But at what point does servicing the big business part cause one not to see the bigger picture? When does the whorish pursuit of more money become so all-consuming that it robs fans, players and programs of something even more priceless?
Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan AD Dave Brandon is against any home-and-home series with anybody but Notre Dame.
In a story entitled Michigan AD Dave Brandon doesn't want nonconference road games (other than Notre Dame), Brandon was quoted as saying:
"I don't believe we can or should go on the road for nonconference games when we can put 113,000 people in our stadium. It's, financially, the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do for our fans, in terms of their ticket packages. And we're going to alternate with Notre Dame, so we're going to have one game on the road every other year. So the rest of those games, I would like to have at Michigan Stadium."
What a ginormous load of crap.
It's not the right thing, it's a short-sited bottom line decision to the detriment of the bigger picture for both fans, players and the program at large.
First off, Brandon doesn't believe Michigan "can" go on the road for a nonconference game due to the finances of giving up a home game?
Folks, if Michigan - with the biggest stadium in the country, which sells out every game, with 3,900 sold-out high-priced club level seats and suites, with seat licensing fees tacked on to already-expensive ticket prices, with income from the wildly successful Big Ten Network, with merchandising revenue from one of the most iconic brand names in all of sport - can't afford to play a road game, then something is seriously screwed up with the sport I love.
And if Michigan can't afford to to do it, then nobody can.
Yet they do.
Amazingly, Michigan somehow managed to have home-and-home series with Colorado, Syracuse, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon in the last 15 years before Dave Brandon arrived and the program didn't fall into financial ruin. I think it could probably survive if we did it again.
Second, not only is it not "the right thing to do for our fans," it's the exact wrong thing to do.
For fans and alums outside the state of Michigan or the Big 10's Midwestern footprint, those games are special. I went to Oregon in '03 for the game and it was incredible (except for the outcome of the actual game, of course).
For players and recruits, those non-con games are also a plus. To tell a kid from Cali that he'll be playing at Stanford while he's at U-M, or a kid from Texas he'll playing a home-and-home against A&M during his Michigan career, is huge.
Exciting non-conference games also keep Michigan in the national spotlight. High-profile games keep the country talking about the Maize and Blue. Are they a bigger risk since, without a playoff, one loss can kill BCS title dreams? Of course. But I think the rewards outweigh the risks. And I'm not saying it has to be a Top 5 SEC team each year. But for cryin' out loud, enough with padding the home schedule with EMU, WMU and any other directional university in the state of Michigan who'll come to A2 (or even worse, a 1-AA team).
|Coming soon to The Big House for $70 a ticket?|
Competitively, they're a joke - or at least are supposed to be. Since even the players don't care, it's hard to get pumped up (making the jeopardy of these games greater [See Appalachian State] than the risk of a moderately tough non-conference road game).
And while they may be a financial windfall to Michigan's coffers, they're a giant stiff one for the fans. Seriously, $70 a ticket to watch Michigan play Eastern Michigan? Or UMass? Or Delaware State? That borders on being criminal.
If this is really about the fans, then charge something like half price for games that, if we're being honest, are supposed to be over by half time. Make it so a family of four can catch a game in The Big House for far less than the almost $400 bucks it takes now (between tickets, parking, concessions, etc.) for the filler games.
Put it this way, if Dave Brandon thinks a crappy home game against the EMUs of the world is "the right thing to do for our fans, in terms of their ticket packages," then I dare him to let season ticket holders opt out of EMU and WMU home games each year.
I double dare him.
But with a home-and-home against a team whose name is recognized beyond the Great Lakes, not only do fans and alums outside Michigan win when the game is on the road, but those buying U-M season tickets win when their $70 gets them something that's not intended from its scheduling to be a glorified scrimmage.
Unfortunately, sadly, I think Mr. Brandon's way of being penny wise and pound foolish is what we're stuck with. So at least quit insulting our intelligence by saying you're doing it because "it's the right thing to do for the fans."
It's all about the money. It's only about the money. Period.
Trying to sell it as anything else is a complete and ginormous load.