On Friday afternoon, as ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis previewed the weekend’s events, he told it like it is.
“I think the one thing that Michigan can do in the morning is show itself to be a football and basketball school,” Davis said. “One of the things that’s happened over the course of this show is we’ve gotten better responses, generally speaking … at basketball schools.
“The football schools sometimes (aren’t) quite as rabid.”
Is that a challenge, Mr. Davis?
“It is a challenge,” he laughed. “Actually, that’s exactly what it is — precisely what is.”
Davis probably has yet to meet one Sam Sedlecky, the president and unquestioned leader of the Maize Rage — Michigan basketball’s raucous student cheering section. Sedlecky didn’t wake up early for the College GameDay show at Crisler Arena, which started filming live hits at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.
That’s because he never went to sleep.
He and some of his Maize Raging brethren lined up outside of Gate D of Crisler Center at 11:00 p.m. on Friday, coming straight from Yost Ice Arena after the Wolverines’ win over Northern Michigan
“Rece Davis can bring it,” Sedlecky said prior to the show’s filming. “I love Rece Davis, but we’re willing to accept that challenge any day of the week.”
But it does seem that Davis’ comments do have some merit. After all, he’s traveled across the country every season since 2005, venue to venue, filming the weekly GameDay segment. He’s seen the Cameron Crazies at Duke, the eRUPPtion zone at Kentucky and the Izzone of Michigan State.
He’s also no stranger to Crisler’s history. In 1993, Davis moved to Flint, where he was a sports anchor and reporter for WJRT-TV before he eventually caught the attention of ESPN and moved to Bristol, Conn. in 1995. And he wasn’t just covering the Flint Tropics.
“I was just telling Hubert (Davis) when we drove over … regardless of what you guys have to do with the banners here, (the Fab Five) actually happened,” Rece Davis said. “I remember seeing those teams go to the Final Four. I don’t care if the banners are up or not.”
Both Davis and Sedlecky probably agree that Michigan isn’t quite back to the glory days of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when the Wolverines were perennial Final Four contenders. Regardless of coach John Beilein’s success over his first five seasons with the program, he may need to start making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis to regain that “rabid” following.
Sedlecky is confident it could happen soon.
“Traditionally, we’re a football school here at Michigan, but John Beilein is clearly bringing our basketball program back to the very top,” Sedlecky said. “We’re going to be a top-five program for many years to come in the future.”
Davis’ colleagues at ESPN agree that Beilein is capable of doing just that. On Friday Jay Bilas said that though Beilein-coached teams tend not to get to the free throw line often enough, which would typically be worrisome, Michigan has seemingly found a way to win anyway.
“John’s a great coach,” Bilas said. “I first got to know him a little bit when he was at Canisius, when I first started in broadcasting. … He’s one of the very best coaches, and I’m not surprised at anything he does. He’s really top-shelf.
“Usually, you’ll see teams at the top of any league … it correlates to free throws. But John’s teams have never been that way. When they were in the top three or four of the Big East (when Beilein was with West Virginia), they weren’t in the top three or four in free-throw shooting. … But they do other things really well — primarily shooting.”
Until the Wolverines reach that next level in the NCAA Tournament and the Maize Rage grows to a size Rece Davis finds basketball-school-worthy, Michigan’s student section will rely on passion, rather than size.
Engineering junior Mike Szymusiak knows something about passion. He showed up to Crisler on Saturday at 4:00 a.m. in a maize-and-blue coconut bra and hula skirt.
Why, you ask?
“This is just me trying to impress Erin Andrews,” Szymusiak said, laughing.