Jim Hackett talked to the Daily yesterday, and the words that he said were as encouraging as possible for a fan who likes his college football to be as distinct as possible from the pro experience:
The topic of conversation soon shifted to the student experience at Michigan Stadium and the tendency of many students to leave games well before they end. Hackett believes the issue will most easily be resolved by the improvement of the on-field product.
“I don’t want to sound sarcastic,” Hackett said. “What I don’t want is more entertainment that’s not football. I think that works in the pros, but we’re in college. I believe college shouldn’t be like the pros. It shouldn’t cost like the pros.”
Hackett specifically noted that he didn’t want the games to feel “corporate,” a complaint that was commonly voiced by Michigan fans during Brandon’s tenure.
I am still a little hesitant to open the ol' heart to the new AD because I remember the brief, stretchgate-inspired Brandon honeymoon that we all had a few years back… but I'm hopeful that Hackett takes the project of making Michigan Michigan seriously, and am more so every time he is quoted.
We're even seeing some specific steps discussed not only amongst the fanbase but with the guys in charge. After a student complained about the piped-in music, Hackett replied thusly:
Hackett asked the new coach what he thought of piped-in music during warmups. Harbaugh was firm in his answer.
“I don’t care. We don’t need it,” Harbaugh said.
Hackett agreed with Harbaugh, noting that in the past, the loud music has almost discouraged him from sitting through the team’s warmups when he has visited Michigan Stadium. As a result of the preferences of the coach, athletic director and many fans, the Athletic Department is in conversations with the band to have it play more during games.
I did not dream of a day when Michigan would look at the music during warmups as an issue to be addressed, let alone the actual in-game experience. I don't even mind the warmups music that much. I did treasure the quiet buzz of anticipation 45 minutes before the game, though, and if that comes back the stadium will be a step closer to what it used to be.
That thing it used to be was merely itself. The band, the lack of advertising, the silences in between the shouting. The natural up and down of a crowd was an important part of my formative experiences as a sports fan, and I still wince at the idea that doing something for the entertainment of the people in attendance actually, you know, entertains them. Too often piped-in music turns fan participation off instead of on. It's a convenient way to cover the fact that you have a lack of atmosphere. I prefer an athletic department that asks the hard questions about how to create one out of the materials they've been given. If MLS can do it—hell, if Detroit City can do it—there's no reason Michigan can't.
Here's hoping Hackett's the man to do it.
We talked about this some on WTKA today: it sounds like when the Adidas contract comes up in a year, Michigan is seriously considering a switch even if that move costs them some money.
“In my first months here, the question of which brand we wear is a big one,” Hackett said during the fireside chat. “We’ve organized — this is a secret — a project team to look at the question of, there’s really three players: Adidas, Under Armour and Nike.”
"Was" a secret if you're talking about it in a fireside chat with students. Adidas or UA will offer the most money; Nike offers the gear it seems like most of the athletes prefer… and it opens doors in recruiting, especially basketball. Like it or not, that is fact.
The mere fact that there's something other than a number in a spreadsheet being considered here is an excellent development. I don't understand people who care a ton about the style of an athletic clothing supplier, but there are evidently legions of them.
Personally, I would prefer Under Armour, which tends to create (or maintain) signature looks for the schools they have. Adidas and Nike both love to suit people up in things that say "this team is part of Adidas or Nike"; UA is better about working for the team, the team, the team.
Okay yes Maryland's flag uniforms are kind of a disaster, but it's not like they've got anything iconic to hang their hat on. Meanwhile I love what they've done with Northwestern and they've left Auburn's classic look virtually untouched. But UA is a distant third when it comes to recognition and door-opening.
It's a tough decision.