One More on Penn State


The Freeh Report is in and I'm not going to waste a lot of space rehashing it's findings about the sick cabal of self-centered hypocrites that ran Penn State. I'm going to switch gears and address the question of what comes next.

The formal response to this scandal has to serve two purposes: it has to be punitive and corrective.

I think the punitive actions will largely be handled by the court system. People will go to jail. The university (and Second Mile) will face massive lawsuits, as will several of the people involved. What jail time and money can't extract, the media will. Joe Paterno's legacy is now literally one of the worst in college football history, and deservedly so. 

The corrective actions will come from a far broader range of interested parties. The primary one is the university itself. Relying on the findings of the Freeh Commission, the university (and the Board of Trustees) have to implement meaningful reform that force the athletic department into a subordinate positon to the university and which keep the Board of Trustees both informed about and responsible for the actions of the university. The Freeh Commission has a long list of measures, and I'm sure that will form the basis of Penn State's plan.

I would also not be surprised if the state government gets involved. Penn State holds a somewhat unusual position as a 'state related' school and not technically a public school, a designation which gives them greater autonomy than a typical public school. It would not surprise me to see the state government revisit what exactly that desgination means and how much autonomy Penn State can be trusted with.

Between the administration of the Freeh Commission, the university, the Board of Trustees and the state government, you have to hope they can work out the long term measures needed at Penn State. But that still leaves the athletic department.

The structure of the athletic department is an area that I believe does belong under the purview of the NCAA. They should be involved. They should not be involved with the intent of delivering punitive measures, but with the intent of overseeing and/or staying informed about the measures Penn State is taking to reform itself.

What I would like to see the NCAA do is officially find Lack of Institutional Control at Penn State, in order to guarantee themselves a seat at the table as Penn State is discussing the reform of their athletic department. And then, having gotten a seat, listen. Let Penn State determine their own course. If it's appropriate, accept it. If it's not, guide them in the right direction. If they are combative or unwilling, then the NCAA can step in and use their authority to require changes. But absolutely start by issuing that ruling that says Penn State lacked institutional control. It's unavoidable. To not issue that finding would be hard to explain and would set a negative precedent.

And when we talk about the changes that are needed, the obvious reform, one that is hard to define with rules and regulation, is simply that the football program and football coach cannot ever be given more authority than their role requires. Joe Paterno was given more. He used his reputation as "more than just a football coach" to acquire powers beyond that of a football coach: he was practically allowed to exempt his players from discipline from the Office of Student Affairs, he was allowed to hand pick an athletic director (a former player) who would rubber stamp his decisions and he was never questioned, even by those whose job it was to exercise authority over him. That can't be allowed again.

But there are two more areas that I think the NCAA needs to step into:

It needs to make sure that Penn State does not go back to glorifying Joe Paterno as soon as the media's attention is elsewhere. It will be a bitter pill for Penn State to swallow, but Penn State should be asked to (partially) disassociate themselves from the legacy of Joe Paterno, the way other programs have been asked to disassociate from their wrong-doers. You cannot erase him from the record books, but the NCAA should tell Penn State that they cannot exalt him either. They cannot name buildings or auditoria after him. They cannot put up murals or grand displays of his achievements. In the context of a display about the 1986 national title, of course he plays his part. But there should never be, on the campus of Penn State, a tribute to The Grand Experiment or a Hall of Fame exhibit glorifying Paterno's legacy.

Additionally, the NCAA needs to look into the relationship between the football program and The Second Mile, as well as other similar arrangements. What looked once like a charitable organization that Penn State supported as part of The Grand Experiment takes on a lot of other characteristics once you read the Freeh Report and other investigate reports. Financial dealings abounded between high rankings PSU officials (such as Joe Paterno) and board members of The Second Mile. When Jerry Sandusky retired (after allegations of misconduct were known to Paterno, Curley and Spanier) Penn State agreed to collaborate with Sandusy on "community outreach programs, such as Second Mile, and other programs which provide positive visibility to the University's Intercolleagiate Athletics Program".

The culture of football at Penn State was unique, and for a long time that was praised. That was Joe Paterno's legacy. That was The Grand Experiment. As we discover the ways in which that unique culture led to the scandal that brought down the program, everyone involved needs to examine that culture, and make sure that Penn State is not rebuilt as a replica of the program that was torn down.

Posted at 12:38 PM     Read More  

The Mess at Penn State


It is not a short list of coaches who have fallen from grace, but perhaps none of the names on the list is more fascinating than Joe Paterno. Woody Hayes gave every indication that one day he was going to go too far. Bobby Knight went too far with regularity, but won too many games (and had too many supporters in the caveman element of society) for it to cost him his job until the results started to decline. But Joe Paterno didn't just lack black marks on his record - he was the one whose spotless record was his legacy. The Grand Experiment was held up as Joe Paterno's gift to college football, an example that you could do things "the right way" and still win.  

It was always a bit of a crock. Penn State wanted us to believe that other programs had never followed the rules, had decent academic standards and continued to win. Certainly, other programs have at times bristled at the arrogance of Joe Paterno and his supporters, the same way many fans of "race music" bristled at the notion that Bill Haley, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley created rock 'n roll. But even if the Grand Experiment was nothing new, it was at least something, right? 

Or was it? Was it ever real, or was Joe Paterno just the Wizard of Oz, pulling strings to make sure we never got to see the man behind the curtain? 

In the early 2000s, when Penn State's slide on the field was accompanied by a string of off the field incidents, there were two easy storylines to follow, and obvious conclusions to draw: 
1. Joe Paterno was getting too old to run the program, and the losses and the discipline problems were both the result of a figurehead coach and a leaderless program. 
2. Faced with mounting losses and scared of losing his program (or being forced to step down) Paterno was cutting corners in recruiting and in discipline. Now he was reaping the just rewards of those decisions. 

A little of this, a little of that ... 

Those of us who were paying close attention not just to the string of incidents, but to Paterno's responses, started asking if maybe we were blind to a bigger truth. We started to wonder if the discipline problems and combative attitude towards outside (including police) intervention were always part of Paterno's DNA, and what we were seeing in the 2000s was Paterno's anger that he no longer had the juice to overrule those who rightly had the final call. 

Paterno openly chastised the police for following athletes in the hopes of finding them misbehaving, and pined for the good old days when a drunk driving football player would be brought to Joe Pa's house to sleep it off.  And now, aside from the e-mails which seem to clearly indicate that Paterno was at least in on if not the driving force behind the desire to address Sandusky 'in house', we have also heard testimony and seen e-mails indicating that Paterno had a long history of rallying the PSU administration around his efforts to stonewall criminal investigations and protect the program from outside forces. Most alarming, we have an outside counsel reporting that Paterno threatened to kick players off the team if they agreed to speak to the campus disciplinary team about the Anthony Scirotto incident. 

So in light of these new revelations, it's time to revisit the attitudes expressed by people like former PSU grad assistant Matt Paknis. Paknis forcefully testifies that even 30 years ago The Grand Experiment was a public relations campaign more than anything, that it was less about Paterno running his program "the right way" and more about Joe Paterno having the juice to kill stories which would reflect poorly on Penn State. It was, in essence a marketing campaign. 

In the end, this scandal ends up not being a black mark on Paterno's record; it risks being a total and thorough invalidation of Paterno's record. It makes us stop and question the very thing that made Joe Paterno a legend. 

We should not fall into the trap of suggesting that the Grand Experiment failed after 35 glorious years. We should instead question whether we were all suckered into believing in an image of Joe Paterno that never was accurate. 

I suspect that it's a little of both. Good intentions to begin with, grossly exaggerated by loyalists and them embraced by Paterno and Penn State, corrupted over time by pride and power. That's the read I get, though others may have different ones. 

That's an important conversation to have, but there's also the practical issue of what happens with Penn State football going forward. 

Joe Paterno was rightly fired and has since passed away. It's unlikely the Athletic Director and President involved will ever hold important roles at Penn State again. So what more should Penn State do, and is there a role for the NCAA?

I am sympathetic to the arguments put forward by some that this case goes so far beyond athletics that for the NCAA to sanction PSU is almost trivializing the crimes. And I can understand the argument that this was a criminal act by a *former* coach, and therefore outside the mission of the NCAA. 

I'd disagree. 

For all the talk about football players and March madness, providing a safe and constructive environment for young people is arguably the core mission of the NCAA. Parents entrust their children to a university and a sports program, and the program in turn promises to take care of them, educate them and help them mature. What Penn State has done has utterly undermined everything the NCAA stands for and tries to do. And it happened because Penn State allowed football to become too important, it allowed a football coach to wield too much power and it allowed preservation of their image to take precedence over morality and ethics. 

And how inverted have Penn State's priorities become? You have fans that would rather see the existing university embroiled in an existential crisis than even admit the partial culpability of one departed coach. You have a newly elected member of the Board of Trustees who has taken to public message boards to angrily denounce specific, individual posters who have dared to admit they think Paterno was at least partly responsible. 

The NCAA has a role here. I don't know exactly what they can do, but I know what they have to do: Penn State has to be forced to de-emphasize football. 

What that means is hard to pin down. It isn't scholarship losses or forfeiting wins; those are competitive penalties. I don't think it's the "death penalty". That is throwing the baby out with the bath water. What's needed is cultural change at Penn State, an enforceable long term change in their priorities, not a competitive disadvantage. 

I expect Penn State, with the help of the NCAA (the help coming in the form of a gun to PSU's head) to institute various "Human Resources" changes. New oversight infrastructure, counseling and education, etc. But that's hardly sufficient. Such subjective initiatives will only have the desire impact if the university as a whole (the administration, the football program and the supporters) understands the problem and the correct priorities. It is a Catch-22: that approach will work exactly when that approach is not needed. 

I don't know what else the NCAA can do, but it has to find something, something that flat out forces them to shift their priorities. 

Joe Paterno and Penn State always wanted to be an example to the rest of college football. Here is their chance. 


Posted at 06:14 PM     Read More  

 Misc Things


Some comments

The wishful thinkinf of rival fans that UM is in a tailspin and Rodriguez is already on the hotseat continues. Too many threads to lnk and not trying to call out any particular fans by linking posts, but even 8-4 will be greatly disappointing to many rivals. Too many are thinking 5-7 and talking about it being their chance to take revenge. It won't happen.

Along those lines, talk has come up time and again of the UM 2008 line being a lot like the ND 2007 line, and warning Michigan fans to anticipate that manner of Keystone Cops futility. It won't happen. As simple as that, it won't happen. I have never, in over 25 years of watching football, never seen a major college offensive line as badly coached as Notre Dame's was last year. That was not just a lack of inexperience, it was a lack of coaching.

And while we're at it, the other way around, I see some growing use of bust-like language to describe Steven Threet. People are worried that he can't hold off a walkon. He is a freshman. Freshman often struggle. Take the 5* rating away from Mallett, and Mallett's performance last year would have had us longing for a walkon to beat him out.

Some links with comments

Audio links from The Huge Show:
Mike Barwis sounds like he smokes 20 packs a day.
After 8 months of hearing what Rodriguez and Shafer and Barwis et al want to do, nothing they say anymore can hold my interest. Short of "We are going to start by running a counter to Brandon Minor on the 1st play," nothing they can say hasn't been said before. It's time to see the finished product. It is officially game week, after all.

Kansas City Star
This has been posted so many places by so many people that I can't offer the credit to anyone for bringing it to my attention. It seems bizarre that the KC star has a long, thought out article on UM football until you find out it was written by a Michigan alum. It's an excellent article. It does dole out some criticism to the prior regime, but backs it up with quotes from players, not just armchair QBs. Like Brandon Graham saying    "Everybody knew exactly what we were going to do," and expressing some frustration with the arrogance of the game plan.0

MVictors.com
I had never noticed this (shame on me, perhaps) but MVictors.com keeps track of UM memorabilia auctions for your bidding enjoyment, and he found an ongoing auction for a 1931 football jersey. Interesting - when the page loaded, before I read any of the text, I thought it was a Michigan onesie for toddlers.

WLA
I'm behind on this one, too, but Wolverine Liberation Army is some fantastically bizarre stuff.

Greatest Rivals
Another blogger sent me a link to his page, part of a greater site on rivalries. This one may be a check back as OSU nears type of page (you're on notice, Andy: you better have something *big* for the game this year). Looking back at the 2003 highlights, how exactly does a 14 pt win feel like such a blowout? I guess the same way OSU's 2007 11 pt win feels like a blowout: a feeling of inveitability.


Posted at 08:38 PM     Read More  

 Rodriguez and Bad Press


I wrote this in another forum, in response to one or two West Virginia fans and some others going on at lengths about Michigan's buyer's remorse at having hired the slimeball Rich Rodriguez, but I thought it might be appropriate in a more general sense, as a response to the bizarre idea that's spread through various non-Michigan fan forums that Michigan has some early concerns about Rodriguez's behavior, and ethics. I don't usually try to speak for the entire Michigan fan base, but ...

I think a lot of people outside Michigan have this notion that Rodriguez's honeymoon is over, that Michigan fans are somehow wary of what they've gotten into, that the administration may be upset ...

None of that is really true.

There haven't been any concerns about his recruiting, not the kinds of kids he's pursuing or how he is pursuing them.

There have been no real concerns about his ethics.

No one except Rosenberg (of The Detroit Free Press) has raised questions about his "serial job searching" or whatever Rosenberg called it. If he stays at Michigan and is successful for 10 years, great. If he has a good run and gets an NFL offer and leaves, then that's the risk you take in hiring a good coach.

There really has been one concern raised at all about Rodriguez locally that has gained any kind of traction with the fans and insiders, and that is with respect to language. Rodriguez, and more so a couple of his assistants, apparently swear like soldiers on leave. But you know what, Bo swore too, and no one minded it.

Are the players hating it? Well, from the reports coming out of practices, the best word to describe the players' attitude in spring/summer would be 'giddy'.

Of course some kids don't like it. One of those kids was Justin Boren, who apparently not only dislike the language but also hated the running. Even under Carr's less intense program, Boren reportedly had 'opted out' of some of the more intense workouts and Carr had let him get away with that. Rodriguez stopped that special treatment. Boren started complaining vocally during the running drills, and the OL coach and S&C coach let him have it repeatedly in front of everyone. Boren went to Rodriguez to complain and Rodriguez wasn't sympathetic.

Was the language insulting? It probably was. The staff is developing a reputation for making examples in front of everyone of players, especially veterans, who are not giving full effort. Without going into too much detail, there was lots of evidence that the players were not being held accountable for their effort and dedication in the later years under Carr, and that Rodriguez is giving them a crash course in consequences.

We've lost one player so far, and for a new coach that's so much different than the old, that's not really troubling.


Posted at 10:43 PM     Read More  

Oh. My. Good. Lord.


I know there's a rumor that Charlie Weis was an NFL offensive coordinator at one point, but the more he talks, the more convinced I am that he's actually a message board poster with a fake resume. A bad message board poster. 

Check out this link (thanks dayoop and danb for bringing this to a wider audience):

Listen to Weis's comments about 1 minute in.

"We'll listen to Michigan have all their excuses."

You don't need an excuses for 47-21 or 38-0. You may need excuses for 21-47 or 0-38. You know, really bad excuses like "I could get hoodlums and thugs and win tomorrow. I won't do it that way." That would be excuse making. Going 3-9 in your THIRD YEAR and blaming the talent that the previous coach left behind would be excuse making. Going out there and drubbing your rival 38-0 with a true freshman making his first start in place of an injured starter ... that's not excuse making.


Posted at 11:18 PM     Read More  

Things that require a reaction


Bryce McNeal Secretely Goes Public And Voices A Silent Verbal

A couple of Michigan blogs (mgoblog and Varsity Blues) reported yesterday that Bryce McNeal (4* WR, MN) had committed to Michigan. This was based on e-mails detailing myspace messages between McNeal and (say it with me, ewwww) Michigan fans who had sent him messages over myspace, in which McNeal told these newfound friends that he had done exactly that.

(Requisited ed. note: it's generally interpreted as a potential NCAA violation for fans to message recruits on myspace, facebook, etc. Fans are not expected to know the entire NCAA rulebook, but are advised to not engage in any recruiting themselves)

This news of a commitment was disputed by the "pay sites" (Scout and Rivals), and was generally categorized by most as "untrue", "premature" or "unofficial". Those three words mean three very different things, and I suspect the middle one is the most accurate. There's a variety of statuses (stati?) recruits fall into. There's commit (said so publicly), soft commit (said so publicly but seem to be wavering or at least listening to other schools), silent commit (told the coaches but isn't ready to go public) and "lean" (they have a favorite, but aren't ready to end the process). Even thought a commitment is not binding, there's some feeling that it is official, that a public announcement carries some weight. And the pay sites and mainstream media have a monopoly on the official announcements because the proprieters of mgoblog, Varsity Blues and iBlog for Cookies are not authorized to call recruits and get the news directly (see ed. note above); we are only able to get the news from the mainstream media.

That, unfortunately for us, means we can never break an official commitment, unless we scoop a mainstream media source (say, a TV show was taped and will air tonight and a friend at the station called to give me the info). But in general, as sad as it may be, we cannot break the story. 

One thing we can do is predict commitments, by reading (hopefully free) tea leaves and interpreting and scouring the web for whatever free sources we can find.

One ther thing we can do (if we have good information) is report silent commitments. Maybe a source inside Schembechler Hall gets all giddy and tells a friend that Joe FiveStar called Rodriguez and committed yesterday. Now the word has started to pass around the e-mail circuit. You can get into the whole "The kid has a reason for keeping it quiet; if you report the silent commitment you jeopardize it" vs. "It's news, and I report news. As a journalist, I can't promise not to hurt Michigan's recruiting" debate. Have at it, but preferrably some other day.

The bottom line here is this; we have two sites each reporting that multiple people told them that McNeal has decided on Michigan. It could be that they are wrong, that it's an elaborate scheme to trick Michigan bloggers or that they independently made up the same story. All those explanations seem somewhat unlikely. What's far more likely is that McNeal likes Michigan a lot, reached some kind of tipping point and got chatty about it, and that these two blogs ran with a factually correct story that simply did not use the normal catchwords of the recruitnik. If those are the facts, McNeal is either a Michigan "lean" or (if he told the coaches what he told the friends) a "silent commitment". 

Maybe McNeal has told people he's coming to Michigan, but he hasn't yet told the people he needs to tell in order for the recruitniks and recruiting sites to call it a "commitment". That's my take.

The Rock Report Tries to Savage Michgan and Savages Notre Dame by Accident

NDNation's "The Rock Report" let loose with one of its typically uninformed and sanctimonious loads of horse manure yesterday, attempting to laud Notre Dame for its tremendous academic standards.

A few points need to be straightened out.

a) Referred to in the piece is a quote from Charlie Weis earlier this week in which he says "I could get hoodlums and thugs and win tomorrow. I won't do it that way." Not only is it insulting, it's bizarrely arrogant, untrue and silly. First off, Notre Dame's recruiting has been spectacular under Weis. There's little improvement he could possibly make by changing the players he goes after. Arguably, only USC has had a better run of 3 recruiting classes, so for Weis to imply that the struggles are due to turning away talent is nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from where the blame really lies. Maybe, as Ramzy Nasrallah suggested (on an unarchived message board), maybe he needs to load up on those Air Force and Navy thugs and hoodlums who beat Notre Dame last year. Basically, Notre Dame went 3-9 last year not because their pristine roster lacked the talent that it needed, but because Charlie Weis and his staff did a horrible job preparing the team to play.

b) The Rock discredits the new NCAA grad rate formula as rewarding "teams who use and discard student athletes" because it no longer counts transfers as failures in the grad rates. It's an idiotic accusation. The NCAA's revised formula (GSR) removes from the sample students who were in good academic standing and left the university for "allowable" reasons ... flunking out, being cut, legal problems, etc are not among them. No one with an eye on reasonability would suggest that the new formula is worse than the old. One wonders whether The Rock believes that Notre Dame "used and discarded" Zach Fraser and Demetrius Jones.

c) The Rock crows about ND's graduation rate. The Rock apparently doesn't understand the concept of a diploma mill. Notre Dame is a diploma mill, and that is not a good thing. That is not something to be proud of. When kids who have SAT scores and GPAs so far below the class mean that a non-athletic admissions office would scoff at their application still manage to graduate 95% of the time, Occam is screaming at you that the school is simply handing out diplomas. That is an abrogation of academic integrity. If you can pull a random kid and drop him into the most difficult program on campus and all but guarantee me that he will graduate in four years, you are saying more about the lax standards you employ when dispensing diplomas than you are about your entrance criteria. 

Harvard, Yale, etc have high grad rates because in order to get in you have to be extremely gifted in the classroom. You'll never get into those schools with a 3.1 HS GPA and an 1130 on your SAT (no offense to those carrying those credentials, but you're not Harvard material). When you're looking at a student body of 3.9s and 1540s, a 95% grad rate is at least defensible. When you're looking at football players with 3.1s and 1130s competing against kids with 3.8s and 1400s, it's embarrassing.



Posted at 07:59 PM     Read More  

 Coming out of retirement to yell at you a little


POINTERS

a) The recruiting services do not hate your school, they are not biased against your school and they do not automatically drop kids in the rankings as soon as they commit to your school. Kids move up and down and rankings are volatile. When a commited kid moves up, that school's fan say "finally; he was way underrated before." When he moves down, they say "Ridiculous; the gurus are punishing him for picking (my school)." 

Try this on: maybe the gurus aren't biased; maybe you are.

b) Not every 3* kid who commits to your school is a "sleeper". Sometimes, he's just a 3*. If he ran a 4.42 with a 38" vertical, and you find yourself saying "The scouts are insane to have a kid with his athleticism ranked as a 3*," stop and remind yourself that the recruiting services already know about his 4.42 and 38" vertical. Maybe he got as high as 3* because of his pure athletic ability. Maybe other than those two things he doesn't have much to sell you on at all.

c) In 90% of cases, until a kid has played college football and established what he is capable of, the recruiting rankings and scouting analysis is all you've got (unless you're a scout yourself and have access to game film: raise your hand if that's the case). If you trust the services, then a 5* is a 5* and a 3* is a 3*. Sure quibble a bit because you've got your biases in terms of style or fit, but that's on the margins. If you don't trust the services, then don't get excited when your school lands a blue chip prospect. What's silly is when a fan base lands the 30th best recruiting class in the country, by the numbers, and the fans say "The recruiting rankings are junk; I wouldn't trade this class for anyone's except maybe USC's."

d) The other teams are not scared of you and the other coaches are not scared of you. Your rival didn't just offer that 5* corner because he saw the WRs you are bringing in. He didn't panic, thinking "Oh my god, we need more corners!" And your conference opponents are not panicking at their inevitable failure to block all your blue chip d-linemen. You just got a couple of blue chip corners in this class? Great. Don't trot out the tired "No one's going to be able to throw on us in 2 years" nonsense, because your cross-state rivals just happened to land 2 blue chip WRs and is thinking "No one's going to be able to stop our passing attack." All across the country there are blue chip WRs being covered by blue chip corners, and sometimes these guys win and sometimes those guys win.

e) Not every kid who takes a depth chart into consideration is "afraid of competition." Some of them are just being practical. It's one of the most prevalent double standards in recruiting; a kid that turns down your school because you are deep is afraid of competition, and a kid who turns down your school despite a glaring need is crazy if he thinks he is going to crack the depth chart at the school he did pick. 

f) If you had an All-American linebacker who came in at 6'3" 220 with a 4.55 40, and you just recruited a linebacker who's coming in at 6'3" 220 with a 4.55 40 ... you can see where this is headed, right? It doesn't mean anything.

g) "I want kids who want to play for (my school)" is a nice sentiment, but it's comfort food for the recruitnik. It basically means every kid who turns you down is a kid you didn't want, and every kid you landed is the kid you did want. End result: you got exactly the class you wanted. Yay!

h) on (g), see also "Trust the coaches." I trust the coaches. I love the coaches. If the coaches offered 3 QBs and they all turned you down and he went and found a "sleeper", do not insist that he is a great prospect just because you "trust the coaches". The coaches had him as Plan D. If the coaches go out in April and offer a lower rated kid *before* they offer some of the blue chip prospects, yes, trust the coaches. They must have had a reason for making the offer. But parcel your trust our carefully. It's not a universal defense for poor recruiting.

i) Do not offer up proof by anecdote; it makes you look simple. Yes, Braylon Edwards was a 3* WR. Guess what ... he's one in a hundred. Adrian Arrington, Mario Manningham, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, Steve Breaston and Jason Avant were 4*s and 5*s. I'll take my chances on the blue chip prospects instead of betting that every 3* is going to turn out to be Braylon Edwards.

j) The kid you just recruited is not "a faster Mike Hart", "a more athletic Chris Spielman" or "Vince Young, except with better mechanics." A faster Mike Hart would be ... well, Barry Sanders. IOW, one of the best backs you've ever seen at any level. A more athletic Chris Spielman would have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a college sophomore. Aim lower.


Posted at 09:20 PM     Read More  

Who turned out the lights?  


(chirp)











(chirp)












Posted at 09:04 PM     Read More  

 Distracted Thoughts


Distracted Thoughts

Manningham has gone pro: We knew this would happen the day he signed his LOI. If he was good enough that we'd worry about it, he would be gone. Barring something unpleasant happening between now and draft day, Manningham is a first round talent who will test like a first round talent. He's got speed, he runs superb routes and he has a long track record of making big plays. He's a first rounder.

Arrington has gone pro: His stock may never be as high as it is right now. Yes, he could come back next year and maybe put up Marquise Walker-like "I am the only offense you have" numbers. But that's a gamble, and even then, his stock may never be higher than it is right now. It's got a natural cap (one that is measured in seconds and fractions of seconds) and he is bumping up against it. Late 2nd, maybe 3rd, but he could come back next year and break records at Michigan and still not go any higher than that.

Ryan Mallett has gone Razorback: On one hand, it's a damn shame. He has the makings of a great QB. On the other hand, he made no friends in his time in Ann Arbor and you started to get the impression that he was always one bad moment from transferring. Didn't like that 3rd down playcall? He's got the paperwork ready. At least he did it now instead of using up starter's snaps in practice, scaring off recruits and then doing it at the end of spring.

Noel Devine no longer exists: at least, that's what I gather from this report, which cites unnamed West Virginia sources as basically accusing Rich Rodriguez of deleting everything associated with the football program at West Virginia? Noel Devine? Anonymous athletic department staffers witnessed Rich Rodriguez and Peter Stormare shoving him into a shredding machine last Monday afternoon. 

Academic records? Scholarship payments? All gone, because apparently West Virginia does not believe in fancy schmancy computer technologies and all relevant records are kept on paper in the head football coach's office.

What, what's that you say? Maybe that report wasn't quite accurate? Maybe there's a good, non-criminal explanation for some document shredding and West Virginia was just acting like the bitchy half of an ugly divorce proceeding, hurling accusations in the hopes that Rodriguez will give up custody and the family home in exchange for some peace and quiet? Okay, I buy that.

Terrell Pryor? We have a shot. We have an even shot. If he goes to OSU, it'll suck, but so be it. If he goes to Oregon, I will make unsupported allegations about their recruiting tactics. Some things defy explanation.

Rivals 250 is up

Scout 100 is up

Not a lot of love for Michigan recruits in either. Boubacar Cissoko and Daryl Stonum make both top 100 lists. O'Neill rises to top 50 in the Rivals list. Brandon Smith and Boubacar Cissoko make top 100 per Scout (but McGuffie is noticably absent on the Rivals 250 list, let alone 100, despite a very impressive showing during Army All-American festivities).

Remaining targets: Terrell Pryor is #1 in both lists and Nick Perry is mid 50s.


Posted at 06:16 PM     Read More  

File under Bwa-Ha-Ha 


NBC: Blindsided by Notre Dame

So goes the headline at businessweek.

Apparently, the ratings on ND games were so bad this year that NBC is handing out free ad time to sponsors to compensate them for the fact that no one saw their paid ads. The average rating this year for NBC-ND game? An embarrassing 1.8.

Yes, the decline from 2005's 3.6 is significant, but even in 2006, when ND matched their 2005 record, the ratings were down to 2.9, a 20% decline from 2005. Perhaps the 3.6 is the artificially inflated, first year bump?


Posted at 09:28 PM     Read More  

Visitor's Guide 


A Visitor's Guide to Football Saturdays in Ann Arbor

Three Weeks Late

WHERE TO STAY
Hotels near the stadium

Popular places to stay a little further away include the Red Roof Inn and Hampton Inn on the northeast corner of time (with easy access to highways!). There is also a Courtyard / Marriott (and another Hampton Inn) heading the other direction, in the commercial district south of Ann Arbor.

HOW TO GET TO THE STADIUM
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) offers shuttle service ($2) to and from the stadium on game days. Check the AATA website for information on pickup and dropoff locations. Most of the hotels listed above either are within walking distance of the stadium or will be serviced by some kind of shuttle service.

My advice: do not drive to the stadium. You can find parking, on someone's lawn if nothing else, but you will fight the pedestrian crowd both entering and exiting the stadium area. If you are not taking a shuttle to the stadium, then walk. Tens of thousands of people will be walking to the stadium (down Division to Hoover to meet the Marching Band was my usual practice) from various spots on and around campus, and as long as the weather is halfway decent (and really, even if it's not) it's worth joining them. If you go early enough, you can march with the band to the stadium, as the band collects on the steps of Revelli Hall, across from Elbel field and leads the fans to the stadium. The free University buses will ferry you across campus if you are on the other side (or on North Campus).

Incidents between Michigan fans and rival fans are rare and mild - perhaps plenty of boasting and taunting, and the occassionally F- School Name shouted from a drunken balcony, but nothing much more threatening than that.

If you prefer to get there early and tailgate, the prime tailgating location is the University golf course (google map).

If you walk, note the location of Elbel field. You may catch rugby action before the game, and you may catch a lot of pickup football after the game.

IN THE STADIUM
Plan on being early, perhaps a half hour early. Five minutes before kickoff will land you in a long line to get in, only able to hear the crowd reaction to the first drive or two.
Once your inside the gates, make an early trip the Weir's Orchard booth. Weir's is an apple orchard that sells superb apple cider and excellent plain doughnuts. But go early, because they sell out. Beyond Weir's, food at the stadium includes Dominoes pizza, Mr. Spots (hoagies, grill, wings), Damon's Ribs and various other very meaty sounding options. Plus, of course, your usual stadium fare (popcorn, pretzels, hot dogs, etc).
Do not plan on joining your friends in a section other than one your seats are located in. That practice used to be common, but now ushers are known to check every ticket and reject the interlopers. And Michigan Stadium has enough 'proper' fans who will object if they try to take their seat and see someone else sitting in it. "There's plenty of room - scoot over" works in the student section, but nowhere else (at least not reliably).

BARS
Ashley's: The beer aficionado's bar.
Conor O'Neills: Another beer drinker's bar.
Good Time Charley's: Edible food, good drinks and a nice view of the campus coming to life.
Ricks: Standard fare.
Scorekeepers: If Michigan's got an afternoon game and you want to catch all the 12:30 action on big screen TVs.


RESTAURANTS
Amers: Coffee & pastry shop where you won't miss it.
Angelos: excellent breakfast with an enormous line
Ann Arbor Brewing Company: Family dining at one of the highest rated microbreweries in the region.
Backroom Pizza: Ann Arbor's attempt at NYC style deli pizza.
Blimpy Burger: an Ann Arbor landmark that you might pass on your way to the game (depending on how far you walk)
Cottage Inn: Best chain pizza in a region known for chain pizzas (birthplace of Dominoes and Little Caesars). Good pasta, too. Crowded, though (students invariably bring their parents to Cottage Inn).
Dominicks: Long-standing and very popular pizza landmark.
Earle: Italian/French, expensive and extremely good.
Gratzi: Upscale northern Italian with excellent food.
Grissly Peak Brewing Company: Pizza, pasta and the in-house brew.
Jerusalem Garden: Hole in the wall middle eastern with the best falafels I've ever had.
La Dolce Vita: One of the top dessert destinations in Ann Arbor.
Pizza House: decent pizza and top notch salads
Red Hawk Bar & Grill: A ... um ... bar & grill, I guess.
Seva: Vegetarian's delight. All veggie restaurant with multi-ethnic fare and superb yam fries.
Mr. Spots: Aforementioned meaty stuff.
Stucchi's: Good ice cream. Nothing special, but conveniently located right off the diag.
Zingermans Deli: arguably the most famous and most well rated 'restaurant' in Ann Arbor. Pricey, but good.

WHAT TO SEE
Maps of Campus

The Central Campus at Michigan is the where the heart of the university is. We'll get to the outliers in a minute. The stadium lies just south of Central Campus and downtown lies a little to the west (several of the restaurants listed above are "downtown").

The sites to see on Central Campus include
The Diag: Where students hang out, play frisbee, picnic, play their guitars and take long naps.
Angell Hall: One of the most recognizable facades on Michigan's campus.
Law Quad: Just off the main square, it's the most aesthetically pleasing spot on campus. The library is also an interesting 3 minute detour.
Nichols Arboretum: essentially a large, secluded park just off the eastern edge of campus.
The Union: The student gathering spot, both inside and out.

Unfortunately, the University's Art Museum is closed for renovations.

North Campus is the geographically larger but less populated campus at Michigan and houses the engineering school, music school and a few assorted others. If a slow walk along tree-lined streets with well manicured lawns, artificial ponds and fountains is more your pace, take the University Bus to North Campus, get off on Bonisteel Blvd, walk west, then north up Murfin, take a gander at the godawful clockless clock tower and turn back west. Head behind the music school, sit for a few minutes, look out over Bonisteel as it cuts its way through the greenery and head on. On Beal, near the Francois Xavier Bagnold building (Aerospace Engineering ... called the FXB by locals) lies The Wave Field, a "landscape sculpture" by Maya Lin, the artist who designed the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

So, to reiterate: Central Campus = densely packed bustle, while North Campus = a little more quiet, a little more serene.

(for those who choose to stay on the northeast side of town - at the Red Roof or Hampton I mentioned earlier - North Campus is on your way from home to the stadium or stadium back home).

Virtual Tours of campus.

(thanks to all who contribute and if you're visiting, please read the comments section for lots of great input from locals ... prior comments from the last time I posted linked here).


Posted at 10:16 PM     Read More  

Housekeeping 


As some of you may have noticed, I haven't blogged in a while. One month to be not exactly exact. A computer crashed along the way and since I use backwards blogging software which stores all my stylesheets and data on my hard drive, and since that software has been "upgraded" to software which can't read the data back from the actual published blog, I was sort of screwed.

So I stewed and pondered and finally started up again with this. The old blog's content and the new blog's content, unfortunately, are not merged. All previous entries will be available at and the new ones will continue to be available here.

I think.

And we'll start all over again.


Posted at 09:00 PM     Read More