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Posts Tagged ‘Dave Brandon’

Miami (Ohio) Q&A with Chuck LaPlante of Hustle Belt

Thursday, September 11th, 2014


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Each Thursday throughout the season we collaborate with that week’s opponent blog to get some questions answered by the guys who know more about their team than we do. Last week, we talked to Ryan Ritter of Her Loyal Sons. This week, we partnered with Chuck LaPlante of the Mid-American Conference SB Nation site, Hustle Belt. He was kind enough to answer questions about the changes new head coach Chuck Martin brought about, why Andrew Hendrix throws so many passes, what match ups he’s most worried about, and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @laplanck.

1. In what ways have the team changed under Chuck Martin compared to the previous staff?

I think the best way to answer that question is to answer a related question, which is how Martin and his staff are different from Treadwell and Company. (I think the jury’s still out on how the team has changed after some practices and just two games.) Martin himself has an outstanding track record of success, both at the Division II level and as a coordinator at the Division I level. The man knows how to win, and he’s hired a staff that shares experience winning with him, either as former assistants or as former players. That was a big component missing from the Treadwell staff, where our offensive coordinator, John Klacik, was hired despite taking two years off of football after a fifty-plus-game losing streak as a Division II head coach. The new staff has a confidence about them that the old staff never did (even from day one), and I think we’ll soon see that reflected in the players.

Another refreshing change is Martin’s directness and willingness to take responsibility when things go wrong. If Miami lost by 42 points under Treadwell, he’d say something like, “I thought our game plan was solid, but we just need to execute better,” essentially throwing the team under the bus when his own schemes led to a 42-point beatdown. After last week’s loss to EKU, Martin took the blame himself, saying that he was responsible for not having the team prepared to face EKU’s game plan. It’s a refreshing change.

2. Andrew Hendrix has thrown over 100 passes in two games and has completed more passes than Devin Gardner has attempted. Two Miami receivers are averaging over 100 yards per game. Is that how Martin wants the offense to be, or is it a product of not being able to run the ball? And do you think it can have success against Michigan’s defense?

It’s a product of not being able to run the ball. Our offensive line is terrible; there’s no way to sugarcoat that. It’s a product of how bare Treadwell left the cupboard (his staff recruited skill positions well, but seemingly wouldn’t even try to recruit linemen), and of his aversion to any strength and conditioning for the players. To be sure, Miami can have limited success in a traditional running game — Spencer McInnis showed some good flashes last week — but the line just doesn’t have the power or stamina to keep it up for a whole game, which is why you start seeing Hendrix scrambling around and throwing it all over the field, or just taking it and running himself. There’s a reason so much of Martin’s incoming recruiting class consists of tight ends on the larger side; most of them will bulk up and shift to the line.

Can they have success against the Michigan defense? I think that if they avoid stupid turnovers (there were six last week; Miami would have beaten EKU if there were only, say, four), they’ll score points. I seriously doubt it will be enough to win, but there are yards to be had through the air.

3. After putting up 350 rushing yards and 52 points against Appalachian State in Week 1, Michigan’s offense failed to make it to Notre Dame’s red zone last Saturday and was shut out for the first time since 1984. Does Miami’s defense have enough talent to slow down Michigan’s offense or will it be more like Week 1?

The defense certainly won’t be shutting Michigan out, but I think it will provide more of a challenge than the Mountaineers did. Despite being outweighed man-for-man by EKU’s offensive line (again, thanks to Treadwell’s S&C program or lack thereof, Miami’s DL was outweighed man-for-man by the OL of an FCS school), the RedHawks held the Colonels to 82 yards. EKU got over 400 yards in Week 1 and averaged 200 yards a game on the ground last year. But this is a team that still has a big hole to climb out of. I expect a respectable showing that shows improvement in some phases of the game, nothing more.

4. What matchup worries you the most this Saturday and why? And is there a matchup where you think Miami has an advantage?

Devin Gardner versus the defense. Miami hasn’t looked good against a dual-threat quarterback since 2010, and although I do think the defense is getting better, I don’t see that changing by Saturday. Where does Miami have an advantage? Well, I’d take our AD, David Sayler, over Dave Brandon. But that’s not exactly on the field.

5. What’s your prediction and why?

Michigan, 37-17. If the RedHawks avoid turnovers, they can score a couple times. But Michigan is definitely the better team, and it will show.

M&GB Roundtable discusses Michigan Football Legends jerseys

Friday, July 11th, 2014


Roundtable-Legends jerseys

Gardner legends jersey(USATSI)

Two weeks ago we debuted our M&GB Roundtable series that will run every couple weeks throughout the summer. Each of these roundtables will discuss a hot topic related to the upcoming season. Last time, we discussed the status of Brady Hoke’s hot seat and the consensus seemed to be that unless Michigan goes downhill once again this season, Hoke is safe heading into 2015. Today, we continue the series, this time giving our thoughts on the “Michigan Football Legends” jerseys. Here’s the question:

What’s your take on the “Michigan Football Legends” jerseys? Do you like or dislike them? Are they a good way to tie in tradition or are they too gimicky? Do you think they should be given out every year? If so, who should get numbers 11 and 21 this season? Finally, are there any other numbers you feel should be given legends status?

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I really like the Legends jersey program because, even though it was started just a few years ago, it is unique to Michigan and it is a great way to tie in the glorious history of Michigan football. The majority of the numbers that have been given legends status thus far are great players from long ago that most Michigan fans today weren’t alive to see play. Sure, we have read about them and have maybe seen a few photos or video clips, but by and large, Tom Harmon, the Wistert brothers, and Gerald Ford were relics locked away in a time capsule. By bringing their numbers out of retirement, giving their families a pre-game ceremony, and designating the jerseys with their numbers on them with a patch, it’s a great way to both honor those legends and educate the younger generation of Michigan fans.

In addition to honoring the legends and their families and educating Michigan fans that weren’t around to see them play, the program is special and unique for current and future Michigan football players.

“It was an amazing feeling when I was awarded this number,” said Jeremy Gallon when he was given Desmond Howard’s No.21.

“I got it when I was a redshirt sophomore,” recalled Jake Ryan, who wears Bennie Oosterbaan’s No.47. “It was after the Alabama game and coach Hoke brought me in and it was a huge honor knowing that I was wearing the same jerseys as one of the legends who played for Michigan. I had to study up on him, to see what he did to represent this university. It was cool. I learned a lot.”

The current and future players that earn the numbers see it as an honor to get to wear a number that was made famous by a legend before them. Desmond Morgan got to meet Gerald Ford’s family and learn more about him when he was awarded No.48.

That said, I’m conflicted about when each number should be awarded. On one hand, it seems silly to switch a player’s number after he’s already made a name for himself in his current number. For example, Jordan Kovacs, who was No.32 for more than three seasons before switching to 11 for a handful of games. But then again, I like the way No.21 has been given to a top receiver each of the past three seasons, first Junior Hemingway, then Roy Roundtree, then Gallon. I feel like all three guys earned it and looked great in it. Unfortunately, the only receiver who fits that mold this season is Devin Funchess, but he already has Ron Kramer’s No.87. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I would switch Funchess to 21 and award 87 to Jake Butt. Funchess is a star receiver who could very well make the jump to the NFL following this season, which would open up 21 again next season for another star receiver should Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh or Freddy Canteen break out this fall.

No.11 is a tough one. Since the Wistert brothers were offensive tackles, but the number can’t be used for offensive linemen in modern college football, I like the idea of awarding it to a player on the defensive line. But so far it has been given to a safety (Kovacs) and a linebacker (Courtney Avery). I would bring it to the line this fall and give it to Frank Clark. Yes, he has an off-the-field issue from a couple years ago that could keep him from being awarded a legends number, but if Brady Hoke feels Clark has learned and grown from it, I’d be okay with him getting it. If he can’t get No.11 because of that, the only other player I’d give it to this fall would be linebacker James Ross.

Finally, I would give Charles Woodson’s No.2 legends status, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that happened this fall. The staff already gave Blake Countess the number, and Woodson is in likely his final season of an outstanding NFL career. He has always given back to Michigan and represented himself and the university well. As Michigan’s latest Heisman Trophy winner, he would be a great player to honor.

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When it was announced prior to the 2011 season that Michigan planned to implement the Michigan Football Legends Jersey program, I thought it was a fantastic idea. Most college football programs honor their legends by retiring their numbers in perpetuity. This is a grand gesture, but then fans are unable to see the numbers of their favorite players on the field. Over time, the stories and memories of these legends become lost. Heck, in some cases, even the names are forgotten. According to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, “99 percent of [Michigan] fans couldn’t name the jerseys that were retired—either the numbers of the people.”

With the Michigan Football Legends Jersey program, you get the best of both worlds. The legends still are honored. Each Michigan legend is the subject of a pre-game ceremony that commemorates their time at Michigan and showcases the debut of their Legends patch, which will forever be stitched upon the jersey of the number they wore so long ago. And the numbers those legends wore are reinserted into circulation for current and future players to don. For many Michigan fans that have been alive for decades, they had never seen a Wolverine wear Tom Harmon’s No. 98 or President Gerald Ford’s No. 48. Now? They can see those legendary numbers each week in the fall  and recall what made No. 98 and No. 48 so special. It is a great tie to Michigan football’s tradition and to the players that made the program so prestigious.

However, rarely is anything—no matter how great—flawless. I still have a positive view towards the Michigan Football Legends Jersey program, but it has problems that must be addressed. The biggest problem I have is when Michigan’s best players switch to a Legends jersey when they are juniors or seniors. By then, those players have begun creating a legacy for the number they first wore as freshmen. But, by switching, their legacy instantly becomes overshadowed by the legend whose number they now wear. It prevents current players from establishing their own legacy. How can a player who wears a Legends jersey become a Michigan Football Legend on his own in the future? The answer: he cannot.

A great example is former safety Jordan Kovacs. In all likelihood, Kovacs will never be honored as a Michigan Football Legend. And that is okay. But I was frustrated when Kovacs switched from No. 32 to No. 11—one of the Legends jerseys—for the final three games of the 2012 season and his career. Before then, Kovacs had blazed his own trail as the unheralded walk-on everyone initially scoffed at that became one of Michigan’s most beloved players and its best safety in over a decade. And he did all of this as No. 32. This is the number with which he should have finished his career, not No. 11—no disrespect to the Wistert brothers. No. 32 was Kovacs’ legacy. He never should have worn another number.

Therefore, I propose that Legends jerseys only be offered to players prior to their freshman and sophomore seasons. Then those players can decide what number with which they want their legacy to be associated. It does not matter to me if the Legends jerseys are handed out every year. If they are, great. It would be a tribute to those Michigan Football Legends each season. If they are not, that works for me, too. It would make the offering of a Legends jersey more special in the eyes of the players and the fans. The only other number that deserves Legends status is No. 2. All three of Michigan’s Heisman Trophy winners then would be represented. I also would like No. 1 to receive Legends status, but, alas, that number essentially has gone into retirement thanks to Braylon Edwards. And it does not matter to me which players are offered available Legends jerseys this season. As long as they are freshmen or sophomores.

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I really like the concept of the legends jerseys. It is not realistic to retire numbers in college and this allows the legends to still be honored without taking away all the numbers. However, I have not been a fan of how they’ve been given out. I’d like to see guys ‘earn’ these jerseys, the same way Hoke said Jabrill Peppers needs to ‘earn’ the coveted No.2 (even though it’s not a legends jersey). Jake Ryan earned his No.47 but other than that I haven’t seen much rhyme or reason with handing them out.

While I feel they deserve their legends jerseys now, Gardner and Funchess got them without making much noise in the previous season. If the Devin’s got their legends jerseys AFTER the 2013 season, rather than before, I’d have no problems with it. The fact that Courtney Avery got one upset me a bit, he was an average player at best and even that is being generous.

That said, I’m sure you can guess that I don’t think No.11 or No.21 should be given out this year. There are too many young and unproven guys on this roster to do so. This is not to say there isn’t anyone who could earn them, but no one has done anything to ‘earn’ the right yet. I’d like to see No.1 and No.2 be brought into legends status as well. No.1 for Anthony Carter and No.2 for Charles Woodson, as soon as he retires.

If we’re going to honor the legends of the past I’d prefer to see their numbers bestowed upon guys who have ‘earned’ it on and off the field, but mostly on it. If it has little to do with on-field performance, and middle of the road guys like Courtney Avery can get them, then I’d rather see the players vote on who gets them.

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The legends jerseys have a chance to be a great tradition, but only if the players are forced to earn the honor of wearing them. If Michigan insists on giving out the numbers each year and the players wearing them aren’t stars, then the value of the legends jersey is lost. So far Michigan has given the jerseys to some players with lesser roles, and it has tainted the idea behind honoring these football legends.

With a young team taking the field in 2014, and a group of returning starters that largely underachieved in last year’s 7-6 effort, the Nos. 11 and 21 should be kept off the field until players earn them. If a wide receiver or cornerback steps up and leads the team to a great first half of the season, then a jersey should be awarded to that player.

If the program makes it clear that the numbers are earned, not given, then the legends jerseys will be a great tradition for Michigan football. If not, then it will represent just another gimmick put on by the athletic department.

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While the NCAA is in turmoil right now and the future of college sports paints a somewhat murky picture, I think everyone can still rest assured that America loves watching our college athletes play far too much for these games to disappear completely. And in these beloved college sports, tradition reigns supreme. Every university tries to hold up their own traditions higher than any other institution’s. Alumni of the University of Michigan will be quick to defend the Maize and Blue in any battle, pointing out that we are the most winningest college football program in history, that Ann Arbor is the best college town God has ever created, that the Victors is the best fight song known to man, and that, quite simply, Michigan is unlike any other school out there.

One of the many ways Michigan has now decided to honor this glorious history is by assigning Legends numbers to a select few football players each year. I, for one, am a big fan. I don’t know of any other program in the country that reminisces over star players of the past in such a way, and though a small patch and a special plaque in the locker room might not seem like much, I really do think these legendary players and their families take great pride in seeing their legacies live on in the Big House. I also think it can’t hurt on the recruiting trail.

With that being said, there are a few “rules and regulations” that I would put into play if I oversaw the program. First, there needs to be some cap on the number of Legends numbers issued. There is no problem with designating a few players with the status every single year, but if the number of Legends jerseys continues to grow to 15, 20, 25 different players, it will lose its luster. I would cap the total number of jerseys in circulation at 10. In order to honor future Legends, however, there needs to be some room to make more though, right? Right. So every 50 years, every Legends number is officially put in the vault (or Schembechler Hall) and is available for re-circulation as a “regular” number. After those 50 years have passed, up to 10 more Legends, preferably representing as many different positions as possible, can be selected and issued with patches, plaques, and pictures and the cycle repeats. This way every Michigan football player will have the chance to earn this incredible honor; if it so happens that a player wearing a Legends jersey becomes a legend himself, that number will remain in issue but the patch will be replaced to honor the more recent standout.

I also think there needs to be some sort of regulation on when the jerseys are issued in relation to a player’s career. As it stands now, it seems that any player can earn the right to wear a Legends number at any point during his four years. Devin Gardner changed from No.12 to No.98 (Tom Harmon) early in his junior year. Jordan Kovacs mysteriously changed from No.32 to No.11 (Francis, Albert, and Alvin Wistert) well into his senior year. Going forward, I think the Legends jerseys should be designated to rising sophomores or redshirt freshmen. With this policy in place, the coaches have a full year to decide who is worthy of the honor based on their play on the field and their actions off it and the player will not have already established himself fully while wearing another number.

As far as the current available Legends jerseys go, I would like to see No.11 stay on the defensive side of the field and No.21 as a wide receiver for at least the near future. Sticking to my own rules, I will give No.11 to either Henry Poggi or Maurice Hurst, Jr., who apparently both impressed on the practice squad last year and will look to make an impact as redshirt freshmen this season, and No.21 to Jaron Dukes, an Ohioan just like Desmond Howard with great potential. When thinking of other potential Legends going forward, I can only think of one obvious one – No.2 for Charles Woodson.
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Now that we’ve all given our answers, we’d like to hear from you. Do you like the legends jerseys? Do you agree or disagree with us? Give us your answer to the question in the comments below.

M&GB Roundtable debates the status of Hoke’s hot seat

Friday, June 27th, 2014


Roundtable-Hoke hot seat

Hoke(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

As we continue our 2014 season preview series, the time has come for our first M&GB Roundtable. These roundtables will be posted on Fridays a few times throughout the summer and will discuss a hot topic relating to the upcoming season. Given the way last season went and the overall pessimism throughout the fan base at the moment, the first topic is certainly a hot one:

Is Brady Hoke on the hot seat? If not now, what kind of season does Michigan have to have to avoid the hot seat heading into next season? If so, is there a scenario in which you would want him fired after this season?

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In my opinion, Hoke isn’t on the hot seat right now, and I don’t say that because of how I feel Dave Brandon views it. I don’t think Hoke should be on the hot seat right now. Of course we’re all disappointed with a 7-6 season. No one wants that. I’ve heard all the “Michigan shouldn’t accept mediocrity” arguments, and I agree. But we have to face the reality of the situation Michigan is in. The program has to be built back up to where it once was, and that process takes time.

I don’t fully blame Rich Rodriguez, though he is partially to blame, mostly for things like not focusing enough on defense and failing to recruit certain positions each year. The main blame should fall on Bill Martin for hiring Rodriguez in the first place back in 2008. The hiring took a traditional, pro-style offense, hard-nosed defense team and forced it to turn into a new-age, spread offense, smaller and faster defense team. We can debate all day long whether Rodriguez would have eventually succeeded if he had been given enough time to fully transition the roster. But when he wasn’t — he was fired after three seasons — and when Brandon handed the reigns back to a more traditional Michigan coach, it stunted the process even more. I’m not saying that was the wrong decision, but the reality is that Brandon did so for long-term, not short-term success. The roster was somewhere between 60-80 percent transitioned to Rodriguez’s style and now it would need to be turned back into the old style.

Hoke going 11-2 in his first season was more of a mirage than what should have been expected. For his part, he solidified the defense, and that combined with the already potent offense, allowed for the great season. Had he kept recruiting and coaching towards Rodriguez’s philosophies, 2012 and 2013 would have been better. But that’s not who Hoke is or what he was brought in for. With only about 25 roster spots able to change over each year, transitioning back to the Michigan of old will take time. And that’s what we, as Michigan fans, need to give Hoke.

Recruiting is going well and there is plenty of young talent on the team. This season, Michigan will still be one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten, and in 2015 the vast majority of the roster will be Hoke’s guys. Hoke needs to be given through 2015 to turn things around. Michigan should at least be within striking distance of the Big Ten championship in 2015. If, at that point, Michigan is still having 7-6 or 8-5 seasons, we can start to seriously discuss how hot Hoke’s seat is.

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No, Brady Hoke is not on the hot seat. To be on the hot seat, a coach must be in a position where he must win a substantial number of games the following season or else he will be fired. Hoke is not in such a position, even if his seat is a bit warmer than it was prior to 2013. Fans forget just how toxic things were in Ann Arbor prior to Hoke’s arrival. Not only did Michigan collapse down the stretch in Rich Rodriguez’s final two seasons, his recruiting classes experienced mass defections. The attrition rate was astronomical and left craters in various areas of Michigan’s depth chart that were bound to rear their ugly head down the road.

Hoke has been trying to rebuild Michigan into what it was prior to Rodriguez’s tenure, but it is not an overnight job. Yes, Michigan’s record has worsened each of Hoke’s first three seasons, but do not let the 2011 campaign fool you. That was a magical run. Michigan benefited from some of the best karma and luck the Wolverines have seen in quite some time en route to an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl victory. But it did not rectify Michigan’s underlying problem that it would have little depth and experience at multiple positions the following seasons. Hoke has tried to plug the holes in the depth chart quickly, bringing in the No. 6 and No. 4 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, respectively, according to 247 Sports, but those recruits have been only sophomores or freshmen. How much of an immediate impact can be expected from them? This lack of depth and inexperience, combined with puzzling offensive game plans from Al Borges and unfortunate injuries, is why Michigan was 15-11 the past two years.

So Hoke is not on the hot seat yet. He still needs more time to balance the depth chart and develop his talented recruits. Just look at Michigan’s offensive line for the upcoming season. The raw talent is there, but it likely needs one more season to become a cohesive unit. Plus, Michigan will be trying to break in a new offense under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, while being saddled with road games against all three of its major rivals—Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame—for the first time ever. Hoke has two more years to right the ship with big expectations for 2015. He could help alleviate some of that pressure with nine or more wins, especially if they are against a rival or two, in 2014, yet a seven- or eight-win season would make his seat burn a bit more in 2015. And the only scenario where Michigan would consider firing Hoke after this season is one where Michigan has a losing record and fails to make a bowl game. Otherwise, expect Hoke and his staff to be back in 2015.

Josh banner

As far as Dave Brandon is concerned Brady Hoke is not on the hot seat. Whether the university has Brandon/Hoke on the hot seat is another question. I’ve long held the opinion that it would take Hoke until 2015 before he fielded a championship caliber team (conference, not national) and I stick by it. Rome was not built in a day, nor will the Maize and Blue be rebuilt in three-to-four years.

We were spoiled in 2011, but I truly think that was an aberration, an aligning of the stars, so to speak. OSU was down for once and Sparty was, well Sparty. It takes several years to revamp a program from one style into basically the complete opposite. That simply does not happen overnight. Heading into year four Hoke has shown he is a monster on the recruiting trail, which helps me keep my cool. That he has managed to haul in some really good players and classes that fit his ‘Michigan Man’ mold perfectly, in spite of sub-par on-field results is truly a testament to the man’s character and recruiting skill.

The player development, however, has been less than what most of us would have expected but we need to keep in mind that this is a VERY YOUNG team. While it is not uncommon for a first or second year player to be great (Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson*, Johnny Football), it is not the norm. To expect a roster almost fully loaded with first and second year players to play at a high level was just ridiculous.

*Adrian Peterson played with a Heisman winning quarterback, a future first round wide receiver in Mark Clayton, ran behind a line that featured two future NFL players (Jammal Brown and Davin Joseph), and three senior linemen (the other two were juniors), for a team that had a 36-5 record coming in.

No, we haven’t had the seasons we expect from Michigan, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen great seasons back to back (10-plus wins). There haven’t been back to back 10-win seasons in over a decade, 2002-2003 and you have to go back to 1997-1999 to see three straight. Or if you want to be more generous and count 9-plus win seasons, we still go back over a decade to 2002-2004 for three straight and 2006-2007 for back-to-back.

Long story short, Hoke is not on the hot seat nor should he be. One needs at least five seasons to retool a program. I think he gets that and nothing more. That said, I was also of the opinion Rich Rodriguez needed at least five seasons. Although I was happy to see him go, I think he would have turned the corner by his fifth season.

Will the ‘heat’ get turned up if Hoke turns in another seven- or eight-win season? I don’t think so. The fans may be impatient and restless but they don’t call the shots. Dave Brandon played for Bo and he knows what Hoke is dealing with and the time and effort it takes to basically rebuild from the ground up. The temperature stays the same heading into 2015 — which is still very warm — unless of course Hoke goes 3-9. Then all bets are off. I think Brandon is just looking for marked improvement, not necessarily in the win-loss column, but something that shows what this staff is doing is working and taking enough steps forward.

I can think of only one scenario under which I’d like to see Brady Hoke fired after this season. Bill Belichick takes over the program (AD and head coach) and brings Nick Saban along with him. That said, it seems logical that Doug Nussmeier would take over should Hoke be given the boot, after either this season or the next.

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Is Hoke on the hot seat? It certainly seems like he should be, but the atmosphere around the program lacks the sense of urgency that usually surrounds a desperate coach. He’s at least feeling pressure, and that’s not only because of the team’s overall performance, but also the individual performances of important players.

Hoke’s similarity to Rich Rodriguez after three years in Ann Arbor has been well documented around the college football world. Both finished 7-6 in their third season, and both struggled in Big Ten play despite hot starts during the non-conference schedule. The major difference between the two? While Rodriguez’s teams at least improved record wise, each year has shown a steady decline under Hoke. If that trend continues in 2014, especially with such a weak home schedule, then Hoke should be shown the door without a doubt.

The overall struggles are largely due to slow improvement from talented players like Derrick Green. Hoke has proven he can lure some of the most highly regarded recruits in the country to Ann Arbor, but those players simply haven’t performed on the field in many cases. In 2013 the offensive line was loaded with former stud recruits, but as a unit it left Devin Gardner on his back more often than any other group in the Big Ten. Some recruits clearly don’t live up to the hype, but Hoke needs more from five-star guys like Green.

Team 135 is immensely important for Hoke and his future at Michigan. In his fourth season fans expect that the talent he needs is at his disposal and the program needs to take a step in the right direction. With Jabrill Peppers and company on campus, Michigan is primed to compete in the Big Ten. Hoke’s job is to make sure that happens.

4,500 tickets, 3,000 seats: Former Maize Rage President’s take on new basketball student ticket policy

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013


A week ago, Derick shared his view on the athletic department’s announcement about the new process for basketball student tickets this season. As Superfan, whose role is to lead the chants at the front of the Maize Rage, his view was essentially that it was a net positive because it would result in more seats being full and many of the nation’s top basketball programs already use a similar system.

Now, in the interest of fairness and lending a voice to both sides of the argument, Sam would like to express his differing view. As a former president of the Maize Rage, Sam is certainly a credible voice in the discussion having presided over the student section and involved with it during the resurgence of the program.

(Eric Bronson, U-M Photo Services)

The 2013-14 school year has already proven to be a controversial one for University of Michigan student and Athletic Department relations. First, over the summer, the Athletic Department announced an overhaul of the football student section to first-come, first-serve seating. Seniors were outraged after the realization that, after working their way down the stadium stairs for three years, they would be given no priority for watching games at the Big House.

The move was an understandable one, a result of extremely poor student attendance at the onset of games in the recent past. Athletic Director David Brandon had hinted time and again that some sort of change would be needed, and a change in policy certainly came.

In the past, all students could show up at any time, whether 30 minutes prior to kickoff or midway through the second quarter, and claim their assigned seat – the more credits, the better the seat – without consequence. With the change, the athletic department has forced students into a quasi-ultimatum. Either skip the pre-game festivities and get in line, or sit in the nosebleeds.

Against Central Michigan and Notre Dame, the student section was noticeably packed by the time the ball was kicked, and Brandon’s policy seemed to be doing what it was meant to. Then Akron came to the Big House, and the student section appeared to be about 75 percent empty at the start of the game. In the case of football seating, only time will bring a verdict.

Fast forward to the fall. Michigan’s football team is off to a shaky 4-0 start and, like magic, another new ticket policy has been thrown at Michigan students – this time for basketball.

After selling some 4,500 student basketball season ticket packages, easily a new record, on the heels of a Final Four run, the Athletic Department realized they had made a big mistake.

The students have thrown their support behind John Beilein who has elevated the program out of its lean years (Lon Horwedel, AnnArbor.com)

No, it’s not that the $200 charged to each student wasn’t enough, or that students weren’t showing up on time, but rather that season tickets were oversold – by a long shot.

In an email to student season ticket holders last week, the AD announced that the Crisler Center only has room for about 3,000 students per game, and record purchasing numbers had necessitated a seemingly unforeseen change in policy. From now on, students were told that they would have to claim their tickets to each game days or weeks in advance on a first-come, first-serve basis and that after the 3,000 ticket allotment was claimed, all other student season ticket holders were out of luck – no passing go, no refund, no seat.

Surprisingly, most of the reaction I have heard from the core of the Maize Rage, the most dedicated season ticket holders, has been neutral or even positive. Even our own Derick, the Maize Rage’s Superfan, wrote an article preaching how this policy was needed and that the only students being punished are the “lazy” ones.

I, however, am utterly appalled by the actions of the Athletic Department on multiple levels.

My first issue with this new policy is the apparent ineptitude of the Athletic Department in failing to foresee an issue long before this over-selling came about.

When I was a freshman just six seasons ago, I was one of approximately 400 students who paid $99 for student basketball tickets. On top of the countless gift cards, pizzas, and shirts thrown at us by the Athletic Department for coming to games, we enjoyed an incredible season that included a home win over Duke and the end to Michigan’s NCAA Tournament drought. As the team started to show that it was for real, other students caught on and wanted to join in on the fun, and the Athletic Department was happy to oblige by giving these students free tickets at the door for just about every home game of the season.

The next year, some 1,500 students bought season tickets in anticipation of another great team, and despite a 15-17 finish that year, the team was sure to bounce back, and by the time I was the President of the Maize Rage my senior year in 2011, 2,500 students purchased season tickets. Last year, around 3,000 tickets were sold.

There is a clear theme here: the better the team, the more students want to come. Michigan has lost just two home games over the last two seasons, and after this March’s run to the championship game, the excitement of the team and the fun to be had at Crisler are no longer secrets; kids want to go to games.

With a little bit of forecasting work, the Athletic Department should have anticipated the heightened demand for student tickets and acted accordingly at a more appropriate date. Instead of guaranteeing tickets for every single game for every returning student who wanted in on the action back in April, perhaps a policy should have been put in place to prevent this disaster from happening.

AD Dave Brandon has made several controversial moves over the last few years (AnnArbor.com)

Instead, the Athletic Department was either completely oblivious to what would eventually happen or was so money-thirsty that nothing was done. The only guarantee students are given by the same Athletic Department now is their money back in exchange for their season tickets if they want to help the Athletic Department with their damage control.

Coming up with a policy much earlier would have been quite a bit easier. First, guarantee tickets for every student who has attended at least 80 percent of the home games over the past two seasons, 95 percent of the home games last season, or is a freshman. This would give the most dedicated, passionate, loyal, and, most likely, raucous, students the first chance to order basketball tickets while not punishing those freshmen who have not yet had the chance to prove their fandom. At the same time, it would punish those “lazy” students who have either failed to prove their dedication to the team by continually missing home games, or those who have jumped on the bandwagon.

After these qualified students had the chance to buy tickets, the remaining returning students would then have had the opportunity to purchase as many tickets as were left. If only 3,000 seats can truly be given to students, at least there would be no need to take tickets away from students who already paid full price to have the right to go to every home game. Better yet, you could still have students claim the tickets they want beforehand, and for those tickets not claimed, the students who were not able to purchase season tickets in the first place would have an opportunity to attend a few games.

Instead of this policy, which would have given priority to students who will almost assuredly be at games while also guaranteeing a full student section on a nightly basis, 4,500 students were allowed to purchase tickets in the first place just to be told that 33 percent of those students with a “ticket”, because now a “ticket” is not actually a ticket, would not be able to attend every single game.

As it stands now, there is no distinction or reward given to the dedicated basketball fans that the Athletic Department has feigned preference for, no punishment doled out to the lazy fans that the Athletic Department has pointed to as the reason for implementing this new policy, and certainly no effort to work toward a solution that would see the right fans at Crisler on a nightly basis. And yet somehow, the Athletic Department has convinced the dedicated students that deserve to be at Crisler every night, sans claiming tickets at 8:30am on a weekday five times throughout the season, that this policy was the only solution. The more you think about it, the more clear it becomes that this policy is a money grab by the Athletic Department and nothing more. By giving students the opportunity to sell their tickets back, they absolve themselves of all legal issues, but will still likely be able to collect money for about 1,000 “tickets” that are unusable.

4,500 students bought tickets to enter through this gate, but only up to 3,000 will be able to (Emilio Collavino)

Ultimately, I truly do understand that something had to be done, but I wish it would have been done much earlier and in a much different way. In a perfect world, every student who wants to buy basketball tickets should be able to and should have a seat at Crisler for every game. Furthermore, more than 30 percent of the students need to be in the lower deck (as it stands now, the bleachers and section 130 next to the band seat about 900 students while the rest are thrown in the upper bowl, where it is much more difficult to get fully-involved in the action; this, of course, is so that the AD can continue to collect giant donations from and charge ludicrous prices to the general public for the premium lower bowl seats that really should be going to the students if the AD truly cared about the game day atmosphere), but that is a story for another day.

If the AD honestly failed to foresee a student ticket demand too high for supply and had no other way out, they need to at the very least apologize for the mistake on their part and take away a more reasonable number of tickets, say 500, suck up the slight money loss, expand the student section to the necessary amount, and sell fewer seats to the general public on a nightly basis to make this a possibility. Even then, if more tickets were claimed than were available, the money should be refunded to all those students looking to claim a ticket that they rightly paid for but are not able to receive due to the over-selling.

Instead, students are now stuck with a policy that will see servers crash as they make a virtual mad dash to claim tickets, hoping against hope that 3,000 others don’t claim their games beforehand. More time will be wasted claiming tickets when the students should be in class, studying, or making posters for the next basketball game. And all the while, the AD will laugh while rolling in the money from a broken policy.

What happens when 3,500 students claim a ticket for the home opener against UMass-Lowell? Don’t ask me. Call the Athletic Department and see how the damage control looks now.

Michigan athletic department to penalize lazy student ticket holders

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013


(Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

Following the team’s first Final Four run in 20 years, the University of Michigan’s new basketball student ticket policy will likely have the Wolverines playing in a sold-out Crisler Center for the majority of their games this upcoming season. The policy, announced this week, is designed to penalize lazy students that fail to show up to games and leave purchased tickets unused.

Late Tuesday night, The Michigan Daily revealed that the Michigan Athletic Department oversold the 3,000 available student section seats in Crisler Center. This offseason, around 4,800 of the student season packages were sold. This may be alarming to those hoping to attend every home game to watch their Wolverines, but the Athletic Department’s policy assures that every student will be able to attend the games they want, as long as they purchased the season ticket package.

Michigan’s preconference schedule will be broken down into separate “groups” of tickets, as designated by the Athletic Department. Seventy-two hours before the first game of each group, students will be required to verify which of the games in that group they plan to attend. Afterwards, students will be given only the tickets that they requested. Tickets that aren’t claimed will be resold by the Athletic Department, first to other students and then, if any remain, to the general public.

Students that fail to attend any game in which they claimed a ticket will receive a “strike,” unless the ticket is sold to someone else who attends the game. Any student that receives three strikes during the preconference season may forfeit their Big Ten basketball tickets. Each student must claim a minimum of two nonconference tickets and attend those games in order to remain eligible to claim Big Ten student tickets.

With excitement for Michigan basketball at an all-time high following a trip to the national title game the athletic department is implementing changes to its student ticket policy

In promising that no student season ticket holder will be turned away from a game they wish to attend, the Athletic Department is merely playing the percentages. Last season, an average of less than half of the total number of student ticket holders showed up to each game, and several students failed to claim their season tickets at all throughout the year. This attendance gap came during a year in which the tickets were transferred virtually onto every student’s Michigan ID card in order to make it easier to sell tickets that wouldn’t be used.

Though these new tactics have Ann Arbor in an uproar, Michigan is not the first school to “double sell” tickets. Other powerhouse basketball programs such as Duke University use this ticket policy to pack their arenas for every single home game. Duke’s student section, “The Cameron Crazies” is regarded as one of the best in all of sports and creates a formidable atmosphere for opponents visiting Cameron Stadium.

Michigan students will not lose the opportunity to be at Crisler for games they wish to attend. The policy guarantees season ticket holders a ticket to any game they claim, as long as they aren’t absent from three previously claimed games. Students can also claim and sell the tickets they can’t use, but must be sure that the buyer will attend the game in order to avoid receiving a “strike.”

What may have basketball fans so fired up, besides the inconvenience of claiming tickets a few days before the games, is the increasing boldness that Athletic Director Dave Brandon is willing to display in earning money for Michigan sports. During his short tenure running the Athletic Department, Brandon has drastically increased ticket prices for basketball. He also cashes in on the demand for Michigan football season tickets, charging those that wish to join or remain on the wait list.

However, this new basketball ticket policy may have the same effect as Brandon’s newly-implemented general admission football seating system, which is improving student attendance in the Big House. Changes were made to the football student section in response to the late arrivals of many ticket holders to the games. Head Coach Brady Hoke was publicly disgusted with having a half-filled student section at the start of every game, and the prospect of getting the best seat available has been effective in bringing students to the game before kickoff.

Similarly, Brandon hopes that this year’s basketball ticket process will fill both the lower and upper student sections in the Crisler Center. Double selling tickets is just the latest change in a series of improvements that have made Michigan Basketball one of the top programs in the country. A newly-renovated Crisler Center now boasts one of the nicest Player Development Centers in the nation, an addition that has brought some of the top recruits in the country like Glen Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton to Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s recent success isn’t a coincidence, as all of these changes have had an immediate impact on the basketball program. In 2012, the team spent a week ranked as the top team in the country and boasted a 17-1 home record; but it wasn’t enough to bring 3,000 students to the Crisler Center for non-marquee matchups.

Throughout the year, the Maize Rage student section was often only half-full in the upper deck despite the team’s top-five ranking and elite performance. Crisler’s 12,721-seat capacity is the second-lowest among Big Ten venues (Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena holds only 8,117) and should therefore be full for a men’s basketball team currently experiencing so much success.

The major change to the ticket process is that rather than unclaimed tickets resulting in empty seats, they will be offered to fans that want to see the team play on a less-regular basis. Seats that become available through the “claiming” process will instead be filled by those that couldn’t commit to a season ticket package.

Students that remain loyal to the team and attend the games they commit to will receive no penalty. An atmosphere that was often electric during the Big Ten season last year will be even more formidable when the Crisler Center is packed with students every game.

If students prefer, they may receive a full refund for their tickets next week, as this policy is a major change to the conditions under which the tickets were bought. The rest will be more inclined than ever to join the Maize Rage on October 29, when Michigan welcomes Concordia to Ann Arbor for the first exhibition game.

Michigan 79 – Penn State 71: Wolverines outlast Penn State in Crisler rededication

Sunday, February 17th, 2013


Final 1st 2nd Total
#4 Michigan (22-4, 9-4) 32 47 79
Penn State (21-4, 10-2) 32 39 71

Glenn Robinson III had a much needed monster game (Carlos Osorio, AP)

On a day Michigan fans celebrated the history of the basketball program with former stars like Cazzie Russell, Glenn Rice, and Phil Hubbard in the house for the re-dedication of the refurbished Crisler Center, this year’s team slogged its way to an eight-point victory over the still winless-in-the-Big-Ten Penn State Nittany Lions.

Sunday seemed to be the perfect day to welcome back past players as athletic director Dave Brandon cut the ribbon on his crown masterpiece of a basketball facility, but for 30 minutes or so, the Wolverines seemed tired, off, and perhaps lacking effort before finally pulling out a win to end their first losing streak since the end of last season. Penn State has been downright awful in coach Pat Chambers’ second year leading the program, and despite great effort over the past couple games, the Lions simply lack the talent, size, and athleticism to compete in the Big Ten, much less against the cream of the conference. And despite Chambers’ constant bickering with the officials over the 25 fouls called on his players, they once again came up short in the talent department on the court.

With Penn State’s last win coming nearly two months ago at the end of December, the Nittany Lions are running out of time to tally a victory in the new year; a win today would have been huge, but Trey Burke simply would not let it happen.

As fans and players alike welcomed back past heroes with open arms, Michigan’s current All-American point guard set the stage to state his case for his own jersey number to be retired years down the line. Trey Burke has been the unquestioned best floor general in the country, and he continues to prove his worth, this time with a 29-point (9-of-16 FG, 3-of-4 3p., 8-of-9 FT), five-assist, zero-turnover gem as his point guard counterpart, Tim Frazier, could do nothing but watch from Penn State’s bench. Interestingly enough, Burke himself would be at Penn State today if not for a change of heart his last couple years in high school. It’s hard to imagine them still being winless in the Big Ten if that were the case today.

It was pretty clear throughout Sunday afternoon’s contest that no one from Happy Valley would be able to check Burke on the offensive end of the court, but Penn State also had its hands full with freshman running mate Glenn Robinson III.

Robinson, who emerged early this year as one of the premier freshmen in the country with eye-popping athleticism and a knack for always finding the ball around the rim despite his very quiet nature on the floor, has been in a well-publicized struggle throughout Michigan’s last four games, three of which ended as road losses. Today, he finally came around again, providing countless sparks for the laid back afternoon crowd to erupt as he threw down five “He just did that?!” throwdowns on his way to 21 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting mark from the field and 9-of-11 mark from the free throw line. He also managed to grab 10 rebounds to record his second career double-double.

Trey Burke had a season-high 29 points (Carlos Osorio, AP)

In Michigan’s most difficult stretch of the year, a four-game gauntlet that included three road games at top-25 teams and one top-15 home matchup, Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. were the only two Michigan players that seemed to belong on the same court as the competition. Robinson III, who was rolling beforehand, hit the wall hardest, tallying just 18 points in those four games on a horrendous 7-of-24 mark from the field. Today, Robinson III found his game again and got back in his groove by getting behind and jumping above the defense; his teammates found him time and time again.

Joining Robinson III’s comeback effort was fellow freshman Nik Stauskas, who struggled himself to a lesser extent over the same difficult series of games. His three-point stroke continues to regress to the mean, but Stauskas manages to find offense through other routes as commentators continue to pen him as “not just a shooter”. Today the Canadian scored 18 points on nine shots as he made all three of his two-point attempts and got to the line at a solid rate with his penetrating ability.

Michigan fans at this point can only hope that today’s performances ended the cold shooting spells of Michigan’s two offensive-minded freshmen, but the worries do not end there. Burke, Robinson III, and Stauskas combined for a far-too-many 68 of Michigan’s 79 points. The rest of the team was notably absent from the scoring column, including star junior wing Hardaway, Jr., whose eight points don’t look so good knowing that it took him 11 shots to get there. After that, only two more Wolverines combined to score three points.

Perhaps most concerning of all for John Beilein is the play he got from big men Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Max Bielfeldt. That foursome combined to score zero (yes, zero) points on five shots and only grabbed seven rebounds total in 47 minutes of playing time. The biggest worry for Michigan was not the relatively small winning margin, as the outcome was hardly in doubt for such a lop-sided matchup, but rather the fact that Penn State was able to grab 36 percent of their own misses and 77.4 percent of Michigan’s clankers. One of the Wolverines’ biggest strengths all year has been in their ability to compete on the boards and turn rebounds into points; being out-rebounded by a smaller, less athletic team at home is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

If Michigan is to compete for a second consecutive Big Ten championship, or at least another share of the title, today’s effort will need to be improved upon. There were plenty of good signs throughout, especially from the aforementioned freshmen scoring wings, but the big men and Tim Hardaway especially need to find their game over the remaining five games.

Still sitting two full games out of first place in the Big Ten, Michigan will probably have to win out to achieve their preseason goal of a Big Ten title. With everybody on their games, the Wolverines have the firepower to do that. If anyone is not playing up to par, however, games against Michigan State and Indiana are going to be difficult to pull out, even in the friendly confines of the christened Crisler Center.

Today’s back-and-forth game with Penn State didn’t do much to convince critics that Michigan has what it takes. But that doesn’t matter now. All that counts are two letters: Ws and Ls. Five more of the former and Michigan is right back in the thick of things. Today was a start.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 6-6 0-0 9-11 3 7 10 3 21 0 1 0 0 33
52 Jordan Morgan* 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 3 0 1 1 0 0 7
03 Trey Burke* 9-16 3-4 8-9 0 3 3 1 29 5 0 0 2 39
10 Tim Hardaway Jr.* 3-11 1-6 1-4 0 2 2 3 8 1 0 1 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 5-9 2-6 6-6 0 1 1 0 18 4 2 0 0 34
02 Spike Albrecht 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
04 Mitch McGary 0-4 0-0 0-1 2 1 3 2 0 1 2 0 0 20
13 Matt Vogrich 0-0 0-0 2-2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 5
15 Jon Horford 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 2 16
20 Caris LeVert 0-2 0-2 1-2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 9
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4
Totals 23-49 6-18 27-35 7 22 39 15 79 12 6 2 4 200
Penn State 25-57 6-18 15-17 10 25 35 25 71 15 13 1 2 200

Michigan Gets it Right With Retro Jerseys

Saturday, June 11th, 2011


Tonight’s unveiling of Michigan’s retro jersey for the Under the Lights Game against Notre Dame on Sept. 10 should excite the Michiagn fanbase as we move on from the past three seasons and into what is shaping up to be an exciting season.

Previously released renderings of the jerseys, even from earlier today, were met with a great deal of angst and disparagement from much of the maize and blue faithful, but the final versions modeled by Denard Robinson and Ryan Van Bergen at tonight’s ceremony should be celebrated.

The uniforms that Michigan unveiled live on MGoBlue.com are certainly differant than Michigan’s traditional solid blue top, but by no means should that be a bad thing.

Michigan’s uniforms are defined by tradition. Similar to Penn State and perhaps Texas, simplicity has made them one of the most iconic in college football.

Other schools that don’t have the history and tradition of the nation’s winningest program, such as Oregon or TCU have gone the gimmicky route full time, even changing styles and designs every few seasons. The addition of Nike’s Pro Combat took it a step further, eschewing tradition for snazzy, money-making get-ups like Florida’s, Arizona State’s, and a bunch of others.

While those uniform designs likely appeal to younger fans, Michigan’s night game duds should encompass the whole spectrum of Michigan fans by tying in the entire history of the Michigan uniform.

“Michigan’s maize and blue jersey is one of the most iconic in all of sports and this new vintage-inspired uniform highlights design cues from throughout Michigan’s rich football tradition honoring 132 years of championship football,” said Jon Yuska, Adidas’ director of sports licensing design.

Because of the lack of significant uniform changes over the course of the 132-year history of Michigan football, especially in the modern era, there weren’t many options to choose from when designing throwbacks to commemorate the game. Aside from changing from Adidas to whoever made the jerseys back in the day, and some minor number or font tweaks, actual throwbacks would look basically the same as what Michigan always wears on Saturdays.

Michigan's 1895 team uniforms

Since creating a true throwback was not really an option, Michigan AD Dave Brandon and the Adidas design team chose to take elements and concepts from the past 132 years and develop a unique uniform that personifies the program’s rich history.

From Michigan’s first captain, David N. DeTar, in 1879, to Bennie Oosterbaan in the 20s to Gerald Ford and Tom Harmon in the 30s, all the way to the stars of the modern era who never got to play under the lights in Ann Arbor, these uniforms represent 132 years of Michigan football.

September 10 deserves to be celebrated, not just for the 85 who get to suit up that day, but for the thousands whose combined efforts have made Michigan football the nation’s best. Tweaking the uniforms ever so slightly to honor one team from the 40s is great, but if that’s to be done, there will be a time and a place for that. This game is about more than one team or one era since it’s carving history out of what is already the sport’s most historic program.

These retro uniforms involve elements from the very beginnings of Michigan football in the late 1800s that wore the block M on the front as well as the striping on the sleeves (if you don’t like that, at least it’s not the full uniform like the Where’s Waldo uniforms some players wore in 1888). It also features the number on the sides of the winged helmets, as Michigan wore in the 1950s and 60s, as well as grey facemasks. Aside from those elements, Michigan’s uniforms really haven’t changed in the modern era.

I commend Brandon and the Adidas design team for integrating several elements of Michigan’s uniform history to create a compelling uniform for this historical occasion. It’s not something I would buy to wear, but I’d probably buy one to hang in a Michigan-themed man cave.

Most importantly, the team seems to love them and they’re only for one game,  so we don’t have to worry about Michigan’s history being thrown out the window. There’s nothing wrong with a little marketing gimick now and then, especially when it gets everybody talking about Michigan football again in a positive light while we watch that school in Ohio’s world crumble more and more each day.

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Michigan Pins Its Hopes on Hoke; Is He the Right Man for the Job?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011


Six days after Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced he was firing embattled head coach Rich Rodriguez, the speculation, flight-tracking, and rumor-mongering was put to rest with the announcement of the hiring of Brady Hoke as the 19th head coach in Michigan football history. But while the waiting ended, questions abound as to whether this was the right move.

Hoke coached at Michigan from 1995-2002 under Lloyd Car

After proclaiming in last Wednesday’s press conference that he would seek out a “Michigan Man,” Brandon met with Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles, both former Wolverine players under legendary coach Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh was considered the top choice for most Wolverine faithful, and when he accepted the head job with the San Francisco 49ers, Brandon seemingly turned to Miles. While Miles’ ethics were called into question by many Michigan fans, most accepted him as a logical choice to replace Rodriguez given his success at LSU.

We went to bed Monday night expecting Miles to become Michigan’s new head man on Tuesday. However, early Tuesday afternoon, Miles was taken out of consideration when LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva stated, “Les has led this program to many great successes on the field and his players represent LSU well off the field. We look forward to many great years of LSU football under his leadership.”

It didn’t take long before Hoke was named head coach and Michigan fans are left with more questions than answers. Brandon insists Hoke was the guy from the beginning and that Harbaugh and Miles were never even offered the job, but if that’s the case, then Brandon has a lot at stake in the coming years.

Don’t get me wrong; beginning with Hoke’s introductory press conference on Wednesday, I’ll fully back the new coach and root for him to become Michigan’s next Bo. If he can turn the program around, he will certainly become a legend in Ann Arbor. But that doesn’t mean I think it was the right move for the short term or the long term.

For starters, I think Brandon jumped the gun and caved into the pressure in his first year as Michigan’s AD. Of course he will mask it by saying that leaders have to be willing to make tough decisions even when unpopular, but in reality, the pressure from the media and boosters was too much, forcing Brandon’s hand at least a year early.

Rodriguez had improved each season, from 3-9 to 5-7 to 7-6 and a New Years Day bowl game. Granted, the bowl wound up being the worst bowl loss in Michigan history and the three-year stretch is the worst percentage-wise in in Michigan history, but that’s as much a reflection on the original decision to hire him as it is about his ability to coach. Fans, boosters, and alumni were screaming for change when Lloyd Carr retired and then-AD Bill Martin hired just what they wanted. However, it was going to take time, which apparently was never agreed to by those requesting the change. The year-over-year improvement at least warranted a fourth year, given the number of returning starters and the vast amount of youth on the defensive side of the ball. At the very worst, if Rodriguez failed to improve in year four, Hoke would still be available and Brandon could make the decision much earlier in the process than Jan. 11 so as to not hurt the incoming recruiting class.

This is nothing against Hoke as a man or as a coach. He represents everything a Michigan football coach should: a passion for Michigan football, previous coaching experience at Michigan, a history of success, hard-nosed recruiting, and unquestioned ethics. I grew up with his niece and nephew, proud that I had a connection to a Michigan coach during the glory years of the late 90s. I like the guy and think he will succeed at Michigan…eventually.

Unfortunately, I think this decision means another two or three years before we can expect to challenge for Big Ten titles. The past three years have been spent recruiting for the spread offense. Recruiting Denard Robinsons instead of Tom Bradys, Martavious Odoms instead of Braylon Edwards, Vincent Smiths instead of Tyrone Wheatleys, and Patrick Omamehs instead of Jake Longs. In short, Hoke will have to fit Rodriguez’s guys into a completely different system than what they were recruited for and have practiced in the past three years, which is exactly the issue that landed Rodriguez on the unemployment line after just three seasons.

Hoke has a career record of 47-50, but turned around Ball State and San Diego State, including a win over Navy in this year's Poinsettia Bowl

Brandon said one of the pieces of criteria for the new coach is the ability to adapt his system. The biggest question Hoke will face early on is whether he can adapt his traditional pro-style offense to fit the skills of Robinson, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. If Robinson chooses to remain in Ann Arbor, this move could ultimately help his NFL potential by making him a more complete quarterback. Perhaps Hoke will bring back former UM quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler who developed John Navarre and Chad Henne, and in his most recent gig, Tim Tebow at Florida.

Regardless, it’s hard to imagine hiring Hoke as being an upgrade from keeping Rodriguez for a fourth year. Will 2011 yield better results with Hoke? It’s doubtful.

Next season’s Wolverines are going to be a good team no matter who is coaching, with 10 starters returning on each side of the ball and the addition of senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk who missed the entire year with an injury. The schedule sets up nicely with Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State all at home and Penn State and Wisconsin off the schedule. A fourth year in Rodriguez’s system and a second-year starter in Robinson would have surely improved on its 33 points per game. And the defense would have been better with the return of Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, who missed the final five games, and simply because as the nation’s 110th-ranked total defense, there’s virtually nowhere to go but up.

A serious run at the Big Ten title was not out of the question for next season under Rodriguez, and with several top recruits including Demetrius Hart, who had committed to Rodriguez (and has since committed to Alabama) in the fold, the program was destined for success. It just didn’t happen quickly enough for an impatient and arrogant fan base.

Now, here we are with the irony of all ironies, with the same fans and boosters who were clamoring for change because nine wins a season wasn’t good enough now calling for a mulligan. The school was embarrassed the past week with a national coaching search which, at least on the outside, looked like a joke, because of a decision that leaves Brandon in a tough spot if the transition this time around turns out similar three-year results as the one he just ended. I don’t think we’ve become Notre Dame yet, but if that happens, we’re well on our way.

All that said, I hope Hoke proves to be the best possible option for Michigan football and goes out and wins the Big Ten championship in 2011 and restores a sense of pride and the air of ‘the Victors’ to Ann Arbor. He certainly knows Michigan traditions, the importance of beating Michigan State and Ohio State, and how to win in the Big Ten. While I can’t fault Rodriguez for lacking those attributes, it’s one area in which Hoke is an improvement. And who knows, maybe it means more than we think. Welcome back, Coach.

GATOR WAIT: Gator Bowl Loss Leaves Rodriguez’s Fate in Doubt

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011


Well, to make what might be the understatement of the year for Michigan fans, that was painful. It was fun for about the first four minutes and four seconds when Denard Robinson led Michigan right down the field for an impressive touchdown. Then Mississippi State got the ball and the game was over. The Bulldogs spotted Michigan another touchdown and then proceeded to run up 42 straight points including a 31 yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-10 with a 31-point lead and 10 minutes left.

Against Ohio State or Michigan State or Wisconsin I might have been mad. But Mississippi State put on a clinic, making me envious of a fast, talented, well-coached defense. A defense that sees what the opponent’s offense is doing and makes changes to counter it. Must be nice.

Instead, I saw a Michigan defense that was consistently out of place, running from the sideline at the last second before a snap, players running across the field not knowing where to line up, and having absolutely no clue how to stop an opponent it got five weeks to prepare for. An opponent that didn’t score that many points in a game all season, including against the powerhouses of Memphis, Alcorn State, Houston, and UAB.

If Michigan could play entire games solely on offense or if football games were just 15 minutes long, Michigan might be national champions. Unfortunately, defense is half the game and games are 60 minutes long. Michigan dominated the first quarter this season, outscoring opponents 122-64. But once things settled down, we saw week after week that opposing coaches were able to make changes and Michigan’s weren’t. In second quarters this season, Michigan was outscored 194-83.

All season long, I’ve publicly supported Rich Rodriguez getting a fourth year. At this point, I’m as close to changing my mind as I have been all year. After the loss to Penn State on Oct. 30, I created the Rich Rod-ometer which showed my level of acceptance with the coach at an all-time low. Now, if I were to show an updated version, there would be just a tiny sliver of white on the right-hand side.

It’s not that I want Michigan AD Dave Brandon to let Rodriguez go; I still do think he can produce some great teams here and is headed in the right direction. But I also think that something needs to change. And that something is the defense. For the second year in Rodriguez’s three seasons Michigan allowed more points than its offense scored. The last time that happened was 1967.

I wish it could have worked out too, Coach Rob, but it's time to part ways

My opinion is that Brandon should put up as much money as it takes to get the best defensive coordinator he can possibly get, ideally West Virginia DC Jeff Casteel. I think the perception that Rodriguez doesn’t care about defense is false. He’s definitely an offensive-minded coach, but he had good defenses in Morgantown when Casteel was on his staff. Due to a mixture of lack of talent, youth, bad luck, and a poor fit with Greg Robinson, Michigan’s defense has regressed each of the past three seasons.

Yes, you can blame Rodriguez for hiring Robinson, but it’s not like he was an unproven no-name defensive coordinator. He had some credentials and two Super Bowl rings to prove it. Whether it was injuries, youth, or being forced to run Rodriguez’s 3-3-5 (I’m sure it was a combination of the three), he just didn’t work out. And now he should be shown the door where he will undoubtedly succeed somewhere else.

With nearly every defensive starter returning and getting senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk back from injury, this defense could be much improved next season, especially under Casteel or another top-notch coordinator. If it’s even average, it could be enough for a Big Ten title run next season with the talent returning on offense.

I admit that I am intrigued by the thought of Jim Harbaugh replacing Rodriguez, but I still don’t think it will yield short-term results. Harbaugh will give fans, alumni, and boosters a “Michigan Man” at the helm and he will add some fire to the Ohio State game. But he also presents a philosophy shift back to where Michigan was three years ago. All progress from the past three years will be lost and another period of growing pains will ensue. Denard will probably leave (but not to the NFL) and a number of others will too.

Remember, Harbaugh’s resurrection of Stanford followed nearly the exact same evolution as Rodriguez’s has at Michigan (4-8, 5-7, 8-5 with a bowl loss, and now 11-1, compared to Rodriguez’s 3-5, 5-7, 7-6 to date).  With a revamped defensive staff, next year’s Michigan team certainly has the talent for a similar season as Stanford’s this year. And that’s where my hesitation with giving up on Rodriguez lies.

Keeping everything intact is not an option at this point. So if something has to change I think keeping Rodriguez and going after Casteel or another top-notch defensive coordinator has the same long-term potential as firing Rodriguez and hiring Harbaugh. The difference for me is in the short-term. I think Rodriguez with an experienced offense led by a junior Denard and even an average defense will have a better season than Harbaugh without Denard and possibly several others, running a different offense than what has been run the past three years.

Ultimately, the decision rests with Brandon and I know he has done his due diligence and will make the best decision for the University of Michigan. Whether that’s sticking with Rodriguez or bringing back Captain Comeback, I’ll support it 100 percent. But despite the letdown this New Years Day, I still think Rodriguez’s best days are ahead.

GIVING THANKS: What I’m thankful for this season, poem style

Thursday, November 25th, 2010


One week in mid-November makes us obsess a little bit more than all the others: Ohio State week, or Buckeye week, or Hate week. Whatever you want to call it, we spend more time during the week longing for Saturday to come, more time ragging on our family, friends, and coworkers who have the unfortunate quality of being Ohio State fans, and more time telling “a Michigan fan and Ohio State fan walked into a bar…” jokes.

 

So I’ll spend a little more time this week writing about all things Michigan and Ohio State related. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving making this a two-day work week! I’ll publish an article every day this week, the schedule as follows:

 

Monday: Wisconsin recap and Ohio State preview

Tuesday: What The Game means to me

Wednesday: Why Michigan has a chance on Saturday
(Note: I apologize for not getting this up today. Our drive from New York to Tennessee for Thanskgiving  took a lot longer than expected and I haven’t yet mastered typing while driving. I’ll try to get it up either today or Friday, but the rest is still on schedule)

Thursday: What I’m thankful for this season

Friday: Michigan-Ohio State game preview

_____________________________________________________________________________________

A Thanksgiving poem of all of the reasons
I’m thankful for Michigan this Twenty-ten season.

For a refurbished Big House with club seats
back to the biggest including new suites.

For keeping The Game at season’s end
when next year Nebraska joins the Big Ten.

For the NCAA ruling Rich didn’t lose control
as was claimed in allegations from those Free Press fools.

For a new AD coming from Dominos, 
a Michigan Man and disciple of Bo.

For Brock Mealer walking against all odds,
beating one percent and giving glory to God.

For Denard against UConn and his long flowing dreads,
his human Heisman pose turning all of our heads.

For 200-yard rushing and passing games
and making Shoelace a household name.

For Tate not quitting through adversity
and remaining loyal to our university.

For coming in and leading touchdown drives
and cheering on Denard and giving high fives.

For Vincent returning from an ACL tear
to be our best back with his dreadlocked hair.

For Junior finally playing an entire year
without getting injured like we all feared.

For his Braylon-like grabs and catch-and-runs
and making the Illinois game really fun.

For Roy and his impressions of Donald Duck
and proving our passing game does not suck.

For Stonum wearing his press conference glasses
and teaming up with Denard to catch lots of passes.

For 65 against the Bowling Green boys
and topping that score against Illinois.

For becoming bowl-eligible once again
and those who have stayed are true Michigan Men.

For another comeback against Notre Dame,
and Weis or Kelly…it’s all the same.

For Devin getting his feet wet for a few plays
and a QB position that’s stocked if he stays.

For David Molk anchoring the offensive line
and fighting through injuries all the time.

For Lewan looking like a young Jake Long
and for The Victors, the greatest fight song.

For Mike Martin, the incredible hulk
clogging the middle like spackle and caulk.

For youth on defense getting experience this year
to help bring us back to a defense that’s feared.

For Woolfolk’s ankle that’s healing so he can come back
next year to put our defense back on track.

For seven wins, which is more than our losses
and all of our offense’s long touchdown tosses.

So on this Thanksgiving while we eat lots of food,
let’s give thanks to our boys in the Maize and Blue.

And will them to win over Ohio State,
the team that we’re all thankful to hate.