29. September 2014 · 3 comments · Categories: 2014

Say what you want about Dave Brandon (and everyone is saying what they want), but we know firsthand that he knows how to deal with a media crisis/circus.  His handling of the Rich Rod practicegate scandal was masterful.  I dubbed him ‘Super Dave’ and he deserved it.  What’s striking to me here is the complete lack of savvy in the handling of this issue.  Someone joked to me it is as if Hoke is being set-up.  As preposterous as that is, it would at least explain what is happening.  This doesn’t feel anything like a Dave Brandon Production.

The strategy since last night (and the basic Hoke talk track today) seems to be to separate Hoke from the medical diagnosis and decision to play or not play.  Fine.  But when asked today if the medical staff performed a concussion test, Hoke said, “I assume so.”  Huh?

Now, perhaps Hoke was so focused on trying to sell the “I’m-a-coach-not-a-doctor” strategy that he fumbled that answer.  But does anyone believe that Hoke doesn’t really know (by now) exactly what happened on the sideline with Morris?   It was probably reviewed with half of the athletic department by now.

How it Should have Gone
Based on my credentials as an unpaid US Senate intern (/Barney Fife sniff) two decades ago, if I’m running the talk track it goes like this.  After pointing out that student-athlete safety is of the highest priority, and that you have the full confidence in your medical staff:

1. Explain what the process is when a player comes out of a game for an injury.
2. Explain that you reviewed specifically what was done with Morris on Saturday with the staff. (This must have happened) 
3. Point out what was done correctly with Morris’s examination, and candidly what, if anything, was missed.
4. If anything was missed, explain why it was missed and what the staff is doing about it to ensure it never happens again. 
5. Explain the process to communicate to the coaching staff when an injured player can return to the field.
6. Point out what was done correctly with the communication process, and candidly what, if anything, was missed.
7. If anything was missed, explain what the coaching staff is doing to correct this communication process moving forward to ensure it never happens again.
8. Reiterate that U-M has the finest medical staff in the business.
9. Reiterate how seriously you take the safety of student athletes.
10. Take questions.

If you think this is too much detail and would expose Michigan to outside scrutiny and ridicule, I guess I’d ask: how’s the current talk track working out?  What time does Nancy Grace land at DTW?

Hoke’s Character
1. I don’t think Hoke is lying – this is just being handled so poorly.
2. There is no way Hoke knowingly would put a player in danger.  He would never do it.


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IMG_4274 - kiss

I don’t have to explain how I feel about the history of this rivalry and also needless to say, it is very rough for me to watch that jug head out of town.  Looking through the photos, it particularly stung seeing shots with that new section of the jug.  I stood inches away when Jil Gordon painted on the score last year.   You might call this the dong punch de resistance:

jug and program Check out the kid holding a program.  Inside there is a story this week that I wrote, particularly about the different paint jobs the jug has had over the years leading off with a mention of Jil’s work (including the photo below) on the new section last year.

Jil Gordon paints new section (2013 - Greg Dooley photo)Now that thing is hundreds of miles away and they are doing lord-knows-what to it.  Punch.

 Read on..(1964 team, Arena, Pomp, Mood, links and more…)

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28. September 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: 2014 · Tags:

IMG_4144 Barbarians!

Dr. Sap's DecalsSteve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis is back this season with his weekly postgame helmet stickers.  Sap would do a backflip if coach Hoke decided to reinstate this tradition that Bo brought to the team in 1969. 

Until that day comes, Sap will bring you his game Champions who will be decorated, albeit virtually, with his helmet stickers.   I’ll typically toss in the Fan Award and the Editor’s Choice:


NONE – I was going to award De’Veon Smith with a decal as he ran hard in the first half. He scored a TD. He ran with passion. Smith ran with an attitude that seemed to be just what this offense needed. But then where was he in the second half? Not slamming him for lack of playing time, but…NO DECAL FOR YOU!

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION NONE – Joe Bolden made some big stops in this game. Yes, he had 10 tackles and 1 sack and yes, the defense kept up their end of the bargain for as long as they could, but…NO DECAL FOR YOU!
SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION NONE – Dennis Norfleet had a decal all but sewn up. He was solid in his returns. He made all the catches – some under duress – and heck, he even downed a punt at the Minnesota 1-yard line, but then he went and fumbled a 4th quarter punt that pinned Michigan deep inside their own 10-yard line late in the game, so…NO DECAL FOR YOU!
UNIFORM CHAMPION White adidas Arm Sleeve – Thought it looked cool. The white sleeve was a nice contrast to the traditional maize and blue unis, and I thought the white sleeve looked better than the black one. My take? Wear the white sleeves at home and the black sleeves on the road.
Photo Sep 27, 3 17 16 PM
EDITOR’S CHOICE BUMP ELLIOTT:  No question: the WWII vet, Mad Magician, National Champion, Big Ten MVP, Rose Bowl winning coach and esteemed Iowa athletic director..89 year old Bump Elliott:



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A few from pregame out here on a perfect day inside the Big House:


Jug safe keeping



The Official Braylon back in the house


DSCN6635Mad Magician and ‘64 Head Coach Bump Elliott and All-American QB Bob Timberlake


DSCN6631 Captain Jim Conley and Barry Dehlin



Frank “The Fudgehammer” Nunley and Rick Volk.  In ‘64 Volk pick off the Buckeyes twice in the 4th quarter to seal the game and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Jil Gordon and Scott Robbins

My favorite Michigan artists – Jil Gordon of TrueBlue365 and Scott Robbins of The Blockhams.  Check out Scott’s latest with Ira and Sam on WTKA.


Photo Sep 27, 2 29 39 PM


Photo Sep 27, 1 12 15 PM Jon Falk preaching!  (While Steve Clarke is tweeting)

This week we start with 1958, Bennie Oosterbaan’s final season at the helm in Ann Arbor and roll up to the coach and the team being honored Saturday in Michigan Stadium: Bump Elliott and the 1964 Big Ten & Rose Bowl Champions:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here…And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge starting at 11:30am.


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Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.

See Part I: Starting from Nothing
See Part II: 
The Season

Getting Business Time
The trip to the Rose Bowl was conducted in two distinct phases – party time and business time.   The first portion started off with the usual tours, some time to hang out and a bit of partying. And the team lost focus.

“Chrysler gave us a car for every 4 guys,” Barry Dehlin recalled.  “For the first week, you had a bunch of 20-year-old guys out there and we were partying.”

But as young men tend to do, they took advantage of their celebrity status with the California coeds.  “We go to Disneyland and the next thing you know we’re in our hotel room and there are eight or ten of the Disneyland tour guides,” Conley recalled.  And the captain wasn’t immune.  “We went to the Whiskey a Go Go.  The girls are dancing and all that, and let’s just say we had some guys that were good at what they do, you know what I mean?”  

“I’ll never forget, we’re walking into the hotel.  There’s Bill Laskey with me and a couple of other guys.  We’ve got these damn girls with us with those frilly skirts shaking around.  As we’re walking down the hall [assistant coach] Jocko Nelson walks by, looks at me and says, ‘Captain Conley.’ And I go, ‘Coach Nelson.’  And we just kept going right on by. [laughs]”

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1933 Willie HestonI call this “Willie Heston with Jug and Pigskin”

Most U-M fans (both U-Ms, I suppose) know the basic jug story. Before the 1903 game between the two schools in Minneapolis, Fielding Yost dispatched U-M equipment manager Tommy Roberts to purchase a five gallon Red Wing water jug. After the brutally fought game of the undefeated teams ended in a 6-6 tie, Minnesota’s equipment manager Oscar Munson found Michigan’s jug and decided to keep it as a souvenir. When the Wolverines returned to Minnesota in 1909 the teams agreed that the winner should take the jug—and the victor of the game has retained the precious crock ever since.

That part of the story is pretty well established. But outside of that, there are still many misconceptions about the history of the jug and the rivalry that persist today. Here’s at five common myths..along with a discussion of the reality.

The Myth: Common lore suggests that U-M bought the jug because they feared Minnesota would try to “taint” Michigan’s water supply.

The truth of how and why the famous jug ended up on the U-M sidelines in 1903 has shifted around as the decades have passed. In the early days of the Jug rivalry, it was commonly understood that Michigan brought the jug and its own, familiar water from Ann Arbor. Furthermore most believed it was Yost feared the Gophers would attempt to spike their water. Decades later Michigan’s equipment manager Tommy Roberts revealed that he simply bought the jug in Minneapolis before the game and filled it with water in Minnesota.

While it’s possible that Michigan wanted its own jug to keep enemy hands off the water supply, it wasn’t a common practice for the Wolverines to carry water on road trips and it’s doubtful that Yost feared any foul play from Minnesota.

The Wolverines were experienced travelers, including most notably a trip to Pasadena for the first Rose Bowl in 1902. Not only did they see no advantage in bringing its own water to road game, doing so was actually quite a hassle. Legendary team trainer Keene Fitzpatrick actually talked about the team’s water strategy just a few days before the Michigan’s 1903 trip to Minneapolis [via the October 28, 1903 Michigan Daily]:

“Carrying water to which the men are accustomed on a trip is a big nuisance and of no practical benefit,” said the trainer. “Once only, when the ‘99 team went to Philadelphia, was this precaution taken by Michigan, and then we didn’t find that any advantage had been gained. On the long California trip the health of the team was not impaired by the change in drinking water.”

The last line implies they were actually more concerned about the changes in regional water (think about your last trip to Mexico) than with foul play. But despite all that Fitzpatrick determined it wasn’t worth it to carry water on the road.

The Reality: Michigan just bought a jug (and filled it) in Minnesota because it didn’t make sense to haul jugs/water from Ann Arbor.


The Myth: Common Jug lore suggests that once Fielding Yost found out he left the team’s water jug behind in Minnesota after the 1903 game, he wrote the Gophers asking for its return…and was told he’d need to “win it back”.

According to two accounts of those who were there when Michigan returned to Minnesota in 1909, Yost didn’t remember or really, know anything about the ceramic souvenir Minnesota confiscated six years earlier. For a man who was very outspoken and kept a detailed collection of personal correspondence, there’s no indication that Yost knew anything about the jug or cared about its return.

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Conley and Bump

Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.

See Part I: Starting from Nothing


The Season
Following Conley’s direction the team returned ready to go.  More than that, they were ready from something more—they were hungry.

A few players made personal sacrifices that fall to help stay focused.   Conley gave up drinking—at least for the most part.  “OK, I slipped a couple of times on a Saturday night after we won.  But for the most part I didn’t do it.”  Other guys on the team made more challenging sacrifices—like steering clear of the ladies before games.

The 1964 season began in Ann Arbor on September 26 with a convincing 24-7 win over Air Force.  The following week Navy’s Roger Staubach, the reigning Heisman winner, returned to town.  The rematch game got national attention but there was a lack of local media coverage—all season in fact–thanks to a Detroit newspaper strike.  

In 1963 the mobile QB had torched U-M for over 300 yards of offense (back when that was a huge deal) in a 26-13 victory for the Midshipmen.   Many, including Conley and Elliott, feel Staubach effectively won the Heisman due to his performance against U-M in ’63.  This time Staubach didn’t live up to his Roger the Dodger moniker as the defense suffocated him early on.  “Basically we ended his college career,” Conley recalled.  “Bill Yearby and I met him at the sidelines, more Yearby than me, and nailed him.  He should have got out of bounds and I was disappointed he didn’t.  That was the end of him.” 

With Staubach grounded, Michigan forced six turnovers and won 21-0, paced by a pair of TDs by back Carl Ward. 

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