…and the band played on- Michigan Wolverine Marching Band *will* play in the Cowboys Classic

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.”

On Thursday April 19 2012, the members of the Michigan Marching were informed via email that

“…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.

Go Blue!

12/1/99- Saban Shows Disrespect to MSU

On Tuesday, November 30 Nick Saban re-affirmed the nagging fear that every Spartan fan has in the back of their mind.

“At Michigan State we were never No. 1…That was always Michigan. It was always U-M this or that.”

For as much as Wolverines take great glee in reminding Spartans of their inherent inferiority it’s a different matter when it comes from the former Spartan Head Football Coach.

Nick Saban not only left the Spartans, stabbing them in the back at the end of their best season since 1965, but took a verbal swipe at the institution on the way out.

The message is clear. MSU is second rate school only worthy as a stepping stone to real job elsewhere. Much is made of the salary increase at LSU.

Saban has said that he needed to listen to offers “…for the good of his family…”

Well, last I checked Saban was making $700K at MSU, he was already taking care of his family pretty well. When an athlete makes a decision to sign a contract it’s one thing. An athlete may only get a or two chances to sign a big contract since their careers are relatively short. But a coach? Saban is only 48 years old. He can conceivably coach for another 25 years. 25 years times $700K= $17.5 million.

MSU had just rewarded basketball coach Tom Izzo with a new million dollar contract. It was possible that if Saban replicated his success again next year he could have been rewarded with a lucrative contract as well. So what happened? Nick Saban obviously got tired of being in the shadow of the University of Michigan. It’s one thing to be second in the Big Ten but another thing to be second in your state. Rather than dig in for the long haul and make a commitment to building up the Spartan program to be consistently on par with UM he bailed out.

Believe it or not there was a time in the State of Michigan when MSU was the dominant football power. The 1960’s (the dark days) were owned by the Spartans.

It took Bo Schembechler’s great career to move the State of Michigan firmly into the grasp of UM. Spartans may have hoped that Saban would be such a figure to restore MSU glory.

But he left. It’s one thing to leave a job but it’s another thing to show disrespect to the university that has treated you well. Saban also disappointed his team and recruits that he brought to MSU. They made a commitment to Nick Saban. Unfortunately, his commitment to them was for sale to highest bidder.