Forcier Ineligible for Gator Bowl & Other Thoughts

Its been a little slow around here these last few days. I have to admit, I thought being on vacation this last week would leave me plenty of time to formulate tons of original content for this blog. But sometimes, being on vacation is about doing as little as possible. I chose the latter. But that doesn't mean I've been ignoring everything that's been going on. Far from it actually.

Consider this the calm before the storm.

I do feel bad about not posting any pre-Gator Bowl stuff. But one story that's worth mentioning before the game is the news that Tate Forcier has been ruled ineligible for the game.

Forcier at Michigan's media day event in August
per UM media relations:

Forcier Ineligible for Gator Bowl
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The University of Michigan football program announced today (Dec. 30) that reserve sophomore quarterback Tate Forcier did not meet University standards and is ineligible to participate in the Gator Bowl.
Short. Sweet. Nondescript.

Couple that with the story that Forcier was very close to transferring back in September, and that makes this something worth noting. Mark this down as a story which will unravel after Jan 1st.

But the big story on everyone's mind going into the new year is the coaching situation. ESPN's NFL and college football analyst Adam Schefter, who is a UM alum, claims that Harbaugh is all but done at Stanford, and the word on the street is that he'll be taking the UM job. There are some NFL teams that will make a run at Harbaugh, most notably the 49ers who just fired Mike Singletary, but it's Michigan that's the leader in the clubhouse.

"Again, this is the buzz around the league. This is what people, smart people think is going to happen. That's the sense of people that I know and trust and respect, that Harbaugh will not go to the Niners, that he will go to Michigan, and it'll be up to another NFL job to see if it could entice him and prevent him from going to a place like Michigan.

"But the one thing I feel certain about, Jim Harbaugh is going to leave Stanford."
We've been hearing a lot of whispers that would verify this rumor. But the most important thing that has come my way is that Dave Brandon is running this show. The rumor is that he's been working almost exclusively on this, and people very close to Brandon don't even know the details of what has been going on. While on the surface nothing seems to be happening, there is a lot of speculation that a deal has struck with Harbaugh.

Of course I can not confirm this, but all signs seem to be pointing in that direction.

But one thing I can tell you for certain. If and when something actually does happen, which could be as soon as Jan 2nd the day after the Gator Bowl, or more likely after the Orange Bowl which Stanford is playing in on Jan 4th, whatever happens will happen quickly.

Like I said, this is the calm before the storm. Expect things to get pretty interesting around here very soon. We'll keep you updated.

Merry Christmas From Michigan Santa

I caught Michigan Santa in the tunnel during his Big House visit in 2009.
Unless something else crazy awesome happens in Columbus or news breaks on anything Michigan football related, we'll probably see you again next week. Merry Christmas from me and mine to you and yours.

Go Blue!

The NCAA Hammer is Dropping in Columbus

This ain't just about tattoos anymore. 

Via NCAA press release:
Five football student-athletes from The Ohio State University must sit out the first five games of the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and university apparel and receiving improper benefits in 2009, the NCAA has determined.

A sixth football student-athlete must sit out the first game in 2011 for receiving
discounted services in violation of NCAA rules.

The violations fall under the NCAA’s preferential treatment bylaws.

In addition to missing five games next season, student-athletes Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey, Terrelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500. The repayments must be made to a charity.
This is far more uglier than originally conceived when it was speculated that it was just a couple players trading autographs for tattoos.

During the tOSU presser at noon, AD Gene Smith cited external factors that led to these players selling awards for cash. He blamed the economy and the need for money for gas or going out on a date. Maybe its just me, but as an AD, step up and take the blame or put it on the players that broke the rules. I don't think it's the economy's fault. Yes times are tough, but that's not how you spin this.

When a guy like Pryor puts his 2008 Big Ten Championship ring up for sale, or gold pants that he won for beating Michigan, he ought to know full well that what he's doing is wrong. If he doesn't, than it's the coach's or the AD's fault for not educating these players better what the rules are.

If you really do take the time to educate these players and that they should know the rules, then it comes down to the players just making bad decisions.

Via the ESPN story:
Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring and Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.

Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50, while Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university.

Solomon must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.

"These are significant penalties based on findings and information provided by the university," Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in a statement released by the NCAA.

The players are eligible for the bowl game because the NCAA determined they did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred, Lennon said. 
For what it's worth, tOSU's first 5 games in 2011 are Akron, Toledo, @ Miami, Colorado and Michigan State.

Much more will be discussed about this...and surely we'll keep you updated. I guess Christmas come 2 days early for the Michigan bloggers this year.

Someone's Been Naughty

Ohio State officials are investigating possible violations made by some of it's football players who have allegedly traded their autographs for free tattoos. No names have been dropped yet, but we're hearing it's not the backup long-snapper, but some of the biggest names on the team.

Via the ESPN story:
WBNS-TV and The Columbus Dispatch, both citing unidentified sources, reported on their websites Wednesday night that the school was looking into the possible NCAA violations just two weeks before the Buckeyes face Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, not mentioned in either report, quickly responded on Twitter.
"I paid for my tattoos. GoBucks" he posted.

The Associated Press left telephone, text and e-mail messages seeking comment from coach Jim Tressel, athletic director Gene Smith, the school's compliance director and other university officials.

Asked by the AP to respond to the allegations, Ohio State associate athletic director Dan Wallenberg said in an e-mail, "No information to share."
Sure, it's not drunken police chases with Grey Goose and AK-47's, but it's still a breakage of the rules. And let's face it, without rules...there's chaos.

I think this sort of thing would be considered "extra benefits" in the eyes of the NCAA, according to Adam Rittenberg.

If Michigan can get slapped with a major rules violation for an extra 5 minutes of stretching time in practice, then surely something should happen to tOSU on this one. Is there a Columbus Free Press that we can contact? Where's Michael Rosenberg's Columbus counterpart?

How long can Sir Teflon keep going on without having anything come back to nail him? Clarett, Troy Smith, countless incidents of players with legal and disciplinary problems, and now this.  Of course not, because he's Sir Teflon...and nothing sticks to him.

It will be entertaining to see how tOSU gets away with this one.

Update [10:45AM]: tOSU AD Gene Smith will address NCAA violations at a noon presser. Note the use of the word "violations" and not "allegations". [ESPN link]

An Exercise in Tolerance

Michigan football fans during the month of December:

All is quiet on the Michigan football front these days. Which is exactly how Dave Brandon wants it. Sportswriters are all waiting. Blogs are silent. No one is talking about coaching rumors anymore, because there aren't any. Sure, there's a lot of speculation, myths and hearsay, but nothing worth getting excited over.

Getting lost in all the waiting, is the fact that Michigan has a bowl game to play next week. It's a New Year's Day bowl too. That's exciting. I should be excited. But for some reason, I'm not. I mean I am excited to be able to watch the Wolverines take on an SEC opponent. I'm excited to watch Denard again. I'm excited to watch this offensive line. I'm even excited to see Mississippi State, and how well we match up against them.

But for some reason, I'm not as excited as I should be. Maybe it's because we backed into this bowl game with two losses to two very good teams in Wisconsin and Ohio State. Maybe it's because I have this feeling that we're about to watch a man coach his last game after going through maybe one of the roughest storms ANY Michigan coach has ever had to endure. Maybe in the time since the Ohio State game, I've had a chance to re-evaluate my feelings about Rodriguez and what it means to win at all costs.

I've always been a Rodriguez supporter. I've come out on more than one occasion to try and reason with myself as to why we need to be patient and support the guy. I've cited the empty cupboards that Carr left behind. I've noted that it's been a perfect storm of an age/talent deficit and trying to reinvent an offense from scratch that Rodriguez has had to try and coach through. But even with those reasons, which are not excuses, Rodriguez has been fighting an uphill battle with the fans and the media throughout his entire time at Michigan.

And it's only been getting tougher.

This time between the Ohio State game and the Gator Bowl is a very strange time for Michigan fans. I'm sure its even stranger for the coaches an their players, who probably have just as much information the rest of us do about the fate of Rodriguez.

This whole time I've been convinced that Brandon has known deep down what he was going to do after the bowl game, regardless of the outcome. But as time wears on, I become less and less sure about that. And it's not that Brandon has done anything or said anything for me to feel this way, it's just that when enough time passes, and nothing happens, you start to question everything...even yourself.

I would not be surprised at all if Rodriguez were fired on January 2nd. I would be even less surprised if Jim Harbaugh were hired shortly after. But for some reason, I would be greatly disappointed. It would have nothing to do with hiring Harbaugh, which I feel would be a good hire. But I would be disappointed that Rodriguez didn't get a real fair shake at Michigan.

I don't think that it's the Michigan way to hire a guy that you know it vastly different from anything we've ever known, only to get rid of him 3 years later because there are some growing pains. Rodriguez has shown improvement, albeit incremental improvement, but improvement none the less over the last 3 years. Yes, our defense is bad. Something drastic should be done to address that...and we all know that that is. But our offense is very good...and will only get better as the skill position players get older and more experienced.

I think the biggest thing that Michigan needs in it's football program right now is not a new head coach, but rather stability. It needs to send a message to recruits and the rest of the country that the university stands behind it's coach.

If we fire Rodriguez now, what sort of message does that send to the next coach out there? Don't try to change things here. Don't try to run your system. Do things the Michigan way, or else.

I'm sorry, that's just not right.

I know I'm in the minority of Michigan fans that favors a 4th year for Rodriguez, but I think he's at least owed a chance to be successful at Michigan. I just don't think 3 years is enough. Not for the kind of change that Rodriguez was hired to make.

I've said before that I'll obviously support and stand behind whatever decision Brandon makes. He has way more information than I do, and will make his decisions based on that information. I just hope that if Rodriguez is let go, that those reasons will be disclosed to us.

Brandon Wants New Football Scoreboards, And So Do We

Michigan AD Dave Brandon doesn't speak with media very often, especially not very candidly. But Detroit News Michigan beat writer Angelique Chengelis sat down with Brandon on Saturday before the Big Chill event to discuss some random topics [Story]. One of them was the possibility of new scoreboards at the Big House.
Q: You also have talked about new scoreboards for Michigan Stadium. Your vision is not Cowboys Stadium huge, but pretty huge?

A: Pretty huge. If you picture the size of those (current) scoreboards and maybe something that's 30 percent larger, 40 percent larger, but then the entire surface or at least the vast majority of the surface would be video screen. I think those scoreboards look wimpy now with this structure and then the fact the HD video portion is only about a third of the surface. We can't do what our fans want us to do in terms of showing them really high-resolution replays, game action and even a lot of the marketing stuff we're doing with videos and pre-game and halftime shows — these screens are just not acceptable. This is very old technology, and they don't look very good, either. Think 30 or 40 percent larger and think big-image area for high-definition resolution screens. I think our fans will love it.

Q: So you think you'll have the scoreboards by next football season?

A: Hope so. Subject to approval. It's certainly our hope we could have them in for next season. 
Could not agree more. The screens are way too small for such a huge stadium. The renovation should have included scoreboards. I think the new structures really make the scoreboards look dated and small. Not to mention the old 4x3 screens. We live in a 16x9 world. HD is here and it's time for Michigan to set the standard for college football scoreboards.

The new boards should be all video screen. No permanent metal or lettering. Just one big video board.

The University of Texas has set the standard. We can beat this.
AKA Godzillatron. No, really.
Among the other topics of interest (at least to me), was the presence of quite a bit of advertising being done inside Michigan Stadium during the Big Chill. From the ice to the boards to the animations on the scoreboards, it wasn't hard to notice ads everywhere. I was concerned this may be a sign of things to come. Not so, says Brandon.
Q: Hockey is different with advertising on the ice and boards. Does it offend you in any way to have advertising (during Saturday's game) in Michigan Stadium? Is this something you would entertain in the stadium during football games?

A: These sponsors have been sponsoring our hockey program, many of them for years. They're one of the reasons why our hockey program can be as successful as it is. When you go over to Yost, this is what you see on the boards. This is what you see, display advertising. We use the ice, we use the boards, and from day one, as we created this (game), we wanted to give those sponsors the same opportunity because it's a hockey game. This is kind of how hockey works.

Q: But do you ever see advertising in the stadium for football?

A: No. I think our fans, even though it's pretty prevalent in most venues, I think one of the things the fans enjoy about their days at Michigan Stadium is they're not being bombarded by advertising messages, and I can understand that. I went to all the away games this year, and you go to those venues like Penn State or Ohio State and they have commercials running and videos and display advertising. As I've said over and over again, I borrow a line from Sam Walton. He said that if you don't know what to do, ask your customer. All of the research and input we've gotten from our customers is that they really don't like or want that as part of their game-day experience inside the stadium, and I respect that. 
We surely don't want Michigan Stadium turning into this...

The entire article is really a good read, and worth a click.

New Big Ten Logo, Division Names

Big news today as the Big Ten has announced the names of it's two divisions, and unveiled it's new logo.

The logo:
The logo with division names "Legends" and "Leaders".
All of the logos and their variations live here.

I personally don't care for the logo or the division names. I think the logo is a cool idea, but missed the mark design-wise. It's just a little too boring for my taste. It's too simple. Jim Delany's son probably did this with his pirated copy of Photoshop in about 10 minutes.

And as far as the division names are concerned. Yikes.

Legends and Leaders? Really?

And surely Michigan is in the "Leaders" division, right? I mean it's a word prominently used in our fight song.

Wait. We're not? We're in the "Legends" division?

Why, oh why did the names of these division have to suck so bad? I knew they would. Any time a committee has to try and do something cool and creative, this is what you get. Safe and boring. What's wrong with "East" and "West"? Or "North" and "South"? I personally was a fan of the "Bo" and "Woody" divisions.

Clearly, the conference played the safe card here, and came up with a logo and division names that were safe enough not to offend anyone, and boring enough for people not to care. I'm with Brian of mgoblog, I'm not a fan of even using these names. So from here on out, we're going with the "Bo" division and the "Woody" division.

Also, 18 trophy names have been announced for conference awards. That list lives here.

Big Ten logo announcement video:

Big Ten press release:
Park Ridge, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference today made several announcements that complete a series of decisions prompted by the upcoming addition of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln as the conference’s 12th member school. The conference revealed a new logo to be used for all sports beginning with the 2011-12 academic year and also unveiled names for its two football divisions and a list of names for 18 trophies to honor coaches, teams and student-athletes starting with the 2011 football season.

“When we announced football division alignments in September, other associated decisions had not yet been made. We wanted to take some time to listen, carefully consider, and make choices that would best honor our history and traditions, reflect our core values and characteristics, and tell our story,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. “We involved many thoughtful, dedicated professionals and we listened to many ideas from our member schools, alumni and fans.”

The new Big Ten logo was developed by Michael Bierut and Michael Gericke of the international design firm Pentagram.

“The new Big Ten logo was developed to symbolize the conference’s future, as well as its rich heritage, strong tradition of competition, academic leadership, and passionate alumni,” said Gericke. “Its contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral ‘10’ in the word ‘BIG,’ which allows fans to see ‘BIG’ and ‘10’ in a single word. Memorable and distinctive, the new logo evolved from the previous logo’s use of negative space and is built on the conference’s iconic name, without reference to the number of member institutions.”

The new logo also provides the flexibility of multiple versions which can be used horizontally, vertically and within new media.

“The new Big Ten logo provides a contemporary identifying mark unifying 12 outstanding institutions,” said Delany. “It conveys some elements from the past while simultaneously introducing new features. We think the new logo is fun and has something for everyone.”

The conference also announced today that its football divisions, starting with the 2011 season, will be “Legends” and “Leaders.” A breakdown of the divisions is listed below:

LEGENDS: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern

LEADERS: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

“‘Legends’ is a nod to our history and to the people associated with our schools who are widely recognized as legends - student-athletes, coaches, alumni and faculty. ‘Leaders’ looks to the future as we remain committed to fostering leaders, the student-athletes who are encouraged to lead in their own way for the rest of their lives, in their families, in their communities and in their chosen professions,” said Delany. “We’re proud of our many legends and even prouder of our member institutions that develop future leaders every day.”

Finally, the Big Ten announced the creation of 18 trophies to honor just a small sampling of the countless student-athletes and coaches who have contributed to the conference’s rich and storied history. Starting with the 2011 season, the Big Ten will honor its top football student-athletes with these newly named trophies.

“These trophies will honor our legends and leaders for generations to come,” said Delany. “The names on these trophies are fitting tributes to the hundreds of thousands of student-athletes and coaches whose hard work and dedication have contributed to the legacy of the Big Ten Conference over the past 115 years.”

Big Chill Photos

No question the Big Chill was a big success. Along with a 5-0 Michigan win over Michigan State, the entire event went off without a hitch. Here's some photos from my day at the Big House. Link to the Flickr photo gallery.

Sending the "chill" down the tunnel to the rink.

Ice-level view of the rink before the game.

View from the section 23 isle.

View from the photo deck in the pressbox.

Zamboni's on the field at the Big House. Band in the endzone. Go Blue banner ready for the hockey team. What a sight.

Gameplay from the 3rd period.

Very cool lighting done on the national championship features on the main concourse.

The lights did a great job of keeping the field lit. It's a nice trial for the night game against Notre Dame next year.

From the field in the 3rd period.

The firework devices up-close.

The student section was awesome, especially down in front where the fans kept warm by going nuts at the end of the game.

113,411 fans packed the Big House for the largest crowd ever.

There's nothing like the Big House at night. Can't wait for Notre Dame next year.

Some ice from the rink.

The team skates over to thank the fans for their support.

A lot of people saw this guy riding his bike around the stadium before the game. After a 5-0 beat down, he hid his face for the cameras.

Keeping the ice perfect for the game means adding a lot of "chill", even when the outside temp was 40 degrees.

After the game, head coach Red Berenson talks to the media.

Denard Beats Out Pryor for Silver Football Award

The "Silver Football" is an award given out annually by the Chicago Tribune to the Big Ten's best player. The leagues 11 coaches vote, but can not vote for their own players. Pryor and Robinson both received 3 first place votes, but Denard edged out Pryor with 1 more second place vote, giving him the award.

I would LOVE to see which coaches voted for which players.

Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan grabbed third place, Wisconsin's Scott Tolzein was forth, and Northwestern's Dan Persa and Wisconsin's JJ Watt tied with one first-place vote each.

Congrats to Denard for this award.

Is it just me or does Denard's post-season accolades make the case for keeping Rodriguez that much stronger? It would seem to be getting tougher for Brandon to make the case for getting rid of Rich Rod after giving Michigan one of it's most talented players of all time...and he's still just a sophomore.

Denard owns six of the top seven single-game total yard records in the Michigan record book. His 2010 yardage total is #1 in single-season overall yardage record. Expect the bowl game to further increase that single-season record, and probably set yet another mark in the top 10 single-game record book.

Bowl Pick'em League Prize Announced, Regular Season Results

You might have seen our post last week about the Bowl Pick'em league we've started. We have only had a few people sign up so far, so now we're making things a little more interesting.

We've partnered up with our great sponsor over at Moe Sport Shops/Underground Printing to come up with a great prize for the winner of the bowl league. The winner will take home a $25 gift certificate from Moe Sport Shops to be used on any number of their great products either in their store, or on their website.

It's very easy to play. We've created a private group on ESPN's College Bowl Mania. Just click the link below, log into you ESPN account or create a new one. And enter in the following information:

Group ID: Maize & Blue Nation
Password: gator

Click Here to Join

Scoring is simple...just pick the winner of each bowl game. No confidence points, no special order...just pick the winner of each game. Since it's a straight scoring system, and not a confidence system, you have until just before kickoff of each game in order to make your pick for that game. The first bowl games are on the 18th.

If you have any questions, just send me a shout. Good luck and Go Blue!

2010 Regular Season Pick'em Recap
For those of you who participated in the regular season pick'em league and wondered who "77win2010" was, it was none other than my mother. That's right. She jumped out to an early lead in week 1, and never looked back. Congrats to dear ole' mom for taking home the regular season trophy!

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention the #2 spot went to my dad, and coming in 3rd was my lovely wife. I came in 8th, right behind my father-in-law who is a Texas Longhorn fan, but we let him play anyway. Who knew I had such great college football prognosticators in my family?!

The final standing (click image for larger picture):

Pay no attention to my week 12 score.

Urban Out...Again

Urban Meyer after the 41-35 loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl in January 2008.
After leaving his coaching post for one day last December, Urban Meyer has called it quits at Florida...for realz this time.

Urban Meyer is stepping down as football coach at Florida, the school's athletic director announced Wednesday.

"I fully grasp the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field," Meyer said.

A news conference was scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Meyer will coach his last game for Florida in the Outback Bowl against Penn State on January 1st in Tampa.

The Gators, who won two national championships and two Southeastern Conference titles under Meyer, had a disappointing season in 2010, going 7-5 (4-4 SEC).

A three-time national coach of the year, Meyer posted a 64-15 record in six seasons at Florida. He also coached at Utah and Bowling Green.

David Molk a Finalist for Rimington Trophy

Via UM press release/
Molk Named Finalist for 2010 Rimington Trophy
NEW YORK – University of Michigan senior/junior center David Molk (Lemont, Ill./Lemont Township HS) has been named one of six finalists for the 2010 Rimington Trophy, presented to the nation’s outstanding center. Molk is the second Wolverine to be named a finalist for the award. He joins David Baas, who was a co-recipient of the award in 2004.

The other finalists for the award are Chase Beeler (Stanford), Colin Baxter (Arizona), Mike Brewster (Ohio State), Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU) and Ryan Pugh (Auburn).

He started all 12 games at center for the nation’s sixth most top offense. The Wolverines have racked up a school record 6,011 offensive yards during the regular season (500.9 avg.), surpassing the previous mark of 5,807 yards attained in 2003. The Wolverines had one of the nation’s most balanced offenses, leading the Big Ten in rushing (251.1 avg.) and finishing second in passing (249.8 avg.).

Molk earned All-Big Ten first team honors from the coaches and second-team from the media. He shared the Hugh R. Rader Memorial Award as Michigan’s top offensive lineman. Molk was on the watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award this fall.

Molk has started 28 career games at center. He earned 2009-10 NSCA All-America Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year recipient.

The winner of the 2010 Rimington Trophy will be announced at the ESPNU/Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Thursday (Dec. 9).

Players Want Decision on Rodriguez

We don't normally report on issues like this, but given the hush-hush nature of Michigan coaching situation right now, I think it's news when players speak out about their coach.

Via Pete Bigelow from AnnArbordotcom, some Wolverines are anxious to know the future of their head football coach before the Gator Bowl on January 1st.

Ryan Van Bergen:
“I would appreciate it to be declared. I have 100 percent faith in Dave Brandon. …

I think that he’s got everything under control, but I think it’d be more beneficial to just come out and make a statement, so some of the players have an idea. But, obviously, there’s reasons I don’t know about why that can’t be done at this point.”
Mike Martin:
“I get upset when people poke fun at Coach Rod, because I know him on a personal level. I’ve been at his house with his family, and that man should never be made fun of because he’s nothing but a good person.

“Why would you want to poke fun at a good person? He deserves nothing but the best.”
Like we've said before, without a sense of stability at the coaching position, potential recruits could be lost...much like recent decommits Dee Hart and Kevin Sousa. But what could be more damaging is the negative effect on current players, especially leading up to a bowl game that's still 26 days away. Most of these guys were recruited by Rodriguez, so to them, this time of uncertainty could have lasting damages.

I know Dave Brandon wants wait until after the season, but unfortunately the media doesn't operate on that schedule. Speculation has run rampant, and it seems as if its having an effect (mostly negative) on everyone involved. I still trust that Brandon has command over the situation, otherwise he would make a statement in favor of Rodriguez or against, but a little damage control might go a long way.

No News is News

For Michigan football lately, the more things don't change, the more people start to talk. Michigan has accepted an invitation to the Gator Bowl, which is a huge shot in the arm of a program that went 7-5. The opportunity to play in a New Year's Day bowl is something most didn't expect after losing 5 games in the Big Ten.

On the face of things, you have a seemingly confident Rodriguez who appears to be gearing up for the Gator Bowl on Jan 1st. While Rich Rod goes about his business, Dave Brandon has remained steadfast to his "wait until after the season to evaluate" mantra that he's been quoting ever since the end of the tOSU game just over a week ago.

Things may seem calm, but there are signs that things are going on under the surface. Brandon sat down with visiting recruits and their families in-person on Saturday.

Today, Brandon met with media at the UM Gator Bowl presser, and said this concerning possible schedule of decisions and assessments:
“I don’t have a day on the calendar,” Brandon said. “But soon after the season ends, it’s my practice to sit down with the coach and go through the process of evaluating the progress we’ve made throughout the season.”
Now that bowl games have been set, it seems as if nothing will change until after the bowls are played.

AP Photo | Paul Sakuma
I have very little doubt that Harbaugh doesn't coach the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech. He's earned every right to coach that game, and I just don't see him bolting before he gets that chance. Odds are he has a bonus in his contract if he goes to a BCS game. I'm sure not coaching in that game would forfeit that bonus.

Speaking of contract...Stanford is desperately trying to keep Harbaugh, and has a sweetened deal ready for his Herbie Hancock. Standford AD Bob Bowlsby says this:
"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," Bowlsby said Sunday. "He's got this year and four more on his contract. I expect that he will be our coach in the foreseeable future." 
No AD has ever sent a contract (and a dump-truck full of money) to a head coach and not publicly said that he expects him to sign it. This is Bob simply doing his due-diligence. This could be all for show, and might not have any real effect on whether Harbaugh stays or leaves.

On the banquet and Josh Groban
When asked today about Rodriguez's speech at the annual football banquet last week, Brandon said:
“It was different,” Brandon said of Rodriguez’s speech. “The coach elected to do what he did. The banquet is now behind us and it’s time to focus on the bowl game.”
 Rodriguez's comments today about dropping the Bible verses and Josh Groban song:
“Every coach has their own personality, and I probably always have been emotional at our senior banquets,” he said. “You feel so close to a team, particularly this senior class, and I probably always have had strong emotions at the banquets.”

MBN Bowl Pick'em League

It's bowl season, and this time Michigan gets to play! So in the spirit of being involved for the first time in 3 years, we have created a bowl pick'em league for fans of Maize & Blue Nation.

It's very easy to play. We've created a private group on ESPN's College Bowl Mania. Just click the link below, log into you ESPN account or create a new one. And enter in the following information:

Group ID: Maize & Blue Nation
Password: gator

Click Here to Join

Scoring is simple...just pick the winner of each bowl game. No confidence points, no special order...just pick the winners. Since it's a straight scoring system, and not a confidence system, you have until the kickoff of each game in order to make your pick for that game. The first bowl games are on the 18th.

Good luck and Go Blue!

Michigan to Play Miss. State in Gator Bowl on Jan 1st

Just as the title says...Michigan will travel to Jacksonville to play against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl on January 1st.

The Gator Bowl website breaks the news...

My take is this is absolutely great. I can't say that I'm crazy about playing Mississippi State, but I'll take a New Year's Day bowl after a 7-5 season any day. Four teams in the Big Ten finished 7-5 this year, Penn State will head to the Outback Bowl to play Florida on Jan 1, and Iowa will likely head to the Insight Bowl on Dec. 29 to face a Big 12 opponent. Northwestern heads to the new TicketCity Bowl and plays Texas Tech on Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Illinois, who finished 6-6 will play Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29. Tune into the BCS Countdown Show tonight at 8PM on ESPN, and the Bowl Selection Show at 9PM to see who is going to which bowl.

Rodriguez's comments about the matchup with MSU:

Via ESPN's Adam Rittenberg:
The matchup pairs two spread offenses and two coaches (Michigan's Rich Rodriguez and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen) who run the system extremely well. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and many of his teammates return to their home state of Florida.

I'm guessing Michigan would rather be seeing Tennessee in the Gator Bowl, as Mississippi State hasn't lost to a team ranked outside the top 20. This will mark the first meeting between the schools, while Michigan is 7-3 against the SEC in bowl games.

Posted Without Comment

Via Josh Groban's Twitter page:
I'm speechless.

Rodriguez: "I want to be a Michigan man"

Lon Horwedel |
I was not at last night's Michigan football banquet in Livonia, but from what I'm hearing, it was quite the emotional love-fest, and an awkward one at that.

Audio of the speech here.

Via the AP story:
LIVONIA, Mich. -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez fought back tears, talking about the toll his job has taken on his family, and used passages from the Bible and a Josh Groban song during an emotional address that closed the team's banquet.'s Pete Bigelow describes the scene:
With many members of the 1985 Wolverines team and dozens of other former players in attendance -- but not Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh -- Rodriguez called for healing among a fractured group of alumni.

“I came here three years ago, leaving my comfort zone, because I thought this was a great opportunity,” he said. “… I knew after being on the job for a few months there were going to be some challenges. And more come out in front of us. We never ran away from it.

“It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen in a big way,” he continued. “I wish it happened yesterday, last year, the first year. Believe me, my life would be a lot easier.”

As speculation regarding his job reached a crescendo in recent days and weeks, Rodriguez talked openly about the toll the uncertainty has taken on his family, coaches and players.

He said he had found some solace in the lyrics of the Josh Groban song “You Raise Me Up.”

He read the first verse of lyrics aloud.

“This may seem kind of cheesy or sappy or what have you, but I’ve been listening to it the last few weeks, and it kind of fits the mood of what we’re in right now,” Rodriguez said.

Speakers in the ballroom then played the song for the team’s 21 departing seniors and several hundred others gathered in the ballroom.

As the song concluded, Rodriguez grabbed the hands of his wife, Rita, and the night’s emcee, Frank Beckmann, and raised them above his head.

Several seconds passed before others on the dais, including Brandon and the entire Wolverines team, followed suit.
ESPN's Adam Rittenberg writes:
Rodriguez, who choked up during his address, ended things with: "My name is Rich Rodriguez. I'm honored to be the football coach at Michigan. I hope you realize I want to be a Michigan man."

And I thought Jim Harbaugh not showing up to the banquet would prevent awkward moments.

He needs his boss, Dave Brandon, to make a decision on whether or not he'll return in 2011. Letting this drag on until after Michigan's bowl game doesn't serve the current players, the coaches, the verbally committed recruits or the fans.

Michigan simply shouldn't have to endure another month of this.

If Brandon wants to fire Rodriguez, do it and let him pursue other options like the Miami job, where he'd be an absolutely fantastic fit. If he wants to keep Rodriguez for another year, make the announcement and deal with the assistants later.

Forget saving money or being courteous to potential replacement candidates like Harbaugh. This is Michigan. This is big-boy football. This is the time when major decisions are made.

If protecting the Michigan brand is paramount, as Brandon always says, he needs to step up and settle things. 
Could not possibly agree more. Maybe I would feel a little different if I were there, and maybe I'd still be drunk from all the Kool-Aid, but I wasn't there, and I drank no Kool-Aid.

This event, at least from the way it's been described, was a disaster.

It's becoming clearer the longer Brandon lets this thing drag out, the uglier it's going to get. Rodriguez clearly doesn't even know his own fate at this point. If he did, and he knew his job was safe, reports from the last night's dinner would have painted Rodriguez in a much more resolute picture. it's being reported that the jewel of Michigan 2011 recruiting class, Dee Hart, has re-opened his recruitment, likely in favor of Alabama. I doubt last night's kumbaya session had anything to do with it, but the uncertainty of Michigan's coaching future probably did.

The longer Brandon holds out, the worse things are going to get from a recruiting perspective. I understand that he wants to maintain his control over the situation...but at what point does it become a burden? I respect that Brandon wants to wait until after the bowl to make an evaluation, he's said that for the past couple of weeks as the heat has been turned way up under Rodriguez.

If Rodriguez is going to be the coach in 2011, then I for one just say come out and declare it. Let everyone know, especially recruits, that Rodriguez is either your guy, or he's not.

Red Takes a Spin on the Big Chill Rink

UM hockey coach Red Berenson gets interviewed by, and takes a spin around the rink inside the Big House.

A great aerial shot posted by Greg at MVictors. And of course, don't forget about the live webcam we told you about last week.