Mailbag!

Submitted by Brian on May 21st, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Brian,

I was wondering if you follow the Director's Cup at all and if you think Michigan should expand its number of varsity teams (even though only 10 are counted for each gender in the standings).  Stanford has dominated the cup basically since its inception, then followed by UCLA.  In third place I would put either Michigan or North Carolina, followed by Texas and Florida.

Michigan seems to have a budget surplus every year and there are a few possible teams that could really make an impact (Men's Rowing and Women's Lacrosse).  I am not sure how funding of varsity club teams works, but I once heard students have to pay to play on those teams (although that may only be true for club teams like Rugby).  If that is true for varsity club teams, then with funding the students on those teams wouldn't have to worry about financial issues and have the potential to be better.

I realize the budget surplus helps with the renovations and that the smaller sports are not money makers, but it would be nice to see Michigan compete with Stanford for the title, even though it really doesn't mean much.  Your thoughts please.

Thanks,
Doug

I found this article on MGoBlue.com about club varsity status from Sept. 2000. 

On "club varsity": I believe the point of the status is to officially support those teams so that participants don't have to pay. Michigan is basically running a well-supported D-III varsity program. In fact, all club teams get some level of financial support from the U, though in the case of things like synchronized swimming it's not much. (I had a friend on the team.)

As far as the personal value of the Director's Cup to me: it doesn't have much. There's a certain brand of college football fan also that really likes soccer—especially the international variety—and I'm a part of this group, as is Orson Swindle. What do soccer and college football have in common? Infrequent competition, unfairness, insane fans, and life-and-death hanging over every moment. Gunmetal gray skies and the clash of civilizations. The sort of emotion that makes non-sports fans recoil in genuine horror instead of that mock NPR stuff.

My fandom is heavily dependent on the crazed excess of others, with a few exceptions: baseball is often just sitting outside in nice weather eating peanuts and requires little onfield motivation to enjoy, and that sort of stuff.

When the Director's Cup standings come out and Michigan is high up in them but not #1, I make some vague mention of it and go on with things. I mean no offense to the various athletes that compete in sports where parents make up a significant portion of the viewing public, but I just don't get into it that much. I'd rather Michigan focus its effort and money on sports that promise to build a fanbase, which they've been doing by renovating the Fish and building an actual soccer stadium.

In this downtime of UM sports, I assume you get 10 questions a day about this topic. By the looks of your last 4-5 mailbag posts, I bet I am on target.

Anyway, I was never good at math so maybe you can crunch the numbers and tell me what a terrible idea this is…

What is the net profit of 1 home game against Nobody U? Revenue is easy – 100K or so times $50 or 5M. Then tack on parking, concessions, etc. But then factor out costs. I wonder what the net comes out to be…

If I was Bill Martin, I would then say we make XXM on our 8th home game. Let’s say it’s 8M. Could be totally wrong – who knows. Then, say to all of the alumni/fans/etc. – “OK you want a quality road game, have the season ticket holders cough up an additional XX per game and jack concessions up by XX% to get him there. I know I would pay an extra $100 or so total not to have a UMass or Toledo ticket in hand and instead watch UM play at say Georgia.

A back of the envelope calculation:

Two games against Delaware State:

100k times 50 bucks is 5.5 million, minus about 500k that the visiting school gets paid. Random guess as to ancillaries – costs: 1 million, bringing the gate to around 12 M.

Two games against Georgia:

0 from the Georgia game but an extra half-million from the home game, so 6.5 M. There would also be incrementally increased TV revenue but, frustratingly, in the Big Ten all TV revenue is split, even nonconference games.

So you're looking at around a $55 surcharge to bring a big opponent to down. It would probably be somewhat less than that since Delaware State games don't bring the sort of excitement a big nonconference opponent would, which would help sell suites and the like, especially in years when Michigan has ND/PSU/OSU on the road and the big home game is Michigan State.

The TV revenue is a killer: since it's split, you're giving 90% of the benefit of your real opponent to Indiana and their matchup with Murray State. If there was a way around this, you'd have to think it would be worth a couple million for a big game when there's little else to show. ESPN should start making multi-million dollar donations to scholarship funds.

Would I do a $55 surcharge? Yeah, probably. Would I do $25? Absolutely.

This was on the long-ago post about Rodriguez offering like a maniac:

Brian

Interesting read.  However, I'd say that while you never like to see a Coach make an offer to a player and then for one reason or another and in one way or another, back off/rescind that offer, it works both ways.

What happens with the recruits who verbal to a school and then rescind that verbal?  I'm sure there might be others but Beaver is the first one that comes to mind.  RR thought he had his two QB recruits all sewed up, only to find out in December that Beaver was switching his verbal.  Luckily, he was able to scramble and land Robinson, but if Beaver had said 'no thanks' earlier maybe RR would have targeted and gotten a higher rated QB (not that Robinson is awful).

Like you, I hope RR doesn't make it a habit of offering scholarships, getting a verbal and then in one or another pulling that offer, but unfortunately, it's probably going to happen on occasion. 
Scott

It doesn't really work both ways in game theory terms. Since universities have to recruit year after year the sort of scholarship sleight-of-hand that seems necessitated by this flood of offers has the potential to damage your reputation and hurt your ability to acquire players. Individual players' reputations might be hurt by a sudden decommit—I for one don't think much of Beaver—but that doesn't hurt their ability to do anything except be friends with certain people he doesn't know.

I'm all for Rodriguez keeping his options open after receiving a commitment, as he did with Tate Forcier despite two "commitments" from other quarterbacks, in case one or the other falls through. And if there are a few players Michigan has recruited and later realize they've made a mistake on, it's probably best for both parties if Michigan communicates that, whether it's directly or not. Better to know before you sign a LOI.

But like the Saban thing, the sheer numbers suggest that sooner or later there's going to be some ticked off recruits.

Comments

oldblue

May 21st, 2009 at 11:25 AM ^

I am fairly certain, and the linked article from 2000 concurs that the U basically does no funding of any of these programs. They are pay to play, including paying the coaches.

Old Blue

May 21st, 2009 at 11:28 AM ^

Actually Brian, club varsity status does not provide any additional financial support. The most successful club varsity team at Michigan is men's lacrosse (it's actually the most successful team at Michigan among all sports, varsity and club, from what I've read). I have been following them the past few years, and I've learned a lot about how they operate. They are almost entirely self-funded. They get $0 from the athletic department. Their players pay dues in the $3000 - $4000 per year range, which covers about 1/4 of their budget. They fundraise the rest. They recruit nationally, just like the varsity teams but without scholarships.

Lacrosse would be a logical add at Michigan. It's been the fastest growing sport in the country for the past 10-15 years. At the youth level, it's about where soccer was 10-15 years ago and growing fast. In some communities, especially on the East Coast, it's far and away the #1 sport, even ahead of football. The NCAA lax championships, which are this weekend in Boston, are the best attended NCAA championships for any sport (they draw between 40K and 50K per day). The sport leads the NCAA in graduation rates and is among the leaders in GPA. It's the oldest sport in America, and it has a quickly growing international community. The Michigan men's team already draws more fans than a lot of the varsity sports, and they were on "national" TV three times this season (ESPNU and FCS). They just won their second MCLA national championship and are 40-0 over the past two years. They are good enough that some of the top NCAA teams sometimes scrimmage them, including last year when John's Hopkins and Army came to Ann Arbor to play them and drew over 3000 fans to Elbel Field on a Friday night in the fall. Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame all have successful NCAA men's and women's programs. Northwestern has won 4 consecutive women's NCAA championships. Even Detroit Mercy recently added both men's and women's D1 teams. When I go to men's games now, I'm always amazed at the number of kids with sticks I see there. I sometimes see kids with lacrosse sticks at UM baseball games these days. I didn't even know what the sport was when I was in school.

Michigan would be a great fit for lacrosse. It fits the school's quasi-Ivy League aspirations and east coast blue blood image. It's at a similar level to Michigan hockey at many of the schools where it's sponsored (just behind football and basketball, and sometimes ahead of one or both).

I'm a Michigan football fanatic just like most others who take the time to read this great site. I happen to appreciate other college sports as well, and while I understand the Bill M is dealing with some pretty big budget issues, I also think that adding lacrosse is a no-brainer at Michigan. I don't want to call out other sports specifically, but with the quickly put-together case I made above I bet you could compare lacrosse very favorably in a case-study comparing the merits of sponsoring it versus some of the sports Michigan is currently holding onto.

DoubleB

May 21st, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

People talk about country club sports like tennis and golf. For team sports lacrosse is a country club sport. A large following (almost cult-like) at Northeast and Mid-Atlantic prep schools and small colleges which is why Johns Hopkins (a D-III school in all sports but lax) and a number of Ivies have extremely competitive teams at the D-I level.

I do think the sport fits the culture of Michigan and would fit well.

Onas

May 21st, 2009 at 12:02 PM ^

Regarding the issue of rabid offering. I would like to see coaches honor their offers even if "bigger recruit" joins the fold or something else happens to make the earlier recruit less attractive. Tell the kid that the school will honor the scholarship opportunity but encourage him to look around for better opportunities.
This may be what most often happens, but the conversations are internal and wags see it as a "running off." Lord knows if Rodriguez did it they'd probably report that he called the kid into his office, tore his offer letter in half right before the kids eyes, told him he must leave school premises because "only Wolverines are allowed in here", and then said "I'll give you 10 seconds..." as he readied his pistol.

Old Blue

May 21st, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

Club division is correct, of course. No NCAA sport is going to combine varsity and club. But the MCLA is very organized and holds its teams to a high standard. If you go to a game or watch on TV, it looks like varsity.

They are pretty successful when they scrimmage NCAA teams. They can't beat the top teams, but they can compete. Not sure that it even matters though. A varsity team would get big-name (by lacrosse standards) recruits and compete at a higher level.

richarjo

May 21st, 2009 at 12:15 PM ^

I was the president of the men's rowing team from 05-07, and the club-varsity title essentially opens up the opportunity for donations with tax write-offs. There is no help from the university, other than setting up this donation opportunity, which involves no financial aid.

The crew team in its current form (30+ years) has had a lot of big moments. We have been the fastest club crew team for as long as I can remember, and have gone to the IRA (National Championship) regatta every year until this year. We have finished 11th and 12th multiple times, and have been in the top 20 every year for the last decade. This all comes with using only walk-ons, no scholarships, and no funding. This year, the national championship regatta instituted a rule, that only allows Varsity programs to race their (an East Coast bias/Navy was getting fed up losing to us every year). So, the crew team gets snubbed.

Anyhow, the crew team has brought up the move to varsity status to our AD on multiple occasions with the first one being in the 40s when (at the time) a coach had just came over from Yale and wanted a varsity program. The AD, at the time, decided he didn't want to lose football players to the sport of rowing. Obviously, back then the type of athlete to play football wasn't what it is now, and a lot of them, especially on the east coast, double dipped. So, it was shot down, and crew team faded. The recent resurgence which is now over 30 years in the making has brought about great growth in results. Always the fastest club team, with top 12 finishes in the country, a 2nd place finish for the Novice boat in 2002 (that’s with 8 novice rowers with no experience beating out the entire Ivy league), and having beaten Wisconsin (last year’s national champion) and Cornell have put the Michigan crew team in a wonderful position minus their current status of club-varsity.

At this point, the problem with adding another two teams to the varsity list is funding. From my understanding, some of the current teams and latest additions (soccer) don't get as much as they would like, so taking more money away from them for new teams isn't a high priority. The only real way to get that varsity status is by getting a $4 million endowment from the rowing alumni base. The first wave of rowing alums is just getting old enough to donate back, but that is now way close enough to the level needed for the endowment. Where the crew team pays around $2000 a year per rower on a very simple budget, others pay less because of help from the whole alumni base. UCLA’s club rowing squad only requires $500 a year from their rowers for example. It always makes me cringe when the university drops $30million or more on Stockwell, but can’t through a little to the rowing squad.

I hope that helps a little. They crew team is actually in TN this week for the club national championship that our head coach created when the national championship regatta made a move to only allow varsity programs. The rowing squad is what every club team wants to be, and at some point to take that next step, they need varsity status, and that next step is getting into the top 5-6 in the country.

tempebamafan

May 21st, 2009 at 12:29 PM ^

schedule a home and home with Appalachian State? they're a spunky program on the rise, just like ya'll. why, i'll bet the games would be pretty competitive too.

jamiemac

May 21st, 2009 at 1:05 PM ^

....Appy State is booked. The school is thinking about setting something up with UL Monroe. I know they're historically one of the worst programs over the last 10 years, but, hey, it might give Michigan a chance to win.

So, tempebamafan, whats your experience with those plucky ULM folks? Oh wait, yeah. Nevermind.

Maybe La Tech, then? Hawaii? Northern Illinois?

jamiemac

May 21st, 2009 at 1:28 PM ^

...but I think any objective football observer would agree that Appy St 2007 would mop the floor with 2007 ULM.

Oooooh, you have me on semantics, but if you follow this sport, as you claim, you would know that ULM is barely hanging on at the level it is and is an equally embarassing loss.

How did you do in the bowl game the year you lost to La Tech, by the way.

Sadly, for both programs, Alabama has had its share of embarrassing losses this decade, just like Michigan. Just pointing that out.

Seth

May 21st, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

I wonder if I would have the guts to knock Michigan if it ever started doing something as downright skeezie as this.

I totally understand Tide fans who want to rationalize this somehow. I totally understand how the disappointment of having it be your team that's conducting itself in this manner could make you search for answers other than "oh my God, we are the dirtiest football program in the country!"

And I understand how, when a non-related commentator becomes the leading voice against your school's sketchiness, devoting a book's worth of prose to shedding light on it, that person would become a chief target.

The more people who care about this, the more pressure is put on the NCAA to do something about it. The more potential recruits will learn that Nick Saban cares nothing about them beyond what they can contribute to his football record. The more people like you, who love Crimson Tide football, will have to feel the shame that is destroying you. The more likely is becomes that Alabama lose this coach, its blue chip football players, and descend into a decade-long nightmare of being Auburn's doormat.

Think of all those Bo Jacksons running for 300 yards over Crimson defenses. Bo knew you carnally. It could be the 1980s all over again. Brian is helping this happen.

Brian's not good for you.

But neither is supporting this practice because it might bring you championships and wins over Auburn.

I think I would be strong enough -- even though it would be incredibly painful -- to vocalize dissent to my team, even in the face of other fans. I think I would do better than you. In fact, I know I would.

P.S. Bo Jacksons. Millions and Millions of Bo Jacksons.

Seth

May 21st, 2009 at 12:52 PM ^

    "I know I would pay an extra $100 or so total not to have a UMass or Toledo ticket in hand and instead watch UM play at say Georgia.."quote>

You're all going about this all wrong. Charging the fans more creates a backlash; even though those who read MGoBlog may pay, try convincing an entire fan base, particularly the ones paying through the nose already, to shell out, say, $50 more per game to have one LESS home game to go to.

And it's not necessary. The trick to finding a cost offset is to find the interested party.

In this case, it's the TV Networks. The conference revenue sharing plan makes the schools not so interested in scheduling tougher opponents. But those who really gain from Michigan/Georgia for two years is EPSN, et al.

So make them pay for the cost differential.

Not directly. It has to be built into the system. But if you call the networks with an idea to do that, they would definitely be on your side.

I think the Big Ten/ACC Challenge started this way.

If the SEC gets its own network next, that provides two parties with big interest for better non-conference games. They could create an annual SEC/Big Ten challenge, simulcast on their respective network, and stagger them over Thursday night, Friday Night, Saturday, Saturday Afternoon, Saturday Night, with a trophy going to the winning conference (SEC would figure out how to work the 12/11 thing).

Another way to do it would be for the Big Ten Network to have a weekly "Showcase" game before the conference schedule begins. Every team in the conference would have to schedule a "big" major conference team at least three times every five years as a "Big Ten Showcase game" (Notre Dame wouldn't count since they have their own network deal).

They could quantify "big" as a team that has at least won a BCS bowl; or played in a BCS bowl and won a Tier 2 or 3 bowl game; or played in X amount of Tier 2 or Tier 3 bowl games, over, say the last five years.

Not every scheduled Showcase game would make the Showcase. If teams were not good enough, or it ended up being a pillow fight, there should still be an excess of games to choose from (the three-in-five rule would create about six games a year, at least, to choose from, and the odd number might create more as the teams have to agree to home-and-home series).

That doesn't end the D-IAA scheduling totally, but it does force these kinds of games. Michigan playing a home-and-home against Georgia doesn't do much to increase the take-home for Michigan from the TV contract. But if Penn State, Ohio State, and MSU are playing Pitt, USC, and Auburn in the coming weeks, that starts making a bit more moolah.

Carl Spackler

May 21st, 2009 at 1:14 PM ^

I love the Directors Cup and take a lot of interest in it. In my opinion, true Michigan fans should care about the state of the entire athletic program and not just about football. I find the people who just follow football and maybe sometimes basketball are usually the lowest common denominator that espn markets to. take pride, even in this terrible football year.

MGoDrew

May 21st, 2009 at 1:26 PM ^

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't one of the biggest hurdles for club teams (in addition to funding) Title IX? I was as student ('99-'03) when they upgraded Men's Soccer from club to varsity status and I remember they had to add a womens sport with an equivalent number of participants-Womens Water Polo. So not only do these teams have to petition for funding and to be added, but they also need to hope there is a sport for the other gender that can get funded and find participants.

Emil Faber

May 21st, 2009 at 5:02 PM ^

Men can not have more (teams/scholarships/attention/facilities/coaches/whatever)than women; women can have as many teams/scholarships/attention/support/facilities/coaches/ whatever as the athletic department is willing to fund as long as they do not have as less than men. More or less.

Old Blue

May 22nd, 2009 at 8:00 AM ^

They have a donation link on their website that goes straight to the university giving site and gives credit for the Victors Club. I've been giving every year for the past few. I get to help out some great student-athletes, AND it gets me closer to the 50 yard line. I'm pretty sure that's a win/win.