Monthly Archives: May 2010

Lt. Tom Harmon in front of his B-25, "Little Butch"

Michigan is a school with a remarkable football history, and on a Memorial Day where we remember the people who have sacrificed everything to defend this country, it is appropriate to remember a couple of remarkable people who happened to also excel on the football field for the Wolverines. Tom Harmon was a Heisman Trophy winner and budding Hollywood star when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot in 1941, while Bob Chappuis interrupted what would become a brilliant collegiate career to serve in the Air Force as a radio operator and aerial gunner from 1943-1945.

I won’t write at length on these two men, as others have already done the job much better than I could ever do. On this Memorial Day, I can only recommend that you take a minute to read up on these two great Michigan Men: check out Fredric Alan Maxwell’s 2008 piece in the Michigan Today on Harmon, and Time Magazine’s 1947 feature on Fritz Crisler’s Wolverine squad (one which would capture the national title) for details on Chappuis’ time spent behind enemy lines. They are both well worth your time.

To all the troops out there, as well as their friends and families, we truly appreciate everything you do to keep our great country safe and secure. Have a great Memorial Day, everyone.


I don’t even need to add any further description than what YouTube gives us on this one: “Former Notre Dame Wide Reciever and Seattle Seahawks rookie Wide Receiver Golden Tate, a Taylor Swift fan sings ‘Love Story'”

Between this and the worst school-produced music video ever created, Notre Dame has turned this into the summer of, um, making fun of Notre Dame. Enjoy your weekend, everybody.

[HT: Boiled Sports]

Well, this should come as no surprise to anyone:

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Former University of Michigan football star Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner, was one of 14 individuals named as a 2010 inductee in the College Football Hall of Fame today (Thursday, May 27). The announcement was made at NASDAQ marketplace in New York City.

Howard is the only former Heisman Trophy winner in this year’s class of inductees. He is currently a college football analyst on ESPN’s College Football GameDay Show and works the Detroit Lions preseason football games as an analyst on the TV broadcasts.

Howard was a consensus All-American, Maxwell Award winner and the Walter Camp Player of the Year during the 1991 season. In addition, Howard became the first receiver in history to lead the Big Ten Conference in scoring and he set or tied five NCAA records and 12 single-season Michigan records during his senior year.

Howard finished his U-M career with 134 receptions for 2,146 yards and 32 touchdowns. He holds Michigan season records for most touchdowns (23) and points scored (138). Howard was a two-time All-Big Ten first team selection and still holds the conference record with 19 receiving touchdowns during the 1991 season. He graduated from Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.

Howard parlayed his outstanding collegiate career into an 11-year professional football career. Selected by the Washington Redskins with the fourth overall pick of the 1992 NFL Draft, Howard also played with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions during his career. He became the first special teams player to be named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXI as a member of the Packers. His 99-yard kickoff return against the New England Patriots is a Super Bowl record and his 870 punt return yards in a single season remain an NFL best mark. Howard was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2000 while playing for the Lions.

Since concluding his playing career after the 2002 season, he has been inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame, the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame, the University of Michigan Hall of Honor and the State of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

Howard and his wife, Rebkah, reside in Miami, Fla. They have a daughter, Sydney, and twin boys, Dhamir and Desmond Jr.

Howard will be honored at the National Football Foundation’s Annual Awards Dinner in New York City at the Waldorf-Astoria on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010.

Congrats to Desmond, who is not only one of the greatest athletes to don a Michigan uniform, but also a man I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting and interviewing — he’s a great guy and a person who does a lot to give back to the University. I’d be remiss to not include a couple videos, in case you’ve somehow forgotten why he is Hall of Fame-worthy:

Michigan will kick off the 2010 season against Connecticut at 3:30 on ABC/ESPN2, and two weeks later will kick off against UMass at noon on the Big Ten Network, according to a school press release:

PARK RIDGE, Ill. — The University of Michigan Athletic Department, the Big Ten Conference and its television partners announced today (Wednesday, May 26) the starting time and television network for football home games against Connecticut and Massachusetts. The announcement was made regarding games played during the first three weeks of the season.

The rededication game of renovated Michigan Stadium will be played at 3:30 p.m. EDT against Connecticut on Sept. 4. The game will be televised regionally by ABC. The remainder of the country that does not get the game on ABC will be able to view it on ESPN2.

The final game time and TV selection announced during the early season was the match-up against Massachusetts. The Wolverines initial appearance on the Big Ten Network will take place against the Minutemen on Sept. 18. The nationally televised affair will kickoff at noon EDT from the Big House.

This will be the first time that Michigan has faced either school.

The remaining games will be chosen on a six- or 12-day provision per the contract with the networks.

For up-to-date kickoff times and TV broadcast information for current and future schedules, make sure to check out the current/future schedule page — I’ll keep it updated every time new information is released.

The constant media coverage of Michigan’s football woes — both on and off the field — under Rich Rodriguez has given fans a lot of opportunities to think about the state of the program, and what they value as supporters of the Wolverines. Since the Free Press first “broke” the “story” that Michigan had exceeded their allotted practice time, I have been 100% behind Rich Rodriguez and his staff.

Now, after seeing Michigan self-impose sanctions against the football program, I feel conflicted as a fan.

Do I still support Rodriguez? Yes. He is still our football coach, and he is building a program his way in the face of constant (and often unfair) criticism from Michigan supporters and outside detractors alike. I don’t believe he is any more of a sleazebag than any other college football coach, and his awkward, bumbling attempts at facing the media have actually endeared him to me — he is clearly a football coach just trying to coach some football, and I can respect that. I believe that, if given the opportunity, he can build a very successful — and clean — program at Michigan.

Do I still think that will happen? I’m not sure. Whether it’s fair or not, Rodriguez will have to win now, in his third year, and avoid any further embarrassment in the process, to save his job, while facing a tough schedule with what is still a very young team. I truly believe that Michigan’s quickest path back to success is through Rodriguez, and starting over with a new coach will only prolong this period of discontent. At the same time, I’m tired of being an outspoken fan without a lot to say to opposing fans — “just wait ’til 2011” isn’t the world’s best comeback, and the constant mocking from Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State fans is getting close to unbearable. While the rational fan in me wants to give Rodriguez time, the irrational fanatic in me needs to see a powerhouse in progress or a change in leadership. Which side is right? I have no idea.

The coaching staff isn’t the only thing I feel conflicted about. How, as Michigan fans, do we view the Detroit Free Press? I know how 99% of Michigan fans will respond to that question, and I tend to side with them — the issues with the Freep’s initial story, how they went about getting it, and how overblown it became make it impossible for me to read their paper without expecting an anti-Michigan bias, and I can’t in good conscience support what they do there.

At the same time, while they missed by several degrees of magnitude just how much Michigan violated the rules, they did get something right — Michigan did violate the rules, and there were clearly major problems in the compliance department that led to a failure to properly monitor the football program. You could argue those rules are archaic, not followed by anyone, a farce, but they’re in the book, and as a Michigan fan I expect Michigan teams to follow the letter of the law — we are not Michigan if we are not one of the upstanding programs in the country. The Freep found a story they could run with, and run with it they did — I still think the way they handled the story was an embarrassment to journalism, but part of me is strangely glad they did it. I want to know if we’re cheating, whether it’s by 20 minutes a week or two hours a day, and now we can make the proper changes so that this doesn’t happen again, ever.

It’s a strange time to be a Michigan fan. We’ve been beaten down by the worst stretch of football in decades and an off-field investigation that feels like an attack on our status as a preeminent program in the country and an example for other schools to follow — not an example of how not to run a program. Our fanbase is divided over what to do about our coach, and what level of institutional failure is acceptable in Ann Arbor before heads roll and the direction of the program changes. One could easily make the argument that these past few years have been harder on Michigan fans than any other fanbase in the country.

Right now, all I want is to see us field a successful football team. How we do that, when it happens, and who is in charge when it happens, well, all that is very up in the air right now. I hope sometime soon we will find certainty.

I’ve got to fire this post off quickly before heading to class, but obviously today was a huge day for the Michigan football program, as they announced their self-imposed penalties in response to the NCAA investigation into practice-time violations. Here is the university’s response in its entirety, and here is the short version:

  • Michigan reduced its quality staff by 40 percent — from five to three — and will prohibit it from attending practices, games or meetings for the rest of 2010. Despite a new NCAA rule that allows quality control staff to attend meetings, Michigan won’t allow this to happen until 2011.
  • The football program will forfeit 130 hours of practice time during the next two years. The university found that the football program exceeded limits on football activities by a total of 65 hours in 2008 and 2009, so it simply doubled the total for its self-imposed penalty.
  • Michigan will issue letters of reprimand to seven people it deems responsible for the violations: Mike Barwis, Scott Draper, Brad Labadie, Joe Parker, Rich Rodriguez, Judy Van Horn and Ann Vollano.
  • The university also acknowledges the dismissal of former graduate assistant Alex Herron, named in one of the NCAA’s allegations for “providing false and misleading information” to both NCAA and Michigan investigators. Herron was fired after Michigan received the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations in February.
  • By admitting to major violations, Michigan knows it will go on NCAA probation for two years, which doesn’t mean much unless more violations are committed.

These are the penalties most sane individuals with knowledge of the case expected, and — barring something very unexpected from the NCAA — the Wolverines will get off without any loss of postseason play, recruiting time, or scholarships, a punishment which fits the (relatively minor) crime. Brian, as usual, hits the nail on the head with his analysis of the situation:

If there is anyone out there still defending the original article as something other than a one-sided hit job that cost Michigan thousands of dollars and should cause any Michigan fan to boycott the Free Press until the people who wrote and edited it are gone, read the PDFs. Just a couple days ago someone was complaining that characterizing the violations as “stretching” was a dishonest representation of the violations and hurt the site’s credibility. It’s true that there is a tale of sordid institutional miscommunication buried in the documents, but “warm-up and stretching” is literally 90% of the hourly overages. The QC issues came because Rodriguez thought they were classified as S&C assistants, which they were not.

Compare that—a very serious document that will have consequences if it is wrong—to the Free Press report detailing lurid excesses, student abuse, and complete disregard for NCAA regulations. If newspapers cared about truth in reporting as much as the university does about its compliance with NCAA regulations, everyone involved with the story would be looking for a new job.

Michigan will go before the NCAA August 13-14 for a final hearing in which the NCAA can hand down additional punishment, but that seems highly unlikely in this case. Now, I hope, we can put all this behind us and focus on football. By now, we are all Allen Iverson — sick of talking about practice, man, practice.

Class of 2010 goalie Jack Campbell chose to play in the OHL over attending Michigan.

Puck Daddy has some interesting news, both for fans of college hockey and video gamers — EA Sports has confirmed that the players and teams from all three junior leagues that form the Canadian Hockey League (the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL) will be in the next installment of their NHL series. The key passage for us Michigan fans is this:

Unlike in video games featuring NCAA sports where player names are made up due to the amateur status of the athletes, the CHL’s inclusion of player names in NHL 11 is to help bring greater awareness to junior hockey according to WHL commissioner Ron Robison.

From Buzzing the Net:

“We view this purely as a promotional exercise. There is really no financial benefit to the Canadian Hockey League or our teams or players. We were just delighted to be asked to be part of it … No, it’s not a commercial venture; it’s really a promotional venture from our standpoint to elevate the awareness of our program.”

With college hockey teams directly competing with the OHL for prospects, anything that increases the exposure for the CHL is probably to the detriment of the college game. As a hockey prospect looking for exposure, having your likeness appear in a top-selling video game has a great appeal, and while there are high-selling games out there for college football, there is no EA Sports College Hockey. Even if there was a college hockey game, as stated above, collegiate players’ amateur status means that their name (and, technically, their likeness, though EA has caught some legal heat for blurring the lines in that regard) can’t appear in the game — that isn’t an issue with the pros in the CHL. It may sound a little crazy, but when selling 16- and 17-year-old prospects on a hockey league, it certainly doesn’t hurt to show them that they’ll be in a video game if they sign on the dotted line.

It has always been tough for college hockey coaches to convince star prospects that spending four years playing in college for free can be a better option than getting paid to play minor league hockey (without having to go to school) — just this past year, Michigan lost the commitment of top goalie prospect Jack Campbell when he signed with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and sophomore forward Robbie Czarnik left the team in the middle of the season to play for the Plymouth Whalers. That task may have become a bit tougher now that EA has partnered with the CHL.