Thursday, May 25, 2006

Busy Thursday

You're Killing Your Father Larry

I have entered a world of pain.

Too much for me to do today to write anything indepth. So light stuff today.

I'm working on something at home regarding Johnny's exquisitely written piece on Tony Boles. It sparked a response in me that I'm still working to articulate. Once its finished, I look forward to sharing it with you.

'Round the 'Sphere

Michigan Football finally has a home on the radio. Two actually. Michigan games will be simulcast on news-talk station CKLW-AM (800) and Detroit's WOMC-FM (104.3) for the next four years.

Kyle finished his great three part series on how not to kill your team's mascot.

For Brian, Dwayne Roloson is profiled by ESPN. In case you care, Oilers are up 3-0 on the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. Sabres up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals.

From EDSBS, people in Ohio like libraries, but not for the books. Explains a lot.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wednesday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Four Wolverines Named to All Big Ten Baseball Team

In addition to helping Michigan capture its first Big Ten Regular Season Crown since 1997, four members of Michigan's baseball team were named to the All Big Ten First Team. Catcher Jeff Kunkel, Outfielder Eric Rose, Pitcher Chris Fetter (fr.) and Pitcher Paul Hammond made the first team.

In addition, 1B Nate Recknagel (so.) and Pitcher Zach Putnam (fr.) were named All Big Ten Second Team, and 3B A.J. Scheidt and DH Adam Abraham (fr.) were named All Big Ten Third Team.

Three freshman getting All Big Ten honors is a heck of an accomplishment for the Maize n' Nine. What's even better is that it speaks to the strength of the program. The Fish will be filled to the gills on Thursday at 7pm, when Michigan opens its Tournament run. Michigan's hosting the Big Ten Tournament, so you can get all the info here.

We're Sorry For Kissing

Following up on one of the hotter stories to climax during the off-season, the Northwestern Women's Soccer Team issued a formal apology for their "hazing" incident which came to light last week. If you missed it, and you're a guy, picture in your 16 year-old-mind what you thought would happen at a women's soccer party. Then capture those moments forever on a digital camera and smear them all over the internet.

To quote from the Chicago Sun-Times:
About a dozen photos of the event depict women dressed only in T-shirts, underwear and knee-high socks. At least two women appear to be kissing each other. In some shots, the women are blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs. Others appear to feature women doing "lap dances'' for men [members of the men's soccer team].
Yeah. That's what actually happened.

Internet shut-ins and comic book store owners continue to insist no apology was necessary. (Best internet photos ever. I would trade my issue of Spiderman No. 1, which has been kept in a protective mylar bag, thus enhancing its value, to have been there in person. If only to have been in the presence of a real woman.)

The incident has had some negative educational reverberations throughout the country. Several high school marching band and chess club members have failed to return to school since the photos of the incident hit the internet. As a result, these top of the class scholars have dropped for A averages to B's. Not only has this hurt their college admission chances, this top-of-the-curve grade shift has cost school districts millions as their average GPAs dipped below the No Child Left Behind standards.

See what you did girls? For shame.

Another Minor Milestone Passed

Over this past weekend Maize n Brew welcomed its 10,000th visitor. Wow. Just wanted to say thanks to Brian, Johnny, Kyle, and everyone else who has so graciously forwarded some of their readers my way.

And a special thanks to all of you who have made and continue to make Maize n Brew a part of your day.

In Other News

The Stadium: Jim Carty takes a swing at the Stadium renovation naysayers.

Scottie Reynolds: Reynolds told reporters that Tommy was "heartbroken" that Reynolds chose Nova over Michigan. Not necessarily the creepiest choice of words, but close. I'm in the process of prepping a basketball recruiting update. Up soon.

Your Mascot Sucks: Kyle is going to great lengths to tell everyone why their mascot cannot hang with Uga. As he details, it seems no one can keep their mascot from dying or doing something that endangers the lives of everyone around them. Very entertaining. Its a great way to kill an hour. I'm on record as a huge fan of Uga, however, any school that can keep a LIVE Bengal tiger on the sidelines gets my vote for coolest mascot.

I still remember a story from Texas along those lines. Back in the SWC days, Rice and Texas A&M played each other regularly. Rice's band is well known for its high jinks, and as it so happened the week before A&M football was to play Rice, the Corp of Cadets' beloved collie Reveille passed away. Mind you Reveille is A&M's defacto mascot. They actually bury their mascots facing the scoreboard in front of Kyle Field so, even in the doggy afterlife, they can keep tabs on the score. Perhaps more importantly, Reveille is also the highest ranking member of the Corp of Cadets at A&M.

Not Reveille, but you get the idea.

Back to the story. The Rice band gets wind of the fact Reveille passed. At half time of the game instead of a normal show, they march out, form a fire hydrant, play taps, and march off. Several members of the Corp of Cadets reportedly held band members at gun point until the police came to break it up.

This is a story from my youth in Texas, so I'm not entirely sure its true. But even if its not, its a good mascot story.

The Sad Story of Tony Boles: Johnny and Vijay both put together pieces on the life of former Michigan standout running back Tony Boles. Boles was profiled in an article by the Ann Arbor News a few weeks ago that nearly brought me to tears. Its a heart wrenching story of potential lost and a life that slowly but surely went awry. Excellent work by both men. I highly recommend reading them, its definitely some of Johnny's best work to date.

Football Recruiting Updates: Brian's got 'em. Go there.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Scottie Reynolds To Villanova

Scottie Reynolds announced he'll play at Villanova for the next four years. Michigan announces it came back empty handed, again.

I can't recruit worth a damn. Next question.

Pessimism confirmed. D'oh. Unfortunately, this isn't much of a surprise. Reynolds' visit to Michigan caught us all off guard. The five part series GBW did on Reynolds also made it seem closer than it probably was. I hoped, deep down, that we'd get him. But, in the end my mind and my gut were right. Nova had way too much to offer. Most importantly they could offer things like tournament appearances. Something Michigan hasn't been able to offer in almost ten years.

I'll take a look at who's left on the market tomorrow. For now I'm going to sulk.

Big Weekend For M Sports

Michigan Baseball Captures Big Ten Title

With 1-0 and 4-1 doubleheader sweep of Iowa, the Michigan Baseball Team clinched its first outright Big Ten Title since 1997. The baseball team finished up the weekend with a 3-1 win over Iowa on Senior Day. Michigan is the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Baseball tournament and will play its first game on May 25 at the Fish.

The Big Ten Tournament seedings are 1) Michigan; 2) Northwestern; 3) Ohio State; 4) Minnesota; 5) Purdue; and 6) Illinois. Michigan and Northwestern have byes. Michigan will play the lowest seeded team remaining in the tournament after the first round. You can find the tournament release and bracket here. Its a strange way to run a tournament, but what the hell.

Making things even more exciting for the baseball team is the fact that the Regents approved 9 million dollars in funding for improvements to Ray Fisher Stadium. The improvements will include a new press box (a lot of that seems to be going around) and the addition of new conession stands, bathrooms, and a "blue" monster. Congrats all around to the baseball team.

The New Fisher Stadium

Michigan Softball Captures Regional Crown

Michigan's softball team required a little more nailbiting, but captured the NCAA Regional Championship in an eight inning win over Oklahoma, 5-2. The Wolverines move on to the Super Regional to face Tennessee in a best of three matchup over Memorial Day weekend. In the same announcement that marked the renovations of Fisher Stadium, it was declared that the women's Alumni Stadium will also undergo a major overhaul and expansion. The softball field will be expanded from its current 1,300 seat base to a whopping 3,100 seats. Its well deserved. Champions deserve a first class facility and its good to see the regents recognized that. The new design looks wonderful.

The New Alumni Stadium

Scottie Reynolds to Make Announcement Today

And out of the blue, Michigan is one of two schools left in the Scottie Reynolds sweepstakes. According to the Diag, who sites the Virginia Based "The Connection" newspaper, Reynolds is down to Michigan and Villanova. He is scheduled to make a 2:15 EST announcement on his decision.

The Diag also indicates Reynolds visit to Ann Arbor was a good one. After overhyping the Patrick Beverly decision, I'm trying not to do the same thing twice. Reynolds would be an outstanding addition to the Maize and Blue. Realistically, its just going to depend on where he felt most comfortable.

Should he commit to Michigan I've brought some steak sauce with which to eat my words.

Michigan Stadium Renovations

I'm sending the boys and girls at the Detroit News a box of cookies and a fruit cup. Not only did they have some great coverage of the Regent's decision, they even put up a graphic on the stadium.

I know its a crappy image, but looking at this I think the renovations should be fine. The architectural firm HNTB will be in charge of the renovations. According to the News, they handled the renovations for the LA Coliseum, Spartan Stadium, and Ross-Ade Stadium.

The Regents voted 5-3 to approve the changes. Resident evil deuchbag John Pollack is pissed. One of the stranger comments came from Regent Larry Deitch.

Deitch said the more prudent approach would have been to make stadium enhancements with funds from a small surcharge on tickets.

Um. Like seat licenses? Yeah. We've already covered that. Deitch went on to say that plopping down $226 Million on a stadium seems a bit out of line given the state's current economic status. I agree somewhat with him in spirit, but the realities of the financial investment that such a substantial construction project represent go beyond his current vision. In terms of labor, materials, and contracting, this project will pump in quite a bit of money. In addition, since the renovations are all funded through the athletic department, its not as though state funds are at stake. As long as costs a reasonably contained and the stadium's character is respected, I think its worth it.

You can find the official University Action Request and presser here and here.

Analysis and stuff after I'm caught up.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Scottie Reynolds to Make Final Recruiting Visit to Ann Arbor

Well, maybe we're in this after all. Despite visiting at least four other top tier basketball programs, McDonald's All American Point Guard Scottie Reynolds has yet to make up his mind on where he wants to go to school. At this point six schools remain in the mix for the talented point guard, and one of them is Michigan.

Adding even more spice to jambalaya, Scottie announced that not only will he make his decision official next week, he also announced he's going to take his last recruiting trip this weekend to Ann Arbor. Both Scout and Rivals have confirmation of this. Rivals thought he was done after Nova. (HT: Cooper on MGoBlog's Comments)

Is it okay to get excited about this? The way things have gone for Michigan basketball recruiting I honestly have no clue. Legion's decommit followed by Beverly picking Arkansas seemed to take the wind out of all our sails. However, last week a (good) power forward we'd all written off commited out of the blue, and now this.

The fact that he decided to make this trip right before his announcement can only be taken as a good sign. I'll leave it at that.

Cross your fingers.

BTW, Out Till Tuesday

See you guys tuesday. I'll be in Boston 'till then.

Go Blue!

Michigan Stadium Renovations Approved By Regents!

It went through!

The University of Michigan Regents voted to approve the renovations and expansion of Michigan Stadium.
Improved concessions, more restrooms, wider seats and aisles, a new press box, and the addition of enclosed seating are among the improvements to Michigan Stadium in a renovation plan approved by the University of Michigan Board of Regents today.
The cost of the renovation and installation of a new press box and luxury seating is expected to be around $224 Million. The actual renovation will take approximately four years to complete. After the renovations are complete the Big House will seat over 108,000 people every Saturday, an attendance increase of 1,000.

With regard to the luxury boxes:
The overall plan includes building two multi-story structures on both the east and west sides of the stadium; the end zones will remain open. The west-side structure will include an elevated concourse, a new press box for media and game operations, new "club" seats with chairbacks, and enclosed seating. The east-side structure will include an elevated concourse with new concessions and restrooms, and additional indoor and outdoor seating.
Today is a good day. Ed Martin should receive a pat on the back and a cookie. Job well done.

Sweatervests For Everyone!

Except for you Lloyd, You Get Nothing

According the Ohio State University Athletics site, head coach Jimbo Tressel has signed a seven year extension. The new contract will keep Ole' Mc Sweatervest in Columbus through 2012 and further irritate the Wolverine faithful at least through 2020. To celebrate, Tressel reportedly hijacked a yatch with newly released Craig Krenzel and sailed to Jamaica until the start of fall practice.

Given Tressel's record over the past five years, its hard to argue that he didn't deserve an extension of some kind. He's gone 50-13 and gone 4-1 against Michigan (dammit!). However, the shear size of his extension makes you stop and scratch your head.

As The-614 points out, Jimmy T is now the highest paid public official in the State of Ohio. The Terms of JT's contract:

2006 -- $2,378,900
2007 -- $2,300,900
2008 -- $2,325,900
2009 -- $2,400,900
2010 -- $2,500,900
2011 -- $2,575,900
2012 -- $2,675,900

If you do the math, during the course of his contract the State of Ohio will pay Tressel over $17 MILLION to coach the OSU football team. I'm guessing that should keep Tress and the misses in fresh vests and blow for the foreseeable future. As for the State of Ohio, Kudos! Glad to see that money isn't being wasted. I mean, I'd hate to think that money could've been spent on books, teacher's salaries, or healthcare. I'm sure all the patients in the underfunded burn and cancer wards are thrilled for him.

Coach Tressel Relaxes After Signing His New Contract

Reaction from Michigan was muted. Contrary to assertions on such fine sites as Buckeye Commentary, Lloyd was not being consoled by family members when news of Jimbo's extension was released. In fact, he was at Schembechler hall grumbling and slurping down a Boost/Metamusil smoothie while watching the Rosanne marathon on TBS. He was quoted as muttering "Those fucking people" several times before nodding off.

Taking a look at J-Tress' accomplishments over the last 5 years, it ain't a bad resume. Since 2001, he's got a 50-13 record, 2 shared Big Ten Titles, and one (cough, cough) national championship. Jimmy's also delivered three Fiesta Bowl wins and an Alamo bowl win in his last four bowl games. As much as I'd like to point to some evil reason for his success, I really can't. Or Can I? (You want to win National Championships? Well feast your ears on this tasty ditty!)

By comparison, since 2001 Michigan is a pedestrian 44-18, has one outright Big Ten Championship and one shared, and last won a bowl game against Florida in the 2003 Outback Bowl. Not bad, but not, well, Michigan. It's the four losses to Ohio State that really rub the rock salt into the festering sore.

It doesn't look like it's going to get any better. Tressel's in Columbus to stay. As Around the Oval pointed out, why not just make it a life time contract? My answer: Somewhere, deep down inside, there's still the thought that Cheatypants will start losing to Michigan. And when that happens, they wanna be able to yank that hovercraft right out from under him.

However, he's gotta start losing for that to happen. When Lloyd wakes up, we'll talk about it. After Rosanne, of course.

Other Commentary: By default, you have to go to Tressel's World, EDSBS, and the MZone for their takes. As MZone points out, this will indeed buy a lot of Escalades. I'm waiting in giddy anticipation of what Joey and Johnny come up with.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

One More Day Till Friday

Leon Hall Named to Playboy's 2006 Pre-Season All-American Team

According to Leon Hall was recently named to Playboy's Pre-Season All-American Team. If you've seen the list over the past few years, Playboy knows what it's talking about, so hopefully Hall's inclusion means great things are in his future.

Reading the article had me scratching my head though. Playboy ships the All-American team out to Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix and ran all kinds of weird games and competitions. These included the Water Olympics and a Cowboy party. Um. Okay.

Leon Hall was named "Guy you'd want your daughter to marry". Bizarre.

Regents to Meet About the New Luxury Boxes

According to the Detroit News, the University of Michigan Regents will meet today and tomorrow to discuss proposals for repair and expansion of the Michigan Stadium Press Box and the addition of luxury suites to the stadium. Town jackass John Pollack got his name in the paper again complaining the suites would segregate the rich and the poor. Well, DUH! This has been covered ad nauseum, but how is this a bad thing? If I don't have to sit next to Grandpa McSnootypants its better for both of us. Put his old wrinkled ass in the press box so I can yell things and he doesn't have to be appalled by them.

Thankfully, even if the regents vote down the luxury box additions, the improvements to stadium concessions, bathrooms, seating, and Press Box are going to go through.

If you want to support the luxury box proposal email the regents directly at the links below:

University of Michigan Regents

- David A. Brandon, Domino’s Pizza, Inc., 30 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, P.O. Box 997, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-0997 Phone: (734) 930-3006 Email:

- Laurence B. Deitch, Bodman LLP, 34th Floor, 100 Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI 48243 Phone: (313) 392-1055 Email:

- Olivia P. Maynard, Northbank Center, Suite 406, 432 N. Saginaw Street, Flint, MI 48502 Phone: (810) 239-1535 Email:

- Rebecca McGowan, 2210 Melrose Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 Phone: (734) 668-8873 Email:

- Andrea Fischer Newman, Senior Vice President-Government Affairs, Northwest Airlines, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, 2601 WorldGateway Place, Detroit, MI 48242 Email:

- Andrew C. Richner, Clark Hill PLC, 500 Woodward Ave., Suite 3500, Detroit, MI 48226-3435 Phone: (313) 965-8531 Email:

- S. Martin Taylor, 43 Beacon Hill Road, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236 Email:

- Katherine E. White, P.O. Box 1842, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1842 Phone: (313) 577-1054 Email:

If you've got the time, please email them in support of the luxury box development. Let them know that loudmouths such as Pollack don't speak for the majority of Michigan fans. Let them know that we support the economic stability of Michigan athletics. And let them know that as alums and fans we are far more concerned with the quality of the teams on the field than whether or not corporations or wealthy donors have the option of watching Michigan football from a luxury box.

Michigan Basketball Update: Scottie Reynolds Still Undecided

Ask and you shall receive. After weeks of my complaining, Scout and Rivals got off their butts and got us some Reynolds updates. There are new stories up, but they're on the premium boards. Being the cheap ass that I am, I don't subscribe to their services, but I do check their headlines regularly.

Scout's headlines simply state that Reynolds is at six schools, even after a visit to Nova. Rivals says the same. If he's in no rush to make a decision that could be a good thing for Michigan, but like I've said before, I'm not holding my breath. At a minimum, based on his visits and previously stated interest, we're looking at LSU, Nova, Illinois, and G-Town. Oh, and Michigan. There was talk UConn was in the mix too, but I'm not sure if that's still the case.

The late signing period recently came to a close, but I'd still expect a decision to be made relatively soon.

Things That Make You Think Twice About Sports

Finally, the Detroit Free Press ran a front-of-the-site story on a Detroit area high school track coach who was recently indicted and sentenced to between 56 months to 7 years for throwing keggers, distributing porn, and having sex parties for his students. The story is incredibly disturbing, but of vital importance to read if you have children, younger siblings, or close family members in junior high or high school.

What worries me the most in reading this story was how long to bring this guy to justice. Parents and teachers who knew what was happening stood by and did nothing. This story is another reminder of how important it is to be involved in your children's lives and to know what's going on with their activities.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wednesday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Please Let This Issue Die

Please? There is a theory that if you say something enough times to enough people somehow it begins to become a "fact". That is certainly the case with the ongoing debate over adding luxury boxes to Michigan Stadium. Michael Rosenberg of the Free Press became the latest espouse the anti-luxury box party line.

In his latest column Rosenberg states the new luxury box structures will total 450,000 square feet and be the equivalent of a six story and eight story builing on each side of the stadium. Yes, jackass, if they're built vertically. He also compares the stadium upgrades from around the Big Ten:

Some context: Michigan State spent $49.2 million on its expansion. Wisconsin spent $109.5 million. Illinois plans to spend $116 million on its renovation. (The renovations at Illinois and Wisconsin, like the Michigan proposal, include upgrades throughout the stadium.) Ohio State, which has the most rabid fan base in the conference, spent $187 million. Minnesota plans to spend $248 million. But for that, the Golden Gophers would get a whole new stadium.
The difference he mentions, only in passing, is the shear size of the renovations. Yes, adding luxury boxes to Michigan stadium will cost more. However, he implies that the rest of the Big Ten is getting more for its money. Rosenberg apparently forgot to look at the stadiums in question. Michigan seats, at a minimum, 35,000 more people on game day than Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, and Minnesota (even with their new stadium).

Its not like we're adding a parking garage onto an outhouse, its Michigan Stadium we're talking about. Its (bleeping) huge. Placing boxes that run the length of the east and west sides of the Big House will cost money simply because of the distances involved. You don't need an engineering degree to put this together.

One of his more annoying assertions is that everyone else seems to have done it right and for a better price. As support for this assertion he states that Ohio State spent $187 on their renovations. His sole rationale for giving those expenditures the "okay" is because the Ohio State fan base is the most "rabid". Are you kidding me? By that rationale if we had more campers in our parking lots, rooted for the Cavs, and said "Fuck Ohio" on a regular basis spending close to $200 million would be acceptable. I don't get the logic.

The cost of the upgrades/luxury boxes will be in the area of $200 million dollars. However, that cost includes bathrooms, concessions, and general comfort improvements throughout the stadium which would have cost a significant amount of money by themselves. Reading the column you'll get a different impression. Its not all going to luxury boxes Michael. Relax.

Yes, the feel of the stadium will change. Yes, it will look different. Yes, building them will be expensive. These are not reasons that should prevent these changes from happening. The good folks in Green Bay had a similar experience to this one when the Lambeau renovations were proposed. Every "traditionalist" jackass and the mother protested the changes. Yet years later no one is complaining, and Lambeau is far better off because of the changes. You can draw parallels to the Fenway and Wrigley renovations, or the restructuring of Soldier Field (which is absolutely BEAUTIFUL on the inside) as well. All these changes were a necessary part of the passage of time and the realities of sports, not just as a pastime or game, but as a business.

This whole thing is beginning to take on a Manchurian Candidate sort of feel. One of these days we're all going to wake up and find out that the anti-luxury box movement actually started in East Lansing.

And This Is How You Repay Me?

A week ago I argued for Northwestern's continued inclusion in Kyle's revised Big Ten. To celebrate Northwestern's victory over Illinois for inclusion in this revitalized "Big 12 Ten", it appears the women's soccer team had quite the little "welcome to the team" party for their incoming freshmen. (HT: MZone)

This is the type of story that you desperately want to make jokes about, but are unsure where the line gets drawn. has all the details on this. There are loads of photos, but you might not want to open them up at work. (And all of a sudden everyone's doors close). Just to give you an idea as to what went on, the Chicago Sun Times has been following this as well:
About a dozen photos of the event depict women dressed only in T-shirts, underwear and knee-high socks. At least two women appear to be kissing each other. In some shots, the women are blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs. Others appear to feature women doing "lap dances'' for men [members of the men's soccer team].

Basically, its every teenage boy's favorite dream come to life. I'll let your mind wander on this one, but I'm left to a couple of questions that should never have to be asked: 1) Isn't Northwestern supposed to be the "smart" Big Ten school; 2) What the hell is going on in the North suburbs of Chicago; and 3) Why in God's name would you document this by bringing a digital camera along?

Ladies. Listen to me. If you're gonna do stuff behind closed doors that 'Nana wouldn't approve of, don't take photos. And if you do, make sure they're not internet accessible. Readers, you can go anyway you want with this story, but I'll just report whats happening on this one. At this point Northwestern is taking its time to decide what it wants to do with this situation. According to the Trib, as a private institution it has the freedom to decide punishments within its own code of conduct. Whereas if this occurred at Illinois of NIU, the State's higher educational regulations take over the disciplinary process.

Even though its already happened, someone's going to get more than a slap on the ass for this one.

Side note to Orson and Stranko: can this get Fulmer Cup points on the basis of just too stupid not to be included?

Speaking of Stupid People

If you haven't been following it, Longhorn's running back Ramonce Taylor was arrested carrying 5 pounds of weed. Picture the hippie from Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, then double the size of the bag. According to Burnt Orange Nation, he's been booted from the team and is awaiting a hearing on his arrest.

BON didn't stop there. They found his MySpace page. A ten-gallon hat tip to BON, outstanding work.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Boateng to Transfer to ASU

Another Kick in the Jewels

A few days ago I called Center Eric Boateng the crown jewel of this year's transfer class. Well, that jewel will be on display somewhere else for the next three years.

Uber-transfer, center Eric Boateng has chosen to transfer to Tempe and play for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Tommy's failure to land Boateng shouldn't be a surprise at this point. There are a few other lesser name transfers out there. We'll have to see if Tommy wants to use up a roster spot on one of them, or save it for another failed run at someone special.

Humility is for Pansies or the Conference Affiliated

Side Tracking on Baseball

(ed note: There is little if any new Michigan news so I kinda went off on a rant on something totally off topic. Michigan related information can be found at the bottom of this post.)

There are few things in life that bring me more joy or pure frustration that Michigan athletics. One of those things is Baltimore Orioles baseball.

You have to understand my family in full of rabid Orioles fans. My grandmother lived and died with the birds. My father goes to about half the O's home games a year. I was born in Baltimore during the hey-day of the Orioles. My parents had season tickets. I attended my first Orioles game at 4 months. I was sitting in my Dad's lap during the 1979 ALCS, and to this day, still have the banner hanging in my home. I was in the stands for Cal Ripken's first game. I cheered like mad when they won the Series in 1983. I had a Cal Ripken poster on my wall till I was 17. I cursed till I was blue in the face when that little duechbag leaned over the Yankee Stadium outfield fence and helped propell the Yankees to the World Series over the O's. I have, in fact, broken a television over an Orioles (post season) loss. I still, quietly, emphasize the "O" in the Star Spangled Banner. I teared up when Ripken passed Lou Gehrig. Jim Palmer is still a God to me. Even if he did sell Jockeys for ten years. Eddie Murray is still the greatest first baseman ever, and I don't care who else played there and was "better", he's still the best to me. I will tolerate David Segui's existence, despite how much we overpayed him and how crappy he was, because he wore the Baltimore uniform. By that same rationale, Albert Belle wasn't really that bad of a guy. This is the level of my mania.

I sit here in Chicago, 11 to 12 hours car ride away from Baltimore, perplexed as to what has become of my beloved team. I am well aware of the fact that Peter Angelos is by far the worst owner in professional baseball. I would say sports, but my favorite hockey team is owned by Bill Wirtz. He is in fact the worst owner in sports, hands down. The O's front office would be better managed by a pack of spider monkeys making decisions by throwing their poo at a major league roster. How Mike Flannagan and Co. managed to f-up this team as badly as he has should get him indicted by the Hague. Corey Patterson patrols centerfield. The same Corey Patterson who led the league in fewest pitches seen per at bat. Overspending. Stupid spending. Lowballing free agents. Underdevelopment of prospects. Overhyping bad prospects. Trading the good ones for a can of 4-in-1 oil and a pat on the ass. This is my team.

Yet, there I was last night. Glued to the TV as I watched Josh Beckett dismantle the Birds. Beckett completed the sixth inning with six pitches, despite giving up a lead-off base hit. One thing you will always notice about bad baseball teams, they never go deep into a count. If they take first pitch, its usually because they were fooled. That was the case last night. The Orioles are a bad team.

With Leo Mazzone taking over as the pitching coach this year, I felt pitching might become one of the Bird's strong points. The jury is still out on that. In Atlanta, Mazzone got to work with Hampton, Maddux, Glavine, Smotlz, etc. Here he's got Bruce "Gopher Ball" Chen and a bunch of third starters. Right now Benson's the only reliable pitcher the O's have. And that's not enough to be competitive in the AL East.

The Birds are bad. Yet I still watch them. I still go to Camden Chat and read the game day write ups. They know my pain. I pray. I look for trends. I try to see positives. I say things like "he's coming around", "he's due", "yeah, but he had good movement on his fastball", and "you'll see." Yet there is nothing to see. Even so I will continue to watch them and hope.

Maybe things will turn around. Maybe in a month or two I'll be proud of their progress. But right now I'm forced to look at them like dog with no nose.

It can't tell its ass from a hole in the ground and it doesn't know why.

Basketball Recruiting

GBW is indicating that PG Scottie Reynolds is getting close to a decision. The headline does not inspire a lot of confidence:

Are the Wolverines Still Alive With Reynolds?

The answer no. GBW article is subscription only, so I haven't seen it. However, the fact that GBW and Rivals have been this quiet on Reynolds for the past two-three weeks indicates he's looking elsewhere. Plus, the fact that he getting recruited by Nova and LSU pretty much rules Michigan out. Somehow, methinks Jarrett Smith will be doing the majority of the point guard work next year. If I'm wrong, I'll happily eat my words. But barring a Carlos Brown type out-of-the-blue commitment, Reynolds will be playing elsewhere.

Drew Sharp Strikes Again!

He got me earlier this year. He got Brian once too. Now he suckered in Blue-Gray Sky. Word to the wise Domers, Drew Sharp Sucks (scroll to bottom).

However, Mr. Sharp's antagonizing use of the English language did provide the good folks over at BGS a sizeable soapbox from which to decry conference affiliations and the Big Ten in general. I found the column to be self-serving and inflamatory. But hey. Most conversations with ND fans that involve joining a conference go that way, and it is their blog. Try talking to Mississippi State fans about changing the SEC.

Even so, Johnny took exception. Oh boy, did he take exception.
I have found that no one needs to be told to hate Notre Dame. There are plenty of reasons you should hate them on your own.

Love it. MnB and RBUAS reader Ben took on the Irish hordes himself in the comment section too.

All because of Mr. Sharp. He may be a jackass, but he did spark some good writing on Johnny's part.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Questions From An Elliptical Plane

The good folks over at Burnt Orange Nation (which you should be reading [after this, of course]) have given us something to write about during the quiet days before August with their latest addition to the Blogpoll Roundtable.

While not a card carrying member, or a member at all for that matter, the questions intrigued me enough to take a shot at them. Enjoy.

1) Which offseason story are you most tired of, and, on the flip side, interested in? (e.g. Reggie Bush's house, Jimmy Clausen, etc.)

Two words: Matt (bleeping) Leinart. Ever since the Rose Bowl, when ever so gracious in defeat he took a pot shot at the 'Horns in his post game interview, watching his stock fall has been like watching the Hindenberg collapse on the tarmac. His collapse from golden boy to tin man in just 4 months has been breathtaking.

Matt Leinart at the NFL Draft

And it's all been covered live by ESPN, Fox Sports, SI, et al.

The worst part of it, its not entirely his fault. While NO ONE can understand/forgive/disinfect his interest in a certain hotel heiress, the overhyping media juggernaut that is ESPN enjoyed tearing him down as much as it loved building him up. After leading the number 1 team in the country for three solid years, and carrying an ungodly winning streak into the Rose Bowl, the unthinkable happened. They lost. To a better team. Please remember USC was supposed to be the best team Ev-Ah. ESPN was running polls prior to the Rose Bowl asking how this yet uncrowned national champion would stack up against the all-time great teams. At that point it was presumed Leinart could not only wakl on water, but would play the all mighty (Ditka!) closely in a game of one-on-one, on the water. Oops. Someone got in the way of that.

After the loss ESPN, credibility now completely out the window, had to save face. So they grabbed a flame thrower and torched the temple they had built up. And the intent was never to raise it again in three days. The intent was to bury it deep.

And they did. All of a sudden Leinart didn't have a strong enough arm. He wasn't good as advertised. His 40 was too slow. His combine wasn't that impressive. He's a problem child. That Jay Culter guy has a better arm. Look what he did at Vandy, Leinart couldn't have done that. And of course, Vince Young. By draft day Leinart had gone from poster child to problem child. #1 to number #10. He'd lost millions and ended up with the Cardinals.

What made the story even more nauseating was how Leinart handled it. Whoever gave Matt PR advice during the past few months was most likely the same person who gave childcare advice to the Lindberghs. The man completely forgot how to behave. He forgot how to smile. He forgot that no matter what he did, it was going to be on Sportscenter at some point. Happy to drink down the limelight during USC's glory days, he wreched at the taste of fame when the media went sour. His "I'd rather be eating my own feces" smirk before, during, and after the draft was impressive.

His decisions left something to be desired. The incredulous response, when the news got out that he was living well beyond the means of 21/22 year old college student. Oh, my dad's paying for me and our star receiver to live here. The fact that you're hanging out with Nick Lachey, well, that speaks volumes on its own. His malcontent, its not going my way, demeanor throughout the draft likely cost him a significant amount as well. Reacting like a spoiled child when people question you does not bode well in the National Football League where, more often than not, you're going to get your ass handed to you on "any given sunday." Finally, Paris Hilton. You've gotta be kidding me. News flash. Unless you're in 311, its never okay to go after a person who's film resume includes night-vision porn and an extensive Google search list about her going down on some Greek dude. I wish him luck. I harbor no ill will towards him. I'm just sick of the story of his firey collapse. And I'm sick of him doing everything in his power to fan those flames. Points were also awarded to Reggie Bush, the Clausens, and "Fire Lloyd Carr".

On the flip side, I am very excited about the upcoming QB war between Ann Arbor and South Bend.

While Clausen's antics were both annoying and incredibly arrogant, he has done something right. He's given us a focal point for our rage at Notre Dame. Every great college football team needs a spearhead, a rallying point, a target. For Notre Dame hat person will be Jimmy Clausen. He is arrogant. He is short. He is brash. He is flashy. He comes from a line of relatively successful D1 QBs. He looks like a Maltese plugged into a wall socket. But, he is a superbly talented quarterback. He is a good recruiter. He will make Notre Dame a better team over the next four years regardless of whether he plays a down on that fact alone. But we all expect him to play, and play well.

To the North his antithesis awaits. The antonym of Clausen is Ryan Mallett. A giant at 6'7". Quiet and understated. A cannon for an arm. Confident but not arrogant. Superbly talented. Lauded as a phenom from day one. Leadership skills are second nature.

Both will be the respective faces of their programs for the next four to five years. Both will be judged against one another. It will be the perfect storyline. The cocky California hotshot versus the quiet Texas gunslinger.

Man, its going to be fun to watch.

2) Your head coach comes down with a mystery illness and has to step aside. You get to hand pick the replacement for the 2006 season. Who gets your vote?

Kyle already went through the list of coaches at premier programs that should be considered. While I agree Kirk Ferentz is an excellent coach, he's not on my list. There's only one name on my list.

Pat Hill.

On the mustache alone he gets the job. However his successes on the field merit a glance from everyone. Six consecutive bowl invites and and 38-7 home record in 8 years at Fresno State. Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere. I love that motto. He protects his house. His players actually go to class. He took over a program that at best could be described as the back of the short bus and has turned it around. Because Academics are truly an important issue at Michigan (at least I'd like to believe they are), he'd fit the bill there.

Despite the fact that Fresno plays in the WAC, Hill has stockpiled great games against great programs. Last year he almost toppled USC with vastly inferior talent. Over the last 8 years Fresno state has beaten premier programs like Wisconsin, UCLA, and Virginia. Follow the link to his profile. It's an impressive resume.

If Hill can be competitive in that environment, I can only imagine/drool at the possibility of him recruiting at Michigan and fielding a team with that kind of talent.

3) Lastly, we'll mix the football and the blogging together here. If you could have anyone switch allegiances and start covering your team, who you gonna pick?

Much like Notre Dame, Georgia, Ohio State, and Texas, the Michigan-blog-o-sphere is jammed with excellent writers and bloggers. Mgoblog, RBUAS, Schembechler Hall, iBlog For Cookies, and many other great sites (at right). If you're not reading them, you should be. The consensus seems to be that in terms of blogging for a single school, Brian's work at Mgoblog is the standard all others are judged by. I could not agree more.

However, Kyle's work over at Dawg Sports continually leaves me scratching my head as to 1) how he able to write like that, 2) how was he able to make the correlation between a Cylon and the President of UGA, and 3) how in God's name does he have time to do it all? Kyle covers everything Georgia athletics has to offer with both insight and enthusiasm. Whether it's gymnastics, basketball or football, Kyle knows it and covers it.

I'm always excited to see what he comes up with next, and his work always exceeds my expectations. Again, if you're not reading him, you should be.

Special thanks to B.O.N. for helping to fill the void between February and August.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday's Docket: More Good Recruiting News

Michigan Picks Up Indiana's #1 Recruit
Pads Safety (potentially LB) Position

Say what you will about Lloyd's in game decisions, the man can recruit. Oh baby can he recruit. Michigan picked up commitment number 6 yesterday in the form of headhunter/balistic missle safety Jerimy Finch. Finch is widely perceived as the #1 recruit out of the State of Indiana, and is one of the best safety recruits in the country. Mgoblog's got more information on Finch than many members of Finch's family. Mind bending. Johnny's been up all night too, and has found even more info. (Disclaimer: Creepy but very funny photo of recruiting "guru" Max Emfinger. Kudos to Johnny for any reference to sugar-free red bull)

I won't belabor the point of how good this guy is, Brian and Johnny already did, but this is a big, early pickup. He's listed as 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, and can run the 40 in 4.5 seconds. You read that right, he's a safety/linebacker who can run with anyone and while doing so decapitate them. Oh boy.

Mind you this is a verbal commit, but since Amaker isn't behind it, I'm inclined to believe it'll stick. You may commence overhyping your expectations.

Basketball Recruiting: Nada. Zip. Zilch. However, no one decommitted so thats good! At this point the 2007 class consists of SG/TE/WR Martell Webb and PG Kelvin Grady. This wouldn't be all bad, except Webb came to Michigan to play FOOTBALL.

Scout's got the latest Michigan prospect listing. You'll notice that several of them are listed in the Rivals Top 150 for 2007. Of the recruits on the list, only SG Corporrayle Harris of Detroit Redford has Michigan listed as a High interest. Harris checks in at #45 on the Rivals list. If we land either Boateng or Reynolds, I'd except some interest to pick up for Michigan in the 150. If not, don't expect more than one bottom of the 150 signing.

More info as it becomes relevant.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Another Not So Quiet day in Blog Land

When news is hard to comeby, all you have is hearsay and conjecture (which are types of evidence) with which to create a story. So in that vein...

Thursday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Michigan Draws NC State: Michigan's ACC/Big Ten Challenge opponent this year will be tournament tested NC State. Michigan plays at NC State Monday November 27, 7pm on ESPN2. In their last meeting Michigan topped NC State 68-61. The game worth noting is Ohio State/UNC. The manchild's prime time debut. I'll feel better about both games if we've got an actual center inked by then.

Tommy Down Under: In case you missed it, Tommy Amaker is coaching the annual Big Ten touring squad this summer as it galavants through Autralia. Expect a fast start followed by a mind bending collapse at the end of the tour.

The Detroit News put together a nice fluffy feel good piece on Amaker today. He's staying true to himself... blah, blah, blah... kids change their minds all the time... blah, blah, blah... not sacrificing the program's values... (snoring from interviewer). Lots of "the program is heading in the right direction" crap plus the standard sloppy wet kiss from Dick Vitale.

Crux of the piece, even After losing three highly touted in-state recruits to decomits in the last three years, Tommy doesn't think he doing anything wrong. The jury's still out on that self-assessment. If he lands either Scottie Reynolds or Eric Boateng, I'll give him a pass for the year. If he loses out on both, I'll sick Joey on him.

Where Michigan Stands in the 2007 Recruiting Class: Nowhere. The new Rivals 150 for 2007 is out. Not surprisingly, not a single player on the list has Michigan as a commitment. Michigan State, however, has already garnered 3 commits from the top 30 on the list. Former commit Alex Legion checks in at #38. The brief Rivals write up is interesting, but doesn't have a lot of good information for the Maize n Blue. Lots of targets, but no commitments.

Football: ESPN takes a look at the Big Ten following Spring Practice. Nothing you didn't know, but Maisel and Forde's 3 Things to Watch brings up the question of how much longer Lloyd will be behind the wheel if Michigan doesn't have good year. The MZone has already taken a crack at it.

The Simpsons and Football: Doug over at Hey Jenny Slater went back to work on matching Simpsons characters with our favorite college football programs. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. If anyone knows who keyed his car, please let him know.
And speaking of which...

The South Shall Rise Again: The good folks who root for Mississippi State did not take too kindly to my carpetbaggin' their beloved SEC. Specifically, their anger was pointed at my removing their shool from the SEC's football ranks along with Kentucky, instead of booting either Vandy or Ole (Old) Miss. This apparently would do irreparable harm to college basketball, the church, and send the earth spinning into the sun. I'm guessing they didn't read the piece that inspired my little side track. They also did not like my suggestion of slimming down to ten teams and eliminating the championship game. Oh well. I stand by it.

However my arbitrary decision to cut MSU from the SEC warrants another look. Considering only the football program and taking a look at their historical record, from 1991-2003 the Bulldogs went 75-75-2. They finished the year ranked 23, 24, 13, and 24 nationally in 1992, 1994, 1999, and 2000 respectively. In light of these numbers, a bad 2004 and 2005 (which colored my decision) hardly warrant demotion. In hindsight, their demotion makes less sense in light of their 35-14 whupping of Mississippi, which I arbitrarily included in my revised SEC. Looking at Ole Miss a little closer, they too have been a more than adequate member of the SEC. Mississipi's worst season in 20 years was a 3 win campaign in 1987. That aside they have managed to be around .500 a majority of that time. Despite the glare of ESPN during Eli Manning's stay (the Mannings are the push up bra of sports marketing, they make programs/teams look good from afar. Then you get a good close look and you're not nearly as impressed), they have not been nearly as good as advertised. Still they've been good enough to stay in conference.

The answer then is Vanderbilt. From 1983-2003 they didn't have a single winning season, including several 1 win and 2 win seasons. Vandy's last two seasons appear to have been a mirage when projected against the backdrop of their historical futility.

So, to the many MSU fans out there, lo siento, it should have been Vandy not MSU I gave the boot to. As a concession here is a photo of my favorite MSU/Texas Rangers' Alumni:

Bet you thought I was going to be a douchebag
and put up a photo of Palmeiro didn't you?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wednesday's Docket: A Surprise Signing and Transfer Possibilities Galore

Michigan Signs a 6-10 Power Forward

Yup, someone other than Courtney Sims will be taller than 6' 7" next year. Whew. Michigan announced yesterday that it signed 6' 10" Edmond, OK power forward Ekpe Udoh to a letter of intent. Udoh will join the Wolverines as a freshman on the 2006 roster. While not a major coup, this is a "big" deal for Michigan. With the departures of Graham Brown and Chris Hunter, Michigan was desperate for some help in the paint. Having a legit power forward, to bang the boards and pump in a point or two, is crucial to Michigan making any sort of tourney run next year.

Udoh was on Amaker's radar for a while. While he was interested in Michigan, he had made numerous grumblings about going to prep school next year to increase his market value and acquire a few mor offers. In fact, I'd pretty much written him off a few weeks ago. Instead, he'll suit up next year and give Michigan another down low presence.

As the Ann Arbor News Points out, this signing end a period of repeated kicks to the crotch for Michigan recruiting. Legion. Beverly. Just about everyone else. Mgoblog speculates, probably correctly, that Amaker showed Udoh a roster devoid of big men and he bit. I'm inclined to agree. First time in a while the, you'll start immediately line has worked though. Brian also gives a great analysis on what we're getting in Udoh. Raw offensively, better defender than scorer, no back to the basket game. The Diag, who broke the news, also takes a look at what Udoh brings to the table.

My thoughts: Yea. We got someone. We got someone we actually targeted. We got someone who fills an obvious need. He's big. He's strong. He can shoot (short to mid range, what a forward should be able to do). We actually need a guy like him. He's not going to be Charles Barkley. For that matter he probably won't even be Chris Hunter. But, he may be a mix of Hunter and Brown, and that is a pretty good addition.

Where it Leaves Us: Udoh's commitment means we have four scholarship players for next year, with one open scholarship to give out. The four are DeShawn Sims, K'len Morris, Anthony Wright, and of course Udoh.

The Open Scholarship: Well, your guess is as good as mine. The transfer wires have been hot, hot, hot. Well not that kind of hot, but there have been rumors a plenty. Center Eric Boateng of Duke (who recently vistied Ann Arbor) and foward Zach Gibson of Rutgers are both mentioned to be seriously interested in Michigan. Both are big dudes, but the crown jewel of the transfers out there is Boateng who was rated as the #3 center in the class of 2005. A recent Rivals article talks about both players, but also mentions for the first time PG Farnold Degand, who is transfering from Iowa State. Rivals reports he was inked in as ISU's starting point guard this year, but aparently wants out. Michigan and Notre Dame appear to be the front runners. Degand was quoted as saying the following:

"Those are great environments and really prestigious schools," Degand said. "You graduate from those schools and your diploma has a little more oomph to it. The lure to play in the Big Ten (at Michigan) is big, though there would have to be something special about those schools to make me consider them more than those East Coast schools."
Um. So that's good.

The hang up I'm sure is the sceptre of pseudo-transfers, Scottie Reynolds a 6-1 point guard and McDonald's All American. He was released from his LOI to Oklahoma when Sampson departed for Indiana (and left a flaming pile of horse crap and recruiting violations on OK's doorstep). So far three commits have asked out of the LOIs at Oklahoma. Reynolds has visited Michigan and LSU. He's also slated to take a peak at Nova. Tommy's been all over this kid since his decommit, as Reynolds reported had Michigan as one of his favorites. Reynolds would be a great fit at Michigan, and as a veritable free agent, would not have to wait a year due to transfer rules.

While Reynolds would be a great addition, I'm crossing my fingers for Boateng. A true center is EXACTLY was Michigan needs, especially after Sims leaves. Plus the thought of some epic Boateng v. Oden battles in the post gets me all googly eyed. I actually think Jarret Smith will be more than adequate at the point as a distributor. However, he's going to need a lot of work on his jump shot. We'll see. There are some decent fish in the pond. Tommy finally switched to some good bait and it netted Udoh.

Let's see if it works twice.

Hockey Recruiting

Loads of new on new hockey uber-recruit Trevor Lewis over at Mgoblog. You may commence over hyping your expectations. In other news, foward Zach MacVoy is leaving because he didn't get enough ice time. News flash: You were a freshman! (HT Mgoblog)

The Final Sculpting of The Midwestern Conference is Complete

It's done. Conference USA and the Midwestern Conference are set. Kyle has proven again why we call him The Mayor. Executive decisions, dammit! In honor of this new Big Ten, here's a leggy shot of Angie Harmon.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bloodshed Ends. Northwestern to Remain in Midwestern Conference

Kyle Signs the Midwestern Conference Armistice

It's all over. Northwestern stays. Miami Stays. The Midwestern Conference Armistice was officially signed yesterday aboard the Battleship Alabama. The debate that killed hundreds (of hours of productivity) officially came to a close. All were merry.

Well, all except for Illinois fans.

In case you missed it, the crux of the debate over Kyle's radical reorganization of college football centered around the restructuring of the Big Ten. In his first proposal, Kyle proposed adding the Miami Red Hawks to the new Big Ten and excluding Northwestern. Being a good Chicago boy I rose up against this southern aggression and defended my homeland. In defense of the 'Cats I offered several rationales for why Northwestern should stay and why Miami should not.

Kyle quickly counter attacked. He hammered on Northwestern's lackluster historical and out of conference records. Stunned by this deadly accurate push by Kyle's forces, I retreated into the record books. Rearmed, I went back on the offensive. I sited Miami's in and out of conference records, and their successes and failures against the Big Ten. I thought this counter offensive would end the war, all it did was drive us both into defensive positions. A No Mans Land laid between our forces.

Northwestern Regroups at Pong-Yang

With both of us entrenched, and that wuss Truman preventing MacAurthur from using the bomb, we agreed to a compromise. With MacAurthur out of the way, the Midwestern Conference Armistice was signed on the decks of the Alabama squarely on the 38th parallel. For good measure, King John signed it as well.

King John Signing the Midwestern Conference Charter before the Assembled Signers: Dawg Sports, Maize n Brew, Around the Oval and a bunch of dudes in tights

The resulting compromise instituted a Midwestern Conference which is as follows: 1) The Big Ten expands to 12 teams; 2) A conference championship game was added; 3) Miami of Ohio, Missouri, Iowa State, and Notre Dame were added to the conference; and 4) Penn State (geography), Indiana (competitiveness) and Illinois (competitiveness) received the boot. So for one shining moment in history, Peace reigns.

Dawg Sports and Maize n Brew Agree.
Northwestern and Miami in. Illinois out.

Still there will be those who question. Why is Illinois out? What about their basketball team? They're good! Please keep in mind this only has to do with football. As Kyle points out at length, Illinois is not good at football. In fact, they're horrible.
In the last 10 years, the Illini have gone 1-7 in Big Ten play twice (1996 and 2004) and 0-8 against the league three times (1997, 2003, and 2005). Illinois has gone 1-23 in its last 24 Big Ten contests.

That's bad. Illinois has been horrendous on the gridiron for years. Kyle's research shows that in the last 40 years Illinois has 13 winning seasons. As shown above, their last 10 years has pushed them over the edge from middle of the pack, to Indiana status. Their inability to field a competitive team over the last decade, coupled with their historical ineptitude earned them their demotion.

However, I don't throw Illinois out of the Midwestern Conference lightly. One of Kyle's Anonymous Heroes pointed out that Illinois is indeed the flagship school of this proud heartland state. This is true. And given time, money, and a magic wand, Illinois could again rise to prominence. Unfortunately, that's a long way off. In viewing the football team over the last ten to fifteen years, it is apparent football is not a priority. The best Illinois prospects go to Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, not Illinois. Further, flagship status is not enough to stave off the axe. We were more than happy to dump Indiana from the picture even though they, like Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, et al., are their state's flagship school.

What it comes down to is this: 1) whether the school has been historically competitive, and 2) whether it will be competitive in the next generation. Northwestern answered affirmatively over the last ten years. Illinois did not. Historically Illinois does have a better won/loss record. However, it is not as though Illinois was a dominant team up until this decade. Miami, as Kyle showed at length, has fielded more than competitive teams over the past decade and historically has been a more than competitive program.

Our positions put simply are:

Kyle - Miami's earned a shot at the Big Time;

Me - Northwestern has earned the right to stay;

Both of Us - Illinois has been worse than both of these teams for the past decade and historically has not proven to be any better either.

I want to keep Illinois in the Big Ten as much as anyone. However, their performance on the football field negates my personal feelings. Northwestern has shown resilience and commitment to their program. While it will never be spoken of in the same breath as national powers like Michigan, Notre Dame or USC, it will continue to be a solid contributor to the conference like stalwarts Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It is with this understanding that I was willing to throw Illinois under the bus on this subject. Take a look at the won/loss records of the new schools and tell me if I'm wrong.

Until then. Let peace, glorious peace, reign.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Well Allow Me To Retort!

Who Belongs in the Midwestern Conference
Miami of Ohio or Northwestern University

I laid down the guantlet last week and Kyle roared down it. Like Gabe Watson on his way to the buffet, Kyle took and devoured my arguments that Miami has no business in any incarnation of the Big Ten. Kyle's most recent retort lays out several great reasons why Miami is more deserving of a spot in his new Midwestern Conference than Northwestern.

I said, Northwestern Doesn't Belong in the Midwestern Conference!

At first glance, Kyle straight up Cobra-Kai'd my ass. Sweeping my leg with this little factoid: Miami has owned Northwestern over their last three meetings. 1995 - Miami (Ohio) 30, Northwestern 28; 1999 - Miami (Ohio) 28, Northwestern 3; 2003 - Miami (Ohio) 44, Northwestern 14.

Kyle, at left, lectures Mr. Miagi on the virtues of Red Hawks Football.

You'd think this crippling dojo move would weaken if not destroy my position, but I don't think Miami's head to head record against Northwestern is quite as fatal as it seems.

First, lets look at the head to head games in question: 1995, 1999, 2003.

1) The 1995 loss to Miami was analogous to the Chicago Bears 1994 loss to the Miami Dolphins. A hiccup. Taking the rest of the Wildcats schedule that year (10-2) including wins over Michigan, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Iowa. This sent the Cats to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949 where they fell to USC 41-32. Keep in mind that the 1995 USC team that beat Northwestern in the Rose Bowl had Keyshawn Johnson, who at the time was one of the most dominant forces in college football, and USC went 9-2-1 that year.

2) The 1999 Red Hawks team went 12-1 with 8 wins coming from MAC play. It was also Randy Walker's first year as head coach of Northwestern after taking over from Garry Barnett. Northwestern finished the year a dismal 3-8 (1-7). They did however go 2-1 in non-conference play.

3) The 2003 loss, well, this is from the Red Hawks press release after the game: "Ben Roethlisberger threw for 353 yards and Martin Nance caught pair of touchdown passes as Miami of Ohio beat Northwestern 44-14 on Saturday." A very good quarterback (Super Bowl winning quarterback) torched a questionable defense which gave up more than 20 point 6 times. No defense to this one. Miami beat the pants off NU. Northwestern has had its troubles with Miami recently. But a loss to a Super Bowl winning quarterback like Roethlisberger is nothing to hang you head about.

While Miami has gotten the better of the Wildcats over the last three meetings, the Redhawks cannot boast any success over the rest of the Big Ten. Their last win over a Big Ten Team other than Northwestern was in 1977, over Indiana!

The fact that Miami can only beat a single Big Ten team over the course of 30 years hardly qualifies them as belonging in a Big Ten like conference. Further, even though Northwestern has had its strugles with Miami (historically, 5 losses dating back to 1955), it has had success in conference against teams that have handled the Rehawks. (Just because I can, I'll mention that Miami's record book also lists a Tangerine Bowl victory over Georgia in 1974.)

Going back to 2000 Northwestern has beaten Ohio State (2004), Michigan (2000), Purdue (2005, 2004), Wisconsin (2005, 2003, 2000), Minnesota (2001, 2000), Michigan State (2005, 2001, 2000), Indiana (2004, 2003, 2002, 2000), Iowa (2005), Penn State (2004, 2003), and Illinois(2005, 2004, 2003, 2000).

With the exceptions of Indiana and Purdue, Miami cannot boast a victory against any of these teams prior to 1947. Since 2000, Miami's lone Big Ten victory is against Northwestern. During that time it has lost to Iowa (3 times), Michigan (2 times), and Ohio State (2 times). Had Miami possessed a few more victories over Big Ten teams, the way Iowa State does, I might have been persuaded. However, they do not. Therefore, I must protest.

Kyle also points out that Northwestern has had a less than stellar non-conference record (including bowl games) throughout its history. For a basis of comparison between the Cat's and their presumptive usurpers, I give you both school's out of conference records, wins and loses, since 1998 (ed note: Because Miami's athletic site only goes back to 1998, I only sited wins and losses from 1998 forward):

Northwestern Out of Conference Schedules
1995 - 2-2
1996 - 2-2
1997 - 2-2
1998 - 3-1 (Wins over UNLV, Rice and Hawaii, loss to Duke)
1999 - 2-1 (Wins over TCU and Duke, Loss to Miami)
2000 - 2-2 (Wins over Northern Illinois and Duke, Losses to TCU and Nebraska [Bowl])
2001 - 2-1 (Wins over UNLV and Duke, Loss to Bowling Green)
2002 - 2-2 (Wins over Duke and Navy, Losses to Air Force and TCU)
2003 - 2-3 (Wins over Kansas and Duke, Losses to Air Force, Miami, and Bowling Green [Bowl])
2004 - 1-3 (Win over Kansas, Loss to TCU, Arizona State, and Hawaii)
2005 - 2-2 (Wins over Ohio and Northern Illinois, Losses to Arizona State and UCLA)

Miami of Ohio Out of Coneference Schedules
1998: 2-0 (Wins over UNC and Navy)
1999: 1-2 (Win over Northwestern, Loss to West Virginia and Cincinnati)
2000: 1-2 (Win over Vanderbilt, Losses to Ohio State and Cincinnati)
2001: 1-2 (Win over Cincinnati, Losses to Michigan and Iowa)
2002: 2-2 (Win over UNC and Cincinnati, Losses to LSU and Iowa)
2003: 4-1 (Wins over Northwestern, Colorado State, Cincinnati, Louisville [Bowl], Loss to Iowa)
2004: 1-3 (Win over Indiana St., Losses to Michigan, Cincinnati and Iowa State [Bowl])
2005: 2-1 (Wins over Temple and Cincinnati, Loss to Ohio State)

Reviewing these records reveals an ugly sight. Neither of these teams are good against unfamiliar foes. The raw numbers are Northwestern: 31 games (16-15); Miami 27 games (14-13). Miami's record since 1998: Four 1-2 seasons, one 2-2 season, one 2-1 season, one 4-1 season. Northwestern's out of conference record since 1998: One 1-3 season, one 2-3 season, three 2-2 seasons, and two 2-1 seasons. Miami has four losing out of conference seasons since 1998, and Northwestern has two. They both have two winning out of conference seasons during that time frame, but Northwestern has maintained a .500 twice more than Miami. Finally, Northwestern only has one 1 win out of conference season, Miami has four. Take what you wish from this, but I maintain it gives Northwestern an edge.

I will also maintain that the 2003 season is a bit of an outlier based on the presence of Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was a special college athlete that helped his team to beat several good squads, including Louisville in a bowl game. Prior to his arrival, Miami was good, not great. Since his departure, Miami has been good not great. Miami's 2004 out of conference record helps to emphasize this point, as Miami dropped 3 out of conference games. You can point to the Red Hawks 2-1 record in 2005, but take Temple out of the schedule, and out of D1 football (please), and their schedule reads 1-1. (And yes, in that case you should also yank the Rice win from Northwestern's catalogue then too.)

Kyle does of course have a trump card. Duke. How in God's name did Northwestern lose to Duke? Well they did. But in that same vein, Michigan lost to Syracuse in 1998 and Georgia has lost to Southern Mississippi in 1996. The logic of winning 9 out of 10, well, that 10th game shows up every now and then. Still. Duke.

Even so, neither Northwestern nor Miami's out of conference victories are not particularly impressive. However, Northwestern has been more consistent out of conference than Miami. Edge, Northwestern.

On top of that, I still maintain you should not get equal credit for playing inferior opponents. A good record in the MAC (Miami 5-3 in 2005) is not worth a mediocre record in the ACC, SEC, or Big Ten. The talent and depth is simply not the same. Both Buffalo and Kent State went 1-10 this past year in MAC play. Miami plays in the same MAC division as both of those schools. So that's two freebie wins a year. A good record in a watered down conference doesn't warrant promotion.

Yes Miami has been playing good football of late. But in looking at their out of conference schedule I am less convinced than before this debate began that they belong. Miami's out of conference play is just as abysmal as Northwestern's. Following their patsy non-confs they get to beat up on their horrible in divisional rivals to pad their schedule. Miami's division in the MAC consists of Kent State (1-10 in 2005), Buffalo (1-10), Ohio (4-7), Bowling Green (6-5), and Akron (7-6). These are not powerhouses. Had Miami consistently gone 2-1, 3-0, or even 2-2 against quality opponents it is fairly pausible that their in conference success would not be a mirage. However, over the last eight years, four times they have a losing non-conference record. Yes their over all won loss record looks nice on paper, but looking at their schedule explains why. Northwestern has two wins over bowl teams last year (Wisconsin and Iowa). Northwestern plays in one of the toughest conferences in the country. In looking at the schedules and performances, I have to give the edge to Northwestern over Miami.

The question I have, for the basis of comparison, is where do we draw the line in the sand to compare the schools? Neither Northwestern nor Miami is what you would call a powerhouse program. Both seem to have enjoyed more recent success than past success. Northwestern was a bowl game loser this past year. Miami didn't go to one last year. What is our date line for comparison? The last 10 years, 20 years, or 30?

If we're saying 10 years, Northwestern by virtue of 3 Big Ten titles, has to be the winner. MAC success aside, every player invovled will tell you its harder to play at the Big Ten level.

Tomorrow I prove my point on how Northwestern would rule Conference U.S.A. with an Iron Fist!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday's Docket: Basketball Recruiting and Critiquing The Midwestern Conference

Updating Your Basketball Needs

GBW has a breakdown of just about everything you wanted to know about Michigan's recruiting class for 2006. There are still two big fish swimming in the recruitment pond (5* Center Eric Boateng [Duke transfer] and 5* guard Scottie Reynolds) and a few smaller ones as well.

The biggest fish may well be Boateng. Michigan does not have a big man in the pipeline after Courtney Sims graduates. Boateng would definitely fill that void. He was listed as the #3 center in the class of 2005, and if given some playing time might be able to prove it. According to GBW he's scheduled to visit Michigan May 7, and is also considering Notre Dame, Arizona State, and George Washington. He is a transfer, so he wouldn't be able to play next year, but a year off to practice and fill out his lanky frame might be a blessing for him. The only warning I'd put on him would be his temperment. If he's transfering after one year at a winning Duke program, how's he going to react to playing at a mid level-major conference school. Just a thought.

After Boateng there is Scottie Reynolds. His decommit from Oklahoma has vultures like Michigan drooling. A McDonalds all-american, Reynolds will most likely start right away where ever he ends up. The only real problem is who Michigan is up against. He's already been down to see LSU and could visit Nova and Illinois, according to GBW. Still, Tommy's been all over him, including a lengthy chat in Reynolds' home state of Virginia. It's a long shot with the other schools pursuing him, but if Reynolds ends up in Ann Arbor we all owe Tommy an apology (for saying he can't recruit, I stand by the assertion he's a lousy coach).

The rest of the article is a great run down. It also mentions for the first time a Rutgers transfer named Zach Gibson who is a Michigan native. He wasn't pursued by Michigan out fo college and didn't play much at Rutgers. He'll probably end up back in Ann Arbor, but at Eastern Michigan.

Nitpicking Kyle's New World Order, Part II

My second issue with Kyle's realignment of the Big Ten is the exclusion of Northwestern and the inclusion of Miami of Ohio.

Kyle's new Midwestern Conference includes the following:
Northern Division: Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Southern Division: Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue

You'll note missing from those ranks are Penn State, Indiana, and Northwestern. As I said yesterday, I can't gripe with the deduction of Penn State. Geographically speaking, Penn State has no business in the Big Ten. While Pennsylvania and Ohio may be next door to one another, the rest of the Big Ten is too far away from Happy Valley for Penn State's inclusion in the real Big Ten to be anything less than a brilliant coup by the Big Ten heirarchy that pulled it off. Still I would miss Joe Pa's coke bottle glasses, and the sight of his 90 year old legs running after the officials to blame them for yet another loss to Michigan.

Indiana's elimination from Big Ten football is a no brainer. The program has been in shambles for years. Here are Indiana's records for the last few years, conference record in paranetheses:

Indiana Football
2005: 4-7 (1-7)
2004: 3-8 (1-7)
2003: 2-10 (1-7)
2002: 3-9 (1-7)
2001: 5-6 (4-4)
2000: 3-8 (2-6)
1999: 4-7 (3-5)
1998: 4-7 (3-5)
1997: 2-9 (1-7)

You get the picture. Since 1990, Indiana has only had three winning records in conference (1990 4-3-1; 1991 5-3; 1993 5-3). They have had seven sesasons where they have won 1 conference game or less since 1993. The last four years Indiana has 4 wins in conference, total. Indiana deserves the boot, and should get it, in Kyle's conference or in any other.

Which brings us to Northwestern. This is where Kyle and I tangle. There is no way the 'Cats should be stripped from the Big Ten/Midwestern Conference. Northwestern has proven it belongs in the Big Ten over the last ten years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Just look at the records:

2005: 7-5 (5-3) Sun Bowl (L)
2004: 6-6 (5-3)
2003: 6-7 (4-4) Motor City Bowl (L)
2002: 3-9 (1-7)
2001: 4-7 (2-6)
2000: 8-4 (6-2) Big Ten Co-Champs; Alamo Bowl (L)
1999: 3-8 (1-7)
1998: 3-9 (0-8)
1997: 5-7 (3-5)
1996: 9-3 (7-1) Big Ten Co-Champs; Citrus Bowl (L)
1995: 10-2 (8-0) Big Ten Champions; Rose Bowl (L)

Sharing or winning three Big Ten titles in 10 years should not equal a demotion to Conference U.S.A. Kyle's proposed Conference U.S.A. seems like the Island of Misfit Toys. Look at the contents: Baylor, Northwestern, Rice, Stanford, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Rutgers, Temple, and Wake Forest. Try to tell me with a straight face that Northwestern wouldn't rule this conference with an iron fist. This conference contains more schools that should not have football teams than those who should. In fact, only two of them had a winning conference record, Northwestern and Rutgers(7-3 [4-3] in the Big {L}East). Northwestern does not belong in this abomdination, they belong in the Big Ten.

Geographically, Northwestern's location also dictates that they belong in this heartland conference. Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois, 30 minutes north of Chicago on scenic Lake Shore Drive. A beautiful north suburban campus, Northwestern also boast three top five graduate schools in Chicago proper (Medical, Business, and Law). I submit to Kyle, how can you have a truly "midwestern" conference when the school located in the very heart of the Midwestern Mecca is left out? The short answer is you can't. Northwestern, despite it's Ivy and private school status, is a gem of a midwestern school not just academically but also in athletics. Their football resume is enough to keep them here, but their location makes them impossible to leave out.

In that case, who gets in if Northwestern stays? Kyle proposes Notre Dame, Iowa State, Missouri, and Miami of Ohio. Notre Dame I have no problem with. As a true football power they belong in the Big Ten and are no stranger to the conference having regular Big Ten rivalry games every year. No brainer.

If I had my way, I'd stop here. Ten is enough. But, this is Kyle's league so I've gotta go to 12 teams.

Therefore, Iowa State belongs too. Not just because they're reside in the same state as the Hawkeyes, but because they are a legitimate football program. Here's their record since 2000 and their record against Big Ten teams:

Iowa State
2005: 7-5 (4-4) (Wins over Illinois and Iowa)
2004: 7-5 (4-4) (Loss to Iowa)
2003: 2-10 (0-8) (Loss to Iowa)
2002: 7-7 (4-4) (Win over Iowa)
2001: 7-5 (4-4) (Win over Iowa)
2000: 9-3 (5-3) (Win over Iowa)

Minimum seven win team over the last six years (with a noticeable 2003 hiccup). A 4-2 record against a good Big Ten program in Iowa. They've proven they belong. If only they'd pick a better nickname, the "cyclones" doesn't quite fit in a conference where just about everyone is named after a vicious animal. (ed note: Buckeye's are not animals, but are in fact nuts. Their fans however border somewhere in between.)

Now its patsy time. Because the league must have 12 teams, I've gotta pick a cellar dweller to keep Illinois company (Illinois was 2-9 (0-8) in 2005). To be honest, if I had to choose between including Missouri and Miami at the expense of Illinois, I'd seriously consider it. Illinois and Indiana have been abmissal Big Ten teams for quite some time. However, Illinois has been to a Sugar Bowl recently and was a charter member of the Big Ten. Its a tough call, but Illinois should stay, there's just too much history. Further, if I'm arguing that location keeps Northwestern in, Illinois has to stay too. Therefore the choice remains between Missouri and Miami of Ohio. Hmmmm. Would you like the vomit flavored lollypop or the one that tastes like feet? Here are the comparisons:

Missouri (Big XII Conference)
2005: 7-5 (4-4)
2004: 5-6 (3-5)
2003: 8-4 (4-4) (W Illinois)
2002: 5-6 (2-6) (W illinois)
2001: 4-7 (3-5) (L Michigan State)
2000: 3-8, (2-6) (L Michigan State)

Miami (MAC Conference)
2005: 7-4 (5-3)
2004: 9-4 (L Michigan)
2003: 13-1 (L Iowa, W Northwestern)
2002: 6-5 (L Iowa)
2001: 7-5 (L Iowa, L Michigan)
2000: 6-5 (L to Ohio State)

I didn't include Miami's conference record because, well, it's the MAC, and well, I'm not sure it really counts. But, in looking at the records, it appears to be a toss up. Miami has had success in MAC play, being Champs or Co-Champs three straight years. Missouri hasn't even sniffed a Big XII crown in years. However, the conferences are the tie breaker. Missouri has been average in a tough conference that has produced national championship contenders three of the last four years. Miami plays in the MAC. Missouri is a huge state school, Miami is a small one. Missouri can recruit in its home state. Miami deals with Ohio State and Michigan poaching, well, everyone.

It's really not an argument. Miami belongs in Conference USA, not the Midwestern Conference. Missouri should be let into the Conference, but with the understanding that they're not going to be a legitimate football power. The good folks over at Around the Oval took a look too, and also gave the Red Hawks the boot based on stadium size. Great point. Playing in front of 30,000 people doesn't seem right when Wisconsin, Ohio State or Michigan come to town. Great stuff.

Well, that sums me up. Thanks again to Kyle for giving us something to write about while the season is still months away!