Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon treasures the record Michigan set last year, when it hosted the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game during the Big Chill at the Big House. So the prospect of the NHL breaking that record during the Winter Classic must trouble him, right?
At the announcement of the event on Thursday at Michigan Stadium, Brandon said that if the record falls, Michigan will simply have to break the mark. Again.
Yes, that means Big Chill 2.0, though the event will probably go by some other name.
Though the Athletic Department has not yet initiated plans for another game, Brandon said he isn’t content to just have the record set in Michigan Stadium. It must belong to Michigan, too.
“We’ll digest this,” Brandon said. “We’ll let this happen, but if they break the record … records were set to be broken.”
Brandon did not appear worried. After all, Michigan doesn’t have too much competition.
“We can only break the record in this stadium,” Brandon said. “I don’t think you’re going to see a hockey game in the Rose Bowl.”
Skeptics argue that the allure of outdoor hockey is wearing off thanks to a flood of such games. The Winter Classic has become an annual staple, and with the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park next season, the senior class of the Michigan hockey team will have played an outdoor game every season in college.
Brandon shares those concerns, but said the fans still desire hockey in the open air.
“I do (worry), except the marketplace speaks,” Brandon said. “These things wouldn’t keep happening if there weren’t people really enjoying them.”
Will Brandon be among the thousands of those people? Not if he has his wish.
The timing of the Winter Classic conflicts with a certain bowl Brandon has his eye on.
“I’m not sure I’m going to be here,” Brandon said. “I hope I’m going to be at a football game in Pasadena.”
LIGHTS OUT ON 2012 NIGHT GAME: While Brandon was in the prognosticating mood, he said another prime time football game is also in the works.
Just not for the 2012 season.
“It’s getting pretty late in the game for us to be looking at scheduling a night game,” Brandon said. “I am just reluctant to have a night game here unless it’s going to be really big. I think we set the bar high with our first one, and I want the second one to every bit as good.
“I don’t think it’s probably going to happen this next year … (but) I bet it’s going to happen the following year.”
That’s probably a pretty solid bet considering Brandon has the authority to schedule such games.
Brandon cited the potential match-up and the time of the year as factors that may influence a decision to play another game under the lights.
PLAYOFF? PLAYOFF?: Though the Big Ten has been discussing ideas for a college football playoff system, Brandon is skeptical that any such plan would be effective or feasible.
“I’m happy to look at a proposal, I just haven’t seen one yet that solves any of the problems that people say they’re trying to solve,” Brandon said. “People want a playoff, they want to figure out a way to determine a true national champion, and I frankly haven’t seen anything yet that will get you there.”
The idea of the plus-one playoff format, with the top four teams meeting at two campus sites before the National Championship game, has gained traction with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney recently.
Brandon cautioned that none of the ideas have developed into anything further.
The athletic director said he recognized the desire for change, but a plus-one playoff format would have the same tensions about rankings as the current system. Instead of teams fighting over the No. 2 spot, they’d fight over the No. 4 ranking. And often, those teams come from different conferences, play different competition levels and have few or no common opponents.
“I like the bowl system, I think the bowl system is great,” Brandon said. “You look at the situation this year with us. We go to New Orleans. We had kids that had never been to New Orleans in their life. We hadn’t been there as an alumni base in 23 years. We play Virginia Tech, a historic program that we have never played. That’s a terrific opportunity. And we go down and played a great game and came back with a trophy, and our kids just loved that experience. I don’t want to screw that up.”
The Rose Bowl remains a major sticking point for Brandon and other Big Ten athletic directors. Any plan that diminishes the importance of the Rose Bowl or its connection with the Pac-12 and Big Ten could be a nonstarter.
“If we figure out a way to come up with some new scheme that puts at risk the history and tradition of that Rose Bowl, and the relationship that the Pac-12 and the Big Ten have, then that would be a sorry day,” Brandon said.
NOTES: Brandon said the NHL will have the freedom to put up advertisements in the Big House for the Winter Classic game, similar to the ones Michigan used for the Big Chill. Brandon also ruled out the idea of holding a concert at Michigan Stadium.