college football

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There are many Michigan State University students and alumni celebrating the New Year in Pasadena.

They’re there to see the Spartans play in this year’s Rose Bowl game.

The Rose Bowl is nicknamed “The granddaddy of them all” because it is the oldest of the college football bowl games.

The last time the Spartans represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl was 1988. MSU earned its first trip back to Pasadena on New Year’s Day with a 12 and one season, finishing with a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Michigan State shook up the BCS title chase again Saturday night.

The No. 10 Spartans regained the lead on Connor Cook's 9-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Price with 11:41 left and upset No. 2 Ohio State 34-24 to take the Big Ten title and put Auburn back in the national title hunt.

Ohio State (12-1) had the nation's longest active winning streak end at 24 as coach Urban Meyer suffered his first loss since taking over in Columbus.

It was a game that almost defied logic.

The Wolverines taking the field in 2009. They enter this season with 90-to-1 odds at the championship, but fans hope Harbaugh can turn them around.
flickr use Anthony Gattine /

I’ve often joked that some Michigan football fans aren’t happy unless they’re not happy.  But after 11 games this season, even they could be excused for having plenty to be unhappy about. A week ago, the Wolverines were 3-and-4 in the Big Ten, with undefeated Ohio State coming up next. 

The Wolverines had been surprisingly bad all season -- until the Ohio State game, when they were suddenly, surprisingly good, falling short by just one point in the final minute.  It was the first time I have ever seen Michigan fans feeling better after a loss than before it. 

Still, the heroic performance was bittersweet.

Where was that team all year?  Which team will return next year – the one that got crushed by Michigan State, or the one that almost beat the Buckeyes?

But Michigan’s bigger problems are off the field, not on it.

Anderson Mancini / Flickr

The Grambling State University football team plays in the unheralded Southwestern Athletic Conference, in the division beneath the big boys. They had an 11-game losing streak, stretching back into the 2012 season.

In short, this was not a team that warranted national attention.

But the Tigers finally got some last month. No, they didn’t notch their first win that day – or even another loss. They didn’t play – and it wasn’t due to bad weather or a bye week. The players simply refused to take the field.

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No doubt about it — heads are sure to collide on Saturday’s football game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

But when heads collide on the field at Spartan Stadium, two neurologists will be on the sidelines, making sure no concussed player gets back in the game.

Both Jeff Kutcher, an associate professor of neurology at Michigan’s medical school, and David Kaufman, the chairman of the neurology department at Michigan State, will be working on the field for Saturday’s game.

According to the New York Times, while many Big Ten schools have medical consultants for their athletic teams, only Michigan and Michigan State keep them on the sidelines at all games.

user Wystan / Flickr


Tomorrow morning, one of Michigan’s oldest traditions will be on display. No, not at the Big House, but at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house.

That’s where they’ve played something they call The Mudbowl every year since 1933, the same season Jerry Ford played center for the national champion Wolverines, and Columbia University won the Rose Bowl.

We're deep into the 2013-2013 college football season. Fans flock to the "hallowed ground" of their team's home stadium, be it The Big House for Wolverines, Spartan Stadium for MSU Fans or, maybe Kelly/Shorts Stadium for you Chips. Or, maybe, your pilgrimage takes you to other states. To Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley or Ohio Stadium or Notre Dame Stadium.

No one can argue the fact that, no matter which metric you use, whether attendance, TV ratings, revenue for the NCAA, money into the coffers of the college or university, college football is huge.

But, Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon is deeply worried about the future of college football. He fears it may be losing its soul and, with it, the support of fans and players.

His new book is a deep-dive into the Big Ten during the 2012 college football season. It's called "Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football." Bacon sat down with Stateside host Cynthia Canty and spoke about his new book.

user AndrewHorne / Wikimedia

For decades, students at Michigan games were assigned seats, with the seniors getting the best ones. But for some games last year, a quarter of the 20,000 or so people in the student section were no-shows.

So, athletic director Dave Brandon decided to switch them to general admission – first come, first seated -- to get them to show up on time -or, at all.

The students went ballistic.

Yes, some can display a breathtaking sense of entitlement, and they won’t get much sympathy from the average fan, who has to pay three or four-times more.


With the college football season finally behind us, I wanted to write a simple college football roundup, ending in a sweet little story about a very good guy.

But every time I tried, some bad news got in the way.

The first obstacle was Lance Armstrong.  In case you missed it – though I can’t imagine how – it turns out the man who came back from cancer to win a record seven Tours de France and write two best-selling books about his inspirational story, is a fraud. 

Terry Johnston / Flickr

The people who sell bowl games need us to believe a few things:

  • Their games are rewards for great seasons;
  • They offer players and fans a much-wanted vacation;
  • The bowls are non-profits, while the schools make a killing. 

These claims are nice, and would be even nicer if they were true.

Forty years ago, college football got by with just eleven bowl games.

The 22 teams they invited were truly elite, and so were the bowls – like the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and The Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl.

When your team got into a bowl game back then, you knew they’d done something special.

But the number of bowls has more than tripled, to a staggering 35, including such timeless classics as the The Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl, and the legendary Bowl.

Michigan vs. Notre Dame. The two teams play their final game in 2014.
Michigan Football / Facebook

Notre Dame announced this week the school is suspending its century-old rivalry with the University of Michigan after the 2014 season.

The only constant is change. 

Yeah, yeah.  We know that – and in case we didn’t, there’s always some office blowhard too eager to say it, as if it’s some profound truth.

But that’s why, the more things change, the more we appreciate things that don’t.

When Carole King sang, “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more?” she probably wasn’t talking about NFL franchises, but she could’ve been.

Denard Robinson avoids a rush from the Fighting Irish.
Michigan Football / Facebook

It appears that a storied college football rivalry is coming to an end. The two teams first met in 1887.

More from the Associated Press:

Notre Dame has notified Michigan it is exercising a three-year out in their contract, meaning their last scheduled game against each other will come in 2014.

A letter from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon cancelling games in 2015-2017 was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The AP reports the teams were scheduled to take hiatus for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The Notre Dame football team is required to play five games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams. The school recently joined the conference, but kept its football team independent. reports the two teams have taken long breaks in the past.

They've played every year since 2002 and regularly since 1978 after not meeting from 1944 to 1977 or 1910 to 1941.

Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon was handed a letter before last Saturday night's game (which Michigan lost 13-6). Brandon said he hopes to work with Notre Dame on another contract in the future:

"The ball is in their court because they've triggered the three-game notice," he said. "We'll play them next year at Michigan Stadium for the last time in a while -- it appears -- and we'll make our last scheduled trip to South Bend in 2014. There will likely be nothing on the board for five years after that. Beyond that, I don't know what will happen." reports "the Wolverines have an NCAA-best .735 winning percentage in football, and the Irish (.732) are second. Michigan leads all-time series 23-16-1."

No word on Notre Dame's game contract with Michigan State University.

With the 2012 college football season around the corner, Ann Arbor-native Pat Stansik found a new way to express his home team fandom. Follow the link to watch the music video for his song "I Love You, Denard."

user Malinaccier / Wikimedia Commons

A former National Football League player from Michigan filed a lawsuit yesterday against the league and four others for failing to warn him of football-related head injuries, reports the Associated Press.

Derrick Walker lives in West Bloomfield, and he began his football career playing for the University of Michigan Wolverines where he served as co-captain in the '80s.  Since then, the plaintiff went on to play tight end professionally for the San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. 

Over that time period, Walker's lawsuit says he was concussed multiple times which led to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, headaches and difficulty sleeping.  Now he's seeking at least $500,000 in damages, reports the Detroit Free Press.

(courtesy of

Big Ten officials are seriously looking at a plan to create a potentially lucrative national college football playoff system.   Just how lucrative remains an unanswered question.

Oleg Klementiev / Flickr

While I was writing “Three and Out,” the Michigan football players challenged me to join their workouts in the weight room.

I did – and soon discovered it was one of the dumbest decisions of my life – and one of the best career moves.

I’d heard so much about these modern gladiators and their weight room heroics that I wanted to find out for myself just how much harder it really is compared to what the average weekend warrior puts himself through just to avoid buying “relaxed fit” jeans.

The plan was simple: I would work out with these guys three times a week, for six weeks -- “if you last that long,” said Mike Barwis, Michigan’s former strength coach.  But there were four signs that I shouldn’t be doing this.

When I asked Barwis if I should prepare by lifting weights, he said, “No, it’s too late for that!”  Well, that’s one sign.

When Ann Arbor's own George Jewett, an African-American, made Michigan’s football team in 1890, he would not have predicted it would take more than four decades for another black player to follow him.

The biggest reason was Michigan’s head coach from 1901 to 1926, Fielding H. Yost, who had unequaled ambition and ego, and six national titles to back it all up.

But he also had a blind spot: he was a racist.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.  His dad fought for the Confederates, after all.  But Yost was surprised decades later when his discriminatory decisions created a national controversy.

It started when he named Harry Kipke Michigan’s next head coach.

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The most important day of the year for a college football coach is not the home opener, the big rivalry game or even a bowl game.  It’s national signing day, which falls on the first Wednesday in February.

On signing day, the end zone is not grass or Astroturf, but a fax machine tray.  Only when a signed National Letter of Intent breaks the plane of that tray does it count.

A couple years ago I got a chance to see the sausage get made – and it’s not pretty.

When an 85-year old man dies, you cannot call it a tragedy.  Sad, yes, but tragic, no.  

But Joe Paterno’s passing might be an exception.  Born in Brooklyn in 1926, he enrolled at Brown University, where he played quarterback. He still holds a school record -- for interceptions -- with 14. 

After graduating, Paterno was supposed to go to law school, but instead followed his coach, Rip Engle, to Penn State.  

His father was beside himself.  “For God’s sake, what did you go to college for?”  That was 1950.  62 years later, that’s where Joe Paterno died. 

Bryan Frank

The college football bowl season has always been a little crazy - but most of that used to be “fun crazy.”

Now it’s “bad crazy.”

Michigan played in the first ever bowl game against Stanford on New Year’s Day in 1902.

The Wolverines won, 49-0 – but didn’t play another bowl game for 46 years.     

Pasadena didn’t host another game until 1916, and no one else sponsored one until 1935, when the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Sun Bowl started, followed two years later by the Cotton Bowl.

The games were just glorified exhibitions, intended to reward a few good teams with a nice trip, and for the Southern cities to promote themselves.

If you are a football fan, you probably know that the Detroit Lions won a thrilling comeback victory yesterday, and are having their best season in something like a million years.

If you know a lot about University of Michigan athletics, you may know that the athletic department has a budget of $110 million, of which football takes the biggest share. Michigan State’s athletic budget is about $80 million.

user audreyjm529 / Flickr

College football coaches are far from the richest people in sports, but they could be the most powerful.  That might seem far-fetched, but not to the disciples of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Tom Osborne, among others, who rose to become almost spiritual leaders at their schools.   

At University of Michigan President James Duderstadt’s retirement banquet in 1996, he said being president wasn’t easy, but it came with some nice perks.  He even got to meet the man thousands of people considered God.  “No,” he said, “not Bo Schembechler, but the Dalai Lama.”

wikimedia commons

The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan.

But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since – and not always for the better.

Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches.

But the phrase really took off in 1989, when Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder, on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament, because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season.

Derek Tam / Flickr

The University of Michigan football team plays Northwestern in Evanston tomorrow for the first time since 2007.  The undefeated, 12th ranked Wolverines are seven-point favorites, but beating the Wildcats is no longer the easy game it used to be.  Whatever happens this weekend, it can’t match what happened back in 1995 – one of my favorite sports stories.

Big Ten Facebook page

College conferences are going through a major upheaval – perhaps the biggest in the history of college sports.

In the past year, we’ve seen Nebraska join the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah join the Pac-10, and, this week, Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the Atlantic Coast Conference.  DePaul, Marquette and Texas Christian University just joined the Big East.

Which raises the question: Just how BIG is the East?

Big enough to swallow half the Midwest and a chunk of Texas. 

A lot of people who don’t care much about sports seem to care about this.

Here's some bad news for Ohio State fans.

The university's football team has agreed to "vacate" its wins from the 2010 football season as part of its response to NCAA charges that players received improper gifts and that coach Tressel covered the rules breaches up.

From USA Today:

Ohio State announced it will vacate all its football team's wins during 2010 season, including the controversial Sugar Bowl victory when five suspended players participated.

The punishment is part of the school's response to NCAA charges that players received impermissible benefits in exchange for memorabilia and coach Jim Tressel lied about his knowledge of those violations.

Among the other measures taken are tw0 years of probation and increased resources devoted to compliance and educational programs.

The response, which was made Friday, was scheduled to be made public on July 11. However The Columbus Dispatch obtained a copy. It included the following:

"The responsibility is upon Tressel. No other institutional personnel were aware" of the violations, and the former coach failed in his obligation to report them, the response says. "The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel."


Unfortunately for Michigan fans, that doesn't mean that teams who played OSU suddenly receive those wins. Those will remain firmly set in those schools' loss columns.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Avanash Kunnath / Flickr

The Jim Tressel era at Ohio State started on January 18, 2001. 

It so happened the Buckeyes had a basketball game that night against Michigan, so it was a good time to introduce their new football coach.  When Tressel stood up to speak, he knew exactly what they wanted. 

He was hired on the heels of John Cooper, whose record at Ohio State was second only to that of Woody Hayes.  But Cooper’s teams lost to Michigan an inexcusable ten times.  Can’t do that.  And you can’t say, “It’s just another game,” either – which might have been his biggest mistake. 

Knowing all this, when Tressel told the crowd, "I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field.  The place went nuts. “At last,” they said, “somebody gets it!”