John U. Bacon

Tom Izzo talking to a referee
MGoBlog on Flickr / Flickr

On Friday night Michigan State faces Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 portion of the NCAA March Madness. It's Michigan State's seventh Sweet 16 in eight seasons.

user: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Danals / Wikimedia Commons

The NCAA Men's Division One Basketball Championship or "March Madness" is officially underway.

Tomorrow, 7th seed Michigan State will face 10th seed Georgia for the chance to continue in the tournament.

On Sunday Michigan State lost in overtime to Wisconsin in the final game of the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says that their loss stems from a larger problem.

Bentley Historical Library / University of Michigan

With so much buzz around Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon thought he'd recount the coach's beginnings at the university.

Harbaugh's father was a defensive backs coach under the leadership of Michigan's legendary Bo Schembechler, and during this time Harbaugh was a ball boy for the team.

John Beilein (left) and Tom Izzo (right).
MGoBlog / Flickr

We're a little more than a week away from Selection Sunday, when we find out which NCAA teams will be competing in the March Madness tournament.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says Michigan State will almost certainly make it to the tournament, with a relatively low seed.

Tom Izzo talking to a referee
MGoBlog on Flickr / Flickr

Michigan State won against Michigan for the first time at Crisler Center since 2010. And with about three weeks until the NCAA unveils its tournament field of 68 for March Madness, the game had even more riding on it.

nfl football on field
Flickr user Parker Anderson / Flickr

Superbowl 49 has passed and much of the resulting conversation has revolved around not the game itself but instead its breakout star: Left Shark.

Michigan Radio sport commentator John U. Bacon says he's relieved that at least this new topic has allowed the discussion of “deflategate” to dissipate.

"Deflategate was the most overblown issue of all time," says Bacon, "It amounts to almost nothing. It is truly hot air."

Flickr user Keith Allison / Flickr

After it was discovered that 11 of the 12 game balls used by the New England Patriots during their victory against the Indianapolis Colts were deflated, the media created a new-found obsession over the PSI of a football, in a scandal  dubbed "deflategate."

Urban Meyer
MGoBlog on Flickr / Flickr

Ohio State University beat Oregon 42-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.

Michigan Radio commentator John U. Bacon joined us to discuss the game.

Ohio state football player
Flickr user yuan2003 / Flickr

Is it ever appropriate for a Michigan or Michigan State fan to cheer for Ohio State?

Ohio State is the underdog in next Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship game against Oregon.

University of Michigan football game
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined us in the studio today to analyze what happened in Michigan sports this week.

You can listen to our conversation with him below:


Courtesy photo / Steelcase

On Nov. 17, 2006, Bo Schembechler died. He was 77.

For Michigan fans, the bad news hasn’t ended. Second-ranked Michigan lost the next day’s game to top-ranked Ohio State, missing a shot at a national title. Then the Wolverines lost the next three straight, including the historic upset by Appalachian State. That was followed by Rich Rodriguez’s troubled three-year run, and now almost four years of Brady Hoke. After Hoke’s honeymoon season in 2011, the program has been sliding steadily downhill.

Today on Stateside:

  • Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes brings us up to date on the Detroit bankruptcy case and gives us a look ahead at what comes next.
  • Dave Brandon is now the former Athletic Director at the University of Michigan and the search has already begun for his replacement. Michigan Radio’s sports commentator John U. Bacon tells us who may be on the shortlist for the job.
  • The “Little Free Libraries” movement is taking root in Detroit.
  • James McCommons, wildlife photographer and professor at Northern Michigan University, talks to us his path to becoming one of America's leading conservationalists.
  • Our It's Just Politics team updates us on their 5 things to watch on election day. 
  • We talk about how money was spent in this election with Rich Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 

*Listen to the full show above

Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

As virtually anyone who follows college sports knows by now, Dave Brandon is now the former Athletic Director at the University of Michigan.

Retired Steelcase executive Jim Hackett is the interim AD as the University searches for Brandon's permanent replacement.

When it comes to hires like these, the phrase "Michigan Man"comes up again and again.

Dave Brandon played for Bo. He seemed to fit the template of a "Michigan Man."

Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon gives us his insight into what that phrase means.

You can hear our conversation with Bacon below:


Universty of Michigan QB Devin Gardner sacked by Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun during the 2013 MSU-UM football game.
User: Michigan State Spartans / facebook

 

 

The spotlight this week is on one of the deepest college rivalries in sports: Michigan vs. Michigan State.

The Wolverines will travel to Spartan Stadium this Saturday.

Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon says the game means "survival" for Michigan. "Michigan has lost 6 out of the last 7 to the 'little brother' -- by the way, calling them little brother gets a bit old when they keep kicking your butt."

But, as Bacon explains, Spartans are just as hungry for this game as the Wolverines. The rivalry is so personal that people from outside the state sometimes don't get it. Plus, if they win this weekend, Spartans will have a real shot for the Big Ten title, a Rose Bowl berth, and even the national title.

Michigan Athletic Director, David Brandon.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan Board of Regents is meeting today at 3 p.m. in Flint.

It's a safe bet that one of the big issues on their agenda is the future of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says it's "90% clear where this is going to be headed."

Brandon and U-M Coach Brady Hoke came under fire when sophomore quarterback Shane Morris was allowed to play after he was injured in last month's game against Minnesota.

Morris was later diagnosed with a concussion. 

Bacon says the regents will have influence over a decision on Brandon, but it's U of M President Mark Schlissel who will have the final say. 

Schlissel turned up at football practice a week ago; Bacon says that rarely happens. It shows the issue is on the president's radar, and Schlissel is known for his emphasis on student experience – including the experience of student athletes.

It was a cold, wet night at the Spartan Stadium last Saturday.
User: Michigan State Spartans / facebook

If you've forked over money for a ticket to a football game, do you have a responsibility to stay there until the end of the game? 

If you are a student, sitting in the student section at a Michigan State Football game, the answer seems to be yes, you do.

Coach Mark Dantonio and Spartan Athletic Director Mark Hollis have been very clear: They were disappointed in seeing so many fans leave early last Saturday night against Nebraska.

There were nearly 76,000 in the crowd at the start of the game, and there were plenty of empty seats by the end, when MSU nearly lost the game. 

The stands are thinning out.
User: larrysphatpage / Flickr

 

John U. Bacon joined Stateside to talk about University of Michigan football and head coach Brady Hoke. 

Bacon says it hasn't been much fun for the Wolverines on the field, with eight losses out of the last 12 games. However, Bacon adds it has been even less fun off the field, with the stands increasingly empty.

"What I'm seeing in Michigan fans is they are upset that they are not upset, that they are alarmed by their lack of alarm. What I'm seeing now is something I haven't seen before – that is indifference," says Bacon.

* Listen to our conversation with John U. Bacon above.

 

Brady Hoke.
User MGoBlog / Flickr

 

After the University of Michigan's football blowout loss to Notre Dame last Saturday, there's some talk about Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and his job security. 

John U. Bacon is Michigan Radio's sports commentator. He says Michigan hasn't proven to be tough facing road games.

"This team under Hoke is 0-12 on the road against ranked teams. In other word, whenever they play anybody good on the road, they lose, every single time, " says Bacon.

Bacon says Hoke was brought to Michigan with high hopes. Hoke's goal every year is to win Big Ten title, which Michigan failed to achieve during the past three years of his term.

"This year, if it's not make or break for Hoke, it sure is close," says Bacon.

* Listen to our conversation with Bacon above.

Fireworks.
user Colin K / Flickr

The University of Michigan’s athletic director sent a proposal to the University’s Regents, requesting permission to set off fireworks during two football games this fall. When the Regents turned down the request, it suggested the balance of power might be shifting. 

At first blush, the question of post-game fireworks didn’t seem like a big deal either way. On Michigan fan blogs, reactions were mixed.

As for the University’s Regents, they have bigger things to worry about. Even the athletic department’s budget which has grown by 50%, to $150 million dollars might seem like a lot to us, but that’s a rounding error at the University’s hospital.

So when the Regents voted down the fireworks for two games this season, it got people’s attention.

user: Marcus Qwertyus / Wikimedia Commons

When Michael Sam told his University of Missouri teammates he was gay before last season, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a safe bet that NFL teams – who know what kind of gum their prospects chew – already knew this, too. But when Sam came out publicly, it changed the equation. 

The NFL has already had gay players, so that’s not new. But publicly declaring you’re gay is new – and so is the onslaught of media attention.

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.
West Point / Flickr

Earlier this spring, the National Labor Relations Board made big headlines when it granted Northwestern University football players permission to unionize if they chose to. 

That decision has opened up a big national discussion and debate over whether college athletes should be recognized as school employees. 

So we wanted to bring in sports commentator and coach, John U. Bacon. His most recent book is Fourth and Long: the Fight for the Soul of College Football

Listen to the full interview above. 

Adam Glanzman / Flickr

When Mitch McGary played high school basketball in New Hampshire, he was one of the nation’s top recruits. Michigan fans were rightly thrilled when he decided to play for the Wolverines.   

In his first NCAA tournament, last spring, McGary played so well folks thought he might jump to the NBA. Instead, he returned for his sophomore year – then injured his back so badly, he needed surgery mid-season. The Wolverines weren’t doing much better at 6-4, with Big Ten conference play still ahead. It looked like Michigan might miss the NCAA tournament. 

Bentley Historical Library / University of Michigan

In 1896, the first modern Olympics in Athens staged a marathon. The next year the Boston Athletic Association followed suit. Just 18 men ran that day, with the winner finishing in about three hours – something office workers can beat today.

Most people thought the runners were crazy – if they thought of them at all.

Marathoners don’t care. After winning the 1952 Olympic marathon, Czechoslovakian Emil Zatopek said, “If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

Greg Meyer knows exactly what Zatopek was talking about. Meyer grew up in Grand Rapids, and enrolled at Michigan in 1973. That spring, Michigan got a new cross-country coach, Ron Warhust, a Vietnam vet with two Purple Hearts, and a hard-earned lesson: “The world doesn't stop because you’re scared.”

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.

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.

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.

Michigan Football / Facebook

Moments before the Michigan Wolverines introduced Brady Hoke as their new head football coach in 2011, Michigan fans had lots of questions. Why not hire a national star like Les Miles or Jim Harbaugh, who both played at Michigan? Who was Brady Hoke? Was he up to the task?

Hoke answered these questions by nailing his first press conference. He won over more Michigan fans in just a few minutes than his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, had been able to do in three years. When a reporter asked Hoke if the Wolverines would be rebuilding, he famously replied, “This is Michigan, for godsakes” – and a star was born.

It was hard to imagine a happier honeymoon than Hoke’s. In his rookie season, the Wolverines beat Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State – for the first time in eight years. They won their first BCS bowl game since Tom Brady did the job in 2000, en route to an 11-2 record. From the fans in the stands to the team in the trenches, the love for Coach Hoke was universal.

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Detroit Tigers

This week, Detroit Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland announced his retirement. He was an ‘old school’ manager, relying more on his guts than a spreadsheet. His decisions irritated some fans, but not his results. 

When you’re 68, working in a young man’s game, announcing your retirement is not a surprise. But there are a few underappreciated qualities about this grizzled veteran that are worth remembering.

Jim Leyland was a baseball man to the core. Raised in Perrysburg, Ohio, the son of a glassworker, he grew up wanting to do one thing: Play baseball.

He was good, very good, so the Tigers signed him up to play catcher in their minor league system. But just to get to the majors, you need to be great – and after seven years battling to get to the big leagues, Leyland realized he wasn’t great. Not as a player, at least.  

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.

University of Michigan football game
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said last week that football and basketball might work better if they had minor leagues, so players who didn’t want to attend college had somewhere else to go.    

I came to the same conclusion several years ago, though for different reasons.  Most of the problems with college football and basketball can be traced back to their beginnings.  Unlike most sports, football and basketball developed on college campuses.  When the NFL and NBA opened decades later, they didn’t have to start their own minor leagues, they simply used the college teams to develop their players. 

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