Friday, February 02, 2007

Whatever This Is: Scheduling

On Tuesday, Craig and I talked about the athletic department's plans for new and renovated facilities down on South Campus. Last night, the topic was scheduling. Steve, who happens to be my brother, also weighed in. Full disclosure: This isn't a verbatim transcript. Grammar and spelling errors have been corrected if I caught them, in a lot of cases I've stitched consecutive messages into one, and I've flipped the order on very few. All of this has been in the service of better readability; nothing of an editorial slant has been applied.

This seems destined to be a regular feature (Converting an AIM chat to a post is way easier than just writing one yourself!). We'll tentatively schedule the next round for Thursday, February 8, at 10:00PM EST in the hooverstreet AIM chat room.

Geoff:  OK, so here we are again. Maybe we don't need to go 3700+ words this time.

Craig:  Well, I mean, the "building boom" did require a lot

Craig:  Plus, Futurama's on in 30 minutes

Geoff:  Both good points.

Geoff:  So: Scheduling.

Craig:  Or as I have called it "Eight Games a Week"

Geoff:  Yeah.

Craig:  But before that Geoff, may we unbury the lede? If this is going to be a continuing feature, we'd happily take Michigan-related topic suggestions and a name for this. Please leave them in the comments.

Craig:  That said...Roll.

Geoff:  OK. Bill Martin says that we need 8 home games to pay the bills.

Craig:  Yes, he said this, and this scares me.

Geoff:  It's absurd to play 2/3's of your schedule on your home field. And if you insist on it, you end up playing NOT ONE non-conference game on the road.

Craig:  Yeah, I mean, look, I love going to Michigan football games, but that is a lot to ask of the stakeholders

Geoff:  They'll wring that extra cash out somehow, no matter what.

Craig:  There has to be some team whom would love to have Michigan in. And why not perhaps a neutral site game?

Geoff:  Oh, absolutely. Some team with a big stadium so that we don't lose too badly on the gate receipts.

Craig:  Those were way more prevelant in the past. You find an NFL stadium that labor day weekend and fill it up.

Geoff:  Right. Why not play at Soldier Field against a cross-country team?

Craig:  Like the Georgia Dome for UGA as I have suggested. Michigan always brags on the amount of alumni that they have around the country, I am sure the Southeast, West, South, would love to see the Wolverines live. Heck, even North Texas in Irving.

Geoff:  You just can't pull a quality opponent unless you're willing to go home-and-home or to a true neutral site.

Craig:  And I think Michigan is being way too stubborn on this one.

Steve:  Given how poorly they've done on the road early in the season I can certainly see why

Craig:  But how much of that early season fatigue is because they won't get out there and play someone middling on the road?

Steve:  I assume we're just going to assume that Notre Dame is cursed then?

Craig:  No longer. I think the echoes of that were silenced this year, at least for a while.

Geoff:  One thing's certain: We aren't going to the Pacific time zone.

Craig:  And yet, we probably should

Geoff:  For recruiting?

Steve:  For preserving Willingham's job with the Huskies?

Craig:  No, to get used to playing out there in case we need to make an end of season trip to the Arroyo Seco

Geoff:  Let's turn the conversation to this coming season, for the moment.

Craig:  Yes, let's. And by the way, that Washington game in Seattle was a fiasco that we tend to forget because of what happened next

Geoff:  The extra game is almost certainly going to be at home, given everything circulating.

Craig:  Yes...

Geoff:  And Vanderbilt has already declined the option to come north again.

Craig:  Yes they have

Geoff:  Word on the ebays is that Bowling Green is the likely opponent. Or at least a Bowling Green-caliber team.

Craig:  Bowling Green...

Geoff:  Yeah. I think this actually sounds worse than it is.

Craig:  Ok, wait, so that's a guaranteed MAC-rifice, the Echoes, and Crimes Against the Eyeball. And then MAC-rifice II

Steve:  Just how badly are we trying to end our streak of sell-outs?

Craig:  OK, if you're going to do that, why not move the Eastern game to Ford Field and let them call it an EMU home game?

Geoff:  Because that's what Northwestern is doing already?

Craig:  Oh.

Steve:  And I don't think the Athletic department would really go for that much loss of capacity.

Craig:  I did not realize that Northwestern is coming to Ford Field. If only I had some chance to see Northwestern play in southeastern Michigan...

Geoff:  For one year, I'm not that pissed about an 8-game schedule. For one thing, we get to reclaim the season attendance record (PSU and OSU both had 8-game homestands before).

Craig:  Oh, good point. But if it becomes a pattern...

Geoff:  I would like an NCAA mandate of a maximum of 7 home games.

Craig:  Neutral site games not counting toward that total?

Geoff:  Correct.

Craig:  I'd really like to see that. And you know what, that would be win win, because then athletic departments could howl at the NCAA and blame them, but also smile that they don't have to worry about the eighth game.

Craig:  By the way, this expansion of the schedule was poorly thought out in terms of scheduling. There's a reason these things lock in years in advance

Geoff:  Seriously.

Craig:  But, again, money is the driving factor here

Steve:  As for the theoretical neutral site games, at least for the first couple of years ESPN would salivate over the marketing opportunity.

Craig:  You know, it's funny you bring that up, you would think ESPN would be working to try and play matchmaker here. They do it, behind the scenes, for men's hoops. Especially now with those Saturday night games. You get some big "name" schools together early in the year and see what happens.

Geoff:  Playing a big-time game at Ford Field would also obviate the need for lighting at Michigan Stadium without giving up much of the home field advantage.

Craig:  And, I am sorry, the missed opportunity here is that there are TONS of Michigan football fans in SE Michigan who can never get into the Big House and who would love a shot at those tickets to see Michigan live. And that isn't even counting season ticket holders who would ALSO buy those tickets. You wouldn't need much of a marketing effort at all to sell out Ford Field

Geoff:  Plus you could sell the tickets at NFL prices, too. And alcohol.

Craig:  Ooh, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems

Geoff:  And the most tremendous markup in all the land.

Steve:  Is the alcohol ban an NCAA rule or a Michigan Staduim rule?

Craig:  Michigan Stadium rule as I understand it

Geoff:  It's definitely a University-wide policy.

Steve:  The more this gets discussed the better the neutral site games sound. Especially for the universities if the game is held in a venue where the increased ticket prices surpass the the loss of capacity. Law of supply and demand after all.

Craig:  Ooh, even better point. No student tickets, which means that you can get full value on every seat.

Geoff:  Soldier Field, I think, would be a nice place to go. It's got big capacity, it's a 4-hour drive from Ann Arbor, and there are a ton of Michigan fans in Chicago.

Steve:  Lets not forget the larger number of luxury boxes you get with professional sports arenas .

Craig:  All good points Geoff, but doesn't Michigan have a game in Chicagoland this season anyway?

Geoff:  That's true. Maybe not this year, but when the 'Cats are off the schedule or are a home game. It would probably have to be an inter-sectional matchup to be worth putting it there.

Craig:  That one I'll get behind... Boise State?

Geoff:  Sure would be an interesting game. Let's use that to segue into talking about opponents.

Craig:  Just don't fall off the segue.

Steve:  And make sure it's charged.

Geoff:  I have my initials embroidered on the front of my Segway's bag.

Geoff:  I've stated before that I think every BCS program in the country should schedule at least two other BCS teams as part of their non-conference schedule.

Craig:  And I agree with this wholeheartedly

Geoff:  Even if we end up with two MACrifices this year, we'll still play Oregon and ND

Craig:  I think it's good for the game and good for seeing who is what with what. Which is good

Geoff:  It's a respectable slate. And no I-AA nonsense.

Craig:  I think that if you play a I-AA team, you need seven wins to be bowl eligible

Geoff:  Yeah. I-AA wins and losses shouldn't count.

Craig:  But Geoff, are all BCS teams created equal?

Geoff:  No, they aren't. There's a difference between Baylor and Texas, of course. We should play one elite team and one middling one.

Craig:  or between Florida State and Duke

Steve:  And Boise State and USC

Geoff:  Boise State is a tricky case.

Craig:  Yes it is. Is it Gonzaga? Or is it a one hit wonder? Though I do wonder if this is one of those on-the-map games, where they can bring in lots of second tier chip-on-the-shoulder guys who want to be "a part of something".

Geoff:  With a program that fresh on the scene, you can't tell if they're going to be Boise State 2006 or Boise State "We Invented the Humanitarian Bowl Just So We Didn't Get Left Out".

Steve:  That is the problem with a team that doesn't play anyone

Craig:  To their credit, they do have that Georgia game in between the hedges. They have tried

Geoff:  They proved it in the Fiesta Bowl this year. Oklahoma wasn't a crap team. They were real. ANYWAY.

Craig:  Sorry, yes. Damn you hook and ladder!

Geoff:  We should play an elite team, a middling team, and maybe a BCS doormat for good measure.

Craig:  Where do we put Notre Dame on that?

Geoff:  You'd have to put them still up there with the elite.

Craig:  It is a name game, even when it's not worthwhile.

Steve:  That is why I would classify them as middling

Craig:  But does that prevent Michigan from scheduling say, a Georgia, because they're thinking, dude, Irish already there?

Geoff:  Re: ND. You can put them on the schedule and expect them to be good. When they turn out to be crap, that's unexpected.

Steve:  Sorry, had it the wrong way 'round.

Geoff:  Long-term scheduling is tough, and so much of it has to do with being able to count on how good a team will be.

Steve:  Just throwing this out there, what is your opinion on dumping a traditional rivalry for a year in hopes of creating a new one?

Craig:  I know WDFN's Mike Stone has thrown it out there for years that Michigan should not play Notre Dame every year unless they join the Big Ten. Which would allow Michigan to do what you're suggesting there, Herr Oberst.

Geoff:  You shouldn't dump a rivalry to create a new one. But [suspending it for] a one-off or a home-and-home against a big name school, well that's one to think on.

Craig:  Texas A&M. I will keep pushing for that.

Geoff:  See, that's one I've been on the edge of saying. Kyle Field is a big stadium, so the payday's going to be good.

Craig:  Steeped in Tradition. Usually solid, but rarely a power

Geoff:  They've been an average Big XII team, so you don't run yourself through just by putting them on the schedule.

Craig:  Does Bill Martin have a suggestion box?

Steve:  This is another argument to add to the neutral site idea, it's a great way to get big name schools together who wouldn't normally play each other

Geoff:  You also get yourself down to the fertile recruiting ground of Texas.

Steve:  Where I hear the stars glow big and bright

Geoff:  *clap* *clap* *clap* DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!

Craig:  Sorry, I had to go to the basement of the Alamo.

Steve:  For a program like Michigan, does playing far afield really help recruiting that much?

Craig:  I really think it does. Because it shows that you might come back there. You play a national schedule

Geoff:  And thus get national attention. USC's scheduling has been pretty awe-inspiring at times. They schedule who they want, wherever their opponents choose to play, and go down and knock them out.

Craig:  IT'S IN!!!Well we've sat on it long enough. GoBlueWolverine received word this morning from Long Beach (CA) Poly standout Donovan Warren that he had officially committed to Michigan. [Thanks to TAB over on the comments at MGoBlog]

Geoff:  Huzzah!

Craig:  The Arkansas thing this year was amazing.

Steve:  That is a very good way to impress people.

Craig:  That is confirmed on Scout, by the way.

Steve:  Craig, you're closest to Mexico. Go out and get us some Tijuana firecrackers

Geoff:  The reason why this Donovan Warren announcement (WHICH IS T3H AW3SUM) is so surprising is that USC practically gets right of refusal on so much of the top talent around.

Craig:  And that's backyard talent

Craig:  We should note, by the way, that this is not recruiting talk. Once committed, we may discuss openly. Though we still feel a little dirty about it

Geoff:  So noted (And not the good kind of dirty).

Steve:  "Signing Day" is tomorrow, is it not?

Geoff:  Next week, I think. Next Wednesday? But it's a public commitment he's very unlikely to back out of.

Craig:  It would have a very WWE feel to it. WAIT, THAT'S PETE CAROLL'S MUSIC

Geoff:  Not him, not The Humanitarian!

Steve:  You think you know a guy.

Craig:  Anyway, back to the schedule. I am sorry for that.

Geoff:  OK. So, I'd say that playing a national schedule and establishing yourself as more than just the king of your backyard can help you land the five-star talent. And, more than that, you may get the next level of guy.

Craig:  And in this day and age, when recruiting is well, what Orson et al said, you need to draw the attention.

Steve:  Yes, beating top schools in a bowl game is one thing, beating them at in their own stadium...well, that's hard to top

Geoff:  We've had luck with pulling big-time QBs out of other states (Brady, Henne, Mallett) and some elite WR talent, but maybe we can get your four-star linebacker too.

Craig:  Or DB?

Geoff:  Exactly.

Steve:  I was about to say, especially this year.

Steve:  The Ducks are going to be a home game for us, correct?

Geoff:  So how would this theoretical non-conference slate sit with you guys: Lead off with Western Michigan at home, go on the road to South Bend, home for Miami (Ohio), and then A&M in College Station

Steve:  I think that would do wonders for our strength of schedule

Craig:  I like it. I like it a lot

Craig:  Is this your 2008 sked?

Geoff:  No, just spitballing. Though I wouldn't mind it. The only issue is that it puts your two toughest games on the road. One solution would be to play the Miami game at a neutral site.

Steve:  And we'd be playing Ohio State on the road as well in 2008

Geoff:  Yeah. That would be rough.

Craig:  TAMU is locked in. They've already got Arkansas State, Miami, USAFA, and Army.

Steve:  I'd try to have A&M as the neutral site

Craig:  No, Kyle Field, you want to play there. It's 80K. That's a good gate.

Steve:  Point taken

Geoff:  The idea should be to schedule one good BCS program at home and one on the road.

Craig:  Agreed. Agreed.

Geoff:  Now, if we make one of our remaining two games a lousy BCS school, they should still have an adequate-sized stadium on campus or go to an NFL joint for a "neutral site".

Craig:  Also agreed.

Geoff:  So, to the bottom line:

Craig:  Only fittingly.

Geoff:  Eight games is too many to play at home.

Steve:  Yes.

Craig:  Agreed

Geoff:  It asks a lot of your ticket-buyers and it's ridiculous from a competition standpoint, because you know that last game is just going to be from some crap school who'll take the lie-down.

Craig:  Agreed.

Geoff:  Michigan should do its utmost to schedule two good BCS opponents for its non-conference schedule. It'll play one more game against a MAC team, leaving that 12th game to be decided.

Craig:  Agreed.

Geoff:  And that's fine. They can do what they will with that, but try to get a decent gate on it without hanging that price tag on your ticket-holders without their say-so.

Craig:  There really should be some input from the stakeholders on this. It's a big deal

Geoff:  Seriously. If you've got a block of four tickets, you're talking a good $240 or so, right?

Craig:  Absolutely

Geoff:  Anyway.

Geoff:  It's been good talking to you guys, but I'm going to have to fight my way through the lake-effect tomorrow, so it's time to pack it in.

Craig:  It's Winterfest tomorrow, so I need to be ready for '09 Chaos

Geoff:  And general disarray.

Craig:  So let's call it a night

Craig:  Until another installment of "Whatever this is"

Steve:  Take it easy, and my Wisonsin ticket was priced at $59 so I concur on the $240

Craig:  Fire Team Alpha already in position, Geoff.

Geoff:  Lock and load.

Steve:  So that's what that red dot on my chest is.

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