Big House, Big Noise

Tonight, between 3:30 and 7:00 PM, the University will perform a sound test in Michigan Stadium to determine how the addition of massive structures along either sideline will affect the venue’s acoustics. The purpose of the 140db “cannon shot” isn’t to measure the added volume from crowd noise fto the players on the field (it’s it’s to plan speaker placement for the PA system), but it certainly can provide some information, however obliquely related.

To the crowd-noise-obsessed Michigan fan, this calls to mind the Oversized Metallic Dandelion from last year’s Minnesota game. Associate Architecture Professor Mojtava Navvab was attempting to determine the difference in crowd noise that adding boxes would cause. The results were something along the lines of “2-4 times as loud,” and though I’m sleptical on that degree of difference, 1) I do not have a graduate degree in architecture, and 2) Even without glass last year, the difference in sound was noticeable.

Of course, the Athletic Department is not actively trying to increase crowd noise with the boxes (at least not as their primary goal), so they likely won’t pursue ways in which crowd noise in particular will increase with the added structures. However, if they wanted to really impact the noise on the field, the most effective way to do so would be encouraging fans to make more noise in the first place.

I’m not a fan of my college football events being Minor League Hockey, as Brian would say (translation: RAWK MUSIC, hokey pump up videos, etc.), but there are ways that the AD could promote a louder environment without delving into the corny. Other schools in the Big Ten take this a bit too far, Sparty, Ohio State, and Penn State among them – though I think it’s no coincidence that the latter two have the best homefield advantages in the conference, but there is a happy medium. Pump up videos are unnecessary, but the banner-shaped video board along the bottom of the scoreboards can be used for evil (a word which here means “good”). Step 1) Stop encouraging the GD3DKPT, also known as “God Damn Third Down Key Play Thingy.”  Step 2) Change the message on the board, not only during third down, but all defensive downs, to something simple like “Make some NOISE!”

I’ll wrap this post up before it gets off on too much of a tangent (that i’ve covered several times before), but, uh yeah. Sound test in the Big House tonight, huh?1

Posted under Football

Spring is almost upon us

Rich Rodriguez announced last week that Michigan’s Spring Game will be returning to Michigan Stadium. This year’s intrasquad, to be played April 11th, will once again be open to the public. This is obviously a major step forward for the program, after last year’s final practice was closed, and held at nearby Saline High School.

Now that things are on the right path, I humbly offer a few suggestions to the athletic department the ensure this year’s game is a success.

  • Have a real game with normal scoring. None of this “offense v. defense, a sack is 2 points for the defense, a first down is worth half a point…”-type nonsense. A spring game is for the fans, and so let’s not make it confusing to follow. Figure out a way to get it done (I suggest first teams v. second teams, but there are a number of other ways to get this done).
  • If there are going to be activities other than a game, make them interesting. Florida has the players race each other (and students who want to try their hand at beating the likes of Percy Harvin). Michigan has players run through drills that fans don’t get. Which do you think is more interesting to observers?
  • Invite every high school coach in the state, and most from Ohio. Encourage them to bring their teams. Invite every single prospect that has been identified for the classes of 2010 and 2011. I don’t care if they’re from Florida, Hawaii, or Timbuktu. If they want to come, they will. If it’s too far, they won’t. What does it hurt to extend an invitation? Since there’s guaranteed to be less media covering the spring game (regardless of who is invited), allow the recruits to stay on the sidelines during the scrimmage – something they cant do during an actual game.
  • Have a festival-like atmosphere, or at least treat it like a game. Have tailgating, the Victors Walk, contests, concessions. Have the whole band and the whole cheerleading squad in attendance. Bring in forme (or current) NFL players to call plays. Invite College Gameday to Ann Arbor (they were in Gainesville last year) – or at least whatever BTN’s version of GameDay is. Invite all the media that cover the team during the regular season – go out of your way to make sure they know they are welcome.
  • If it’s cold, have a pep rally in Crisler before the game. If not, hold it in the stadium. Have Coach Rod speak to the crowd.
  • Give tours of parts of Michigan Stadium fans have never seen. Considering all the construction, that could just be whatever has been completed since November 15th. Let them in the locker room, or Junge (unless it’s being used for recruiting) or the press box.

As for fans? Well, they just need to show up, have fun (regardless of the weather), and maybe have a tailgate or two. If there’s one thing fans can do to help the team for next season, it’s showing they still care about and love the Michigan Wolverines, and maybe build a little confidence for the players and coaches going into ’09.

What ideas do YOU have to improve the spring game? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll post a roundup/revision post as spring practice begins. Maybe the best suggestion will get a prize… Anybody interested in a DVD set? There’s a copy of The Rivalry Series: Michigan Beats Ohio State up for grabs.

Posted under Football, Recruiting, Spring Coverage

My Postgame Thoughts

Since I let Paul’s post stand on its own after the game Saturday, here are a few things I’d like to add:

  • First off, Paul’s text message about UConn had to do with the fair catch on a bounced ball. I’m not positive, but I think once the ball touches the ground in NCAA, the right to a fair catch is forfeited. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Why did Rodriguez call a timeout (and the refs clarified that it was NOT a challenge) after one of the Wisconsin fumble recoveries. I thought the play was close enough to warrant a challenge, and I think it’s ridiculous that the booth didn’t use the commercial break to at least take another look. From the angles that were shown in the stadium, the Wisconsin player’s left leg was out of bounds by the time he recovered the ball.
  • On that note, at halftime, I was formulating a post in my head about how the refs didn’t cause Michigan to win… but they sure didn’t help. They were much better in the second half, and Michigan may have even gotten a couple of breaks.
  • Steven Threet. 58-yard run. Awesome.
  • Wisconsin fans have picked up the torch from Penn State fans for the honor of “second biggest assholes in the conference.” I said good game to a guy wearing a t-shirt that read “I wouldn’t cheer for Michigan if they were playing Iraq” (yay for dated reference!), and he couldn’t muster anything more than a sneer. He was one of the lesser douchebags I encountered all weekend.

And this stuff may deserve its own post, but I’ll take this opportunity to bitch about the fans:
If you don’t know anything about football, don’t bitch about play calling, etc. I may start a regular feature on Mondays called “From the Dumbest Fan in the Stands,” or give an “atmosphere report” for games that I go to. Option A will be accompanied by the photo you see on the right.
  • If you booed in the first half, you can try to say you were booing the coaching decisions, but you’re either lying or you don’t know about football. The coaches were calling downfield passes, but Threet wasn’t executing. Would you have preferred they keep going to it so we could have had 8 turnovers? The offensive line couldn’t block anyone on running plays. Sure, the coaches are partially culpable, but the players were struggling.
  • Despite all the bad, the stadium didn’t get nearly as quiet during the first three quarters as I would have expected. Most of the noise was coming from the student section at that time, but there were still a few people in the South endzone stepping up.
  • By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the crowd was as loud as I can remember it being.
  • Until the major comeback, my companion and I were the ONLY people in our immediate vicinity (south endzone, row 16) who had stood up on a third down in the game. That is pitiful if you can’t even get up and yell on an important play.
  • At halftime, some idiot behind me yelled “Why don’t you go back to West Virginia, ya stupid snake-oil salesman!” This was stupid for all the obvious reasons, and I thought I had the perfect response “How about we keep him and get rid of you?” Of course, after the game (and I have to give him at least some credit for staying the whole time), he was preaching the glory of the spread.
For ITP this week, we’ll probably be taking a look at Wisconsin’s two 2-point conversion attempts, and what was the difference between the two. If you’d prefer something else (and not the Threet keeper, since we’ve already covered the zone-read ad nauseam), drop your opinion in the comments and Paul and I will try to accommodate you.

Posted under Analysis, Coaching

Varsity Maize

In honor of this weekend’s Maize Out game against the Wisconsin Badgers, Varsity Blue shall be known as “Varsity Maize” for this entire week. You may have noticed our RAD NEW BANNER at the top of your screen.

We here at Varsity Maize encourage everyone who is attending Saturday’s game against the Badgers to wear maize clothing, and be loud in support of the Michigan Wolverines in their Big Ten kickoff.

Posted under Analysis, Blog News

And for the Rest of the Fans…

Paul posted a list of guidelines for those fortunate enough to sit in the student section for Michigan games, and Maize N Blue Nation has responded. What should those fans relegated to the rest of the stadium do? Check it out here.

I’d like to contribute the following addenda (while strongly endorsing the “be kind to opposing fans” and “support the team with noise” points):

  • Wear maize. I don’t care if you have a vintage Tom Brady Orange Bowl jersey. Wear it at the tailgate or in front of the TV. A maize shirt costs you a maximum of 16 dollars (and even that’s only if you get the official T-shirt). Wear it.
  • If a play that you predicted is called (successful or otherwise), don’t gloat or say “I told you so.” It pretty much just makes you “that guy.”
  • If you know the answer to a question the people around you are searching for, tell them. That said, don’t act like an asshole know-it-all.
  • Support the team, the cheerleaders, the band, and everything that makes Michigan’s gameday unique and amazing.

Enjoy yourselves. Only 3 more days until the Best Time of Year.

Posted under Analysis

A Guide to the Student Section

As a four year veteran of the student section, I’ve seen a lot of awesome things in the student section as well as some things I wish I could forget. In order to make the student section as good as possible I’m going to share some tips to emphasize the good and hopefully prevent the bad.

  1. Dress Appropriately: First of all, for students, there are no special Maize Out games. Every game is a Maize Out, so wear your football t-shirt or other appropriate yellow garment (the disgusting mustard color from discount sporting goods stores is discouraged, but better than nothing). Also, the first few games of the year will test your endurance in intense heat and sun. I suggest either copious amounts of sun block or a stylish maize hat. If you are a hot girl, maize bathing suits are acceptable. Later in the year, especially with 3:30 starts, the game will begin warm and then get very chilly by the end (think ’04 MSU). Wear layers, always making sure the outer layer is maize.
  2. Be in Game Shape: I don’t mean this athletically, but fans do have certain responsibilities and you can’t cheer and scream if you’re passed out standing up. Some people enjoy pre-gaming or tailgating (I’ve been known to), but it’s important to keep it within reason in order to enjoy the game. Remember: by the second half you’re past drunk and entering hang over.
  3. Be Prepared: Especially with the early season games, I’ll grab a dollar bill and a hand full of change before I head to the stadium. Usually on Hoover, I’ll stop and buy a water, but I won’t open it. You will always be able to get un-opened water bottles into the stadium. Then, safely in the stands, I replenish my fluids, insert the coins into the water bottle and have a very effective noise maker.
  4. You’re with Students: The student section is not part of the family game day atmosphere. It is a teeming mass of 17-24 year olds hopped up on booze, hormones and fanaticism. Four letter words ought not be discouraged unless used in the least creative cheer ever (within the confines of the student section). That being said, mean-spirited slurs directed at opposing players or other fans are not cool.
  5. The Others: I’ve been to a few away games, but not in the stands at the schools who hate Michigan the most. It’s fun and usually those fans that travel are really great college football fan who most of us can relate to. That being said, if they are in the student section, jokes made about their intelligence, economic standing, sexual preference, sexual deviancy, facial hair, etc. drawn from widely accepted facts about their university are acceptable within reason. Getting in their faces after Michigan scores or physical attacks are bush league and not acceptable. You can support your team without giving its fans a bad reputation. This also means that outside the student section (and outside the stadium), you should a least be tolerant of other schools’ fans.
  6. Comfortable Shoes: The only acceptable times to sit down are before the band takes the field for pre-game, half time (unless the band does something exceptionally awesome) and after the game if you like being trampled. Also, if you hear The Victors, you should be standing, clapping, fist pumping, and singing: no exceptions.
  7. Don’t Be That Guy: If you are sitting below row 80 and hear a cow bell and say anything related to the Christopher Walken sketch on SNL lampooning “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, I hate you. Freshman year it’s acceptable and funny for the first few games. Beyond that, seriously, that sketch was on like 8 years ago. Sure there isn’t a lot of cowbell-centric humor out there, but don’t just retread. Same thing goes for waving your Key-card on 3rd down. Not only is it not funny, it takes all that is bad with “key play” and leaves all the good (the pleasant jingling).
  8. Don’t Be That Brah: If you come in past kick-off, don’t expect to sit exactly where your tickets tell you your seats are. Actually, never expect that. Being off by one row or having to sit back towards the endzone slightly more doesn’t matter. You’ll enjoy the game just the same as well as not coming off as dick.
  9. Be Loud: Before every play on defense there should be such a raucous cacophony coming from the student section the offense just gives up and the QB punts on first down. Maybe this will never happen, but it is still the goal. Participation in all cheers is somewhere between mandatory and strongly encouraged. Take your breaks on a second down when Michigan has the ball. If you insist on participating in the “key play” nonsense, at least make a reasonable amount of other noise as well.
  10. Stay Positive: It makes the game much less fun when you’re bitching about every play on offense that isn’t a first down and every play on defense that isn’t a turnover. Games ebb and flow, stay centered maaaaan… If you really can’t help being negative, start making $1 bets with the person next to you (e.g. “$1 says we’re running a zone stretch left”). Either way you’ll lose.

If you have any suggestions for surviving and thriving in the student section, please leave them in the comments.

Posted under Analysis



For those who haven’t seen it yet, the alleged away jersey has been revealed on an internet. The picture comes from the Women’s Football Academy held in Ann Arbor by the coaching staff. From the looks of it, however, I would say this looks like a practice jersey (cheap numbers, instead of the sewn-on type, and the material looks cheaper than one would expect). I guess we won’t know for sure until Notre Dame, unless there is an official unveiling of sorts.
The student t-shirts are also available at the MDen now. We unveiled the design here back in the spring. Again, I’m not enamored with the shirt, and I think “Schedule as shirt design” is a horrible, horrible idea. The AD needs to go back to having people with a clue design the shirts.

Posted under Analysis

The Old Barn: Sources Consulted

Da compleet seriez: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5. Substantive hockey update coming before tonight’s game.


Yost Ice Arena is Michigan’s hockey hot spot

A Historical Tour of the University of Michigan Campus

Yost Ice Arena

Fifty Years of Cameron Indoor Stadium


Brian Schick: Yost still boasts the best fans on campus

Yost’s “’improvements’ aren’t worth it for fans

In print:

Canham, Donald B. From the Inside: A Half Century of Michigan Athletics. Ann Arbor: Olympia Sports Press, 1996.

Hilton, John. “Don Canham’s Empire.” Ann Arbor Observer Sept. 1983: 67-77.

Bacon, John U. Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey. Ann Arbor: Olympia Sports Press, 2001.

Bacon, John U. “Fielding Yost.” A Legacy of Champions: The Story of the Men Who Built University of Michigan Football. By Joe Falls, et al. Ann Arbor: F. Svedbeck Publishing, 1996. 14-73.

Posted under Analysis, Hockey

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Mailbag: Night Games and MSU Recruiting

The first question comes from RJ, who you may remember from the last edition of Mailbag:

The University has been fairly consistent about being against night games. With Rich Rod as coach might that change?

The University has indeed had a pretty consistent aversion to playing games under the lights. Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines never played a home game with a start later than 4:30, whereas Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers played night games regularly. This may give the impression that it was Carr preventing the team from taking the field at 7 or 8 PM. However, I think it was the athletic administration, rather than the football staff, that was preventing this.

AD Bill Martin has stated several reasons for wanting to not play a night game, and the retirement of Lloyd Carr didn’t really change any of them. Some of the reasons include:

  • Alumni pressure. A lot of the older alums really want to be able to get in bed by 8, rather than sitting down in the Big House. Luxury boxes and indoor club seating might make night games a little more appealing to elderly fans.
  • Curbing all-day drinking. If people wake up at 7 to tailgate for a noon football game, they get very drunk. If they wake up at 7 to tailgate for a football game that is more than 12 hours away, they get very very drunk. This is a public safety issue, and the administration doesn’t really want to get involved with that.
  • Wanting to allow Michigan fans to drive home while it is still light out. Afternoon starts don’t really avoid this, and a lot of people live far enough away that they may end up driving in the dark anyway (especially with post-game traffic).
  • No permanent lighting in Michigan Stadium. The portable lighting that has to be brought in for later games (which is paid for by the networks, not the school, in case you were interested) is both a hassle and a poor solution that doesn’t adequately light to playing field. With the stadium renovations, there will be footings for lights, but according to Dave Ablauf, still no permanent fixtures. However, the footings will allow for better lighting in the future.

In the first year, there is almost no chance of a night game, especially with the stadium renovations ongoing. However, with an enthusiastic young coach, and ever-increasing money to be made from TV, night games are something that it may be possible to see down the road.

The next question comes from an anonymous commenter who asks:

tim, i apppreciate the work you put into this blog. it is very well done. do you think that msu will keep both of their backs. i have to believe that one of them will bail.

Well, a lot of the players that are currently committed to the Spartans are not that highly regarded. I doubt State would lose Maxwell, Spencer, or Treadwell to a less prestigious program. That leaves the following three prospects:

Edwin Baker RB 5*, 5-11, 200, 4.40

Baker’s recruitment had been pretty quiet until he committed to State. Michigan has offered him, though the offer didn’t come until he was already a Spartan. It does not seem like he is probably going to stick with State, though I would be VERY surprised if he is the #2 running back in the country come February (I’ll even be mildly surprised if he ends up with all 5 of those stars).

Chris Norman LB 4* 6-2, 200, 4.60
Norman had seemed pretty open, and perhaps even leaning towards Michigan. Then State offered, and he committed abruptly. If you had asked this question a while back, I would have said he was a strong candidate for decommitment. However, with each day that passes by, it seems less and less likely that the Spartans lose his pledge.

Larry Caper RB 4* 5-11, 210, 4.41
Caper seems like the most likely of Michigan State’s verbals to leave the recruiting class. He committed to the Spartans before Baker (a more highly-ranked player) did, and though he says all the right things about not being scared off, the dread spectre of sitting on the bench has to be at least somewhat disheartening. However, State did do a god job splitting time between many guys last year (Jevon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick each had more than 220 carries), though they probably should have run it more, i.e. when it could have won them the Champs Sports Bowl. Caper’s favorites prior to his commitment had been Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Michigan, and with Charlie Weis’s cupboard currently bare, he might pursue Caper pretty heavily.

As always, thanks for the questions guys. Keep sending them in and I’ll keep answering to the best of my ability.

Etc.: Texas quarterback GJ Kinne has announced that he will transfer. No word yet on whether this will affect the decision of Sherrod Harris, another ‘Horns backup who was considering a transfer (with Michigan as a potential destination).

Posted under Analysis, Mail Bag, Recruiting

Stadium Atmosphere: Student Shirts

First and foremost, I am glad the Athletic Department has gone back to using yellow student shirts after the (horrible) year of blue in 2005. The yellow looks infinitely better, as documented by the Hoover Street Rag (also an interesting post on other points, and I generally agree with it). However, the new issue I raise is the task of actually getting students to wear them.

The TShirt Option
The first mistake the administration makes in this respect is allowing the purchase of a shirt to be optional with a student ticket purchase. By simply bundling the shirt with the tickets – no option – the department would guarantee that everyone in the student section at least has access to one maize shirt. At the very least the option to buy the shirt on the ticket order form could be checked by default – I would much rather have students accidentally buy the shirt than accidentally not buy it (which I did in both 2004 and 2005 – I didn’t bother buying the terrible blue thing in 2005 after I mistakenly didn’t order it originally).

Maize Outs
Another area in which the athletic department fails is marking a select few student tickets (last year, it was two games) with the “Maize Out” distinction. In the student section, every game should be a maize out. IF the department would like to mark tickets in other sections, by all means go ahead (I don’t know if they currently do, but by the results of past maize outs, I would assume not). Telling students that a couple games will be maize outs gives the impression that other trips to the Big House have no unofficial dress code, when in fact they should.

The Greek Community
Aside from arriving any time after 7:00 in the first quarter, and leaving in the mid-third the Greek Community at Michigan also serves as a detriment to student section glory. I’m not talking about the seemingly endless supply of Mike Hart and Tom Brady (who they hadn’t even heard of before Super Bowl 38) jerseys available at AEPi and Pike fraternity houses, but rather the “Show Your Letters” shirts that are always worn in the fall by Greeks. Most (all?) chapters require their members to wear these shirts on football Saturdays, and they are always blue (or in some cases, pink for sororities). The athletic department should reach out to the Interfraternal Council and the Panhellenic organization to work toward having shirts that accomplish the missions of both the Greeks (advertising) and the AD (uniform yellowness).

Maize Jerseys
Finally, I know it is not a popular idea among many Michigan fans (particularly the traditionalists), but a maize jersey for the football team (for example, during a maize out night game, novl idea, I know) would go a long way toward assisting in a maized out student section with regularity. Those same people who insist on wearing their OMG TOM BRADY jersey to the game would have an OMG SAM MCGUFFIE option that would not hinder the chromatic continuity of the student section.

Posted under Analysis