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Posts Tagged ‘ChadTough’

ChadTough needs your help to win $100k for pediatric brain cancer research

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017


Did you know that only three percent of federal funding for cancer research goes toward pediatric cancer? THREE PERCENT!

We’re not even talking pediatric brain cancer; that’s for all types of pediatric cancer. There is currently no cure for pediatric brain cancer and there are currently no drugs even in development to treat it.

Thus, The ChadTough Foundation needs your help.

Head basketball coach John Beilein is representing ChadTough in its quest to win $100,000 in the 7th Annual Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge. The Foundation hopes to put that money toward the pediatric brain tumor center at UofM’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, helping to fund research for the disease that tragically took the life of Chad Carr in November 2015.

What do you need to do?

• Vote today, vote tomorrow, vote the day after tomorrow, and every day through March 11
• Share on social media
• Urge your family and friends to vote and share as well

How do you enter?

• First, visit ChadTough.org/vote to sign up for daily email reminders so you won’t forget
• Each day, visit the contest site and vote for John Beilein
• Wash, rinse, repeat

Contest details

As of Wednesday evening, Beilein barely trails Purdue head coach Matt Painter. The current round of the contest runs through Feb. 26 and Beilein has to finish among the top four to advance to the final round.

That’s where it gets most important. The votes reset to zero and the final round runs from Feb. 26 to March 11. This is where it’s important to get off to a fast start and keep the momentum all the way to March 11.

Michigan’s IMG contract prohibits its athletic department from promoting the contest. That means it’s up to you, me, your significant other, your ex, your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your friends, your teacher, your boss, your doctor, your dentist, and your mailman to spread the word.

Why?

Do this in memory of Chad. Do this for the Carr family who have suffered through a loss that no parent should ever have to. Do this for the other hundreds of children who suffer from incurable brain tumors each year, most of whom don’t live more than a year past diagnosis. Do this for Lloyd Carr, who has hope that someday we’ll find a cure.

“We’re going to beat this someday,” he said of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). “I won’t be here, but there’s going to be some people who are going to be so lucky that when they take their child and he’s diagnosed and she’s diagnosed, there’s going to be something they can do.

“And a lot of that is going to come back here to the University of Michigan. We’re so fortunate to have this hospital and this university and people who are dedicated to dealing with problems like this.”

Visit ChadTough for more information about the foundation. To read more about pediatric brain cancer and the efforts being made at Mott Children’s Hospital, click here

Playoff or not, Michigan fans win at life by donating over $28k for ChadTough

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016


um-helmet-confetti(Tommy Gilligan, USA Today Sports)

A heartfelt thank you to the 675 individuals who contributed to the “Match Harbaugh’s fine with $10k to ChadTough” fundraiser this week. The total raised for The ChadTough Foundation was an astounding $28,507.

On Monday afternoon, we were driven to action by the Big Ten’s public reprimand of Jim Harbaugh and $10,000 fine issued to the university following Harbaugh’s comments about officiating in the Ohio State game. Partnering with Kerri of @SupportUofM, Craig Barker of The Hoover Street Rag, and Brad Muckenthaler of Maize & Blue Nation, we threw together a fundraiser to capitalize on the collective angst of the Michigan fanbase and bring it together for a good cause. The ChadTough Foundation was the natural beneficiary with its ties to the Michigan football family.

We set forth a three-part goal, hoping to raise $10,000 for ChadTough, then challenge the Big Ten to match it, then get the conversation to be extended during the Big Ten Championship Game. We achieved one of those, but really, that was the important one and everything else was icing on the cake. We felt good about raising $10,000 by Saturday night, but in reality, we surpassed the goal within 24 hours. We also know that some were driven to donate by our fundraiser, but donated directly to the foundation in order to get the tax write-off, which is perfectly fine with us. The true amount raised as a result of our fundraiser is over $30,000.

The story was picked up by The Ann Arbor News, the Detroit Free Press, CBS Detroit, and the AP. It helped create a conversation about The ChadTough Foundation and most importantly, it nearly tripled our goal with over $28,000 to help fight the especially ugly disease that is child cancer.

As Michigan awaits its bowl fate on Sunday afternoon, take a moment to pat yourselves on the back for a great week of fundraising. I know it took some of the sting off last week’s loss for me. People helping people; it’s powerful stuff.

A formal challenge to the Big Ten to donate $10k to ChadTough

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


This afternoon, we sent the following letter to the Big Ten Conference, formally challenging them to match our donation with a $10k donation of their own to The ChadTough Foundation. If we get a response, we’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, keep donating, keep sharing, keep the conversation alive.

fundraiser-challenge-header

Dear Big Ten Conference,

On behalf of the vast fan base and alumni network of the University of Michigan, we – Justin Potts of Maize and Go Blue, Brad Muckenthaler of Maize & Blue Nation, Craig Barker of The Hoover Street Rag, and Kerri Cortez – formally challenge you to match our crowdsourced donation to The ChadTough Foundation with a $10,000 donation from the Big Ten Conference.

As you know, The ChadTough Foundation was founded in honor of the grandson of former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, who passed away on November 23, 2015 of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). The Foundation funds research and raises awareness for pediatric cancer. As of 2:30pm Wednesday, our fundraiser is closing in on $23,000 raised.

We were driven to action by what we felt was a lack of accountability on the Big Ten’s part regarding officiating in last Saturday’s Michigan vs. Ohio State football game and hypocrisy in the statement issued to Coach Harbaugh. Instead of raising the money to cover Harbaugh’s fine, we chose a charity near and dear to the hearts of the Michigan family.

The conference publicly reprimanded Coach Harbaugh and fined the university $10,000, stressing the “integrity of competition” in your statement. Yet, at this time, there has not been a statement issued by the conference regarding the quality of officiating on Saturday. It would not be without precedence.

• Just this season, the Big 12 and Mid-American Conference suspended officials for two games for errors in the Central Michigan vs. Oklahoma State game.
• Mr. Delany himself has previously fired officials for “failing to meet Big Ten standards.”
• Incredibly, one of those four, Daniel Capron, served as the Head Referee on Saturday.

Additionally, Kevin Schwartzel, the Back Judge on Saturday’s crew, was previously disallowed from working the Michigan-Ohio State game because he’s a self-proclaimed Ohio State fan.

You are well within your right to fine Coach Harbaugh. But the Big Ten Conference should also be held to the same standards of accountability and “integrity of competition” that it expects from its member coaches and student-athletes. Whether Capron and Schwartzel officiated with bias or not on Saturday, the greatest conference in intercollegiate athletics should hold itself to a higher standard of integrity and transparency.

That is why we are challenging the Big Ten Conference to turn this into a positive. We know the outcome of The Game won’t change. However, we are presenting you an opportunity to appease Michigan fans by matching our donation to a worthy cause within the Michigan family. With $249 million in revenue in 2015 and a $2.6 billion TV deal signed this summer, diverting Harbaugh’s $10,000 fine to a fantastic charitable cause is not only a drop in the bucket of the Big Ten wallet, but also the right thing to do.

Sincerely,fundraising-challenge-footer-copy

 

Let’s match Harbaugh’s fine with $10k for ChadTough

Monday, November 28th, 2016


harbaugh-chad-020116

In light of the Big Ten’s decision to fine and publicly reprimand Coach Harbaugh, we have partnered with Kerri from SupportUofM, Craig from The Hoover Street Rag, and Brad from Maize & Blue Nation to launch a fundraiser benefiting The ChadTough Foundation.

I’ve always been a believer in turning a negative into a positive, and this is the perfect opportunity to turn our collective disappointment in Saturday’s game into hope for the Carr family and other children who face similar challenges.

Our plan:
Step 1: Raise $10k for The ChadTough Foundation by kickoff of this Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game
Step 2: Once we raise $10k, let’s challenge the Big Ten to match the donation
Step 3: Let’s make this a conversation piece during the Big Ten Championship Game

We’re all part of a big Michigan family, so let’s show that when a family faces disappointment it can come together and make big things happen.

Visit the fundraiser to donate now. No amount is too large or too small. Then, once you donate, please share via social media to help generate awareness. Full details on the fundraiser page.

Go Blue!

The 10 best moments of Michigan’s season (so far)

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016


(Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

It has been a long ride for the 2015-16 Michigan basketball team, one with many highs but an unexpected number of lows. John Beilein’s team fought through injuries, shooting slumps and far too many defensive lapses to ultimately land right where it wanted to be: The NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines certainly didn’t take the traditional route to the Dance. Up until the moment the official bracket leaked on Twitter, it looked like Michigan’s odds of playing in the tournament were only slightly better than 50-50.

Most importantly, Michigan is one of 66 teams that still have a non-zero chance to win it all. But before we turn our attention fully to the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look back at the top moments that landed the Wolverines in this position.

10. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht honored on Senior Night

Okay, so Senior Night wasn’t exactly what Michigan envisioned at the beginning of the season. For one, neither LeVert nor Albrecht scored a single point for the Wolverines in 2016 due to injury. The seniors didn’t play on Senior Night, instead watching their teammates get trounced by an Iowa team that arrived on a four-game losing streak.

But it wouldn’t seem right leaving Senior Night completely out of the top 10. Michigan hasn’t had a truly meaningful Senior Night since Zack Novak and Stu Douglass said their goodbyes, and LeVert and Spike at least gave Beilein two great seasons.

Spike also held up his framed jersey the wrong way when saluting the crowd, a cherry on top of an endlessly entertaining college career.

LeVert and Albrecht were added to the Fresh Five as afterthoughts, joining Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas in a loaded recruiting class. But Albrecht turned into a solid backup point guard in his freshman year and exploded for 17 points in the school’s biggest game in over a decade. LeVert, on the other hand, became the team’s best all-around player for an Elite 8 run and will continue his career in the NBA.

The last two years have been frustrating, but Michigan still got more than it could have hoped for out of the two lightly-recruited guards. Good luck, fellas.

9. John Beilein wears a ChadTough T-shirt during game

Since Beilein took over as the top dog in Ann Arbor nearly 10 years ago, he’s stuck to his two-trick wardrobe combinations: Shirt and tie — or polo — and dressy pants. But he made an exception on Feb. 13, sauntering out of the Blavin Tunnel with his maize ChadTough Foundation T-shirt.

It was the final push for Beilein to win the Coaches Charity Challenge and raise $100,000 for the ChadTough Foundation, an announcement that came the very morning Michigan was named to the NCAA Tournament field.

Beilein has since reverted to his business casual ways, but the T-shirt game did happen, coach. We have pictures.

8. Mark Donnal drops 26 points (yes, twenty-six) at Illinois

6, 6, 0, 0, 7, 4, 0, 2, 0, 0, 11, 0, 7

If I asked you to pick the outlier in the group of numbers above, you respond with something like, “Well, 11 sure is quite a bit higher than the rest of those numbers.”

You would be correct. Mark Donnal had quite an explosion against Northern Kentucky, scoring 11 points and grabbing two rebounds. It was by far his best performance in Michigan’s first 13 games of the season.

Then on Dec. 30 Donnal embarrassed Illinois’ weak defensive front court and made 11 of 15 field goal attempts for 26 points. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.

Oh yeah, and he didn’t even start. Ricky Doyle did.

There was not a full moon on Dec. 30, 2015. I checked. And it wasn’t Donnal’s birthday, either. He was born in May. The only explanation for his stat line is that college basketball is amazing and pretty much anything can happen any time two teams hit the court.

For Michigan, Donnal’s outburst halted the revolving door at center and cemented the sophomore as the team’s starter. Doyle and Donnal went back and forth a bit during the first half of the year, but at the turn of the calendar, it was Donnal all the way for Beilein.

7. MAAR gets new life, and runs with it

At the beginning of the season, one had to wonder if Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman would be in the Maize and Blue for much longer. He was planted firmly behind Derrick Walton, Albrecht and LeVert in the guard rotation and even lost some minutes to the Duncan Robinson-Aubrey Dawkins duo early.

With such a loaded group of guards and Xavier Simpson set to join the team for 2016-17, it looked like MAAR’s minutes would take a massive hit, despite his excellent contributions down the stretch in 2015.

But then a hobbled Albrecht called it a career and LeVert went down with the secretest injury in Michigan history and the door of opportunity swung open for Abdur-Rahkman.

It didn’t take long for MAAR to lock up the fifth starting spot. In his second game filling in for LeVert in the back court, Abdur-Rahkman scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting in West Lafayette and almost single-handedly kept Michigan alive for 30 minutes against a heavily-favored Purdue team. He scored from beyond the arc, he scored from the free throw line, and most importantly, he scored off the dribble, giving Michigan a legitimate attacking threat in the paint.

Here we are, two months later, and he’s still the team’s best offensive player off the dribble. Instead of watching from the (albeit extremely comfortable-looking) folding chairs on the sideline, Abdul-Rahkman could be an integral part of the NCAA Tournament.

6. Caris LeVert makes his return! Well, sort of

It seems cruelly ironic to look back on LeVert’s return to the court and think, “That was actually the beginning of the end.”

After game after game after game (11, to be exact) of LeVert being ruled out following ‘game-time decisions,’ he actually participated in warmups on Feb. 13 and caused quite a buzz in Ann Arbor.

The team as a whole wasn’t giving fans much to be excited about. After losing back-to-back home games by half a hundred and nearly blowing a huge lead to winless Minnesota, the Wolverines returned to a less-than-optimistic crowd at the Crisler Center to battle an enormous Purdue team that won the previous meeting by 17 points.

I remember looking around before tipoff and wondering how the stands could be so empty with a top 20 team in the building. Sure, the ChadTough T-shirts generated a bit of excitement in the Maize Rage, but the overall feeling of the fanbase was one of defeat.

Then Caris jogged out of the tunnel and joined the layup lines. You’d think he shot himself out of a cannon and landed at midcourt after a perfect flip by the cheer that ran through the crowd.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but for the first time since halftime of the Indiana debacle, fans around Crisler perked up.

When the game started, LeVert was on the bench, when Beilein pointed at him and he ripped off his warmup, the crowd really did erupt. He took only shot — a shot-clock hurried jumper near the elbow — and didn’t score in the game, but his return energized the fans and the team.

Nobody knew that would be the last time they’d see Caris LeVert play in a Michigan uniform. At that time, it was just great to see the team’s leader in nearly every major category back with the ball in his hands.

5. Zak Irvin’s elbow jumper saves Michigan in overtime

The No. 1 moment on this list will get most of the credit for sending the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament, but that might not have even happened if not for Zak Irvin’s dagger with three seconds left in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

After clawing and scratching their way to overtime, Michigan managed to earn itself a chance to take the last shot in a tie game. Beilein called on the team’s streakiest player, Irvin, to take a contested jumper off the dribble.

It worked. Irvin pulled up just beyond the right elbow and nailed the go-ahead jumper. Northwestern got another crack at a last-second prayer (two cracks, actually), but in the end, it was Irvin’s shot that sealed the deal and kept Michigan’s bleak NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

4. Wolverines return to the NCAA Tournament

When Michigan failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2015, it was a disappointing, but understandable pill to swallow.

LeVert, Walton and Albrecht were all injured. Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman were leading the team as unknown freshmen and Beilein had just lost a small army of players to the NBA draft.

But in a year when the Wolverines began ranked in the Top 25, with players like Walton and Robinson added to the rotation, missing the 2016 tournament would have been a much bigger blow for the program to swallow. Sure, LeVert and Albrecht missed the most meaningful half of the season, but for a program that was trending toward elite in 2014, two straight absences in March Madness seemed unacceptable.

Luckily, those concerns were squashed for good Sunday. Contrary to what many of the ‘bracketology experts’ predicted, Michigan got into the Big Dance. The big wins were there, the bad losses were not, and the Wolverines got what they deserved: An outside chance to make some noise.

Some might argue that Michigan’s season won’t be a success unless it gets past the First Four. To you I say, “Rubbish!” The First Four isn’t a 16 versus 16 play-in game like it used to be. Plenty of teams have made runs after winning in Dayton, including a Tennessee team that nearly knocked Michigan out of the Sweet 16 in 2014.

When Michigan was flirting with another tournament-less season, the program seemed to be trending sharply downwards. But now that Beilein has his players back on the national stage, it’s a step in the right direction.

3. Michigan uses 11-0 run in final 3 minutes to beat Purdue

As we make our way through the top three moments of the season, keep in mind that Michigan needed EVERY single one of its four top 30 wins to get into the NCAA Tournament. Even with those wins, and no bad losses, Michigan just barely slipped into the Field of 68.

Perhaps the most unlikely of those three victories came against a team that presents the worst matchup problems for Michigan in the Big Ten. Purdue came into Ann Arbor with its top three players flourishing near the rim.

A.J. Hammons (7 feet tall) led the charge and fellow center Isaac Haas (7-foot-2) and dynamic freshman Caleb Swanigan (6-foot-9) weren’t far behind. The trio posed the greatest inside threat in the conference and figured to dominate a Michigan team that tries to make due inside with a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards.

For most of the game, Purdue was like a high school senior holding the charging freshman back with a hand on his forehead. Michigan would close to within five points, and Purdue would push back, keeping the game from getting within a possession.

It wasn’t until the final 2:45 of the game, when Irvin nailed a triple on the left wing, that Michigan really sent the building into a frenzy. Then Walton made a fast-break layup. Then Irvin hit another shot, and Michigan was in front.

Four Walton free throws later, Michigan polished off an improbable win with an 11-0 run to close out the game. With such a tough week in the rearview mirror, and an even more brutal stretch ahead, it was a win the program sorely needed.

2. Michigan upsets No. 3 Maryland

Remember when Maryland was one of the best teams in the country?

At one point, the Terps were 15-1 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone were looking like one of the best duos in the country and Michigan hadn’t stayed within 14 points of a ranked team all season.

Needless to say, it looked like it would be a rout.

Instead, Michigan completely shut down Trimble and Irvin was the star of the show. He scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting and Walton added a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) as Michigan led for almost the entire first 30 minutes.

Maryland erased a couple of 10-point deficits in the second half and tied the game at 54 with 7:37 left. Michigan called timeout, but two possessions later, the Terps took a one-point lead on the heels of Stone’s and-one layup.

The Wolverines wouldn’t be denied that night, and buckets from Donnal, Robinson and Walton stretched the lead back out to five. An Irvin three-pointer with 3:08 left all but sealed the deal.

With Dickie V screaming “That’s a big time three, baby!” Michigan rode to its first ranked win of the season.

1. “It’s good! At the buzzer! Meeeeechigan wins!”

You don’t have to go back very far to find Michigan’s top moment of the season. With everything — An NCAA Tournament bid, a chance to advance in the conference tournament and a win over the Big Ten champions — on the line, Kam Chatman found the ball in his hands with the clock racing toward zeroes.

Some members on the team reportedly thought it was Aubrey Dawkins standing in the corner with the ball. I bet they were surprised when the shot went up with his left hand.

Chatman buried the contested corner triple, sending the bench into a frenzy and vaulting the Wolverines into the NCAA Tournament. It came after Michigan trailed by five with two minutes left. It came after MAAR fouled out of the game, allowing Chatman to check in.

It came after almost everyone had buried the Wolverines, who were forgotten on the wrong side of the bubble.

Michigan went 19 minutes without a three-pointer in the second half, but Robinson and Chatman hit two of the biggest triples of the season in that final minute. That’s why Michigan is playing tonight. That’s why they made the Dance.

Going forward

Almost every big play Michigan makes going forward will be worthy of this list, as everything is magnified in the NCAA Tournament. But with 34 games in the books, and more ups and downs than most tournament teams experience in a season, Michigan has already given fans a year to remember.

Michigan hoops preview: #18 Purdue

Saturday, February 13th, 2016


UM-Purdue
Michigan vs Purdue
Saturday, Feb. 13 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 2 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Line: Purdue -1.5
Offense
77.0 Points/gm 78.4
(681-1,406) 48.4 Field Goal % 46.1 (689-1,493)
(262-641) 40.9 3-pt FG % 35.4 (196-554)
(300-408) 73.5 Free Throw % 74.7 (387-518)
12.0 FT Made/gm 15.5
32.0 Reb/gm 42.5
15.6 Assists/gm 17.8
9.8 Turnovers/gm 12.6
Defense
66.4 Points/gm 63.7
(610-1,395) 43.7 Field Goal % 38.2 (573-1,501)
(179-522) 34.3 3-pt FG % 31.1 (146-469)
32.3 Opp. Reb/gm 31.1
5.8 Steals/gm 4.8
2.3 Blocks/gm 5.2
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Derrick Walton (12.3) Points/gm A.J. Hammons (14.7), Vince Edwards (10.4)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Caleb Swanigan (8.8), A.J. Hammons (8.2)

Michigan stopped the bleeding with a 82-74 win at Minnesota on Wednesday night, but it was far from convincing. The Wolverines blew a 17-point lead and had to hang on to avoid handing Minnesota its first win in nearly two months. That would have assuredly placed Michigan on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but as for now the Wolverines are still likely in barring a meltdown in the final six games. A win over 18th-ranked Purdue this afternoon would go a long way toward helping that cause.

Purdue won the season’s first meeting in West Lafayette, 87-70, despite a 25-point performance from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Three Zak Irvin free throws pulled Michigan within six with 5:20 remaining, but Purdue went on a 12-0 run over the next three minutes to put the game away.

Four Purdue players scored in double figures, led by center A.J. Hammons’ 17 points. The 7-foot-0, 250-pound senior leads the team with an average of 14.7 points and 2.7 blocked shots per game and ranks second with 8.2 rebounds. In his last four games he has averaged 21.3 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field. In the Boilermakers’ overtime win over Michigan State on Tuesday, Hammons nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks.

Sophomore forward Vince Edwards (6-foot-8, 225) is the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 10.4 points and third leading rebounder with 5.2 boards per game. He recorded 11 points and seven rebounds in the first meeting. However, Edwards has been in a slump the last two weeks, shooting just 25.9 percent from the field (7-of-27) and 16.7 percent from three-point range (2-of-12) while averaging just 7.7 points.

Freshman forward Caleb Swanigan (6-foot-9, 250) and sophomore center Isaac Haas (7-foot-2, 282) each scored just seven points in the Jan. 7 meeting, but add to Purdue’s significant size advantage. Swanigan averages 9.8 points and a Big Ten-leading 8.8 rebounds per game. Haas averages 10 points and four boards.

The backcourt is lead by senior guard Raphael Davis (6-foot-6, 217) and junior guard Kendall Stephens (6-foot-7, 205). Davis scored 16 in the first meeting and is the team’s best three-point shooter, averaging 40.6 percent. He made 6-of-8 three-point attempts on his way to 24 points against Michigan State on Tuesday. Stephens missed four games for personal reasons, but returned against Michigan State and played just three minutes. His absence has yielded increased minutes for sophomore guard P.J. Thompson (5-foot-10, 188), who scored eight points in the first meeting, and senior guard Johnny Hill (6-foot-3, 187), who scored 10.

Michigan and Purdue are tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 8-4, but the Boilers are a bad matchup for Michigan. They rank second in the Big Ten with 42.5 rebounds per game, while Michigan ranks last with 32. And Purdue’s defense — second-best field goal percentage defense in the conference — will undoubtedly force Michigan into one of the extended scoring droughts that have become all too common this season. Perhaps Michigan can harness the power of the sold out home crowd that will be honoring and raising awareness for the ChadTough Foundation. But after last week’s gaffes against Indiana and Michigan State I wouldn’t count on it.

The top ten moments from Signing of the Stars

Friday, February 5th, 2016


It’s been more than 24 hours since Jim Harbaugh and Michigan took over National Signing Day. The Wolverines got started at 8:13 a.m., when Nate Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to the Maize and Blue, and went nonstop until Devin Asiasi pulled out the block M cap at 3:32 p.m.

That’s seven hours and 19 minutes of Michigan football on full blast, and it’s nowhere near the start of the season.

Now that we’ve had a chance to catch our breath, let’s take a look back at the event that highlighted it all: The Signing of the Stars. Whether you love it or hate it, you know Harbaugh hit the ball out of the park on Wednesday. All eyes were on Ann Arbor as the Wolverines pulled in virtually every single signing day target on their board.

I’ll count down what I thought were the top 10 moments of the first (of many) Signing of the Stars.

10. Celebrities call in to hype up Michigan football

Big Sean

When it seems like the stage can’t get any bigger, Jim Harbaugh finds a way to blow it out of the water. Sure, there were more than 20 well-known celebrities in Hill Auditorium, but why stop there?

The Signing of the Stars featured video call-ins from the likes of Owen Wilson, Big Sean, and even Verne Troyer. Seriously, Verne Troyer? Somehow, Harbaugh convinced the 2-foot-8 comedian to congratulate the incoming class while his entire head was drowned in a Winged Helmet.

Then Owen Wilson, who’s connection to the university was that he “played a character that had a Michigan degree once,” popped onto the screen and played the fight song on his cellphone. Future generations won’t remember Wilson as the actor from Wedding Crashers or The Internship. They’ll hear his name and say “Hey, isn’t that the guy from Signing of the Stars?”

But even Troyer and Wilson couldn’t top Big Sean. The world-famous rapper jumped onto the screen completely draped in Maize and Blue gear. While the rest of us were staring at the block M on his hat and jacket, Big Sean introduced a recruit from his own hometown: Michael Onwenu. How cool is it that a kid who chose Michigan over MSU got to be introduced by one of the city’s most famous living hometown heroes? Coincidence? Obviously not. It’s just another recruiting tool that Harbaugh can use during future in-state recruiting wars.

9. Quinn Nordin calls in with his family

Quinn Nordin

For months Michigan fans have heard the name Quinn Nordin thrown around on message boards and social media. Even when the four-star kicker (that’s right, a four-star kicker!) was committed to Penn State, it was almost a given that he would end up donning the Maize and Blue.

On Wednesday, just hours after making his decision official, Nordin joined the Signing of the Stars on screen with his entire family to introduce himself to the Michigan faithful. This marked the end of the recruiting journey that gave us round one of Harbaugh vs. James Franklin and the unforgettable post-dead-period sleepover.

Jim Harbaugh wanted this kicker, so Jim Harbaugh got this kicker. Boot ’em straight, Quinn.

8. Denard Robinson and Jake Rudock team up on stage

Denard Robinson and Jake Rudock

Harbaugh brought a whole host of former Michigan players to participate on Wednesday, but no duo better captured the moment that former quarterbacks Robinson and Rudock.

Denard Robinson, who played in one of the most all-around disappointing eras in Michigan football history, made the Wolverines watchable during his four years on the field. The hyper-athletic, just-go-out-and-play makeup of Robinson made him an easy player to root for and endeared him to a fanbase that hasn’t seen many dual threat quarterbacks.

On Wednesday, Robinson took the podium with a player who, not unlike himself, helped carry an offense that would’ve otherwise been mediocre (or completely lost, in Robinson’s case) without him. Rudock only spent one season with Michigan, but his improvement from Week 1 to the end of the season was so great it can’t be described in a paragraph of socially-acceptable length as the No. 8 ranking in a list.

Robinson kept a reeling football program afloat and Rudock helped steer it back on track. Watching them introduce a whole new group of Michigan men brought the last decade full circle.

7. “Who’s got it better than us?”

Harbaugh %22Go Blue%22

In his short 13 months in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh has offered no end of quirky quotes. He told us that artificial sweeteners are not, in fact, safe. And that he would run for president of the United States with Wale as his partner. He even revealed that worms with machine guns (assuming they are loaded) would no longer be afraid of birds.

All of those comments are just Harbaugh-isms. You can’t hope to understand them, you can only bask in their pure glory and absurdity. But when Harbaugh asks, “Who’s got it better than us?” he’s in a really, really good mood.

That was the case on Wednesday as he stood in front of some 3,000 Michigan die-hards and asked his favorite question. The responding “Nooooooobody!” echoed around Hill Auditorium as one of the country’s top recruiting class fell into place.

It’s only been 13 months, but Harbaugh’s already got his trademark punchline. Luckily, Michigan Nation loves it.

6. Ric Flair reveals his deep Michigan loyalty

Ric Flair

The whole bizarre, out-of-nowhere professional wrestling fascination evolving from Harbaugh’s declaration that he would love to have Wrestle Mania in the Big House hit a peak Wednesday when Ric Flair professed his love for the University of Michigan.

Flair got the crowd fired up as only he could, yelling about Michigan football and releasing one of his trademark “WOOO”s after saying he’d never wanted to leave Ann Arbor. But his best quote of the speech, and one of the funniest moments of the event, came near the end of his time on stage.

“I’m BLUE baby,” Flair shouted into the microphone. “I can’t STAND Ohio State. Ain’t got no TIME for Michigan State.”

We wanted Ric Flair, and we got Ric Flair. It wouldn’t be a speech from a professional wrestler without an unprompted shot at the common enemy in the room. It only makes it funnier that his jibe came while Columbus and East Lansing were grinding their teeth at how much attention Michigan was garnering.

Oh the disrespekt.

5. Derek Jeter and Tom Brady share the same couch

Jeter and Brady

Am I the only one who noticed how much athletic greatness was shoved onto that one couch? I mean, Derek Jeter is one of the greatest infielders of all time and he was only the second-best athlete sitting on that piece of black leather.

With more than half a cushion available, there were still 3,465 hits, 1,923 runs scored, 1,311 RBI, 260 home runs, 58,028 passing yards and 445 total touchdowns on that couch. Between the two, Jeter and Brady own 10 major sports championships (five World Series titles, four Super Bowl rings and a college football national title).

Watching the early enrollees as Jeter and Brady talked about sports right in front of them was a cool sight, and Harbaugh will place that into his already-loaded recruiting arsenal.

4. Devin Gardner leads The Victors

Gardner(MGoBlue.com)

Devin Gardner was probably one of the most unfairly treated players in recent Michigan history during his time on the field. When he had some semblance of a team around him in the second half of 2012, he looked like a pretty strong quarterback. But when the 2012 class graduated and left Gardner with a sieve of an offensive line and a head coach on his way out, the odds were stacked heavily against him.

Despite all of the boos and criticism he received as a player, Gardner is always around the Michigan program. He attends all the events and voices his support of a school that waited until after he left to become the most exciting sports landing spot on the planet.

So it makes sense that when Gardner took the stage on Wednesday, he did so with a huge smile on his face and forced the full audience, including notorious Notre Dame slappy Lou Holtz, to sing The Victors. Some of the guests were clearly uncomfortable on stage, but Gardner was a proud representative of the school and his simple gesture turned into one of the best moments of the night.

3. Jim Harbaugh discreetly learns Rashan Gary’s decision

The Signing of the Stars was great, securing commitments from Nordin, Washington, Devin Asiasi and Lavert Hill was great, but the biggest story of the day was always No. 1 recruit Rashan Gary’s decision.

Harbaugh couldn’t say anything about Gary during the party because of NCAA rules, but that almost made the whole process even more entertaining. Video of Harbaugh watching the decision go down on Mike Tirico’s smart phone and then calmly fist pumping and waltzing back onto the stage is priceless. The guy had just secured perhaps the highest-ranked recruit in Michigan history and he had to just go sit quietly on a couch.

Sure, everybody knew what happened, and Harbaugh even disclosed that he “got some good news backstage,” but watching one of the most enthusiastic men on the planet sit quietly after hearing the most exciting news of his college coaching career was pretty awesome.

A moment that didn’t get captured on camera while Todd McShay was breaking down film of running back commit Kareem Walker, Harbaugh walked back onto the stage and whispered to his assembled early-enrollees and gave them all fist bumps. The crowd of course picked up on this and their cheer that seemed random on the live stream now makes sense.

2. Dabbing

Jim Leyland dab

As it tends to do at all headline sporting events nowadays, dabbing played a major role in the Signing of the Stars.

First, wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell hit a perfect dab on stage after being called up to discuss his first few weeks in Ann Arbor. Mitchell is one of the most outspoken recruits in the class, so making a move in the spotlight was right up his alley.

Then, in an internet-shattering meeting between crusty MLB manager and trendy hip hop group, Jim Leyland turned the world on its head by hitting a well-rehearsed dab with his new buddies Quavo and Takeoff cheering him on. Was it the most beautiful dab in the world? No. Did it almost look like a well-timed sneeze? Yes. But Jim Leyland dabbed with two rap artists and nobody can take that away from him.

Lou Holtz’s dab was just as beautiful, even if it wasn’t as earth-shattering. After stumbling out to the middle of the stage to ensure everyone he’d sang the Michigan fight song, Holtz dabbed with Harbaugh to the glee of six nearby 18-year-old future Michigan football players.

What a time to be alive.

1. Chad Tough tribute

Harbaugh-Chad Carr

One of the underlying benefits of Signing of the Stars is that it raised money for the ChadTough Foundation. The event was not held to be a fundraiser, but to honor Michigan’s nearly 30 new football players. That being said, the tribute to Chad and the persevering cause dedicated in his name turned into perhaps the best moment of the night.

There are many who’ve criticized Michigan for involving the charity in Wednesday’s proceedings. They say Michigan used the charity to deflect criticism of the event. To be blunt, those people are being very stupid.

The ChadTough tribute at the end of the Signing of the Stars capped off a festive day in which Michigan celebrated its stars old and new. I thought it came off as genuine and gave a platform to an issue that’s trying desperately to raise awareness.

Michigan never advertised the Signing of the Stars as a charity event. No, Harbaugh was clear that Wednesday was a day to celebrate Michigan’s new recruiting class. The fact that over $100,000 was also raised toward the cause was just icing on the cake.

Chad’s story puts things in perspective, especially on a day when thousands of people came together to celebrate teenagers committing to a football team. Sure it sounds strange, but it was a slam dunk for Harbaugh, who not only brought great exposure to the program but also gave recruits another reason to consider the Maize and Blue.

Dozens of young men were honored during the Signing of the Stars, none more important than young Chad Carr.

Signing of the Stars shines spotlight on Michigan football

Thursday, February 4th, 2016


Signing of the Stars(MGoBlue.com)

Dense fog blanketing Interstate-94 from Chicago to Ann Arbor in the wee hours of Wednesday morning provided an apt metaphor for the current state of Michigan football. I knew the destination was ahead, but could only see a few feet at a time. As long as I stayed the course I would get to where I was going, despite the vast unseen in between.

By Wednesday afternoon, a good portion of the fog separating the Michigan program from where it stands now to where it wants to be had been lifted as Jim Harbaugh polished off a top-five recruiting class in style with a star-studded event in Hill Auditorium. The one-of-a-kind Signing of the Stars event was streamed live via The Players’ Tribune, drawing a large audience and making Michigan the talk of the college football world on National Signing Day.

During the two hour event seven early-enrollees were introduced by duos of celebrities, resembling an awards show like the ESPYs or the Oscars. Each player walked up onto the stage to applause from the audience, similar to NFL Draft day. Their highlight reels were then broken down by a panel of experts made up of ESPN analyst Todd McShay, former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, and former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

“That was originally Harbaugh’s idea,” said Matthew Mills, the founder and executive producer of Spacestation, the New York-based production agency that produced the event. “We were told that they wanted something that felt like a combination of NFL Draft day, College GameDay, and an awards show. And I think we delivered that.”

The members of the 2016 recruiting class that were on hand to be celebrated for the night agreed.

Carlo Kemp(MGoBlue.com)

“It felt like NFL Draft day, sitting in your seat and waiting to hear your name called to go say your two lines and stand up there with Coach Harbaugh,” said defensive end Carlo Kemp, who enrolled a month ago. “It was like waiting to get drafted.”

Former Michigan quarterback and current Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson, who along with fellow former Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock, was among the day’s presenters, echoed that sentiment.

“It was crazy because during the pre-runs for the whole thing it was kind of funny looking and you’re like ‘how’s this going to set up, how’s it going to be?’ and now you see it and it’s like ‘wow!’ It’s a great idea,” Robinson said. “It’s almost like draft day. You’ve got guys announcing you, you’ve got guys breaking down your highlights, it’s like getting drafted. You come to Michigan for things like this and to get drafted because a lot of people get drafted from this school.”

Per Mills, as Michigan worked to confirm celebrity attendees, who ranged from Tom Brady and Derek Jeter to Josh Gracin and Migos, other celebrities were “coming out of the woodwork” to ask to participate. So much so that Mills and Michigan couldn’t fit them all into the program. Instead, they filmed video montages of Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Robert Patrick, Dick Enberg, Verne Troyer and many more congratulating the recruiting class.

“Usually (coaches) sit by the fax machine and the coach stands up and talks and usually says the same kind of things, so I wanted to do something different, wanted to do something awesome,” Harbaugh said after the event.

SotS(MGoBlue.com)

Although he was traveling across the country, climbing trees, sleeping at recruits’ homes, and attending classes with them, Harbaugh was involved with the planning throughout the process, said Mills.

“He contributed a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We took our cue from him in that regard. He said ‘make this bold and give people something unique’, and I think we gave them that. He was very involved in the process and the creative process. We were giving him briefs about ‘we’d like to do this, we’d like to do that’ and he would say yea or nay or he would amplify something. He was very collaborative and we just had a blast working with him.”

It was a grand spectacle that provided water cooler talk in offices nationwide, some good and some who thought it was over the top. But those who will take notice the most are still in high school and Harbaugh will be battling for their commitments in the years to come.

“Sixteen and 17 year old kids are going to love this,” Kemp said. “I mean, if I knew this was going to happen I probably would have committed even earlier. It’s awesome, it was great. I’m glad to be a part of it and I’ll remember February 3, 2016 for the rest of my life.”

Robinson, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, concurred.

“I think it’s a big deal. It’s going to put us back on the map a little bit. This was a great idea to have guys come out like this. We’ve had so many celebrities come out, actually announcing these guys, so it’s big. I mean as an 18-year old you’ve got Derek Jeter announcing you, Tom Brady announcing you, Ric Flair, Desmond Howard. They get to announce you when you’re 18 years old. It means everything and coming to Michigan is going to be a great opportunity.”

But in addition to celebrating a top five recruiting class, the purpose of the event was to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer, an issue that has gripped the Michigan family since last year. Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr passed away on Nov. 23 after a battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG).

Harbaugh-Chad Carr

While Harbaugh’s recruiting tactics have drawn criticism from rival coaches, players, and fans, there was no more telling moment than shortly after 1pm. As the nation’s consensus top recruit, Rashan Gary, whom Harbaugh and his staff had been courting for over a year, was announcing his commitment to Michigan over Clemson live on ESPNU, Harbaugh wasn’t glued to a television set or a smartphone. He wasn’t backstage working the phones. He wasn’t eagerly awaiting a text message or a call or a tweet.

No, he was standing on stage, flanked by his wife Sarah to his right and Tammi Carr to his left. He was telling the 3,500 fans in attendance and the rest of the country watching the live stream the importance of a five year old kid, urging them to visit ChadToug.org and donate to help fund research that may someday save other kids like Chad who suffer from DIPG.

Word of Gary’s commitment spread through the Hill Auditorium crowd as they wiped their damp eyes — a poignant reminder of what matters most.