Michigan Museday Meets Michigan Replay, Part 2

Submitted by Seth on May 23rd, 2012 at 8:35 AM


Bob Lipson: awesome

Part I of my interview with Michigan Replay producer Bob Lipson be here, and covers the history of the show up to Bo's last year as head coach.

At that time Don Canham had recently stepped down as athletic director and Schembechler had taken over.  For the first 15 seasons of Replay there had been one coach and one athletic director; now would begin a series of new ADs Liposon would have to sell the show all over again. This was no small thing. The show was a considerable side job for the coach, and it needed access to the locker room and players to interview that no other outlet got, and all of this was predicated on the AD's trust of the show's producer. For now, no big deal, right? The new AD was the longtime star of the show, so maybe lose Budweiser as a sponsor and carry on? Not so, as Bo was not as hands-on as AD as he was as football coach, and that wasn't the expectation for him. Bo still made the big decisions, e.g. firing the basketball coach in '89, but behind the scenes, the nuts and bolts of the department at that time were handled by then-senior associate director of athletics Jack Weidenbach.

Canham liked television but was never in love with the show, after 15 years however he had adjusted to it. Weidenbach, who would follow Bo as AD in 1990, maybe liked the show a little less, and wasn't resigned to anything. Jack had been around the program longer than Schembechler, and in that time had controlled everything from OSHA compliance to marketing. He knew the department inside and out, but he didn't know Bob that well.

Twenty Tons of Turf (1989-1994)

For awhile now the show was being taped on Saturdays after the games so it could run on Sunday mornings. "Fourth" network Fox had taken over Channel 2, moving CBS to 62. Feeling bold, they put in a bid to have the NFL's NFC games, and to the astonishment of many (considering the might of the other networks) won it. Fox offered Lipson the 11:30 a.m. spot right before the Lions pre-game show, a perfect lead-in for them, and a perfect place for Michigan Replay to capture more fans as they settled down for Sunday football.

But college football was now leaving the once-hallowed 1:00 p.m. standard. Driving to Detroit and back every Saturday night after a game was trial enough for home games, but on away trips it was torture. It was for Bob as well, who would sit watching games and call in which plays he wanted. If they couldn't get it in before, taping Saturday night increasingly meant waiting until the studio was done with the 9:00 news. Routinely they'd be taping from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. After a game in the dump that Minnesota used to play in (Bob's words for the Metrodome, not the author's) a late taping was a guarantee.

Attributed by Bob to their live background, they would shoot the show straight through, seldom making a mistake and almost never re-shooting something. Occasionally the coach (remember: this is at 3 a.m. after a game day in another city) would refer to "today" instead of "yesterday" but that was about it. "In 33 years we maybe had to stop five times," Bob estimated. Since there were no re-dos, the coaches on the show got a lot of practice at speaking off the cuff for posterity; perhaps this attributed to the rarity of speaking gaffes by Bo or his successors when so many NCAA coaches stumbled over the adjustment to 24-hour television.

This was the routine: taping late at night with Bob and his universally beloved terrier Zipper keeping everyone's spirits high (Michigan wouldn't listen to students' attempts to formalize a mascot but there was no doubt who filled that role for Michigan Replay). 03-1993-16RB-JackMichigan's bleary-eyed head coach would be deposited back in his bed around 5:00 a.m., and the next morning millions would tune in to see what he had to say.

Weidenbach (right/UMHistory) had good reason to wonder if the show was worth it for the '90s. On the other hand, given the positive, semi-national exposure and the increasingly substantial bottom line the show provided, he had good reason to like Bob Lipson. Bob was about to give him another one.

Canham had put turf in the stadium in 1969. That was very cool at the time—the Astrodome opened in 1965—but by 1990 it was falling out of fashion, in part due to the negative effects it was thought to have on players' joints (I've heard suggested on boards, but not substantiated, that other coaches were using it to recruit against Michigan). One of Weidenbach's first moves was to return the Big House to dirt and grass. The turf came up after the '90 football season, was rolled, and put into storage.

Nobody knew what the hell to do with it. On one hand it was 30-year-old Astroturf sitting around being all useless and in the way. On the other hand this was hallowed ground where Bo had beaten Woody's best team in '69 and Anthony Carter had caused Bob Ufer to reference Fielding Yost and Viking folklore in the same sentence.

So Lipson told Weidenbach "You give me the turf and I'll find something to do with it." Bob came up with three items he could cut it into: coasters, picture frames, and floor mats. He used his connections from years of selling ads around the state to find companies who could manufacture these items, used his connections from years of acquiring schlock for the set to make them available to the public, and came back with $800,000 for the athletic department. Today this seems like a drop in the bucket next to department runs a profit up to 20 times that, but this was a serious windfall for the university from something that had been just taking up space. As some of you may have been told on your orientation tour, Weidenbach gave half of that to the library, figuring nobody really donates to the library. The other half went into the improvements the department was making to Michigan's facilities. Bob took home a grand total of $0.00 from the project. It was a magnificent gift to the university that he loved.

Lloyd Protector (1995-'07)

You're awesome. No You're awesome!

In 1995, Lloyd Carr became the head coach of Michigan and Michigan Replay gained a guardian angel. Bo overshadowed anybody you put him in a room with. Mo looked like an uncle trapped at a family event two hours after giving his wife the first "let's go" signal. In reality Moeller was less enthusiastic about the show even than he appeared. Yet the man who succeeded him may have been the most important single personality for Michigan Replay other than Lipson himself. With Lloyd the chemistry with Brandstatter was immediate and palpable. Here were too good buddies, both with evident love for their topic, chatting the same way their viewers had been during the game.

Of the people Bob says nice things about (too many to mention) the kindest words are reserved for Carr. Carr in turn had plenty of nice things to say about Bob's show. Despite more late-night tapings than any of his predecessors due to afternoon games or worse (e.g. flying home after a West Coast game) bl010432Lloyd was the show's biggest fan. What he loved about it was that the high school coaches loved it. Across the country wherever the show was on, athletes' parents and coaches saw Michigan's clean-cut, well-spoken players (and Carr's apparent honesty and affability to anyone not in a press room or a Sun Belt referee uniform), and equated Michigan with this idyllic student-athlete experience. Recruiting regulations at this time were piling up as quickly as coaches could think of new ways to pitch their programs, and then here's this big syndicated program (now at 11:00 a.m.) that's in its way a big Michigan commercial reaching Carr's target audience.

As '97 was the apogee of the Bo era, so was it the last peak of the show. Bo of course wasn't on it anymore, but episodes after the Penn State, Ohio State, and Rose Bowl victories that season were some of the most-watched in its history.

Despite its popularity with fans—mostly an older crowd—some in the athletic department were ready to throw out Replay with the rest of the anachronisms of the Canham era. Bob gave me little in the way of explanation for why a vintage Carr defense was necessary—perhaps he wasn't so sure what the fuss was about either—but he left little doubt there were people in the athletic department who were not fans of the show.

If I have to venture a guess, it was the result of several administrations coming through in quick succession, all with their own goals, versus this independent program they weren't really sure of their affiliation with, and which had gotten by all of these years because Bob Lipson had ingratiated himself with the principals. Gone already were the guys who remembered the turf thing, and gone too were their replacements. Now the athletic director was Tom Goss, a Michigan footballer of the pre-Bo era (he graduated after the '68 season) who had spent years in beverages and merchandising. Goss was determined to make not only the Big House but Crisler into a modern facility, and embarked upon the first of the modern round of renovations. The better known result of this was the stadium halo and what Bob eloquently called the "refrigerator magnet" letters on the stadium my freshman year (1998), the baby of a guy named Shapiro though Goss fell on the sword for it.

How this affected Michigan Replay was that the renovations came with a bigger video board and, importantly, a studio within the complex to take advantage of it. Summoning every ounce of goodwill he had left, Bob went to the athletic department to beg that they use the opportunity to build an honest-to-goodness TV studio, as opposed to the mini-booth they were planning. Perhaps with the intervention of a guardian angel (or guardian legend), this was approved. No more driving back and forth to Detroit, and the two hours out of the coach's game day it lost.

Bo used to sit on a stool, taping live in a Detroit TV station across from that network's (Sparty-inclined) sports anchor, while an intern flipped the reel and made Rick Leach look right-handed; now Lloyd Carr and Jim Brandstatter had leather chaise loungers in a tricked-out, purpose-built modern studio inside the Crisler complex. But Goss wouldn't long survive his expenditures, and while new A.D. Bill Martin didn't feel too strongly one way or another about the show—his job as he saw it was to fix the department's finances—more people in his department wanted to kill the show, and they were less shy about saying something. These people carried weight with Martin, and as the 2000s progressed so too did the seriousness of their opposition. What kept it going was simply Lloyd Carr, who would see Michigan Replay end over his retired body.

In 2007, ten years after his national championship season, Carr retired.

That's All the Time We Have (2008)

"Keep this replay going." –Lloyd Carr

People have come up with a lot of theories to explain the sudden and abrupt conclusion of Michigan Replay after 2007. Many claim Rich Rodriguez didn't want to do the show, either out of sansdeference for the well of Michigan or simply because his tantrumic post-loss regimen probably wouldn't play any better on TV than it did in John Bacon's Three and Out. More savvy Web browsers can discover the athletic department hired a new marketing company around that time, and extrapolate that the new agency shirts didn't think two guys sitting across from each other in lounge chairs and cutting through the mysteries of football were the right thing for the brand. There's even an erroneous reference on Wikipedia to "retiring the show in honor of Lloyd," which is impossible to reconcile with Lloyd's words to Brandy on their last show together.

Doubtless the end of Michigan Replay coinciding with the coaching change for fans created the sense that it was one more unnecessary break from Michigan tradition. Those who didn't like Rich Rod went with the reason that blames him. Those who hated Bill Martin went with that. Nature abhors a vacuum, so the public filled it with whatever fit the narrative of what they thought was going on in the erratic and nonsensical late-term Martin athletic department.

What happened was far more simple: folks in the athletic department wanted to be rid of the show long before, but Lloyd Carr had been holding them off. Said Bob, "When I lost Lloyd, I lost my protector."

mreplayHe made this very clear to me and I'll try to be as clear here: Rich Rodriguez had nothing to do with the show being canceled. He wasn't any more thrilled with the idea of it than Moeller was, and he would only do it Sunday mornings, not Saturday nights (given the amount of late games Michigan now played and his post-loss demeanor, this was smart). The difference was Rich Rod had no idea of its recruiting power, didn't know Brandstatter, and didn't have the sentimental attachment to the show that Lloyd had. Rodriguez upon arrival didn't know the politics inside Martin's department, and certainly had no way of knowing the only thing that could save the show was nothing short of him demanding they keep it in his contract. The sum total of blame on Rodriguez for the end of Michigan Replay is nil.

Minus Lloyd, the elements inside had their way, and the show was canceled. Bob was rightfully sad to see his life's work suddenly ended, but stressed that he wasn't bitter: "There's nothing on television that lasts 33 years!" That's not entirely correct, since of his class of '75 we still have Wheel of Fortune, Saturday Night Live, and Good Morning America. But: Wheel of Fortune, Saturday Night Live, and Good Morning America! Lipson's idea for a chitchat with the local college coach survived exactly as long as Michigan's coinciding bowl streak, and (three channels, remember) was just as impressive.

Last year, under yet another new athletic director, David Brandon (who graduated from Michigan just two years before the show began), Lipson was invited back, this time for the Big Ten Network. However he declined, and also declined to give over the name of his show, hence "Inside Michigan Football." Bob's reasoning had nothing to do with who could control it, or when it would be taped, or anything like that. What had happened over the last three years was that Bob for the first time in his life found what a joy it is to sit on a bench surrounded by his grandchildren inside the Big House, and watch a game of Michigan football. And there's nothing in the world, he says, that's could be better than that.

Q&A and Errata

Seth: What do you think of Brady Hoke and his staff, and how do they compare to the coaches you worked with?

Lipson: I like Brady. I liked him very much during his time as an assistant…the players loved him. I don't know that much has changed now that he is the head man. I choose not to compare!!!

Seth: Something something Dave Brandon and the current state of the program/college football in general?

Lipson: Bo would not be happy. He believed games ought to be played at 1:00 p.m. and wouldn't like the night games and all of the other things. Dave Brandon is the antithesis of Canham in some ways, but that was a different era with different expectations and even though Bo wouldn't like it, there's a lot of things Bo wouldn't like. I think Brandon is doing the right things for Michigan, and that's what he should be doing.

Seth: This is WRONG!!!:

This is RIGHT!!!:

This is a question! ?

Lipson: When I switched songs I received a ton of negative mail and comments saying to go back to the original. After 3 years I did return. Much of the negative comments came from Doug Karsch during his days at WTKA.

Seth: "Whoa cool license plate!"


Lipson: The wife of a couple who sit next to us at the games [had that made for us]. She works at Jackson prison and had the plate made by convicts. We joke and say it was made by Kwame Kilpatrick during his stay there.

Gratitude rendered

To WolverineHistorian for putting up most of the videos I linked to. To D.A. from my office (not sure if he wants his name out there) who provided the contact. To the readers who suggested questions (Bob read them all by the way) and shared their memories on that thread a few weeks ago. And to the incomparable Bob Lipson, for taking the time to humor a blogger with his story. Thank you!



May 23rd, 2012 at 9:50 AM ^

I really enjoy your writing style, Seth.  And on a topic that many youngsters probably never really appreciated.  For us older folks, we gobbled up all the information we could get on M Replay, especially since most of it was before the time of the interwebs and access to all kinds of information at the click of the button.  This is probably why M Replay had such a big effect on recruiting and I suspect that would probably not be the case today in the information age.  Nevertheless, M Replay was one of the things that I missed after moving away after graduation.  Great post.


Bando Calrissian

May 23rd, 2012 at 9:51 AM ^

The Michigan Stadium Tartan Turf from '69 was replaced twice- in 1975 and 1982.  So, unfortunately, that doormat I have here on my bedroom floor only dates back to the Steve Smith era, and one year of AC.  But that's details.

At any rate, thanks, Bob, for the great show, and for the many years of enjoyment we all got out of what you did.


May 23rd, 2012 at 10:17 AM ^

I left this vague because I meant to get clarification, then I forgot to get clarification -- I got the impression that the old turf was kept around in storage (or at the very least that the university had multiple rolls, which I presumed were the old ones)  so when they were getting rid of all of it, they were really getting rid of all of it.

Section 1

May 23rd, 2012 at 7:22 PM ^

As usual, Bando makes a good point.  I don't know how old Bando is, but I was on all of the incarnations; the pre-'69 grass (by far the best field we ever had; it was PERFECT in any weather), the '69 Astroturf (which was like carpet, and gave you tremendous carpet burns on your elbows; one reason that those guys wore elbow pads) and the subsequent stuff that I think was called Monsanto Tartan Turf, which had little mini-blades of plastic grass embedded in it.  That is what my set of coasters is made out of.  The special prescription grass that came later when we returned to grass was probably the worst surface we ever had.  A complete embarassment, to have people come out during breaks in the game to pull sheets of sad back inot place like they were replacing divots. 


May 23rd, 2012 at 1:35 PM ^

...onto it. The installation of grass forever altered the Tri-Service Color Guard flag raising routine.

When we had Tartan Turf, we formed up in two columns facing west on the east sideline around the 30-yd line, executed a column left af the flagpole and halted the vanguard of the formation on the goal line. 

I presume they found that the sometimes wet grass made this unworkable. So they changed it to what they do now. Simply march over to the flagpole from the west sideline at the goal line in ranks, halt and face, forming the two columns.

Given today's Field Turf, I wish they'd go back to the old method. Somehow we figured out the timing with the band every time.


Double Canary

May 23rd, 2012 at 10:17 AM ^

Thanks, Seth, for the excellent replay of Mich Replay.  I can see you and Mr. Lipson sitting in those leather chairs dissecting the show's history.

But, what about the effect losing the program's network presence may have had on recruiting?  Is Inside Michigan Football on BTN having the same positive effect?

And (I'm not sure if this topic has been covered on the board already) what about the loss of WJR as an outlet for the games, which created 3 years of searching the dial for 104.3--and now WWJ, which seems better but doesn't seem to have the mass pull of WJR? 

I see the changes over the last four years as having a negative impact on recruiting and enhancing fandom, but then I'm old enough to have seen Bo beat Woody in 1969

Any thoughts on these topics?


May 23rd, 2012 at 10:23 AM ^

...more like outside a Starbucks in Royal Oak. It's hard to judge the effects on recruiting of the recent media changes. I would guess that today it doesn't matter as much as it did a decade ago except on football coaches, who are generally older and have a greater appreciation for a program that would be on at a certain hour. I didn't get into this so much with Bob. When we got to the end of the story it was how awesome watching a game in the Big House is with me nodding in earnest agreement, and then a dog walked by and we talked about Zipper for a time.


May 23rd, 2012 at 10:44 AM ^

WJR was always my favorite station to listen, but they really lost it. They dropped the Red Wings, the Tigers, and UofM. I really see no reason that this station is still around. I remember picking it up late at night long distances away...now I can just listen to the games on the internet or see them on B10 network.



May 23rd, 2012 at 11:10 AM ^

I think the idea of a dominant station like WJR is a thing of the past.  There's just way too many alternative outlets.

That said, agree ... WJR used to be *the* station on the radio all day long.  JP McCarthy in the morning, then Karl Haas ("Good Morning, everyone!"), Jimmy Launce ... I have vivid memories of listening to Red Wings hockey at night on my little bedside AM.


May 23rd, 2012 at 1:11 PM ^


I might be in the minority, but I still think Martyn was the best Detroit play by play announcer, even better than Harwell.

Wow.  I'm not disagreeing with you.  But that's a bold statement.

Section 1

May 23rd, 2012 at 7:25 PM ^

... and I think I'd have to agree that Bruce Martyn was the best.

In third place, leaving everyone behind, was Michigan's own Tom Hemmingway, when WUOM did football and basketball.  A total dream, to listen to the game without commercials.


May 24th, 2012 at 12:12 AM ^

Listening to Martyn in the dark days of the Brad Park coaching era was a superior hockey fan experience to a televised game during a Stanley Cup championship year. That's how great he was.  He had a way of bringing a game to life for people like me who aren't great hockey fans and who didn't play the sport.

He made the great Ernie Harwell seem like a Charlie Sheen Youtube rant video by comparison.


May 23rd, 2012 at 4:24 PM ^

WJR was my favorite in the 70s. They had Michigan Football, Red wings, Lions, and the Tigers. I think it was '76 when they picked  Ufer's play by play from his local Ann Arbor station. The mid and late 70s were classic for WJR. Even JP use to talk to Bo on Mondays and Fridays.

I'm surprised the way this station has declined in the past few decades!



May 23rd, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

I'm sure you remember that for years, a team\school was limited (I think by the NCAA or maybe the Big 10) to only having 2 games broadcast on TV. For that period of time Michigan Replay had a much greater role because, for most, the clips of the game on Michigan Replay were all there was to see.

Also the production values of the show were always the best and so well done, that other shows paled in comparison.


May 23rd, 2012 at 10:28 AM ^

Why did Bob include Elvis among the most memorable people he dealt with?  I graduated in '93 and knew some guys on the team then.  Based on what I heard from them, I would not be surprised if Elvis was not among Bob's favorite people.  Are you at liberty to confirm this speculation?


May 23rd, 2012 at 11:58 AM ^

I don't have a direct answer to that, sorry. Remember, people can act different ways toward different folks -- if you met the people who come through the camp that Grbac runs nowadays you'll get a very different picture of him from that of people who knew him in college. Bob knew him as an interview subject on his show for several years, which is necessarily going to be a different relationship than Elvis had with his peers. Also take into account that getting Bob to say anything negative about someone, including people I could extrapolate as probably having some strong animosity toward Bob and Replay, is like pulling teeth, while he readily can name a nice thing about seemingly everyone he has met. This is both an effect of speaking on the record with a reporter, and of Bob being a geniunely nice guy.

I'm the same age as Henson and there were plenty of rumors about him and what he did with his Yankee money floating around campus, especially after he let that Buckeye buy him out of his senior year. However my personal interactions with Drew -- some from skiing against Brighton, most from a summer being the guy who opened Pizza Bob's at 7 in the morning when Drew was the only customer -- never showed a hint of the loudmouth party jock he was made out to be around campus. I thought he came off as polite, shy, and valuing his privacy. He was just an athlete: ludicrous work ethic, hypercompetitive, enormous appetite, terrible taste in sub selection (seriously: capricola at 7 a.m.?), and preferring to be left alone with his homework and his earbuds. People who partied with him saw a completely different side. People who interviewed him saw another side.

Gaining a complete idea of another person means marrying them, and then even that takes a lifetime in which you still will probably never figure out what's so important about where a sponge is sitting at any given moment or why making moaning sounds when you're sick is considered reprehensible. What Bob's perspective gives us is just one more view of Elvis Grbac as a person who left a strong impression among various athletes who spoke for Michigan over 33 years.


May 23rd, 2012 at 4:05 PM ^

I'd like to know what he's up to now and where he's living.  Of the many, many former players that constantly give interviews and come back for certain events, he's never listed.  I was hoping there might be a chance he would come to UTL against ND so he and Desmond could recreate the 4th down catch after Desmond was honored.   

The FannMan

May 23rd, 2012 at 4:47 PM ^

I don't think that the re-creation thing is such a great idea.  They are in the 40s now.  I am the same age as Elvis and Desmond and it never goes very well when I try to recreate something I did in college.  Besides, Desmond dressed too well to go diving into the endzone.

/ yes I know they were elite athletes and I never was, but still


May 23rd, 2012 at 10:42 AM ^

Back in the late 1970s, before the age of internet and cable, I gobbled up whatever Michigan Football I could get on my Philco black-and-white TV and whatever Joe Falls wrote in the paper.  Michigan Replay was a big part of that. 

Thanks for the article ... very nicely done!


May 23rd, 2012 at 11:01 AM ^

Loved this.  Thank you Seth. 

P.S.  I'm not going to lie, makes me all teary eyed thinking of Lloyd and the good he brought to the University - which to some, unfortunately, is overlooked. 


May 23rd, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

as we get farther away, and every one but Section 1 and Rick Leach (both endearing in a half crazy contrarian uncle sort of way) evaluate this without the emotion, Lloyd will get the benefit of a doubt, and his past accomplishments will win the rest over.

Honestly, I myself and conflicted on how I feel about Lloyd, but when they played the Lloyd Carr ring tone for Motts on WTKA the other day, both my son and I said "ooh, we have got to have that". Actually, the irony of Lloyd Carr's voice telling you to answer your cell phone (versus go throw your phone in the Huron River) is pretty funny.

Bando Calrissian

May 23rd, 2012 at 10:59 AM ^

During one of my MMB years, we were hanging around in the tunnel of Crisler waiting (typical MMB activity) for Crisler Concert to start.  We had a bunch of time, and knowing that the Michigan Replay studios were up the stairway leading out of the tunnel, I decided to take a buddy and go exploring. 

So we went up there, turned a corner, and sure enough, there was the full Michigan Replay set.  The chairs, the background, the various knick-knacks, the whole thing.  It was like walking into heaven.  I think we had to push the chairs into place, but for the most part, it was all like Lloyd and Jim had just walked out of a taping.

Somewhere around here on a flash drive I have a pair of pictures my buddy took of me in each of the chairs, which I intended to Photoshop together, but never got around to doing.  Needless to say, the whole thing was pretty awesome.


May 23rd, 2012 at 11:06 AM ^

Excellent read.  I almost feel bad now not having invested more in Replay over the years.  I didn't start watching it until 97 and for the next decade, I only watched it about half the time, mostly after a huge victory.

I never thought about how much of an impact it had for recruiting.

Didn't care to relive the Tom Goss/halo incident.  I remember saying, "What the f***?" when I first saw those letters on the stadium.


May 23rd, 2012 at 11:09 AM ^

And someone please tell me the name of the tree stand hunting infomercial that was on every single Sunday before Michigan Replay in the Lloyd era. I've been searching for it for years.


May 23rd, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^


Replay was awesome (Score:1)
avendittelli's picture
Joined: 12/02/2010
MGoPoints: 40

But can anyone name the show that was on before or after Michigan Replay, that was basically an infomercial about this awesome hunting tree stand? I can't for the life of me remember the product name or the show. This was probably circa 96-98.



May 23rd, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

Seth, this was fantastic, well done, and just the kind of thing to make May feel not so very far away from College Football.  Kudos to you sir.  Kudos.


May 23rd, 2012 at 12:22 PM ^

is that the Hoke hoisting Carr in the bearhug at :51-53 of the "that's all the time we have" video? (Side note: also the first ever "literal version" music video)

Or is this just another instance of my seeing Hoke all the time, like at that one thing...and that other one.  you know.