Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mailbag question: Facilities are they up to par with others

Posted at 8:00am -- 3/23/2010

Mailbag question: Facilities are they up to par with others

I respect the quality of your submissions. I do not always agree with your positions, but that does not change my recognition of excellence. As an old M grad (1951) I've been to many a football game. I've seen the changes in the Big House, etc. But now that the training room, the indoor practice building and the locker rooms have all been upgraded, how does Michigan's facilities rate as compared to other major football colleges?

Is this a significant factor in signing high level recruits? Or is the coaching staff and the college itself more important.

Thanks in advance for your reply,

Ed S.


Thanks for the comments and the question.

All of us at GBMW thank you for your kind comment, and it certainly would be within the range of normality not to agree with everything along a broad continuum of positions and assessments. But we thank you for reading and taking into account what is written. Also, we congratulate you on graduating from one of the nation’s finest universities.

Without beating a dead horse that has already accumulated numerous thrashings, the GBMW staff holds firm to the fundamental belief that different, but respectful viewpoints enhance the site quality. Again, all of us love talking UM football without being in an attack mode, from the staff towards readers, or from readers towards the staff.

Now, Ed, we proceed on to your question.

Facilities are a major factor with recruits today. In fact, they have even become a major factor in high school football nowadays, and yes some very successful high school programs “sort of” recruit as well. Schools who have upgraded facilities just might have an upper hand in attracting top talent. In the Toledo area there are three schools with facilities on par with many small colleges and they are destination #1 for much of the top Toledo area talent.

The coaching staff at Michigan still has to go out and get highly skilled recruits, and the best way of accomplishing this mission is winning football games and getting Michigan back to the top level of college football. Programs like Florida, Alabama, Texas, USC, and others do not have any difficulty in landing elite level recruits year in and year out.

Some, even most, put forth the position that facilities are indeed a major factor in attracting top recruits, but so is winning games. One case in point is USC, a school with probably some of the worst facilities around when compared to other programs that are consistently in the top 20 in college football.

This observation goes beyond just football; we have heard that many basketball recruits have been turned off by a lack of a basketball practice facility. Michigan's new facilities will put the program on equal grounds with most programs. The key here is to keep up the forward progress (yes we take into account this year’s basketball record) and not let the program fall into a decade of total oblivion again.

Securing funding and approval for new facilities is one thing Bill Martin did quite well as Athletic Director. Mr. Martin has his shortcomings, as with all in such a demanding position, but people need to give him credit for several accomplishments, such as getting the athletic department out of major debt. When former director Martin took over the position, he did not even take a paycheck the first year on the job because of his love for the university.

During his tenure, Martin upgraded almost every athletic sport venue in some sort of way by getting fundraisers started and getting key people behind certain programs. Donations started coming in and buildings started going up. And as a result of Martin’s guidance Michigan has either built new facilities or upgraded in almost every single sport.

This accomplishment by Bill Martin, we believe, will help new athletic director David Brandon shine. Brandon takes over with most of the upgrades done or in progress. Among his talents Brandon is a clear success in marketing, and with some wins he will market Michigan very well. Any major program needs vision and marketing ability.

Besides having vision and marketing skills, Brandon is also a strong leader, he is the type of individual that when he walks into a room people stop and take notice. Bill Martin was an adequate leader, but leadership (as defined by numerous traits that encompass personal, problem solving, and communication, and managerial constructs) was not his commanding strength.

Some have and still criticize Martin’s recent hire of Coach Rodriguez, but we believe it is possible that Michigan may have hit a homerun, scored the last shot at the buzzer, threw the Hail Mary and scored, you get the picture. Time will tell and people can make their own final summary judgment as this drama unfolds. The end chapters of the saga have not yet been written and it is honorable to provide Coach with what many might term a fair and complete chance to bring the program back to past levels of success (this appears to be President Coleman’s determination). Leadership and the associated managerial skills is where Brandon can be of great help: his style is simple, you as a coach will be provided with the resources needed to succeed and it is your job to succeed. This philosophy is the clearest and frequently most effective mechanism for delivering a fairness doctrine and upholding the standard of excellence.

Continuing on with the question of facilities, as most know the baseball and softball programs now have completely new facilities, both stadiums and indoor practice facilities. Indoor facilities are a must to compete in today’s college landscape.

The wrestling program just completed the construction of one of the nicest practice facilities nationwide and is located near the tennis center.

Although not as new, the tennis center is still one of the nicest indoor and outdoor facilities around.

The women's gymnastics team recently opened a new practice facility and the men's and women's soccer program now have two practice fields and a game stadium will be completed this year near the tennis center.

The swimming and diving teams, along with water polo, have one of the better aquatic centers in the country.

Michigan basketball has seen subtle upgrades such as redoing the floor, getting new baskets with the updated time clocks, new scoring center with the led monitors for advertising, a new speaker system, new lighting, which has helped tremendously, and both women's and men's locker rooms and their training areas have been upgraded. We have heard about further upgrades that will start later this spring on the practice facility and also that administration may be in the planning stage of upgrading Crisler Arena. This has been referred to as phase one in a process of two or three phases to get Crisler Arena on a level to compete with some of the other notable basketball arenas in the country.

Really, the only venues that have not been upgraded would be the Cliff Keen area (we believe this is an old high school gym feel) and the indoor track building.

The football program alone did not see any major upgrades in 30-40 years. Michigan was the very first college program to have an indoor practice facility, but since that period of time UM fell behind everybody else as far as facilities go in college sports.

Now, though, UM football has one of the nicest indoor practice facilities in the country, enabling the university to compete with everybody else in that facet of a student-athlete’s choice. The new facility entailed an upgrade to the coaches’ offices and the players’ locker rooms to create an impressive environment for the players and give recruits another strong reason for considering Michigan as a college choice.

The Al Glick football practice facility is the tallest in college football and only the Detroit Lions NFL practice facility is taller. This helps because teams can actually simulate kick-offs and punts when weather forces the team indoors.

When practicing in the old practice facility, the kickers would hit the roof 9 out of 10 times. We remember seeing Zoltan Mesko hitting the roof just about every time he punted and it barely even got past the line of scrimmage, so practicing punt coverage became problematical.

Michigan Stadium renovations do not really help the players, but such improvements send a message to recruits that this is a serious, big-time program. More than one recruit surely has gone home visualizing what it would be like playing in front of over 100,000 in Michigan Stadium. The luxury boxes and the premier seating will help fund and maintain all twenty-five sports

The Junge Recruiting Center is ideal for a large group of recruits to meet in one area. The center’s proximity to Crisler Arena and the Michigan football locker rooms provides easy access for coach-recruit visitations.

The Ross Academic center is another tool for the football program. The importance of this center (and the fine personnel attached to the academic program) is most noteworthy. Parents who are in the academics first mode cannot help but be thoroughly impressed with the resources and program commitment to having an exemplary academic support program in place needed for maximizing academic achievement at a higher-level institution of learning. To some, the Ross Academic Center becomes not only a home away from home, but also a most valuable tool for future, personal success.

Collectively, all of the resources noted above do indeed help the athletic teams by getting visits and securing commitments from recruits. Specifically, for football, the above provides a bridge to help in the building of relationships between coaches and recruits. Once on the Michigan campus, with the beautiful academic buildings, and being cognizant of what a degree from Michigan can help achieve, Michigan, assuming program success is reestablished, becomes a program that can compete against all other schools across the country. Michigan does indeed sell Michigan, as evidenced by the vast majority of recruits (those who commit and those who do not) who are clearly impressed with the Michigan experience.

Written by GBMW Staff

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen much of the new/upgraded facilities, except the stadium, but I hope we've kept our tradition of simple, but 100% functional facilities. I like Michigan Stadium with its metal benches, cement everywhere, and exposed metal superstructure.

The Michigan Stadium upgrade veers away from that tradition, but not to a great degree. Not only is investing more in the facilities a poor investment, IMHO, but our more spartan tradition sends a message that we have higher priorities than sports (and obviously I love UM football or I wouldn't be reading this blog). We're not a school that will sacrifice more important things, such as academics and integrity, for a game, as much as we support it.

Anonymous said...

My family and I were on a tour of the new facilites this past winter and got a chance to see the new punter (Hagerty?), who was at a camp in the indoor football building. That ceiling is high, but he hit it a lot. We talked to one of the camp coaches, who said this new punter might have a bigger leg than Zoltan. Pretty impressice. I assume Zoltan coud hit the ceiling, too. The facilities are really, really impressive, and I'm sure that will help in recruiting..

Anonymous said...

When the building opened, there was a video of Mesko trying to hit it. It took him several tries.

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