Things learned at tonight's Michigan Midwest Coach's Tour

Submitted by StephenRKass on June 6th, 2013 at 12:48 PM

[ED: Bump!]

So I went to the Midwest Coach's Tour, aka "Sports-O-Rama," tonight in Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Michigan Alumni Association. We had a wonderful time, hearing from Brandon, Hoke, Beilein, Kim Barnes Arico (Women's basketball,) and Hockey Asst Coach Brian Wiseman.

It was a great night, and a lot of fun. It was clear they had rehearsed and done this before, as this is the end of a 10 day tour, starting on the West Coast. (Brandon asked Hoke, for instance, "Did you really say that Notre Dame was chicken?" To which, Hoke answered, "I did.") They all had a good time, were happy to be there, and took a number of questions from the crowd. The only hard question had to do with Michigan's APR, which was low last year, and lower this year. We're abysmal compared to ND & Northwestern. (football is 7th in the Big 10 in ranking.) Brandon didn't quite say "answer to the hand," but close. His basic answer was, come back to me again in four years and ask the same question. The rolling average makes it very difficult to overcome students who do poorly four years back.

Afterwards, the coaches went to different locations, to take questions, sign autographs, take pictures, etc. The lines were ridiculously long for Hoke and Beilein, understandably so. I waited a bit to talk to Brandon. The first thing I'll say is that he was very personable, approachable, and not defensive at all. You can see how he is great for the position of AD. Here are a couple things he said.

  • Adding Maryland and Rutgers is not just about TV dollars today. They both certainly open us to the New York, Baltimore, DC markets. But more than that, the problem is projected population growth. According to Brandon, the midwest is flat to declining in the number of people. Projecting out 10 years, the SEC & ACC are seeing significant population growth in their footprint, while the traditional Big 10 footprint is stagnant and stable. Adding the two new teams helps mitigate against this population trend.
  • In the future, 12 noon starts will be extremely rare for Michigan (except maybe for Ohio.) TV drives everything, and they want as many night games as possible, and late afternoon games as possible. Teams in the bottom half of the conference will be relegated to 12 or 12:30pm starts. Michigan will almost always have an afternoon or evening start time.
  • Brandon is working hard to schedule better non-conference games. A number of teams  are ducking Michigan, even when offered very significant money (I think Toledo would be one of these.) We already have a home and home with Arkansas, and with Virginia Tech. Expect an announcement on a home and home with a major West Coast team in the next couple weeks. (USC? UCLA? Stanford? Oregon? I'm guessing Stanford.) ND is at least 10 years, maybe 15, before being regularly rescheduled.
  • The door is open for Chris Webber. He is the only one of the Fab 5 not to reach out to Michigan. (Obv., there were limitations until recently on his contact with Michigan.) But Brandon is willing to talk with Chris, if that's what Chris wants to do.

The highlight of my evening, by far, was an unexpected discussion. Three of us were getting ready to head out. As we were walking, I looked over at Laura, and said to the two guys I was with, "I want to say hi to Laura Hoke." She was incredibly personable, sweet, talkative, and approachable.  Obviously, you don't ask Laura bubble screen questions. (sorry, Heiko.) But she was just a fount of information. We went all over the place, and I'll try to remember some of what she said.

  • The coaches and wives are extremely close. Hoke and Mattison were together at Western Michigan for 5 years, overlapped several years under Carr at Michigan, and are back together again. Hoke and Borges got along very well at San Diego. They all just get along, and enjoy each other's company. I can really see how the wives getting along fosters the family atmosphere recruits have talked about. Every school says they're a family:  Michigan really is.
  • The wives sometimes join their husbands in recruiting. (And they have to be reminded by coaches to talk to recruits and recruit's moms, not to each other.)
  • Laura told a story about talking to Pepper's coaches and parents, just making small talk. They assumed she was part of the staff in some capacity, asked who she was, and she said, "oh, I'm one of the d line coach's wives." At which point, one of them figured it out.
  • I asked whether it was Hoke or his grandchild that brought Mattison to Michigan. She said, "Both (citing the friendship.) She also said, "Mattison really didn't enjoy the NFL the same way he enjoys the college game."
  • I asked how long Borges and Mattison would be there. She said, "Forever. They're not going anywhere." Seriously, as long as their health holds out, I think Borges and Mattison will stay at Michigan. I think their wives don't want to go anywhere else, especially Mattison's wife.
  • I asked if Brady ever encouraged one of his staff to take a promotion to coach elsewhere. She said, "Well, the ONLY coach to ever leave Brady's staff was Montgomery." That's an incredible statistic, and speaks of real loyalty.
  • I mentioned that Da'Shawn Hand has talked about how "real" the Michigan coaches are, not putting on a show, just regular folks who enjoy life and care for each other and the players. That he liked the "family" atmosphere. Laura told me another story. She mentioned that a recruit had come to Michigan, and had also visited another school down south, who really "put on the red carpet." The recruit's mom was very impressed by the red carpet treatment, and Hoke's attitude was, "that's not us. We're not doing that for anyone. We are who we are." The recruit eventually went to the school down south. I thought to myself later, that recruit must have been Treadwell. I could see that if Mississippi really pulled out all the stops, treated recruits like royalty, that would impress some of them.
  • Brady doesn't ever do negative recruiting. He just shares about Michigan and their resources, and Michigan sells itself.
  • I asked Laura what was the hardest part of recruiting. She said, "It starts so early, and it never stops." Laura said, "if a five star recruit [her words] comes to campus, what are the coaches going to do? They're going to go to the office, show the recruit around, spend time with him." With unofficial visits happening all the time, you NEVER are off as a coach or a wife. She said they'd get a couple weeks of vacation in July, but that's it.
  • Laura (like Brady) is very open. Brady shared again about his bad choices his first two years at Ball State. This really shapes how he cares for the "105 sons" who are on the MIchigan team. On this area, Laura had very high praise for the academic support team, and how proactive they are in helping Freshmen before they get on campus, and the minute they're on campus.
  • I asked Laura about Football Saturdays. She said that they were a lot of fun. They have as many as 50 family members sleeping over Friday and Saturday night in their home.
  • Laura really enjoyed the Senior Leadership training in California last week. The Seals did their thing, Laura was able to visit friends in San Diego, the team got to see the Rose Bowl (and picture being there,)  and the Seniors did their football clinic for kids in Pasadena. Brady had nothing to do with it:  the seniors needed to organize drills, and make the whole thing happen.

I hope you all get the opportunity to go to one of these things sometime. What a great couple Brady and Laura are. Just seeing her and Brady, I can see why the summer Barbecue would be so successful. And what a treat to hear her perspective on football at Michigan. She so clearly is having fun and enjoying this.

I will stand by the essence of what I said, although this is all from memory, and so it is not word for word. There was way more that happened, but this already is far too long, and gives you a taste of the evening.




June 6th, 2013 at 1:41 AM ^

Thanks for posting...for those of us who can't make these kind of events (I'm in Ireland now), this is the kind of insight and information we get that we'd never find out from anywhere else... unveified voracity indeed!


June 6th, 2013 at 1:43 AM ^

Adding Maryland and Rutgers is not just about TV dollars today.

Quickly followed by

TV drives everything.

All that stuff about population growth is still about ratings right?


I think having the wives around creating a family atmosphere is a big reason why moms love Michigan.


June 6th, 2013 at 12:37 PM ^

Also recruiting.

Also attracting student enrollment and regional influence.  If the New Jersey, New York, and D.C. areas are eventually considered B1G areas, that's going to open up high school students in that part of the country to B1G schools.  It's possible this does happen over time.

This is why the Poinsettia bowl tie-in is smart: it helps to tie NYC to the B1G, and if over time New York is perceived by the country as a B1G city (whether it actually ever will be is doubtful, but I'm talking national perception), that's an enormous benefit to the conference.


June 6th, 2013 at 2:34 PM ^

Dave did comment on recruiting being opened up in Maryland and New Jersey. We see that already with Peppers & others from that area. Maryland will help in DC & Baltimore, both fertile recruiting grounds.

Brandon also mentioned one other thing with regards to the East Coast teams. He said that with the new East and West divisions, travel time (at least for football) will be less. It turns out, MUCH less. I did the math:  the average distance between Michigan and the West Division is 460 miles. The avg, distance to East Division teams?  347 miles. Both Nebraska asnd Minnesota are significantly further away than Maryland and Rutgers, and Iowa is further away than all but Rutgers & MD.


June 6th, 2013 at 1:49 AM ^

Really enjoyed this before bed tonight. Can't get enough of this "family" atmosphere talk, and it's really showing its worth a far as recruiting is concerned. It certainly seems like it's 100% genuine, and makes me that much more proud to be a U-M fan.


June 6th, 2013 at 1:51 AM ^

Definitely some great stuff in there, thanks for posting. I'm especially looking forward to the west coast team announcement. I don't want another 2014 home schedule. We need to find some good out of conference teams.


June 6th, 2013 at 3:07 AM ^

We desperately need a good home game for 2016 due to the MSU switch. Our open date is 9/10, and the only West Coast teams who have an opening on 9/10 are USC and Washington. Washington is a strong candidate since they don't have any OOC games scheduled for 2016 yet. USC plays Notre Dame in 2016; however, they play them at home, and they tend to schedule aggressively, so I could see this happening as well.

I'm really hoping for USC here so we can get revenge for the '04 and '07 Rose Bowls and tie the series back up. Since Brandon said, "major West Coast team," I think that gives more support for USC, since "major" may be an exaggeration for Washington considering they have been pretty down for a while now. Also, scheduling USC at home in 2016 would sell season tickets and drive up demand much more than Washington. The Trojans haven't played in the Big House since 1958. I think it's about time they came back.


June 6th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

If we are locked in already for 2016, I wouldnt mind doing the home and home in 2017-18. We'd add the Pac-12 team to our home slate with Cincy in 2017, and in 2018 we'd make the return trip while our home schedule already has Arkansas on it.

Curious to see how it all shakes out, and how we work around the years when we have 5 home conference games compared to the years we have only 4.


June 6th, 2013 at 2:11 AM ^

I'm happy to hear of the late games. I think we get better tv exposure, plus selfishly I have kid games in the am and coming from western Michigan.

also great to hear some more insider information.


June 6th, 2013 at 2:39 PM ^

Selfishly, I wish there were a few more early starts. An early start means I can get back to Chicago Saturday night. The coaches and others like noon starts. However, students, the athletes themselves, and TV viewership all vote for later starts. Brandon said it was a non-starter, not going to happen, and that he had no power over that (early games.) I guess there are more eyeballs at 3:30pm, and even more eyeballs at night. With Michigan's alumni base and national cachet, ABC, ESPN, BTN, will always push for Michigan to be a later game. And since the networks are the ones paying the bills, they are the ones who get to decide. As MIchigan gets better, it will only get worse (from my perspective.)


June 6th, 2013 at 2:44 PM ^

Agreed. I didn't say it exactly, but this was the biggest thing I learned, from my perspective. Having the three guys around together a long time makes me very happy. I got the feeling from Laura that because they're all family, and they're all having fun, this is as good as it gets, from the coach's perspective. They're almost like, "we're having a great time, doing what we want, and we even get paid!!!" Like I said, as long as their health holds out, I could see the three amigos hanging around Michigan a LONG time. While things can go south quickly, I don't think it is wearing on any of them the way it wore on Carr, or for that matter, Urban Meyer. That's speculation on my part, but they sure LOOK like they're having a good time.


June 6th, 2013 at 9:38 AM ^

Hoke also later made a comment that there were a couple of QBs that graduated last year which will be a great addition to those APR statistics.


I also met this guy named Stephen Kass there and chatted a bit before everything started.  He seemed alright.


June 6th, 2013 at 10:29 AM ^

It was nice to meet a couple other obsessive fans (like you!) Hope you had as good a time as I did. Regarding the QB's graduating, there was so much info, I couldn't begin to remember it all. But I think what akim is referring to is Hoke's answer to "what was his best moment" this year. Great answer. I sure don't know how Gardner managed to graduate so quickly.


June 6th, 2013 at 1:00 PM ^

he's had players with "gators" before, so he can handle a pig.  I thought that was a good response.

I'm glad Mr. Kass asked Dave B about scheduling.  I wanted to, but by the time I went through the Brady and John receiving lines, they were starting to hustle everyone out the door.

I did ask John B. if the ability to ride a unicycle is now a key attribute he is looking for in big men.  He laughed at that.

I also appreciated Dave Brandon's story that shortly before he officially started the AD job, he stopped by a men's gymnastic meet and watched a gymnast perform a routine he had prepared for all his life in front of a small crowd, no band, no cheerleaders, none of the hoopla of the bigger sports.  It impressed upon him the need to treat all of Michigan's student athletes and sports teams the same.  They all deserve the facilities, support, and resources they need to do their best and represent Michigan.  So, no mystery why Dave is building new facilities for everyone.  He even had the coaches stress the importance of facilities in attracting student athletes during the portion of the Q&A that he moderated.  Of course, he graciously thanked the alumni for their support as did the coaches.

It was a good night to be a Wolverine.