Sunday, June 24, 2007



As the dog days of summer roll around, we're firmly lodged in the part of the year filled with nothing but rampant speculation and "What If?" scenarios. One of the things that comes up from time to time is the subject of Big Ten expansion. It's a more prominent topic than usual this year after the way last season's SEC championship game was such a blatant Gary Danielson tongue-bath showcase for Florida, likely putting them in the title game after USC stumbled and Michigan was left idle. Expanding the Big Ten to twelve teams would give the league a final opportunity to put eyeballs on their teams. Of course, there's always the little matter of who and how to clear up, which is where we come in. We'll take a look at some scenarios for Big Ten expansion.

Staring at a white sheet of paper, with no idea who the twelfth team would be, I'd divide the conference up like this:

Vaguely West Sorta East
MichiganOhio State
WisconsinPenn State
Michigan State Illinois

I'd allow each team to protect one cross-divisional game so that it would always appear on the schedule. That would allow Michigan/OSU to remain fixed on the schedule while making the divisions less lopsided (And nobody would be able to duck both Michigan and OSU anymore). Michigan State would lose their yearly showdown with the Buckeyes, but they could preserve their "rivalry" with Penn State (as represented by the Land Grant Trophy). All the other rivalries are taken care of, with the Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota cluster all in the West, Michigan and MSU in the same division, and the Purdue-Indiana-Illinois-Northwestern chain in the East.

The divisions aren't perfectly even in terms of difficulty, but the constraints of rivalry and distance don't appear (to me, at least) to offer any easier alternatives. It also has the benefit of being at least reasonable for both football and basketball, which is something to consider. Now let's start fiddling with candidates to fill that slot. Something further to note is that any school joining the Big Ten must also join the Committee on Insitutional Cooperation, the Big Ten's academic analog, and the standards to meet there aren't easy. The CIC is focused on research universities and member institutions hand out 15% of all PhD's awarded nationally.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is probably the best fit for the Big Ten, much as it pains me to admit it. They're strong in football and basketball, they're another hockey program, and they've got scads of money. It isn't easy to slot them into the divisional format, however, as they have ties on both sides of the divisional ledger, no matter how you choose to split things. If push came to shove, however, I'd imagine they'd choose to join the West, keeping the rivalries with Michigan and MSU intact, while protecting the cross-divisional game against Purdue.

Notre Dame in the Big Ten makes us, hands down, the most powerful conference in the nation. The downside here is that suddenly the West is a hideously difficult division to come through unscathed. The SEC East looks over the wall and thinks, "Dude, that's rough." Ohio State would love this arrangement.

In the end, this is never going to happen. Notre Dame keeps raking in money from their NBC contract and their BCS losses, so they have no incentive to join the conference for a considerable time to come, and joining the Big Ten would likely hamper their attempts to recruit on a national basis.

The Big East

As established by the ACC, the Big East is a willing source if you're looking to raid a major conference. It's allegedly on the rise, based on the performances last season by Louisville, Rutgers, and West F'in' Virginia, but they still lag far behind the other BCS conferences. It's still primarily a basketball conference, with football decidedly being the weak sister there, so schools that are serious about contending would likely be willing to consider a move. If any Big East team joined the Big Ten, I'd move Northwestern back into the West division and just let them protect the Illinois game.

Syracuse – It fits the academic profile of the Big Ten and it's had a decent football program in the past. Facilities have gotten run-down and they've lost recruits because of it, but they've begun re-investing. They're a basketball powerhouse, and would likely make the already very competitive Big Ten East even better.

Why It Won't Happen – Jim Boeheim was one of the architects of the Big East. They'll leave over his dead body. For another matter, Syracuse is in the middle of nowhere. Travel time and costs for non-revenue sports would be significant.

West F'in' Virginia – An established team both in football and basketball, the 'Eers have a dedicated fanbase. Morgantown isn't that far away from most of the teams in the theoretical Big Ten East, and the football team would certainly shore up their division.

Why It Won't Happen – WFVU doesn't really fit with the academic outlook much of the Big Ten shares. Even Ohio State has been investing heavily in raising its academic profile, and it's borne fruit. Not to mention the reputation WFVU's fans have as couch-burning firebugs. Again, we already have OSU and Michigan State. DO NOT WANT. Then there's the matter of Bob Huggins coming home to coach the basketball team, which is its own disaster waiting to happen.

Pitt – The Pitt Panthers haven't done much to speak of on the football field recently, as the Wannstache has yet to work any magicks at Heinz Field, but they did make the Fiesta Bowl a few years ago with Larry Fitzgerald. On the basketball court, however, they've been among the elite teams in the Big East and of the nation. They're worthy academically and located well within the Big Ten's current geographic footprint.

Why It Won't Happen – There's a lot of bad blood between Pitt and Penn State, specifically with Joe Paterno. Pitt and PSU are/used to be rivals in football, but the series hasn't been played since 2000, each side citing a different reason for its cessation. The bottom line is that Penn State wants two home games for every one away at Pitt, and the Panthers aren't going to take that deal. Pitt also has trouble filling Heinz Field, drawing only an average crowd of 40,000 (The only worse Big Ten figures belong to Indiana and Northwestern). I'd imagine it would improve with Michigan, MSU, PSU, and OSU within easy driving distance, but it could be another impediment.

Louisville – A program on a steep rise in football and a basketball power, Louisville has shown a willingness to make the conference leap before, as they've only been a Big East team for one year. If not for a painful loss at Rutgers, they would've been in the conversation for the BCS national championship game. Louisville is south of the current Big Ten, but it's not that far from most of the teams.

Why It Won't Happen – Louisville's football prominence is way too new for the Big Ten's taste. It's quite unlikely that administrators would be that distracted by the new shiny thing.

Other Options

Iowa State – The other Iowa D-1A school, they'd fit in at the bottom of my theoretical West and they're already a major-conference school.

Why It Won't Happen – ISU's athletic department has an operating budget HALF the size of Iowa's and they're a perpetual Big XII bottom-feeder. We already have an Indiana, Ames is not easy to get to, and they aren't academically compatible.

Miami University – It gives the Big Ten an Ohio-based rival for Ohio State, it's another hockey school, and it fits very well with the academic profile of the Big Ten.

Why It Won't Happen – They have an itsy-bitsy li'l football stadium that only seats 30,000. Maybe they'd grow into a 50,000-seater, but that's a bit of a stretch to make, and Oxford is in the middle of nowhere. The academics are nice, but we already have a Northwestern.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

IU's Terry Hoeppner: 1947-2007

Sad news from elsewhere in the Big Ten today, as Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner has died due to complications from brain cancer. In his two seasons with the Hoosiers, the team was 9-14, but last year it seemed like a program on its way back from the Big Ten cellar. They beat Michigan State, they beat Iowa, and they came within a single win of making their first bowl game since the '93 Copper Bowl. For the first time in a long time, IU had to be regarded as more than a functional bye. It was no secret that he'd already undergone treatment for a brain tumor, and Hoeppner had recently announced that he'd be missing the 2007 season, but I'd really hoped to see him back on the sidelines in '08. Our condolences go out to the Hoeppner family.

This marks the second straight season the Big Ten has lost one of its own. Almost exactly a year ago (June 29), Northwestern's Randy Walker suffered a fatal heart attack. Pat Fitzgerald took over, but the young team never could put anything together. It seemed like every step of the way they had to stop and mourn their lost coach, as other teams and the media wanted to honor Randy Walker. In one final connection, both men were also former head coaches at Miam of Ohio, Hoeppner succeeding Walker after the latter took the job at Northwestern. Along with Bo, that makes for three representatives of the Cradle of Coaches that have left us in the past year.

IU Coach Hoeppner passes away (We Are The Postmen)
Ind. Football Coach Terry Hoeppner Dies (AP)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Baseball Than You Can Shake an Aluminum Stick At

Beavers Eliminate Wolverines:  The baseball team went down in two straight games Sunday and Monday. Putnam pitched the game of his life on Sunday for the Wolverines, taking a no-hitter down to the last out in the top of the 9th. A walk, a sac bunt, and a weak single were enough to get the only run across the plate, the only run of the whole game, and Oregon State won 1-0 (See Blue Cats and Red Sox for a much better recap). Even a perfect game isn't enough from your pitcher if you can't score your own runs. Monday's game wasn't close, as the Beavers advanced with a sound 8-2 victory, and the season is over. Thanks guys, it was a nice run to watch, and that Vandy series will be a classic for years to come.

Teh NCAA Is Stoopid  During Louisville's 20-2 demolition of [cannon fodder] at their Super Regional, a credentialed reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal was ejected from the press box for live-blogging the game. The NCAA cited its exclusive relationship with ESPN and decided that live-blogging was a violation. I want to know what terrified pack of lemurs they have for a law firm that they'd decide live-blogging constituted a breach of their agreement, and I'm not alone. Jon Fleischaker, the Courier-Journal's attorney, talked to Rick Bozich for a story in today's paper, and delivered this quote that ended up on Deadspin.

Once a player hits a home run, that's a fact. It's on TV, everybody sees it. They (the NCAA) can't copyright that fact. The blog wasn't a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis.

Guy has a point, I'd say. As Craig pointed out repeatedly last night, a live-blog isn't anything more than reporting with a much shorter lag. Even the fastest live-blogger can't keep up with the action as it happens, so it can hardly be labeled a broadcast. Another point that's been hit on is that the NCAA is only going after bloggers in the press box, that it's theoretically just fine to live-blog the ESPN feed. Myles, this is stupid stuff.

One other impact that Deadspin caught is that CSTV had been planning on live-blogging every College World Series game, and now can't. "This is an outstanding decision by the NCAA, because it denies coverage of a signature event to a fanbase that might want to read it."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend Update with HSR

1). Michigan baseball's magical weekend...or not.

Brian pretty much nails it, a complete 180 from last Monday, losing a no-hitter with one strike left (and missing golden opportunities to cash in some runs earlier in the game) leaves Michigan down one game in the best of three. I'd write more about tonight's game, but I am worried that the NCAA might break into my house and bust up my laptop for LiveBlogging.

2). No Cinderella run for HSR in the Ladies... tournament

I lost. I mean, not badly. We garnered 31% in our game, but for the love of Mike, we were up against a blogger in eye black! I mean, come on! Clearly, the voters went for supporting freedom.

So, it is with great pleasure that we throw our support here at the HSR behind Caesar himself, Brian Cook from MGoBlog. The man has a good shot, let's back him up.

Beyond that, have a great week, and we'll see you soon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Ladies... Hot Blogger Bracket and Shameless Self-Promotion

We here at the Hoover Street Rag are usually not ones for self-promotion, but when something is in the name of good fun and our very honor is on the line, we make an exception. (OK, I do, I don't know how Geoff feels, but I'm pretty sure he's got my back on this one. I also feel bad that this is our 100th post. But it's just the way the numbers fell.)

As some of you may know, the blog Ladies... began their long-awaited Hot Bloggers Bracket today. One of the many entries is yours truly, CDB. Why? Because the Ladies... are a group of Deadspin commenters who I have come to know over the last year and who are consistently hilarious, so in the name of good fun, I entered. I earned a 19 seed in the NL West. Out of 22. I'm not going to lie, that stings a little. I know I'm not the best looking guy, but remember, this is about hotness, and hotness can include things like wit, charm, guile, and the ability to string together several humorous sentences in a row. Nevertheless, my competition, HG from You've Been Blinded is currently stomping me like a narc at a biker rally. He's wearing eye black, how can I possibly compete with that?

(P.S.: I do not know HG and in reading his site today, he's a rather talented blogger with keen insights and well written pieces. We will not mind losing to him if it comes to that. This is not about him, however.)

And then it struck me.

Michigan has more living alumni than any University in the United States. What if I make this not about defending my honor, but the honor of our beloved University? What if I told you that I am the ONLY Wolverine blogger in the region, would that change your mind? What if it weren't me you were voting for, but all of the Michigan bloggers out there? All of the Wolverines?

(Of course it's worth noting that Caesar himself, Brian from MGoBlog, is the #9 seed in the Campbell Conference and really, if anyone deserves Michigan fans love, it's clearly him, but just play along. Oh and vote for him. Someone has to defend our honor, and he's at least a single digit seed.)

And what's worse, we suspect that part of our low seeding may have come from the fact that we openly questioned the SEC's Supremacy Complex (I had to submit a piece of writing from HSR and chose "Quag-Meyer", my effort to explain why Urban Meyer is a whiny bitch). Are we really going to stand idly by and allow the SEC and its apologists to continue to hold over our heads that they are the only true conference? No, we must rise up and defend our sacred honor, the right of good Midwestern people to watch some of the best college football in the country week in and week out! A vote for me is a vote against all of the MSM tyranny that tells us that the Big Ten isn't good enough when we know better!

A vote for me is a vote for the sacred and holy traditions of Michigan athletics. The winged helmet, the chants at Yost, pinch hit home runs to win NCAA Baseball Regionals! Of the Victors, and the MMB, of Bo, and of the the poorly lit morgue that is Crisler Arena, (wait, scratch that last one...) A vote for me is a vote for everything you love about Ann Arbor on an autumn Saturday, of as it was, and again it shall be. A vote for me is a vote for the memory of three Heisman Trophy winners, for Bullwinkle antlers, and for Ty Law knocking the ball down in 1994! This is who we are, and what we should be about.

We are proud, we are strong, we are Michigan, and we must rise up to defend that which we hold most dear by voting for the only true Wolverine (that we know of) in the region, CDB. Let us make sure that we truly are the Champions of the (NL) West!

Ladies and gentlemen thank you for your time.

Vote here

Trash talking commentary here

(Paid for by the committee to get CDB at least a respectable margin of defeat in the bracket.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


When former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar said that was his favorite word in English, you captured the essence of why so many of us love baseball. Youneverknow.

By all rights, what happened last night at Hawkins Field in Nashville should have never occurred. A Michigan team which had slumped down the stretch, which had blown a golden opportunity to close out the national #1 seed Commodores the day before, and was now facing a raucous and hostile crowd of Tennesseans, looking for anything to be happy about in Nashville sports this spring, between PacMan Jones and the possible move of the Predators, they shouldn't have had a chance. But there they were, manufacturing runs early, getting an Eric Rose sac fly to go up 1-0, and then getting a moon shot by Regional MVP Nate Recknagel, who dropped a home run over the left field wall and onto the roof of Memorial Gymnasium to make it 2-0. (It should be clear, it wasn't Mantle-esque, because the gym is rather close to the field, but it was a heck of a home run). And even when the tide turned against them, when the heart of Vandy's order rallied the Commodores in the bottom of the eighth, well, it began to feel as if the Wolverines run was about to end.

It certainly felt that was in the top of the ninth when, after a lead off walk to Kevin Cislo, Vanderbilt brought in David Price, the best pitcher, perhaps the best player, in the country, a player off whom opposing hitters were hitting a mere .199 and who had 192 K's in 132 innings pitched. After getting the sac bunt to advance Cislo to second, Michigan's next two hitters were made to look silly by Price's heat and control. He blazed Vandy out of the ninth. Adam Abraham had come in from third to work in the eighth and there he was again, trying to get Michigan to hold fast against a rising tide. He held them and the game went to extras, with Michigan still facing the looming specter of Price.

The inning that followed would have to be considered improbable and unlikely at best, and downright absurd in most cases. Price, who looked so in control in the ninth, was now facing Alan Oaks, a little used freshman pinch hitter who was only batting because Michigan had lost the DH when Chris Fetter was pulled in the seventh, went yard against Price. It wasn't the same epic bomb that Recknagel hit, but it cleared the fence and put Michigan up 4-3. Every pitch was more intense now, every moment amplified in meaning and intensity. Vandy had one more chance in the bottom of the tenth facing Michael Powers, who came into pitch for Abraham, who returned to third base. Powers looked like a beaten man when Vandy's Pedro Alvarez hit a hard shot to left, only to be robbed by Derek Van Buskirk (a moment of conjecture here. Vandy's game write up seems to believe that Van Buskirk robbed a double, where as it looked like he saved a home run to me. The important thing is that he did it.) Two outs later, Michigan was through, Regional Champs.

An unlikely outcome, but, youneverknow. CDB

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Baseball Survives a Late Night in Nashville

The baseball team had a tough game last night that didn't even start until about 11:00 EDT, but they battled through the darkness to take a 4-3 victory over Vanderbilt. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Vanderbilt's DH, Parker Hanks, lined a solo homer near the 400' mark in center field. Michigan came right back in the top of the sixth. Jason Christian got a leadoff single and Kevin Cislo was drilled in the back by a pitch. Eric Rose put down a terrific bunt that was supposed to be a sacrifice, but he beat out the throw to first to load the bases for Nate Recknagel. Vandy's outfield was playing at a shallow depth, and Recknagel exploited it, lining a bases-clearing double to right center. Rose was really on his horse and came sliding home right on the heels of Cislo to beat the throw.

But Vandy wasn't done. The Commodores advanced runners to third in the sixth and seventh, and Wilson got himself out of those innings, but Vandy's Matt Meingasner went yard with a two-run shot in the eighth to tie things up. The Wolverines went back to work in the top of the ninth. Adam Abraham singled in the leadoff spot, Doug Pickens had a sac bunt, and Derek VanBuskirk would've driven him in if not for the nice jump Vandy's right fielder got on his liner. Abraham took third on a wild pitch, and Christian drew an unintentional intentional walk on four straight pitches to bring up Cislo, who took a sharp grounder through the hole at short for the game-winning hit. Vandy threatened in the bottom of the ninth with a pair of two-out singles putting runners on the corners, but Abraham earned the save by striking out Ryan Flaherty.

Big win by the Wolverines, who'll play again today. They need to take one more (on two attempts) from the winner of today's Vanderbilt-Austin Peay matchup. As I type, the Commodores are up 6-3– scratch that, 6-4 on Austin Peay with two outs in the bottom of the third. The Wolverines' game is set to start at 7:00 CDT (8:00 EDT) tonight. Good luck, guys.