College football is big business. There is no denying that fact anymore. Skyrocketing coaching salaries, massive facility upgrades, academic centers, BCS bowls, and most importantly the TV contracts that stuff the coffers, all of it contributes to make the University of Michigan's athletic department one of the most financially successful in the country.
Fortunately, Michigan is in a good position. With a large alumni base, a very old relationship with the Big Ten conference --- and the subsequent windfall from BCS trips and the conference's cable network --- and the largest stadium in the country, there isn't much worry about keeping things in the black. Small schools scrape together money for sports from grants and piddling donations. They depend on large paydays for one-off away games at powerhouse schools to keep the football program fiscally feasible. If your school isn't in a major college football conference, odds are the athletic director has a lot of tough choices to make on a daily basis.
Seen in that light, Dave Brandon looks to have a pretty cushy job. Thanks to the deft management of Bill Martin, the Michigan athletic department is practically printing money now. This allows Brandon to work on other projects for the good of the program: namely branding.
And so we get to the inherent contradiction in Dave Brandon's decision to leave the band home for the season opening neutral site game against Alabama even though the Tide will be bringing a band and Michigan already has seat guarantees for its band. Now, according to Angelique Chengelis the cost of the trip for the band would land around 400k, which is twice what it costs to put the team up. Seen in that light you can make the argument that it is a sound financial decision. Brandon has done a good job of cutting costs and finding new ways to maximize revenue (want to shell out 80 dollars for a gimmicky jersey anyone?) and this seems to fall in line.
However, if Dave Brandon is as concerned with the Michigan Brand as he seems to say he is, then it is impossible that he has overlooked just how valuable it is to have the Michigan band at a nationally televised season opener against the defending national champions in a mecca to
Jerry Jones' ego football. If you were building the perfect promotional opportunity for Michigan football wouldn't one of the top three things on your list be finding a way to cram Michigan's iconic fight song into every possible second of what will probably be the most watched game of the first month of the season? Isn't there value in the booth announcers giving halftime thoughts with the Michigan Marching Band high stepping its way around on the field below? What the hell follows a touchdown in this game? Won't someone think of the children?
I can laugh at hash tags on the field and tweets on the scoreboard (laughing less so since they were for a good cause). I can accept alternate jerseys and other money-making gimmicks. But with all the money we spend on a yearly basis to watch Michigan football --- from rising ticket prices to cable packages --- is it too much to ask that some of that money go back into doing something explicitly for the fans? I'll leave the last word with Chris from Burgeoning Wolverine Star (who doesn't write nearly enough in the off season but I can't blame him):
But not bringing the band to the opener objectively diminishes the final product. The Victors is not something to be played through a stereo, unless its blasting out on State Street on an October Saturday morning and the faint sound of the real deal is echoing in the distance. If Alabama's band is there, the game goes from a pseudo-road game to a legitimate one. This is not good for your football team. This is not good for their season. With tickets already allotted for the band, the minor, one-time expense of sending them is not even a decision: they go, because they're part of the football team or perhaps more importantly for Brandon, they're part of the product.
Holdin' the Rope doesn't write much, but he hits the nail on the head regardless. Also, check out below for Alex Cook's take.
On to the links:
E.J. Levenberry Deciding Tuesday: Will It Be Michigan Or Florida State For Linebacker Recruit? - If you were wondering when Michigan's 2013 class would get its next member, you may not have to wait long to find out. Levenberry is one of the top targets on Michigan's board and has the potential to develop into an absolute monster under the tutelage of Greg Mattison and co.
Scouting Report: E.J. Levenberry, Jr. - One day Magnus is going to have a son who plays pee-wee football. I shed a tear for that kid when he asks dad, "how did I do?"*
*(I kid. Magnus gets a lot of crap for being so blunt in his player assessments, but it is nice to have a reasonable, if a bit pessimistic, voice to try and balance the flood of hyperbole and outsized expectations that comes from the rest of the recruiting industrial complex.)
Profilin' the Tide: Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, and H-backs - Want to read a position preview of Alabama that won't make you vomit? Holdin' the Rope has just the thing.
The scary part is that Alabama lost its top four receiving options and something like 80% of its receiving yards from last year and this still goes down as "relative to the rest of the Alabama juggernaut this is a weakness, but mostly because there isn't much experience."
Big Ten, Pac-12 series still on solid ground? - Oh, so you were excited about the possibility of the Big Ten and Pac-12 playing a series in a few years? One that made all sorts of sense and provided a slew of competitive non-conference games? Remember, this is college football. Leave your logic and reason at the door.
To come full circle on this whole thing, it really says something about the state of college football that a massively popular initiative like this would get held up because A) it wouldn't allow a few teams many opportunities to schedule creampuff games to pad the win loss record and help get bowl wins, and B) that nobody is really surprised by any of this.
That's it. Can we just get an eight team playoff with guarantees for five conference winners (thereby letting you play whoever the hell you want in the non-conference season without hurting the playoff resume)? College football is running out of ways to make no sense at all.