Rantings of an avowed Michigan homer.

Confirmed Bigger House


It's coming....

WTKA is reporting on their hourly sports updates that the Board of Regents approved today the $227 million plan to renovate Michigan Stadium. Additionally, I believe, there was also a proposal to build a new baseball stadium, which I gather was also approved.

Details about the football stadium renovations here

A rendering of the proposed renovation

What jumps out at me is this:

The favored plan, revealed to The Ann Arbor News on Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, includes 83 luxury suites and other premium seating in two structures that would dominate the east and west sidelines of the bowl-shaped stadium. The two structures would rise to a height of 82 feet above the concourse, 7 feet higher than the scoreboards in either end zone. The changes would also boost seating capacity slightly, from 107,501 to 108,335.

Think about that. 7 feet higher than the scoreboards. This is going to be monumentally huge.

The article ends with this gem of a quote from Martin:

"The quality of the product and the experience will clearly be enhanced,'' Martin said. "The important thing is that every person in that stadium will feel and experience the difference, whether it's getting up and going to the rest room and getting a hot dog, or whether it's a couple of inches of additional butt room at that November game where everybody's wearing heavy coats and there isn't much room. Those are the things I care passionately about.''

Really, Mr. Martin? Is that what you care about? Or is it the "those folks who want to pay for a premium seat"? This proposal does nothing to make Michigan Stadium and Michigan football games more accessible to those who aren't financially affluent. The seating capacity doesn't significantly increase, thus not matching up with the astronomical demand for season tickets. And the increases seem to only be in the most expensive bracket of stadium seating.

I don't know. I just don't go crazy with joy about this when all is said and done. Construction will not begin until after the 2007 season, and will be completed for 2010, so we're going to have over a year to think about it, and then about two years to watch it go down. I'm thrilled that the basic problems like aisle widths and concessions and restrooms and such will be addressed, but I wish they would address those problems first, and then worry about these monstrous luxury amenities.

What say you, readers?

The Bigger House


Michael Rosenberg from the Freep had a really great article yesterday about the proposed renovations to Michigan Stadium. This is something I've given a lot of thought to, and in the end, I'm sort of concerned about a number of things. I'm not the world's biggest Bill Martin fan to begin with, and after reading Rosenberg's article, I'm even less of a Bill Martin fan. He's a money guy, not a tradition guy, and not even particularly an athletics guy. In all of my encounters with him, I've gotten the vibe that he says things to appease the alumni and fanbase, but you know he doesn't mean it, and you know he's just going to go for the option that looks better on the ledger sheet. Which brings us to the Rosenberg article.

Luxury-box proponents usually make two arguments. Argument No. 1: Boxes drastically improve the financial outlook of an athletic department. Argument No. 2: Boxes don't affect the average fan. In Michigan's case, both arguments are questionable, but the second one is absurd.

1. I can understand this. And I'm not inclined to hate on people who have the money to pay for a luxury box. If you want to sit in a sterile little room with a nice glass window and have an awful view of the game and be completely removed from the atmosphere of the stadium and watch your ceiling-mounted television and drink your wine and cocktails and pay a fortune for it, go right ahead. That's your loss. And I definitely think that a plan I would endorse and accept would be to integrate such a thing into one side of the stadium only and have it be a part of the press box. More on that later.

2. Yes, in some situations, they do. Let's look at the last set of renovations at Yost. The VIP deck that juts over the student section, as I was told by an assistant athletic director when I asked about it, pays for a significant amount of the hockey team's scholarships. Conversely, it's never full, even for the big games. And it juts down low enough that the students in the back rows of the student section have to duck to see the game. Now, I can appreciate the fact that the deck is a significant financial windfall, and that it's useful for the hockey program as a whole, but it's an atmosphere killer. I've loved Yost since I was a little kid, but in the interest of money it's gone severely downhill in the past 10 years or so. It's losing its charm. I don't want that to happen to Michigan Stadium.

Granted, Fielding Yost designed the stadium with the intention of having a second deck installed on it. So all of these people whining about the loss of the "classic bowl design" need to take a little history lesson. Yost did not, however, design the stadium with the intention of having two absolutely gigantic structures being installed on both sidelines.

How large? Two structures totaling 425,000 square feet. For a comparison: the Palace, with all its atriums and offices, is 570,000 square feet. U-M's proposal is the equivalent of placing a large dormitory on each side of the stadium.

Is that really necessary? I don't see the immediate need to have West Quad built on both sides of the stadium. Ultimately, having these structures on both sides of the stadium strikes me as incredibly wasteful and fundamentally flawed. What I'm most concerned about in a renovation of Michigan Stadium is not significant updates to impact the highest paying ticketholders, but rather to make the game experience better for the guy in row 86 in the endzone just as much as the guy drinking boxed wine in the luxury box. Wider aisles. Better bathroom facilities. Concourses that aren't crumbling asphalt. No chain link fencing anywhere. Let's face it- Michigan Stadium, while large, is pretty goddamn ugly from the outside. Its charm and ambience doesn't come from how it looks, but rather how you're crammed into your seat with 107,000 other people. Which brings me to another point.

As I understand it, there's currently a decade-long waiting list for season ticket requests. When is that going to be addressed? We see so much talk about the luxury boxes, but at the same time, I think it's about time to install at least a partial deck on the stadium. If you've been watching the stadium renovations and the additio of rows onto the stadium since Tennessee and Penn State started rivaling our size, you'll notice a significant notch on the side of the stadium opposite the press box. Now, stay with me here. Wouldn't it be incredibly convenient to install the press box on this side of the stadium and drop elevators down to the locker room levels for the assistant coaching and support staff, and then build a deck where the current press box is? Put luxury boxes in the press box structure, and at the same time, increase the capacity of the stadium to the point where ticket demand approaches available capacity. Let's face it- it's going to sell out. Provided tickets remain affordable and the level of competition on the field warrants it. An argument for which Rosenberg asks a very vital question:

Will people pay more than $250 to sit by the end zone for Michigan-Ball State?

With the BCS system as it is, there's no incentive for a team competing for a BCS bid every year, as Michigan is, to schedule competitive non-conference scheduling. With the advent of the annual Michigan-Notre Dame series, Michigan is going to continually be scheduling lower-tier MAC schools and Michigan directional schools (Eastern, Western, Central) to fill the schedule. And, honestly, for the average ticket holder, paying out the nose to see Michigan have a 30-point lead at halftime when it's 85 degrees outside is only fun for a limited amount of time. There's so much said about Don Canham and his commercialization of college athletics, but I think we're forgetting one thing: Canham did it by marketing Michigan football to families. Bring your family to a game, make an afternoon out of it, have fun, and it's affordable. Nowadays, you want to bring your family to a game, for a family of four you're not getting in for less than 150 bucks or so once you factor in ticket prices, parking, and god forbid you get hungry and want to grab some hot dogs and Pepsis. Michigan Stadium cannot be unaccessible for families, and I really think it's gotten that way. You can take your kids to a Tigers game for a third of the price, if not less. And it will probably be a better competitive experience (especially these days) than watching Michigan beat up on the Michigan School for the Blind in the blistering heat. But that's more of a scheduling issue as well, with the incentive to schedule the easy win rather than the competitive team.

In Rosenberg's interview with Martin, there's two snippets that particularly stick out in my mind as particularly troubling:

Martin said Tuesday he is sensitive to fans' concerns.

"When Lee (Bollinger) asked me to take the job on a full-time basis when I was the interim," Martin said, "I said, 'Only if I can take down the halo. Only if I can take down the halo.' "

That is a great story. It is also a total lie. Bollinger, the former school president, said in September 1999 the halo was probably coming down. The school made the official announcement Jan. 12, 2000.

Martin didn't even become interim athletic director until March 2000.

Whoops! Bill Martin=liar. So, what's the credibility of anything else that's coming out of his mouth?

There is a perception that the luxury boxes will allow Michigan to immediately upgrade other facilities. ("It can help pay for Crisler, which is a major issue we face," Martin said Tuesday.) But any potential help will be many years down the road.

So, we keep dumping into Michigan Stadium to add things we really don't absolutely need, and THEN we can renovate Crisler? When Bill Martin strolls into Michigan basketball games using the tunnel entrance and struts to his courtside folding chair, he apparently misses the dingy, cavernous concourse. The, literally, antique seats in the lower and upper bowls. The horrid lighting. Crisler has all the ambience and charm of the Frieze Building, for those of you familiar with everybody's favorite University soon-to-be-demolished academic building/deathtrap. Why? Because, just like the Frieze, the University refuses to maintain it and update it. Crisler is deplorable in comparison to the Breslin Center in East Lansing, or OSU's brand spanking new professional-level arena. And somehow justifying that more updates to Michigan Stadium will mean a better Crisler arena- YEARS down the road? Come on. I'm not buying that.

In the end, I can understand the need for luxury boxes. But I think the University could integrate it into things we know are needed- a new press box, which is, above all, a priority. And a possible deck addition onto the Stadium.

We all love Michigan Stadium, and that's why there's such an uproar about this. I just don't want to see it get killed by a horrible renovation that will be too large and ambitious and will be a continuous running joke for the next century.

Afraid of the Dark


Stumbled across this on ESPN today.

2006 ABC Saturday Night College Football schedule
• Sept. 2, 8 p.m. ET: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
• Sept. 9, 8 p.m. ET: Ohio State at Texas
• Sept. 16, 8 p.m. ET: Nebraska at USC
• Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET: Notre Dame at Michigan State; USC at Arizona
• Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET: Ohio State at Iowa or Michigan at Minnesota*
• Oct. 7, 8 p.m. ET: Oregon at California; ACC, Big 12 or BIG EAST (12-day selection)
Oct. 14, 8 p.m. ET: Michigan at Penn State; Arizona State at USC
• Nov. 4, 8 p.m. ET: UCLA at California; ACC, Big 12 or BIG EAST (12-day selection)
• Nov. 11, 8 p.m. ET: ACC, Big 12 or BIG EAST (12-day selection)
• Nov. 18, 8 p.m. ET: California at USC; ACC, Big 12 or BIG EAST (12-day selection)
• Nov. 25, 8 p.m. ET: Notre Dame at USC
• Dec. 2, 8 p.m. ET: Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship Game

* One game will be on ABC and the other in primetime on ESPN or ESPN2.

Rumor had it that Coach Carr was lobbying heavily against the 8PM start for PSU, and I tend to agree. I'll take PSU at 3:30 over Beaver Stadium with the white-out and the lights. Big games under the lights just seem like an automatic bad-idea. Notre Dame '88, anyone? It's a recipe for disaster. On the road, hostile territory, under the lights... I have a feeling it could be a very, very, very long drive home from Happy Valley.

Is it the pants?


I was doing some thinking the other day, and it occurred to me that as far as the current state of Michigan football goes, there's a couple things that jump out at me as slightly unnerving, and are as follows:
1. Inability to win the rivalry game.
2. Shaky play on the road.
3. Total loss of consistency when the team bus/plane leaves the Eastern time zone.

Which brings me to an odd observation: Could it be the pants? Stay with me here for a minute.

While watching some vintage game footage this week, I was reminded of a rather odd abnormality during the 1974 and 1975 seasons: On the road, Michigan wore white pants. Now, the only reason I bring this up is because these teams were able to do several things current Michigan squads can’t seem to pull off. Let’s look at the game-by-game results from those seasons:

Iowa W 24-7
Colorado W 31-0
Navy W 52-0
@ Stanford W 27-16
Michigan State W 21-7
@ Wisconsin W 24-20
Minnesota W 49-0
@ Indiana W 21-7
@ Illinois W 14-6
Purdue W 51-0
@ Ohio State L 12-10

10-1 (7-1) Big Ten Co-Champions (Ohio State goes to Rose Bowl, UM stays home)

@ Wisconsin W 23-6
Stanford T 19-19
Baylor T 14-14
Missouri W 31-7
@ Michigan State W 16-6
Northwestern W 69-0
Indiana W 55-7
@ Minnesota W 28-21
Purdue W 28-0
@ Illinois W 21-15
Ohio State L 21-14
Oklahoma (Orange Bowl) L 14-6

8-2-2 (7-1) Big 10 2nd place

Now, the first thing that jumps out at you about these two season results is the 0-2 mark against Ohio State. That really doesn’t concern me, as I’m willing to give Michigan the “greatest of all time” pass, as Archie Griffin lined up in the backfield in both games on his way to back-to-back Heisman Trophies. I’m also willing to overlook the Orange Bowl loss by token of the 2004 Rose Bowl pass. Same idea- Freshman quarterback (Rick Leach) starting against team on their way to a National Championship. Also, with the change of the Big 10 bowl rules after the 1974 season, the first Michigan team to play in a bowl other than the Rose Bowl.

But let’s look at the rest of the stats:

18-3-2 (14-2) overall record (.782)
8-1 on the road in the white pants (.888)
4-2 in rivalry games (2-0 against MSU and Minnesota, 0-2 against OSU)
A win against Stanford IN Palo Alto. That’s on the west coat.
0-1 in bowl games.

Let’s look at Michigan’s record in this same general category of stats since 2000, adding Notre Dame into the mix of rivalry games (the series with ND having not been resumed until the 1978 season):

53-21 (37-11) overall record (.716)
17-12 on the road (.586)
12-9 in rivalry games
0-5 on the west coast (UCLA, Oregon, Washington, 2 Rose Bowls)
2-4 in bowl games.

So, what am I proposing here? Was it the pants? 8-1 on the road sounds really nice, actually. As does a win on the west coast. Let’s face it- last time we won out there was (dusts off history books)… January 1, 1998. And, no, I’m not counting the ’98 Cupcake Bikini Bowl against Hawaii into the equation. Additionally, there's that little indisputable fact that Michigan has gone 0-for-the-Holy Trinity in South Bend since Remy Hamilton's game-winner on September 10, 1994. Does the psychological edge of the goofy white road pants give Michigan the edge? I’m not sure. I’m thinking out loud here.

Basically, I’m at the point where I’m looking for any intangible oddity to give us a shot on the road. Just imagine rolling into South Bend on September 16. The Domers are donning the green jerseys, Michigan is donning the all-white Purity Pants. Honestly, I like our odds in that kind of a matchup. I mean, it’s either that, or figure out a way to re-enroll Remy Hamilton and Todd Collins for one last hurrah of eligibility… On that note, what’s Rick Leach or Dennis Franklin doing these days? Think either can still run the option?

One last tidbit of evidence. Pictured in this post are two Michigan running backs who sported the #5. Gordon Bell, 1973-5, and David Underwood, 2002-4. Career stats for Bell? 2902 rushing yards, 53 touchdowns. Underwood? 612 yards, 6 touchdowns. It's gotta be the pants.

Long live the pointless intangible.



OK, so. Welcome to The Tunnel. I guess you can say I'm a long-time blog reader, first-time blogger.

And so I've created for myself a little corner of the internet from which to rant and rave about Michigan athletics. I've been a Michigan fan since, literally, the womb. The day I was born, my dad placed a plastic Michigan football in my hospital crib, and our neighbor across the street hung a gigantic bedsheet banner on our garage door: "Call Bo- It's a boy!" While my football skills never materialized, I did well enough academically to currently be a University of Michigan student. My passion in life is Michigan football. That's all I really need to say. Although you'll probably see me posting at times about M hockey, basketball, and maybe even a little volleyball. Who knows.

That pretty much covers the whole awkward introduction thing. This is The Tunnel, and welcome to it.

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  • I'm from Ann Arbor, MI
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