"It’s the block M that has power, not Denard Robinson"

Submitted by Blue and Joe on December 12th, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Full quote from Michigan CMO Hunter Lochman on college athletes potentially being paid:

“The athletes are there for four years. At Michigan, it’s the block M that has the infinity and power, not Denard Robinson. Those are fleeting, four-year relationships, but it’s the block M that’s been there for over 150 years.”

uh wut

Full article


Wolverine Devotee

December 12th, 2014 at 2:02 PM ^

Definitely a BrandOn guy.

Like Satterfield, I assume he'll get the boot.

Notice how Michigan has only had one CMO in the history of the department. I'm guessing they won't have another.


December 12th, 2014 at 3:49 PM ^

With him being a Brandon-hire and someone who was a part of many of the failed policies, it would be easy to throw Hunter under the proverbial bus. However, from all of my interactions with the department, Hunter has always seemed like someone who may not have fully understood many things about the student or fan experience, but who was willing to do what he could within the hand he was dealt to make them work as well as possible.

When the student section was general admission, Hunter was there at the queue every day making sure things ran smoothly. He took the time to talk to the students, especially those that got there early, to hear their concerns and to listen to ways that the experience could be improved.

He was involved in working with CSG on getting rid of the GA seating, in working with CSG and the FSAC to lower the ticket prices.

So while I am very much of the opinion that Brandon had to go, and ultimately it may be best for Hunter to as well, I'd be much more inclined to cut the guy a bit of a break because I believe that he does have a sincere desire to "get it".


December 12th, 2014 at 5:56 PM ^

To say the relationship with players is fleeting shows a complete lack of understanding of what Michigan is. These players have built a legacy through their effort and sacrifice which they take great pride in throughout their lives. Much longer than after he cashes his last M paycheck and moves on.


December 12th, 2014 at 3:01 PM ^

The status quo will always have a cult of logic, tradition and personality behind it. Those ingrained with it - those who helped build and shape it - will always seek to protect it, because for the most part, it is stable.

But the way the world works is every moment is potential for complete rebirth. Everything can always change in an instant. However, the end-all is always stability and positive potential, in that order. So the true test is an ability to discern whether the forward-thinking will in fact provide stability as an end-goal, and positive growth potential. Obviously, you also have to define your parameters by those of academic and research institutions, and the agency of the NCAA.

The CMO's comment seems to touch on the stability of the brand, which I infer marks a defense of the status quo. But his comment re: Denard doesn't express any discernment or analysis of the issue whether players should be paid. Temporality of the player relationship has no bearing on whether - if compensated - that relationship will sustain brand stability AND increase the university (and NCAA's) positive growth potential. 


December 12th, 2014 at 4:09 PM ^

My opinion as a UM alum is that alma mater should not put itself in the business of running professional sports-teams (i.e., negotiating player contracts, dealing with individual player agents, etc.); and my sense is that's ultimately how the whole issue will play itself out across the board. If a youth simply wants to be compensated for his/her athletic talent, then a separate market needs to be created for that youth's services. Collegiate athletics is for student-athletes who actually want to be BOTH students and athletes; and where being both, while being provided a full scholarship and institutional advantages created for the student-athlete's overall development, is the deal ("take it, or leave it").

I say this while acknowledging the legal argument that a professional marketplace has already been created and existent within the NCAA/university construct - that universities are already employing student-athletes as a legal question - and so there's no issue of choice to enter the market at this point as an employer participant; the question is now simply one of athlete compensation. If that is indeed the question, then in my mind's eye, the answer must be tailored to ensure each employee remains a Student (and "Student-Athlete"), subject to the qualifications and rigors of that term of art.

As this works itself out, my sense is the compensation issue becomes an insurance benefits issue (health, life, etc.) and not a heightened salary bargaining issue - where historical accounting reflects scholarships, institutional benefits, room and board, and value of education has been an acceptable and established form of compensation for student-athlete services rendered. Student-athletes should be required to sign a collective bargaining agreement whereby a single agent is employed to negotiate said benefits, in consideration for which benefits student-athletes should waive use-of-likeness rights for media programming (noting that insuring that many student athletes - especially football players - and contemplating future earning potential - will be an expensive undertaking).

In any event, young athletes do have a choice, for the most part - in baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer - some of the top revenue sports - an 18 year old can play in a professional league with no educational background required. Yet, right now, there are also clear concerns re: player safety that my sense eliminates the possibility of certain athletes making a jump from high school to the established professional leagues right away. This concern is greatest in football, where young bodies aren't physically equipped to compete against the fully developed. 

Whereas employment in a primary professional league isn't economically or inherently feasible for all 18-22 year old athletes, then my sense is that forces the big-tent of NCAA athletics to answer the student-athlete benefits question expeditiously.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:03 PM ^

Maybe so, to a degree... but let's go a few years without any Denard Robinsons and see how much value that block M still has.

On second thought, let's not.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:03 PM ^

This seems like a statement that Brandon would make. Wasn't this guy brought in by Brandon to handle the "branding" (no pun intended) of Michigan?

If so, once Hackett is done with the important task at hand, perhaps this guy should follow Brandon out the door.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

I think he messed up his point by mentioning Denard.  There are extremely few players that may increase viewership by 10-20% such as Denard.   His point would have been better made by saying that nobody watches NCAA football because the that Arizona punter that joined the plaintiffs.  Outside of the 5-10 Denards in the country every year, viewership is based on a base level of competence + the university thing.


December 12th, 2014 at 3:38 PM ^

I guess I disagree although I could be misreading your intent.  I've been watching UM football since the mid-70s, and I grow attached to the players.  When a UM player goes pro, I root for him to do well, even if he's a mid-late round pick.  I watched KC because of Elvis, Indianapolis and Chicago because of Harbaugh, NE for Brady, Oakland and GB for Woodson, etc.  To me, the players are the ones who give the block M meaning, and are the enduring legacy, along with the coaching staff, of UM.  It gives me pride in the university when players return, and in their public statements show appreciation for the school and program.  Lochmann's asinine statement completely disrespects those former players who continue to be part of the legacy of the program.


December 12th, 2014 at 9:32 PM ^

And that's fine to do but I think the point is this:


You didn't root for Michigan because Denard Robinson was the quarterback.


You rooted for Denard Robinson because he was the Michigan quarterback.


I don't think its exactly right to say they are "fleeting" because as you said you will become attached to a guy who does great things for the football team (a la Denard, Woodson, Demond, etc). But if those guys never put on the maize and blue would you root for them now?


It isn't just about being a great player otherwise we would root for every heisman player that goes onto the NFL.


I can promise that if Denard had suited up in Scarlet and Grey or Green and White you wouldn't be as big a fan of him as you are now.

Everyone Murders

December 12th, 2014 at 2:33 PM ^

Further down in the article, he showed he gets at least a few things partially right:

* Lochman, on why Michigan does not do in-game sponsorships: “We don’t do anything in the stadium. Us and Notre Dame are the two cleanest stadiums in college football, so that makes it easier. But, for instance, we had a Cadillac display this past year outside of the stadium, two beautiful cars with winged helmets on them, and we were getting some grief from our fans on social media about them. ... We're trying to entertain our fans, so we have a new partner that sponsors a dance contest, so it’s about trying to be smart like that. Our fans have told us front and center they don’t want sponsors, though.”


December 12th, 2014 at 3:15 PM ^

is that right? I'd say that the only thing preventing Michigan Stadium from going full Spartan Stadium is fan pushback, and that quote shows it. Lochmann doesn't understand anything about M and doesn't care about it--he regards M fans attitude as a problem. 

Also, calling Michigan Stadium "clean" may be true visually, but aurally... hell no.


December 12th, 2014 at 3:49 PM ^

Spot-on Brian.  I hate to say this, but if the AD is going to have a marketing department, they absolutely have to a have a "Michigan Man" as it's head.  Lochman doesn't understand that when the true Michigan fan thinks of Michigan Football he/she first thinks of the amazing moments provided by the great players (Tim Biakabatuka eating OSU's defense for lunch, Woodson's incredibly timed interceptions, Desmond Howard and "Hellllllo Heisman!", Denard's "shoelaces flapping in the wind")....and then the block M and winged helmets.    

I was hooked on Michigan football at a young age for two reasons:  My dad's love for the University and Tim Biakabatuka.  

Everyone Murders

December 12th, 2014 at 3:50 PM ^

It's partially right (I was careful to not be given Lochmann an "amen" here).  I cringe like everyone else at the giant noodle stupidity and don't even get me started on SNA.  I still thought it was good that he acknowledged that the fans resist sponsorship, and is at least aware that things like the Cadillac promotion rub us the wrong way.

Also, Hitler built a pretty solid highway system.  /Godwin'd/

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2014 at 3:57 PM ^

Under DB, I really thought ads were coming, no matter what he said. The more and more that Marathon and StubHub ads showed up in the concourse, you knew the day was coming when they'd just be quietly snuck into the bowl itself paired with a careful, Lochdawg-esque quote that "we've actually had ads in the stadium for years, and fan feedback wasn't negative." It probably wasn't positive, either--we're just powerless to an Athletic Department that doesn't care what we want. It's what we, apparently, need. "Everyone else does it" is not "Leaders and Best."

You're dead on with the aural component, too, because it's just loud in there for the sake of loud these days. A cheap, hokey experience at the expense of what we all loved about Michigan Stadium. Also see: Yost.


December 12th, 2014 at 4:43 PM ^

to entertain us. We have been on waiting lists and coming to games for years in 100000+ droves, cheered the team, watched the band warm up, or the drum line perform on the steps, etc. All of that plus the tailgating experience with friends and family or the lawn parties on the way, the band before the game and during the half, the banner, and a really good football game played by a great home football team - that is what we want.

That is why people come back to Michigan to watch football - emotionally they can not get the same connection anywhere else.

If Brandon's crack team of geniuses keep it up, I'll be able to get the same exact entertainment I get at a Hurrcane's game, or a Durham Bull's game, or an NC State game, or a Panther's game. Heck our high school football team plays the same music. They don't understand what the golden goose is made of.


December 12th, 2014 at 5:09 PM ^

Yes, college football is a different experience than professional sports, but college football is still about entertainment. At Michigan, it has been and still is entertainment that is based on ritual and tradition. But ritual and tradition are losing pull in our culture rapidly. We have an entire generation that has been raised on electronic devices and quick, rapid forms of entertainment. 

The Michigan experience is amazing. For us who grew up in a simpler time. We go to the game, we tailgate, we walk to the stadium, we watch the game, and we go home. But that could be anywhere from a 4 to 8 hour ordeal depending on traffic, tailgating, etc. For kids who entered college in the last decade, to those who will continue to enter, they will rapidly become a significant portion of the fan base. They are very commercialized and see this as the norm. They need quick entertainment. 

I remember when people complained about putting video scoreboards in Michigan stadium because it might take away from the game experience. In fact, I found myself sometimes lulled in my attention knowing that there would be a video replay if I missed something. 

I guess my point is this, we are seeing a shift in how the public and even those who went to Michigan view the experience. I think Lochmann understands the reality of college athletics all to well, that it is just one of many experiences people can have on a Saturday afternoon, and that we, as Michigan fans, are forgetting that the world is evolving around us. At some point, the great traditions that are in places like Michigan and Notre Dame will not be able to sustain an overly commercial, short attention spanned, consumer driven fan base that wants the same things whereever they go. 

It's not a question of if Michigan stadium will have advertising in the stadium, it's when, and how will it have. 


December 12th, 2014 at 2:03 PM ^

If we're watching for good football and skilled players, we'd just watch the NFL.  While football prevents players from taking other jobs like random frat bro can (I'm in favor of stipends), the big draw/money in college football isn't due to the talent levels.  For talent purposes, we're basically watching the minor leagues of the NFL....which wouldn't have very high viewership.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:06 PM ^

I don't know about you, but Michigan football is infinitely easier to watch when the play on the field is high quality.

Sure, it isn't the NFL, but good football is good football. There's a reason that attendance is down this year.

Everyone Murders

December 12th, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

Staying out of the thicket of whether student athletes should get paid, it's undeniable that the association of the team with UofM is a critical part of their appeal.

I'd even say that if a typical Lloyd Carr team played off campus as the Ann Arbor Argonauts, you'd be hard-pressed to get 10,000 per game (assuming they were playing teams like the Mt. Pleasant Marauders and occasional better games against the South Bend Bruisers).


December 12th, 2014 at 2:36 PM ^

That is true. But a large part of the reason they consistently get large crowds is because of the past success of Michigan football, which is built on our players' shoulders. Compare our attendance to Purdue's or Indiana's.

The power of the Block M and the success of guys like Woodson and Harmon are inextricably linked. Denard benefitted tremendously from going to Michigan, but Michigan also benefited tremendously from having Denard.

EDIT: I do, however, take issue with the idea that we are getting 100,000 people at each game. Actual attendance is significantly lower than paid attendance.

MI Expat NY

December 12th, 2014 at 2:42 PM ^

On the other hand, if the quality of play/players didn't matter, how come we're talking about paying Jim Harbaugh over $5M to come coach our football team.  

You're not wrong that there's a lot of value in Michigan by itself.  But the players also bring value and money in.  It's fair to say they aren't adequately compensated for that value.  Especially the guys like Denard Robinson who undoubtedly push a lot of jerseys and Michigan gear in general. 

Two Hearted Ale

December 12th, 2014 at 2:50 PM ^

Players are already compensated via scholarships, room and board. It was determined long ago that players should be paid; at this point the argument is over how much.

The NCAA and schools think athletes shouldn't be allowed to negotiate their compensation packages. I have a hard time with their argument since they have a clear interest in not sharing revenue with the players. Clearly the NCAA thinks athletes are worth more than what they are currently being paid or they wouldn't be fighting so hard against their negotiating rights.

If there was really an interest in "amateur" football GVSU would have a 75,000 seat stadium. D1 football is already minor league football; the fact that it is associated with universities is an anachronism.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:04 PM ^

What the fuck is the "block M" to Lochman, then? It doesn't mean jack shit unless it's a symbol of the people who went to the university. 

Are Brandon and his cronies even human?


December 12th, 2014 at 4:41 PM ^

Bureaucrats are just people doing the tedious work needed to make the government function. Do they receive statues? Do we name holidays after them? No.

The larger the institution or organization the less significant the individual becomes--unless you are at the very top of the hierarchy. 

Monoliths are terrible places for individuals.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:04 PM ^

Sooooo.......I guess our football program would be fine without the players?

Can't you make the same argument about the NFL? They always talk about how the league is bigger than any one player, etc. And yet players still get paid....

By the way, this doesn't necessarily mean players SHOULD get paid (though I think the answer is they should), but this is a REALLY stupid argument.


December 12th, 2014 at 2:05 PM ^

"At Michigan, it's the block M that will keep it's job, not Hunter Lochmann. His was a fleeting, four-year relationship, but it’s the block M that’s been there for over 150 years."


December 12th, 2014 at 2:06 PM ^

What an out of touch and arrogant statement. Fleeting, four year relationships? I am sure Denard can't wait to come back for a game or fundraiser to help support the program.