Some Tuesday morning musings. Bo knows Big Ten basketball? We”ll find out.
This past Thursday”s hiring of Bo Ryan as Wisconsin basketball coach was an exercise in humility for athletic director Pat Richter. On March 19, when Richter relieved interim coach Brad Soderberg of his duties, he said he wanted nothing other than “a big name.”
So Richter called Utah”s Rick Majerus who, along with Tulsa”s Buzz Peterson, earns the award for attracting the most employment overtures from desperate athletic directors. Majerus, citing his mother”s health as a reason, declined to be seriously interviewed.
Richter was refused permission by California to talk to Ben Braun, leaving him with no real “big names” to pursue. With egg on the face of the motion “W,” he meekly accepted another Hyphen Coach. He shouldn”t have overlooked Ryan in the first place.
In 1995, the Badgers took a chance on Dick Bennett, another Hyphen Coach. Bennett had spent a combined 19 years at Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Known for engineering the occasional NCAA Tournament upset, Bennett”s hiring was still a risk, but Wisconsin gambled and won. Ryan comes from the same hyphenated past, having coached 17 seasons at Wisconsin-Platteville and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Following last season”s run to the Final Four, Richter and the Badgers got bigheaded, thinking they were on the road to becoming Duke. Wisconsin had no chance of beating Michigan State in that national semifinal, and seemed to ignore the fact that it was part of the weakest Final Four in recent memory.
“We”re the Wisconsin Badgers,” they said. “We have tradition.” (They don”t.) “Our basketball program is coveted. Coaches want to come here.” (They don”t.)
By returning to its roots, Wisconsin can keep expectations on its program realistic: Win a few more than you lose, recruit as well as you can without a true big city to supply talent, and don”t grow bigger than your britches.
Ryan can keep the Badgers focused on accomplishing exactly that.
Keeping it real: Credit Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr for continuing to schedule with character. The structure of the BCS lends itself to playing the occasional game against a ranked team which happens anyway in the conference season and filling the nonconference portion of the schedule with near-guarantee wins.
In both 2001 and 2002, Michigan has stuck to its pattern of playing a nonconference home-and-home with another quality program, while granting local schools the chance to visit Michigan Stadium.
This season, the Wolverines play at Washington on Sept. 8, a favor that will be returned in 2002. The Notre Dame series is back next year, and Oregon comes to Ann Arbor as well. Each year features a home game against Western Michigan in September.
Financially, the 2002 schedule will be a success. Thanks to some skillful maneuvering, Michigan will be playing four nonconference games, three at home. That means the athletic department will pull in revenues for seven home contests next year. The last time Michigan hosted seven home games was in 1997.
Athletic director Bill Martin has said in the past that gross sales from three of Michigan”s home games go to paying the University the market rate for scholarships for all 25 varsity sports. That constricts the department with regards to expansion and renovation projects. Thus, a seventh home game is all gravy.
Michigan would have hosted a seventh game this upcoming season, but abandoned the plan when a suitable opponent failed to present itself.
Higher power: St. John”s Episcopal Church in Detroit held its annual prayer for the Tigers yesterday, leading up to today”s season opener. While churchgoers are at it, may they place a curse on Juan Gonzalez and make his back really hurt.
Chris Duprey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.