In a roundtable with media members Tuesday, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel again addressed the football team’s rivalry series against Michigan State and Ohio State, and said the status quo will remain for now. Conversations are still ongoing about tweaking the schedule so that the Wolverines play one rival at home each year, but there is presently no news on the subject.
That has been the case for several months now, dating back well into former interim athletic director Jim Hackett’s tenure. Michigan has played Michigan State and Ohio State on the road in the same year and at home in the same year since 2014, when both games were on the road. For now, that is the case through 2019, the latest year for which the Big Ten has released conference schedules. The Wolverines travel to both cities this season and in 2018 and host both in 2017 and 2019.
The current status creates an imbalance, considering the two rivalry games are the most attended and thus most profitable games on the schedule. Adding a road trip to Notre Dame in 2018 and a home date in 2019 will compound the problem.
Manuel is working now to reduce the disparity when the Big Ten announces its next rotation of conference games, starting with the 2020 season. Any change before then would require a vote by the Big Ten athletic directors.
“Would I love to see Ohio State and Michigan State on different years? Yes,” Manuel said. “Do I think it’s hard to do given where we are now? Yes. Will I continue to still have the conversations that need to be had to try to see if there’s anything that can be done? Yes. Is it easy? No.”
As Manuel, Hackett and others have noted before, it’s a difficult harmony to strike — the conference can’t modify the rotations of one team without creating a butterfly effect around the league. For instance, switching the site of a future Michigan-Michigan State or Michigan-Ohio State game could create a home-road imbalance in one of the other two teams’ schedules. Fixing that with a corresponding move in that team’s schedule could open up another flaw, and so on.
“While we talk about the imbalance of Michigan State and Ohio State, both of them being away or being at home, they have other tweaks and changes that they certainly would like to see to their schedule,” Manuel said. “And once you start putting all that together, you got a big cauldron of issues that you have to try to figure out, right? So it’s not as simple as me saying, ‘We want this,’ and everybody saying, ‘OK, well, we’ll just change it.’ ”
Manuel has made such comments before, and while he continues to have conversations regarding the next rotation of games, he didn’t have any update on a specific way to resolve the problem.
FINANCIAL LITERACY: Manuel also discussed his desire to give student-athletes knowledge about financial literacy and other life skills while they attend Michigan. The athletic department is looking into such an initiative through M-Pact (the Michigan Professional and Career Transition Program), a division of the department that prepares athletes for life after college.
Manuel had similar financial literacy workshops while he was the athletic director at Connecticut from 2012 until this past March. Connecticut even had the help of Morgan Stanley in teaching students.
“I’m committed to that for our student-athletes, for all of our student-athletes to learn,” Manuel said. “In many respects, I wish I did. Probably some of the adults in this room wish that we had that coming out, so it’s one thing to wish you had it and it’s another thing to make sure that the younger generation has that knowledge.”
SEASON TICKET SALES AT 90,000: The athletic department sold about 90,000 season tickets — 18,000 to students — for this year’s home football schedule. Both figures are up slightly from last season. The remaining tickets are for single games only.
Hackett had said in April that the department would have a waiting list for season ticket holders, but as it turned out, all interested fans were able to buy season tickets, according to the spokesman.
Michigan doesn’t have a set cap number for season ticket sales but doesn’t fill the entire stadium with them. The last portion is for single-game purchases and use by both Michigan and the opposing schools.
NOTES: After expressing interest in April in building a new weight room facility for the football team, Manuel said Tuesday he hopes to have refined cost estimates for the plan next week. He hopes to have the project, which includes a new roof on Oosterbaan Field House, in motion by spring 2017. … The Michigan basketball program hopes to have an event in September, similar to the one for the football team Aug. 1, to unveil its new Jordan Brand uniforms. … The athletic department submitted its concussion protocol to the NCAA, and the NCAA approved it.