“Alabama Football Follies”

A loyal reader sent me a link to this op-ed piece in the New York Times by Joe Nocera, “Alabama Football Follies.” It’s about the move to do away with football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham followed by the outcry and the reinstatement of football. It’s of interest here since EMU is specifically mentioned as one of the poster children for spending too much money on athletics:

Schools in smaller conferences — Alabama-Birmingham is in Conference USA — have struggled to keep up, especially state schools whose budgets have been cut by their legislatures. (According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state spending per student in Alabama has declined over 36 percent since 2008.) USA Today does an annual ranking of university athletic department balance sheets, and you can clearly see this trend. Rutgers University had a $36 million deficit; the University of Connecticut, $27 million; the University of Massachusetts, $26 million; Eastern Michigan University, $25 million — and on the list goes.

But there is one other part of this story that is a bit of a silver-ish lining. The president who cancelled football at UAB, Ray Watts, insisted that the university would not pay more than $20 million for football and if the “various interests” in the community wanted more (and they wanted a lot more), they were going to have to find the money themselves. And they did: “By the end of May, the city’s corporate leaders had pledged to make up the additional $17.2 million subsidy, and had made a promising start on raising the $13 million or so needed for the practice facility.”

I agree with Nocera, that there are many better ways to spend the money than on football. But at least there was significant community “buy-in” to football at UAB. Could EMU’s football team come close to raising money like this?

“EMU Football Helmet Part of College Football Hall of Fame”

Two alternative headlines/titles for this post I had in mind were “slow SLOW news around here” and “What?!?” But I decided to go with what they had at emueagles.com, “EMU Football Helmet Part of College Football Hall of Fame.”  Apparently, the new helmets with “the flat forest green metallic color, featuring a chrome diamond plate Block E logo on the side” (I blogged about them way back in October) are featured as one example (with about 50 others) of an exhibit called “The Alternate Helmet — Modern Styles.”

Besides wondering who exactly would go to the College Football Hall of Fame and why, my other two favorite things about this story are the corporate sponsorships. That is, it’s “The College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience” and the Emus helmet is featured in the “Specialty Exhibit Delivered by UPS.” Heh.

The last EMUTalk.org NCAA Basketball Tourney all comes down to this…

The pool for this last ever EMUTalk.org NCAA Basketball tourney “you pick ’em” contest (which has no actual prizes, by the way) is pretty small, but that’s okay. It’s the idea that counts. And this year, it looks like to comes down to two possible winners. If Duke wins, then the winner is Gran Mago with his or her picks the Mayor of Bracketville. If Wisconsin wins (and I frankly didn’t think Kentucky could lose to anyone this year), then Derek M and his (I presume this is a Derek I know, who is a man) picks Carom L wins.

Interestingly, Gran would would win not because he or she picked the winner (they had Arizona winning it all) but rather Gran had more overall correct picks. But while Derek M. had fewer right picks along the way, he picked both Wisconsin and Duke to be in the final game and for Wisconsin to win. Seems like Derek M. should win no matter what, but I’ll trust the Yahoo math on that one.

Too bad about Michigan State getting crushed so badly by Duke, too. Maybe next year. Speaking of basketball and next year: one of our friends over at Eagle Totem, Jeremy Rosenberg, has a good “final analysis” report about basketball this year. I agree with him that the men’s team was a mild disappointment, but compared to where the Emus were a few years ago, there’s definite improvement. And even with the adversity of the death of a player in a traffic accident, the women’s team had a solid year, losing in the sweet 16 of the Women’s NIT.

Anyway, I’d like to see Wisconsin win tomorrow night. Go Badgers!

One last time at the NCAA Tourney: the annual (and final) you pick-em contest

As far as I can tell, this year’s NCAA “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament is basically a contest for second place: I can’t imagine anybody is going to beat Kentucky. Then again, part of the excitement of tourney-time (and of college basketball generally) is anything can happen.

Here’s a link to the EMUTalk pool— I think I have this right. As was the case in the past, it’s for bragging rights only. Sign up early and often!

More about and in memory of Jordan Hopkins and Shannise Heady

From mLive comes a couple of stories about the EMU students who died over the weekend in a car accident on Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti, Shannise Heady and Jordan Hopkins. The death of young people like this so in their prime is always sad of course, but I find it even more disturbing to learn that the investigation has revealed that the two were not wearing seat belts and they were going too fast.

Also related is this story about where the accident happened, “Crash that killed EMU students is 4th fatal in just over 2 years on stretch of Hewitt Road.” It is a pretty notoriously dangerous area (at least for locals like me), and I think the Washtenaw County Sheriff detective they interviewed for this, Doug McMullen, seems oddly defensive about the problem being all about the drivers.

“Cost of Attendance, EMU Athletics, and You”

In the realm of “sport,” there’s a good post by our friend Jeremy over at the site Eagle Totem, “Cost of Attendance, EMU Athletics, and You.” It’s about some rule changes for student athlete scholarships and also about how that is likely connected to EMU getting out of the game at home versus Michigan State. It’s a good read so follow that link. A couple of quotes here:

After years of dragging their feet, the NCAA finally approved cost of attendance increases for student athletes. It was the Power 5 conferences that finally moved on this, as they seemingly control all aspects of college athletics. The ripple effect will eventually hit us here in Ypsilanti, and how the increased costs will be dealt with is uncertain.

The MAC released a statement claiming “the Mid-American Conference’s Council of Presidents has reaffirmed its support of the NCAA’s autonomous legislation that allows for cost of attendance to be included in a grant-in-aid.” In layman’s terms the notion is this — student-athletes will see a bump in their overall scholarship allotment, money to cover food/books/rent etc. The Power 5 masters have pulled the leash, and the Group of 5 subjects have been forced to follow. The ante for admission at the adult table has been raised.

and this:

… for the sake of argument we claim that EMU will be paying $3,000 to each student-athlete [in these additional scholarship expenses], the cost will be enormous. EMU has approximately 500 student-athletes, at the cost of $3,000 per we are looking at approximately $1.5 million dollars added to the already stressed EMU athletic budget.

The EMU athletic budget currently runs an annual deficit of $10-11 million dollars. It is clear that any money used to pay student-athletes will have to come from the larger budget, as athletics cannot simply raise ticket prices to add meaningful revenue. Perhaps they can persuade Pepsi or another corporate sponsor to cover the cost. These solutions are doubtful. Odds are the only way the Athletic Department can pay for this is by either cutting expenses or drawing more money from the student population.

So far, it looks like what is likely to happen is a bit of both: that is, the department is trying to cut expenses so that they are drawing not quite as much money from the general fund, but we’re still going to end up throwing more money at athletics.

And then there’s this:

The first step toward, pardon the phrase, closing the gap in expenditures fell yesterday, when it was announced that EMU has dropped a home game with Michigan State because, in Heather Lyke’s words, “We couldn’t afford to play that game without a guarantee exchange.”

This means that EMU has to miss out on a golden opportunity to party with our Spartan amigos, amidst a full Rynearson Stadium, if only for one weekend. Have you ever noticed that almost all photos of Rynearson Stadium seem to be an aerial shot of an empty stadium? The MSU game was a chance to rectify that! Finally, a stadium full of green and white clad fans! EMU is missing out on fifteen years of useable stock photos.

I’m assuming that when Lyke says we can’t afford the guarantee exchange, she’s talking about how much money we’d have to pay MSU to come here to beat us up. I guess I can kind of understand that, but I have to say that I’m not so sure that Jeremy kind of has a point, even if he’s being a bit sarcastic here. It would be the first time that stadium has been full since… well, maybe the first time ever. Even if EMU had to pay MSU $1 million to come here, it seems possible they’d make that back in ticket sales (especially if they bumped them up for the game) and it would definitely help the attendance figures.


“Ex-EMU football star fired from OKC police after sex crime charges”

Not exactly a surprising story given what has come before, but as Mlive reports, “Ex-EMU football star fired from OKC police after sex crime charges.” A quote:

Former Eastern Michigan University football player Daniel Holtzclaw has been fired from the Oklahoma City Police Department after being charged with several sex crimes related to his position in 2014.

Holtzclaw is accused of sexually assaulting multiple women while working as an on-duty police officer between February and June 2014.


“Why Jim Harbaugh is worth $40 million to the University of Michigan’s football team”

Say, did you hear that U of M got a new football coach? I know, that’s news to me too! Not. Anyway, via the book of face, I came across this Washington Post column by John Feinstein, “Why Jim Harbaugh is worth $40 million to the University of Michigan’s football team.” I don’t think the headline quite fits because it doesn’t demonstrate Feinstein’s mixed feelings about Harbaugh and the “arms race” in college football. On the one hand:

Harbaugh won’t be the highest-paid coach in college football in 2015, even if you calculate his first-year salary at $7 million (bonus included). Alabama Coach Nick Saban will make $7.2 million. In fact, at least a dozen football coaches will make at least $4 million in the coming year. According to USA Today’s annual report on coaching compensation, almost every football coach among the 65 schools in the “power-five” conferences makes seven figures, and, as Harbaugh’s deal proves, there’s no sign of that trend reversing itself anytime soon.

To wring one’s hands and — correctly — point out the absurdity of a football or basketball coach making 10 times as much as the university president and more than perhaps 20 or 30 tenured professors combined is a waste of time. That ship sailed long ago. What’s more, if Harbaugh is successful, he will be worth every penny he’s paid — and more.

On the other hand:

The untold part of the story is this: For every program like Michigan, which can easily afford to pay a coach millions, there are at least four times as many schools trying to compete at the top level of NCAA football that are drowning in red ink. There are 128 schools playing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Perhaps half of the 65 in the power conferences are making millions each year. The rest break even — or worse.


Most schools that play football would save millions of dollars if they stopped playing football. But they aren’t the ones playing on national TV week after week. They aren’t Michigan, where paying Jim Harbaugh $40 million may sound obscene but, in fact, is a very sound investment.

“Ron English refocused, wants to coach again”

Happy New Year, everybody! Before we move forward into 2015, I thought I’d share a couple of things that happened over the break that were interesting. I suppose I should begin with something more worthy and serious– EAA news, for example– but this is the article that made me laugh the most. From The Detroit News comes “Ron English refocused, wants to coach again.” And you thought all of the coaching news had to do with that Harbaugh guy at that liberal arts school in Ann Arbor!

Here’s a long quote from the beginning of this piece, which I assume was ghost written by some PR person English hired:

English has had 14 months to think about that 90-second profanity and homophobic-laced tirade that shocked the football world and led to his firing as Eastern Michigan University’s head football coach. He’s had 14 months to reshape his life.

Once a highly regarded defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan, English finds himself on the sidelines as college coaching jobs around the country are being filled. No one wanted to touch the guy that called players filthy names.

But that guy is no longer around. English has reshaped his mind and body.

“I think what happened is I was so focused on wanting to have success that my world became way too small,” English said. “So now my world is big again. When you get like that and you get so focused that you stay in that little world. So for example you don’t even talk to people. I didn’t really talk to too many people for five years.”

So, what has he done during these 14 months to change his life (and, presumably, to make him marketable as some kind of coach again?) Literally, he’s found Jesus, taking “religious and spiritual classes” at Bethesda Bible Church in Ypsi, and he’s become the “academic coach and travel soccer and basketball chauffeur” for his kids (e.g., a stay at home dad). At the same time, “He also helped coach Portland Lincoln High School, which advanced to the Oregon state playoffs, and studied Big Ten football games.” I’m not sure I understand how he helped coach a football team on the other side of the country from Ypsi, but I’m pretty sure “studied Big Ten football” means “watched a lot of TV.”

Well, good luck, Ron.

“Who actually funds college football?”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me this link from the web site Raw Story, “Who actually funds college football?” The answer to this question is well-known to EMUTalk.org readers: it’s students, and it’s a result of student fees. One interesting angle in this article though is the author, David Ridpath, is a professor at Ohio University who has done some MAC-specific research on this. Here’s a quote:

I recently completed an empirical research study with co-authors Jeff Smith, of the University of South Carolina-Upstate and two Duke University Graduate Students, Jonathan Robe and Dan Garrett. We researched student perceptions of the athletic fee in the Mid American conference (MAC), one of the most highly-subsidized Division I conferences in the NCAA.

The study, due to come out in the January issue of The Journal of Sport, showed that students were largely unaware of these fee amounts, and how much it was allocated for intercollegiate athletics.

The athletic fee wasn’t obvious (in fact, it wasn’t even itemized) on university bills. Furthermore, getting the exact number from MAC institutions proved exasperating.

Considering the total fees assessed to fund athletics at MAC institutions, it’s clear why schools weren’t exactly transparent about the fee. Once the actual fee amount was detailed to the surveyed population of students, over 90% were either against the athletic fee or wanted it substantially lowered.

I’ll have to wait for my January issue of The Journal of Sport to arrive to get more of the details.