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Stadium and Main: July 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

ESPNews bombards us with college football

On Tuesday, ESPNews will have coverage of Big Ten Media Day, including interviews with coaches and whatnot. That runs from Noon - 3 p.m. Eastern. From 3 - 6 p.m. Eastern, The Hot List will have even more stuff. Should be thrilling.

ESPNews' ADT College Coaches Spotlight will premiere on Tuesday, August 29th or Tuesday, September 5th, and run each Tuesday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Eastern during the regular season. You know you want more Lou Holtz!

Also, ESPNews will have a new "show" called College Football Overdrive each Saturday this Fall, beginning September 2nd. From 3 to 8 p.m., they will have live game cut-ins, pre-and-post-game news conferences, interviews, et cetera. Should be the best way to get updates on games that aren't showing in your area or whatever. Need to see the end of Wake Forest - Boston College? Tune in!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Less than 5 weeks!

I'm gonna pee my pants!!

Anyway, you've probably already seen this site dedicated to the Stadium renovation. Of note is this (fairly large) PDF file with more detailed drawings and descriptions. There's even a Podcast(?!) with Bill Martin discussing the basics. I'd like to see Bill Martin's iPod library - I bet he loves the hippy jams.

Also, football players "report" on Sunday (Aug. 6th). Let's hope for 100% attendance and 0% drama. The end is nigh!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

September 16th will be the longest day of my life

Many Michigan fans will see "September 16th" and assume that I am referring to the Notre Dame game, which I certainly am. But that game itself isn’t the reason why that Saturday will be the longest day of my life. It is a big reason, but not the reason.

Michigan plays at Notre Dame at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. 3:30 games are great to attend, but are often annoying if you are watching on TV. The first reason this day will be long is because I’ll have to wait forever for the Michigan game to start. On Saturdays in the Fall, I always wake up earlier than I would prefer. It’s like being a kid on Christmas, except you have to wait a few hours to open your presents. So by the time 3:30 hits, I will be a bundle of nerves. Sitting at home and being forced to listen to Lee Corso mispronounce players’ names and say “Big Blue” 20 times before kickoff is going to drive me insane. But to add insult to injury, September 16th seriously could be the greatest early-season day of college football ever. Check out the highlights:
Iowa State at Iowa -- Noon -- ESPN
BYU at Boston College -- Noon -- ESPN2
Michigan at Notre Dame -- 3:30 -- NBC (HD)
LSU at Auburn -- 3:30 -- CBS (HD)
Miami at Louisville -- 3:30 -- ABC / Gameplan
Michigan State at Pitt -- 3:30 -- ABC / Gameplan
Oklahoma at Oregon -- 3:30 -- ABC / Gameplan
Texas Tech at TCU -- 5:30 -- Versus (a.k.a. OLN)
Arizona State at Colorado -- 7:00 -- TBS
Clemson at Florida State -- 7:45 -- ESPN (HD)
Florida at Tennessee -- 8:00 -- CBS (HD)
Nebraska at Southern Cal -- 8:00 -- ABC (HD)
N.C. State at Southern Miss -- TBA -- TBA
Those are some pretty good games – most of which are non-conference games. Props to those teams for playing more difficult opponents in “the BCS era.” But back to my point… that game lineup is reason number two. Regardless of Michigan’s outcome (hint: loss), I will absolutely have to watch those other games, especially that ESPN/CBS/ABC night game trio. My DVR will be working overtime. The 3-TV setup will be in full effect [Yes, I have 3 TVs all lined up. Yes, I am insane. Yes, my girlfriend hates it.]

Reason number three is that after all the good games are over, near the stroke of midnight, I will force myself to check the Michigan Football message boards, web sites, et cetera, to see what the reaction is to the game (hint: meltdown). Even though I’ve been through it plenty of times before, I will subject myself to the rants of dudes with Napoleon Complexes or mid-life crises (or both, if I’m lucky!). Part of me will laugh, part of me will cry. By the time I get ready for bed, I will be exhausted.

It will be a frustrating, glorious, fast-paced, slow-moving, terrible, amazing day. And that is why college football is the greatest sport in the world.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday reading

Some stuff that I have found interesting over the past few weeks – Michigan Football and otherwise…

- Brian of mgoblog ponders Michigan’s (alleged) talent advantage, and lists some changes he would make to college football if he ruled the world. The “fumble out of the endzone = a touchback” rule is insane, no?

- Jake of Motown Sports Revival reminds us that Big Ben (the ‘fro guy, not the motorcycle guy) went like 3 for 71 at the free throw line during the NBA Playoffs.

- Robert of Blah Me To Death admits that this is a small sample size, but still has some intriguing numbers regarding the Michigan Offense.

- Dave of Maize n Brew gets you ready for the season opener with the most thorough Vanderbilt preview ever.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Future

Uncertainty breeds excitement, among other things. Each August, you can easily find hundreds of Michigan fans so hopeful about the season’s prospects that any and all logical arguments cannot convince them that Michigan won’t go undefeated this year. But uncertainty also breeds anxiety, and that is what I’m feeling right now. Because, in my opinion, the next 5 years will be the most important seasons for Michigan Football and Basketball in my lifetime. And I've already started fretting about it. Every season (nay, every game) is important – but I think that even the most casual Michigan fans realize (or should realize) that both “major” programs at Michigan are approaching ridiculously critical stages. Both programs will likely face major changes in the next few years – whether it is a coaching change or a change in what we expect to see in the “win” column, or both. I’ll focus on Football (this is a Football-based blog, after all), but I think it is important to touch on Basketball, as well. My discombobulated thoughts…

The Football Program

Lloyd Carr will not be Michigan’s coach in 2010. In fact, most “insiders” expect him to hang it up no later than after the 2007 season (making one last run at a National Championship with an experienced team (Henne and Hart will be Seniors)). So who takes the reigns? The conversation usually starts (and, unfortunately, often ends) with the “Michigan Men.” Four guys that are frequently mentioned are current Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord, former QB and current San Diego (not State) Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, former DL and current Carolina Panthers Defensive Coordinator Mike Trgovac, and former Assistant (QBs and WRs) Coach and current San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. Force me to pick one right now, and I’d take Trgovac. Mainly because he has succeeded in the NFL at a fairly young age, coached under legends at big time programs like Michigan and Notre Dame, and has strong Midwest roots for recruiting purposes (a Youngstown, Ohio native). Also, I want Michigan Defense to mean MICHIGAN DEFENSE once again. Force me to bet $10,000 on who will be the next coach, and I’d (begrudgingly) say it's DeBord.

Here is the most likely scenario in my mind: Michigan has a decent year in 2006, and the Offense improves quite a bit (due to fewer injuries (please!) and more experience, but DeBord will get some credit). In 2007, Michigan has a great year – only 1 or 2 losses, max (Oregon, ND, PSU, OSU – all at home). With a talent-laden, experienced Offense, Michigan puts up big numbers, and DeBord gets even more credit. Forgetting the fact that DeBord failed miserably as the Head Coach at Central Michigan, and put up relatively mediocre numbers from 1997-99 with a very good OL, Anthony Thomas, David Terrell, Brian Griese, Tai Streets, and a few other NFL’ers (oh, and some guy named Brady?), DeBord is promoted to Head Coach, and Lloyd cackles with delight while walking off into the sunset. But I digress… The bottom line is if you don’t know much about those four guys yet, you might want to do some research, because those names will be bandied about in the coming months/years. And it pains me to say that I think “DeBo” (no, not that Deebo) will be our next HC.

You essentially have 2 types of logic floating around right now. One says that Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin is a smart, aggressive businessman, and he will make this his decision – getting us the best coach available. The other says that the “old guard” still rules (and will always rule), and Lloyd and/or Bo will hand-pick the next Head Coach, and it will be a Michigan Man. “Sexy” names like Cal’s Jeff Tedford and West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez sound nice, but will Michigan be willing to spend the big bucks for the next hot-shot coach and/or buy out the contract of a coach with a big money deal (like Louisville’s Bobby Petrino or Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz)? I’d much rather have somebody that has succeeded as a Head Coach than some crony who bombed out at CMU while his successor (Brian Kelly) continues to make strides. Help me Bill Martin, you’re my only hope…

The Basketball Program

What a difference a week makes. Just a matter of days ago, Michigan Basketball fans were lamenting the signing of some no-name guard from Florida with a bunch of Division 2 offers. The future did not look bright. We did not have to wear shades. But with the recent verbal commitment of “Manny” Harris and the re-commitment of Alex Legion, the Michigan backcourt of the future contains two Top-50 players. It’s about time that Tommy got a break or two.

Now, Michigan Basketball 2006 might not be that great, but the 2007 roster will have NBA talent on it (and I’m not talking about Bernard Robinson Jr. or Daniel Horton NBA talent – no offense to those guys). Don’t forget about 2006 recruit DeShawn Sims, and do start following Michigan Basketball recruiting again, because we are in on some big names for 2008. And so the question becomes: What can Amaker do with some higher-quality talent on his roster? Will the offense still look disorganized and sloppy one-quarter of the time? Will he be able to draw up a play out of a timeout besides that predictable double screen for an “open” 3-pointer from the wing (Memo to Tommy: If I know it’s coming, so does Tom Izzo, and Bo Ryan, and…)? Will we still lose 7 of 9 to end the regular season? If so, Michigan’s program will take a giant step back. Head Coaching turnover is hardly ever a good thing, and Michigan has been feeling its effects since 1997. Now that Michigan Basketball appears to have the potential to be stabilized, it is up to Tommy Amaker to make it work. If he can't, we might as well just implode Crisler and start over. Well, we might as well implode Crisler anyway, but that is a conversation for another time.

In Closing…

I mention my worries to you because I can’t go through this alone. I envy all of those idiots that I see every day on the street – walking around, completely oblivious to pretty much everything. If you consider yourself a Michigan fan, you just can’t be oblivious about this stuff. And if you're reading this blog, I know you're not oblivious. So start sweating now, my friend. The next 5 years are arguably the most important for Michigan Athletics in all of our lifetimes. As George Costanza would say, "Let's get nuts!"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Off-Topic Tuesday: Random Thoughts (Part 2)

Oprah is out of hand. I know I’m not the first person to comment on this, but seriously... crashing weddings?! What an egomaniac.

The World Cup was fun to watch, but how pretentious is soccer? They aren’t “free kicks” or “corner kicks” anymore – now they’re “set pieces.” Players aren’t “fast” or “quick,” they “have good pace.” Nevermind that everybody is diving all over the field (oh, excuse me, “the pitch”) and the games are fixed. Bottom line – soccer will never catch on in America. And to the international fans out there – America will win the World Cup sooner or later. We have too many athletes and too much money not to.

On a related note, baseball is not the national pastime anymore. Basketball is our pastime to play and football is our pastime to watch. Why? Because you only need a hoop, a ball, and yourself to play basketball. And because everybody and their sister watches at least one football game on Sunday, has a fantasy football team, and/or knows how to spell Roethlisberger (OK, maybe not so much on the last one).

Not off-topic, but I’ve gotta go on record now, because pre-season predictions are coming in fast and furious… Notre Dame will lose at least (that’s right, at least) one of its first two games (at Georgia Tech, vs. Penn State), but will beat Michigan. Consequently, my head will explode (again).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who doesn't love free t-shirts?!

I attended the first official “maize out” game, back on October 26, 2002 (shout-out to BR for the ride). Before that game, Lloyd Carr said this:

On the "Maize Out" and what is does for a team... "There is an old quote that enthusiasm is a force that creates momentum. Anytime you are anywhere and there is enthusiasm, it creates a force. There is no question that a spirited stadium motivates your team and everybody. Yet, it is a two-edge sword. If you go out and do not play well and do not play hard the crowd is not behind you. There has never been a big game where the crowd was not there and excited. I do think the fact that the students seem to be getting involved and there is more of an organized effort to create some energy is very positive for our team."
How he got through that quote without using the word “tremendous” is beyond me. But I digress... The maize out that day was not a success, and neither was the game – a 34-9 whooping at the hands of Iowa.

Let’s move forward to the present day. Fortunately, the “maize out” idea is becoming a bit more effective each time it is attempted, and the team has managed to avoid getting blown out like that over the past few seasons. Michigan fans (even the old blue hairs) are starting to catch on to the idea of (gasp!) home-field advantage, but getting 110,000 people to wear the same color is a tough task. So here’s the simple solution:

Select one “maize out” game each year – a game against a quality opponent or rival that takes place earlier in the season (due to weather concerns). Hand out free maize T-shirts to every fan that enters the Stadium. How can the T-shirts be free? Easy – get a corporation or ten to “sponsor” the T-shirt giveaway by allowing them to print their logo(s) on the back of the T-shirt, while the front of the T-shirt could be a simple Block M, a “Go Blue,” or something else that isn’t too tacky. Make sure to have an adequate supply of all sizes, especially larger sizes so people can fit them over the shirts that they are already wearing (and/or the beer bellies that many Michigan residents proudly sport).

Now, I (kind of) understand the argument against advertising inside the Big House, but there really isn’t an argument against accepting some free maize T-shirts with a GM or Pepsi logo on the back for one Saturday per year. Or is there? Please let me know if there is, you hippie.

I’ll even make it easier for the marketing geniuses at U of M... Oct. 7, 2006 vs. MSU is your first official “Free Maize Out T-shirt Game.” Sept. 15, 2007 vs. Notre Dame is your second, and Sept. 27, 2008 vs. Wisconsin can be your third. You’re on your own from there. Make it happen, son! [P.S. Please feel free to forward this post/info to the powers that be at Michigan. As you can tell by my blogging frequency, I can be prone to laziness.]

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Make it an even dozen?

During the dog days of summer, college football fans often debate various football-related topics on message boards. For Big Ten fans, the most prevalent topic of the past few years has been whether the Big Ten should add a 12th team in order to create 2 even Divisions with a Conference Championship Game. Let’s not talk about which school should be added. Let’s just focus on the pros and cons of adding another team and creating a 2-Division football conference with a Championship Game. These are my main thoughts, in no particular order, but there are probably hundreds of (better) ideas out there. Feel free to comment, if the spirit moves you…

Pros to adding a 12th team and having a Conference Championship Game:

-Greater exposure- Does the Big Ten really need more exposure? They just announced they’re starting their own TV network, and they have a long-term coverage deal with ABC/ESPN – probably the most influential/pervasive TV group in terms of sports coverage. Increasing your audience is always nice, but how much can/will that audience increase? It’s not like people in New York City don’t watch the Big Ten, or that they will all start watching our games if we add Syracuse. Adding a powerhouse like Notre Dame would have a big impact, but would adding a team like Pitt or Missouri really do anything for the league? I just hope that if/when the Big Ten does expand, they have done some serious market research on this, because I don’t think it will make much of a difference.

-Eliminates the potential for another “2002 scenario”- Probably the biggest black eye for the Big Ten occurred in 2002, when both Iowa and Ohio State went undefeated in conference play, and (obviously) didn’t play each other. While Iowa did have a non-conference loss at Iowa State, all of the talking heads on ESPN were freaking out about this, and ripping the Big Ten for its awkward scheduling setup. Adding another team would eliminate the possibility of 2 undefeated teams in the same conference, but other problems will arise (see discussion at the bottom of this post).

-Less confusion and no stupid tiebreakers- With its current scheduling setup, there are so many ridiculous tiebreakers and odd rules that could be eliminated with the implementation of a Championship Game. How ridiculous is it when a co-champion can get to the Rose Bowl just because the other co-champ went more recently? Let me answer for you – it’s ridiculously ridiculous!! A Championship Game would make things much easier to understand, but would not necessarily lead to a perfect scheduling system (see discussion at the bottom of this post).

Cons to adding a 12th team and having a Conference Championship Game:

-How to divide the Divisions?- Creating 2 equal Divisions might not be a nightmare, but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve seen numerous Division possibilities bandied about on message boards – some sounded great, others seemed a bit off. But since this is a Michigan blog, I must mention the one key dilemma (in my opinion) – What do you do with Michigan and Ohio State? How will this affect the greatest rivalry in the sport (or all sports)? Let’s take a more in-depth look at this sub-issue:

Option #1: Placing Michigan and Ohio State in the same Division:
You would have to assume that under this scenario, The Game would, more often than not, be for the Division crown. But would this be good for the rivalry? If we knew the winner of The Game was gonna have to play Iowa the next weekend in the Championship Game, would it still be as exciting? Would the winner of The Game be motivated in the Championship Game, or would they be emotionally drained? Would it be fair to put the 2 best teams in Big Ten history in the same 6-team Division? Lots of factors to consider here.

Option #2: Placing Michigan and Ohio State in different Divisions, but having them play every year in the regular season finale:
Back-to-back games against OSU? This could very well happen many times if this was the setup. Playing OSU twice in the span of a few weeks just doesn’t seem right to me. I also think it would potentially deprive the fans of a good game in the first matchup. Think about this: If both Michigan and OSU head into The (first) Game having already wrapped up their respective Divisions, would they really be going all out? Maybe if one or both were undefeated… but otherwise you would think that both teams might “save something” (including players) for the Championship Game.

Option #3: Placing Michigan and Ohio State in different Divisions, and having them play every year earlier on in the season:
Some younger fans seem to be intrigued by the idea of a Miami-FSU type of thing, whereby Michigan and Ohio State would play to open the season, and possibly meet again in the Big Ten Championship Game. Traditionalists are disgusted by this idea. I think I’m more of a traditionalist on this one. Even having The Game on “the 3rd Saturday in October” or something like that would diminish its importance (to me, at least).

Option #4: Placing Michigan and Ohio State in different Divisions, but not “protecting” the rivalry, meaning they won’t play in some years:
Earth stops rotating. Not gonna happen.

I just don't think there is a scenario here that will please everybody. In fact, many of these scenarios won't please anybody. Options 1 and 2 seem to be the most "likely," but I'm not too sure how I feel about those yet. More thinking to do...

-Less chance of sending 2 teams to BCS Bowls- The Big Ten is sitting pretty right now. By not having a championship game, it can send more high profile teams (Michigan, OSU, PSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc.) to Bowl games with a win in their last regular season game. This dramatically increases their appeal to the Bowls, and gives the Big Ten a great chance at having 2 BCS teams many years.

-More scheduling flaws- A Championship Game does not solve all of your problems. The media has mocked the Big Ten for failing to have a Championship Game. But they are missing a key issue, and giving the 12-team-and-larger leagues a free pass on a very important point: Teams from larger leagues with Championship Games still don’t play every other team in their conference. In fact, “good” teams often miss out on playing other “good” teams due to scheduling differences between the Divisions in the Conference. So it’s not only the Conference that is flawed, but also the way in which Division champions are determined! Since these 12-team leagues do not have “equal” schedules for each team in each respective Division, there have been plenty of times in the past when, say, a Kansas State has missed a “good” team like an Oklahoma (since they weren’t on their schedule), and didn’t even have to play said team in the Championship Game because, while “good,” said team was not good enough to win its Division. And it impacts everybody – even teams that don’t make it to the Championship Game. Did you know that Florida hasn’t played Auburn the past 2 seasons? I bet a lot of casual fans think they have, simply because they’re both in the SEC. The bottom line is this: Any conference that does not play a round-robin schedule is inherently flawed. Playing a Conference Championship Game might give the media and some fans a sense of “fairness” or “closure” or whatever you want to call it. But if the way each team gets to that Championship Game is flawed, and if each team doesn’t play (at least) 3 other conference teams, then have we really made any progress over the current Big Ten system?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Off-Topic Tuesday: The 4th of July

Boom!Some random thoughts about the 4th:

- I'm not a big fireworks fan, but I must admit that I'm still amazed that "they" can make fireworks that produce various shapes (hearts, stars, peace signs, etc.). I'm easily amused. I also find it pretty cool that you can feel the vibrations in your chest if you're standing underneath the fireworks' explosion point.

- Isn't it annoying when the 4th falls in the middle of the work week? It's much nicer when it's on a Friday or Monday.

- What's the deal with sparklers? The sparks hurt your skin, they're an eye-poking hazard (not to mention a fire hazard), and yet I continually see 4-year-olds running around with them. I smell a lawsuit (I'm sure one's already been filed). Parents: Just because you can buy a box of 20 for a dollar does not mean that they are a suitable "toy" for your toddler.

- What (or where) is the largest fireworks display in America? New York City claims that they have it, but growing up in Detroit, we were constantly reminded that our "dual celebration" with Canada on the last Wednesday of June was "the largest fireworks display in North America." So who's got the bragging rights nowadays? Whoever it is, I doubt that they've got the world's largest display. Have you ever seen those ridiculous Chinese shows? Even the Australians go nuts with it from time to time. I don't think the U.S. is #1 here.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Butch Woolfolk - Where is he now?

Polyester V-neck jersey?!It seems appropriate to take a quick look back at the Michigan career of Harold "Butch" Woolfolk seeing that his son, Troy, just committed to Michigan. While Troy is a Defensive Back (likely CB), his dad was one of the best Michigan RBs of all time, playing from the 1978-81 seasons and earning All-America honors in his last year. So where is Butch now? Well, here, primarily. Born in Milwaukee and raised in Westfield, New Jersey, he has moved out near Houston, and seems to have made a great living for himself after a decent NFL career with the Giants, Oilers, and Lions. He is married with two sons.

While at Michigan, Butch had quite a few memorable moments. While I didn't see him play live, I've seen some tapes, and I've heard plenty of glowing endorsements from "old-timers" (apologies to those over 40). ESPN Classic shows the 1981 Rose Bowl from time to time - keep an eye out. A few career highlights:

- 1979 vs. Minnesota: 24 carries for 194 yards and 2 TDs. [31-21 Michigan victory]

- 1979 vs. Wisconsion: 19 carries for 190 yards and 3 TDs. Includes a TD run of 92 yards!! [54-0 Michigan victory]

- 1981 Rose Bowl vs. Washington: Named Rose Bowl MVP. 26 carries for 182 yards and 1 TD. [23-6 Michigan victory]

- 1981 at Michigan State: 39(!) carries for 253 yards with NO TDs. Chris Perry-esque (or, rather, Perry was Woolfolk-esque). [38-20 Michigan victory]

According to this helmet, Butch claims 3861 career yards rushing, but's Statistics Archive has him at 3,850 yards rushing, with 29 TDs and a 5.4 yards per carry average. Either way, not too shabby.

Random factoid: Butch’s former Michigan teammate Mike Boren will also have a son at Michigan while Butch’s son, Troy, is there. Justin Boren will be a Freshman at Michigan this year and should be a staple in the Offensive Line over the next few years.

Obligatory autographed action photo here (a nice black and white pic of the older-style road uniforms and winged helmet).

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