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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We're #2. And yesterday's big news:

The University has reached a settlement that ends the lawsuit over Michigan Stadium's accessibility to disabled fans - and, for the time being, will end the Big House's reign as the largest football stadium in the country.
Capacity will drop to 106,201 in 2008 and 2009 before the boxes and such restore some number of lost seats. The Detroit News cheerily says "no problem, we're still #1", but the Daily wonders:
The pre-settlement project estimate said the stadium's capacity by the conclusion of the project in 2010 would top 108,000, an addition of 500 seats from the start of the project. But because today's settlement will remove an estimated 1,500 seats from the bowl, it's unclear whether that will be enough to make Michigan Stadium the biggest again.

"Over time, we again expect to have the largest capacity of any stadium in the country," Hage said. "We have to wait until 2010 to see how the new seating shakes out."

(FYI: The Daily article is the most informative and in-depth of any provided by news-gathering organizations, which continues a trend started earlier in the year: the Daily out-covered everyone on the Michigan Stadium renovations. Not bad.)

Sounds like there is going to be some hurried rejiggering in the works. I don't know where Hage & Co are going to shake 1,000 extra seats out of the renovation plans unless they cut down on the individual seat expansion. Slimfast for everyone!

I already have requests for snark in both text and t-shirt form in my inbox, but in a foray into Actual Journalism undertaken last summer I conversed with the Bernstein in charge of the case
and came away under the impression that the university was going to have to give ground to a real concern. Notre Dame Stadium is far closer to the 1% mendoza line mandated by the ADA; so is Ohio Stadium. There was no way Michigan was going to weasel out of similar compliance. (Given the parameters of the renovation, the "but it's just repair!" line provided by the U was definitely weaselly.) So no snark here.

Hurdled. Michigan's been working on the renovations for three months now, but the lawsuit still hovered as a possible roadblock to the luxury boxes. With yesterday's resolution, the final hurdle has been cleared and the disingenuous teeth-gnashing of John Pollack -- hero of Tienanmen Square -- and the rest of the "Save" The Big House crew is now wholly impotent and, as such, can be enjoyed in a spirit of schadenfreude. It's a go. Hurrah.

(Why yes to luxury boxes? See here.)

Mailbag addendum. A theory forwarded along from the OZone:

He's never been a guy who recruits blue chips. He runs a system that depends on selfless guys who play team ball and shoot 3s. He's always been a guy who beats you with inferior talent.

But the big advantage of coaching at UM is proximity to Detroit, which produces a ton of blue-chip talent. So how does he make sense there?

Now you have Bielien going out of state to recruit mid-major talent that fits his system. Usually you see the opposite -- coaches in areas that don't produce a lot of 5-star types going out of state to recruit them. Weird.

Sort of reminds me of Eldon Miller -- great at coaching plucky overachievers, lousy at coaching NBA prospects. Wonder if Bielien is another guy who can mold bad talent into a decent team, decent talent into a decent team, and great talent into a decent team.

This, of course, re: the recruitment of Zack Novak and other decidedly melanin-light players. Disagreements:
  • Michigan already needed plenty of help going into the year, then lost Kendrick Price, Jerrett Smith, and K'len Morris during the year. Since almost everyone with decent offers signs in the fall period, Beilein has few options other than the "mid-major" talent that's still hanging around. All the high major talent is signed.
  • Though the state of Michigan has a rep for producing basketball talent, the 2008 class suuuuuuuuuuucks. There are two top 150 guys, a Utah commit (who, naturally, Tommy Amaker was wary of) in the 80s and MSU commit Draymond Green at #122. Everyone else in-state is Zack Novak at best.
  • Michigan is still scared to death of the Ed Martin thing from ten years ago and is running a program so squeaky-clean they've basically written themselves out of every high profile basketball recruit ever. All you need to know about Michigan's paranoia is this: Tommy Amaker was hired by Harvard and immediately ratcheted up the skeeziness.
The point about the "all talent -> decent team" thing may be true but we don't know it yet. IMO, Beilein gets a pass for this recruiting class as long as the kids he brings in are system fits and contributors. If the 2009 class looks similarly uninspiring -- and with Michigan not being mentioned by any high profile players, that seems likely -- I'll be concerned. If the 2010 class is a third, I'll be worried.

Wiggle? Western College Hockey notes an interesting decision in the women's ice hockey bracket: Clarkson was excluded in favor of Dartmouth despite Clarkson being ahead in the PWR and winning the Clarkson-Dartmouth comparison. The PWR is usually followed to the letter when choosing and seeding NCAA hockey tournaments, but the committee does have some leeway.

Some years ago the first-place Atlantic Hockey team could have guaranteed its crappy conference two bids by losing in the AH playoff final, which would have made the playoff champ a TUC and thus boosted the first-place team's TUC record high enough to make it a 3-seed. The committee made it clear that even if the upset transpired only one AH team was getting into the tourney.

Might this open the door for, like, a non WCHA team a bit? There are still seven WCHA teams in the tourney and there remains a strong possibility someone with a record below .500 will squeeze in. Declaring team X out by fiat would open a can of worms, but... maybe said worms should be opened?

Injury. Scooter Vaughn broke his jaw wrestling playfully with a teammate. Which... like. Jesus. He's out this weekend but may return next week or the week after, depending on the type of surgery and the amount of pain he's in.*

On the other side of the coin, Chad Kolarik continues to make noise like he is available this weekend:
"We'll see as the week goes on," Kolarik said. "... It's not 100 percent, but it's getting there."

Kolarik continues to get treatment on his hamstring twice a day.

He's hoping to make a final appearance at Yost Ice Arena this weekend, something that didn't look possible when he crumpled to the ice there in mid-February.

"I didn't want to go out getting carried off the ice like that," Kolarik said. "It's definitely a goal of mine to be out there and hopefully win a playoff series."

With Vaughn out, Eric Elmblad draws into the lineup for the first time in his Michigan career. He might steal five or six minutes against UNO's fourth line; expect to see a lot of the other five guys. Danny Fardig, normally a fourth-line forward, is also a possibility.

A final item: Max Pacioretty was named to the CCHA All-Rookie team, so good for him, but wasn't Aaron Palushaj jobbed out of a spot? Palushaj tied NMU's Mark Olver for most points by a freshman in all games and was second to Pacioretty if only conference games are considered. Meh.

*(Side note: I scalped a ticket for the Friday Ferris game, and after the transaction the black scalper-guy I got the ticket from gave us a hearty "Go Scooter!")

Etc.: M stuff starts to populate the adidas store, though it's way less cool than the stuff at MGoStore); more Comcast-BTN optimism.