Michigan Wolverines

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
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 Commentary
11:42 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Pressure builds on Michigan Football as Athletic Department's budget grows

Anthony Gattine Flickr

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.

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Sports Commentary
9:59 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Students aren’t leaving Michigan football - Michigan football is leaving them

In the Big House.
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.

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Sports
3:29 pm
Sun April 14, 2013

Wolverine guard Trey Burke leaving Ann Arbor for the NBA

U of M guard Trey Burke declares for the upcoming NBA draft
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Wolverines are losing a key player on their men’s basketball team.

Sophomore guard Trey Burke led the team to the NCAA championship this month.   Along the way, Burke picked up multiple awards, including the Associated Press college player of the year.    So it’s not really a surprise that he will forego his final years of college eligibility to possibly a big pay day in the NBA. 

Burke considered going pro a year ago, but decided to come back for his sophomore season. He led Michigan to the NCAA title game, where the Wolverines lost to Louisville.

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Sports
12:06 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Michigan falls short in NCAA men's basketball championship game

Wolverine fans filled the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the NCAA men's basketball championship game
Denise IlitchFacebook page

An impressive run through the NCAA tournament came up short for the Michigan Wolverines last night in Atlanta. 

After running up a double digit lead in the first half, the Wolverines succumbed to Louisville’s pressure defense.   The Cardinals kept up their hot shooting on offense and did just enough to put away Michigan down the stretch.

The final score: Louisville 82-Michigan 76. 

The Wolverines did have some standout performances.

AP player of the year Guard Trey Burke had 24 points for Michigan (31-8).  Little-used freshman Spike Albrecht added 17 points.

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Sports
12:44 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Wolverines play for NCAA title tonight

Michigan senior Jordan Morgan takes a charge in the final minute of the semi-final against Syracuse.
Michigan Basketball Facebook

The Michigan Wolverines will play tonight for what would be the Ann Arbor school’s first NCAA men’s basketball title since 1989.

It’s been 20 years since the Wolverines last played in a national championship game.  They lost that game to North Carolina. The year before the team lost to Duke.

In the two decades since, U of M has made quick exits from the March Madness tournament.

The Louisville Cardinals have been more successful lately in the tournament, but their last national title was in 1986.

Tip off for tonight’s game will be after 9.

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Sports
12:08 am
Sun April 7, 2013

Michigan defeats Syracuse, Wolverines will play Louisville in NCAA title game

U of M fans packed the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for Saturday's night national semi-final game against Syracuse
Denise Ilitch/Facebook page

Michigan is headed to Monday’s NCAA men’s basketball national championship.

The Michigan Wolverines survived a late surge by the Syracuse Orange to win Saturday night’s national semi-final .   The final score was 61 to 56. 

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Sports
12:22 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Michigan fans scrambling to find tickets and hotel rooms in Atlanta for the Final Four

H. W. Sands Corp

The University of Michigan’s allotment of tickets to this weekend’s Final Four basketball games is going quickly.

The last of the more than three thousand tickets might be scooped up by season ticket holders and students by the end of today.

Wolverine fans are not only scrambling for tickets.  They are also looking for places to stay in Atlanta for Saturday’s semi-final game against Syracuse and hopefully Monday’s national championship game.

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Sports
4:55 pm
Sun March 31, 2013

Wolverines headed to the Final Four

Wolverine Tim Hardaway Jr sails to the basket in Sunday's Elite Eight win over the Florida Gators
MGOBLUE.COM

There will be one Michigan team playing in the Final Four in next weekend’s NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament. 

The Michigan Wolverines jumped to a double digit lead early in their Elite Eight game against the Florida Gators on Sunday. And they never relinquished their lead. The final score was 79 to 59. 

Michigan is the only Big Ten team to reach the Final Four. Michigan State and Ohio State both lost tournament games over the weekend.

U of M will play the Syracuse Orangemen in one of next Saturday’s national semi-finals in Atlanta.  

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Sports
1:00 am
Fri January 18, 2013

The new year in sports: A good man is hard to find

Taylor Lewan's (right) return to college football is one of the few positive stories to come from the new year.
flickr

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. 

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Sports
11:39 am
Fri December 14, 2012

Big money pushing kids out of the Big House

Michigan Stadium
user AndrewHorne Wikimedia

John U. Bacon remembers the days of two dollar tickets at the Big House.

A 'seat license' is a fee fans pay just to reserve the right to buy the tickets.

They call it a donation, even though every single one of us apparently decided to donate the exact same amount, or lose our tickets. But that allows us to call it a tax deduction.

It's hard to call that honest, or cheap.

In fairness, Michigan was the last of the top 20 programs to adopt a seat license program, in 2005.

It started gradually, and left endzone fans alone.

But this week, Michigan pushed the seat license for the best tickets up to $600, and even people in the endzone will have to cough up $150 per ticket, just for the right to buy them.

In the past decade, the total cost of my two tickets on the ten-yard line has more than tripled, to over $1,700, which makes you wonder just how we got here.

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Sports
1:00 am
Fri November 30, 2012

Brady Hoke's sophomore slump

MGoBlog flickr

This time last year, Brady Hoke was the darling of Michigan football fans. 

He’d charmed everybody at his first press conference, then led a team that had averaged just five wins a year to a 10-2 regular-season record, with thrilling wins over Notre Dame, Nebraska and arch-rival Ohio State.

Then he capped it all off with an overtime victory in the Sugar Bowl. 

The man could do no wrong.

When he referred to injuries as “boo-boos” and Ohio State as “Ohio,” fans did not conclude he was an ignoramus who knew nothing about the greatest rivalry in sports, but a motivational genius, who understood exactly what the duel was all about. 

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Sports Commentary
6:30 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Remembering Bob Chappuis, WWII hero and 'Mad Magician'

The University of Michigan's Bob Chappuis hurdling a tackler.
Michiganensian (1947) University of Michigan

One of Michigan Football's most famous players died earlier this month. Bob Chappuis played for the Wolverines in the '40s. He was a College Football Hall of Famer and a World War II hero. But that’s not how Chappuis described himself.

You can read about Bob Chappuis’s heroics as a World War II tailgunner, or as a Michigan Wolverines tailback, just about anywhere -- from his Time magazine cover story in 1947, to his obituary in the New York Times last week.  But my favorite stories are the ones he told his granddaughters.

I met Chappuis in 2000, while writing a story about his famous Michigan football team.  But I really got to know him when I coached his grandson Bobby’s high school hockey team.When Bobby went to Culver Academies for a post-grad year, I joined the family to see him graduate.

We all relaxed in a hotel suite, eating and drinking, while Chappuis’s teenage granddaughters goaded him to tell stories.  He could not refuse them, but he shared stories you couldn't find in magazines -- like when his father told him he could go to any school he wanted -- except Ohio State.  

Chappuis skipped the part about leaving college to volunteer for the Army, where he served as an aerial gunner on a B-25.  But his son interjected to explain how their granddad’s plane was shot down over Northern Italy, forcing the crew to parachute behind enemy lines. 

Chappuis waved it off.  “Everybody says we’re heroes.  But what kind of idiot wouldn’t jump from a burning plane?”   

He told his granddaughters how they hid in a ditch behind some bushes while Italian soldiers marched by. One of his crewmates grabbed a knife, and motioned to attack. Chappuis grabbed his shoulder, pushed him down and whispered, “They’ve got us outnumbered 30 to 3, and they’ve got guns.  I think you’ve seen too many Hollywood movies.  We are staying put.”

Smart move.  They were rescued by a family, who hid them in their attic.  They buried the Americans’ identifying clothing – but Chappuis drew the line at his Michigan ring.  “This stays with me,” he said. 

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Sports Commentary
7:00 am
Fri April 20, 2012

Going the extra mile to get that interview

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.

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Sports Commentary
7:00 am
Fri February 24, 2012

A sad step backward in Michigan football history

Willis Ward and Gerald Ford. "Willis was probably my closest friend on the football team," Ford once said. "We were the leaders." Ward was forced to sit during a 1934 game against Georgia Tech.

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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Sports
1:28 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Insult to (metaphorical) injury: Duke's Smith performs stunning crossover on Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr.

Above: Duke's Nolan Smith performs a crossover on Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr.

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