Friday, September 10, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering Episode II: Attack of the Skunkbears

For no good reason, I'm feeling a Star Wars themed IBG coming on this week.  Probably because whenever we play Michigan, I feel like we are the Jedi Knights to their evil Sith.  "

You've now seen Notre Dame Football: The Kelly Edition, Volume 1, Episode 1. Was it everything you thought it would be? Were characters missing from this episode that you were expecting to see featured? DiPd it strike you as a carbon-copy of Kelly's Cincinnati teams, or is there something discernible between the 2 programs beyond the colors of the uniforms?

"Great, kid.  Don't get cocky." (Han Solo, Episode IV)

Brian Kelly's Recipe for success at prior stops
Start with one mediocre to poor team. Beat soundly at a very rapid pace until smooth fundamentals appear. Pray for a shot to coach a team which can compete for championships when it wins all of their games.

Brian Kelly's Recipe for success at Notre Dame
Start with one mediocre to poor team. Add a healthy heaping helping of top quality talent. Beat soundly at a very rapid pace until smooth fundamentals appear. Win championships.

Look, you had to know that this team would closely resemble Kelly's Cincinnati team. You don't coach for 20+ years without developing some kind of identity. But there is one major distinction between Kelly's Cincinnati teams and Kelly's Notre Dame teams. That system that managed to eke out an undefeated season at Cincinatti is now playing with some much more high octane fuel. Once this thing is running on all cylinders, look out.

2) Pick one positive play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday that you feel serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010 Irish. Extra points if you can stretch the metaphor to fit Kelly's entire tenure at Notre Dame.

"I think my eyes are getting better.  Instead of a big dark blur, I see a big light blur." (Han Solo, Episode V)

Let's take a look at Armando Allen's touchdown run - 22 yards to paydirt. It was quick, it was flashy, but it was possible because of the solid fundamentals of every player on the field. Also, that play (as the culmination of that entire series) illustrates why I believe Kelly will win at Notre Dame.

Kelly's teams play solid fundamental assignment football across the board, and this play demonstrates it.  Excellent blocking at the point of attack, creating a running seam, then a good downfield block by receiver Michael Floyd, and a fired up Armando Allen runs to paydirt.  Why was Allen so fired up?  Because the three previous plays chewed up half the field behind the excellent runnning of his backup, Cierre Wood.  Next man in?  You better believe Armando can feel the heat from the talented redshirt freshman.  Also, despite all of the concern about Kelly's pass-happy spread offense, it shows that he knows the strength of his team and will coach to the strengths - that drive started at the 16, and consisted of 2 passes for 21 yards and 5 runs for 73 yards.  No square peg in a round hole here.

It also shows the trajectory of Notre Dame football I expect to see under Coach Kelly - while we may not get off to the fastest start (first two drives covered 26 and 21 yards respectively), once the cylinders start clicking, we will be tough to stop (84 yds, TD; 50 yds, FG; 45 yds FG; 30 yds, TD; 53 yds, fumble on the 3, nearly a TD).  Here's hoping, however, that we can continue to find a way to win, despite not hitting on all cylinders just yet.

3) Pick another play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday again, but this time, make it a negative play. Tell us how that play serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010
Irish. And again, bonus points for stretching it over Kelly's tenure. 

"Fear is the path to the Dark Side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." (Yoda, Episode I)

Funny thing about this game is that I left without any complaints.  Sure, there were a few things we could do better.  But on the whole, I felt like we played a largely error-free game where we executed just like we wanted to on offense and defense.  Now, we're not exactly top tier material yet, but this coaching staff did an excellent job of putting our kids in the position to win.  And for the first time in a long while, I wasn't afraid of anyone on our schedule.

If you force my hand, though, I'll pick Michael Floyd fumble on the 3-yard line.  For 2010, I think that (similar to 2005), we'll show some serious promise for the future, but find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot with our inexperience, costing us what could potentially be an incredible season.

However, I'm going to pass on the bonus points, as I see truly great things for the future of the Irish program under Kelly.

4) You know us, we're stat geeks. Give us a stat that we should be watching this season that will A) Tell us something enlightening about the 2010 Irish and/or B) Tell us something enlightening about the average Top-5 teams at the end of the 2010 season.

"Do or do not, there is no try." (Yoda, Episode V)

Because I'm worried about the youth of this team, I'm going to look at the stat that Brian Kelly mentioned in his press conference this week - striving to be less than 12% critical mistakes.  This team is talented enough to beat anyone in the country, as long as they do what they are capable of doing.  As long as we can continue to install more and more of the offense, while maintaining our discipline and limiting errors, the sky is the limit.

Because that stat is not readily available, however, I'm going to say take a look at average yards per carry on the ground.  Not number of yards, but average yards per carry.  Good teams run the ball effectively when they choose to do so.

2009  [Notre Dame 3.84 ypc]
1.  Alabama (5.01 ypc)
2.  Texas (4.03 ypc)
3.  Florida (5.59 ypc)
4.  Boise State (5.13 ypc)
5.  Ohio State (4.51 ypc)

2008 [Notre Dame 3.27 ypc]
1.  Florida (5.94 ypc)
2.  Utah (4.08 ypc)
3.  USC (5.04 ypc)
4.  Texas (4.29 ypc)
5.  Oklahoma (4.72 ypc)

Nobody makes it to the elite level without being able to run the ball.  An average ypc of over 4 means that you are effective on the ground, and can count on your running game to keep the defense honest.  Notre Dame's yards per carry against Purdue?  4.25 ypc

5) Notre Dame is currently a 4 point favorite in the coming Michigan game. You get 3 points for being at home. The AP poll actually ranks Michigan higher than ND. ND is 1-4-1 in the last 6 games with Michigan in which the Irish were favored and 9 and 6 in the last 15 games in which Michigan was favored. Does any of this worry you? Why or why not?

"The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side." (Yoda, Episode III)

Honestly, I haven't been worried about Michigan all week.  I've watched the tape for both teams, and I just think UConn's defense was undisciplined and lacked fundamentals.  The Irish defense I saw on Saturday, assuming they show up and do what they do, will make Michigan's offense look pedestrian.  I saw so many missed tackles and blown assignments by the UConn defense, that I think that Robinson's stats are more about their opponent than his abilities.

That said, Michigan will score some points.  And we'll probably let Robinson slip out of our grasp and gash us a couple of times.  But ultimately, we just won't make that many mistakes.

And on offense, Michigan's secondary is ripe for the picking.  If we can come out and establish any semblance of a running game, this one could get out of hand.  Michigan simply does not have enough bodies in the secondary to cover us if we go 5 wide.

Also, this ain't your Charlie Willingham Irish anymore - we have a new coach in town, one that's actually got experience coaching football.

"I sense something.  A presence I haven't felt since..." (Darth Vader, Episode IV)

6) Last week, Frank at UHND put the Gathering on the spot with our predictions for the season. After week 1, are there any of those predictions that you'd like to alter? Any upon which you'd double down?

"Always in motion is the future." (Yoda, Episode V)

Actually, based upon what I saw this week, I'm even more confident in

7) Describe in no fewer than 30 words why you hate Michigan.

"[Ann Arbor].  You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV)

Michigan sucks.


"YAHOOOO!! You're all clear kid, now let's blow this thing and go home." (Han Solo, Episode IV)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Michigan sucks.

Because it's Michigan week, and Michigan sucks, I thought I'd collect some of the better examples of pictures and words that describe Michigan's sucktitude far better than I could ever hope to. Please enjoy.




Wolverines stir Harbaugh controversy

Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2007, 5:16 PM     Updated: Wednesday, August 01, 2007, 5:42 PM
CHICAGO - Almost three months after former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh questioned the ways in which his alma mater blends football and academics, tailback Mike Hart practically threw Harbaugh out of the Michigan football family.
"He's not a Michigan Man, and I wish he had never played here," Hart said Tuesday. "I've never met him, and I don't want to."
Now the coach at Stanford, Harbaugh fired up the controversy in the spring when he told The Examiner newspaper in San Francisco that Michigan admitted athletes who were borderline academically, then steered them into less-challenging courses to keep them eligible.
"They're adulated when they're playing," Harbaugh said. "But when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."
Those comments still reverberate within the Michigan football program.

Coach Lloyd Carr said Tuesday he believed Harbaugh's statements were "elitist," "arrogant" and "self-serving." Hart added, "That's a guy I have no respect for."


From the Wiz of Odds blog list of most classless acts of 2009 season

8. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

You can't do this list without Rich Rod, who continues to drag this storied program to new, embarrassing lows.

No stranger to litigation (see West Virginia), Rich Rod was sued for allegedly defaulting on a real estate loan to build condominiums near Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. One of his business partners in the failed venture is facing five felony counts and possibly 50 years in prison.

Michigan has gone to 33 consecutive bowl games until Rich Rod arrived. Now they've missed the postseason two years in a row. If that's not bad enough, the NCAA alleges that Rich Rod's program committed five potential major rules violations. Somehow, he's still the coach.



(i)letter from BGS to Michigan fans, September, 2005...(/i)

Dear Michigan fans,

That time of year is upon us once again, when the two titans of midwest football clash in what's shaping up to be yet another epic battle. There's something extremely powerful surrounding this mostly-annual grudge match; we fight over local and national dominance, we fight over the top spot spot in all-time winning percentage, we fight over recruits. ND-Michigan has featured some of the best games in college football over the years, with legendary names like Hamilton and Oliver, Ismail and Howard, Carter and Brooks and Mirer and Gillette spilling across the headlines. Interestingly enough, despite the proximity -- Ann Arbor is just a scant 175 miles from South Bend -- Notre Dame and Michigan aren't really the dominant rivals in each other's worldview. Notre Dame has its traditional, and longer-running rivalry with Southern Cal, and Michigan's stalking horse has always been Ohio State. That's not to say ND-Michigan is taken any more lightly by its fans; on the contrary, the emotions run just as high. But the matchup is special: I would say that Michigan and Notre Dame are less rivals and more Enemies. Bitter, bitter enemies.

ND-Michigan more often than not features a battle of nationally-ranked opponents, and often goes right down to the wire. And unlike other grudge matches that often serve as a capstone to a team's season, the Notre Dame-Michigan affair is always right up front, usually kicking off the season. A win can catapult the victor to an undefeated season; a loss can sink a team's hopes right out of the gates. Off the field, we pit our rich traditions against each other in a never-ending argument over who's got the best academics, the best colors, the best uniforms, the best marching band, and the best fight song.

In a way, Notre Dame owes Michigan a debt of gratitude. It was a group of Wolverine players who first taught the game to a Notre Dame club way back in 1887. From those humble beginnings, both programs rose to national fame and fortune. So, we give thanks to Michigan for passing down the game that has defined us so, and we are grateful.

But we owe Michigan more than our gratitude. We owe UM our scorn, for they have earned it.

A quick look at the history books reminds us why the Skunkbears have a wing unto themselves in our Hall of Shame. Shortly after the halcyon days of 1887, when players shared the game in a collegial competition, you tried to kill us. Once Notre Dame beat Fielding Yost's "point-a-minute" champions (after 8 consecutive losses to the Wolverines), Yost took the fledgling Irish program off Michigan's schedule. The humiliation ran deep; as if simply dropping the Irish wasn't enough, Yost fought tooth and nail to keep the burgeoning ND program out of the powerful Western Conference, worried that the upstart immigrant school would damage the reputation of what is now the Big Ten. Yost blackballed us, and encouraged others to do the same; for 34 years, his cowardice was enshrined in UM's schedule for all to see. Like a deranged, Munchausen-by-proxy mother (look it up), you tried to smother us in the crib when our program was in its infancy. Fear of Notre Dame was a powerful talisman, institutionalized by Yost, and the cowardice and consternation towards Notre Dame oozes out of Ann Arbor even to this day.

Yost was but the first in a litany of men of low character to hold the reins at UM. Fritz Crisler's "bias" (ahem) toward ND is well-known, and, like his predecessor, again dropped the Irish from his schedule for thirty years after a loss. Bo Schembechler sat idly by, for years, as three different Irish coaches won National Championships, while he was busy losing Rose Bowls; Bo was driven crazy with the notion that ND might enter the Big 10 and end his biannual trips to Pasadena. Gary Moeller was frustrated that he couldn't pick Notre Dame up, drink it, and then drive into a ditch. These also-rans were over-shadowed by true coaching legends just down the road from them: legends like Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, and Holtz, who racked up championship upon championship as Ann Arbor stewed.

In the end, perhaps we do owe the Skunkbears a few more tokens of thanks. If Yost hadn't taken his ball and gone home, perhaps we would now be in the Big Ten, and our idea of football excellence would entail two or three losses per year and a trip to the Rose Bowl twice a decade. But instead, you blackballed us, and tried to choke us out of existence. You should have finished the job. We survived, and because too many teams were under Michigan's villainous spell in the Midwest, we were forced to look elsewhere to find quality opponents. And we did. We scheduled and played the nationwide champions of the day: Army, Southern Cal, Georgia Tech, Stanford, and many others. We criss-crossed the country, we were Rockne's Ramblers, taking on all comers, what tho' the odds. In doing so, we won national acclaim, respect, and the hearts of countless Americans. It was Michigan's attempt to stamp out a budding rival that created the nation's most popular and successful football program, the University of Notre Dame's Fighting Irish.

This is why we don't approach the Michigan game with the same tradition-laden respect, the pomp and circumstance, or the "contest of equals" honor reserved for the Southern Cal game. Rather, like Inigo Montoya closing in on the six-fingered man, we come with a singular focus. We are Notre Dame Football. You tried to kill us. Prepare to die.


University of Michigan buries scrutiny of athletes' academics

Published: Sunday, June 15, 2008, 12:02 AM     Updated: Sunday, June 15, 2008, 3:32 PM
Administrators duck tough questions
If you don't like the questions, find different people to ask less challenging ones.
That seems to be the approach University of Michigan administrators took when two faculty members tried to examine the intersection of athletics and academics.
It's another disturbing phase in a saga that repeatedly finds U-M leaders running for cover rather than directly dealing with very troubling issues.
Last year, Professors Keith Riles and Richard Friedman began looking into whether certain student-athletes were being steered to pursue general studies degrees. They'd been concerned by remarks made by Jim Harbaugh, a former U-M football star who was critical of how academically challenged athletes were shepherded through the university.
Following up Harbaugh's charges, a four-day series published by The News in March detailed how some athletes were being guided into courses that weren't as rigorous as others at U-M.
Earlier this year and after our series ran, Riles and Friedman sent questions about these issues to U-M Vice Provost Phil Hanlon, as part of an investigation by the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, or SACUA. But though Hanlon had previously agreed to meet with them, after seeing the questions, well, that wasn't going to happen.
Hanlon now says that SACUA didn't sanction the investigation. He's backed up by two SACUA leaders - who also happen to be tight with the U-M athletic department.
Riles and Friedman believe those faculty members - David Potter and Charles Smith - derailed their probe. "It's frustrating to have skepticism or interest interpreted as bias," Riles told The News.
Frustrating, yes - but not surprising.
Hanlon didn't want to answer the questions raised by Riles and Friedman, and used a bureaucratic subterfuge to avoid them.
In fact, U-M's top leaders - including Provost Teresa Sullivan and President Mary Sue Coleman - have no interest in talking to people who ask hard questions. Unless you've drunk the Everything's OK Kool-Aid, you're viewed as an adversary.
Because this culture of denial is pervasive at the top levels of the university, we looked to faculty leadership to pick up the challenge that administrators are unwilling to acknowledge, let alone address.
Professors like Riles and Friedman - who are rightly concerned about the university's academic integrity - tried to step into that leadership role. That they were pushed back by the U-M academic bureaucracy is very telling.
Universities across the country grapple with this issue. Who should oversee the education of athletes? Should it be the athletic department, which has a vested interest in ensuring that its marquee athletes remain academically eligible? Or should that oversight rest with the academic administration and faculty, who are responsible for the university's academic integrity?
At U-M, the answer doesn't really matter. The university's top academic administrators are clearly too afraid to even respond to uncomfortable questions - questions that might reveal the true extent of the athletic department's control.
It's not just frustrating. It's shameful.


Notre Dame and Michigan - A History -ndoldtown (2003)

It is well this week to reflect on relations between Notre Dame and Michigan: how they began, how they developed, why they are the way they are and what forces impel Michigan to be the way it is. Let us review and remember all that Michigan really stands for.

Chapter One - Seeds of Smallness - The Yost Legacy

Fielding Yost is by far the most influential person in the history of Michigan athletics. A review of his tenure vis-a-vis Notre Dame is instructive of how and why Notre Dame and Michigan view each other the way they do.

"The two most powerful conference members athletically and politically were Chicago and Michigan. Both would become the staunchest athletic foes of Notre Dame. In 1898 Michigan voted to deny Notre Dame membership in the (then) Western Conference."

"In June 1901 Michigan and Chicago orchestrated the conference's banning of Notre Dame from the initial I.C.A.A. track meet"

1909 - Notre Dame defeats Michigan for the first time. After the game Notre Dame player Red Miller goes to shake Fielding Yost's hand. "When Shorty Longman introduced me to Mr. Yost, who had been my idol for years, I was thrilled beyond measure. . . To my utter amazement, he greeted me by saying 'Miller you were guilty of the most unsportsmanlike conduct that I've ever seen in all my days.'" Yost was angry because Miller had waited several times until the last minute to signal fair catches on punts and Michigan had been flagged twice for interference. "The fair catches were perfectly legal" as officials later confirmed.

Later that year despite, having a worse record and losing to ND, Michigan was voted "Champions of the West" by some Western Conference sportswriters and Yost claimed the split championship was just. "Of course we are champions. They have a good team down there, but you must recognize the fact that we went into that game caring little whether we won or lost. Practice was what we wanted."

1910 - 24 hours before Notre Dame and Michigan are to play, Yost cancels the game. The two teams do not play again for thirty-two years.

1911 - A general policy of blackballing of Notre Dame by Michigan and Western Conference schools begins. Jesse Harper writes to ask Michigan to schedule a game: "I am very sorry you could not think it best to schedule a game for next fall. If at any time you should find that your schedule is not working out to suit you and that you would like to play Notre Dame, I would be very glad to hear from you."

1913 - ND begins playing schools outside the midwest as a result of the boycott. Army, Texas, Penn State and Syracuse are added to the schedule. The 1913 Army game -- only scheduled due to the Michigan boycott -- becomes one of the most famous in ND history as Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne use the forward pass to upset the top team in the then-dominant East.

1914 - Yost to his AD "Do not favor Notre Dame game. It would be a hard game. Not much money or prestige if we won."

One senior football player, Knute Rockne, of the class of '14 bears particular ill will towards Yost and Michigan for blackballing Notre Dame. Also, despite his pass-catching ability as displayed in the game against Army, Yost works to keep this player off of All American teams. The young player swears to friends that he will ensure that Notre Dame not only never needs the Western Conference, Yost or Michigan again, but that she will eclipse them across the nation.

Rockne viewed Yost as "a hillbilly who was forever grinding a religious ax against Notre Dame, who was crooked as a dog's hind leg, who was selfish and vain beyond comprehension, who was blindly jealous of Rockne's own success and ascension to national stardom and who coached boring, neanderthal football."

1923 Big Ten track and field meet to which ND is invited. At a meeting of athletic directors Yost makes a comment in front of all listeners that Rockne is a "Protestant holdout at a Catholic school" and urges Big Ten schools to boycott Notre Dame in all sports. During the meet one of Michigan's hurdlers stumbled and lost. Yost insisted the hurdles had been placed wrong and demanded the race be re-run. Illinois, Wisconsin and other schools withdrew and Notre Dame joined in support of their protest. Yost then approached Notre Dame's captain and told him to tell Rockne that he was a quitter and that he and his "dirty Irish" would never play on Ferry Field again.

Rockne wrote Yost "The Western Conference could put in a regulation that all coaches had to join the Ku-Klux-Klan but that certainly does not apply to us any more than some of the other freak regulations they may have. Now if you personally don't want to meet Notre Dame, that is your business, no holler from this end. . . But I don't think it is fair for you to carry out a campaign against us. I have always been a loyal booster and admirer of yours and I always hope to be. However, I am no quitter. I will not sit by quietly and have my school knocked even though I am not of its faith [this was before Rockne converted]"

1926 - In a note to the Big Ten Commissioner, noting that Notre Dame had won its last twelve games against Big Ten teams Yost urges all to join Michigan's renewed boycott, "one can readily see how the Conference is helping Notre Dame."

1929 - After years of false assertions by Yost against Notre Dame, Michigan's longstanding unethical tactics are exposed in a study by the Carnegie Report on college athletics. The report cited Michigan as "among the least fortunate" of 100 schools investigated in the manner in which both the University and its alumni clubs provided loans, jobs and other forms of aid to athletes. That same year, the Big Ten Commissioner denounced the report and called Michigan "an ideal" for other college athletic programs regarding ethics.

Rockne's system, involving the famed Notre Dame Shift caught other teams off balance and was the rage in football. Yost begins a national campaign to get the shift banned and resort to old-style less fluid football not involving shifting or as much passing - in other words, a return to the rugby-style that earlier had led to many deaths and led to President Theodore Roosevelt calling for reforms in the game. Eventually, the rule was modified to require a "complete stop" - Rockne coached his players to do so - briefly - and still used his motion offense to win a national championship in 1924. Yost was outraged. Next, Big Ten officials began flagging Notre Dame on a consistent basis for its "slick" plays and quick shifts and reverses. In a game at Northwestern, Michigan alum and Big Ten official Meyer Morton penalized Notre Dame 95 yards, NW zero, leading to the famous Rockne quote to the official "Looks like a Big Ten suckhole out there to me." Rockne was also outraged that Yost had a say on which Big Ten officials called ND games against Big Ten teams, even though Michigan was not playing Notre Dame. Even with the new rules designed by Yost and his allies to impede Rockne, Notre Dame went undefeated in 1929 and 1930 and won two more national championships.

At the end of the day Rockne has become the prototype of coaches and an American cultural icon, the winningest coach in the history of football with towns, buildings, stamps and famous movies named after him and the most legendary of all team exhortations to his credit. Yost's name is generally known only to Michigan fans.

Chapter Two - The Crisler Legacy - "They Say Hail Mary's"

Finally, in 1942, after thirty-two years, a game was played between Notre Dame and Michigan. Michigan won 32-20. The next year, the game was played in Ann Arbor. The teams were ranked 1 and 2 in the polls and it was a huge game. Notre Dame won 35-12 on the way to the national championship. The star of the game was Creighton Miller, son of Red Miller who Yost had attacked in 1909. As after Notre Dame's first win over Michigan, Notre Dame's second win provoked a cessation of relations for another thirty years.

In a gesture of goodwill in order to strengthen relations between the schools, Coach Fritz Crisler was extended an invitation to the Notre Dame football banquet in 1943. He told a friend to graciously say he was deeply disappointed he could not attend and that "No one but you need know that I have my tongue in cheek when I say that."

A Michigan official told Crisler that if asked about the Notre Dame series he would say its a great series, we are looking forward to more of the same. Crisler told him "I would back you in public for any quotes and then chew you out in private for going beyond your authority." Crisler thereafter politely put off all requests for a game in 1944, 1945 or 1946. In 1946 he instituted a policy requiring that aside from conference games, Michigan only play three other games of which one must be Michigan State, one must be an eastern team and one must be a western team, effectively eliminating any chance of playing Notre Dame without having to admit that was what was being done. Frank Leahy won five national championships at Notre Dame and constantly wrote letters to Crisler begging for him to play a game. Crisler never responded to those requests, but did work behind the scenes in an attempt to have Leahy censured by the coaches association for "faking injuries".

Crisler remained AD until 1968 and never scheduled Notre Dame for a football game. Moose Krause, ND AD during the period, would call Crisler every year to seek a game and was declined for twenty straight years. Said Krause, "I think he didn’t want to play us because we were the power in his own backyard. If Michigan lost to Army, well, they were back East. We were too close."

Crisler often said he just did not want to distract from the Big Ten focus of the program. Others thought Crisler harbored anti-Catholic sentiment and feared that Catholics in Michigan might root for Notre Dame. A Detroit News writer, Pete Waldmeir, who covered Michigan for decades says the excuse of not wanting to jeopardize the importance of the conference was a smokescreen. He opined "That's the party-line bullshit. It wasnt that at all. Fritz didn't give a damn about the Big Ten. And you can quote me on that. He told them what to do in football. He had his people placed all around the Big Ten." In 1956 Crisler told Waldmeir, "You know, its tough. Every Saturday morning from every pulpit in town, they're praying for Notre Dame in Ann Arbor." Even Michigan's later athletic director Don Canham all but admits his predecessor's anti-Catholic bigotry: "Fritz didn’t have a deep-seated hate of Catholics or anything like that. But, you know, in those days they figured if a Catholic ran for President he couldn't win. . . . I mean it was a different world. And that's what you have to realize when you look at it with today's perspective."

Bump Elliott, Michigan's coach from 1959-1968 also endorsed the "religious threat" reasoning for not scheduling Notre Dame, noting that when he was an assistant at Iowa, some of their Catholic alumni rooted against the Hawkeyes and for Notre Dame. Father Edmund Joyce, Vice President of Notre Dame, said that the only two schools that ever used Notre Dame's Catholic affiliation as an excuse for not scheduling Notre Dame in football were Ohio State and Michigan. Said Joyce, "I always thought the two of them were together on this. I never believed it." Continued Joyce, in the neatest summary of what the Big Two are all about: "Ultimately, Woody Hayes was a little more honest about it. He said he didn’t want to play Notre Dame because the Michigan game was the only big game on their schedule, whereas if they played Notre Dame it would detract from the Michigan game. In other words what he was saying was they don’t like to lose. Those guys all had great egos and they didnt want to lose." Said Elliott, "I think Crisler felt our schedule was tough enough without playing Notre Dame."

Indeed, Crisler loaded up Michigan with home games, as many as seven in a nine game season and even today, Michigan's historical record is incredibly slanted with a large majority of games having been played at home. From 1943 to 1958 Michigan played Indiana fifteen times, all in Ann Arbor. They played MSU eleven of thirteen games in Ann Arbor from 1945 to 1957. Despite such favorable scheduling and a boycott of Notre Dame, Michigan did not win any national championships from 1948 through the resumption of the series with Notre Dame, while ND was winning championships in 1949, 1953, 1966, 1973 and 1977. And Michigan's light schedule may have had much to do with its lack of success against good teams for decades. In the 1970's, while Notre Dame was winning three Cotton Bowls, a Sugar Bowl, an Orange Bowl and a Gator Bowl, defeating undefeated Texas twice, undefeated Alabama twice, as well as Houston and Penn State, Michigan was 0-6 in bowl games.

One time, Crisler was assured by an alumnus that he could always count on support from Michigan alumni in his efforts to avoid scheduling Notre Dame and preventing other Big Ten schools from scheduling them, telling Crisler he could depend on "a public opinion sufficiently non-Democratic and non-Catholic." Perhaps the mentality and admirability of the second-most signifcant figure in the history of Michigan sports can be summed up in this quote from him about Notre Dame "You know, before the game they march them all off to church and they say their Hail Mary's,"

Chapter Three - The Canham Years - Michigan and The Big Ten Want ND's Money.

While figures such as Yost and Crisler didn’t like Catholics or Irish, their successors did like green, the color of money. And money was precisely what led to Michigan realizing the greater spirit and glory of sport that a resumption of games with Notre Dame would serve. Businessman extraordinaire Don Canham became athletic director in 1969 and quickly looked for avenues to increase revenue. Notre Dame was one.

Canham quickly got the deal done and Notre Dame always had the utmost respect for him as he did for Notre Dame. Said Canham. "You have to give Notre Dame credit. Any sport you name Notre Dame goes after the best competition. Thats why they're Notre Dame." The class and largeness of spirit exhibited by Canham was a break with Michigan's heritage and one not to be followed by those around him.

Canham was ahead of the game for the Big Ten in reaching out to Notre Dame. In the late nineties, Big Ten officials hotly courted Notre Dame to join the conference -- for money not love. Notre Dame wisely demurred. In an ironic twist of history largely and predictably ignored by the media, Notre Dame was being asked to join the regional institution whose many earlier rejections of Notre Dame had forced it to seek a national schedule and thus become the national athletic institution it was. Moreover, the institution that had done the most to attempt to destroy, undermine and thwart Notre Dame athletics was aghast and insulted at its rejection when it came begging for Notre Dame join it so that it could monetarily profit from the name and brand ND had built up over the years.

Chapter Four - Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr - Pettiness Personified

Sound familiar? "I dont know whether [playing Notre Dame] is in the best interests of Michigan because Michigan should be pointing to Iowa or Michigan State or Ohio State. It had just got to the point where if I had remained there as athletic director and Notre Dame continued to manipulate the position of the game and to do some of the things they were doing, I'd have dropped Notre Dame." Yes, it is Bo. He also resented that his players didn’t agree with him. "When you're setting your goals in your first meeting, Notre Dame always pops into the picture. And you say 'Okay men, we're going to shoot for Notre Dame, but I'm going to tell you something, Notre Dame is a non-conference game, and we'll always play it as that. There are only so many games you can really get your team up to a fever pitch." Bo was 4-6 against Notre Dame.

Bo's frustration undoubtedly stems in part from the fact that during his tenure at Michigan, three different Notre Dame coaches won national championships while Bo never got close. And throughout Lou Holtz's tenure, Notre Dame won five major bowls and played in four others while Michigan was going 2-3 in the Rose Bowl and not making any other major bowl games. Bo, who had the worst record against top-ten teams of any coach who ever won over a hundred games, had some of his most galling and embarrassing defeats at the hands of the Irish, including three straight losses to Holtz to close his career, Harry Oliver's 51-yard boot, Bob Crable's blocked field goal, Ricky Watter's punt return helping catapult Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988 and Rocket's two kick returns in 1989. So Bo's desire to avoid Notre Dame is understandable. His class and Michigan manner were recently displayed yet again when in true statesman of the game style he proclaimed "To hell with Notre Dame."

Lloyd Carr has picked up many of the same tendencies as his predecessors. He frequently talks about how it might be a good idea to end the Notre Dame series. Also, he went ballistic over a perceived "injustice" when Notre Dame played Kansas before playing Michigan in 1999. He claimed there was a gentleman's agreement that neither school would play a game before this one. ND athletic director Moose Krause was conveniently dead. Unfortunately, the then-alive Canham opted to tell the truth and denied any such agreement. Carr's dissembling was further undermined by the fact that Michigan played games before playing Notre Dame in 1978-82, 1991, 1993 and 1994. As former Michigan athletic director Jack Weidenbach points out, "We can move our games around too" and had done so to get a game before Notre Dame for years before Carr's Yostian tirade.

Carr's hostility to truth is also displayed in his recruiting efforts to play the race card. Carr frequently uses Notre Dame's Catholic affiliation [sound familiar] and location away from a large city to attempt to convince African-American players not to attend Notre Dame. Carr's tactics are especially unworthy considering that African-American athletes going to Notre Dame almost uniformly earn degrees while an African-American football player at Michigan for most of the last two decades is most likely to serve his time in the fields at Michigan Stadium and around the Big Ten and then leave school with no degree. Carr's average of three-losses a season with what is generally considered unlimited recruiting resources and limited academic demands on his players has placed him squarely in the Michigan mold. Consistent winning with few outstanding seasons.

In the end, much of the Michigan-Notre Dame relationship comes down to smallness and jealousy. Notre Dame has won far more national championships, more Heisman Trophies, has more All Americans. Its games are more highly-rated, its team more closely followed nationally than Michigan. It has its own network contract and every year that polling is conducted Notre Dame is chosen as America's most popular college football team. While Notre Dame has been consensus national champion nine times since the polls came into effect in 1936 and number two four times, Michigan has won a championship in 1948 and a half of one in 1997, and has finished second twice. Never has Michigan defeated an undefeated or number one or two ranked team in a bowl game to win a national championship as Notre Dame has done repeatedly. While Notre Dame has won bowl games against undefeated opponents seven times, Michigan has never won a bowl game against an undefeated opponent. And Notre Dame is the only school to have a winning record against Michigan over the last fifty years. Indeed, even failures such as Bob Davie and Ty Willingham have a combined .500 record against Michigan, with Ty having a winning record against Carr. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the average Notre Dame undergrad far outshines the resume of his Michigan counterpart, having finished in the top ten percent of his high school class and scoring much higher on standardized tests. Even by the ludicrous standards of the U.S News and World Report survey by which large universities such as Michigan live, Notre Dame outranks them. All of this is galling to Michigan, whose worldview is one conditioned on absolute superiority to the Big Ten schools it regularly dictates to politically, defeats on the field and over whom it presumes intellectual superiority.

Nowhere is Michigan's "Notre Dame complex" more apparent than in the hostile, ugly treatment of Notre Dame fans at Michigan Stadium. Michigan and other fans routinely comment on how friendly and refreshing a trip to Notre Dame is for a game - a trip back to days of real college football sportsmanship. Michigan, on the other hand, while constantly publicizing its commitment to sportsmanship and the values of intercollegiate competition embarrassingly was forced to send an official apology to Notre Dame for the vulgar and violent treatment of Notre Dame's students and fans at Michigan Stadium in 2003. Unable to have a constructive, mature relationship with a school that sees itself as more than its equal, Michigan's relationship with Notre Dame has always been one of animus and pettiness, fueled at various points by historical prejudice against Catholics and envy of Notre Dame's unique place in the history of American sport and its success against the odds, all achieved outside the narrow confines of the conference walls Michigan so obsessively built and maintains.

Posted by ndoldtown @ 2003

* Sources: Kryk, "Natural Enemies: The Notre Dame- Michigan Football Feud", Sperber, "Shake Down the Thunder" and "Onward to Victory"; Notre Dame and Michigan Media Guides.