MVictors: Blue Books

A couple weeks ago I looked back at Lou Holtz’s attempts to woo Michigan coach Lloyd Carr to South Bend and join his Irish staff. In late 1989 Carr had interviewed for the Wisconsin head coaching job which was eventually given to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez. It was Alvarez’s departure that prompted Holtz to seek out Carr.

Did you know that legendary General Bo considered an offer to take the reins at Madison back in the 60s? Indeed. Here’s an excerpt from John U. Bacon’s wonderful Bo’s Lasting Lessons, where Bo recounts what happened in Chapter Three titled ‘Wait for the Right Opportunity’:

After we won our conference title in my third and fourth seasons at Miami–1965 & 1966–Wisconsin called. From the outside, it seemed like a pretty good job. Wisconsin’s a good school in a great league. It was about ten o’clock on a Sunday when I walk into this meeting room to face twenty guys sitting around–and some board member falls asleep, right there in front of me! Now what does that tell you?

They also had a student on the committee, and this kid asks me how I would handle Clem Turner, a Cincinnati kid, who was always in trouble. Well, how the heck do I know how I would handle Clem Turner? I’ve never met him! And that’s exactly what I told that kid. But I’m thinking, Who the hell’s running this show?

The whole thing lasted maybe forty minutes, and the second I was out that door I walked to the nearest pay phone and called Ivy Williamson, the Wisconsin athletic director, and told him to withdraw my name from consideration.

Bo goes onto say that Wisconsin was after Bob Knight for their hoops coaching position. Schembechler told his pal Knight that he was unimpressed and “If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t go to Wisconsin.”

Bo's Lasting Lessons

16. September 2008 · Comments Off on Power Index, Week 3 · Categories: Archive 2008, Big Ten

The spread between teams in the conference is collapsing and Michigan continues its drop after the brutal loss to Notre Dame. In the preseason poll the gap between the Buckeyes and the lowest rated Gophers was 85.2 index points, that gap heading into week 4 is now 73.5.

Steady Eddie all season? The Spartans, in four polls from the preseason to the current week, the Michigan State index has held a range of 50 to 51.1.

Here’s the current poll:

The comments from the pollsters were pretty consistent: the Big Ten sucks:

Gilliam the Badger: “The Big Ten proved this week that it ranks slightly higher than the WAC, the Sun Belt, the Missouri Valley, the Big Sky, and Big East conferences.”

Biggie the Spartan: “We did not learn a whole lot this week other than the Big Ten looks to be pretty lame from a national perspective.”

Schlimmy the disappointed Buckeye, “Wisconsin provided the Big Ten with their best win of the year so far (which isn’t saying much). Michigan and Ohio State, first Michigan simply handing Notre Dame the game in the first quarter. Second I completely expected my Buckeyes to get spanked by USC, once Beanie hurt his foot/toe a couple weeks ago I knew they were in serious trouble vs USC. I’m not saying they would have won with him at 100% but he would have made a significant difference in the game (as I’m sure I will get no argument from any Michigan fans).” [from a Michigan fan: you still would have been worked but Beanie would have made a difference.]

Shep the Domer, He was impressed by “Minnesota, they are showing they should be at least capable of playing with middle tier Big Ten.”

Was impressed with “Purdue – I think they’re for real and are playing like the want to send Joe Tiller off right. They lost to a speedy Oregon team in a game they should have won in a pretty weird week for the Big 10. If Michigan takes care of the football, they’re a coin flip with a not very good ND team.

I’ve got Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin in a dead heat at the top. Ohio State should still be the best team in the conference (nobody should come close to beating USC this year) but they’ve got a lot of psychological rebuilding to do after 3 straight blow-out losses in huge national games (not including vs Michigan of course).” [Of course.]

One of the things bloggers do when they’ve been away from the keyboard for a little while is check out site statistics. A quick scan of the incoming links revealed that my previous posts referencing my favorite Schembechler phrase are being peppered. It didn’t take long to find out why. As you may know by now you can thank Notre Dame head coach Chuck Weis for that:

“I think the first opportunity they’re going to have to really make a statement is that day [Sept. 6 against SDSU], and then we’ll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come runnin’ in and sayin’ how they have a new coaching staff and there’s changes. To hell with Michigan.”

** Translated by Brian at mgoblog, who is fluent in Hutt

Beautiful! I love this.

Rich Rod is getting from all sides this off-season and I say bring it on. Any shot at our new coach just unifies the fickle Michigan fan base and gives a reassuring boost to our rivalries. Now we need Tim Brewster to announce he’s cleared a space in his office to display the Little Brown Jug and we’ll be all set.

Referencing a Schembechler line is fine by me although I’m sure many would say that Weis would never dare say such a thing if Bo were alive. Again, I say bring it on.

So Purdue Coach Joe Tiller is mad at the new kid on the block. You’ve certainly heard his quote directed toward Rodriguez after losing verbal commit Roy Roundtree:

“If we had an early signing date, you wouldn’t have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that’s what happened,” Tiller said.

So many things bug me about this, some already said some not. First off, the suggestion that Coach Rodriguez is selling “snake oil” implies a RR’s master salesman selling a lie. Yes, he’s selling fantasies like Rose Bowls, the Rivalry, the NFL and Heisman trophies. Where does Rodriguez come up with this stuff? Tiller is selling the Old Oaken Bucket, giant percussion instruments and the Motor City Bowl.

Purdue Rocks!

Second, it sure must have been some charming looking Wizard hat to conjure up that spell he put on the naive recruit. Rodriguez actively recruited for Michigan for THREE WEEKS…must have been some slick moves involved to change the mind of a verbal commit.

Perhaps it had something to do with a receiver wanting to play in the Big Ten in a spread offense like Purdue’s, only better? For Tiller to put this on Rodriguez is weak. A charming way to welcome a new colleague in the league. Not that he should call out the kid, but how about giving Roundtree some credit for making his own decision? And a decision it was. In three weeks it takes two to tango out of a verbal commitment. Rodriquez had enough to do in Ann Arbor let alone focus on recruiting verbal commits. Roundtree called Michigan.

So perhaps Tiller did the right thing by focusing his anger on an adult and not on the kid. Oh, wait..:

“On the other side of the coin, maybe the guy did you a favor. It makes you wonder about the guy, the people surrounding him, the people in that building who would let that happen.”

Over the line!

Judge for yourself. Grasping for reasons why this kid left, Tiller blames Michigan’s coach for selling lies then takes a shot at the kid himself. Who’s the jerk here? Rodriguez openly admits he’ll talk to recruits that open the door to visits and calls even after they’ve verbally committed. He won’t go after kids that aren’t taking visits or just say no. Tiller, you lose.

In December of last year the Big Ten made public what had been widely speculated for quite a while—that the conference was looking to expand beyond the current eleven teams.

The arguments for expansion are clear—a lucrative league structure will extend the reach of the Big Ten Network, add a conference championship game and add funds to athletic department coffers.  But as the money flows in many argue that the concept of the student-athlete continues to erode as perhaps does the true role of our universities: to educate.   This is certainly not the last time we’ll be debating the purpose and value of the conference structure and the broader issue of the direction of amateur athletics.

This isn’t a new discussion either, in fact the debate never raged hotter than it did over a century ago, just a few years after Fielding Yost stepped on campus.

When Yost arrived in Ann Arbor in 1901 he boldly predicted that Michigan wouldn’t lose a game.   For a while at least, he was pretty much correct.   His Michigan teams went undefeated from 1901-1904, the only blemish during that stretch a 6-6 tie with Minnesota in a contest that sparked the Little Brown Jug rivalry.  On the final game of the 1905 slate, Michigan finally lost—a 2-0 squeaker to the University of Chicago and coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.

The sport, boosted by Yost’s success and, was more popular than ever suddenly found itself under the microscope of the university brass.   As happens with any activity that generates widespread interest and revenue, certain groups wanted to understand where it was all going.   Beyond that, there’s no doubt a few professors and administrators were jealous of figures like Yost, who’s power, prestige and popularity was now overshadowing them on campus.

On the face, concern about a growing sport on campus seems trivial, but there were a few issues related to the sport worthy of discussion.  First, the football was a brutal sport back then when it wasn’t uncommon for players to die on the field of play.   Beyond this, the role of the student-athlete was only loosely defined, with players migrating from school to school, often after receiving degrees from other institutions.  Finally, while nothing close to today’s standards, the home football games generated large sums of money and at the time this wasn’t aligned with the traditional ideals of a university.

Finally, spearheaded by the request of Michigan’s president James B. Angell, officials from the schools representing the Western Conference (U-M, Chicago, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana) met in Chicago in January 1906 to discuss these issues and more.  Keep in mind this was far from a gathering of athletic directors—these men were faculty and administrators from each school.

The day after the meeting the headline of the New York Times roared, “FOOTBALL HIT HARD BY WESTERN COLLEGES”.  The changes outlined by the committee were indeed drastic and aimed primarily at the gridiron.   Here’s a breakdown of the recommendations:

  1. Accept or Abolish: The committee started by making one thing clear…one way or another serious changes were going to happen.   While the individual schools of the conference would be able to accept or reject the committee’s recommendations, included was a poisonous provision dictating that if the changes were NOT agreed to by a majority of the schools, football would be suspended in the conference for two years.   They effectively were daring the schools to not ratify the recommendations.  Obviously Michigan, nor most of the other schools, would go along with this so they were really left with a simple choice: either accept the recommendations or leave the conference.
  2. Reduced number of games: The committee dictated that the football season be limited to just five games.   Practice could start only when the college term began in the fall, and the last game of the schedule would be played two weeks before Thanksgiving.   This would be a big change to the direction Michigan was heading as Yost’s squad played 13 games in 1905.
  3. Training Tables: The committee also proposed having “training tables”, that is, structured and planned team-only meals, abolished.  This is an accepted practice today—I remember the team enjoying specialized meals at South Quad when I was on campus.   Back at the turn of the century, this was probably viewed as a very special benefit, even a form of compensation, and Michigan held training tables and even had a team trainer on staff.   Given the results on the field, Yost understandably had no plans in changing their practice regimen.  Michigan argued that this recommendation should be eliminated from the proposal.
  4. Three-year Rule: The conference sought to abolish the practice of having athletes participate for more than three years. Freshman would be required to have residence at the school for one year before participating.   The practice of having players transfer in and out (including those who already had degrees from other schools) would be barred.  Football was to be played by enrolled undergraduates only.    One of Michigan’s finest players was their center Germany Schultz.  Schultz arrived on campus as a 21-year-old, and allegedly played football before he arrived in Ann Arbor.  Whether he was a ringer or just someone who started a bit late was inconsequential as under the proposed changes he would be ineligible.  Michigan countered that this rule not be retroactive, thus allowing players like Schultz to participate until they moved on.
  5. The Money: Another recommendation proposed that all gate revenue from games be controlled by the faculty (not by alumni or by the athletic department) and that ticket prices should be fixed at fifty cents.  Prices ranged quite a bit in those days, but generally the best seats went for about three bucks.   Of U-M’s thirteen games in 1905, a whopping eleven of those were played on the Wolverines home turf of Ferry Field.   This collection of professors and administrators naturally wanted to decide what to do with it.
  6. Professional Coaches: Teams would be managed by members of the faculty, who would receive a small stipend for their efforts as coaches.  This is essence extended the concept of the student-athlete to apply to coaches.  This worked well for the other two ‘Western’ powers in the conference as Stagg and Minnesota’s coach Henry “Doc” Williams were already members of their respective faculties.  Yost was not.   Furthermore, it was deemed that future coaches would be selected by the faculty, not the athletic departments within each school.   There’s little doubt that this sweeping change in the place of the coach within the university was a direct shot at Michigan and Yost.  The New York Times speculated that if it were instituted it would effectively end Yost’s career.

The fact that someone from Michigan prompted the meeting no doubt boiled Yost, and he and Angell would fight for many years over the proper place of athletics on campus.  Consider that twenty years later it was Angell who was a key opponent of Yost’s beloved Michigan Stadium project.

Outside of the faculty and folks like Angell who supported the committee recommendations, the reaction on campus and especially within the athletic department was predictable.    Much of the proposal was clearly aimed squarely at Yost, and even if you didn’t buy that, there’s little doubt the provisions would have the biggest impact on the football program in Ann Arbor.

The proposal to abolish professional coaches was really a sore spot for Wolverine fans, who figured that Stagg and the University of Chicago were behind the recommendation in a not-so-subtle attempt to eliminate Yost.  The Chicago Tribune even declared that “open war” raged between the two schools.  Chicago countered Michigan’s claim by arguing that not only was it U-M’s Angell who prompted the meeting, it was Professor A.H. Pettengill of Michigan who actually proposed that professional coaches be abolished!

Back on campus, four thousand students and alumni assembled in a mass meeting to protest the Committee’s recommendation.  Professor Pettengill was confronted but refused to talk about his role in the controversial provision. 

How it Played Out
The drama actually continued for the next couple years, but in the end Michigan could never get over the provision about Yost, who still had four years left on his coaching contract in 1906.  A few weeks after the Chicago committee published their recommendations Michigan actually voted to accept the proposal with the exception of coaching rule.

Since many games and contracts for the major sports were set through the following season, in 1907 the conference remained mostly intact.  Michigan adhered to the five game schedule (going 4-1), but added a sixth “Alumni Game” near the end of the schedule.   Near the end of the 1906-07 athletic season the conference held to its guns and, depending on your perspective, Michigan either willfully exited or was booted from the Western Conference for not complying with the new rules.

On April 14, 1907 the New York Times headline blazed, “CONFERENCE OUSTS MICHIGAN”.  The opening paragraph read:

Michigan University was to-day ruled out of the Western Conference athletics because of its refusal to observe conference rules, and all relations between the university and the other colleges composing the conference were severed….The representatives of Michigan declined to promise that the university would observe these rules.

The Aftermath
Michigan would become an independent in 1908 and found ways to fill out its schedule, despite a conference rule passed in 1909 prohibiting Western conference teams from scheduling those that left.   John U. Bacon, in the book A Legacy of Champions, noted an interesting twist to the scheduling embargo:

Yost’s decision to leave the conference had an unintended side effect: by doing so, Michigan switched their main rivals.  Michigan didn’t play its first arch-rival, Chicago, for 12 seasons, but filled the free date in the schedule by playing Ohio State, not yet in the Big Ten, for the first six of those years.  The Michigan State Spartans — then called the Michigan Agricultural College Farmers, but for simplicity referred to here only as Michigan State — appeared on Michigan’s schedule for the third time in 1907, but have continued to do so all but four seasons since then.

In the end, Michigan was adrift for ten years, deciding to rejoin the conference in 1917.  In Legacy, Bacon summed it up this way:

Overall…leaving the Big Ten created more problems than it solved.  Michigan scheduled yearly games against Cornell, Penn and Syracuse, but Michigan couldn’t get the upper hand.  Those rivalries were popular both locally and nationally, but to Michigan fans, they never replaced the contests with regional foes like Chicago and Minnesota.  Worse, to fill their schedule Michigan had to play teams like Lawrence, Mt. Union and Marietta.  And even if Michigan’s football team could survive being outcast by the Big Ten, its other varsity teams could not.

Mallett running the Spread Offense

MGoBlog’s Unverified Voracity today published some great stuff, including a link to the 2005 West Virginia playbook. A lot of the plays involved a wiggle, and waggle and the quarterback taking it to the house. It’s TOO EASY! Run, Ryan Run.

Elsewhere: I added a few Big Ten Blog links on the right toolbar. If you’ve got some other suggestions let me know. All these seem to be updated fairly frequently. Funny, after reviewing these I learned quickly that other Big Ten blogs like to talk about Michigan about as much as I do. But sometimes they’re just not very nice about it. A few examples:

The Enlightened Spartan: Hates Michigan and Mitch Albom. Memo to ES: you can have Albom. Take him, please.

Illini Talk: Found the “M”ORON Michigan license plate and got a chuckle.

Buckeye Commentary: Oh the Irony. Columbus ripping on Michigan’s new Hillybilly West Virginianess

Boiled Sports:
The Purdue blog tells WVU fans to chill out and gives them an unbiased reality check.

Black Shoe Diaries: The Penn State site has an interesting poll: Is Michigan hiring Rodriguez good, bad or TBD for Penn State. Ummm…not sure how to take that, right? I mean things aren’t exactly good for Penn State at least with respect to Michigan as is, so for those saying it is a good thing for Penn State, is that because Carr is leaving or because Rodriguez is coming?

To the chagrin of the Capital One bowl officials, looks like after yesterday’s shake up at the top Illinois will end up in the Rose Bowl [latest BCS projections], and that’ll put Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. Wisconsin and Penn State are already locked into the Outback and Alamo. As posted here, remember the bowl official offering an actual opinion weeks before selection:

“At best, they’d be looking at the Alamo Bowl,” said Frank Frana, an official with the Capital One Bowl. “At best.” “There are at least four teams ahead of them: Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State and Wisconsin,” Frana said. “Their bowl opportunities are going to be tough.”

Sorry dude. Oh, and how can I get your job? During the season you go to games to watch teams play to see if they’ll be a good fit for your bowl? You couldn’t watch them on TV, you need to go to the game. And all this ‘work’ eventhough you end up have little choice in the matter, really. Great JOB!

And for Ohio State, another year where they won’t be going to Pasadena. Crazy phenomenon.

Finally, it looks like this guy was on the ball.

2007 Alamo Bowl

Looks like Lloyd Carr, Hart, Henne and Long will finish their Wolverine careers in the Alamo Bowl. Even if the Buckeyes worked their way back into the BCS Championship they will certainly be the only Big Ten team in a BCS bowl. After that, the bowls with Big Ten agreements pick in the following order this year:
1. Capital One
2. Outback
3. Alamo
4. Champs Sports
5. Insight
6. Motor City

The Big Ten standings don’t matter after the champion is determined; the bowls pick who they want. Capitol One could take Michigan for whatever reason. Michigan fans would argue that the Wolverines are the rightful #2 based on league standings and the fact they beat Illlinois, but it doesn’t matter. CollegeFootballNews seemed to think this scenario would play out as they projected the Blue in the Capitol One Bowl this morning. Whoops. The crew a CFN must have missed this quote I found in today’s Ann Arbor News which will crush any idea that this could happen:

“At best, they’d be looking at the Alamo Bowl,” said Frank Frana, an official with the Capital One Bowl. “At best.”

“There are at least four teams ahead of them: Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State and Wisconsin,” Frana said/. “Their bowl opportunities are going to be tough.”

How about the Outback? Not so fast my friend. Here’s Mitch Schriber who represents the Outback:

“They’re certainly going to be part of the conversation when you look at the teams with eight and nine wins,” Schriber said. “I think it’s something where we have to meet as a committee and make a recommendation to our board and see what happens.”

Translation: “I’ve got plans that weekend. Like, you seem like a nice guy and everything, such as. Maybe we can just be friends.”

Michigan State dropping our other little brother Penn State not only put Dantonio’s Spartans in their first bowl since 2003, but it probably put Michigan squarely into that third choice. Looks like San Antonio for the Wolverines. Memo to Carson Butler: stay in bounds- Keep the play alive!.

Final play Alamo Bowl 2005 Michigan

10. November 2007 · Comments Off on Badgers win as Hart, Henne held out · Categories: Archive 2007, Big Ten, Wisconsin

Crable hits Wisconsin's Donovan

There was a lot of question as to whether Hart and Henne would play in this one given that the game is essentially meaningless (thanks to ESPN for reminding us of that like 70 times during the game) to the team’s goals.

Give credit to the Bagders because they played hard, with QB Donovan making some great plays but…it’s clear Michigan pulled its chips off the table for this one. It goes without saying but Henne and Hart would have played had the team wearing red was from Columbus.

It’s a bit of a concern that no one on defense rested and at times Donovan and the Badgers sliced them up. Not a good way to go into the Big Game but what can you do? Obviously would have a been much different with H&H intact.

As for Mallett, he started out pretty slow missing a W-I-D-E open Arrington that would have been a touch had the ball been within 20 yards of #16. Mesko could have punted the ball to Arrington. Mallett never really settled down; throwing some pretty weak balls and making some poor decisions.

I don’t know what Manningham’s problem is but he’s got to understand that Mallett is going to make mistakes. His 97-yarder was pretty sweet and it easily became the longest TD catch in Michigan football history, shattering DA’s record:

Longest TD catches in Michigan history

All told no matter. Going into the game I would have traded a win in Madison for a third down against the Buckeyes. All that matters is Saturday. The biggest concern is getting Henne and Hart in position to play the whole game.

10/25/2009: The Big Ten rules changed in 2009, FCS games played is no longer a factor.  Click here for more.

11/8/08 Update: Spartan fans, that Iowa win over PSU is a buzz kill. Had Penn State won out and lost to Michigan State, Dantonio and company would go to the Rose Bowl per the rules below. Not to say that Ohio State won’t lose again but I think that’s unlikely.

As reported by Jim Carty and noted here, I’ve confirmed the rule changes to the Big Ten tie-breaker. The rule change applies to the Rose Bowl only, but it does penalized Big Ten teams for scheduling teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), aka the former Division I-AA.

I got this from the Big Ten offices, who also mentioned that this would be put online at ASAP:


Effective for bowl games following the 2006-09 regular football seasons, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) will consist of five (5) bowl games: BCS National Championship Game, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. Participation by a Big Ten Conference member institution will be determined as follows:

a. BCS National Championship Game. In the event the conference has one or two football teams ranked No. 1 and/or No. 2 in the final BCS poll, these conference team(s) shall participate in the BCS National Championship Game.

b. Rose Bowl. Unless ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS poll, the conference champion shall participate in the Rose Bowl. The championship shall be determined on the percentage basis of conference games (tie games counts ½ win and ½ loss). If there is a tie for the championship, the Rose Bowl representative will be determined as follows:

1) An ineligible team shall not be considered in the standings for determination of the conference representative.
2) If there is a tie for the championship, the winner of the game between these two teams shall represent the conference.
3) If there is still a tie for the championship, or if the tied teams did not play each other, the team that played more games against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams shall be eliminated.
4) If there is still a tie, or if the tied teams did not play each other, or if both teams played the same number of games against an FCS team(s), the representative shall be determined on the percentage basis of all games played.
5) If there is still a tie, the most recent team earning BCS automatic selection shall be eliminated.

The rules go on to describe rules if 3 or more teams are tied, but the FCS rule holds after the head-head rules. And that’s probably the killer. Chances are that two teams tied have met face-to-face, but things get very dicey when there’s a three way tie. This FCS rule becomes critical.

Reaction: I believed Jim Carty when he wrote it but seeing it in black and white is shocking. Why oh why would we schedule Appalachian State knowing this rule was in place? I understand you can’t leave the 12th game open but certainly there were other options somewhere within the BCS-eligible schools!? Or, like in the Artis Chambers incident was this overlooked or interpreted incorrectly by Bill Martin and the athletic department? Speaking of the Chambers thing, this all may be moot if Michigan has to forfeit the Penn State game or is declared ineligible, or if the Wolverines keep playing like they did on Saturday.

But whatever – I’d really like to know if Martin was aware of the rule change when he scheduled the mighty Mountaineers. Who approves these rules anyway? If the each school didn’t have to approve the rule certainly they had some input to the decision.