Thursday, December 23, 2010

A bag of questions for Christmas...

1. Is David Brandon being honest with us?

As we all know, DB has remained steadfast in his resolve to "evaluate the football program after the season is over." But is that what he is really doing? Or has he already made his decision? The answers to these questions will say a lot about DB's level of integrity.

If, as many Jim Harbaugh fans think, DB has already made a deal with him, it would be against everything DB has said he stands for. It would be in direct opposition to Bo Schembechler's mentoring, because Bo always said that a coach deserves at least four years to get his own people fully entrenched. I really think that in today's climate, a coach needs five years. Most of all, though, if DB has already made a secret deal with JH, it would mean that DB has been lying to us.

Think about that. This would not be a "little white lie" or a case of someone changing his mind. This would be a case of the Athletic Director of the University of Michigan lying repeatedly while representing the school in public. If DB is "taking his time," despite risking the loss of possibly the year's best recruit, I would actually respect him for it.

However, if DB has already made up his mind, has a secret deal with Jim Harbaugh or any other coach, and is lying to the public while being paid by the University of Michigan to represent their interests, I think he should be immediately fired with cause.

Obviously, I hope that is not the case.

2. How "commercial" is the Athletic Department about to become?

Brandon has made comments about "increasing revenue," and is now even looking into making the Big House available for weddings. We all saw the advertisements during the Big Chill. While I am always happy to see the Athletic Department prosper, how much "prosperity" do they really need?

I hope I'm wrong, but I see a very commercial future for the Big House. I can easliy imagine a time, within five years or so, when the end zone walls are littered with advertisements like a minor league baseball park. I can easily imagine flying back up to Ann Arbor to go to the "Domino's Pizza Stadium brought to you by Fifth Third Bank."

I can easily imagine projectile vomiting, too.

3. How 'bout that basketball team?

John Beilein has the Wolverines playing much more like a team than they have so far in his tenure. While I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Manny and Peedi for helping the team get back on the right track, and helping to make it almost "cool" to play at Michigan again, I have to wonder how true the rumors of "philosophical differences" between Manny and JB were.

Last year, it seemed like most of the team stood around and watched Manny and Peedi try to carry them. This year, everyone seems involved as equals. A different player shines every game, and everyone makes their own unique contributions.

The most encouraging aspect, though, is that Michigan no longer appears to be at a severe height disadvantage to every team they play. I still shudder when remembering the Illinois team of two seasons ago get up to five or six chances on many offensive possessions because they looked like a college team rebounding against a high school team.

Thankfully, even though the team is still young, they have some height, and the guys with height actually have some basketball skills. In a year or two, they could realistically be starting someone 6-9 at small forward. The last time they could do this, with Sean Higgins, they won the NCAA championship.

This leads me into another question:

4. Is Tom Izzo really "losing his mojo?"

I have been on record in plenty of places as saying that I thought Tom Izzo pretty much pissed away his mojo with his prolonged dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Izzo's main strength has been his ability to wring every last ounce of effort out of his players, using variations of "for the team" or "Spartan for life."

I have also been on record as saying that it will now be a lot harder for Izzo to get that kind of effort out of his teams because his players now know that he is a hypocrite who preaches "Spartan for life" out of one side of his mouth while negotiating with the NBA out the other side. Everyone in EL, from players to trustees to fans, now knows that Izzo was one LBJ signature away from leaving them.

So far this season, I have seen nothing to make me change my opinion. Against Texas, the Spartans were outplayed and outhustled on both ends of the floor, and the scoreboard didn't nearly reflect how Texas outclassed the Spartans. The talent levels still aren't even, but for the first time in a long time, Michigan is playing harder every night than the Spartans are.

Will my predictions of the beginning of a downward spiral at MSU, starting with them being a 5/12 upset victim in the NCAA tournament, prove accurate? We'll see. One thing we do know is that between his own restlessness and Michigan finally shedding the odor of the Ed Martin scandal and once again becoming a viable rival in recruiting the state of Michigan, Tom Izzo's job at MSU has just become a lot harder than it was.

5. What is going on at OSU?

An investigation into free tattoos has uncovered the fact that players, including Terelle Pryor, have been selling their Big Ten Championship rings and other memorabilia. This, of course, is an improper benefit, because the average student isn't awarded a Big Ten Championship ring.

The most hilariously ironic development is that Pryor sold his "Sportsmanship Award" from the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. To me, selling those two awards tells me that Pryor doesn't care about his team, championships, or sportsmanship.

Predictably, OSU players are pleading ignorance. They are saying they didn't know it was against the rules. Inexplicably, the NCAA is buying their "woof tickets," and is only suspending them for five games, starting next year. In the ultimate show of arrogance, OSU plans to appeal.

The real penalty should be that each player should be declared ineligible from the point at which he recieved illegal benefits, and OSU should have to vacate each game they played with an ineligible player. Since it is too late to change the bowl matchups, though, they had to be allowed to play the bowl.

My dream result: OSU appeals after the bowl game is already played and the NCAA takes advantage of the opportunity to increase the penalties: the players are declared permanently ineligible, and they do have to vacate a lot of wins from this year, including the one over Michigan.

At any rate, I can't imagine Terelle Pryor subjugating his ego or his taste for illegal benefits anymore. I expect him to declare for the NFL draft, where he will be drafted as a TE/H-back in the fifth round.

6. Anything else?

Yes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.