Monday, October 20, 2014

Central Student Government, U-M LS&A Agree to Collaboration


ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has reached a contentless agreement with Central Student Government announced at the monthly Board of Regents meeting held today (Monday, Oct. 20) at the U-M Flint campus.

CSG President Bobby Dishell made a presentation to the Regents regarding the findings from a CSG survey about the student experience at English composition courses and the student body's relationship with the history department. He outlined the following agreements between Michigan LS&A and CSG that will take effect immediately:

  • LS&A will work to design a new plan for next semester that will include a significant price decrease for freshman physics textbook prices. LS&A will announce student textbook prices for the 2015 winter semester next week.
  • Rental fees for LS&A facilities will be eliminated for student groups with a charitable focus.
  • The department has committed to work with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation to create a blackout weekend where the Modern Languages Building will be available for quizbowl tournaments in 2016.
  • Monthly meetings with students will be held with LS&A Dean Andrew D. Martin to address topics relating to all 85 majors and Michigan LS&A.
  • Dishell and Martin will have regular standing meetings.
  • The LS&A college will create a student advisory board comprised of student-scholars, non-scholars, Hill Auditorium season-ticket holders and Hill Auditorium non-ticket holders.
"It has been great working with our LS&A Dean and his department to come to these agreements," said Dishell. "This is a huge step forward for students and our relationship with our College of LS&A. We look forward to continuing to work together to create the optimal environment for all Michigan students."

"Often times, negativity is louder than positivity; however, it is important to realize that Bobby, myself and other student leaders on campus have worked hard to establish effective lines of communication that aim to enhance Michigan tradition today and into the future," said Cooper Charlton, President of U-M's Student-Scholar Advisory Committee (SSAC) that is representative of all 43,426 student-scholars. "The newly created opportunity for open dialogue creates a framework to hold our LS&A department and students accountable, thus fostering a relationship built on trust. Together, we will create sustainable long-term relationships that forge a unified Michigan family."

"Michigan LS&A looks forward to forging a strong relationship with Central Student Government," said Andrew D. Martin, the as-yet-unsponsored Dean of Literature, Science, and the Arts. "This is an important relationship for us, one that we need to repair, and one that will provide mutual support among all students. We have worked closely with CSG over the past year, and this will continue to strengthen our very important work with the student community."

(h/t Maize N Brew)

The Nussmeter exhibits poor time management

We updated the Nussmeter to 3 after the Rutgers game, but failed to make a post announcing it. After numerous delays, we have now updated the Nussmeter post-Penn State. It's at 2, which is the bland and impossible-to-open Brazil nut.

We can only hope that Michigan doesn't join Brazil in finding out what it's like to be outscored at a ratio of 7:1. But, look, a glimpse of days long past: Denard highlights!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hockey Returns

Oh happy day, hockey season is back.  Michigan already has three game-like substances in the books, though only one actually counts.  In an odd road opener at Ferris State on October 4, the Wolverines dug themselves an early hole, first hanging Nagelvoort out to dry on a breakaway and then leaving a Bulldog unattended at the point, all within the first 2 minutes of the season, and Ferris added a power-play tally to make it 3-0 at the end of the first period. Tyler Motte scored immediately to open the second period, but an ill-timed pinch gave up a short-handed goal to push Ferris's lead back to 3.  Michigan carried play for most of the third and clawed back with a pair of goals, but ultimately came up short, losing 4-3.  If I was told prior to the start of the game that Michigan would drop its road opener to defending WCHA champion Ferris State 4-3, I would take it.  Falling behind 3-0 is somewhat more disappointing, but this was overall a good result.

The USNTDP came over to Yost just two days later for an exhibition game, and Michigan pulled away in a wild one to win 7-4. Given that the Under 18s have won the last two meetings with the Wolverines, this represents significant progress.  Michigan then played their third game of the week on Thursday when they welcomed Wilfrid Laurier as their annual Canadian collegiate opponent. For the first time this year, Michigan scored first. The Wolverines pushed their lead out to 3-0 by the end of the first period and were up 4-0 before the Golden Hawks put one in the net. The game ended 5-2, with Steve Racine taking over for Nagelvoort after the second intermission and posting a clean sheet.

On Friday, New Hampshire pays a visit to Yost in return for the Wolverines' trip last year. Both games went to overtime, with UNH stealing one and the other ending in a tie.  Michigan and New Hampshire find themselves in similar situations this year: Both teams had up and down seasons last year with records of over .500, but neither of them reached the NCAA tournament.  The Wildcats lost their exhibition game with Canada's St. Francis Xavier 2-0 and their first non-conference game of the season to Union, the defending NCAA Champions, 3-1.

Monday, October 13, 2014


(Author's note: This is late, in part because The Daily's Alejandro Zúñiga already had used my premise I had devised in my head for what I was going to do with this column and then did an awesome job with it.)

Devin mgoblue

In the end, maybe, some times, you just need to dance it out.  And that's OK.  It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back, but if you can shake him off, you can find yourself in a position to find the joy and the happiness that football should bring, playing for yourself, for your teammates, well, maybe that's all that matters.

This win is one win, as the cliche goes, and it is not going to be a season changer, necessarily.  But it was necessary because it does actually take some things off the table.  To wit:

  • A B1G win means that Michigan will not go winless in B1G play.
  • A third win means that this season cannot be, from a W-L standpoint, worse than 2008.
  • At worst, Michigan can only end the year on a five game losing streak.
Now, you may say that these are at best small victories, cold comfort, but I think they're important.  When you're in a hole, either you keep going deeper, or you start digging out.  I don't know what this game will ultimately mean, Michigan still has a metric ton of problems to sort out among itself.  But it's a start.  In this way, it's necessary, because it moves the conversation for the bye week to "Well, maybe it's not as dark as we thought."  Again, in a season like this, take the victories where they come.

Bullet Points
  • I have no training in football coaching, so I probably should not be able to manage the clock better than not one, but two Power Five head coaches.  And yet...
  • Could someone please ask Brady what he was thinking about the time out at the end of the first half.  Mostly so I can know what he was thinking.  Because I am stumped.
  • We sat next to a father-son pair of Penn State fans who were, as is usual with Penn State fans, model opposing fans.  Cheered on their team, never jerky or belligerent, just wanted their team to do well.  The father did comment that Norfleet has a bit of hot dog in him and that for a football player, he's a pretty good dancer.  This is fair.  But when it's your guy, well,  
  • The night game jerseys were actually fine when you saw them on the field.  It just felt, like so many alternate jerseys, unnecessary.  But, you know, marketing, teenagers like shiny things, I get it.
  • It is my understanding from Guest Services that IMG has discontinued magnet schedules for all Michigan sports.  This has me greatly distressed and I must investigate.
In the end, we won.  Alright. Hey. Alright. Good job, guys. Let's just not come in this Saturday. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma? There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it.

Monday, October 06, 2014


I was sound asleep when the call came in early this morning.  I rolled over, fumbled for my phone, and did my best to answer.


"Hello, Mr. Barker.  I'd like to speak to you about an exciting opportunity."

"It's 12:53 in the morning, who in their right mind thinks this is a good time to...wait, are you from the Michigan Athletic Department?"

"Yes.  For the purposes of this conversation, you may call me 'The Admiral.'"

"OK Admiral, gotta say, the James Earl Jones voice modulator is a nice touch.  Sounds very professional."

"Yes, voice modulator.  No matter.  Mr. Barker, we have an assignment for you and you're the best man for the job.  We need you to solve a Michigan football mystery."

"I can't say that I'm the best man for that job.  Why didn't you guys call Dooley?"

"The truth is Mr. Barker, Mr. Dooley has been sitting in the Towsley Family Museum, looking at the spot where the Little Brown Jug is supposed to be, gently weeping while he reviews a copy of the deed of gift to see if there's a basketball loophole.  When we could get him refocused for a moment, he mentioned you."

"OK, but how did you get my number?"

"Did you really think those Facebook giveaways for tickets were out of the goodness of our hearts?"

"Fair enough.  OK.  So what's the assignment?"

"The truth, Mr. Barker, is that Michigan football is cursed..."

"Well, I mean, it's been a bit of rough sledding, but cursed seems a bit..."

"No, we have a very well written note, in calligraphy and everything, that just says 'Michigan football is cursed.  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.    Ha."

"That many ha's?  Really?"

"Yes.  The note says that if we can discover the curse, the means of removing it will be obvious.  We don't want to tell you what to do, but we do know it has "post 11/18/06" scrawled at the bottom.  We think they're trying to narrow your search field."

"OK, I can look into it.  How many possible explanations do you want?"

"Ten is good.  Brady wore 10 here, let's go with ten.  Give us the curse, the background, the record since, the probability, and what we need to do to remove it."

"Where do you want me to send it?"

"Just post it on your blog.  It gives us plausible deniability, because who would believe we're stealing ideas for a Blogger blog without its own domain?"

"That kind of hurts a little bit."

"Sorry, would you like two free tickets to this Saturday's game?"

"I have tickets."

"Two Coke Zeroes then?"

"OK, I have to be up for work in four hours, can I got back to sleep now?"

"Just one more thing, how is your stock of delicious Chobani yogurt?"

"I don't eat yogurt."

"No matter, we're just contractually obligated to ask in any dealings we have online or on the phone.  Good luck Mr. Barker."

So, with my mission charges to me, I set about to discover what, exactly, was cursing Michigan football since that fateful day in November 2006.

Possibility #1. The Curse of President Ford
Background: Michigan alumnus and 1934 Team MVP, President Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California.  Somehow his passing sapped a part of the spirit of Michigan.

Michigan's record since: 52-43
Reasons for this particular nexus point: The 2007 Rose Bowl, The Horror, Dennis Dixon, Chad Henne's numb elbow would all be explained.
Probability: Medium, 4.8/10
While it would be nice to explain the Horror with something supernatural, a 93-year old man passing away doesn't really feel like a curse.
What do we need to do to remove it: Jack Miller needs to go to the top of a staircar on a rainy day and take a tumble to the tarmac.

Possibility #2. The Curse of Little Brother
Background: Down 10 to Michigan State at East Lansing with just over seven minutes left to play, Chad Henne throws a pair of touchdown passes to win 28-24.  Henne will trip on his way out of Spartan Stadium, and then senior captain Mike Hart says: “I was just laughing.  I thought it was funny. They got excited. It's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and you let him get the lead. Then you come back and take it from him."

Michigan's record since: 44-41
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan, which had won eight straight after starting 0-2 and had a chance to win the Big Ten, lose their next two games to Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.20/10
The words of rebuttal to Hart from Mark Dantonio: "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall..." kind of feels like a curse.  Or a vow of revenge.
What do we need to do to remove it: Win at Spartan Stadium for the first time since that game, call Michigan State our brothers in arms against our common enemy, Ohio State.

Possibility #3. The Curse of Herbie
Background: On December 1, 2007, ESPN College GameDay's Kirk Herbstreit reports that LSU coach Les Miles, following LSU's participation in the SEC Championship game, barring something extraordinary, will be the next coach at the University of Michigan.

Michigan's record since: 44-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Well, it might explain why Bill Martin didn't know how to work his new cell phone.
Probability: Moderate, 6.4/10
I still firmly believe that Herbie was reporting what he had been told, and that Miles planned to announce his intentions to come to Ann Arbor after the game.  By announcing it before the game, LSU had time to counter in a big way, which they did.
What do we need to do to remove it: Cut a check.

Possibility #4. The Curse of Tim Tebow
Background: In the 2008 Capital One Bowl, Michigan sends Coach Lloyd Carr off into the sunset, with a 41-35 win over Urban Meyer and Florida.  Michigan becomes the only team to defeat Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in a bowl game.

Michigan's record since: 43-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: 3-9, losing to Toledo, losing 42-7 to Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.6/10
A lot of this is going to depend on your view of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but this isn't our original thesis:

What do we need to do to remove it: Devin Gardner needs to go before the Monday press availability and speak these exact words after a conference game you lost when you had a field goal blocked:
"To the fans and everybody of MGoNation, I’m sorry. Extremely sorry. We wanted an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Michigan has done a lot. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.

You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see another player push his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless."

Possibility #5. The Curse of Yost Bleachers
Background: In the spring of 2012, Michigan undertakes a renovation of Yost Ice Arena, which includes replacement of the bleachers that have been there since its conversion to an ice arena in the 1970s.  When removing the bleachers, they unleash the horrifying creature that Don Canham had successfully trapped under the bleachers, kept alive by the garbage dropped under the stands by patrons.

Michigan's record since: 17-15
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2012 and 2013 regression and all of 2014.  It also explains why Michigan Hockey has missed the NCAA Tournament for two years in a row after two decades of making it.
Probability: Moderate, 5.0/10
Once you saw what was under the West End Bleachers, you couldn't unsee it.  I will firmly believe that a horrible beast was being imprisoned there.
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a team of hunters to find it, bring Red Berenson to the creature.  Let him glare at it for a solid minute.  Creature will flee to Munn.

Possibility #6. The Curse of Clowney Comin'
Background: During the 2013 Outback Bowl, Taylor Lewan fails to call "Deuce", allows All-America DE Jadeveon Clowney to do this to this to Vincent Smith.

Michigan's record since: 9-11
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2013 regression and all of 2014.  It also explains why Michigan offensive players look somewhat uncertain at times, as if they hear the footsteps of Clowney.
Probability: Low, 0.7/10
Honestly, the Clowney hit was just instant karma for the terrible spot that the refs gave Michigan on the previous play.  Or for the terrible uniforms Michigan wore in that game.
What do we need to do to remove it: Make a sizable donation to Tay Odoms/Vincent Smith's H.O.P.E. for Pahokee charity at a game.

Possibility #7. The Curse of the Noodle
Background: On the W.O.W. Friday before Michigan's 2013 season opener against Central Michigan, a large Kraft Macaroni and Cheese noodle is spotted on the grounds of Michigan Stadium, violating the near sacrosanct rule about no advertising at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan's record since: 9-10
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the extreme cheesiness of recent Michigan Athletic Department decisions.
Probability: Low, 1.0/10
I mean, there's a Cadillac at Michigan Stadium this year, but because it has the Michigan wings, it's OK, right?
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a Giant Ramen Noodle.

Possibility #8. The Curse of Old 98
Possibility #9. The Curse of the Chicken Dance
Possibility #10. The Curse of the Skywriters
Background: At Under the Lights II, Michigan enrolls Tom Harmon's Old 98, the last remaining retired number, into the Legends Program and puts it on Devin Gardner.  Michigan wins, but Gardner throws an amazing 0 yard pick six that has to be seen to be believed.  After the victory, the Michigan Stadium PA plays "The Chicken Dance" in reference to Notre Dame ending the series after the 2014 game.  Prior to the start of Michigan's game against Akron, the next week, the Michigan Athletic Department pays skywriters to make Block M's and write "Go Blue" in the sky over Michigan Stadium...and in the sky over Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.  The Athletic Department denies that they paid for the Spartan Stadium skywriters, until they are outed by the skywriters themselves.  Michigan sheepishly admits they spent $3,000-$5,000 for the stunt.

Michigan's record since: 8-10 (for #8), 7-10 (for #9 and #10)
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan has a losing record ever since these events.
Probability: Very High, 9.8/10
Hubris: extreme pride or self-confidence. When it offends the Gods of ancient Greece, it is usually punished.  Hubris is usually perceived as a characteristic of an individual rather than a group, although the group the offender belongs to may suffer consequences from the wrongful act. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

What do we need to do to remove it:
 Devin Gardner calls the Harmon family, thanks them for their kindness and courtesy but says that there is but one Old 98 and it is and always should be, Tom Harmon.  Devin Gardner gets Old #12 back on.  At the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium, the Michigan Athletic Department Game Day Experience staffers take a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, cover it in shamrocks, and set it ablaze.  Michigan's Athletic Department hires skywriters to write "Molon Labe" over Spartan Stadium during the Ohio State game and then cuts a check for $72,000 for pediatric cancer research to the Love Like Lacey fund, the latter of which isn't a terrible idea anyway.

In the end, I go back to The Bard:
"Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Let's be humbled by this and humble ourselves.  If we have offended some football higher power, it certainly can't hurt.

(P.S.: In all seriousness, there is one possibility I left off here, November 22, 2009.  If this is what cursed Michigan, then we probably deserve what it is getting for trying to ignore something so serious and then prevaricating to us about it when people tried to raise the issue.)

Sunday, October 05, 2014


When this came out on Friday morning, I was mad at this, because I thought it was unnecessary, but now I realize ultimately, it's correct.  My history doesn't matter, neither foes yours.  My opinions don't matter, neither do yours.  Nothing is going to change.  They're not going to fire Brandon, because as long as the big money donors are behind him (and for now, they are) and the current and former student athletes are behind him (and for now, they are), then he can point to that, say he's doing his job, and make some general vague statements about rebuilding his relationships with the students.  He's not getting fired because he will figure out a way to survive this.  So things will not change, because you don't make the choices you have made in the last four years running the department because you think you're not doing a good job.  No one is going to look at the laundry list of offenses as perceived by a group without power and suddenly have a change of heart.  He's going to keep doing what he's been doing because he doesn't believe he's wrong and none of the people in the department who he has hired are going to tell him he's wrong.

Brady Hoke is getting fired because Michigan cannot afford to keep losing like this in football.  He'll get fired, they'll find some way to screw up the coaching search, they'll find someone that they'll try to sell to us as the man to turn it around, he'll look good for a while, and we'll regress to something worse in about four years and start this process all over again.  Whether or not this happens during the season or not, once thought impossible, is now looking like it could happen.  Were it not for whom Michigan faces after the bye week, I would say that he probably gets served his walking papers after Penn State next week, because losing another humiliating game on national television should do the trick.

But we'll keep watching, not because we're stupid, but because we're loyal. Because we're not loyal to a specific coach (well, maybe one), or an athletic director (OK, maybe one, but that's a very few of us), but to an ideal and because of that ideal, we're also loyal to the other people like us who share this belief, no matter how far away it feels from us right now and no matter how well or how vaguely we know them.  It is built on something akin to faith, and during the darkest times, you hold fast to faith and to the faithful because when the world keeps crumbling down, it may feel like all that you have left.

We're mad, sad, frustrated, angry, and generally in a malaise, but we're all we have because, while we're (hopefully) rooting for the players, they're not rooting for us, because we're fickle and demanding.  While we're hoping the athletic department figures this out, we fear that they don't see us as anything more as dollars to leverage out of our wallets.  So we have to hold on to something in this endeavor, however foolish or misplaced others might see it as.  We chose this life.  We ride out the storms together and we fight for better days.

Friday, October 03, 2014

So Your Program is Doomed?


So your [CHOOSE ONE: once-proud / erratically successful / perennial also-ran / perpetual tire fire / Eastern Michigan] football program is struggling this year?
  • Yes.  Oh sweet jebus, yes.
  • Nope. Not sure why I'm taking this fake survey.

What do you propose to do about it? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • Do nothing. ROLL TIDE.
  • Do nothing. Mediocrity is an impossible dream.
  • Insist "They just need more time!"
  • Fire a coordinator
  • Fire the coach
  • Fire the AD

Do you have any coaching candidates in mind? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • An absurdly over-qualified alumnus who won't bother answering your phone calls
  • Pipe-dream hotshot coach who'd be insane to leave behind his current success / low expectations
  • Genius coordinator who's never been a head coach
  • Up-and-coming mid-major / FCS coach with no big-time experience
  • NFL retread
  • NFL coordinator with no college experience in the past decade
  • NFL position coach
  • NFL position coach who flamed out as a college head coach (and may have slapped himself)
  • Your current OC/DC on an interim basis
  • Some guy who had one good MAC season
  • Charlie Weiss

On a scale of Rodriguez at Michigan to Saban at Alabama, how good of a cultural fit is your dream candidate? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • Rich Rodriguez / Michigan (2008)
  • Charlie Weiss / Kansas (2012)
  • Randy Edsall / Maryland (2011)
  • Al Golden / Miami (2011)
  • Brian Kelly / Notre Dame (2010)
  • Brady Hoke / Michigan (2011)
  • Chip Kelly / Oregon (2009)
  • Nick Saban / Alabama (2007)

What is making you so angry? (Check all that apply)
  • Lost to a rival
  • Lost to most-hated rival
  • Lost to a perpetual tomato-can
  • Can't recruit
  • Team is hemorrhaging players
  • Fans treated like walking checkbook
  • Insolvent athletic department
  • NCAA violations
  • Players put in danger
  • Felonies
  • Covering up felonies
  • Oversigning

Would you still be this angry if your team was winning? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • No, obviously not, because *something* would be going better.
  • No, because winning is the only thing that matters
  • No, because my team is perfectly OK except they're terrible.
  • Yes, because I am lying.
  • Yes, because I don't like football.
  • Yes, because I am an incendiary rage-bot. SOMETHING is going to set me off.

What kind of doomed is your program?
  • EMU: As DOOMED as DOOMED can be. 
  • Toledo: Once in a while we can win the MAC and get our coach a better job.
  • Purdue: The Cure as a football team.  
  • Indiana: Our greatest teams have the ability to beat almost anyone on any down, so they most often beat themselves. Otherwise a conference doormat. 
  • Illinois: Once in a generation Rose Bowl, but usually Zooked. 
  • Iowa: Real success every four years; otherwise losing to Iowa State. 
  • Pitt: Crushing mediocrity with no hope is the norm forever, despite national championships not that long ago.
  • Clemson: Perennial success, but never on a national title scale. See: Wisconsin.
  • Notre Dame: We're living in the past, so the present is disappointing even when we're good.
  • Texas: We have every advantage possible and are somehow terrible and in the middle of a gut-wrenching transition. See: Florida, Michigan (Michigan bonus: In our darkest hour, we hope to be Notre Dame.)
  • Ohio State: Not quite a national title contender this year, but always a threat to win our league. See: Oklahoma
  • Michigan State: Suddenly we're the pre-eminent program in our state for the first time in 50 years. Not anyone's default pick for a national championship team, but we have legitimate hope. See: Texas A&M, Stanford.
  • Oregon: We don't really have a history, but we don't care because GOT MONEY and are successful now. We watched the first half of a video on the Miami Hurricanes, so we know this never changes!
  • Alabama: Whether or not you choose to recognize it, we won every national championship since 1892. ROLL TIDE.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is There an Adult I Can Talk To?

This morning, David Brandon and the athletic department issued a well-written, cogent statement that addressed almost everything people reasonably expected to know in the aftermath of the Shane Morris incident while simultaneously taking an appropriate tone. We messed up, we can't let this happen again, and we're updating our procedures to address this issue.

However, the statement comes about 24 hours too late. If that statement is issued at 12:52 AM on Monday morning, there's grumbling and some side-eye. At 12:52 AM on Tuesday morning, everything has changed. Michigan has been put under the microscope on not just ESPN, but has crossed all the way over to Good Morning America. You've promised the media a "medical statement" that never really showed up, unless this is it. And you've sent your head football coach up to his press conference to stand there and look like someone's idiot cousin you wouldn't trust to run a doughnut shop, let alone a multi-million-dollar football program where young men risk their health and safety on a daily basis.

To be fair, this may be the case. Brandon's statement says that Morris was diagnosed with a concussion on Sunday. Brady Hoke didn't get in touch with his injured quarterback to ask how he's doing? Or Shane Morris didn't know he has a concussion? Neither of these seem reasonable, and one is more plausible than the other.

At the moment, I'm choosing not to believe that Hoke knew about the concussion and failed to disclose it. For some reason I'm more comfortable believing him to be incompetent than mendacious.

The whole situation has been bungled, from the initial incident through everything after. You have commentators worrying about Morris's safety BEFORE he takes a killshot to the head, then you send the kid back into the huddle for one more play, and even when he's removed no one hides his helmet and tells the coaches he's out. And after all this has happened, nobody thinks "This is going to be a major problem for us. We have to get to the bottom of this and fix what is wrong."

Even if it's somebody thinking only of the bad PR that's certain to come from it, Michigan had a small window to get in front of this. I don't expect more than window dressing from the athletic department, but when I don't even get that I just sputter with anger. How dumb do they think I am? How out of touch are they to not understand that this is a Big Deal? Concussions have been a major flashpoint for *years*. The NFL is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, and the settlement is still derided as insufficient. Whatever intern they have on Twitter had to have noted the explosion of rage when Morris was left in, and that has to be kicked up the food chain to someone with real authority.

At that point, it's all hands on deck. Who saw the hit? Who saw the aftermath? Was this communicated to anyone? Why or why not? Why was Morris allowed to re-enter the game? Who made that decision? How do we make sure this never happens again? Has he been diagnosed with a concussion? Do we have his permission to release his condition?

It takes a while to get answers to all these questions, to process them, and to respond to the additional questions they raise. It doesn't take 55+ hours, and you don't let your statement drop in the middle of the night. Now we're convinced you're hiding something.

We expect smoke, mirrors, and obfuscation when you talk about who's practicing well, how the team is looking, how much respect you have for your next opponent, and even run-of-the-mill player injuries. Someone's got a boo-boo, another guy has a "lower body injury." This is different. This is about ethics, not a player's condition. Craig is right; it's more akin to the dissembling about Gibbons than questions about when Funchess will be back up to speed.

Fort Schembechler is Fort Schembechler, but whether the team is any good will always be settled on Saturday. This is about governance and that nebulous thing that Fielding Yost called the "Spirit of Michigan." One of the better things about the Spirit of Michigan is that it evolves over the years and we expect an ever higher standard of the people who represent us. Yost himself was an old unreconstructed racist* and an anti-Catholic, and we certainly expect better of our leaders today.

The University of Michigan has again been named the top public university in the US, as we were reminded by the video board on Saturday. We expect to be treated like adults, at the bare minimum. We raised ticket prices because we want more money to pay higher salaries and build more buildings. We expect Michigan to compete for Big Ten championships, and we aren't playing like that kind of team. Shane Morris got hit in the head and he should have been removed from the game immediately.

This is not hard. Hard is setting regular ticket prices at the maximum level where fans still feel like more than a revenue stream. Hard is setting a price on student tickets where you get a good amount of value back while giving students an incentive to use their tickets *and* make Michigan football a habit that lasts for life. Hard is sorting through all the available candidates to find a John Beilein and to get a succession plan together when Red Berenson finally decides to hang it up. And if you bungle the easy tasks, we don't trust you with the hard ones.

*At least until Willis Ward joined the team. Yost, of course, still sat Ward against Georgia Tech. Improvement is not always continuous.

Three dogs writing press releases on a boat at night

My one-year-old's still figuring out this whole language thing, but she has a couple of sentences figured out. Her first sentence was probably "Go dog go," which she uttered in order to request the book of the same name. Lately, she has been saying "Are you OK?" a lot. These two sentences are apparently enough to make her a qualified medical professional for Michigan football:

NATALIE: Are you OK?
NATALIE (pointing Shane onto the field): Go, dog, go!

A dog at work, possibly concussed from too much jackhammering.
Natalie also refuses to wear a headset and doesn't pay attention to the field. She even knows to raise both arms in the air when someone says "touchdown," but she learned that during the Oklahoma-West Virginia game. So she's more than qualified to be head coach.

Natalie doesn't know her letters yet, so it would definitely take her at least twelve hours to prepare a statement to the press about Michigan's concussion protocol.

Natalie has a stuffed horse we bought at Ikea and named Bo (for reasons that have nothing to do with football). She prefers other toys and doesn't play with Bo much. We should try and get her to play with Bo more because having played with Bo is the primary qualification for being athletic director at Michigan.

Not pictured: Adam Jacobi.
Natalie is, once again, only one year old, so she doesn't understand right from wrong, gets frustrated when she doesn't get everything she wants, and is well-experienced in getting other people to clean up her messes.

The combined salary of a neurologist, PR person, head coach, and athletic director is probably around $6,000,000. Natalie will happily do all those jobs for half that price. We won't let take full market value for the position because she's not allowed to stay up and issue press releases at 12:52 in the morning.

Yes, we're awful people

While we wait for a medical report we were promised at 12:45 PM EDT

Let's answer the strawman:

Yes, we're horrible people who only care about wins and losses and if Michigan were 5-0, then the risks to Shane Morris wouldn't matter to us and we'd just close our eyes and say "Everything's OK."  We're the worst fans in the world because we're angry about things related to our athletic program right now.

Now that we have hyperboled our way out of that one, can I try to tell you, Michigan fan and curious rubbernecking outsider alike why we're mad?

The Shane Morris injury situation is bad, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we saw it.  We have video tape, we have GIF loops, we have multiple angles, and now multiple days to consider what happened.  For the voices in the national media trying to tell us that we're overreacting, I will politely, firmly, and respectfully* tell you that we are not.

The situation is but the most clearly the outward expression of frustration with a football team specifically and an athletic department regime generally that has seemingly made obfuscation, chicanery, and sleight of hand the cornerstones of their public relations strategy.  This is to say that every time we see something with our own eyes, we are told that it is not what we are seeing at all.  Denials come too often, apologies come too late.

Consider, if you will, the Brendan Gibbons dismissal and issues that came up with the department's handling of it.  It's a hard story to write, it's a narrow line to walk trying to be outraged, sad, empathetic to the victim, and not sound too flippant or dismissive.  So silence, or at the very least, measured discussion, becomes the order of the day.  But it was a critical moment, because it meant that all of the rumors that had been swirling off in the ether, ones we didn't want to believe because we told ourselves that we were better than that, that we handled our business and dealt with issues above board.  It was naive, and we should have known better, but we talked ourselves into the lie because we wanted to believe it.  But we learned that we had an athletic department that was willing to resort to verbal and legalistic legerdemain to maintain a narrative for as long as they could, and truthfully, if it weren't for those meddling kids, they would have gotten away with it too.

So now we have a national media judging the fan base for being bad at losing, which, is anyone actually good at losing?  The clucked tongues of the "let me tell you how football really works" elite throwing around words like witch hunt and defending Brady Hoke as a person against aspersions against his personality which I have not seen.  The accusation is that we're using the injury situation as a smokescreen for wanting to get rid of a good man/poor coach and we should be better than that.

Yeah, we should be, but we're not.  We learned it by watching an athletic department that should be better than that, but is not.  We've inflicted this upon ourselves, but we had some help along the way.

*-well respectfully in every case but one, since he essentially set another Michigan coach down a path of destruction by "investigating" a timekeeping issue as it related to stretching but is going to the mat to defend another here.

Author's Addendum: 7:00 AM.  So the medical report finally came and somehow actually managed to make things worse.  Between the horrifying use of the phrase "probable, mild concussion" (which we now know, there is no such thing as a mild concussion.), the admission that our coaching staff is bad at knowing what's going on on the sidelines, and the fact that you issued it at 12:53 AM, you have poured gasoline on a media fire, one which threatens to alienate even your most rational and level headed supporters.  It is entirely possible that things are going to get worse before they get any better.  My empathy goes out to the athletes who are doing what they can to be better everyday and are finding that hard to do when the people in charge of them aren't doing a very good job at that first duty.

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Way This Could Have Gone Better

In an alternate universe, Brady Hoke steps up to the podium and delivers the following opening statement:

Good afternoon, everyone.  After the game on Saturday, I watched the footage of Shane taking that shot to the head.  I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't catch that live, and I didn't see him stumble afterward.  That's on me.  We as coaches need to be aware of our players' safety at all times, and I failed there.

As a staff, we should have immediately gotten Shane out of that game, regardless of whether he wanted to come out.  Shane's a tough kid and a fighter, so of course he wants to stay in, but it's our job to sit him down there.

I've been talking with the staff, and I'll be talking about it with the players, but when you see a teammate that doesn't look right, we need to alert the coaching staff and the medical staff so we can get that player looked at.  I'd rather lose any game than leave a player on the field who might have a concussion.  This is a program where we value toughness, but playing with a head injury isn't toughness, it's just dangerous.  We can't let that happen again.

Again, if I'd seen Shane take that hit or stumble like that, he never would have gone back in the game.  When Devin lost his helmet, we could have called a timeout or sent Russ out there.  Russ is a good kid, and he could've taken that snap.

We're lucky that Shane's only got a high ankle sprain.  He's been fully evaluated by the medical staff and he got an MRI that seems to show everything's OK with his head.  Regardless, he should have been pulled from the game immediately, and I apologize to Shane, his family, and all of our fans for not doing that.  That's not what Michigan is about, and we have to do better.

It is, of course, not enough to save his job, but it does calm the waters enough to stave off an immediate canning. He's fired on December 3, with the Wolverines sitting at 6-6 and on their way to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where Interim Coach Greg Mattison ekes out a win over Rice. 

With Dave Brandon desperate to save his job, the Wolverines offer buckets of money to Les Miles and anyone whose last name is Harbaugh. Due to poor proofreading, the Wolverines sign Joani Harbaugh to a 5-year, $5.5M per year deal with a buyout starting at $10M. Shockingly, the hire proves successful and Harbaugh begins a 14-year reign as coach of the Wolverines, winning four Big Ten championships and one national title. The story later inspires the heartwarming and hilarious feature film blockbuster Lady Coach, starring Viola Davis in the Joani role and featuring Tracey Morgan as Tom Crean, as well as the smaller, but fiercely loved Mrs. Coach, reuniting Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler.


In the fourth quarter, I mostly had my head buried in my phone between plays. I saw Morris get hit and come up limping, clearly in pain. I saw Morris get hit again after skying one over Funchess and come up limping worse. I saw Morris get hit AGAIN and lie on the turf, then come up on one leg. I didn't see him wobble, because my face was buried in my phone, tweeting:

I couldn't imagine anything less than Devin Gardner being physically unable to walk would keep a one-legged Shane Morris on the field. After seeing the video of Morris unable to see straight or stand on his own, to begin walking off, than waving himself back onto the field, I'm appalled.

Nothing about it makes sense. Morris had been ineffective all game, winging passes wide of his receivers and side-arming his throws. His leg was clearly injured, so why on Earth would you keep him out there? And nobody was telling the coaches or medical staff that something was not OK with Morris? Incredible.

To say that Morris wanted to stay out there and fight is simply gross and disgusting. Football players are conditioned to always want to stay in the game, to get one more play, to be a "warrior". Take yourself out the game and get a repuation for being soft. It's on the coaches and the medical staff to see that a player is struggling and pull him. To put that obligation on some kid whose scholarship depends on your evaluation of him as a player, when he knows how you and your staff venerate your own version of "toughness", is outrageous and wrong.

Honestly, from a football standpoint I couldn't believe that Gardner wasn't the quarterback when Michigan got the ball for the first time in the fourth quarter. Michigan's one sequence with any offensive success was Morris handing off to Smith; other than that, they couldn't sustain anything. Gardner might not have been the answer, but why leave in a rookie to get shelled like that?

Bottom line: Gardner should have relieved the ineffective Shane Morris. Gardner should have relieved the Shane Morris with a leg injury. To leave a possibly concussed Morris in the game rather than go to Gardner is inexcusable. And to send Morris back out, even to hand off, is horrifying. Fire everyone.

While the offense withered, the defense mostly stood their ground. The only disappointing drive was the one immediately following the Wolverines' first touchdown. Giving up that lead took the wind out of everyone's sails. But they fought on.

It wasn't until deep into the third quarter when they gave up the ghost. After consecutive Minnesota drives starting inside the Michigan 40 on which the Gophers only scored 3 points, a Morris pass was tipped and returned for a pick six. On the next Michigan drive, Morris was sacked at his own 30 and fumbled, which was of course recovered by Minnesota.

Minnesota scored a touchdown in five plays to make it 27-7.

The Gophers went into a shell for the rest of the game, throwing only two more passes, both of which were to Maxx Williams. When handed starting field position on the Michigan 45, the Gophers turned it into a field goal. At the end of the game, they chose to take a knee at the Michigan 16 rather than run up the score. That's Minnesota Nice: We could have stomped you even worse, but we're gentlemen.

In the end, I left with a little over four minutes left on the clock, right after Michigan sent in the punt team on 4th and 10 from their own 5. I understand that, if you fail, you're gift-wrapping a touchdown for Minnesota. But surrendering possession there is conceding the game. And if the coaches don't care to win the game, or even protect their players, I'm not obligated to stick around. Instead, I beat the traffic, got home at a reasonable hour, and had dinner with my wife, which was the best part of the day.

Homecoming is on November 1, against Indiana. I was planning to make that the other game I'll attend this year. Now I'm not sure. It's a $15 fee; assuming that all of the money goes to the band alumni association, I'm OK with it. But I'm reluctant to have another dollar of mine go to this athletic department. I'm not planning on ordering any hockey tickets or basketball tickets in the near future. And I haven't paid for a football ticket since 2006. I don't see myself breaking that trend any time soon.

The Nussmeter Continues To Be A Top Priority

Based solely on the performance of the players, the Nussmeter would have held steady at 1. But after a game where the Michigan offense actually became a national scandal instead of a mere local embarrassment, we have no choice but to introduce a new level:

Should it become necessary, the Nussmeter can and will start working its way through the negative transfinite ordinals. Unfortunately there is no largest transfinite number, as that would come in handy if a Harbaugh gets hired.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Rising Tide

I wasn't even supposed to be here today.

I had a wedding in Evanston this weekend.  I was going to let Geoff reclaim the rightful throne if he wanted and I was going to be content to hold my tongue.

And then Shane was nailed in the helmet, a targeting call that went uncalled, looked wobbly, and came out.  Devin comes in, Devin runs a few plays, Devin loses his helmet.  Bellomy can't find his helmet, so they send Shane back in.  They don't take a time out, which would have solved everything.  They send out an injured Shane Morris (who had a leg injury for sure, whatever other points you want to argue) for one play.

And then the rains of criticism come in, and rightfully they should.  No one is talking about how bad Michigan looked yesterday, and by the way, they did.  No, they're talking about whether your underachieving head coach is now also either willfully ignorant of head trauma issues, or so incompetent that he didn't know that Shane Morris might have had/probably did have a concussion.  Either way, Brady Hoke lost whatever remaining benefit of the doubt/goodwill that Michigan fans had for him.  While we may not handle losing very well, we certainly don't handle being the center of a national controversy well at all.

But you already knew all of that.

To go a little meta for a moment, I no longer know what to do in this space that I grant myself every week.  To wit, if I go silent, then I'm a fair-weather fan who is only interested in Michigan when they are winning.  Well, I'm not say.  So if I speak my mind and talk about the negative things I am thinking of about the team and the program and the department, then I'm being a hater and my negativity hurts everyone associated with the team.  But if I only look at the positives, I'm a propaganda machine for a team that already has plenty of them.

The new reality is that Michigan is in a dark place, darker than I have ever seen it.  And nearly all of it is self-inflicted.  And I'm not sure there's an obvious way out of it.  Some seem confident that the right decisions are being made.  But, being confident in having made the right decision is not the same as making the right decision.

Go buy one of these.  Keep it handy.  We're going to need it a lot over the next few weeks.  Because we're not going anywhere anytime soon.  You pissed us off.  Not because you are losing.  But because you thought you could tell us everything's fine when we know it's not.  So we're not going anywhere, no matter how high the tide gets.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Nussmeter is the Loneliest

Several times last year, Michigan's offensive performance reached such depths that I needed to hastily add new levels to the Borges-O-Meter to describe them. The Nussmeter addressed this design flaw by defining an absolute zero, the buckeye. Should the offense put in a performance where they directly yield, via turnovers and safeties, more points than they actually score, we can define negative numbers on the Nussmeter by adding one buckeye each time we go down one level. But for this week: the offense scored 3 points and was directly responsible for none of Utah's points. So they get a filbert.

Did you know that Filbert Fox is the mascot of Leicester City? Yet another team that outscored Michigan's offense this weekend.