonight, something they had been working on on MGoBlue, and it's pretty awesome. A five minute retrospective video of the Rededication Game, with a number of different angles, very high quality stuff. I'll share the link because the whole page is very top drawer:
I think Michigan's Athletic Department (and OldHat) has really stepped up its new media game lately and this is just one more example of it. Well done.