The State of the Program

We have officially entered the put up or shut up phase of Brady Hoke’s tenure. This season, which started with so much promise, ended Saturday with more questions than answBoba Fetters. We are left to pick up the pieces of another disappointing 4+ loss campaign, and while the team is largely young (how many times have we heard that the past 5 years???) an offensive line that has been destroyed much of the year, loses its best two players. A receiving corps loses two of its top three receivers. ‎Like his play or not, you lose your top RB in terms of yards in Fitz Touissant.

While I’m not a “call sports radio and demand my coach be fired” kind of guy, I believe in excellence for my Alma mater. Both on and off the field. When Dave Brandon completed his “process”, he hired Brady Hoke, and paraded him in front of the world. Told us how he had the man that would lead Michigan for the foreseeable future. Brady stands up, talks about how he would have walked here, how Michigan is an elite job and an elite program. I mean, this is “Michigan, Fergodsakes.”  And while he is right, that it is a program that has an elite history, this program is as far from being elite as any teams in the B1G not named OSU or MSU. But no season ticket holder will argue that they don’t pay like it’s an elite program. And pricing goes up most every year. Even though most fans won’t see an increase in their ticket pricing this year, the 60% or so of them who first got a PSL this year, will get the full rate in 2014 (double what this year’s was).

Now I love Brady Hoke, mind you. Most anyone would send their sons to play for him, merely because there are few who have the integrity that Brady does (which is becoming rarer in college football).  But outside of the offensive line, few can argue that Rich Rodriguez left the cupboard far more full than when he found it, in spite of his obvious issues. Take away a 2011 season where seemingly everything fell Brady’s way, fans have been left holding the bag.  ‎A schedule where most all of their difficult games are on the road next year doesn’t bode too well. It’s time for the staff AND David Brandon to be held accountable. 8-4 and 7-5 are becoming the norm and not the exception. With annual schedules including the likes of UCONN, Akron and CMU on it, 9 wins should be the floor, not the ceiling most years. Michigan is in jeopardy of losing a generation of fans, which in terms of what’s important to the AD, a generation of future donors. Al Glick and Steve Ross won’t live forever, you know. It’s time to put up or shut up in 2014. And that starts today.

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

By: Phil Callihan

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.

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Masters of the Blitzkrieg, Losers of the War

Around midnight last night, full-on delirium took hold of me as I tried to process the day’s events. In succession, Michigan lost to Ohio in basketball, Michigan’s last hope for laArmani Reevesnding a #1 CB chose the rival Buckeyes, and a key interior line prospect committed to Iowa over the Wolverines. Taken in isolation, none of these events were surprising and certainly not cause for the comatose state in which I found myself at the end of the night. The #4 Buckeyes were heavy favorites to beat John Beilein’s Wolverines. CB Armani Reeves was known to favor the Buckeyes. Finally, linemen Alex Kozan was expected by many to pick the Hawkeyes. The hallucinations and bouts of sorrow that gripped me were not induced by shock or surprise. Instead it was a cocktail of despair and frustration over the events taken in unison, and the bewilderment over how we found ourselves in this position that left me catatonic. On Wednesday, Michigan will officially welcome one of the best overall recruiting classes in a decade and the first full class under Brady Hoke. Despite that, a feeling of disappointment remains in the pit of the stomachs of those who follow recruiting on a regular basis. Despite a fast start to the recruiting year and securing a very good class overall, Michigan will finish out the recruiting season with one its weakest finishes in recent memory.

Much has been made over the imposition of the new and more rigorous academic standards that have been put in place regarding who Michigan can and cannot add to the recruiting class. Michigan has been forced to turn away risky academic cases and has purposely shied away from recruiting kids who have no chance at qualifying as a result of the new standards. This approach has inevitably had an impact on the quality of the class as a whole.

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No Man Is More Important Than The Team

Let me preface this article by saying at the outset that this piece is not about rehashing or re-prosecuting Rich Rodriguez. No one wants to move forward and concentrate on the present and future more than I do. With that said, it is critical to take a look at the past in order to provide perspective on the current situation and what to expect in the future.

Several of the comments made by Brady Hoke (watch video) during last week’s Big 10 Media Days highlight an issue that has received little attention. While much has been made over the issues that led Dave Brandon’s decision to remove Rich Rodriguez, one factor has largely gone unmentioned by the mainstream media. While the sub .500 record, annual losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, and embarrassingly bad defense all played a major role, the single biggest factor was likely Rodriguez putting himself and his coaches ahead of the football program. This is not to suggest that Rodriguez did not care for his players. Contrary to popular opinion Rodriguez is not an uncaring individual or an evil person. Throughout his 3 years at Michigan, Rodriguez displayed a high degree of concern for both his players and their families. The attention and support given to Brock Mealer by the football program is just one illustration of who Rich Rodriguez is as a person. Going above and beyond for several of the families at Motts Children’s Hospital provides yet another example. Juxtaposed to the selfless Rich Rodriguez is the football coach who was as interested in selling himself and his system as anything else. Rodriguez’s approach in public appearances and recruiting was grounded in self promotion. From the pep rally designed to garner support for the coach instead of the team, to public events and fund raisers with fans and alumni where Rodriguez sold what he, his system, and his coaches could do for them and the football program. A similar approach was used in recruiting where kids, especially on the offensive side, were primarily sold on the advantages of playing for a “master of the spread.” While academic prowess, personal development, and the University as a whole was used a recruiting tool, those attributes served as tertiary pitches to recruits. Kids were sold less on the University and what a Michigan experience could do for their lives going forward and more on the ability and personal profile of Rodriguez and his staff.

The way Rodriguez approached his job is something that must have weighed heavily on the mind of Dave Brandon when it came time to make a decision. Above annarbor.comeverything else Rich Rodriguez was in it for himself, ahead of the University and ahead of his players. Having a coach who put the players and the University above everything else was something that likely influenced both Brandon’s decision to remove Rodriguez, and who Brandon decided to pick as the next coach. While Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles were both contacted by Brandon, neither coach ended up taking the job. Like Rodriguez, both coaches project the image of a coach bigger than the program at their respective schools. Neither coach showed a willingness to put Michigan above themselves or their careers. Harbaugh’s interest in the NFL was well known even before Michigan made contact. Miles showed only a passing interest in the job, taking the interview with Dave Brandon on advice from his agent. This is not to suggest that either coach was unworthy of the job or unable to succeed at Michigan. There are many coaches who have succeeded while running their program on a cult of personality. Coaches like Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino have always put themselves out in front of their programs and each has enjoyed a high level of success. The critical thing to understand is the thought process the guided Brandon’s decision and what he was looking for in his next coach.

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Captions By Our Readers….

We asked yesterday on Twitter for followers to provide captions for this photo of Athletic Director David Brandon & Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson. Here are most of them (we had to remove a few that weren’t appropriate):

@hailuofm – The defense was good but the coordinator chaser left a bad taste in my mouth

@JmakeMsay – Sooo I saw that picture floating around of you picking your nose on the sideline….

@SpawnsTitleIX – you sir, are dead to me! now go get my pizza.

@GreekMoose71 – why did he order from Pizza Hut and not Dominos??

@barrymarshall – Dead Man Walking

@mvonsteinfort – Sometimes the crust needs to be changed to improve the pizza…

@mgobrian – “Robinson runs the wheel route to the cooler.”

@bradelders – you may keep your jacket as a souvenir of your employment here.

@jodman257 – Go get my car, I’ll be waiting over here

@ScarlettL – “thanks for the sour patch kids, budddy! But now I need to floss”

@Ldublu70 – “Well, he took the news better than I though he would. I’m hungry. How ‘bout some pizza?”

@brogers42 – he better run to get my coffee, we sure aren’t paying him to coach defense

@suicidea7 – “nice knowing you Greg, I hope this new gas station is hiring”

@MichaelHadley3 – His breath is worse than his defense…

@grrce – “defense is just as bad as his kisses. I have an awful taste in my mouth.”

@McConnaghy – “Get to work on your resume son”

@hokieguru – “Thank heavens I took the last of the beer.”

If anyone else has a different take, feel free to leave it as a comment below.

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