Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hockey: MICH vs. ND

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy Birthday Red

We here at HSR wanted to wish Red a happy 70th birthday and share this article with our readers.

At age 70, coach Red Berenson still going strong for U-M hockey

One note which I think would be awesome:

Don't be surprised if the Michigan student section, seated by the Wolverines' bench, gives a high-spirited version of "Happy Birthday" to Red Berenson prior to the Michigan-Notre Dame game Friday night at Yost.

As Friday is an HSR field trip, if this can be made to happen, I think it must. Signs and well wishes for Red on Friday, and hopefully a win!

Also, be sure to check out Red's top fives in the sidebar. I think you get a great deal of insight into the last quarter century of Michigan hockey when you look at Red's picks.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bobby Bowden, Charlie Weis, and the Art of the Possible.

Yesterday, it became very clear that two "prestige" programs in Division I football were going to move in new directions with their head coach. Notre Dame said goodbye to Charlie Weis after five seasons, the last three of which all featured at least six losses. Whispers and leaks out of Tallahassee had Florida State backing Bobby Bowden into a corner and giving him two unpalatable options for the 2010 season, "ambassador" or "retired" and Bowden is likely to choose the latter. In both cases, as well as in the case of Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, all three fell victims to the art of the possible.

Bismarck's maxim that "politics is the art of the possible" is, way oversimplified" the idea that you look at what you have set before you and you find a way to make something work, not everybody wins, but the compromises don't make any one too angry, or if they do, the aggrieved party is so powerless to do anything about it that they need not be worried about. The art of the possible explains why it is so much easier to replicate a scientific accomplishment, rather than work in a theoretical field, because you know that it can be done and what the result looks like. The art of the possible is what gives TCU and other non-power conference schools hope. They look at what Utah did to Alabama last year in the Sugar Bowl or what Boise State did to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007. They see it can be done and it buoys them. They conveniently ignore what Georgia did to Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl because while it's also possible, it doesn't fit their narrative game plan.

The problem with the art of the possible as it applies to history as opposed to science is that unlike science, where progress always points forward and knowledge learned cannot be unlearned, history evolves where we can define progress, at least we could hope to define it, as moving toward the greater benefit of the largest number of people. The art of the possible in college football means that the landscape of college football has changed, to the benefit of a larger number of teams. Scholarship limits mean that larger schools cannot just horde players for depth, creating a trickle-down effect for other schools. The democratization of television coverage, be it by court decision or by the existence of cable and now the internet, has been a boon for the college football fan as virtually every game in Division I FBS can now be found somewhere to be watched. A fan can know, easily, as much about any of the other 119 FBS schools as they would their own twenty years ago. While 2009 is not a meritocratic wonderland where every team has a fair chance to win the national championship in any given year, it is a much more level playing field than ever before. The problem with this is that while fans may appreciate this on one hand, fans of certain schools may not appreciate the fact that this change means that things can never go back to being the way they were.

Notre Dame had everything going for it in a bygone era. If they were not America's team, they were Catholic America's team, and that's not a little thing. They were the aspiration of every working class high school football player at a Catholic school, and if Notre Dame wanted you, it meant something. Notre Dame was so big it got its own television deal and could remain an independent; long after all of the prestige independents found homes in conferences. Notre Dame carried enough weight to get special rules for itself in the BCS, and even as it is a waning power, their coaching search is still the talk of the college football nation, despite a tantalizing SEC Championship Game on Saturday and a still unsettled Heisman race. Notre Dame means something today because Notre Dame meant something for a long time. The problem is, today's high school junior will not necessarily be swayed by the glories of Notre Dame's black and white past, when Rockne and Leahy and Parseghian are but specters looming over the program and Lou Holtz is the crazy old guy on ESPN who gives the fake pep talks and does the magic tricks. Notre Dame means something, but not what it used to mean. When all you have is tradition to point to, you cling to it hard and fast, because no one can take from you what happened. Notre Dame will need to evolve to remain relevant in the new college football landscape. I suspect it will, simply because there is too much at stake not to do so.

Florida State had everything going for it in a not too bygone era. For 14 straight years, Florida State finished the year in the Top 5 of the AP Poll. Say what you will about polls, no one else has ever done that, in any era. Florida State went 152-18-1 during that period and played for five national championships during that era, more than any other Division I-A school. Florida State had flash, a bit of an edge, great rivalries with two other in-state powers, and a derring-do that said "We'll become the best by playing the best and beating the best." That is Bobby Bowden's doing. He may not invented Florida State football, but he invented Florida State football as anyone outside of Tallahassee knows about it or cares about it. But it's a new era, and since 2000, Bowden's Florida State teams have lost 42 times. That's as just a shade under as many losses as Florida State had from 1980-2000. The standard that Bowden set for Florida State is so impossibly high that I would be happy to argue that no school in a BCS conference could replicate half of it, let alone all of it. But, because the success is so recent, it's hard to understand how the landscape has changed and how it would be difficult to be that successful again. The art of what is possible for Florida State has changed just as much for what happened for Notre Dame. It may be a much quicker change, but it did change. They will evolve and adjust, because they have to and because Florida State fans will accept nothing less.

Which brings us to Michigan. Michigan didn't fire its coach yesterday. It didn't announce a retirement of one of the all-time coaching legends in college football. It didn't make any noise yesterday because its season is over at a disappointing 5-7, no bowl for a second straight year, and other than the crumbs of the recruiting trail, nothing to tide over a frustrated fan base until April at the earliest, and August for most. We've seen the screeds against Coach Rodriguez, claiming he's the wrong guy, desperately wanting him to be gone, and someone more like Bo brought in, because someone more like Bo would make everything better. The thing is, Bo's era is the same bygone era of Notre Dame past, and the same changes in the landscape that have been made to Florida State. A Bo clone could not just come in tomorrow and win 10 games and get Michigan back to the Rose Bowl by virtue of being Bo and doing the things that Bo did, because it is no longer possible. Too much has changed and while we do not have to like it, we need to accept that a new definition of success may be in line for many schools, Michigan included. Michigan held fast against the tide for longer than any other school in the modern era of college football. It doesn't mean that Michigan fans shouldn't want to go to a bowl game every year, that Michigan fans shouldn't want to be playing Ohio State in November with the Big Ten title on the line, that Michigan fans should accept the bending of the rules. What it does mean for every school is that it's a different world, one in which we sail forward on a troubled sea, looking for a shore like the one we were on just two years ago.

We may get back there someday, but it won't be the place we left, because it never is again. We've stepped into a new and larger world, one colder, meaner, and angrier than the one we left, and even should we make it back to the safe harbor of success, we'll know that what is possible changes from decade to decade and from year to year. We'll see the visages of Yale, and Chicago, and Army sailing on the horizon, knowing that their day is safely ensconced in the past. We'll see sleek vessels like Florida, and Boise State, modern, swift, and not encumbered by history, just by the future. We'll see stately ships like Texas and Oklahoma and Alabama and USC, older models who found ways to bring themselves into the present. And we'll see ships like Notre Dame and Florida State sailing along side us, looking for any direction home and hoping that they make it. Know that we're sailing alongside them. We just need fair winds and following seas.

Friday, November 20, 2009


It was spitting down rain all morning, and it only picked up for gametime. I took one last lap around the stadium I'd always known.

UM vs. OSU, 2007

If there was any justice in the world, they'd have won last year, so I didn't have high expectations. Not with Mike Hart hobbled and Chad Henne barely able to lift his arm and guys not named David Harris at linebacker. And so we yelled and screamed and Beanie Wells had 172 carries and Mario Manningham dropped 18 passes or something and Ohio State won an excruciating 14-3 game.

Sports don't really respect the storylines we want them to follow. It doesn't seem right that Hart and Henne and Long will never beat the Buckeyes, that Bo's death came on the eve of a Buckeye victory to keep Michigan out of a national title game. The 2008 Capital One Bowl is such an anomaly because it's the exit Lloyd Carr seemingly deserved, and a David-over-Goliath moment to boot.

And so 2008 came and we all had to come to the shocking realization that Michigan wasn't just mediocre, but a horrible football team. Either the talent wasn't there or it was unsuited for the new system, and Michigan wasn't coming within a country mile of a winning record. I stopped watching The Game 2008 early in the second half, because I'd sat through the whole Northwestern game and had nothing to prove, and I knew how this one was going to end.

Early morning

What do you do after a year like 2008? You go back to work. You get up earlier. You stay later. You brag about it on media day to some hack with a press pass who twists your words.

Practice on the blacktop

But more than anything else, you get out there and work as a team.

Mace in mid-air

And there are days when you see it all coming together, the inevitability of it all.

Coach Rod

At the beginning of the season, Rich Rodriguez faced The Most Important Game Against A MAC Opponent Ever. The Freep's accusations hit the front page a week before the season started, putting it in front of maximum eyeballs. As if 3-9 wasn't enough to weigh on him. And it all vanished in a puff of smoke in the face of 31-7.

Graham's near-safety

But that seems like so long ago now. It's been like this for the past six weeks: Brandon Graham is on the verge of winning the game singlehandedly, but it's just outside of his grasp.


We're nearing the end of the 130th season of Michigan football, and this finale has everyone focused. It's one last game, playing for the extra bowl practices, playing for a bus ride to downtown Detroit, and playing for a hard-fought victory over a bitter rival.

Inside the tunnel

It's one more chance to come together, playing for the seniors, playing for an embattled coach, playing for pride, and playing for Michigan.

Graham and co.

Those seniors take one last walk to the stadium on Saturday, one last chance to put it all on the field for Michigan.

Tate and Denard

And it's a chance for the future of the program to assert itself, to show what lies ahead if we allow it to grow.

Notre Dame

That's what we all want to see. But sports don't care about storylines. Sports care about talent and scheme and execution and luck. They care about heart and grit and emotion only so far as they translate into execution, and how they can lift raw talent and focus it. If Michigan can put together a victory on Saturday, it won't be arbitrary comeuppance for OSU or some mystical force to quiet Rodriguez's detractors or any sort of karmic justice. It'll be because Michigan played better football or caught a break or two. Or twelve. We'll take every one of them. Ohio State is a vastly superior football team and should walk away with another win, unless something goes beautifully wrong. I'm hoping it does. Go Blue.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Catch 11

I wanted to open this by saying that Coach Rodriguez is in a no-win situation, but that not only sounds hopeless, but perhaps hits a little too close to the Vest right now. But I have been thinking about this as the usual "Rodriguez hasn't embraced the rivalry and it's going to cost him." floats around during Ohio State week. The problem for Rodriguez is, he can't embrace it like you want him to and he can't embrace it like you want him to for a reason that some people miss.
Adam Rittenberg put together some numbers on current Big Ten Coaches records in Rivalry Games, which leads me to my overall point: If Jim Tressel beats Michigan, his entire fanbase is relatively happy. We don't have empirical data on this, but if Ohio State went 1-11 and beat Michigan, I am pretty sure the good people of Ohio who call themselves Buckeye fans would be pretty happy.
If Mark Dantonio beats Michigan, his entire fanbase is ecstatic. Michigan State fans live to beat Michigan. It is their raison d'ĂȘtre. Sparty spends 364 days dreaming of hanging one on Michigan and a 365th hoping it goes their way.
If Tim Brewster beats Michigan (in years that Michigan and Minnesota play for the Jug), his entire fanbase will be largely satisfied. I am sure Gopher fans would love to see wins over Wisconsin and Iowa, but beating Michigan is pretty high on the to-do list for a season.
If Ron Zook beats Michigan, his fanbase will be oddly placated. Illinois considers Michigan a rival (which was true in, say, the 1920s), and Michigan looks around and says "you guys, too?" and laments that the Illini have taken Michigan behind the woodshed in consecutive years.
If Joe Paterno beats Michigan, his fanbase is relatively satisfied, particularly after nine straight losses to Michigan, it certainly helps. I don't know if Michigan/Penn State is a rivalry, but you have to get up for the game nonetheless. Plus, it's Joe Paterno, do you think he really worries about what his fanbase is thinking? He's freaking JoePa!
In order for Michigan fans to be happy, Rich Rodriguez has to, at a minimum, beat Michigan State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, or at least three of the four, and really it's all four. So if that's the case, why not just try to win all 12. You give every other team on your schedule your best shot and you see what happens.
If Rodriguez "embraces" the rivalry, what is the opportunity cost? If he does something in every practice to beat Ohio State, does that come at the opportunity to be at the best for Notre Dame, or Michigan State, or Penn State, or Minnesota, or Illinois, or any other team that wants to punch Michigan in the mouth every chance it gets?
Part of the problem with being at the top, being the powerhouse, is that everyone makes you the focal point of their year. "If we can just beat Michigan, well, things will be better." Who does Michigan get this with? This is not a complaint, mind you, it comes with the territory. But you cannot ask Coach Rodriguez to "embrace" this rivalry like Jim Tressel for a very simple reasons. Tressel's fans demand that the rivalry not only be embraced, but be lived in, worn as a second skin every waking moment of every day, and dreaming of beating Michigan in his sleep. Michigan fans want Rodriguez to never lose to anyone who considers us their rival.
It is impossible to be all things to all people. He's a football coach, not the great and powerful Oz. You start to fix things by winning one game. Maybe if he does that, people will say he's embraced the rivalry, simply because he won. Winning changes everything. Start changing things Saturday and see what the world looks like on Sunday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Find You Unpleasant

I thought that when the season came back, I'd be posting a lot more. Instead, I've been working non-stop and having a life. When I see something I want to say, it's usually been said more eloquently by somebody else. And what is there to say about this season? Hot start, then ice cold. They didn't play all that well at MSU, but had a chance to win anyway. They played much better at Iowa and were doomed by turnovers. They housed Babby Seal U, were dealing with Illinois, and then folded after the goal-line stand.

Which brings us to Purdue. What a miserable experience. Not just because of what happened on the field, but also the people around me. This Stevie Brown hater decided to come out of the woodwork to derisively yell "NICE COVERAGE, STEVIE!!!" any time Purdue made a completion that was anywhere near him. It didn't matter that Stevie was playing pretty decent coverage (+9-4 = +5 on the day)1 and tackling immediately, it was All His Fault. My dad was flipping out about how Purdue was going up and down the field on us, but freely admitting that he has trouble distinguishing between poor coverage, a scheme that puts players in a bad spot, and a good play by the offense. And then there was the "THEY'VE GOT NO HEART!!!!!!" guy that Brian referenced in his Monday column. That guy was immediately in front of my dad; a paunchy, goateed 35-year-old in an Adidas #1 home jersey tucked into his jeans. Every problem was due to the fact that the players had either a.) No heart or b.) No intensity. Never mind the fact that Mike Williams opens up a sweep from Bolden because he's trying to do too much, overrunning the play. He can't conceive that the team would be losing due to talent deficiencies or execution errors. If they were just grittier, that would totally do it.

By the way, he thinks Brian Kelly should be our next coach.

Why do I hate this guy so much? Is it the hair trigger he has on FIRE COACH X RIGHT NOW? Is it that he has no idea how football is played or coached or the difference between talent and walk-ons? It's part of it. But what gets to me is this guy's belief that they are doing it on purpose. That they're dogging it out there and he is personally agrieved and offended and all of this is UNACCEPTABLE and THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES FOR NOT BEING IN THE ROSE BOWL RIGHT NOW. LOOK WHAT COACH IRVIN MEYERS DID AT FLORIDA. WHY DIDN'T BILL MARTIN GO GET BOB STOOPS? HOW DID HE NOT THINK OF RE-ANIMATING THE CORPSE OF FIELDING YOST? WHAT GOOD IS A BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING PROGRAM IF IT CAN'T BRING BACK LEGENDARY COACHES FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE? UNACCEPTABLE.

The reasonable response to the Purdue game is to say, "This sucks. I hate watching the team I love play bad football, and Brandon Graham and the other seniors deserve better than this. I'm going to go [to place] to avoid all sports / watch better football / get hammered. I hope Rodriguez can turn this around / I don't think it's going to work out / I thought things were going to be like this when they hired that guy, but I wish I'd been wrong." Obviously, reason plays at best a minor role in football fandom, but guys like THEY'VE GOT NO HEART Man make life actively worse.

I'll be watching the Wisconsin game today, and I'll be back for OSU (ugh) next weekend, but guys like that make me want to stay away.

1 Plays Brown was +/-'ed on from the Purdue UFR:

O44 2 14 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass Dig Brown 13
Brown(+1, cover +1) right there on the play and has a swat at the ball but misses it. He's still there to make a tackle, though the receiver drags him for a few yards. Excellent coverage; Michigan made it tough this time. Graham did tear through late, but this is a pressure -1... Elliot could stand and fire.
M33 2 6 Shotgun empty 2TE 4-3 under Pass TE Out Brown 3 (Pen -5)
Caught; Brown(+1, cover +1), in a cover-2 zone, lights up the TE as soon as he catches it. Illegal motion brings it back.
O45 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Corner Brown 6
Line shifted as per usual but the LBs are off the line and tucked in; weird. Michigan blitzes; Graham tears around the corner and beats one blocker, forcing another to come out on him. Purdue is clearly trying to pick Warren and get the slant as a result; Warren(+1) does a fantastic job of coming under the pick and having this blanketed. Holding? Maybe, but not called. Brown(-1), however, reacts to that route when he's in man on the slot guy and leaves his little corner route open, so Elliot has another option other than “die because of Graham.” Tough leaping catch from the WR.
O24 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel under Pass Swing Brown 3
Trips bunch set takes Brown out to them and he plays head-up on the guy on the LOS. Michigan drops into a zone; Purdue receivers attempt to run it off and hit the swing pass underneath; Brown(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open-field tackle to turn this into a meh play.
O41 2 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Hitch Brown 5
Brown(cover +1, +1) is again right in the receiver's grill as he makes the catch and has a swipe at the ball for a PBU, but can't make it. He does tackle(+1) with help.
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run Power off tackle Brown 19
Ugh. Center actually pulls here as two guys double Roh and Purdue goes for the outside. Roh(-1) gets sealed really quickly and is both out of the play and not occupying a double. Brown(-1) comes down too far inside and gives up the corner; Leach(-1) is sliced to the ground by the TE coming off Roh, Williams(-1) overruns the play as it nears the sticks and turns it into a touchdown.
O38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read stretch Brown 16
Purdue motions in a slot WR to act as a second TE and Michigan does not react (RPS -1); Brown(-1) fails to get outside the slot guy and gives up the corner; Roh(-1) ends up spinning inside of the OT despite this run obviously going outside; Leach(-1) is indecisive and ends up getting blocked into oblivion. Bolden gets the corner and a bunch of yards.
M32 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Quick out Brown 8
Brown(-1) has the flat here and instead attempts to cover a TE that is running into Leach's zone; Warren has a deep half and is not responsible. (Cover -1)
O48 2 4 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Pitch sweep Graham -3
Graham(+1) slants inside, meeting the playside G a couple yards in the backfield as he pulls; he drives the G back, forcing Bolden outside. Graham gets stiffarmed but his interior play has allowed Brown(+1) to finish the TFL after he got outside his blocker effectively.
O32 2 9 Shotgun empty Tampa Nickel Pass Scramble Brown 4
Fake bubble to the slant Michigan likes to run except Brown(+1, cover +1) is not biting and Elliott has to look elsewhere, at which point Graham(+1) tears through on a three man rush and flushes him out of the pocket. Coverage remains good downfield so Elliot has to scramble; lot of short routes mean no one can peel off until he crosses the LOS. (Cover +1)
O6 1 22 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Pass Rollout comeback Woolfolk Inc
Elliott wants to go to the TE but Brown(+1, cover +1) has him covered and Elliott keeps rolling and rolling. He's late; as he reaches the sideline he chucks it to the other receiver, who Woolfolk(+1) has under control and makes a pass breakup on. (Pressure -1, cover +1)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No One Denies This

If they had (a few more) guys playing like he plays with the effort he plays, they’d be a good football team

Some NFL Scout re: Brandon Graham

Following up on his controversial "having good football players makes your team good theory," the scout went on to claim that his truck would be lighter if it weighed less, that Jordan Kovacs could cut down his 40 time if he were faster, and that he'd be wealthier if he had more money. (H/T: MGoBlog)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Out of Time

"We didn't deserve to beat Michigan State. But this one, we played tough, we played hard, we played 60 minutes. We just lost." – David Moosman

I am convinced, if Michigan recovers the onside kick, they win that football game. If there's anything out there that puts two more minutes on the clock for Denard Robinson, Michigan wins. The offensive line was capably handling the Iowa DL, as they (mostly) had been all game. And the defense was doing a solid job of it's own. I mean, look at how Iowa scored.

How did Iowa score?

  1. Kick return starts Iowa's second drive on their own 43. Huge coverage bust where Mike Williams bites on Moeaki's fake that he's staying in to block and blitzes Stanzi.

  2. Tate Forcier INT. Iowa begins the drive on the Michigan 19. The defense holds them to 8 yards and a FG.

  3. Tate Forcier fumble gives Iowa the ball at their own 46. Stanzi completed one big pass for 22 yards to McNutt and then got nothing. Iowa kicked a 41-yard FG.

  4. Zoltan punt. Iowa starts on their own 21. Stanzi converts one 3rd and 6 with a perfectly-thrown 33-yard pass, then an absurd 3rd and 24 to Johnson-Koulianos, who's just barely got a step on Donovan Warren. Herbstreit blames this in part on Williams being slow to get back in coverage. Iowa covers the remaining 9 yards for the TD.

  5. Zoltan punt. Iowa starts on their own 24, and begins gashing the Michigan rush defense. The defense then stops the run and forces two incompletions, holding Iowa to another FG.

  6. Zoltan punt from the Michigan 1 is caught at the Iowa 38, but the coverage team allows a 20-yard return. Moeaki immediately gets loose on a similar bust (don't know who was victimized there) for a TD.

So what does that look like? Three of Iowa's scoring drives start due to Michigan turnovers. One is Zoltan punting from the 1, giving Iowa a short field. On drives that started behind their own 40, Iowa got 10 points, and they had to make a ridiculous 3rd and 24 to get 7 of them. 14 points came on epic coverage busts. OK, OK, Iowa did drive down to the 1 after starting on their own 33 once, but that relied on the Mathews fumble for 33 of those yards. Iowa had 15 drives. They started (on average) from their own 38 and went 25.5 yards per drive. The defense held them to 367 yards and 30 points and scored 7 points of their own. They crushed the Iowa rushing game (2.7 YPC), got burned on 4 big pass plays, and showed signs of actual competence.

So, uh, how did Michigan score?

I'm glad you asked, alternate me.

  1. Donovan Warren 40-yard pick 6.

  2. Iowa FG is answered with a 12-play, 72-yard TD drive.

  3. Hemingway returns an Iowa punt 7 yards to the Michigan 43. Michigan embarks on a 10-play, 57-yard TD drive featuring 7 Brandon Minor rushes, including the TD, and only one (4-yard) pass.

  4. Michigan gets an extra 15 on an Iowa personal foul, starting the drive at their own 40. Denard Robinson throws a couple of completions, but mostly keeps it on the ground during the 11-play TD drive.

Michigan's TD drives took a lot of plays to develop (12 plays, 10 plays, 11 plays). They had another 5-play, 51-yard drive halted by a Minor fumble. They were able to move the ball on the Iowa defense, but not in large chunks. I'm no expert, but that gives Iowa a lot of chances to stop you when you don't have good field position. There were only 2 (of 13) underachieving drives, for me. Michigan got the ball at their own 37 and 39 and punted away on both of those. Otherwise, Michigan started (on average) from their own 28. They were dominant in running the football. The big, overwhelming problem was giving the ball away. You can't overcome 5 turnovers, even if you get a pick 6, without being much, much better than the other team. And the thing that Michigan was doing well, running the ball, became a non-factor on the last drive due to the clock situation.

What people are going to remember most about this game is that last drive, with 1:30 on the clock and Tate Forcier on the bench, and that's a shame. It's not Forcier on the bench that killed Michigan, it's the five turnovers. Iowa had good starting field position all day, thanks to Michigan's generosity. They converted that into 30 points on 367 yards of offense. And while most of those turnovers came in the middle of the field, they stopped 4 Michigan drives.

And about that Forcier thing: Something happened out there that made Rodriguez keep him off the field. Even before the benching, there were several times where Rodriguez got in his face. After the fumble, after the three-and-out from the Michigan 1, after Tate's final series. Something was wrong out there. I'm assuming Forcier wasn't making his reads correctly or listening to Rodriguez's coaching. He tried to simply walk away after the fumble, which is a dumb idea (This goes for you too, JT Floyd). I don't know if this is a Hoosiers moment like Greg thinks it is, but I don't think it's the worst call in the history of sports to bench Forcier. Yeah, Robinson looked like a panicked freshman on the last pass. Yeah, I'd rather see Forcier out there. But if it means we're a better team in the long run, I'll take it. This team has too many weaknesses to be a Big Ten title contender, so I'll trade a loss today for another win next year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The MMB and the Stadium Atmosphere: Straight from the Top

I emailed Director of Bands Michael Haithcock and MMB Director Scott Boerma regarding the MMB and the stadium atmosphere. They have allowed me to post their responses to my questions.

I offered my summary of the situation, or at least what the discussion involves: That much of the stadium can't hear the band like they used to, and the hypotheses given range from the new seats to fewer members to a greater emphasis on musicality over volume to the rubber on the fieldturf. Therefore, the piped-in music is necessary, because it's better than nothing.

Here is a portion of the exchange. First, Prof. Haithcock presented some national context for the situation:

1) The issue is not unique to UM! MSU had canned music played on Saturday while the band was on the field. Tennessee has a long tradition of the band marching to the stadium, doing a stadium entrance, and sitting in the stands prior to the game to play while the team warms up. At their first home game, the TN band marched into the stadium and was greeted with canned rap music. The band will boycott their previous tradition if canned music is in place. This does not solve our problem, but it does clarify that change abounds in the collegiate arena.

2) The pros are taking from college (the Pistons drum line for example) and the colleges are taking from pros. My sister is a high school athletic director in South Carolina and the HS fans want video boards and the same things they see on TV. The culture at UM has been very specific. Change comes slowly and reaction to change is always severe. I don't bring any of this up to lessen the reality of the current situation but to itemize what I have observed as a college band director over 33 years. [Emphasis mine. --ed.] We are dealing with a sudden shift in UM culture on one hand but a slow evolution that has been building like a volcano at other places. We are fortunate that in-stadium marketing is still off the table at the Big House. Many schools bands can not play the fight song during a time out so that a sponsoring soft drink commercial can be aired on the video board.

"BELLE TIRE!" comes to mind.

Then, he addressed the rumors regarding the band:

"The [enrollment] numbers have been the same in total size since before Prof. Nix left. The specific numbers of instruments change every year and always have. Those that claim the MMB is 'bleeding numbers' due to his leadership are either completely uninformed or have an agenda.

The same is true with the notion of emphasis on musicianship over volume. Is the "sound" of the band within the volume balanced differently? Yes. Is it less loud? No. This "personal" balance would be true of any director as it has been since the legendary Revelli. [...] The evidence just does not support the claim that the band is playing less loud than under Prof. Nix. Those that claim this is Prof. Boerma being a DCI guy and not a football fan just do not have a clue. DCI groups play louder than most college marching bands AND they play with sound qualities that have more staying power do to their blend and intonation qualities.

What would I or Prof. Boerma have to gain from encouraging less than full potential volume within the context of what we know about resonance, blend, and intonation. Those that want to blame me because my work these days is primarily in the concert hall are not aware of the true acoustical issues (you just can not "man up") or ever heard marching bands under my direction."

He points out that he hired Jamie Nix in 2001, Kevin Sedatole ('97-'98 IIRC) was a former student of his, and he hired two former MMB interim directors at his previous place of work.

"I did not, nor have not, changed my standards. [...] If I thought any stone was being left unturned to maximize the potential of the MMB, I would be working to fix the issue."

I offered my own opinion on the piped-in music (I'm against 95% of it). He says that this contributes to the relative volume:

"I will say that the modest volume of the pre-game music that existed previously has been raised significantly. Therefore, everyone who comes in the stadium prior to "band take the field" is treated to a new level of sound than ever before. If you combine this level with the new buildings, the amount of sound in the stadium is much greater. There is no way any band can compete with the number of speakers at the level of volume utilized. From my vantage point, I did not find the Western Michigan band or the Notre Dame band to be any louder than the MMB during recent home games."

Emphasis mine.

I asked two questions:

1. What, if anything, is being done to address the concerns that the band is inaudible to many in the stadium?

"The MMB was moved a few years ago back to the Press Box side after a decade opposite the student section. There were many reasons for this but it was instigated by athletics. We continue to be concerned that everyone can not hear the band in the way we all would like. We used to get the same complaints from people who sat behind the MMB when it was on the other side. We continue to get the complaint from those who sit opposite the visiting band. There is a reason Civil War bands marched at the front of the army with instrument bells that were 'over the shoulder.' These are directional instruments.

We hope to review the location of the MMB with athletics given the new acoustical situation and the reality of our new atmosphere. The band is working daily to maximize volume. Prof. Boerma and the staff will be working to face more directions."

2. How do you feel about the music being played over the PA? Did the MMB staff have any input in it, or was it a decision just handed down?

"I am realistic enough to understand that some variety of canned music will probably be with us going forward. The music selection, when the music is used, and the volume of presentation are all things I hope the MMB leadership will have some input on as we go forward.

The decision to implement canned music was essentially handed down. It has also become an increasing element at basketball games. There was an indication of how it would be used within the game that has been exceeded by a wide margin."

[Emphasis mine.]

[It] makes no sense to ban the amplification of the band and then play canned music while the team is in the huddle or approaching the line of scrimmage. You will remember that the canned music went beyond the line the band is supposed to cease in relation to the play on many occasions.

I suggested that this is telling the band "we don't need you;" he disagreed:

"I honestly think the message is a) we need the MMB to be 'all in,' and b) we need to provide this different experience to shake things up and get the stoic UM crowd involved in a new generation of UM football. The same changes in atmosphere were in place a West Virginia with similar displeasure initially expressed from the fan base. The MMB staff was made aware that these changes would come with the territory once the coach was hired."


Prof. Boerma agreed with much of what Prof. Haithcock wrote, but added this about his approach to rehearsals and performances:

My students are completely involved in the games, and I am asking them to play full out all the time. (As a matter of fact, my new dentist sits on the "visitors" side of the stadium and comments to me often how thrilled he is that the band is now more actively and boisterously engaged in the game than they used to be.) I'm not (or even have been) purposefully having them play softer; I'm constantly using phrases like "fill up that Big House with Big Sound!" Anyone who actually believes that I've attempted to make the MMB play softer is simply ignorant. Do I have a responsibility to make sure that the band plays with balance and blend? Of course I do. Do I want them to be the loudest thing in Michigan Stadium? You bet I do!"

On the architecture of the stadium as a factor:

"We were excited about the new press boxes when they were being built, because their slanting-in architecture was sure to capture more sound from the band. When we rehearsed in the Big House on the Wednesday before the first game this season, we noticed a definite change. However, when you suddenly add 110,000 fans screaming for a newly-proficient football team, there is simply no way to compete. Add to that the insanely loud canned music... All is relative."

On the MMB enrollment numbers:

"Reports that the numbers are declining in recent years are simply untrue, as Prof. Haithcock accurately reported. They've been the same all 3 years I've been here, which is truly remarkable, considering the football seasons we've recently experienced. However, JUST like when Prof. Nix was here, the numbers of certain sections fluctuate year to year, which is something no one can control. Jamie used to complain to me that he could never get enough euphoniums or tubas. We've got the largest tuba section I've seen in this band for years, and we have over the performance block number of euphoniums.

On the canned music:

"I am meeting with the people responsible for this in Athletics this afternoon. If anyone out there thinks we're just sitting around letting this happen, they're gravely mistaken. We take this VERY seriously. Most importantly, the people truly hurting about all of the nasty comments are the students in the MMB who are simply trying to carry on the incredible tradition. Please respect them and encourage others to do the same. They deserve it... and they truly are 'All In for Michigan.'"

Thanks to both of them for allowing me to share their responses. If you do choose to email either of them ( and respectively), please do so respectfully.

Beat the Eagles!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


So the comment section of yesterday's MGoBlog post on noise/RAWK MUSIC/the band once again turned into a ridiculous sh*tstorm. I waded through a couple of pages this morning, got bored, and left for work.

Since nobody asked me, this is what I think (That's "me", singular. Not necessarily the view of HSR as a whole):

If the band can play louder, they should. NO ONE DENIES THIS. It's not going to matter to Section 11, though, because of where the band is in the stadium. I guess it could get better when the press box is removed, but the band is angled to play to the visitors sideline. Move the band to the north end zone, things probably get better. Ditch the woodwinds, things get louder. Both of these things are expensive propositions, and unless someone wants to earmark a substantial donation, it ain't happening any time soon. In the meantime, the band should turn and face the student section more often.

At the same time, RAWK MUSIC isn't the devil. Selection and use were better for the ND game than the opener, the players like it, and it has the advantage that everyone can hear it. It probably helped with the noise level, and I'm all for a louder, more electrifying stadium.

What I don't want to see hear is an NFL/NHL/NBA game, where you're bludgeoned with butt rock every time there's a break in the action. I will cut someone if I ever hear Creed or Nickelback played while the band is in the stadium. Piped-in music should be used sparingly, and I'd prefer it if they used music that the band can't play very well ("Welcome to the Jungle", "Lose Yourself", etc).

To any current MMB members: Holy crap, you guys are getting caught in the crossfire. Sorry, it sucks. Halftime, I know the dynamics aren't your decision and the musicianship is always top-notch. But if you could try to peel our faces off with a wall of sound on "The Victors" when you're in the stands, we'd really appreciate it.

There. I've said my piece. Unless something falls under the heading of "actual news", let us not speak of this again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tough as Nails

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

He is Bobby Kennedy. It kind of makes sense. He sort of has the aw shucks look about him and the hair, which belies the fact that he's as tough as nails. He's the guy who is standing in the front of the room in the moment of crisis screaming at a bunch of guys who are older and more experienced than he is simply telling them "I don't care how crazy, inadequate or stupid it sounds. Give it to me." He doesn't get nervous, because he's seen how his brothers did it, he learned from them, and he's made it his own. But mostly, it's because he represents promise and hope, at a time of turbulence when the people he is looking to lead need him the most, he is what the future may hold.

"All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity."

As many of you know, I am an historian by trade, and I have always been fascinated with Robert Kennedy. I've read almost any book I could find on him, simply because I always feel like there is something there, something more interesting than JFK, someone at the focus of what the baby boom generation considers the most important moment in the history of the world. And while by no means is Michigan football comparable to the magnitude of world affairs in the Cold War, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that Tate Forcier has a little bit of Robert Kennedy in him.

"People say I am ruthless. I am not ruthless. And if I find the man who is calling me ruthless, I shall destroy him."

RFK was seen by some as "...the brilliant one, the ruthless one, the guy everybody's afraid of." (to quote Stephen Culp's portrayal of him from Thirteen Days.) Tate Forcier has, in just two games at the University of Michigan, become a legend. He scrambles, he escapes, he makes mistakes, but he just manages to find a way. He's young, but he's learning, and if he is not seen as the heir to his blood brother who here leading us before, he is perhaps seen as the heir to his metaphorical brothers named Henne, Harbaugh, and Leach. But more importantly, he is not alone. He has Brandon Minor in the backfield with him, who is still the heart and soul of this offense. Look at this video and look at Minor whom the play is not being run through, blocking like his life depends on it. He has receivers, a array including Junior Hemingway, or LaTerryal Savoy, a career backup who made good yesterday (the drop was OK, in the Tyrone Butterfield variety. But Dave was right, if Savoy catches that ball, he enters the pantheon of players enshrined in the eternal Michigan highlight reel. As it stands, he still gets major credit for the play to get Michigan inside the five.) He has Darryl Stonum, who did it with the kick return (good grief, Michigan might actually have special teams once more!), and he has Kevin Koger, who has the potential to become a Michigan fan favorite simply by doing his job exactly as people expect him to do so. (The ultra competent possession tight end who can also block. And we thought that all of Michigan's offensive traditions were being foresaken?)

"It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task."

There is still a lot of season left to go and there is still a lot of time for Tate to grow, to mature, to fulfill the hopes and dreams of what will be an ever growing crush of expectations and demands. But he is a piece, an important one, and we can only hope that he keeps moving forward.

(Images from AP and from Life Magazine)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ten Years On

The '99 Notre Dame game was my first in an MMB uniform. It was ungodly hot under a cloudless sky, but somehow we escaped without anyone passing out. I tried to take it all in before pregame. I watched Notre Dame's band march up and down the field, dropping flip folders and plumes along the way. Then Carl Grapentine came over the PA, intoning, "Ladies and gentlemen, preeesenting the TWO hundred and thirty-five memberrr MICHIGAN Marching Band. Baaaaand take the field!" After that is something of a blur, trying to figure out the stands cheers, remember my music, and will the team to victory. At halftime, with the Irish ahead, Notre Dame played a tribute to Ricky Martin and we did a Star Wars show. The game itself was a battle, and it was Tom Brady and Anthony Thomas driving down the field to score the winning touchdown with a minute and a half left in the game. It was an amazing first game. I was exhausted and drenched in sweat back at Revelli Hall. Hopefully, ten years later we get another Michigan win out of the Irish.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

WTI: Western, Notre Dame, and RAWK MUSIC

Saturday, September 05, 2009

MGoMix 2009--Barker Edition

Geoff was right, I do indeed have my own mix for this season and here it is, with some explanations. Unlike 2008, no holdovers from last season (for obvious reasons):

1). Elvis Costello -- "Pump It Up"

Always a good way to start off any hype mix.

2). The Black Crowes -- "Twice As Hard"

In many ways, I suspect that this season will have the phrase "Twice as hard As it was the first time" feeling very appropriate from time to time.

3). Cracker -- "Get Off This"

New era, new coach, so the line "Get off this, get on with it. If you wanna change the world, shut your mouth and start this minute." seems wholly fitting.

4). Foo Fighters -- "Times Like These"

Sort of self-explanatory, also a rocking number.

5). The Wallflowers -- "Everybody Out of the Water (New Frontier)"

A song about an impending apocalypse. No, I am not developing a theme here.

6). AC/DC -- "Thunderstruck"

I think I am legally required to include this on any pumped play list.

7). The New Pornographers -- "Challengers"

I was playing this all the time that when Michigan was headed back to the NCAA Tournament last season, so I rolled it over here.

8). R.E.M. -- "Living Well is the Best Revenge"

Another one that sort of speaks for itself.

9). Oasis -- "Supersonic"

In honor of Coach Rod: "You need to be yourself, You can't be no one else."

10). U2 -- "Desire"

In honor of the spread offense and its rising ubiquity: "Over the counter with a shotgun, Pretty soon everybody got one."

11). Coldplay -- "The World Turned Upside Down"

Partly chosen to reflect last season, partly because this line I think speaks deeply to the fans: "What is this feeling that I can't explain, and why am I never gonna sleep again. What is this thing I've never seen before, a little boy lost in a breaking storm."

12). The Animals -- "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"

"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." Remind you of anyone?

13). The Dandy Warhols -- "Bohemian Like You"

"You got a great car, yeah what's wrong with it today?" Yep...

14). The Hives -- "Tick Tick Boom"

It's not hockey, but it also just gets one pumped up listening!

15). Pearl Jam -- "Dissident"

Solely picked for the gallows' humor aspect of it in light of this past week.

16). Beck -- "E-Pro"

A favorite of my college roommate and game day partner in crime.

17). The Smithereens -- "Time Won't Let Me (cover)"

A fantastic cover from Time Cop. I think the line "I can't wait forever, even though you want me too." Yeah, I think we can see the theme clearly now.

18). Tom Petty -- "I Won't Back Down"

"Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out. Hey, I, will stand my ground. And I won't back down." Well, here's to hoping anyway.

19). Dropkick Murphys -- "Cadence to Arms"

Bagpipes into a rocking version of a call to arms. Yeah, somehow this makes perfect sense to me.

20). J.J. Johnson & His Orchestra -- "Michigan Replay (Across 110th Street Theme)"

21). Michigan Marching Band -- "The Hoover Street Rag"

22). Michigan Marching Band -- "Temptation (Blue Album)"

23). Michigan Marching Band -- "Hawaiian War Chant (Blue Album)"

24). Michigan Marching Band -- "M Fanfare"

25). Michigan Marching Band -- "The Victors"

So that's it, that's the list. I hope you enjoy it and Go Blue!

Game Day Mix, 2009

Here's mine. Craig will have his own up, I'm sure.
  1. The Gaslight Anthem – Great Expectations
  2. Rilo Kiley – A Better Son/Daughter
  3. The Mountain Goats – This Year
  4. Pixies – Gouge Away
  5. Gram Rabbit – Devil's Playground
  6. The Hold Steady – Constructive Summer
  7. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You
  8. Sleater-Kinney – start together
  9. Andrew Bird – Dark Matter
  10. PJ Harvey – The Whores Hustle And The Hustlers Whore
  11. Drive-By Truckers – The Righteous Path
  12. Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City
  13. Dinosaur Jr – Out There
  14. The Black Lips – Short Fuse
  15. Ms Dynamite – Don't Stop
  16. Clash – I'm Not Down
  17. The Budos Band – Up From The South
  18. Better Than Ezra – All In
  19. Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball
  20. Heartless Bastards – The Mountain

And It Teases You For Weeks In Its Absence

This video should be in as many places as possible. Go to MGoBlog. Go right now.

Gallows humor was the best I could do last year. After the Toledo game, I quipped, "Nothing left to do but burn it down for the insurance money." And it felt like something was missing, like it did after The Horror. We weren't mathematically eliminated from a .500 record, but the team didn't look like it was even close to making that happen. It was only grim determination that kept me in my seat through the whole Northwestern game, that microcosm of a miserable season.

But nobody gave up. Frozen hands gripping the football, a saturation bombing campaign from Juice Williams, and an overmatched team struggling through a more than respectable first half against Ohio State only to give way to the inevitable. They'd play on.

And now we have a chance to begin anew. The moment before kickoff is often the sweetest of the year. The possibilities aren't quite endless, but they might as well be. Anything can happen before that first whistle, but only one thing will. It's the moment I'm most prone to wild, unchecked optimism. The cold, rational part of me was saying "6-6" in the offseason, but it's hard to keep myself restrained now. I can't wait for football to be back.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

WTI: The Return

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

As the season starts on Saturday, I thought I would take a moment to put down some thoughts on the beginning of the season. Not on the team, because well, I don't do well with player analysis or schematic breakdown, so instead, I am going to put down my thoughts on what I resolve to do this season as a Michigan fan. So with that in mind, here are my new year's resolutions (with occasional tangents!)

  • I hereby resolve to explain where we were for three months. (Yeah, um, life sort of got in the way. Sorry about that.)
  • I hereby resolve to remember to charge my cell phone when I get home on Friday night so it's fully ready to go for game day. (Between the Twittering and the efforts to check ESPN's scores from the stands, having a full battery is vitally important and each of the last three seasons, I have had at least one game where I went in with a undercharged battery and cursed myself for the failure.)

  • I hereby resolve to no longer call Nick Sheridan "Death" or "Sheridon't" or "Sheridammit" (He doesn't deserve it and I made my case as to why at MGoBlog earlier.)

  • I hereby resolve to do my best to save the Eagle and the art deco letters for the completed renovation. (Yeah, this one may be tougher than I thought.)
  • I hereby resolve to remember that these guys put in at least six hours (and probably many many more) during the week for every hour we see them on Saturday. (Yeah, I think we covered that yesterday.)
  • I hereby resolve to remember that one Brandon good, two Brandons better.
  • I hereby resolve to make at least one good Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference per game. (Try it, it really does make the game go a lot better. A personal long time favorite: "Good morning Doctor Meachem. Hope you slept well....'cause it's time to die!")
  • I hereby resolve to donate money to Brian Cook at MGoBlog because he not only deserves it, but he earns it. (Besides, that way you can use AdBlock and not feel guilty for taking money out of Brian's pocket. I recommend either $18.17 or $24.12. If you're going to donate, why not have some fun with it.)
  • I hereby resolve to use MVictors provisioning guide as a good place to start.
  • I hereby resolve not to even attempt to pick any fights with people in the seats around us and to let things go if they try.
  • I hereby resolve to remember that 2008 was bad, so that things can look better in 2009, even when they don't.
  • I hereby resolve to be very happy that Michigan Stadium now has Coke Zero and not give in to the temptation of regular Coke during the game.
  • I hereby resolve to support M-Den and its awesome Twitter feed.
  • I hereby resolve to add the Block M twibbon to my Twitter avatar. (OK, I made this, but still an awesome way to support the Maize and Blue I think.)
  • I hereby resolve to completely rework MGoMix for 2009 so that the demons of 2007 and 2008 can be exorcised in that sense (I will miss you "America, F--- Yeah" but it had to be done.) (Full play list post next week.)
  • I hereby resolve to use CoverItLive for Whatever This Is, because, well, it's so much easier. (I also promise to not go ape-poopy if the CILs at MGoBlog go poorly.)
  • I hereby resolve to not obsess about Michigan's recruiting class, especially as it now hits amazingly close to home.
  • I am sure there will be more things as the season goes on and I am sure I will break about half of these by the time the Eastern game rolls around, but you have to start somewhere, no?

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    What we leave behind...

    So there has been much to do about the Free Press' investigation into the Michigan football team and the alleged "absurd" practice regimen, one which is alleged to violate NCAA guidelines. I have nothing to add to this. I suspect that a lot of this revolves around the word "voluntary" and the implicit connections between the "voluntary" efforts made by players and how those efforts, or a lack there of, may impact their standing, real or perceived by the coaching staff. I cannot add anything to this because I am not in a position to speak to NCAA rules/guidelines, or what it's like to work out until you puke, or what it's like to be a part of a team where the peer pressure to keep working hard, even beyond what is required in order to even try to be the best. I've never done it and the reality is, most fans have never done it either. Those who have likely have a much deeper and more complete understanding of this situation and it is one that even if they explained it to us, we would still never fully grasp it because we don't own that.

    The reality is, we, as fans, want to believe that the allegations are not true because it is what is best for the program, but we also probably know that the reality is and that while there will likely be few or no violations found by the NCAA (I hope), we also probably know that the players, the ones who we want to go, fight, win and give their all for Michigan do put in a huge time commitment to be the best, and that's the crux of the problem.

    Because "voluntary" is so subjective, because the perception of how one will be treated if one does not show up for something that is voluntary will affect one's standing within the program, we're in such a gray area that it makes it really hard to get one's head around this. It also makes it really hard to explain to someone how it could arguably true that the players probably did put in more than 20 hours a week (something closer to the 45 hour number that the NCAA survey found) and it's probable (OK, I'm hopeful and projecting) that no violations will be found. So how can both things be true?

    It's the Fitzgerald paradox (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-up):

    "Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work - the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside - the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don't show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within - that you don't feel until it's too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. The first sort of breakage seems to happen quick - the second kind happens almost without your knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed. Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation - the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."

    On the whole, perhaps we as fans forget what goes on on the field is the result of not only the effort and preparation that has gone on behind the scenes, but also the cost of that. The issue is, that sacrifice is part of a larger choice and asking a group of 18-22 year olds to fully understand what that means and what they are in for, well, it ends up creating friction, disconnect, and problems. Many of those players accept the sacrifices without comment, or at least, without comment to those outside the program. So when those comments do get out, they are going to be discussed, analyzed, and beaten to death. So we want to understand this, and we cannot, because what they have left behind is, in one sense ephemeral, and in another sense permanent. We don't necessarily remember that there's much more beneath the surface than just Saturdays and perhaps understanding that, we can generate a respect for what they are doing.

    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    Three Things

    1. Preseason Practice. Daily and weekly hour limitations do not apply to countable athletically related activities occurring during preseason practice prior to the frst day of classes or the frst scheduled contest, whichever is earlier. (Adopted: 1/10/91 efective 8/1/91)

    2. Daily and Weekly Hour Limitations—Playing Season. A student-athlete’s participation in countable athletically related activities (see Bylaw 17.02.1) shall be limited to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week. (Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91)


    Marching band practice consists of 1.5 hours per day, Monday to Friday out on Elbel Field. Each section generally also has a mandatory half-hour practice before one of those days. On game day, there is a two-hour practice, a "lunch" break, then a half-hour visualization session prior to step-off to the stadium. The NCAA defines a football game as 3 hours, regardless of how long it actually takes. That's a 13.5-hour week for the marching band.

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Sioux No More (Maybe)

    Fox News, via Deadspin. This is sort of news, so being that it's May, up it goes. If NoDak can't reach an agreement with the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock tribes by October 1, it will definitely drop the logo and mascot on August 1, 2010. CHN is also reporting that this would mean removing all of those logos from the Ralph as well. Personally, I'm not as sure, since the building belongs to the Ralph Engelstadt Trust and not the university (at least for another 20+ years), but we'll see how this develops

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    New Drum Major

    Congratulations to David Hines, your 2009-2010 MMB Drum Major. David, a euphonium, is a junior this year in Mechanical Engineering. He was selected over other finalists Rich Main (trumpet) and Sarah Zelenak (euph). Here's some video of David's audition:

    Wednesday, April 08, 2009

    The Frozen Four

    Today is a ridiculous day. In the Frozen Four we have

    • The clear #1 team in the country
    • A team that failed to make the semifinals of its conference tournament
    • Another team that failed to make the semifinals of its conference tournament
    • A team that won its four-team conference that's on the brink of dissolution, the only team that needed its auto-bid to make the field of 16

    It's the strangest Frozen Four in living memory. Either The Dynasty or Bemidji State will be in the national championship game. I find it hard to believe myself, and I was there when Bemidji State beat Cornell to win the Midwest Regional.

    Vermont making the Frozen Four isn't all that weird, but to do it on a shot that went through the net after a decade-long absence from the tournament? That's an epic tale.

    Three of the four #1 overall seeds went down in their first game. Seriously. Michigan? Lost 2-0 to Air Force while putting 41 shots on goal. Denver? Lost to The Dynasty, 4-2. Notre Dame? Got absolutely pantsed by Bemidji State, 5-1, in a game where they were thoroughly outplayed. Friend of blog Mike notes that in the first three years of the 16-team field, 1 seeds were 12-0 against the 4 seeds. The last four years? 9-7.

    So that's where we've been. Where are we going? Well, it's Miami vs. Bemidji State at 5:00 EDT, and I have no idea what's going to happen. Theoretically, Miami should win. They're bigger, stronger, and have better numbers than the Beavers, but I can't count Bemidji out. I wonder how well the George Mason band will do with the Beavers' polka-inflected fight song.

    After that, BU vs. Vermont. Vermont was a top team throughout most of the year, but tanked down the stretch. They should still be a handfull for the Terriers, but BU has been mechanically destroying its opponents all year. After obliterating Ohio State 8-3 in the first round, New Hampshire offered a much stiffer test in the regional final, but they still prevailed, 2-1. They're rested and, by far, they're the best team left in the tournament. Let's see how this one plays out.

    It didn't turn out to be Next Year in DC for the Wolverines, but I'll still be watching.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Let The Games Begin

    As the games begin, we come to the end of our capsule previews. Thanks to all of you for reading and for the corrections in the comments. We appreciate them. Personally, I'd like to thank Craig for all his work on this (he wrote half the previews). Thanks also to Deadspin and Puck Daddy for the links and to College Hockey News and College Hockey Stats for, well, existing. Both are excellent resources.

    Finally, if you want all of our work in one handy place, here it is in PDF form. You don't want to be embarrassed out at the bar when you don't know who Zane Kalemba is. If you'd rather keep it electronic, here are links to all the previews organized by regional and by school.

    Northeast Regional Midwest Regional West
    East Regional
    Boston University Notre Dame Denver Michigan
    North Dakota Northeastern Minnesota Duluth Yale
    New Hampshire Cornell Princeton Vermont
    Ohio State Bemidji State Miami Air Force

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Northeast #1: Boston University

    Boston University Terriers

    1 seed vs. Ohio State, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
    5:30 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN2
    Hockey East Regular Season Champions
    Hockey East Tournament Champions
    Record: 31-6-4
    Coach: Jack Parker (811-413-101)

    Scoring Summary:
    GFA GAA Diff.
    3.85 1.95 +1.90

    Leading Scorers:
    # Player G-A--Pts
    33 Colin Wilson 15-35--50
    13 Nick Bonino 16-28--44
    10 Chris Higgins 12-28--40

    # Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
    31 Kieran Millan .923 1.84 25-2-3
    35 Grant Rollheiser .897 2.13 6-4-1

    Stats via

    The 2008-2009 BU Terriers were dominant right out of the gate, winning 6 of their first 7, absolutely steamrolling North Dakota (5-1) and Michigan (7-2). They lost back-to-back games just once this year, being swept at home by Vermont back in November. That weekend represents 1/3 of their total losses this season. In a conference with three of the top teams in the nation this year, the Terriers won the Hockey East regular season title by a single point over Northeastern. BU owns the top overall spot in the Pairwise and is a heavy leader in KRACH as well.

    The Terriers have been an offensive juggernaut this year. This season, they've registered 158 goals, good for the national lead. Sophomore Colin Wilson is generally regarded as the favorite for the Hobey this year, leading the team in points, though senior Jason Lawrence has a sizeable lead in goals. They've also been solid in their own zone, #3 in scoring defense, which makes them the #1 team in the country in terms of scoring margin. Kieran Millan, a freshman, has been the clear #1 goalie this year and has a sterling record. In the regular season, he only lost a single game. One. Game. The #2 is Grant Rollheiser, another freshman. Rollheiser gave up the other four regular season losses, and it isn't a Billy Sauer hard-luck case. He gave up 4 in 3 of those on average shot totals.

    Quick Hits:

    • O Canada. This year's Terriers carry five Canadians on their roster. Coincidentally, both freshman goaltenders are from western Canada. Kieran Millan is from Edmonton, while Grant Rollheiser is from Chilliwack, BC. Hobey favorite Colin Wilson's hometown is Winnipeg, but he played on the USNTDP Under-18 team, so I'm sure they shun him as a turncoat. I suspect he was actually a spy.

    • 800. No, that's not how many years Jack Parker has been at BU. Just how many wins he has. He recorded his 800th career win this season with a 3-1 win at Merrimack on January 30th. Parker is actually in his 36th season behind the Terriers' bench and has been there long enough to have reached triple digits in ties. He is the NCAA all-time leader for victories at a single school in hockey.

    Northeast #4: Ohio State

    The Ohio State University Buckeyes

    tOSU 4 seed vs. Boston University, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
    5:30 PM EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN2
    Record: 23-14-4
    Coach: John Markell (265-248-50)

    Scoring Summary:
    GFA GAA Diff.
    3.39 2.18 +1.21

    Leading Scorers:
    # Player G-A--Pts
    39 Corey Elkins 18-22--40
    15 John Albert 11-28--39
    26 Peter Boyd 13-18--31

    # Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
    41 Dustin Carlson 0.920 2.40 21-11-3

    Stats via

    Ohio State is the Lloyd Christmas of this year's NCAA Tournament.  Last week, they only had a 9% chance of making the field, but what they were saying is, they had a chance.  The last team in, the Buckeyes won the tiebreaker over fellow Big Ten members Wisconsin and Minnesota, making them the fourth CCHA team in the field.  

    The key theme with the Buckeyes this year is youth.  Just five upperclassmen populate the roster of the scarlet and gray, and while senior Corey Elkins lead the team in scoring, he is the only upperclassman among the Buckeyes' top ten in scoring.  This is a team that will be very dangerous next season, but what will they do when they have arrived a year early for the tournament.  The Buckeyes tournament run rests largely on a thirteen game unbeaten streak in the middle of the season, with a slightly sub-.500 record in their final 19 games, including a rough pair of shutouts up in Alaska during the CCHA quarterfinals.  The question will be whether these young Bucks can find their mid-season form and give the Terriers more than they might expect out of the last at-large team.

    Quick Hits:

    • Mat Men. Ohio State might be the CCHA team that most desparately longs for a top four seed in the CCHA every year (or a bottom four seed.)  By finishing #5 in the CCHA, the "reward" for the Buckeyes was a series against their in-state rivals Bowling Green.  However, as the Schottenstein Center also is the host of the Ohio State High School Wrestling Championships, the Buckeyes were forced to play the Falcons in the old OSU Ice Arena, a 1,000 seat facility that was the old home of the Buckeyes through 1998.  It marked the second time in three years that Buckeyes were evicted from their new digs by the wrestlers.

    • Wither the Spartans? By making the field, the Buckeyes assured that five of the six teams from the now-legendary 1998 West Regional at Yost Ice Arena made the 2009 field.  Princeton, Yale, Michigan, North Dakota, and Ohio State all played in Ann Arbor that season.  It marked Ohio State's first NCAA tournament berth and also their finest to date.  A 4-0 defeat of Yale meant the Buckeyes faced off with the Spartans of Michigan State on the campus of the University of Michigan in the "what fresh hell is this" game?  The Buckeyes defeated  second-seeded Michigan State 4-3 in overtime to advance to the first, and thus far only, Frozen Four in school history. 

    Northeast #2: North Dakota

    University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux

    North Dakota 2 seed vs. New Hampshire, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
    WCHA Regular Season Champions
    Record: 24-14-4
    Coach: Dave Hakstol (130-70-19)

    Scoring Summary:
    GFA GAA Diff.
    3.36 2.67 +0.69

    Leading Scorers:
    # Player G-A--Pts
    16 Ryan Duncan 19-19--38
    14 Brad Miller  6-29--35
    29 Chris VandeVelde 16-17--33

    Leading Scorers
    # Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
    31 Brad Eidsness 0.909 2.44 24-9-4

    Stats via

    One of the WCHA's traditional powers, the Fighting Sioux built off last season's Frozen Four appearance by winning MacNaughton Cup, awarded to the WCHA's regular season title for the first time since 2003-04.  This was a dramatic change from the three game losing skid to open the season, which included a 5-1 drubbing by Boston University in the season opener.  Standing 5-8-1 at the end of November, the Sioux put together a nice four game run in early December, only to bottom out with a fourth place finish at the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit, losing to Michigan State and Michigan Tech.  This down point was combined with the loss of senior defenseman Joe Finley, who had missed two months due to the lingering effects of a concussion.

    But, in classic North Dakota fashion, the Sioux have rallied in the second half of the season to put themselves right in the mix of the NCAA playoff picture.  In the 19 games since 2009 began, the Sioux have won 14, against two losses (to Saint Cloud and Wisconsin) and three ties.  The Sioux's defense is not their hallmark, but they also clearly score enough goals to make you pay for any lapses they may have on the blue line.  The return of Finley, a first round NHL pick, has galvanized the leadership positions of the team while providing stability on defense.  North Dakota's WCHA playoff run in Minneapolis, however, hit the stellar goaltending of Minnesota-Duluth's Alex Stalock, sending the Sioux to the consolation game.

    Quick Hits:

    • Close, but no cigar. In Dave Hakstol's four seasons as a player for the Fighting Sioux (1988-1992), he made the NCAA tournament just once.  In his first four seasons as the bench boss for his alma mater, the Fighting Sioux have made the Frozen Four each season, but have not won the title, a drought that extends back to 2000.

    • All in the Family. College hockey is no stranger to family legacies, and North Dakota's team this year is no exception.  It features, among others, David Toews, the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks' rising star (and former UND player) Jonathan Toews as well as Brett Hextall, the son of Ron Hextall, and great nephew of Dennis Hextall, who played at North Dakota in the 1960s. Unlike his dad and great uncle, Brett plays forward.  Finally, freshman forward Mario Lamoureux is the younger brother of Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, the Sioux netminder from 2004-08, and the son of Pierre Lamoureux, NoDak's netminder from 1979 to 1982.  Lamoureux's sisters Monique and Jocelyn are freshman forwards at Minnesota.

    Northeast #3: New Hampshire

    University of New Hampshire Wildcats

    3 seed vs. North Dakota, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
    2:00 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN2
    Record: 19-12-5
    Coach: Dick Umile (443-219-71)

    Scoring Summary:
    GFA GAA Diff.
    3.03 2.92 +0.11

    Leading Scorers:
    # Player G-A--Pts
    21 James van Riemsdyk 17-22-39
    19 Mike Sislo 18-10--28
    9 Peter LeBlanc 12-15--27

    # Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
    29 Brian Foster .910 2.45 18-10-4

    Stats via

    The Wildcats have had a decidedly up and down year. They started well, winning non-conference matchups with Rensselaer and Minnesota, then beginning their Hockey East schedule with a big 3-1 win over BU, but they immediately entered a stretch of nine games with only one win, going 1-5-3. Things steadied from there on out, ending with a very respectable 15-8-4 conference record, only to be immediately swept by a down Boston College team 5-3, 1-0 in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.

    This year's Wildcats are living on a knife's edge. They average 3.03 goals a game, but give up 2.92. That's 21st in the country in offense and 34th in defense. Junior Brian Foster has taken over in goal following the departure of Hobey Baker finalist Kevin Regan and has performed pretty well. He has a solid .910 save percentage, giving up 2.45 goals on 27.22 shots. Not bad, not great. Freshman Matt DiGirolamo is the backup, with an ugly .833/4.66 number in 4 games of action. Sophomore James van Riemsdyk is far and away the offensive leader with a 17-22--39 line. Mike Sislo (18-10--28) is the team's leading goal-scorer, but doesn't come close to van Riemsdyk's assist numbers.

    Quick Hits:

    • Power Outage. New Hampshire has been absolutely horrible on the power play, scoring on only 11.5% of their opportunities, which is good for 54th in the country. They've scored a mere 22 power play goals and given up 5 shorties, for a net 8.9% success rate. They've also had a rough go of it on the other end, languishing in 33rd on the penalty kill at 83.3%. Opponents have scored 31 power play goals and given up 7 shorthanded goals to the Wildcats, giving a net 86.9% success rate there.

    • Off the Bubble. There was a time when it was in doubt as to whether UNH would make the tournament and be able to take advantage of their role as host school in Manchester. They were #13 in the Pairwise as late as January 26, following a home-and-home sweep at the hands of BU. But they pulled themselves up, going 8-2-1 to close the regular season and assure themselves of a berth.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Midwest #1: Notre Dame

    University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

    Notre Dame 1 seed vs. Bemidji State, Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
    7:30 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN Classic
    CCHA Regular Season Champions
    CCHA Tournament Champions
    Record: 31-5-3
    Coach: Jeff Jackson (285-99-39, .708)

    Scoring Summary:
    GFA GAA Diff.
    3.44 1.64 +1.80

    Leading Scorers:
    # Player G-A--Pts
    11 Erik Condra 13-24--37
    22 Calle Ridderwall 17-15--32
    25 Christian Hanson 16-15--31

    # Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
     1 Jordan Pearce 0.934 1.61 30-5-3

    Stats via

    Notre Dame entered the season with high expectations.  Making the Frozen Four as a #4 seed, and having survived a 6-5 OT game with fellow CCHA member Michigan in the National Semifinals, the Irish, playing in their first national championship game, fell to Boston College 4-1.  A 3-3-0 start in October, including a sweep at the hands of Miami in South Bend, dampened enthusiasm for a bit.  Then, the Irish went on an absolute tear, not losing again for 19 straight games (and winning the three shootouts it was involved in) until falling to Michigan 2-1 in South Bend on January 30.  One other loss at Ohio State in their next 11 had put Notre Dame near the top of the national poll for much of the season and helped it finish five points clear of Michigan and Miami in the CCHA this season.  The two games at the Joe for the CCHA semis and finals show Notre Dame's grit, getting a game winner against Northern Michigan less than 30 seconds after Northern had tied the game late in the third period, and then scoring five unanswered goals against Michigan in the CCHA Final to claim their second Mason Cup in three years.

    Notre Dame's leadership clearly starts on the goal line with Alaska native Jordan Pearce, their senior netminder.  Pearce, part of Jackson's first recruiting class at Notre Dame, patiently waited for his shot behind David Brown (he of the 30-6-3 record in 2006-07 when Notre Dame was the #1 seed in Grand Rapids only to be upset by MSU) and has been stellar between the pipes for the Irish.  Pearce has been nearly impossible to pierce, allowing just 58 goals all season and posting eight shutouts.  While Notre Dame can score, they do not need to very often with Pearce between the pipes.  (By the way, a personal rant here for a moment:  While Alaska's Chad Johnson has been a lot of the reason for Alaska's turnaround this year (a .939 save percentage is pretty exceptional even if Johnson is just .500 on the season), did the CCHA voters decide that Michigan State's Jeff Lerg deserved a lifetime achievement award for his 9-20-3, 2.94 GAA senior campaign?  I realize that goalies are not just about wins and losses, but Pearce's exclusion from the first two all-CCHA teams this year is mildly unfathomable.  OK, rant over.)

    Quick Hits:

    • Housing Starts. Notre Dame hockey will receive a major boost in 2011-12 when a brand new on-campus area will replace the Joyce Center, it of the "pay no attention to that hockey team behind the curtain" as the home of Irish hockey.  A two sheet facility (one Olympic), coach Jeff Jackson's efforts in turning the Irish into perennial contenders in hockey have helped open the checkbooks of potential donors for this new facility.

    • Losing Lockert. The Irish lost their radio voice of seven years this season when Mike Lockert passed away at the age of 44.  A radio veteran, Lockert's affiable style was widely commented upon, as was the rarity of an African-American play-by-play voice for college hockey.

    • Awkwardly Phrased. Last season, the Detroit Red Wings' Brett Lebda became the first "Notre Dame player to skate in the CCHA" to win the Stanley Cup.  This also means he is the first "Notre Dame player to skate in the CCHA to win the Stanley Cup to drop the Cup at Cheli's Chili Bar and cause a significant dent to the Cup."

      (By the way, some research indicates that Bill Nyrop, who won three Cups with Montreal in the 1970s, was the first Notre Dame player to win the Stanley Cup. He played at ND before they joined the CCHA)