Sports

Sports
3:31 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Tackling the student-athlete double standard

University of North Carolina athletics are cited as one of many universities that prize sports above academia.
Credit User Yusuke Toyoda / Wikimedia Commons

What happens at the intersection of college athletics and college academics? 

To what degree are student athletes allowed to get by with a lighter academic load, enabling them to play the games that are such moneymakers for the school and the NCAA?

That question is being asked more frequently today, often to the great discomfort of those who run colleges and universities, and their athletic programs.

To talk about the student-athlete double standard, we welcomed Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek. His recent piece is titled, "In Fake Classes Scandal, UNC Fails Its Athletes – and Whistle-blower."  

Listen to the full interview above. 

Sports Commentary
7:10 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Remembering the quiet dignity of baseball's Hank Aaron

Baseball legend Hank Aaron
Credit user: Aaron / Flickr

You’ve heard of Babe Ruth. If he’s not the best known American athlete of the last century, he’s in the top five. He was more beloved – by Americans of all stripes – than probably anyone. Ruth loved the fans, and the fans loved him back.

 
In 1961, when fellow Yankee Roger Maris – a nice, humble guy – was approaching Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season, he became so stressed his hair started falling out.

When Hank Aaron started approaching Ruth’s career home run record, he had it worse, for two very simple reasons: 714 home runs was the record in baseball that even the casual fan knew. And second, unlike Maris, Aaron is black. Of course, that shouldn’t matter in the least – but it mattered a lot in 1974.

Aaron grew up in Mobile, Alabama, one of seven children. They say his wrists were strong from picking cotton, and also his unusual practice of swinging “cross-handed” – that is, holding the bat with his left hand on top, instead of his right, a habit he didn’t break until the minor leagues.
 
Aaron made it to the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, one of the first African-Americans to play major league baseball. According to Daniel Okrent, a best-selling author who invented fantasy baseball, this was baseball’s richest decade for talent, because every kid grew up playing baseball – not soccer – and, finally, everybody was allowed to play.

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Soccer
8:58 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Big-time soccer coming to The Big House

University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, center, and Manchester United Communications Director Phil Townsend, far left, pose with event organizers.
Credit Steve Carmody

Two of the world's biggest soccer teams are officially coming to Ann Arbor. English champions Manchester United will play Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Big House on Aug.  2. The match is part of an off-season tournament that follows the World Cup in Brazil.

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Sports Commentary
8:33 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Move toward a college football player's union should be a wake-up call for the NCAA

Northwestern's Kain Colter is tackled during a game with Army in 2011. Colter has argued the players should be allowed to form a union.
Credit West Point / Flickr

John U. Bacon offers his thoughts on the decision to allow Northwestern University football players to form a union.

Last week’s ruling made a big splash, but it’s actually very narrow. The decision by the National Labor Relations Board applies only to private schools. Further, the players still have to vote on it, and the university is going to appeal, in any case.

But the players have been very shrewd, starting with their leader, senior quarterback Kain Colter. I got to know him while researching my latest book, and he’s a very impressive young man.   

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Sports
4:07 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Listen to a poem in celebration of opening day for the Tigers

A statue of Ernie Harwell in Comerica Park.
Kevin Ward Flickr

On opening day, the late Ernie Harwell - the voice of the Tigers for 42 years - would recite the poem Song of the Turtle. It signaled spring and a renewed life and opportunities. For Tiger fans, it just wasn't opening day without hearing Ernie Harwell speak those words of that poem.

In memory of the late sportscaster, here's Michigan writer Terry Wooten reading his poem Old Ernie Harwell:

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Sports
7:41 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

Kentucky stops UM basketball 75-72

The Kentucky Wildcats started five freshman and fired off a three-point shot in the final seconds to beat the second-seeded Michigan Wolverines, 75-72.

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Sports
5:24 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

MSU loses to UConn, E. Lansing stays calm

Gary Harris scored 22 points in the Elite 8 versus UConn
Credit USA TST / MSU Athletics

Shabazz Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and Connecticut beat Michigan State 60-54 to return to the Final Four a year after the Huskies were barred from the N.C.A.A. tournament.

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Sports
8:25 am
Sat March 29, 2014

MSU and U of M reach the Elite Eight

UNDATED (AP) - The NCAA men's regional finals are set following Friday night's action. Second seed Michigan will take on No. 8 Kentucky in the Midwest final at Indianapolis, and fourth seed Michigan St. will battle No. 7 Connecticut in the East at New York's Madison Square Garden.

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Sports Commentary
7:30 am
Fri March 28, 2014

There's no such thing as a "Walmart Wolverine"

The Big House
Andrew Horne wikimedia commons

One debate I could do without is this: Who are the real Michigan fans?

I realize that sounds pretty stupid. Anybody who cheers for Michigan is a Michigan fan, right? But we make it harder than it needs to be.   

Some folks believe only people who graduated from Michigan can call themselves real Michigan fans.

The rest? They are mere “Walmart Wolverines” – fans who pick their college teams the way they pick their professional teams: mainly by geography.

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Sports
1:52 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Detroit seeks proposals for former Tiger Stadium site

The site of the former Tiger Stadium in 2011.
user wyliepoon Wikimedia Commons

A baseball diamond is still there, but not much else. 

Now Detroit’s Economic Development Corporation wants to see proposals to redevelop the former site of Tiger Stadium.

The EDC wants to establish a new headquarters for a Detroit youth sports league, Detroit PAL, along with three zones for mixed-use development at the site in the Corktown neighborhood.

The proposed plan should also have a youth baseball diamond “in the same area as many legendary baseball stars played.”

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Sports
11:17 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Michigan and Michigan State both advance to Sweet 16

Jordan Morgan
Credit Mgoblue / University of Michigan

It's on to the Sweet Sixteen for the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Michigan held off Texas 79 to 65.

Michigan Coach John Beilein says the win again shows the similarities this year's Wolverines squad has to last year's team, which finished second in the NCAA.

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Sports
12:45 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Viva la bearcat! The most wonderfully bizarre mascots of the NCAA

Basketball is our favorite sport. We like the way they dribble up and down the court.
Steve Johnson Flickr

The Madness of March has officially commenced, bringing along its usual mix of bracket trash talk, early upsets, and billion-dollar promises.

And, of course, mascots.

For Michigan fans, March Madness has brought out our usual suspects: the Wolverines, the Spartans, and, for a fleeting moment, the Broncos.

And while many (including the president) think that the Great Lakes State has some winning teams, on a mascot level, we sure don’t compete.

The St. Louis Billikens? The Tulsa Golden Hurricane? And what in the name of all things sports is a Bearcat?

So here it is, in all its glory — a glimpse of some of the mascot heroes of this year’s  March Madness.

How a vaguely scary good-luck charm became a fifth-seeded mascot

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Sports
9:09 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Powerhouse basketball programs in Michigan playing the right way

Tom Izzo coaches his players aboard the USS Carl Vinson in 2011.
U.S. Navy

On Sunday, the Michigan Wolverines faced the Michigan State Spartans in the final of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.

After a decade of domination by the Spartans, John Beilein’s Wolverines held the upper hand the past few years. They surprised just about everyone when they won the regular season Big Ten title this year by three games. Now they had the rare chance to beat the Spartans three times in one season. 

Well, they say beating your archrival three times is almost impossible, and that proved true.

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Sports
11:11 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

UM and MSU both win NCAA tournament openers, W. Michigan falls

Adreian Payne scored 41 points, the most-ever by a Spartan in the NCAA tournament.
Credit Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports / Michigan State Athletics

Adreian Payne scored a career-high 41 points last night to get Michigan State off to a solid start in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. MSU beat Delaware 93-78.

Payne set a tournament record by making all 17 of his free throws and also broke MSU's tournament scoring record, set by Greg Kelser in 1979.

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Sports
5:50 am
Thu March 20, 2014

March Madness begins for three Michigan universities today

Big Ten champion Michigan State University, runner-up University of Michigan and Mid-American conference champion Western Michigan University all play their first tournament games today.

Big Ten tournament champion Michigan State University, runner-up University of Michigan and Mid-American conference champion Western Michigan University all play their first tournament games today. 

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Sports
12:24 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

President Obama picks Michigan State to win men's NCAA tourney

Obama making his picks on ESPN
screen shot ESPN.com

President Obama, known as the first basketball fan in the White House, filled out his brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament yesterday.

He picked Michigan State to win it all.

"It's been awhile since Izzo won one," he said.

From ESPN.com:

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Sports
3:10 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Remembering William Clay Ford

William Clay Ford dies at the age of 88.
Ford Motor Co.

The broadcast version of this commentary.

In the course of his 88 years, William Clay Ford, who died Sunday, captained Yale’s tennis team, earned an engineering degree and chaired Ford Motor Co.’s finance committee, which is enough for any lifetime.

But he will likely be remembered mainly as the owner of the Detroit Lions, during five woefully unsuccessful decades. Since he took over the franchise in 1964, the Lions have won exactly one playoff game, and remain the only NFL team to miss out on all 48 Super Bowls.

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Sports
12:00 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Olympic ice dancing champions honored at Michigan capitol

“I think it’s fair to say that Michigan is the Ice Dancing capitol of the world,” Gov. Snyder said, which drew applause from the audience.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder honored Olympic ice dancing champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the state Capitol today.

The two University of Michigan students won gold medals at the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

During the ceremony, Snyder noted many of the Olympic ice dancing pairs live and train in Michigan.

“I think it’s fair to say that Michigan is the ice dancing capitol of the world,” Snyder said, which drew applause from the audience.

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Sports
1:47 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Martha Ford to take over Detroit Lions ownership

Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.
user: mrmiscellanious Wikimedia Commons

William Clay Ford's widow, Martha Ford, will take control of the Detroit Lions, a team her husband purchased 50 years ago. She will have controlling interest in the football team, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. 

Ford, the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, passed away Sunday morning at the age of 88. 

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Sports Commentary
6:00 am
Fri March 7, 2014

If John Beilein is not the Big Ten Coach of the Year, Michigan should demand a recount

Beilein (left) cheering on his players in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
NCAA

Once Tom Izzo got Michigan State’s basketball team rolling in the late ‘90s, the Spartans dominated the state for more than a decade.

Izzo’s teams have earned 16 straight NCAA invitations, seven Big Ten titles, five Final Fours, and one national title, in 2000. Along the way, Izzo took 18 of 21 against the Wolverines, who have had four different head coaches during his tenure.

But what a difference a few years make. Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has beaten the Spartans six of their last eight meetings, and returned the long-dormant program to its previous heights.

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