Friday, April 11, 2014

Basketball Transfer, Princess Lacey and About That Spring Game

Basketball Wrap and….Uh-Oh

Before I officially hang up the MMPG hat, there’s a couple of things you need to know:
Under the heading of Whiskey – Tango – Foxtrot:  Horford has applied for and received arelease in order to transfer…See all the details at mgoblog.com.  My reaction – I don’t get it.  They guy is blossoming in this offense, has one season of eligibility left, and wants to leave what could potentially be a Final 4 team next year to go where….Florida?  Good luck and godspeed…I guess….
Princess Lacey - Rest In Peace:  I have to admit that even an old, hardened Maize and Blue Heart was greatly saddened when I learned that Adrien Payne's friend passed away on Tuesday...Payne and his journey with Lacey that was very well chronicled on the BTN made it hard for me to not root for the Spartans a little in their Championship run knowing they were trying to help make her dream come true, also.  This one's tough....



 
I think a brief summary of the Monday night National Title game is in order.
Kentucky Lost.  Yeah!!!!!

Congrats U-Conn.  Both Men’s and Women’s.  And the women beat the domers, so there’s kind of a double bonus in that. 
With respect to everyone declaring and the NBA draft status and all that….I’ll hope that Robinson and McGary get less than stellar ratings.  And wish Stauskas the best of luck.
Spring Football
I’ve now seen the Spring Game more or less in its entirety as I was not able to catch it in any single session.  And I can say this:
I’m nervous.

In years past, a lousy spring game with KNOWN commodities on the offensive and defensive side of the ball didn’t bother me at all; in fact, I used to think that coaches were purposefully not giving anything away to the competition by making Michigan look as atrocious in the Spring Game as they possibly could.  You know, kind of a reverse psychology thing.  “Here’s our tape from the Spring Game!  You don’t have to worry about us!”
But, in this case, with a completely re-vamped O-Line and – No, that’s not the right word – with an offensive line that was more or less a fire-bombed Studebaker (yeah, those ARE the right words!) I was hoping to see some serious running from the line of scrimmage that resulted in positive gains down field.  I didn’t see much of that.  I was also hoping to see schemes from the New O-Coordinator that would give Gardner options and people to throw to…Didn’t see a whole lot of that, either.

What I did see were a couple of underthrown passes (Okay – the broken toe thing and I’m sure he didn’t see a ton of practice time) and some otherwise mediocre play…
I guess after last year’s complete train wreck there’s little reason to look forward to anything this season…But it can’t get much worse…Can it?  I mean, we already HAD our 2008.  We shouldn’t have to suffer through that again….But I was hoping for improvement.  The offensive line is one of the most difficult units on the field to coordinate and coach correctly and right now, I’m not seeing it.  I hope Nussmeier recognizes this and starts to figure things out and decides quickly whether or not they have the right individual coaching that unit…Borges couldn’t hack it….

If you have watched the spring game, you probably also noticed that it seemed like the BTN was kind of…well…like a pre-teen ADHD sufferer that forgot to take their Ritalin.  The cameras were all over the place.  I was frustrated to the point of almost changing the channel after I had set aside time to actually take in the game.  I don’t know if they figured fans simply didn’t care about actual play on the field or we just wanted to see “who’s there” with a litany of cut-aways to coaches and former players. And cutaways in the middle of or during plays are kind of a pain in the ass….
10-11-14  Under the Lights
The PSU Kitty Kats will be back in the Big House for “Under the Lights” this season on October 11.  Based on seasons past, it’s either going to be really cool….Or really cool.  The Triple OT game against Sparty started out sunny and near 70 but had dropped about 30-35 degrees after the sun went down and as the fans left the stadium on that cool October evening…Well, I’m glad we won so we didn’t really feel how cold it was.  By the way, don’t forget to re-new your season tix.  Deadline is April 15th..

Logos
Well, in case you haven’t heard, the Florida State Seminoles have sealed their fate by messing with history….Eastern Michigan dumped the Huron Logo and mascot from its athletics and has literally been in athletic no-man's land ever since... Now, right after winning a Football NC, FSU has “Changed” Chief Oceola’s look and added “Florida State” on the feather….Personally, I could care less. However, FSU fans are vocally stating their overall “pissed offness” with the change and for good reason:  Everyone probably bought the old logo on a hat or T-shirt during FSU’s latest run.  And now to be “right” they are going to have to buy the new….

And when you do a little investigating, guess who was “pushing” the new design? Yeah…Nike.  They not only coughed up the money to do the deign but also put some money into the coffers of FSU to help get it approved…Just to sell more merchandise.
So, if I’m you’re an FSU fan and when things go bad next time around, you’ll have a handy point of reference as to what happened

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sorting Out Who To Root For This Weekend...And Footbuhl???

First, Congrats need to go out to the last B1G team playing other than Wiscy this season:  The Gophers win the NIT!  While around some of these parts, those are words that open up a joke, I think most fans know that it’s still something to hang your hat on as a fan and definitely something to build on moving forward….

With respect to what’s left of the NCAA’s and seeing as how I no longer have a dog (or bracket) in the fight, I believe I can objectively help all the casual fans that read this drivel figure out who they should be rooting for Saturday and then subsequently, Monday night.
EFFFFF-Kentucky.  I hate Kentucky and the Big Blue Nation and wish that Michigan would have somehow found a way to beat those clowns.  I hate-em, hate-em, hate-em….Everything Calipari represents is what’s wrong with college basketball.  I’m not saying Belein and others are right, I’m just saying I can’t stand that guy and his smarmy attitude and his vacated titles from Memphis and U-Mass.  And Kentucky loves the guy….Sheesh….So, there’s one easy one to eliminate from the 4.

Second, we hate the SEC.  I know, it’s not football…But we can still hate the SEC.  Therefore, Florida must go down to Ollie and the Huskies. 
Third, while I make fun of the Troll Center and the Grinch that coaches all the Bucky Badgers, I think it’s appropriate to allow yourself one game…This is hard to type…One game where you can sort of…Kind of…root for Wiscy.  I would like to see the B1G somehow vindicated in all of this and Wiscy winning a National Title would kind of get the B1G that exoneration.  But God…..that is really gonna leave a bad taste in my mouth….Not quite as bad as “Go Irish”, but I think you understand where I’m coming from.

Back to Futbol – Footbull – Football
In case you haven’t heard and you are some sort of soccer fan, this is happening at the Big House on August 2nd of this year (And they’re gonna’ have beer!):

 




If anyone is interested in getting tix, you can let me know me or any season ticket holder and they have some special options early next week for getting tix.  Personally, I could care less about this, but it might be kind of fun to sit in the Big House and drink an icy cold one watching a bunch of Hooligans go ape doo-doo on each other…Then again, I would be giving up a really nice day on the lake….
Tough call.
 
Spring Game

Football already?  Didn’t we just get over the pain of last season?  Why couldn’t we have stretched the hoops season out at least two more games and three more wins?
That would have been fun…Now, we have to turn to football…Except the Women’s Softball team and the Men’ Baseball Team are rolling pretty well this season, also…So there’s that. 

There’s a spring game Saturday at the Big House that really isn’t a game and it really won’t feature two teams against each other.  If you believe everything you hear things are going AWESOME and Michigan is literally on the verge of turning a corner now that Nussmeier is simplifying the offense and blah-blah-blah…..Yadda-yadda-yadda….
Look – I hate to seem pessimistic, but I was incredibly optimistic going into last season and all I saw was complete and utter regression on offense (with the exception of the ohio game) and a defense that was hamstrung with a lousy offense and could not achieve it’s potential due to the fact that they were on the field too long…

There’s a lot that needs to be proven to the fans this season and there’s lots of expectations.  The first one being:
Win the last game against the domers

Beat Sparty
Beat ohio

Come to think of it…Just win all the games on the schedule that you’re supposed to win and at least be competitive in the games you should be…
And everything will be fine…

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Game Is About to Change - II

Thank you to all who responded (via e-mail and some open discussion) and I’ve apparently found a topic that everyone has a pretty strong opinion on.  And I want to clear the air on a couple of things that I believe, before I get to the more intelligent (and less intelligent) salient points that people brought to my attention:

I am NOT PRO-UNION!!!  I never said I was for unions!!!  (Fergodsakes….You people read WAY too much into my comments!!!) In fact, the Federal Judge only ruled that the players (football) at NWU are in fact, employees….THAT’S IT!!!  But that ruling gives the players the right to unionize, if they so choose.  That’s all I was stating and I was trying to convey that this is actually a good thing for players…But there isn’t a union yet....
Whatever the case may be and however the players end up going about protecting their rights or getting what they have coming to them, I’m about as right-winged and anti-union as they come.  (Actually, I’m more Libertarian the older Iget – Go ahead, Take the 10 Question Test!)

The problem I have with the “system” is stated in the original post.  Today’s student athlete is so restricted by the rules laid down by the NCAA (which each D1 school is a part of) that they can’t even hold a dishwashing job in the dorm if they are on scholarship.  A student who is on a full-ride ACADEMIC scholarship can hold down a part time job, and they can work in THEIR FIELD OF STUDY and make money before they graduate!!!!  IF you are preaching that you are in support of fairness without unions, how does this sit with you?  My argument has been that if a student athlete can make money signing his autograph for 5 hours on a summer Saturday and he/she can make $5,000 doing it….LET THEM!!!!  That’s what I’m trying to get across.  This would not affect the universities revenue stream and the athlete is earning money on his own!!!  The union is the players’ only option at this point and the only leverage they have if this huge injustice is ever going to get addressed. 
No, I don’t want to see players “Going on Strike” at noon right before kick-off and having a sit-in on the 50 yard line while 100K fans and TV audiences sit there steaming – in fact, your MMQ suggested that exact thing happening awhile ago….But, I asked you then and I’ll repeat the question, what EXACTLY is keeping the student athletes from doing that today?  They don’t need a “union” to strike.  Nope….They are free to sit their collective heinies down on that field today if they so choose.

In short, NO – I DON’T WANT to see players in the NCAA unionized or playing under union rules!  To the person that asked if there was going to be coffee breaks during the 2 minute drill…really?  I’m trying to keep this serious…to a certain extent and that would really screw up the game.  And it’s not going to go anywhere near that far if cooler heads prevail and look at this thing reasonably.  Not only that, public universities will each be subject to the union rules of their state, so it’s moot as to how all this impacts them, anyway.
But The Students Aren’t Employees!!!:  To the person that e-mailed me this….That’s kind of what the judge ruled on and the judge disagreed with you.  The student athletes ARE in fact employees and they are “working” 50-60 hours or so per week in their endeavor and in fact are indirectly/directly generating revenue (huge amounts of revenue) for the university.  So, to your comment I can only say that you have been over-ruled by a federal judge.  I’m not saying he’s right…but he is a Federal Judge.  Please re-think that through for a minute and respond with a better comment – question to what it is you mean…exactly. 

TITLE IX:  Someone stated to me that if “money is given to the men’s varsity student athletes, it has to be given to the women’s varsity student athletes.  That’s what Title IX dictates.”  No argument – you’re right and that’s federal law.  However, not to put tooooo fine a point on it, there’s two interesting points in that statement you just made.
1.    Title IX dictates based on the fact that you are treating them like “Student Athletes”.  And the federal judge just ruled that football players are now “EMPLOYEES”.  So, what does that do to Title IX?  Is football and men’s basketball now a different entity because they are employees and not student athletes?  Is EVERYONE that is a student athlete now an employee and is Title IX toast?  All good questions…

2.    But, and this is the one point of power that University Athletic Departments will have left (and it’s really where the rubber hits the road), if the day comes when the “revenue generating athletes” are able to get additional money from the system, something will have to give.  And what happens across the country in every athletic program that exists is when the budget comes up short, programs get cut.  So, if the women’s crew team comes to the table filing a “friend of the court” brief stating that Title IX means they also get the same stipend as the men’s football and basketball team, if I am the AD, I will simply say, “Okay, ladies – Welcome to the Women’s Crew CLUB.  In other words, women’s and men’s non-revenue generating varsity sports programs will get cut to make ends meet.  It’s that simple and it happens all the time.  While I attended Michigan, they cut several Men’s programs that they simply could no longer afford to keep around or balance out with women’s programs.  So, go ahead and play your Title IX card, but it’s not gonna’ fly very long and you can kiss that scholarship and all the money associated with it good-bye.  Or, if your sport chooses to, you can forego the stipend and keep your sport.  Your call.
Full Cost of Scholarship:  To the person who responded with this and that it should solve a lot of the problems, yes, I also think this is inevitable and it will come to fruition.  For those that are not clear on this subject, read the article linked here. 
If you don’t want to read it, a quick summary is in order.  The NCAA more or less dictates what a “Full Ride Scholarship” is for any school that is participating in D1 sports.  They do an average and in the spirit of “Fairness”, they dictate that $30,000 annually is the amount that you can “give” to a student athlete in the form of tuition, books, room and board, etc.  I hope everyone can see the problem and quickly realize that not every university is going to have the same costs of education, room & board, etc.  So some schools have “extra” to give, where other schools (mostly the big boys) have to figure out creative ways to get student athletes money to “close the gap”.  Many of the Big 6 conferences have argued for full cost of scholarship and I think it’s going to happen sooner rather than later and yes, it will create a disadvantage for smaller schools, but also help the student athlete at larger schools.  But it still doesn’t completely address my concern regarding the student athlete’s freedom to make money outside of the university in his or he particular field of expertise.
That’s really the core of my issue.  Yes, I do think the university should protect the welfare of the student athlete and the case of severe injury, as someone else brought up and that’s the main reason in the Northwestern case:  The lifetime cost coverage of the individual that suffered the injury.  That should be something as simple as setting up an insurance policy for the collective group of athletes or by class or something that would trigger if symptoms or disabilities occur later in life.  There’s enough insurance guys around to figure it out and calculate a reasonable premium on a policy that all D1 schools pay into.  I’m actually a little shocked and disappointed that this already hasn’t happened.

What I really want to see is athlete’s to be given the freedom to work either inside or outside their field of expertise and make whatever money they can make – JUST LIKE ANY OTHER STUDENT ON SCHOLARSHIP OR OTHERWISE in good standing at the university! 
There’s a study that showed that D-Rob’s likeness, jersey, etc., made the University of Michigan almost $4M over the 4 years that D-Rob played there.  How much of that money do you think D-Rob saw?  (IF that is in fact the accurate number....I question the amount to a degree...)

Yes, that’s correct.  $0.
Is that fair?  Is it right? 

You tell me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

So, That's What It's Like To Get "Michigan'ed"???

During the 2nd half of the Tennessee game, I explained to my daughter that one of the keys to Michigan’s success this season has been that they make far fewer mistakes than their counterparts.  Fewer Fouls, Turnovers, they make more Free Throws and they miss a lot fewer shots than their opponents. And based on all those stats, Michigan has been successful even though they don’t play defense as well as the other team often times.

However, being a defensive minded guy due to, I dunno’….Football(?)  I still like to see good defense and I had a sneaking suspicion that Michigan might lose in this tourney in a shoot-out that went to 80 or 90 points.  But as long as the formula was working, I was happy and I still am happy to be a supporter of JB and the 3 Point Men and the exciting and winning style of hoops they have played all season…
Until you get a game like yesterday.   Two basketball giants (okay, maybe Michigan isn’t quite up there with Kentucky – but you get my point) that were playing at their best started trading shots and scoring at will.  Defense was an afterthought, sort of.  Kentucky tried taking away the perimeter and Michigan went inside to Mor-Ford for easy points in the paint.  Kentucky took what Michigan was giving and the two teams just slugged it out. 

However, when the other guy doesn’t make a mistake and plays the same game that you are beating everybody with…and maybe even plays it a little better its starts to get a little concerning.  Then, it’s like watching a mirror image of yourself, only they look to be a taller and better on defense than you…And they didn’t miss many of their shots late in the 2nd half.  And, with the score tied and the luxury of having the ball with the last shot, they literally “Burked” Michigan with 3 tics left on the ole’ clock…
Yeah…That sucks.

Still, when I looked at the numbers, Michigan played to their season and tourney averages.  They did not play a bad game; in fact, I’m sure this will be an instant classic as both teams had pretty good (if not great compared to 2 of the other elite 8 games) stat lines.   Michigan, however, had a couple of bad trips and crucial misses in the 2nd half.   And I’m going to go out and state here and now that the pivotal point in the game wasn’t actually IN the 2nd half, at least it wasn’t to this fan…  No, I would need to look to the first half when Michigan was up 10 and I had a thought, however brief, that the Wolverines needed to win the game “Right Now”!  Go out and play like you’re down 10 and hang another 10 on these guys and don’t take your foot off the gas.  Instead, UK came out a little motivated and tied it up going into the half.
That’s the one place I will give the other coach (I loathe) a little credit.  John Calipari used his time-outs whenever Michigan scored more than 6 points in a row.  He made sure that he was on top of the mo-mo and tried to nip it in the bud.  He knows his player and he has finally figured out that they are young and need to be smacked on the ole’ noggin more often vs. less often...

But…every season has to come to an end and in hoops, 67 teams that make it into the NCAA end the season with a loss…there’s no way to win the last game if you’re in the tourney.  No bowl you can hang your hat on.  Just a loss…and at least we can say Michigan’s was a good loss.  If there is such a thing.  A loss that the entire team can look back on and say they left it all out on the floor….
I hate to look at a B1G Championship Season coupled with an Elite 8 appearance and say that it’s somewhat of a disappointment.  However, I’m not sure how you categorize it if you’re not going to call it a disappointment.  This team played so well down the stretch and did so many amazing things that I truly believed they were the team to beat this year, regardless of what all the prognosticators said.  If UK wins the bid enchilada, we can at least say, “Well, there’s that.  We (again) lost to the eventual NCAA Champion.”

But I really believed Michigan was going to win it.
Now, that’s clearly not meant to be.  And I’m going to miss a lot of these players.  I’ve watched each game in the tourney thinking it MIGHT be the last, but a feeling crept in and hung around (even after Michigan tied it) and I didn’t like it.  It wasn’t the, “Okay…we tied it up and we are going to OT” feeling…It was the “Uh-oh…19 tics on the clock and the other guy has the last shot.  And they haven’t missed in like…forever.  I don’t like this…”

Yeah…THAT feeling.
Hence is why I really wasn’t ready to write this post this AM.  I was anticipating a Final Four Weekend and was looking forward to a Monday night against either Florida or UConn.

Still, I have to give the team and coaching staff a lot of credit.  Everyone else had more or less said Michigan was out of the national picture after McGary opted for back surgery.  They pretty much proved all the critics wrong and the Wolverines were within 3 points of REALLY proving them wrong…That’s hoops - so close…and yet so far away.
The Rest of the Mess

After Wiscy pulled off the miracle in OT against the other wildcats, I was really thinking that 3 B1G teams were going to the Final Four to face Florida, with Michigan being the iffy-est one to get in.  Sparty however, as much as this pains me to say it, reverted back to their mid-season ways with lousy shooting and too many turnovers.  Yes, as someone else pointed out, how does UConn get a game in MSG that close to “home”?  I’m not sure, but I had the same question about Big Blue Nation (not Michigan…Kentucky) lucking out as an 8 seed at Lucas Oil which is a short drive from the Blue-Grass state. 
But I digress…Sparty also upset me in that I really wanted them in the Final 4.  I wanted Michigan and Sparty there to shut everybody up about the strength of the B1G.  Sparty just couldn’t get out of its own way and while they kept it close, I felt Sparty Nation’s pain when, down 5 with 0:30 left on the clock, Apple fouled Shabazz on a 3 point shot and fouled out of the game…It kind of was a final punctuation on a very disappointing game and season for Apple.  If I am a Sparty…it’s a little bitter sweet that he’s leaving.  I’m happy for what he was able to do for me over his career, but at the same time, I’m glad he’s gone. (As a Michigan Slappy, I wish he had another year of eligibility!!!)

I wanted a B1G final that featured the State of Michigan and I wanted to get revenge on Sparty and catch them napping. 
But again, there were a couple of hurdles that needed to be overcome first. 

Was there any measure of success in either of these teams or will they both be looked at as “seasons of failure?”  I guess if you had to measure one team by what was expected coming into the season, then Sparty’s failure surpasses Michigan’s by leaps and bounds.  Sparty was a “Certain” Final 4 team, Championship Favorite, and sat at the number 1 rank in the early season after beating Kentucky in the non-con and before the injuries.  When everyone came back, they returned to favor among the talking heads after the B1G Tourney.  THIS prognosticator questioned the validity of it, however, predicting that Sparty might not make the Final 4 as you just can’t get all the pieces working in sync again in that short time period.  There’s a reason you play pre-season and conference schedules.  Even in basketball.
So, yes…Sparty’s failure was much greater when measured against expectations, but Michigan’s pain is equally as bad if not more so, in my opinion.  Maybe more so for the followers of Michigan who knew what this team was truly capable of and had seen it time and time again.  And Michigan didn’t have a mid-season “slump” where the entire fan base figured it was over and had written the team off.  Sparty to a man had more or less done that and the 3 wins in the NCAA’s could be considered gravy when you look at what had to be overcome. 

However you want to look at it, I guess.  Green and Blue colored glasses, anyone?
Moving forward, GRIII and Stauskas are probably gone, even though I think it’s still way too early to make a prediction on either player at this point.  Morgan is gone because he’s done but there will be a strong contingent of players that return next season.  Plus McGary and a strong freshmen class and well….

Who knows??? 
Bracketology
ESPN stated that out of the 11 million brackets that were received, there are currently around 600 that have the Final 4 correct.  600 people (which is kind of amazing) didn’t take Arizona and Michigan State, two of the most popular championship picks.  Interesting….
If you had TOLD me that one of the teams between UConn and Kentucky were going to make the Final 4, I would have shook my head and said, no…I’ve watched way more basketball than that and I can tell you that there’s no way either one of those teams can win 4 in a row against that competition….not to mention that they BOTH made it.  UConn lost 84-48 against Louiville 2 weeks prior to the NCAA's...And Kentucky through the Midwest?  Through Wichita State?  Through Louisville?  And Michigan?  Ha! You're crazy....
No way…
Which, so much for know anything when it comes to the brackets. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Game Is About To Change...

I know it's Thursday in the 2nd weekend of the NCAA's and I should be thinking nothing but hoops right now as we are less than 4 hours away from tip-off, but the MMQ had to make an apperance...

Sue me.

Based on the Federal Judge Ohr’s ruling in the Northwestern case that players are in fact well within the definition of “Employee”, the game of college athletics is about to change…dramatically.  Maybe not quickly, especially at large, public universities, but it is going to change.

While I understand this is a VERY divided topic, even the collective MMQ family can’t come together and have a civil conversation on it.  The Matriarch of the MMQ Clan believes the Student Athlete is getting PLENTY of compensation for the chance to play any sport at the collegiate level. The MMQ believes that while the average student  athlete is getting a great deal in scholarship money and everything that goes with it, the super athlete should be allowed to go out and make his own commercial deals if he’s capable.
On a bit of a side note that hopefully helps you better understand where I’m coming from on this, I believe everything changed for me when in 1972, Title IX forced universities to have equal opportunities for men and women in college sports.  Simply put, you had to have a balance in your collegiate athletic programs of men and women.  Which, on the face of it, makes complete sense.

Until you consider football.  At 85 scholarship players, it is by far the largest participation sport of any other sport on campus.  When I was old enough to understand it all, I argued at the time that I agreed with Title IX.  However, football should be eliminated from the count.  There is no female sport that complements football.  Nothing even comes close.  And if you have to count football, it would deny too many men’s Olympic sports a spot in the Varsity line-up that are traditionally played in collegiate athletics.
Of course, that didn’t happen.  Even though this has to be the most grossly un-fair piece of legislation ever passed…And this is coming from a guy with 2 daughters.  I get the importance of having equal opportunity for men and women…but not when you take away opportunities from men in the process. 

Well, here we are 40 years later and the “success” of Title IX is still being debated and there are some people a whole lot smarter than yours truly that have actually taken my side on this issue.  But, that’s not the point of today’s entry – at least, not in its entirety. 
Did you know that Desmond Howard is not allowed to sign the picture of himself striking the Heismann pose in the end zone on the kick-off return TD against ohio if a fan presents it to him and asks for his signature?  Why not?  He doesn’t OWN THE PICTURE and he is currently being sued because he did exactly that. He signed his likeness on a photo he didn’t own.  But he is countersuing.  Why? He made it.  Without Des, there is no picture.  He was the one that performed the task and scored the TD and won the Heismann.  Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

That’s where I have a HUGE issue with all of this, and that’s only the beginning.
Today, you now have athletic budgets that are literally bursting at the seams with money from donors, ticket sales and TV deals.  How bad has it gotten?  I wrote last September in an earlier MMQ the following:

Another potential land mine that universities and the NCAA alike are going to need to deal with sooner rather than later is the APU “All Players United” movement. Players are finally getting their act together and realizing that the product they are responsible for putting on the field, albeit through the organization, branding, and effort of the parent institutions that they are playing for, is worth more to the players because the resulting product is worth a LOT more to the institutions than it’s EVER BEEN in the history of collegiate athletics. A little quick research revealed that the athletic budget for the University of Michigan in 1975 was less than $4,000,000. That’s not a typo….$4 million. In 2000, Michigan’s AD budget was $35,000,000. Today, Michigan’s 2013 Athletic Budget is $133,000,000, a 4X increase from 13 years ago. (The BTN alone gives each B1G conference member an annual cash in-flow of $25M and growing) I’m not saying that student athletes, for the most part, aren’t receiving just reward (education, health care, room & board, etc.) while playing for a university in any sport, and that cost annually at Michigan is somewhere between $75K-$100K for each athlete that’s on scholarship. I’m saying that the amount of money involved for the Big 6 Power Conferences has never been greater on a relative basis (money per student athlete), and it doesn’t look like that curve is about to tip in the downward direction. But, instead of coming out and acknowledging that fact, what do a collective of D1 Athletic Directors do instead? They come out in unified voice that Pay for Play is not only wrong, but it will NEVER be part of what is otherwise a highly managed system of integrity…..for the student athletes, of course…by the Universities.

The numbers from above haven’t changed. And what I neglected to mention was that the “employees” of the two biggest money makers for the athletic departments, Football and Basketball (MEN’S), generate or help to generate between 85%-90% on average, the entire athletic budget.
Put simply, you have a very “unbalanced” workforce in the football and basketball programs generating revenue for the university athletic departments. 

Now, I have heard the universities arguments and in the spirit of fairness, I will put one of them here:  Without the institutions and the brand of these universities, there would be no income for these individuals.  In other words, these 18-22 year olds could not go out and start their own “Developmental Football League” and expect to generate any interest or for that matter, revenue due to the fact that there wouldn’t be any fan interest.  I will give the universities this point.  Bravo.  Without the institution, the kids would just be good football players waiting to go pro killing time in a developmental league. 
But, and I will cite the Ivy League for my example, with just a bunch of average student athletes, and by average I mean average athletically, these institutions would not be vying for the National Championships and undefeated seasons that they all desperately want.  So, the university “needs” the capable student-athlete (again, in the athletic sense) in order to be able to generate the revenue streams and maintain the fan interest that they enjoy today  - which pays the bills for ALL the other athletic programs within the university.  In this case, the universities need them more than they need the university.

Point to the Student Athlete.
Oh wait - You're not convinced?  Okay, let's probe a little deeper.  What the universities have allowed to happen is the same thing that happens in any capital endeavor where the demand is constant and the need to feed the corporate beast cannot be contained:  In a word, GREED.  I define corporate greed as the greed that occurs at every level in the corporate process.  From the consumer, to the worker making the goods all the way up to the CEO who gets stock options.  But now you have it in the most heralded of all institutions:  College Universities.

Why did Michigan add luxury boxes?  Why does the football calendar allow for 12 games when there only used to be 9?  Why were more bowls added to a system that originally had 1 (a hundred years ago) and then slowly built up to 4 and now stands at 37?  Why did bowls go from a break-even proposition to a $25M payout for the National Championship?  Why did ticket prices go from $10 in the 1970’s to $100 to $120 for premium games in 40 years (a 10x increase)?
The University BRAND did all that? REALLY?

The product on the field and the athletes participating had NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OF THAT???
Excuse the MMQ while I reset the BS meter….

Why SHOULDN’T the Student Athlete that helps generate this revenue get something out of it?  Or should I say, something more out of it then their education especially if they are the ones who are directly affecting the increase in revenues??  And more importantly, they are the ones putting themselves in harm’s way and taking the risk?
I’m not denying a collegiate female cross country runner the opportunity to go out and get a shoe endorsement.  Or a golfer to go out and endorse Titleist.  In fact, I would encourage her to do just that.  But the same should go for a kid like Denard Robinson who’s best endorsement opportunity(s) was during his 4 years at the University of Michigan.  We all thought that his chances in the pros would be marginal at best.  Yet, Denard was denied an opportunity to capitalize on his likeness and his ability while he was in his prime.

That’s Wrong…In so many ways.  Just like Desmond not being able to autograph a picture of himself 20 years after the fact.
If this ruling helps get that and all these problems fixed or at least on the road to being fixed…I’m all for it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Michigan Take

So, I’ve given the Monday rundown of the NCAA’s first weekend and all the exciting things that happened, but I haven’t had a chance to share thoughts and feelings (Maybe:  REASONS?)  about how this Michigan team is going about its business.  Rather than pen in my usual way, I figured I’d list them here in order to give you all reasons to understand why this is more than likely a Final Four team and then, who knows?

  1.  First, we all need to acknowledge that JB won his 700th game as a head coach.  Way to go coach!
  2. We need to recognize that we don’t need to be “scared” Michigan fans anymore.  This team literally plays with a confidence that started back when Novak was still here and that transferred to Burke and now Stauskas wears that confidence like a badge of honor.
  3. Several people I was watching the game with all agreed that “Stauskas is a cocky little SOB.” 
  4. True.....But he’s OUR COCKY LITTLE SOB!!! 
  5. Remember that!
  6. This team is never out of it…Even when they really APPEAR to be out of it…
  7. Repeat that a couple of times….
  8. There are several of you out there (And you KNOW WHO YOU ARE) that seem to forget that….
  9. (I HAVE THE TEXTS!!!!)
  10. Did you repeat it?
  11. Do it again…THIS TEAM IS NEVER OUT OF IT!!!
  12. Please re-watch the Sweet 16 game from last year when Michigan was down 10 with 2 minutes to go in regulation against Kansas...
  13. McGary believed and delivered. 
  14. Trey Burke believed and delivered.
  15. And both those guys are GONE!!!
  16. (Okay – one is still here, but not contributing.)
  17. But this ain’t no SPARTY BLOG.
  18. NO EXCUSES!
  19. But could you imagine if McGary were out there right now?
  20. And healthy?
  21. Which kind of goes without saying I guess…
  22. But the Winning continues without MM!!! 
  23. That should really help you understand the JB philosophy and coaching style.
  24. Don’t panic, let them play.
  25. Zone defense?  No problem.  Death From Above will handle that.
  26. Man to Man??  Bring it.  The dribble drive will manage that…
  27. 1-3-1?  Sure, love it.  Lookeee what J-Mo can do!
  28. In other words:  Offense wins. 
  29. This is not your father’s basketball game anymore.
  30. Forget the 80’s.
  31. The twin towers are over….
  32. So is the Big East
  33. And 90’s…
  34. Yeah, the Fab Five was awesome…But did they accomplish more?
  35. I DON’T THINK SO!!!
  36. Yeah, Two Championship games…With No Championship.
  37. And no outright B1G Title!!!
  38. That’s still worth something!  Ask Sparty….
  39. Basketball Defense is over-rated.  It’s all about Offense….
  40. And I LIKE IT!
  41. Everyone just needs to accept the fact that Michigan can score.  Period.
  42. Once you have accepted that fact in your life, THINK with an offense oriented bias and everything becomes readily clear.
  43. That nagging feeling that the shooters will go cold? 
  44. Fuhgeddaboutit!
  45. Water in the NCAA tourney seeks its own level.  But I believe this team is pumped up and ready to prove that last year wasn’t a “fluke”.
  46. Has anyone else noticed in the last 5 games that Stauskas has taken the first shot?
  47. And he’s made it?
  48. FROM THE 3 POINT LINE???
  49. OSU – 3 Pointer
  50. Illinois – 3 Pointer
  51. Sparty – 3 Pointer
  52. Wofford –3 Pointer
  53. Texas- 3 Pointer…
  54. That’s a three from the top of the key, folks….
  55. Every Time….
  56. That’s a statement.
  57. What’s he saying?
  58. What DO YOU THINK he’s saying?
  59. Only Stauskas knows…
  60. Me?  I think it’s something like this:
  61. “I’ve got this.  You can’t stop it.  I CAN do this all night.”
  62. …Bitches….
  63. (At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what Stauskas is thinking!)
  64. Am I scared of Tennessee?
  65. Doesn’t matter what I think…Or what YOU think.
  66. If this team admits fear…They’ve already lost.
  67. And They Are NOT The Type of Players Who Fear ANYONE….
  68. Remember that.
Hey!  Look at that….68 reasons to believe. 
Coincidence? 
I think NOT!!!  So, while you and I might sweat the fact that the Volunteers have beaten some really good teams, Michigan is a 1 point dog and Kenpom has the Volunteers ranked higher than Michigan….
Fear not. 
These are not the Wolverine Basketball Players you used to know…These are the guys that are usually on the other side of the bench and has Michigan fans scratching their heads…
Instead, these are scoring demons that will make THE OTHER teams sit back and say,
 

Whiskey…Tango…Foxtrot….How do you STOP THIS???”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekend 1 - Whew!!!!

MADNESS….

Yes indeed – the pretenders are getting separated from the Contenders and 16 remain to vie for the National Title.  1/3 of the challenge for the 16 teams that remain has been completed with 4 difficult games left for the Champion and the Runner Up. 

Sweet 16 Bracket Update….Let’s run through each region and review the teams that made it (MMQ’s picks in BOLD) and some of the more noteworthy games and or misfortunes of teams in that particular bracket…

West Region:  Zona – SDSU–   Wiscy – Baylor

Tim Miles ended Nebraska’s incredible season on a sour note as a 1 and done against hot shooting Baylor.  I had only seen Baylor play once in a very un-inspired game against ISU and figured that they just weren’t that good…I’m wrong and not afraid to admit it.  The BISON of NDState did what they were supposed to do in the 1st round, but couldn’t pull off the upset against Fisher’s Beach Boy’s and Fisher (who has announced his retirement at the end of the Tourney) advance to the Sweet 16.  Creighton really disappointed yesterday in a yawner against Baylor where McDermott didn’t even show up.   Wiscy surprised a lot of people and beat the Duckies at their own game, playing an up tempo high scoring affair on Saturday night and Bucky is now looking like a real threat to make the F4!  Interesting bracket, but not when you look at the

Midwest Region:  Michigan- Tennessee     Louisville – Kentucky

Wow…Right out of the gate on Friday, the Mercer Bears, Champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, and would probably have finished as high as 3rd or 4th in the SEC had they played in it (as stated to the MMPG earlier last week by a local who has seen them play pretty regularly) came out and beat Dook at their own game.  Ball control, interior offensive penetration and making them from the charity stripe.  Please, PLEASE someone at CBS/TNT/TBS/TRU continue to give the viewers at home and in the bar INCREDIBLY LONG SHOTS of Coach K seething on the sidelines. 



Yes!  That’s what I want!!!  That’s what I NEED!!  Can I get some more, please?  When do we get to stop laughing about this?  Never?  In what was probably the best game and one that I was frankly pulling for the 1 Seed, which rarely happens, Witchy State and the Wildcats went down to the wire and Kentucky pulled off the upset…Sort of like Witchy Stated did last season over the Zags…Michigan rolled in both its games and the MMPG is not sure he’s liking the Tennessee match-up. More on that in a second….

South Region:  Florida – UCLA – Dayton - Stanford

This bracket was chock FULL of upsets, starting off but not limited to THE University of Dayton Flyers beating ohio in an early game on Thursday and road that upset and made Juice out of the Orange – Not unexpected by this prognosticator!   The Six Million Dollar Man got the best of Shaka Smart’s ‘Dores and Shaka is 1 and done one season after going out in the 2nd round against Michigan.  Has Smart worn out his welcome?  New Mexico came out flat and 10 Seed Stanford rode the upset train through the desert and continued riding it right through Kansas!   Had I known THAT Stanford team was going to show up…Well, that’s the thing about this sport, isn’t it?  Too much knowledge is sometimes worse than not enough. 

East:   Virginia – MSU–   Iowa State – Uconn

Sparty is really looking more and more like the favorite to come out of this region….Very few upsets with the exception of the Huskies knocking off what appeared to be an over-rated Villanova squad.  ISU lost its third scorer with a broken foot and he is out for the season. Which, in what has to be billed the most unusual finish (That I’VE seen in awhile) the Cyclones score with 1.6 ticks left on the clock and the Tar Heels drive it over the half court line and call time out with some precious tenths left on the clock…but the refs review it….and review it…and review it….and review it…and reviewed it some more…and then they reviewed it again.  Than, just to be completely and 100% sure, they reviewed it one more time!  Now, I’m not sure all that review was needed, but I get that they wanted to get it right.  Finally, they announce that the clock had not started when it should of and that there was NO TIME LEFT when UNC called time out!  Which, why try to call time there anyway?  Run the play and take a shot, Coach Roy!  ACC – Smoke and Mirrors, Smoke and Mirrors…Top 3 seeds still alive and Sparty will have their hands full with the only ACC school left….Let me repeat that – the ONLY ACC school left...S&M Conference!!!  Oohh…I like that!  And I just made that connection!  S&M!!!  That’s funny!

Summary: 

Underachievers:  ACC – UNC, Dook, Syracuse, NC State, and Pitt.  In fact, the ACC is now going to be dubbed the “Smoke and Mirrors Conference” as they have 1 team left in what was supposed to be a wide open Tourney.  The Big 12:  Oklahoma, Okie State, Texas, Kansas, K-State were all either 1 and done or gone before the Sweet 16!  They still have 2 teams left, but for what was supposed to the toughest conference in the nation, I’m throwing the BS flag…

Holding their own:  B1G schools left – 3 Michigan, Sparty and Wiscy.  Only ohio fans had ohio making it to the Sweet 16…and Iowa has been a disappoint all season.  The Huskers just got buzzed by a hot Baylor squad….

OVERACHIEVING:  As much as I have bashed them this season, the SEC is starting to look like a relatively TOUGH OUT in this Tourney! Gators are the Gators, Kentucky knocked off the number 1 Seed, and Tennessee is in the Sweet 16 after playing their way in as an 11 Seed!  Look out for the SEC and the PAC 12 – Stanford, UCLA, Zona.  Luckily, Zona doesn’t have to play an in conference rival (And wouldn’t until the Championship game, if it were to happen) so that helps their chances. 

The Forecast:

The MMPG only got 9 out of 16 correct in the Sweet 16 (Which Sucks), but at least all my F4 teams are intact…However, the abysmal performance shouldn’t stop the prognostication process for this coming weekend!

Elite 8:  I’m going to stick with my original predictions of Zona, Wiscy, Michigan, Louisville, ISU, Sparty, Florida and I will say….Dayton over Stanford in the South Region!  (That’s 2  - TWO Double Digit Seeds going at it right there!  10 vs. 11)

Final 4:  Zona – Michigan – Sparty – Florida

Michigan will have the toughest road to get to the F4 as they will have to somehow figure out a way to beat a hot Volunteer team.  Then, they will have to take down the winner of the Wildcat – Cardinals match-up that everyone will be talking about because Tobacco Road is out of the tourney….Zona will have the next most difficult challenge, followed by Sparty and then Florida.  Alford’s first trip to the Sweet 16 will probably end quickly as he isn’t used to coaching this late into March. 

State of the Game

If I’ve said it once, it’s worth stating again.  Something, ANYTHING, needs to be done about collegiate officiating.  I’m not even going to state instances or anything specific because A:  There were too many terrible calls over the weekend and B:  Some of the bad calls were happening to teams I hate, so somehow that works for me…

But still, can’t there be a way to get some of this stuff right more often than not?  I’m still most upset with the Charge – Block call as most of them that are getting called blocks are really looking a lot like charges to the MMPG….But I guess that’s the new college hoops. 

It all starts again on Thursday night!