Continuing the interview with former WTKA morning show host Dave Shand. In Part I, we discussed what Shand is up to these days, his lawsuit with Bill Martin and his thoughts on the current morning crew at WTKA. In this installment, I serve up a few discussion topics–this time on Jim Carty and on the News athletics and academics scandal, and Shand does what he does best.
MVictors: Jim Carty recently wrote his final column for the Ann Arbor News and he’s moving onto law school at the University of Toledo. What did you think of Carty’s work?
Shand: I thought he was the best writer there. He actually talked to me about going to law school. It wasn’t driven by anything at the Ann Arbor News, it was driven by the state of the print media these days. He seen friends around the country, good quality writers at good papers, getting laid off.
Talk about someone who’d be a prime person to have as a lawyer, having been in the newspaper business as long as he’s been and then crossing over to get a law degree, he’s going to have a pretty good resume once he starts looking for a law firm.
MVictors: You rarely hear praise for a columnist, but Carty was criticized a lot.
Shand: If you hear praise for a columnist he’s going to be fired. Bob Bolak [WTKA general manager] used to say to me, “I don’t want to be general manager of a radio show that doesn’t get calls from people complaining.” He’d come down the hall and say, “Shand, I haven’t had a complaint about you all week. Are you going soft?” In the radio business [having complaints] that’s viewed as a badge of honor. You pissed them off enough that they called the station and you know they’re listening. And they’re going to listening the next morning to hear what else you are saying.
Jim unfortunately became, in a couple situations, a lightning rod in Ann Arbor, because he wouldn’t kowtow to the traditional Michigan golden shrine of Bo, or whatever. He wouldn’t do it. And he challenged the conventional wisdom, and the conventional wisdom is that Michigan is better than anybody else at academics and athletics. We are good at it. We are not better than everybody else at it. We have to cut corners and we have to make accommodations, we have to set different standards to recruit student athletes, as every other elite program in the country has to do. It’s the nature of the business.
I did it at Michigan. I did it as a coach when I was coaching with Red Berenson. Did we have some student athletes on the team that would not be admitted under normal Michigan standards? Absolutely. Did I get them in? You’re damn right I did. I just saw Ted Spencer, he’s director of admissions for University of Michigan, I said last time I saw you I had my kneepads on. [laughing]
But that’s what you do. You have extraordinary athletic talent and mediocre academics or in some cases disastrous academics, I mean, are you going to try to get the kid in? I’m a coach, I want to put the best product on the ice. That’s my job.
MVictors: Is that all that matters [to the coaches]?
Shand: They want kids to make academic progress. They want them to graduate. They want them to take advantage of the opportunities that are here. But you can be the best frickin’ coach in the world, but if you don’t have any fucking talent on the ice or on the field, your best coach in the world is out the door in about two years. This is not some kind of boys or girls club where you’re here to develop personality and character. You’re here to win, and if you don’t fucking win you get fired. So you can go, ‘Look at the character of the kids I brought in and look what great student athletes they are?’ That’s great–go to Harvard or Brown or Cornell or Stanford, and see what Jim’s [Harbaugh] having to deal with out there. It’s not reality.
MVictors: Isn’t the University’s job to set some standards? So that it’s difficult to bend the rules and prevent tough situations like where you’ve got to beg guys like Jim Spencer?
Shand: It’s Ted Spencer. I should get his name right as long as I’m blowing him. [laughing].
It is their job. But do you create some artificial, minimum entrance level that’s inconsistent with the minimum that’s set by the NCAA? You don’t. Everybody thinks we’re better than Ohio State. We’re not. We’re the same. And the reason we’re the same is that’s the only way we can compete athletically. If you want to be different, be Notre Dame when Bob Davie was down there and they raised academic levels on all admissions and you watched Notre Dame football go in the freakin’ toilet. Do you want that to happen at Michigan? We try to do the best job we can, to give the kids that get in here the best support we could possibly give. And in some cases we give them remedial courses to get them up to speed to be legitimate college students.
MVictors: What was your reaction to the News series—as a former student athlete, as a coach, a lecturer in the department they investigated, a former member of the media, and a guy who’s ex-wife works in the academic athletic support department–what was your reaction?
Shand: I thought the series stated exactly what it is. There was no problem with the series. The issue was the reaction to the series from the old Michigan true blue ‘This is not what we do here, ‘cause we’re different, we’re better, we’re special. Our academic standards are different from anybody else…’ It’s not true, but people have this belief that it’s different and it’s not.
My ex-wife [Sue Shand] was named specifically in that article. [The academic advising staff] didn’t create the system that exists at Michigan now. The system is in place. Kinesiology wouldn’t exist without student athletes. Do they have 60 spots [for athletes] in Kinesiology? Yes. If you have a student athlete in Kinesiology and they have a two point, they could transfer to LS&A, and they’re able to get a General Studies degree—the athletic department didn’t create the General Studies degree. The degree was created by the University of Michigan. Are they taking advantage of it? Maybe. Is it legal? Absolutely.
Would you like them to be taking aeronautical science or chemical engineering? I don’t know, probably. Do they have enough time to do it? I don’t know. The athletic department didn’t create this system. Have they gamed the system a little bit? Yeah, they probably gamed the system a little bit. But you know what, they didn’t put it in place. If you don’t people graduating Michigan with BGS degrees then don’t offer it.
In my experience as a Michigan hockey coach we had some outstanding student-athletes that would have been admitted under any standard. Did we have some student athletes that wouldn’t have had a chance in hell? Yeah, damn right we did. That’s why I had the knee pads on. I still have chapped lips. [laughing].
MVictors: Do you have any insight into allegations by Michigan hockey player Chad Kolarik that his interview with the News was presented as a feel good piece for Professor Hagen [when in reality it was intended for the academics and athletics series]?
Shand: No I don’t, but as a lawyer I can tell you that when witnesses say some things that come back to bite them in the ass, all of sudden they come up with, ‘Well that’s not what I meant say’, and, ‘if you’d have told me that what I was going to say was going to bite me in the ass, I wouldn’t have said it.’ So, yeah. That buyers remorse is not uncommon. All of a sudden it’s, “You mislead me”. You’ve been blogging and doing MVictors long enough to know, “Did I really say that?…Oh shit!” [laughs]
MVictors: Is Michigan a worse place because there are different standards for student athletes?
Shand: Some of the gamesmanship that goes on, it pisses me off. The false labeling for student athletes to get kids in that wouldn’t normally get it in, and that goes on, and that pisses me off. They’re an alum, or they give money to the University, or give something else to the University, and they falsely label them a student athlete so they can sneak in the back door, that pisses me off. Don’t code applications to get somebody in who shouldn’t be in.
Jeff Cappo probably gives a dozen to sixteen cars to the athletic department. Both his sons got admitted to the University of Michigan as student athletes. They’re not student athletes. They’re regular students. But, you know, Jeff Cappo gives cars to the athletic department. Half the athletic department is driving around with Cappo cars.
MVictors: Great, now my season tickets are going to be revoked.
Shand: This is stuff I would have said on the air. If they’re legitimate student athletes than treat them as such. I have no problem with that.
MVictors: Coaches get very scrutinized, Lloyd Carr got a lot of abuse, there were “fire Carr” websites. Players also get abused. They get abused but they’re also worshipped, they’re loved…
Shand: They get laid. A lot. I was there, I know. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get laid after I retired from hockey. [laughs] Turns out I was ugly.
MVictors: [continuing question] Jim Carty and columnists are criticized a lot and rarely get any praise. You know Carty, did the abuse have anything to do with his decision to leave the News?
Shand: No, no, his reason was that he sees the warnings on the horizon. To put it bluntly, the internet, and the blogosphere, and everything that’s going on on the internet is surpassing in timeliness and in content what can be offered by print journalism. He’s seeing friends of his in big markets getting fired because they can’t support the news making activities that have traditionally gone on in print journalism. And he’s on the low end of the totem pole, the Ann Arbor News. If journalists are getting laid off in LA, New York, Chicago and Washington, what are his chances in Ann Arbor? This was a career change based on the landscape. I agreed with him completely. I’m one of the worst offenders. At 6:30am, I don’t go get the newspaper at the end of the driveway. I’m 52 years old, if I’m going online to see what sports and news is going on, why would I want to open up a newspaper? The demographic that reads the paper is dying.
Here are links to all four parts of the interview:
Part I: What he’s up to, the lawsuit with Bill Martin, more.
Part II: Jim Carty and the News Series
Part III: Coach Red and the Fab Five
Part IV: The Rodriguez hire