Gaps in the historical record of Michigan Wolverine Sports History
Esteemed writer John U. Bacon has written another book the on college football. Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, “…[which] searches for the sport’s old ideals amid the roaring flood of hypocrisy and greed, as he was embedded in four programs- Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern.” It joins Bacon’s other works; Blue Ice, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, and Three and Out, as mandatory reading for Michigan fans.
But what books should be written?
What gaps in the historical record still need to be filled?
I doubt that any of these men would write a no-holds barred account of their experiences but if they ever did it would be some amazing stuff.
Long time coach Fred Jackson has had a front row seat during the most turbulent times in recent Michigan Football history. Begin with that Jackson has been on staff for the four most recent head coaches; Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Brady Hoke. Jackson was there when Gary Moeller left the program in disgrace. He won a National Championship with Carr, and the was sole coaching survivor after RichRod brought in his own staff. As the losses and and criticism mounted, not to mention the problems with the NCAA , Jackson survived. When RichRod exited the Wolverine stage, Jackson once again made the transition to a new staff being retained by new Coach Brady Hoke.
A great recruiter and a talented coach, Jackson is in a unique position to compare and contrast coaching regimes.
A polarizing figure for many, Lloyd did what Bo was never able to do- win a National Championship. A great coach by the numbers and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, fans would probably be most interested in his thoughts on close of this career and the subsequent transition to RichRod.
A noted history buff, it would be fun to imagine Lloyd penning chapters in line with his interests:
Appalachian State- My Personal Waterloo
I am not Benedict Arnold- I Didn’t Undermine Anyone
Old Soldiers Don’t Die, They Just Fade Away- My Perceived Lack of Support for Rich Rodriguez
Humorous chapter titles aside, there are many questions that Lloyd could address. Starting with the persistent rumors of health problems, his snarly attitude with some members of media, and feuds with former Wolverine Quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh and Rick Leach. What about his take on the athletic directors he has worked for?
Not to mention the elephant in the room- his behavior and attitude towards his successor Rich Rodriguez.
Did Lloyd really call Rodriguez to gauge his interest in the Michigan job?
What was he thinking when he offered to help his players transfer before Rodriguez arrived on campus?
What really went down when he met with Rodriguez for lunch at the Michigan Union to clear the air?
Rodriguez and his staff have aired their grievances. Lloyd declined to make himself available despite John Bacon’s efforts during the writing of Three and Out.
Someday Lloyd should answer these questions on the record. His answers would make for interesting reading.
It was Winston Churchill who said, “History is written by the victors.” Lloyd is allowing the final word on his career to be told by RichRod- and that is unacceptable.
The highs and lows of Webber’s Wolverine athletic career alone would make for a great book. From high school phenom to a cultural icon as leader of the Fab 5 his ill advised time-out crushed the hopes Wolverine fans. But his involvement in one of the largest NCAA scandals in history elevates his tale to the level of a Greek tragedy.
Many fans would like to see Webber and Fab 5 honored in some way by Michigan. Webber could go a long way towards rehabilitating his image with a thoughtful account of his disagreements with the NCAA and troubles as a reluctant witness during the federal investigation of bookmaker Ed Martin.
With former athletes challenging the NCAA right to profit from their likeness, a book by Webber would be most timely.
Chris could thrust himself back in to spotlight and perhaps help current college athletes in their quest for more compensation from the NCAA.
Michigan Assistant Athletic Director Bruce Madej recently announced his retirement. His career has spanned from Athletic Directors Don Canham to David Brandon, football coaches from Bo to Brady Hoke. His tenure began with stories written on typewriters and published via printing press and ends with reporters tweeting from the their smartphones to a global internet audience.
Madej has help the guide the coverage of virtually every major Michigan sports story for the last quarter century. He is a living encyclopedia of Michigan Wolverine history.
Have you heard the good news?
The Michigan Wolverine Football Program made $61.6 MILLION in 2011-12.
For most organizations it would be cause for celebration. In Ann Arbor it was time to raise prices.
Yes, despite record profits the Michigan Athletic Department announced that is raising taxes on football season ticket holders…err increasing the amount of preferred seat donations for those who wish to keep their season tickets.
The move will help pad the bottom line of the Athletic Department and help to fuel another wave of buildings on the athletic campus.
But the move intensifies the debate of how skyrocketing ticket prices impact the sustainability of the athletic department profit model.
The ranks of basketball and hockey season ticket holders have been thinned by years of price increases and student season ticket holder numbers have likewise fluctuated.
With huge pockets of empty seats in the student section in Michigan Stadium this past season, it appears that even football isn’t immune to the impact of high ticket prices. Many season ticket holders began attending games as students, transitioning to public season ticket holders after graduation. The Athletic Department risks losing these fans as they graduate.
Many current football season tickets holders are selling a portion of their season tickets to help subsidize their costs. This latest increase have caused some to question the true value of their season tickets. With a waiting list for football season ticket holders, the athletic department seems to be immune to people not renewing their season tickets.
If the athletic department could weather the RichRod era with its losing record and NCAA scandal, a few lost season ticket holders doesn’t seem like a big deal. But with every long time fan who gives up their football, hockey, or basketball season tickets the athletic department gets in return a customer with little or no loyalty to Michigan Athletics.
As the Big Ten expands to include such powerhouses as Maryland and Rutgers, season ticket holders are questioning what kind of games they’ll be seeing in the Big House in future seasons. While the future impact of expansion and tickets prices are unknown, the people making the current decisions won’t be around to face the long term ramifications of these recent developments.
I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of the money grab. Big Ten expansion will only drive revenues so far. Online viewing will start to erode the stranglehold of cable television and then the Big Ten Network will need to some other source cash. That’s why within the next 5 years we’ll see major event games follow the pay-per-view model. It’s the next logical step in the evolution of greed.
The conference will win, the schools will win, and college football will be headed down the road to being about as relevant as boxing.
It’s a bleak future when the people running your athletic program care more about dollars than fans. But more and more it seems that the short sighted greed of a few will lead to the death of college football as we know it.
Youth was served as the Michigan Wolverines barely scraped by Air Force, 31-25. Freshman were used extensively and Coach Brady Hoke acknowledged that there are more playing than on any of his other previous teams.
The aura surrounding the Wolverine Football program is a deeper shade of blue.
There is more confidence, more appreciation. There is added optimism that the team has the ability to compete in its conference, offensively, defensively and on special teams.
There is more swagger, as well as more quiet confidence, among those that have earned and worn the M, and among the fans that fill those expensive stadium seats. High school coaches are warming to the program. Recruiting is prospering as far as instant analysis of the process can divine. Hoke’s judgment in hiring his staff is beyond reproach. Their coaching abilities are universally respected, and those abilities are put to full use.
As Coach Hoke steps into his second season, he has raised perceptions, expectations, and realities regarding his program. People can actually believe it when the Wolverines state their goals are a B1G Championship and beyond. It appears to many that the Wolverines might realistically be a factor again, might really be able to compete at significantly higher, or the highest levels, now.
Coach Hoke appreciates how far his current group has progressed since they struggled last spring with new coaches and new systems, but he is not satisfied. Hoke will never be satisfied. The necessity to improve and compete is as much of a mantra for him as demanding that tough guys play for him.
Coach Hoke has been able to figuratively clear all the first year hurdles to success in unexpected fashion. Hoke running hurdles does conjure up a visual doesn’t it?
It is hard to think his first fourteen months at the Michigan helm could have been done better. Hell yes, a victory over MSU would have been sweet, and knocking off Iowa last season also would have been sweet, but we are looking at the big picture here. Look where the Wolverines were defensively the year before, and the year before, and the year before. In fourteen months great strides have been made.
His teams have always done better the second year, and that will probably be true of the upcoming season. That applies to Borges, and Mattison, and maybe some of the other coaches. Progress is being made, and this team of Wolverines is assisting in its manufacture and propagation.
Improvement is palpable everywhere, including the improved stadium, bigger scoreboards, in the merchandising of the program. No yellow ring around the stadium, no NCAA sanctions, the BuckNuts humbled. That too, and waiting in the wings is….what? Likely more success.
Even Rich Rodriguez deserves some credit. Of course not defensively, but the acquisition of Denard Robinson, and others who have stuck it out and contributed deserves credit. RR deserves extra credit for Denard. Robinson is the best dual threat QB in the country, and improving. And he is not the only RR acquisition that is benefitting this team. Think Roundtree and Kovacs, and more.
Notwithstanding this, Rich does have the ability to stick his foot in it public relations wise. Like reported comments that he said he baked the cake, and iced it, but someone else got to eat it, when commenting on last season’s Michigan football success.
This doesn’t have legs when one considers his team’s defensive ineptness, his lack of defensive recruiting. There is no excuse for Michigan being one hundred tenth in the nation in defense. I have a feeling he will do better with Casteel as his DC in Arizona. Casteel has made the 3-3-5 come alive at times. Wouldn’t it be something to meet Arizona in the Rose Bowl someday?
Much credit for the Wolverines success the last fourteen months must go to the personality, work ethic, values, and football acumen of Brady Hoke. He has proved to be the right man, at the right time, in the right place.
The Wolverines should be one of the teams to beat in the B1G this year if Denard has a big year. If they can find effective replacements for center Molk, receivers Stonum and Hemingway, defensive lineman Heininger and VanBergen, nose Mike Martin, and if some freshman not on the scene yet can shore up the two deep for those disabled by injuries yet to happen.
The depth of the offensive and defensive lines is a concern, and Will Campbell and Ricky Barnum both have huge shoes to fill, as Molk and Martin were the best linemen on last year’s team.
Barnum muffed two snaps Saturday. Coaches say he fits his new position perfectly. When he was interviewed post spring game, he brought the subject up himself and shouldered responsibility: said it was his fault, said it had not been happening, and would stop there.
Campbell’s defensive line was identified as too soft in the middle by both Coach Hoke and Mattison, but they still looked pretty good. Gang tackling is back. Strong side end Keith Heitzman was mentioned by Coach Hoke, and I could not help but notice Richard Ash at DT. On the OL, Joey Burznski, Junior/Sophomore, started at left guard.
The players I talked to said that players improve under the expectations of this staff in the summer. Team 133 is still a work in progress, but it is a work in progress at a higher level than last year.
Saturday, as you are probably well aware, the “spring football game” was held in Michigan Stadium, with the offense winning 17-0. It is not a game, but a glorified practice. Attendance was estimated at 25,000 and undoubtedly was not improved by the dire weather forecasts the night before that said the game might be cancelled. Thunder storms did not appear as forecast and the day proved a decent replica of a fall day-dry but not pretty and, gray. The new lights were on. Almost $250,000 was raised for Mott Children’s Hospital.
A flag football game with 100 former players filled the morning, Maize against Blue, with the Blue prevailing 33-19. Alijah Bradley won the MVP award, again burdened this year with the 10 foot tall statue he also won last year. David Brandon did his part. There was a band, announcers, both scoreboards were working. The end zones were roped off due to the pending lacrosse game. There is danger to fans from over thrown balls in that game.
This spring event is not a game, but a glorified practice, with some frills and two 30-play segments. It is difficult to judge much about the quality of a football team under this format. Something similar has long been excused because of the effect of 85 scholarships instead of 115. That heightened the nasty effect of injuries to a team. But it also seems that lack of depth plays a part. Alabama held its spring game before 80,000 and reports indicated it was a game, not a glorified practice.
Some press reports indicate Coach Hoke has said he wished an “exhibition game” against another team was allowed. This certainly would peak interest, but whether it would aggravate injuries would remain a question.
This year was unique in that under studies got huge chunks of playing time. For example Russell Bellomy got extensive opportunity at QB, and Devin Gardner got some. Obviously they are confident Denard and others know the system well enough to sit. Many played and got their first exposure to playing in the Big House under game conditions.
Thomas Rawls had two runs for TDs and 42-yards on 10 carries. His slashing, hard nose running style fits the system perfectly. Justice Hays got some carries. Fitzgerald Toussaint looked like, well, the Fitzgerald Toussaint you know. Coach Hoke identified FB Paul Gyamati as a tough runner, and lauded FB Stephen Hopkins as having a good spring.
Asked if any receiver was going to wear the Number 1 this year, Coach Hoke reminded that he has 115 worthy players, all trying to earn honors.
Vincent Smith, Jerald Robinson, and Jeremy Gallon collared passes, none of which were deep.
The switch of Craig Roh to strong side defensive end seems to have benefitted him, Jabreel Black is doing well with his hand down, and on the weak side there is a prospering competition between Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, with Beyer starting this time, but Clark close. Keith Heitzel, a reserve strong side DE was mentioned by Hoke.
Blake Countess grabbed a pick. Brandon Hawthorne made his presence felt with five tackles and an interception. He has been tolerating some dings.
It is difficult to predict future success or failure from “spring games”. Players that have a strong spring game may falter in the fall. The same can happen to a team. The whole body of work has to be considered including the results of competition.
Sometimes the defects revealed in the spring are glaring. Such as defensive deficiencies in the spring game at Saline a few years ago. Not so this year. It seems that the Wolverines are going to be a highly competitive team in the B1G this year. Whether they will be able to compete at a national level won’t be validated until after their appearance Arlington, and even then the team that ends the season may be much stronger than the one that started the season.
What we do know is that something good is being built in Ann Arbor. How good only time will tell.