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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.

user WDPGShare / Flickr

The NCAA sent Ohio State University's president a letter citing the "notice of allegations" against the school's football program.

In the letter to Ohio State, NCAA officials say, "Your institution should understand that all of the alleged violations set forth in the document attached to this letter are considered to be potential major violations of NCAA legislation, unless designated as secondary."

mickepe / MorgueFile

Amateur mixed martial arts fights may soon be regulated by the state. A bill introduced to the Michigan House would require both promoters and fighters to be licensed by the state. The bill would also create a commission to enforce the rules and investigate complaints.

Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley will be running in the the 2011 Boston Marathon today!

Her start time is 10:20 a.m. where she'll run with the "second wave."

You can track her progress online.

We're all cheering her on - Go Christina!

MGoBlue.com

Most sports fans love a Cinderella story.

I've found an athlete who played the role twice.

Last year, Michigan’s men’s hockey team was in danger of breaking its

record 19-straight appearances in the NCAA tournament – a streak that started before many of the current players were even born.

They were picked to finish first in the league, but they finished a disastrous seventh. 

The only way they could keep their streak alive was to win six straight playoff games to get an automatic bid.

A Spartans footballer has been sentenced to a year on probation and a fine for his role in a bar fight last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum was sentenced Tuesday to one year of probation in connection with a March 10 arrest in Aspen, Colo., according to Pitkin County Court records.

Linthicum, who will be a senior and possible starter in the fall, accepted a plea deal without appearing in court, knocking misdemeanor third-degree assault and eluding-police charges down to misdemeanor harassment.

He must take an anger-management class (at least eight hours), perform 40 hours of community service and pay $100, plus court costs. According to a court clerk, other conditions are that he cannot be arrested nor drink excessive amounts of alcohol. A review hearing for which Linthicum must be present is set for Oct. 11.

 Max Bullough, a Michigan State linebacker, was also charged in the incident. His hearing is set for Tuesday.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

The University of Michigan men's hockey team fell in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in last night's NCAA championship game.  The Associated Press reports: 

NCAA.com

How’s your bracket look?

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is over, but the men’s hockey tournament is still going

And the Wolverines are in the final

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Unfamiliar foes Michigan and Minnesota Duluth will face off for the NCAA hockey championship.

Hello, ball.

U-M Wolverine golfer Lion Kim is participating in this weekend's Masters Tournamet, a historic achievement.

Here's the update from SB Nation Detroit:

University of Michigan golfer Lion Kim shot an opening-round 76 in the 2011 Masters golf tournament on Thursday. That put him four over after one round of play.

Detroit Pistons sold

Apr 8, 2011
(courtesy Detroit Pistons)

 

The Associated Press reports a Los Angeles financier is the new owner of the NBA's Detroit Pistons. 

Billionaire investor Tom Gores has agreed to buy the Detroit Pistons and other properties. The tentative deal announced Friday must be approved by the NBA.  It includes the team, The Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy Music Theatre. Gores is buying the properties from Karen Davidson, who became the owner after her husband, Bill, died in March 2009. Gores is the chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity.

If you’re not a Michigan football fan, you probably haven’t heard of Vada Murray, but you might have seen his picture.

It’s one of the iconic images of Michigan football, along with Tom Harmon standing in his mud-soaked, torn-apart jersey, Ol’ 98, and Desmond Howard diving to catch a touchdown against Notre Dame -- two Heisman Trophy winners, winning big games.

But the photo I’m talking about depicts Vada Murray and Tripp Welborne soaring skyward to block a field goal.

They were a kicker’s nightmare, but even when they got a hand on the ball, it simply denied their opponent three points -- not the kind of thing that wins you a Heisman Trophy or an NFL contract.

They don’t even keep records of blocked kicks.

But, over two decades later, something about that photo still resonates, perhaps because it captures their effort, their intensity, their passion – all of it spent just to give their teammates a slightly better chance for success.

The state’s Natural Resources Commission holds a discussion today on deer baiting. The commission is set to decide in June whether to lift the baiting ban in the Lower Peninsula. Wildlife biologists say feeding deer causes them to congregate unnaturally, and that it helps spread disease.

But Don Inman – a retired conservation officer – thinks some baiting is okay. He says large feed piles are a problem, but a small amount of bait is not.  

"From my experience and all of my friends too who have hunted in this area and hunted when baiting was legal, we seldom saw more than four deer. We put out a coffee can and spread it around. "

The state banned deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula in 2008 after a deer in Kent County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Scoreboards at the University of Michigan’s premier sports venues are getting a major upgrade. The U of M Athletic Department announced today that it has signed a deal to replace the aging scoreboards at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena and Yost Ice Arena with state of the art LED displays.  

In a written statement, UM Athletic Director David Brandon says the department is excited.

“Our goal is to set a new, higher standard for our fan’s viewing experience and the game day atmosphere we create in our venues. These boards will be an important first step in achieving that goal.” 

Demolition of the old video boards at the Big House began in March.   New, larger LED video screens will be installed in both end zones by this August.

The total cost of the project is expected to be less than $20 million dollars.

The Detroit Tigers started off their 2011 season on a cold, dreary day in New York. The disappointing day ended in a disappointing 6 to 3 loss to the Yankees.  

The Associated Press report recounts the game's highlights:

Curtis Granderson hit a go-ahead homer leading off the seventh inning and Mark Teixeira had a three-run shot off Justin Verlander, lifting New York over the Detroit Tigers 6-3 Thursday in the first regular-season game played in the Bronx in March. CC Sabathia pitched six workmanlike innings, Derek Jeter added a sacrifice fly in the seventh using his new stride-less swing and Mariano Rivera, wearing his socks high for perhaps the first time, earned his first save and 560th of his career. Newcomers Russell Martin and Rafael Soriano did their part as the Yankees got off to a quick start on a gray, blustery, 42-degree day.

CBSSports.com is reporting that the final deal to sell the Detroit Pistons will be completed by the middle of April.  The NBA franchise has been on the block since the death of longtime owner Bill Davidson. There have been many suitors, but it appears the winner is billionaire Tom Gores.  

CBSSports senior writer Ken Berger says the sale could be made official in a few weeks. 

Word in league circles is that negotiations to sell the Pistons to billionaire Tom Gores are far enough along to expect the matter to come to a vote by the Board of Governors April 14-15 in New York. League approval will be a welcome development for the organization, whose basketball operations department was paralyzed by the proposed sale. The Pistons are one of a handful of teams not to complete a single roster transaction this season. 

One stumbling block that has slowed the sale of the Pistons is the question 'How much is the franchise actually worth?' Forbes recently reported the value of the franchise has dropped about 25%.

Dave Brandon, for better or worse, was tied to his hire as Michigan football head coach, Brady Hoke.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Brady Hoke signed a six year contract Monday, that could average out to $3.25 million a year.  The Associated Press reports Hoke will be paid $2 million in the first year of the contract: 

Hoke will be paid $2 million this year and his base salary will increase by $100,000 each season. Hoke will earn a $1.5 million "stay bonus" after his third year and another $1.5 million "stay bonus" if he is still leading college football's winningest program in the sixth season of his contract.  

The Associated Press also quoted U of M Athletic Director Dave Brandon expressing confidence in Hoke.

"It's a big job with a lot of expectations and we feel very good about how much we're compensating him to help us reach those expectations." 

Brady Hoke replaced Rich Rodriguez who lost the Wolverine head coaching job after three lackluster seasons and an NCAA investigation. Hoke was an assistant coach under Lloyd Carr before becoming a successful head coach at Ball State and San Diego State University.

 Hoke issued this statement on his new contract:

The contract was handled by my agent and the University. My focus has been on the football program and will continue to be on making this program the best in America. I couldn’t tell you what’s in the contract other than my signature. The University offered Laura and I an opportunity to coach at Michigan and that’s been my dream. Nothing will change my focus.

The Michigan State University Athletic Department has cut ties with a booster club under investigation by the state lottery commission. WILX reported last night that state lottery officials have been investigating the Downtown Coaches Club. The Lansing TV station says questions have been raised by 50/50 raffles run by the club and how the money was distributed.  

The Lansing State Journal says MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis says it is cutting ties with the club.  

For several weeks, we have been aware that the Downtown Coaches Club had some financial reporting issues as well the review being conducted by the Michigan State Lottery Commission....At that time, the Michigan State Athletics Department immediately suspended all activities with the organization.

The Michigan Lottery Commission is not commenting on its investigation.

user skoch 3 / wikimedia commons

A lot of this story, you already know:

Five super-talented freshmen come to Michigan, and by mid-season the Wolverines become the first team in NCAA history to start all five freshmen. They get to the final game of March Madness before losing to defending national champion Duke. The next year, they make it to the finals again, but lose to North Carolina when their best player, Chris Webber, calls a time-out they don’t have. 

Along the way they make baggy shorts and black socks fashionable, and import rap music and trash talk from the inner-city playground to the mainstream of college basketball.

It’s been that way ever since.

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