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Sharad Mattu: Long way to go for NCAA athletics

BY SHARAD MATTU: MATTU FAST
Mattu Furious
Published December 9, 2004

There’s something about 20-year-olds bringing in millions of dollars in exchange for a mere scholarship that I’ve always thought was a little wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the Big House, Crisler and Yost, and I will always follow Michigan sports closely. But I try not to get caught up in the wins and losses, as hard as it can be not to sometimes.

But then, when I look around, I get the feeling that I’m one of the few who feel this way.

 

When a loss to Ohio State is the best thing that’s happened in the last few weeks — as seems to be the case with Michigan’s football program — you know there are problems. Between the arrests of Adam Stenavich and Larry Harrison and the “Lloyd Carr is retiring” rumors that got so out of control that Carr had to hold an impromptu press conference, the Rose Bowl is practically an afterthought.

Carr said he had to set the record straight because recruits had begun to ask him if he was retiring, and other schools had started telling recruits not to come to Michigan because Carr was on his way out.

I thought this was especially funny because just a couple weeks ago, Michigan was fighting Penn State over top cornerback prospect Justin King. Maybe Carr himself didn’t stoop to that level, but don’t you think someone mentioned to King — who ultimately chose the Nittany Lions — that he’d be playing for Joe Paterno, a 77-year-old coach who could be forced out?

Here’s my recommendation to all those who get caught up in recruiting wars and are disappointed in a 9-2 record and a trip to the Rose Bowl: Start an NCAA Football 2005 dynasty with a crappy team. It’s something I did last year with Rutgers (the team I grew up ignoring) and this year with Vanderbilt (the only SEC school with true student-athletes), and you’ll appreciate what’s here at Michigan a lot more.

My roommate has been destroying teams with Michigan for three seasons, and shows no signs of getting bored with it. But I needed more of a challenge, and let me tell you, the Commodores have provided it. In my first season, I went 3-8, which may seem pretty bad, but it includes a 24-14 win at LSU. But I couldn’t bring in any top recruits, despite completely neglecting training and discipline and focusing solely on recruiting. Now, in year two, I’m 0-5 with three losses by a single point, and three of my best players are suspended. And now, I follow Vanderbilt’s actual football team; I’m still reeling from the Commodores’ losses to Kentucky and Tennessee, followed by Jovan Haye’s decision to enter the NFL draft.

Trust me: After you play with a team like Vanderbilt for just five games, you’ll be ecstatic with a 9-2 record.

 

With Lester Abram, Graham Brown and Daniel Horton out for the season, a month and indefinitely, respectively, the Michigan basketball team’s lack of depth — particularly in the backcourt — is suddenly pretty glaring. And if all you care about is Michigan’s record, then you’ve got to be pretty worried right now.

Tuesday afternoon, my aforementioned roommate and I tried to figure out how much everyone would have to play with so many guys out. We concluded that John Andrews, Sherrod Harrell and J.C. Mathis would need to play 50 combined minutes, minimum. So, Tuesday night, we check the box score, and the three combined to play 45 minutes. Surprised, we looked again, and realized Dani Wohl played 30 minutes.

But anyway, people have asked what happened with this year’s recruiting class. Ron Coleman will be fine, but why just one freshman? Well, two guys, Joe Crawford and Al Horford, decommitted and another, Malik Hairston, came close to committing up over the summer. But all three ultimately opted against coming to Michigan because they were looking for the fast track to playing time and NBA riches.

In a meeting with Michigan coach Tommy Amaker back in May, Hairston — who openly plans to spend no more than two years in the college — wanted to know if he would start if he came to Michigan. It was a promise Amaker was unwilling to make.

Amaker’s insistence on bringing in “Michigan men” can be frustrating, but unless you’re only interested in wins and losses, you have to appreciate his willingness to be patient and pass on the quick fix. Yes, Amaker can be criticized for underachieving with what’s already here, but if you ask me, that’s it.

 

Whenever Michigan finally does look for a new football coach, the search will go a lot better than the one Notre Dame is currently going through. The way things are going in South Bend, I figure by Sunday they’ll be calling me in for an interview.

While trying to explain the decision to fire football coach Tyrone Willingham, athletic director Kevin White actually said: “From Sunday through Friday our football program has exceeded all expectations, in every way. But on Saturday, we struggled.”

Isn’t that all you need to know about what’s happening in Notre Dame, a university that has prided itself on balancing academics and athletics better than any other school?

But on the bright side, that quote explains why I’d be the perfect person for the job. I could care less about Sunday through Friday.

 

Sharad Mattu was just kidding with that last sentence. He can be reached at smattu@umich.edu.