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Monday, February 19, 2007



So... Appalachian State. Bullets:

  • Outrage? No more or less so than any other glorified exhibition. In terms of available opponents, Appalachian State is not functionally worse than anyone outside of Hawaii. There's a significant undercurrent of caterwauling about ASU's I-AA status, but the embarrassment of playing them should be roughly equivalent to that of playing Eastern, as ASU may actually be better. With Oregon and Notre Dame lined up, Michigan has the best non-conference schedule in the Big Ten and is probably in the top five amongst BCS schools.
  • Still: irritated. I won't feel the irritation when we're actually playing ASU, since it's the opener and the return of actual college football is opiate enough to dull the nagging pain of ridiculous ticket prices for Aztec-style ritual beheadings. The irritation will kick in on October 6th when Eastern rolls in from Ypsi to get obliterated. The Ball State game last year was an all-around miserable experience and would have been even if the score had been the expected rote blowout.
  • It's not like Bill Martin is actually at fault here. It's nearly impossible to find appropriate opponents these days because even D-I bottom feeders are searching for the real dregs of available opponents in the hope of sweeping four pitiful nonconference games and squeaking into a bowl with a shiny 2-6 record. Witness Vanderbilt, who's playing I-AA Richmond in a quest for rinky-dink bowl eligibility. The decision to allow a I-AA victory to count for bowl eligibility every year is killing nonconference scheduling as the previous sacrificial lambs find sacrificial lambs of their own. Even last year's game against Vandy was facilitated by ESPN. Without that additional incentive for the Commodores they would not have accepted the game and Michigan would have had to foray into the depths of I-AA a year earlier.
  • There is no way this will stop without NCAA intervention. The proliferation of crappy bowls -- all of which, I would like to remind you, are expressly sanctioned by the NCAA -- and the twelfth game provide extraordinary pressure on crap teams to schedule their way into awful bowl games. Without socialism, each school would put itself at a disadvantage to disobey. Capitalism in college football scheduling is a failure.
  • The NCAA is never going to take action. The laudable decision to do away with 3-2-5e in its entirety was coupled with a bunch of other ways to cut down on the length of games: they're still dancing to the puppet master's whims. While all the suggested changes are intelligent, the overall thrust of them can be interpreted as a depressing devotion to the revenue streams that are "needed" to pay ever increasing labor costs Bentley leasing fees. And coaches, always looking for excuses not to get fired, love the idea of a gimme game leading to a gimme bowl. Their much-publicized loathing of 3-2-5e was a major factor in its eventual repeal; note the complete lack of similar whinging from all coaches not named Lloyd Carr about embarrassing scheduling. The only ones complaining are the fans. Not even the media gives a crap.
  • This year is a strange year in which two good home nonconference games make a second tomato can nominally acceptable, but the refusal to offer an away game to a reasonably bad BCS opponent with upside (canonical example: UNC) bodes unwell for the future. Michigan is extremely likely to feature one good OOC opponent like Notre Dame and then three miserable home games in the future all in the name of keeping up with the Joneses.
  • There's nothing we can do. There's no way this is going to change. This is more depressing than the hockey team.
Meanwhile, Georgia partisans playing Western Carolina and the Troy Trojans of Troy (We're From Troy!) have the gall to criticize:
With a non-league slate consisting of defensively-challenged Notre Dame, an Oregon squad coming off of a six-loss campaign, and a M.A.C. school with a directional indicator in its nomenclature, the Wolverines had to go out and get Appalachian State? Was this what Jim Delany meant by "winning our way"?
Um, Oklahoma State was 89th in total defense and went 7-6 last year. Georgia Tech lost their Gailey-obligated five games as per usual. Glass houses, etc. Also, the implication that Michigan dodged a Vandy-level opponent...
Nevertheless, there is no excuse for a Division I-A power scheduling a Division I-AA team, and, at a time when Georgia is recruiting and scheduling nationally (despite the fact that the 'Dawgs cannot seem to get a game in the Midwest), this latest refusal by a Big Ten team to schedule a Southern squad even as mighty as Vanderbilt raises anew the question that has yet to be answered satisfactorily . . . what possible justification could the conference have for steadfastly refusing to face S.E.C. teams during the regular season?
... is simply not true:
Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor David Williams said the school has declined an opportunity to open the 2007 football season at Michigan.

The Commodores lost to the Wolverines 27-7 on Sept. 2, 2006. on a game nationally televised by ESPN. Williams said the network inquired about a rematch, but Vanderbilt chose to keep its 2007 schedule intact.

“I’m looking for a heck of a good year next year, and I just don’t want to spoil anything,” Williams told the Vanderbilt Hustler.
Distressingly, there were no Vandy-level opponents to be had.

Hurling imprecations back and forth over which school's embarrassing nonconference matchups are more blush-inducing solves nothing. Michigan and Georgia do not play not because either is afraid of the other, but rather because the current system is set up to wring every dime out of diehard fans. The Pac-10's notable lack of really dire OOC opponents (only one I-AA matchup across the conference) is less steadfast nobility and more a response to the West Coast's notoriously fickle/crappy fanbases.

This will be about the 30th time I've written this in an offseason that is just over a month old, but I don't see how this post can avoid it: despite the NCAA's enforced amateurism money is the name of the game. Even if the players aren't directly provided with the fruits of their labors, programs compete against each other on monetary grounds in the form of "facilities" -- these days less an accurate descriptor and more a euphemism for ridiculous edifices that imperial Romans would blanch at. Martin, like all ADs, is essentially paid to lie; his assertion that Michigan is in desperate need of the money is a lie... but not really. Crappy teams are now demanding return games because they have a I-AA option. Michigan cannot give these return games because the millions of dollars it would cost them would put them incrementally behind their competitors in the race to build the facilities best able to stun recruits into mute acceptance of proffered scholarships. Any school deviating from this path is voluntarily hampering its own program.

Appalachian State is inevitable in the current climate. Socialism is the only solution. Viva la revolucion.