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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Game of the Century of the Year. We had a #1-#2 matchup last year that didn't work out so well. If voters see fit to place Michigan #2 to start the year, we'll have another: Appalachian State is #1 in I-AA. Slightly higher probability we come out on the right end of this one.

Meme of irritation. As mentioned over the weekend, the Michigan-ND series is taking a break in 2012. The exact quote that contains all knowledge about this AFAIK:

White said the Fighting Irish will take a short break from their Big 10 rivals in the future, replacing Michigan with Oklahoma for a two-year period, then facing Arizona State instead of Michigan State for two years.
It's explicitly two years and with a direct replacement. But this Irish fan in the comments says:
To back up ChrisND, supposedly UM wanted ND to play in the Big House two years in a row to shift to having ND at home and OSU away/ND away and OSU at home each year. The same thing could have been accomplished by playing two years in a row at ND, but that was not discussed. One thing as well, as this would have the same effect on ND with the UM and USC games (similar to UM's case). I enjoy playing UM, despite the recent blowouts in recent history, the series is relatively balanced over recent history. (NOTE: THIS IS NOT A CALL FOR SEVERAL FOLLOW UP POSTS RECALLING HISTORY FROM THE 1800s).
Chris Wilson also has this version of the story:
And here's MGo's rather comprehensive PSU preview, although there's little mention of the Wolverines basically forcing the Irish to drop them by asking for two straight games in the Big House.
The more insecure portions of the Irish blogosphere are repeating this ad nauseam as further proof that Michigan is the root of all galactic evil. I call BS. If ND was willing to accommodate Michigan's request to split the ND/OSU home-road rotation, the simplest solution is to take a single year off and then resume the series as before. Demanding two consecutive home games makes no the sense.

Where is this coming from? Does anyone have a link to someone reporting this or is it just a face-saving fantasy based on that old Bill Martin interview in which he said "we want to keep playing Notre Dame" and Notre Dame fans immediately assumed that meant we were going to back out of the series as fast as possible? The meme is spreading rapidly through the ND internet population and is poised to be an annoying urban -- er, rural Indiana legend as the series break nears.

Also, you can file this under "easily predictable": Kyle King flips out and renews his push for a Georgia-Michigan series. I would be up for that. Also, if Alabama's looking for a high profile opponent at around the same time...

Red quotes. I don't remember where I got these; apologies to whoever I stole them from. Probably WCH. Anyway, a couple weeks ago CSTV had some NHL draft-related articles that quoted Red. Red on goalies:
"You rarely find a 19- or 20-year old goalie playing in the NHL, whereas you will find the odd 18- or 19-year old forward," said Michigan head coach Red Berenson, who's seen Wolverine goaltenders Steve Shields and Marty Turco make it to the NHL since he took the reins at his alma mater in 1984. "The forwards, you can get away with their mistakes, and play them when they're younger. Defensemen, their mistakes are more important, and it takes them longer, and goalies' mistakes are critical. Look around the history of the NHL and find me a rookie goalie who's 18 or 19 years old who's on a winning team."
He maintains his longstanding opposition to early-entry:
Berenson's thoughts on that sort of development plan for a goalie don't differ much from his long-held views on skaters signing early when they aren't NHL-ready.

"Are you ready, as a college player, to give up your senior year to play in the American League?" Berenson asked. "If you are, then you're thinking differently than I am. If I were a goalie, I'd go to college, and I'd stay for four years, and I would get as ready as I can for pro hockey, but even then, I would expect I might have to play a year or two in the minors."
Elliot Olshansky also has this incendiary quote on his, um, slog(?):
"The NHL [teams] are becoming the biggest enemies of college hockey," Berenson said. "They're afraid of losing players that they draft, so they're signing them early whether they're ready or not. They're saying that they're going to take over the development - which the NHL hasn't necessarily been good at - but they're going to take over the development of these young players."
Rules and such. Also from a couple weeks ago was a whole bevy of potential rules changes coming down the pike for college hockey. Yost Built has summaries and opinion. In brief:
  • A two-ref, one-linesman system starting in '08. Wha? Weird. Unless they're planning on slapping orange bands on several linesmen I don't know that college hockey has enough referees. I mean... there are referees out there but they're the sort of referees who would get fired from the never-ever league. See: Scott Hoberg.
  • The elimination of ties starting in '08. Overtime would get modified to make scoring more likely in the extra session, possibly extended to ten minutes, and then a shootout would follow. I'm indifferent to this.
  • They're thinking about changing the handpass rule but don't know how yet.
  • The addition of an "embellishing" penalty that's supposed to be called concurrently with an opponent penalty; a dive should now only be called on its own. Won't have much effect on the game but will prevent my head from imploding when the dive-obstruction duo is called.
Yost Built, as mentioned, has more.

(Side note: Yost Built also offhandedly mentions that the NHL is implementing a new rule: all faceoffs come from one of the nine faceoff dots. This is an excellent change that gets rid of those silly faceoffs just inside the offensive zone that when "won" instantly put everyone offsides and force a dump-in. It also provides one fewer thing for the referees to track. College should follow suit.)

More Adidas. Since the shoe company is probably going to get a lot more mention amongst Michigan fans please note that it's not "adidas" even if the company refers to itself as that. It is a proper noun and should be presented as such. END angry grammar man section.

Jim Carty has a two part interview with Bill Martin that discusses the deal extensively. Part 1; Part 2. The deal's bells and whistles:
So, here's Nike with an offer they say would be the highest contract they have in college sports, and I'm still concerned, because these are long-term deals. How ever I set this up is going to impact this place for a long, long time. The long and short of it is, we were very fortunate with our timing. Adidas was hungry to have a major college brand and they laser focused on us. If you look at their strategy, they take one or two schools in every conference, and that's it, whereas Nike tries to saturate the country with all schools. (Adidas) has Tennessee, Notre Dame, UCLA and Wisconsin. Everybody has said Notre Dame has the richest Adidas contract, but you can't get it, because it's a private institution. I know this contract exceeds it.

I'll name some of the unique features in this contract. There is a $6.5 million signing bonus. There is never a signing bonus. We're going to get it in two weeks. What am I going to use it for? I have to finish up this facility stuff and get Crisler going. If I had any spare bucks, it'd go into endowing scholarships. It's pretty simple.

We've got an annual (Consumer Price Index) escalator. Annual.

We got a most favored program clause. There's never going to be an Adidas school that gets a nickel more than us, either in product or money.
But wait, there's more:
The other thing we received is that ... you know, markets go in cycles. Eight years from now, who knows what the situation is going to be economically. The market may be way below where it is now. I've seen that happen in my business career. Well, guess what? We have the option to extend. It's no lose. If the market's gone up, we negotiate a new deal. If the market's gone down, we say we like this deal and we'll keep it another five years.
A sweet deal all around for Michigan. Whenever you sign a contract and one of your main rivals' message boards has a week-long conniption fit over it, you have done well.

There's some stuff about Crisler in there and then a discussion of this month's looming issue:
Q: You talked about Big Ten revenue. Are you concerned about the rough waters the Big Ten Network finds itself in? (The new network is struggling to get picked up by major cable operators in the Midwest)

Martin: We anticipated this. Jim Delany counseled us on this a year ago. Fox counseled us on this. Do I think it will get resolved? Sure I do. One way or another, we'll get it resolved. I feel very good about it. Long term, it's going to be tremendous, and I'm not thinking in terms of the money, I thinking about exposure.

We want it on basic (cable). We don't want it on a premium sports tier. The Golf Channel, Versus, they're on basic. What we're going to provide is much more exciting to our state and region.

Q: Are you prepared for a flood of angry e-mails if some football games aren't on the local cable outlet this fall because a deal hasn't been reached?

Martin: Join the list (laughs). I don't fret about that stuff. We'll be fine. This is exciting, what's happening in the Big Ten with that channel.

Q: Are you concerned it's become a public fight?

Martin: I don't like seeing it. I don't.
Negotiations with Dish Network do not appear to be going well. Their parent company has petitioned the FCC to get the BTN declared a "Regional Sports Network." Apparently there is some sort of arbitration process that RSNs go through with satellite providers or something. Argument:
EchoStar claimed that after three months of negotiations, it has been unable to strike a carriage deal with Big Ten Network “due to its insistence on unreasonable terms, including rates that are far above market, and its demand for nationwide carriage on EchoStar’s basic tier.”

The No. 2 direct-broadcast satellite provider claimed that Big Ten Network is trying to position itself as a national network, not an RSN, so that it can “evade the RSN classification so that it will not be subject to the arbitration provisions” of the News Corp.-Hughes order, which only applies to RSNs.

“Although the Big Ten Network has held itself out as a national network, its programming, pricing structure and other aspects of its business model are consistent with an RSN, not with a national network,” EchoStar said in its filing.

“In particular, the pricing and packaging structure proposed by the Big Ten Network is comparable to that of a traditional RSN and bears little relation to the greatly reduced pricing structure of existing national college-sports-based networks, e.g. CSTV and ESPNU,” the filing said.

The BTN counters by saying that it only wants the widely-cited $1.10 figure for subscribers in the BTN footprint and is asking less than a tenth of that for everyone else. Do we have an expert in the peanut gallery who can provide more detail on this? I'm not sure what all the implications are here.

The Hoosier Report also points out this Q&A with a Time-Warner exec from the same cable/satellite industry publication:
MCN: At this point, as you’re looking at both of those networks, do you see them as being sports-tiered networks in terms of their value? You mentioned that you’re not getting complaints with the NFL Network, but the Big Ten’s a little different. You have systems that represent markets where Big Ten schools are and there might be a great desire among those subscribers [to be able to watch] that network.

BW: Well, I think that, again, it’s a real assessment as to what we think the value is that the content brings to our consumers. There’s no question that there are fans of the NFL, hockey, the Big Ten, tennis — there are fans of every sport you can find.

I think striking the right balance is the question. Of course, we’re in the business of providing video content, so the most compelling offering is going to be able to offer our consumers everything they could possibly want. If bandwidth were unlimited, we would do that at the right price, and let the right people pay for it that want to pay for it.

So I think that — particularly for sports programming where they’re looking for high payoff — we have to be responsible about figuring out who’s going to pay for that. And I don’t think that that burden should be borne by the breadth of customers.

Particularly, the Big Ten is an interesting one only because they’ve kind of cast themselves in a hybrid of a regional sports network and a national service. But you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a regional sports network with an eight-state core market. But we’re still evaluating, and we have an open door with respect to every programmer who wants to do business we us, so we’re talking to them and evaluating, and trying to determine where our customer sets are.
More BTN later today.

Etc.: Maize 'n' Brew previews the hell out of Oregon.