Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Drama-filled start to 2008 with Rodriguez COULD get worse if Pryor comes to Michigan (Recap of January and a look ahead)

It has been a while since we last updated the blog with the Capital One Bowl victory back on the first of the new year. Since then, 2008 has already been loaded with controversy for the transitioning Michigan football program. Coach Rich Rodriguez has officially taken the reigns allowing Lloyd Carr to ride off into the sunset. Coach Rod’s early ride, however, has not been so smooth. This month has seen relentless bitterness towards Rodriguez from the West Virginia faithful in the form of allegations of document shredding and recruiting violations upon leaving for Michigan (as every fan has surely heard by now). Though some of these allegations seem completely ludicrous and have since been denied (disappearing academic records? HELLO WVU is a school still and has academic records for all enrolled- denied by WVU’s President), Rodriguez, in his first month of the job has been defending himself against this self-proclaimed “smear campaign” while in the midst of recruiting. Sparing you all the details which have been flying around and can be found at all local news outlets regarding the violations and $4 million buyout case (phone records w/ Terrelle Pryor and other recruits, WVU trying to bring the case back to state court, OC Calvin Magee charging WVU to be racially biased etc. etc.) this is undoubtedly the most drama the Michigan football program has been surrounded with in at least a decade (Moeller’s drunkenness).

On top of all the Rodriguez WVU-Michigan drama is the theater surrounding Terrelle Pryor, the #1 QB in the country who is reportedly down to Michigan, OSU, Oregon, LSU, and Penn State (latest news points towards the much anticipated UM/OSU battle). A couple weekends ago when Pryor visited Ann Arbor (Jan. 19th), the focus on campus was on getting this outstanding football player to play for the Wolverines. Facebook groups and events were created to try to make Pryor and fellow recruits feel welcome. I created one of these imploring students to wear maize and blue (for a change) at least to give the recruits a vibe as to how football Saturdays are in Ann Arbor (and more importantly I saw this as an opportunity to show school spirit which we often lack). The basketball game was reportedly a sell out prior to the game (yeah..right, do not know where the athletic department got that notion as most of the seats were still empty) but still more fans were present than usual. Despite the maize rage being no louder than a student section at a middle school track meet, there was a buzz about Pryor being on campus. I, as many others, HAD BEEN praying for the 18 year old Pryor to choose Michigan as his football ability is unquestionable. At 6’6” 235 lbs. with 4.4 40 yard dash speed and an uncanny ability to scramble, Pryor obviously would be a perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez’s scheme fitting the mold of a way more talented Pat White. Terrelle Pryor WAS the end all and be all if we wanted to be anywhere near 10 wins and therefore WAS a must get. Pryor or bust if you will.

A week later, however, all my strong feelings for wanting Pryor faded when undying controversy started surrounding the kid. Most of this linked to a glass-industry big shot in Pryor’s hometown of Jeanette, PA by the name of Ted Sarniak. As many of you have probably already read from MGoBlog, scout.com, and other sources, Sarniak employed Pryor and has REPORTEDLY given or will give Pryor a corvette, perhaps as a graduation gift. Complicating this moreover are reports of Ohio State coaches going to meet Sarniak a day before Pryor came to visit Michigan. I must assert that these are only reports and not enough substance has been produced behind these claims to make any true/false statements. Having said that, it does not take a genius to see the shadiness of such a situation. Of course, this Michigan fan who has followed the Jim Tressel era, is not at all surprised by hearing OSU coaches doing such a thing (OSU abandoning Maurice Clarett to avoid investigations, Troy Smith’s troubles, and many other less documented stories with Tressel (Youngstown State players)) http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=1920867 . What troubles me, is that Michigan is also desperately trying to get Pryor, although hopefully not to that extent. Regardless of if OSU coaches met with Sarniak, do we really want Pryor to come to Michigan if it means violations against the program down the road? Especially with recent news of Reggie Bush and USC getting in trouble for reported housing being given to his family and possible recruiting violations against Florida coach Urban Meyer, it should be apparent that no one player is bigger than the program. The one asset that Lloyd Carr had which nobody can refute is that he valued the program’s integrity above all else. Throughout his tenure, and the entire Schembechler era for that matter, the Michigan football program never had any scandal. And fans never had to worry about about violations with Lloyd Carr running the show and he would still bring in a top 10 class every year without fail. What good is Pryor if he comes to Michigan and even wins a national title if ten years from now that title is taken away and we have a fab five scandal move over to the most storied football program in the history of college football? Quite frankly, I would much rather see that happen to OSU as Pryor might accelerate their downfall as I believe ten years from now the NCAA will finally unveil the program’s lack of integrity from Clarett on.

Although all this controversy surrounds Pryor, it is not an attack on Pryor as a person. I am just saying there is a lot of potential baggage that comes along with him, some of which could blow up this program which should still always pride itself on integrity. Is it Pryor’s fault for taking a corvette as a graduation gift (if he does)? I say no. What 18 year-old kid would turn down a corvette? I know I wouldn’t. Is it Pryor’s fault that he has men from the ages of 18-50+ constantly calling him and trying to sell themselves to a kid who is in the midst of trying to play high school basketball with his friends? Absolutely not. Is it Pryor’s fault that he is being treated like a celebrity (camera men at the UM bball game paying more attention to him than at the actual game)? Yes and no. Pryor has seemed to relish the spotlight by calling media outlets himself and wanting a public announcement. But more so no, because he has had 50 year old coaches and reporters telling him he is the greatest gift to football and what kid has not dreamed of being in the spotlight? Pryor is a victim of being extremely talented in a culture that is obsessed with “who’s next” (myself included…I know…I know).

There is no doubt Pryor is a great addition to any team ON the field. No matter where he goes, barring injury, he will develop his skills and eventually get to the NFL with the potential to change the game. But, unfortunately, due to the society that is infatuated with a player like Terrelle, he will be put in a lot of situations that will be extremely tough (i.e. excepting a corvette). These decisions, which would be no-brainers to “normal” college students (take the ‘vette), carry a lot more weight with the student-athlete, particularly one of Pryor’s stature. Every move he, or anyone around him makes will be under scrutiny for the next three or four years. For any program that gets him, that creates a constant stress hoping that this 18 year old doesn’t do something the NCAA says he shouldn’t do. For me, I do not know if this is worth the excitement he would bring to Michigan.

I am now indifferent to Pryor except I either want him to go to Michigan or Ohio State. Yes, if he doesn’t come here, I pray he goes to that school down south. This is my logic: If he comes to Michigan, we are getting a once in a decade talent and a complete breath of fresh air in an exciting dual threat QB who will give defenses the same fits our D’s have experienced. On the flip side, myself as a fan will constantly be holding my breath waiting for the day he breaks a rule (again, not because he is a bad kid, but because his situation would be tough for anyone). If that happens, any win he gives us could be taken away and our integrity plummets.

If he goes to that ugly school down south, they are getting a great QB who will have the chance to give us fits for the next 3-4 years. Yikes. But conversely, and more importantly I believe, his situation will prompt the NCAA to investigate OSU especially with the reports of coaches meeting Sarniak. The NCAA will no longer be able to look the other way on Tressel’s acts like they did around the time of Clarett and OSU will have a scandal larger than the fab five implicating the entire Tressel era.

The reason I am not hoping for him to just go elsewhere, is because of the fact that OSU has already been implicated with the Sarniak thing and I believe the NCAA will be prompted to look into the situation in Columbus. I still am neutral on him coming to Michigan because Michigan has not been linked to Sarniak and therefore we have a better chance to avoid allegations. Still, I no longer am praying for the kid to come here.

The integrity of Michigan will always be the most important thing to this University. Nevertheless, the days of Lloyd upholding that integrity are over. Rich Rodriguez certainly has a differing view than Carr and is not the type of guy to have players recite a word from the dictionary when they come to his office. Still, Rodriguez built a WVU program without any allegations (or big name recruits) so even if he does value winning, hopefully he does not have the “whatever it takes” mentality stretching out to boosters to go “under the table.” Rodriguez is the breath of fresh air UM has been looking for on the field. His football philosophy will find plenty of success and should bring the football team up to the level of what USC, Florida, and LSU have done year in and year out. The only question is whether or not we will also accompany USC and Florida as another school to break the rules for recruits. While many fans will be disgruntled with a rough year next season, that unrest would not even compare to the uproar if Rodriguez let the latter happen.

Do I want to see the team struggle next year? No, I hope the transition is smooth. But if Pryor is what we need for success next season and that means violations down the road, then I am all for a little delayed gratification. I hope Rodriguez is patient too. He already has enough on his plate with the crazy ex-girlfriend WVU.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


What a final game for Lloyd Carr and the Big Blue. One of Chad Henne's best games and brilliant Michigan play calling result in a Michigan 41-35 victory over Florida.

Best sure to tune into Extra Points on WCBN on Monday, January 7th and check back on the blog. We will recap Michigan's best game this season and discuss the incoming Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor.

Be sure to tune in on the WCBN Sports Stream or 88.3FM Ann Arbor.