Football Saturdays were the topic of conversation Friday.

University lecturer John U. Bacon detailed Ann Arbor’s history, its relationship with college football and the importance of education for a Parents’ Weekend talk organized by the LSA Honors College Friday night.

Bacon teaches several courses at the University under the Fall 2014’s theme semester Sport and the University. Outside of his role on campus, Bacon is a prominent sports journalist and bestselling author. Bacon is best known for his book Three and Out, a behind the scenes look at the politics of former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez’s tumultuous tenure at the University. His most recent book, Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football examines why people love the sport and what is at stake with in the industry.

Bacon, who is a University and Honors College alum, said his interest in pursuing journalism was sparked while writing his honors thesis.

“I cannot tell you the internal pride I felt,” he said. “Just seeing, just feeling that slab of paper … knowing that I had done the whole thing from start to finish … that truly changed my life.”

During his lecture, Bacon discussed how the explosion of football’s popularity in Ann Arbor in the late 1870s garnered a great deal of enthusiasm not just from students and faculty, but also locals and the press.

This sentiment, Bacon said, still exists today.

“Some of the biggest fans did not go to Michigan,” he said. “Some of the biggest donors didn’t go to Michigan. It’s an amazing expression of our values.”

He argued football is one of the University’s most important common threads between all students, adding that game day is perhaps one of the most complete reflections of student life.

“When you take a seat (in Michigan Stadium), we don’t care about your race, ethnicity, nationality, your age, gender, economics,” Bacon said. “All we care about is, when the band gets to ‘Hail,’ you’re going to jam your fist in the air. Do that at the right time, you are one of us.”

Bacon stressed that both in and outside of the University Athletic Department, the main goal to strive for in the University setting is moral steadiness. He said an icon like former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, who led the program between 1969 and 1989, embodied this goal — and that students who weren’t even born when Schembechler retired still knew his name and remembered him as a leader, not necessarily as a football coach.

“That, to me, is the Michigan Difference,” Bacon said. “We want to win, we expect to win, but the truth matters to us. If you have a chance to pursue the truth and you fail to do so, you have not only lost your personal integrity, you have not only lost your personal self respect, dare I say it, you’ve lost your soul. This entire University is based on one principle, and that’s the truth.”

On that note, Bacon also addressed the issue of continuing monetization of college football. He said everywhere athletic directors and coaches are getting paid more than university presidents, which he sees as a problem. Michigan football coach Brady Hoke was paid $4.154 million for the 2013 season. University President Mark Schlissel’s base salary is $750,000 per year with an annual increase determined by the University’s Board of Regents.

In a brief question and answer session following his presentation, he expanded upon this point.

“To me, the biggest scandal in college football is greed … greed is going to kill college sports as we know them,” he said. “This is a nonprofit, state university. Nobody here gets market value. Nobody here gets to return an investment. You don’t come to a big university to cash in.”

LSA sophomore Steven Oberlander said he liked the presentation particularly as an out-of-state student without as much background on Ann Arbor’s early years.

“I thought it was amazing,” Oberlander said. “He’s definitely passionate. It was just interesting to hear a lot about the history … also, his perspective on campus life and how this really is, in his mind, the greatest place in the world.”

Katherine Britton — the mother of LSA freshman Matthew Britton, a new Honors student — and her husband Ed attended the event with their son. Mrs. Britton said the lecture attuned her to the fascinating, intellectual avenues to pursue within the Honors Program.

“The mix of academics and football is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of Michigan, and it’s sort of fascinating that that’s the topic that was chosen for the parents,” Ed said. “In some ways, it’s interesting in the Big Ten how football is kind of this unifying factor in a way that it isn’t in many of the other conferences, and he certainly brought that out, which is part of the Michigan ethos.”

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