Michigan Quarterback Denard Robinson
With apologies to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to the meaning of life the universe and everything is not 42.
At least that’s the answer for Michigan Wolverine fans this season.
After weeks of breaking down game tape and evaluating the incoming football roster for the upcoming season, I have reached the following conclusion:
It’s all about Denard Xavier Robinson.
Of course, he needs no introduction. Since he grabbed hold of the starting QB position two seasons ago amid the implosion of Tate Forcier he’s taken Wolverine fans on a wild ride. From the 2010 Notre Dame game where he gained 258 yards while announcing his entry into the Heisman Trophy race, to last season’s improbable last minute comeback, again against the irish, to lead the Wolverines to victory in the first night game in history of The Big House- Denard is the spark plug that makes the Big Blue Machine go.
In fact last season’s 11-2 record might be the most damning indictment of former coach Rich Rodriguez and his gang who-couldn’t-shoot-straight defensive coaches. With Denard in full Heisman mode in 201o, the team barely squeaked into a bowl game beating. This past season a more restrained Denard Robinson under Brady Hoke and a rejuvenated Greg Mattison coached defense gave a Wolverine fans a taste of what’s possible.
For the next three months, fans will debate who will snap the ball, who will block and who will catch the ball for the Wolverines. We’ll agonize over every rumor while fretting over the the defensive line and backfield depth charts.
I’ve seen Anthony Carter electrify Michigan Stadium. I’ve seen Desmond Howard dominate the Buckeyes and break into his Heisman pose. I was there when Tim Biakabutuka ran for 313 against the Buckeyes. I was at Penn State when the mere appearance of Charles Woodson in the Wolverine offense made the Nittany Lions panic like a second rate junior varsity squad. I saw Braylon Edwards dominate Michigan State in the famous triple overtime game.
I’ve experienced all these great performances and many more (even some by opponents; Donovan McNabb, Dennis Dixon, and Troy Smith to name a few) but the game-in and game-out electricity of Denard Robinson trumps them all.
Last year my analysis told me the we were looking at a 8-4, 9-3 regular season. In retrospect, a few less distractions at Michigan State, a few calls breaking our way against Iowa and…which brings us to this season.
There’s three months to fill before the Wolverines play in Dallas.
We’ll hear the clowns at ESPN debate whether Denard should demand to play wide receiver!
We’ll talk about why it took 18 months for the Athletic Department and the band to figure out travel arrangements for the Cowboy Classic.
We can question if “The Brand, The Brand, Brand(on),” has replaced the “The Team, The Team, The Team!”
But there’s really only question that matters when the Wolverines take the field in Dallas against Alabama to start the season.
Where’s number 16?
On October 14, 2010, the Michigan athletic department announced that the Wolverines would travel to Dallas, Texas to face the Alabama Crimson Tide for the 2012 season opener.
“This is a great way to kick off the 2012 season with two of the nation’s winningest college football programs,” said U-M director of athletics Dave Brandon. “We are excited about playing a regular-season game in the state of Texas, a region of the country where we have traditionally recruited. Our goal is to get as many Michigan fans to the game as possible to witness this match-up of traditional powers.”
“…it has recently been decided that the Michigan Marching Band will not be traveling to Texas for the Cowboy Classic game vs. Alabama this fall. The Athletic Department is treating the Alabama game as a standard road contest, not as a bowl game. Therefore, there is no bowl-style budget available to bring the band to Texas.”
What happened during the 18 months between these announcements may take some time to uncover but reaction from Wolverine fans was known immediately. Less than 5 days later the athletic department reversed itself and it was announced that band would be traveling to the game.
The solution that had remained a mystery for 18 months was suddenly solved in less than 5 days.
The message is clear- don’t mess with the band.
Fans may be accepting of piped in music during home games but the idea of having the Victors played via tape during a huge national game is unacceptable.
Fans, stung by rising ticket prices and seat licenses, and a less than stellar home slate of games put their collective feet down.
Sending the band isn’t cheap, and surely the athletic department can’t be expected to pay for everything all the time but considering the special nature of this game and the projected athletic department budget for 2012
…At the University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, athletic director Dave Brandon presented a budget with anticipated revenues of $121.2 million versus expenses of $109.8 million, a surplus of $11.38 million. The Michigan athletic department expects a surplus of $4.7 million for fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30. It will be the department’s 10th straight year in the black.
This should have been an easy call. Certainly it shouldn’t have taken 18 months to find a solution.
Now some have questioned the financial terms of the deal Michigan negotiated to play in the Cowboys Classic. They cite the loss of revenue for surrendering a home game at Michigan Stadium versus the revenue generated by traveling to Dallas.
This is why accountants don’t make strategic decisions for organizations.
Now there are things I don’t like about this game. First and foremost it leaves season ticketholders with a weak slate of game at the Big House this season. Secondly, Dallas err Arlington (the home of Cowboys Stadium) is one of my least favorite destinations and honestly I would have preferred playing an away in a collegiate stadium.
But those reasons aside, if you’re Dave Brandon you make this deal in a heartbeat.
For the 6 month run up to this game Michigan will receive unprecedented media coverage. They get the opportunity to play a high profile game in the heart of prime recruiting territory and within driving distance of tons Michigan alumni. They have locked in a high profile opponent, something that even a BCS bowl bid (Virginia Tech) can’t guarantee. The game is early enough in the season that the Wolverines can easily recovery from a loss, and if QB Denard Robinson pulls of the victory he and the Wolverines could be on the way to very special season.
And stay tuned because rumors of more special event games have been swirling for years. Visits to the New York area and the west coast (anybody up for a Nike/Adidas showdown?) have obvious appeal.
The only mistake in this saga was shortchanging the band.
And now with the minor details resolved we only have to wait for the actual game to be played.
I’m so excited I’ll even go to Dallas.
“I saw that U of Michigan has no plans to put back up our hoops banners. Should I do like most of its former BBallers & never return?” he tweeted. “Or should I ask for the 250k I donated for my Endowed Scholarship back & move it to another school? Stay Tuned.”
Athletic Director David Brandon followed up with the obvious explanation on why the banners won’t be returning:
“We’re not even sure that we could put those banners up,” Brandon said. “If you vacated wins and forfeited wins and basically cleared the record books of any activity, it’s hard to believe we could put back up the banners. We’ve never even gauged with the NCAA to see if that were possible.
“And, truthfully, if we had to forfeit the wins, it doesn’t seem appropriate.”
Members of the Fab 5 believe that their achievements are being unfairly ignored. You especially have to feel for Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, who never achieved success at the pro level like their college teammates Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose.
The Chris Webber/Ed Martin scandal wreaked havoc on the Michigan Basketball record book and forever tainted the Fab5 legacy. Many Wolverines fans would be happy to leave the scandal in the past and move on. Jalen clearly agrees with them.
The problem is that Chris Webber is guilty as sin and Jalen is wrong to blame Michigan for the banishment of the Fab 5. That blame rests solely on the shoulders of Webber. To blame Michigan would be like Jalen blaming the police for his recent DUI. In that incident Jalen rightly accepted blame for his actions:
“I have no one to blame but myself for endangering the community,” he told the judge.
But Jalen doesn’t use the same criteria when he chooses to look the other way with scandal brought Michigan by former teammate Chris Webber and bookie Ed Martin.
Chris Webber is a thief. His blatant disregard for the rules robbed the rest of the Fab 5 of their legacy and destroyed the memories of those seasons in the minds of Wolverine fans. He also stole from his opponents, it wasn’t enough that he had more talent in his pinky finger than many of them. He also didn’t need to burden himself with the same rules as the common players.
Webber’s post-Michigan career was also marked by a failure to follow the rules. When Chris was caught with drugs he denied responsibility. When he got a speeding ticket, the community didn’t appreciate him. When called to testify against bookie Ed Martin he lied through his teeth. Eventually his lies caught up with him and he was suspended for violating the NBA anti-drug policy and being forced to plead guilty to one charge of criminal contempt for lying to a federal grand jury.
Webber has never never expressed any regret for the dishonor he brought to Michigan. Perhaps if he had I might have some sympathy for him.
So the main reason for the banners not returning to Crisler Center from the dim archives of the Bentley Library are practical. The games have been erased so the banners are null and void. You can thank Chris Webber for that.
But there’s another more philosophical reason for the banners to stay buried.
To borrow a popular phrase these days- “THIS IS MICHIGAN…”
The Fab 5 never won a Big Ten title. The regular season was a mere inconvenience for them. And as far was being National Champion runner-ups, I can tell you as someone who attended Michigan during their reign, nobody was throwing them a parade for coming in second two years in a row. If you’re excited about losing in the Final Four you need to head up to East Lansing- they got that covered up there.
But I do offer a compromise. Disregarding his DUI Jalen has been an outstanding example of a Michigan Man since leaving the University of Michigan. He has contributed his time and money to many worthy charities and endowed a scholarship at Michigan. For these reasons, I propose that Michigan raise an unnamed #5 jersey to the rafters of Crisler Center.
For those willing to ignore the misdeeds of Chris Webber it can represent the Fab 5.
For the rest of us it can serve as a reminder to always question things that are simply too good to be true.