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What if you had a night game, and nobody came?

Well, that wasn’t the problem.

The game attracted more than 114,000 people, an NCAA record.

To commemorate the event, Michigan wore “throwback jerseys” – which went back all the way to September 10, 2011.  Michigan’s jerseys never had stripes – and when you saw them Saturday night, you appreciated just how wise Michigan’s founders had been.  It was less about tradition than trade.   

Denard Robinson threw a 16-yard pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left, lifting Michigan to a 35-31 heart-pounding win over Notre Dame on Saturday night. 

The Wolverines took their first lead on Robinson's 21-yard pass to Vincent Smith with 1:12 left, then lost it. Briefly. 

Tommy Rees threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left, but the Fighting Irish left Jeremy Gallon wide open on a pass that let Michigan go from its 20 to the Notre Dame 16. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

University of Michigan football fans are gearing up for an historic game tonight, when the Wolverines host their first-ever nighttime game against Notre Dame.

There’s been plenty of hype in the lead-up to the event, and ESPN will broadcast the prime-time game.

U of M athletic director Dave Brandon said he hopes there will be more night games in future seasons:

"If this goes well, I would like to do one night game a year. If it goes well. If it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t matter what I’d like to do."

A typical student's view inside the Big House.
Andrew Horne / wikimedia commons

With a night game scheduled in Ann Arbor tomorrow for the first time in Michigan football’s 132-year history, the town is buzzing.

But it’s fair to wonder just how we got here.  I think I understand why.

George Will recently wrote that when archeologists excavate American ruins centuries from now, they may be mystified by the Big House in Ann Arbor.  “How did this huge football emporium come to be connected to an institution of higher education? Or was the connection the other way?”

It’s a fair question, one I’ve pondered myself many times.  When I try to explain to foreigners why an esteemed university owns the largest stadium in the country, their expressions tell me it’s – well, a truly a foreign concept.

Ken Burns said our national parks are “America’s best idea.”  If so, then our state universities must be a close second. 

DETROIT (AP) - A plan by former NFL star Jerome Bettis to build high-end condos and retail on a 43-acre industrial site along Detroit's riverfront is moving forward with the start of soil cleanup.

Bettis and Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday that companies that once operated on the site are removing contaminated soil, which stalled redevelopment plans.

The $20 million first-phase cleanup of a third of the site is expected to take 18 months. Negotiations continue for the remaining cleanup of ammonia, iron, and coal byproducts.

Bettis says he and his partner are the site's developers. He says his project is seven years in the making and is expected to help revitalize Detroit's riverfront.

Bettis starred at Detroit's Mackenzie High School, and played professionally for the Rams and the Steelers.

user slidingsideways / Flickr

Steve Kampfer grew up in Jackson, and learned to play hockey well enough to earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan.  He was a good student and player on great teams, but few expected Kampfer to make it to the NHL.

What chance he had seemed to vanish in October of 2008, when he was leaving a campus bar.  He started jawing with another student, who happened to be on the wrestling team.  Things got hot, but it was all just words, until the wrestler picked up Kampfer and turned him upside in a single, sudden move – then dropped him head first on the sidewalk. 

Kampfer lay on the sidewalk unconscious, with blood sliding out of his mouth.  His stunned friend thought he might be dead.

DETROIT (AP) - Former NBA star Magic Johnson is asking a Michigan judge for "mercy" and no prison for former college teammate Jay Vincent.

Vincent will be sentenced Friday for fraud. He and Johnson grew up in Lansing and were stars on the 1979 Michigan State national championship team.

In a letter to a federal judge in Grand Rapids, Johnson says Vincent is a "really good guy" with a "tremendous heart." Johnson believes Vincent got involved with the wrong people and "made some really bad decisions."

Like Johnson, the 52-year-old Vincent also played in the NBA. He pleaded guilty in a fraud case involving thousands of people who paid to become certified home inspectors. Prosecutors are recommending nine years in prison. Vincent has been in jail since late July for a bond violation.

User: minorissues / Flickr

About 15,000 people will participate in the 35th anniversary of the Crim Festival of Races on August 27th. People from all over the world come to Flint to run or walk in the festival.

Deb Kiertzner is with the Crim Fitness Foundation. 

"This year the headline is that we’re bringing in the legends of the Crim. These are four really good solid American long distance runners that have set records at the Crim. We have the last American male and female to have won the Boston marathon. That’s Greg Meyer and Lisa Rainsberger."

The festival has eight different races ranging from the teddy bear trot to the 10 mile run.

Kathy Gomez is a first-time runner in this year’s Crim race. She explains why the race is so important to her.

"My dad had heart disease and he had got me a little red dress, which is for healthy heart. And once he started doing his stuff before he died, once he started doing his exercise, he always encouraged me to get my cardio stuff in. So from a health benefit that’s a really great way to have cardio."

The Crim festival draws about 50,000 people to Flint and generates over $10 million a year for the local economy.

-Traci Currie, Michigan Radio Newsrooom

by Rebecca Williamson / flickr.com

It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to buy a book, there was no Kindle or Nook or amazon.com – or even the internet.  There weren’t even big-chain book stores.  You had to go to one of those narrow stores in mini-malls that sold paperback best-sellers and thrillers and romance novels. 

But then the Borders brothers changed all that. They decided to go big, opening a two-story place on State Street in Ann Arbor.  They stocked almost everything, they gave customers room to relax and read, and they hired people who weren’t just clerks, but readers.

The Detroit Tigers today announced contract extension for manager Jim Leyland and general manager David Dombrowski.   Leyland received a one year extension.  Dombrowski got a four year extension.  

user: Keith Allison / flicker.com

Tiger Woods has missed most of the season due to his injured left knee. In the past decade, he’s fractured the tibia, torn the ligaments, and had it operated on several times – making it the kind of hamburger more commonly seen on NFL running backs. But he returned this week to play in his first PGA tour event in months. This is big news in the golf world – because without Tiger Woods, there’s barely any golf news at all. Watching golf on TV without Tiger Woods is like…watching golf on TV.

Woods returns ranked 28th in the world – his lowest mark since he was just getting started 14 years ago. So what? The TV ratings will skyrocket. People love him, people hate him – but few are indifferent. His first decade was arguably the greatest any golfer ever had in the history of the game. After winning his 14th major tournament in 2008, the question wasn’t if he would pass Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major titles, but when.

user: 46137 / flickr.com

The longest lockout in the history of the National Football League is over.   Now, what may be the shortest free agency period in NFL history is about to begin.   The Detroit Lions are expected to be busy during the whirlwind of player trades and signings during the next few days.  

Lions team president Tom Lewand released this statement yesterday on the deal agreed to by the players and owners.  

“First and foremost, we are happy for our fans because all they ever wanted was for us to play football and, thankfully, that’s what we are getting ready to do. This agreement is a big win for NFL football and for all NFL fans because it helps secure the long-term health of our game.

“It is a fair deal for players and teams. We will be able to grow the game and appropriately share that growth with our players as partners. It is a deal that places a high priority on player safety and on the integrity of our game.

The Lions released this timetable detailing the off the field and on the field schedule between now and the kickoff of the fall 2011 season.

desmondhoward.com

Desmond Howard stands about 5-foot-8 – I don’t care what the program said.  When Bo Schembechler moved the Cleveland native from tailback to receiver, it virtually eliminated any chance Howard had to win the Heisman Trophy.

In its first 55 years, only one receiver had ever taken it home.

But then, just playing at Michigan practically knocked Howard out of the running in the first place.  Only one Wolverine, Tom Harmon, had ever won the award – and that was back in 1940.

Schembechler never promoted any player for any award – Heisman or otherwise.  Because, as he often said, “Nothing comes before The Team, The Team, The Team.”  When Bo stepped down in 1990, Gary Moeller took over, and followed the exact same policy.

Former University of Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Howard won the Heisman Trophy in 1991, his last year at Michigan. 

Howard says he owes much to then-Wolverine Coach Gary Moeller and his teammates.

"The way I look at this now, is I’m adding another Michigan football player to the College Football Hall of Fame, " says Howard.  "And I just hope my teammates, they understand, that this is something we accomplished together."

 

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

The Detroit Red Wings hired Jeff Blashill, a former Wester Michigan coach, according to the Detroit Free Press.

From the article:

The Red Wings have hired Western Michigan coach Jeff Blashill and Rockford (AHL) coach Bill Peters to be assistant coaches under head coach Mike Babcock.

User: dmealiffe / flickr.com

Canada might be the only nation on earth that invented its favorite sport, has no other sport that’s even half as popular, and remains arguably the best in the world at playing it. How big is hockey in Canada?  They put the sport on their five-dollar bill.  It has a drawing of kids playing a pick-up game outside, and a quote from a beloved children’s story, “The Hockey Sweater.”  It goes like this:  

University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon spoke to Michigan Today about the possibility of U-M having a mascot, which it has avoided until now.

"I'm struck by the fact that when opposing teams come to our stadium, and they bring a mascot, all of our young fans are lined up to see if they can get a picture taken with it, whether it's the Penn State Nittany Lion or Sparty," Brandon told Michigan Today. "That's a little annoying to me."

michigan.org

Michigan International Speedway launches its new season this weekend. Track officials say they see signs of improved attendance this year. 

Campers are already arriving at the MIS track near Jackson to watch qualifying races, and the main event: the 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.

MIS spokesman Dennis Worden says the upswing in ticket sales and camping reservations may show that the economy is improving

My dad grew up in Scarsdale, New York – but, as he’s quick to point out, that was before it became “Scahsdahle.”  His dad told him always to root for the underdog, and my dad took that seriously.

All his friends were Yankees fans, but Dad loved the Dodgers.  A perfect Friday night for him, when he was a young teen, was to go up to his room with a Faygo Redpop, a Boy’s Life magazine – he was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout – and listen to Red Barber, who wouldn’t say something so prosaic as, “the bases are loaded,” but “the bases are saturated with humanity.”

user Urban Adventures / Flickr

Inside today’s New York Times, you’ll find my story on Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander.

I was on hand Tuesday night when Verlander nearly pitched the third no-hitter of his career.

He wound up with a two-hit game against the Cleveland Indians, in a performance that baseball scribes say was one of the best of the year.

And we discovered, there is an economic impact for Detroit every time he walks on the mound.

Call it the Verlander Effect.

Verlander attracted 28,128 fans to Tuesday night’s game — the latest proof that attendance when Verlander pitches goes up by more than 5,000 (5,137 to be precise). The fan count at a Verlander appearance averages 26,981; the Tigers are averaging 21,844 on nights when he doesn’t.

That extra 5,137 people adds up to a lot of revenue for the Tigers and by extension, the businesses around Comerica Park and in Detroit.

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!”

The man who led Ohio State to victories over the University of Michigan in nine out of the rivals' last ten games has resigned.

Football coach Jim Tressel faced an NCAA investigation into possible corruption in his program, including claims that players received cars from local dealerships. 

Sports analyst John U. Bacon says there have been allegations of corruption for years.  So he's not surprised that a scandal finally brought the Tressel era to an end, despite his stellar performance.

Zach Chrisholm / Flickr

I went to Ann Arbor Huron High School, considered by all objective sources to be the greatest high school in the history of the universe. And one of the things that made it so great was an intramural softball league.

Maybe your clearly inferior high school had one, too.  But the IM softball league at Huron was created and run entirely by students – the burnouts, no less.  That meant the adults, perhaps wisely, wanted nothing to do with it.

So the burn-outs got the park permits – God bless ‘em -- and every clique had a team, with names like the Junior Junkies, the Extra Burly Studs, and – yes – the ‘Nads.  If you pause to think of their cheer, you’ll get the joke.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio Staff

The University of Michigan is elevating the men’s and women’s lacrosse clubs to varsity status. Dave Brandon is the Athletic Director at U of M. He says the announcement Wednesday is “the worst kept secret in America.”

Brandon says lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the nation. Michigan high school programs have grown from 50 to 180 in the past ten years.

wingsofjustice.com

Robert "Tractor" Traylor died of apparent massive heart attack in Puerto Rico.

From ESPN:

Police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said in a statement he was found dead Wednesday on the bedroom floor of his oceanfront apartment. Police and Traylor's team, the Vaqueros de Bayamon, said he had been missing for a few days and apparently died from a heart attack.

The Vaqueros said Traylor was rehabbing a heel injury and had not been playing. They suspended their game Wednesday night because of his death.

Traylor played for the University of Michigan from 1995 to 1998. Prior to that he played for Murray-Wright High School in Detroit.

He was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft and traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to play for seven years in the NBA for 4 teams (Milwaukee, Cleveland, Charlotte, and New Orleans). After his NBA career, Traylor played for teams in Turkey and Italy before playing in Puerto Rico.

Michael Zanussi / Flickr

Sometimes the real world is so overwhelming it sneaks into sports.  One of those times occurred after 9/11, when the crowd at Yankee Stadium sang “God Bless America.”

I’m not very religious, but it sounded right to me. 

It seemed appropriate that that signature moment, when we needed to be together, occurred in our country’s most hallowed arena, the nation’s front porch.

We are probably the most sports-soaked culture in the world. We’re the ones who pay for the Olympics, after all – and I believe our code of conduct when we’re competing often represents our values at their best. 

People like to say sports teaches us how to be aggressive.

But you can learn that through alley fighting.  Any jerk with no regard for others can be aggressive.  Prisons are filled with them.  9/11 was conceived by them.  

So I disagree.

University of Michigan

A key part of the offense for the University of Michigan men's basketball team will leave the team for the NBA draft.

The school reports that Darius Morris has decided to forego the remainder of his college eligibility.

From the Associated Press:

The sophomore point guard had declared for the draft but could have returned to the Wolverines if he'd withdrawn by May 8. Instead, he'll forgo his remaining eligibility, meaning Michigan will have to replace one of its most important players as it tries to build on last season's impressive finish.

"There have been long discussions with my family, friends and my Michigan coaches," Morris said. "In the end I decided to go with my heart. Playing professional basketball has always been a dream for me. I feel this is the right time for me to pursue that goal. It will be hard to leave the University of Michigan. However, I truly believe the basketball program is moving in a very positive direction."

University of Michigan

On Tuesday, the Michigan football family lost another beloved son, Jim Mandich, who died of cancer at age 62.

Regular readers of this space know I’ve had to write a few elegies already this year, and I’m not sure if we can bear another one right now.   

I’m not sure Mandich would want any more, either, beyond his funeral. 

As he told Angelique Chengalis of The Detroit News last fall, after he was diagnosed with cancer, “I said to myself, ‘No whining, no complaining, no bitching. You've lived a damned good life. You've got lot to be thankful for.’”

(photo courtesy of the University of Michigan Athletics Dept)

Jim Mandich was the captain of Bo Schembechler's 1969 squad that shocked Ohio State.  He went on to star on the Miami Dolphins 1972 team that went undefeated.   Mandich died last night after a long battle with bile duct cancer.  He was 62.   

U of M Director of Athletics Dave Brandon says Mandich was a Michigan Man "in every way."  

"“Captain Jim Mandich led a team that changed Michigan football for decades to follow...He was a legendary player and an even better person.  He will be missed."    

The following is from U of M's press release announcing Mandich's death.

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