Sometimes it can be difficult to compare one year’s spring game attendance from one year to the next and draw any conclusions, but seeing the numbers coming out of Ann Arbor on Saturday raises some eyebrows. It also suggests interest, or rather the enthusiasm, about the program has done a 180 degree turn in short time.
Michigan’s spring game welcomed an estimated 60,000 fans to Michigan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The good weather certainly helped, as was the chance to see a live game atmosphere from the Wolverines. Oh, and this was the spring game debut of new head coach Jim Harbaugh. There was plenty of reason for Michigan fans to come to Michigan Stadium with interest and vigor. The live scrimmage may not have brought out the best Michigan football possible, but the breath of fresh air surrounding the program was crisp.
Credit that to Harbaugh, with his new signature blue Sharpie hanging around his neck and his Block “M” Michigan hat on his head.
Last year’s open practice at Michigan drew a crowd far smaller than the total showing up on Saturday. An estimated total of 15,000 came out for last season’s live practice. That is quite the jump in one year from the Michigan faithful. Michigan may have the largest stadium in the country, but the 60,000 is believed to be one of the larger crowds on hand for the annual spring game.
Michigan is also starting to see things turn around in season ticket sales. Often a negative discussion point last fall, Michigan Athletics Director Jim Hackett says it is already seeing improvement in ticket sales for the upcoming season. The turnaround has been so significant the Wolverines have started up a waiting list (currently with 1,500 fans added) that has not been used for years.
Speaking with reporters Saturday, Hackett says all 81 of the luxury boxes in Michigan Stadium have been sold out for the upcoming season. This was not the case a year ago.
“Every (luxury) box we had for sale is gone, there are no openings there,” Hackett said. “And we had some openings (before Harbaugh was hired). I remember getting informal comments from people after Jim was hired telling me they weren’t going to mail a check in until (they saw who the next coach was).”
Odds seem good we will not be seeing many Coca-Cola ticket promotions in 2015 at Michigan Stadium. Hiring the right coach has already paid off in that respect.
On Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the NFL Draft will kick off a three-day event that bridges the gap between college football and the NFL on an annual basis. The Arizona Cardinals will have the No. 1 pick in the draft and there is a possibility Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray could be the top pick of the draft. If that proves to be the case, then the Sooners will pull off one of the rarest feats in the NFL Draft by having the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft two years in a row.
Last year saw Baker Mayfield leave Oklahoma to be the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft of the Cleveland Browns. If Murray is selected as the first player overall by the Cardinals (or any other team that moves up to the top spot), it will mark the first time since 1968 and 1969 when the top pick in the draft was selected out of the same school in consecutive seasons. USC’s Ron Yary was the top pick of the 1968 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and running back O.J. Simpson was the top pick of the draft by the Buffalo Bills the following season. That remains the first and only time the top picks in consecutive drafts have come from the same school.
If Murray does go first overall, some history will also be made that will separate this feat from the one previously accomplished by USC. This would also mark the first time two Heisman Trophy winners from the same school have been selected with the top pick in the draft in consecutive seasons. Granted, it hasn’t been too often the same school had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, to begin with, not to mention having two within the same four or five-year period, but it’s been a good couple of years for the Sooners with Mayfield and Murray.
It’s also worth a reminder both Mayfield and Murray were transfer players as well, adding another layer to the improbability of the rare milestone Oklahoma is potentially in line to pull off this week. Naturally, this would be quite a piece of recruiting propaganda for Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was named head coach of the Sooners just two years ago following the retirement of Bob Stoops.
The College Football Playoff was founded and remains controlled by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences. For those looking to move the 4-team format to eight, the thinking went that the old guard (emphasis on old) in the form of Mike Slive, Jim Delany and John Swofford would eventually move on, and their younger predecessors would see how much money could be made by expanding the playoff, and then expand the playoff.
Slive, of course, retired in 2015 (he passed away in 2018), Delany will step down next year, and Swofford is 70. After the ACC Network gets up and running later this year, perhaps he’ll step down, allowing three of the five big chairs — and, let’s be honest, the three biggest of the five big chairs — will have changed hands from the Playoff’s 2012 creation to negotiations for the second contract. (The current contract expires after the 2025 season.)
One problem, though: one of those predecessors likes the Playoff as is.
Speaking at an APSE event in Birmingham on Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey affirmed his support for the 4-team format.
The SEC is the least incentivized of the Power 5 conferences to change the status quo, because the status quo works for them. Along with the ACC, the SEC is the only conference to go 5-for-5 in placing teams in the field, and really the SEC is 6-for-5 given that Georgia and Alabama reached the Playoff in 2017, the only season to date in which one conference has occupied the four coveted spots.
The counter to this point is that it was the LSU vs. Alabama championship game that was the straw that killed the BCS’s back.
However, the counter to that counter was that Slive was on board to kill the BCS and berth the CFP. Never before in college football’s history of evolving postseason formats has change been brought against the SEC’s wishes, and that’s unlikely to change… now or in 2025.
North Carolina linebacker Kyle Wright will leave Chapel Hill and pursue a graduate transfer, the player has announced.
“For the sake of having some dignity, I would like to announce that I will be entering the NCAA Transfer Portal,” he wrote on Twitter. “In doing so, I leave behind friendships and teammates that I will never forget. I appreciate you all.”
A Blythewood, S.C., native, Wright signed with North Carolina in 2018 and spent just one season in Chapel Hill. He appeared in four games, making one tackle against Georgia Tech, before using the year as a redshirt.
As an undergraduate transfer, Wright would have to sit out the 2019 campaign and compete in 2020 as a redshirt sophomore, barring a waiver.
It’s been a long time since Marshall and Western Michigan were in the same conference, but the two will be reunited on the football field soon enough. No, we’re not talking about conference realignment, but future non-conference scheduling!
The two schools announced a future home-and-home series for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Marshall will host the first game of the deal on Sept. 14, 2024. Western Michigan will host the second game on Sept. 6, 2025. The two schools have not squared off against each other since Marshall left the MAC for Conference USA in 2005, but Western Michigan leads the all-time series 22-12.
Western Michigan will also play Cincinnati in non-conference play in 2024 and will travel t two Big Ten opponents in 20205 (Michigan State and Illinois).
Marshall has road trips to Liberty and Virginia Tech scheduled in 2024 in addition to the new home game against the Broncos. In 2025, Marshall will host East Carolina a week after visiting Western Michigan.