Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life After Notre Dame

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I want to wish Michigan Athletic Director (AD) Dave Brandon lots of luck thinking that he's going to persuade U-Conn AD Worde Manual to switch the Huskies September 21, 2013 home game at 40,000 seat Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., to a bigger venue.

Even though the Huskies know they can make more money playing in a facility like MetLife Stadium in New Jersey which holds 82,500, Manuel has gone on record saying the game is staying in Connecticut.

Manuel knows that his smaller stadium will be extremely loud and the noise level could be heard all the way to Maine. He also knows this will be the biggest event in the Athletic Departments history with the No.1 winningest program in college football in town surpassing U-Conn Basketball.

It's a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Even though the Storrs campus is two hours away from New Jersey, Manuel knows that the Wolverines have a strong New York alumni base.

In 9-10 situations, money would make this move a no-brainer with 42,500 extra bodies. But not in this case. Manuel would prefer having the sixth man and take the crowd noise. I can't say that I blame him since he'll need every advantage he can to win the game. The sixth man would certainly make things difficult on an opponents quarterback.

Brandon has made some other good scheduling moves.

Recently, I suggested that BYU would be a great addition to the Wolverines schedule.

In 2015, this game will become a reality on September 26. The game is going to be at Ann Arbor and BYU is going to receive one of the highest totals that Michigan has paid at $1.3 Million with no return visit to Utah. The history and draw made this an easy game to schedule.

The going rate for a prestigious game is $900,000-$1.4 Million with no return visit.

Michigan has a home-and-home series scheduled with Utah in 2014-2015. They host Oregon State and UNLV in 2015 giving the Wolverines exposure on the West Coast.

Want some new blood and a Rainbow to go with it, the Wolverines will get that when Hawaii comes to town for the 2016 Home Opener on September 3. The Warriors usually have a high potent offense and have never been to Michigan Stadium. There will be no return to Honolulu so while the Wolverines will see no surf boards, Hawaii will see a Big Wave of Maize and Blue Jerseys in 100,000 plus Ocean of The Big House.

Colorado also visits Michigan Stadium in 2016 on September 17.

The Wolverines begin a and home-and-home series against the Arkansas Razorbacks beginning in 2018-2019. The Wolverines will host the first and Arkansas will host the next.

While Brandon says other home-and-home series are in the works, it's time to go back to the suggestion box and to give him some more ideas rated in the order of most likely to least likely.

1. The Miami Hurricanes make so much sense because Dolphins Owner Stephen M. Ross owns the Dolphins and Joe Robbie Stadium. This game would be an easy sellout. I could see at least 50% of this stadium filled with Michigan fans.

2. The LSU Tigers are coached by Les Miles, who has twice interviewed respectfully for the U-M job but declined to make a change. I can't see him turning down a chance to go to Ann Arbor and market his program in the Midwest. The Wolverines return trip to Baton Rouge gives them a chance to play at Tiger Stadium which holds 92,542.

3. The Oklahoma Sooners and Notre Dame Fighting Irish faced each other, so I can see Michigan following suit to use this as a great opportunity to recruit. Both schools are amongst the winningest programs in college football history that have produced their fair share of Heisman Trophy winners. Lets get them on the field together. The television ratings would be fantastic.

4. When I wrote the draft of this blog a couple weeks ago, The Rutgers University Scarlett Knights would give Brandon a chance to travel to New Jersey and play in front of the New York-New Jersey alumni base that U-Conn won't budge. The reason this didn't get published then was my instincts said to hold off and as a result, Rutgers is now one of the newest members of the Big Ten Conference. They will begin play in two years along with the University of Maryland. Brandon gets his wish to market his program on the East Coast.

5. The University of South Florida Bulls have a strong Midwest Transplant base and the Wolverines have played in the Outback Bowl in Raymond James Stadium. My alma-mater would welcome this game because it would be the biggest draw in the program's history. Like his father Lou, I could see Skip Holtz work diligently to make this game a reality.

6. The Georgia Bulldogs could make this a great financial move for U-M because the game could be played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta or in Athens. Sanford Stadium has a capacity of 92,746. Either way, the SEC would provide another quality recruiting opportunity for Michigan.

7. The South Carolina Gamecocks are now an elite team under Coach Steve Spurrier and from what I've heard, they play in a great stadium. I've driven by Williams Brice Stadium 80,250 and these are rabid fans.

8. If you can't get Oklahoma, there is always the Sooners in-state rivals the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Detroit Lions can thank this university for gift wrapping Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders to them.

9. The Florida State Seminoles and Michigan Wolverines have faced each other before in the regular season. Despite the retirement of Head Coach Bobby Bowden, his replacement Jimbo Fisher has done an excellent job keeping this program in elite status.

10. The Florida Gators and the Wolverines have met twice with U-M winning twice in bowl games. As much as I'd like to see this match-up, the Gators play such a demanding SEC schedule, that I don't see them adding another opponent that could cost them a National Championship opportunity. The Gators used to schedule the Miami Hurricanes annually, but stopped the regular series for this reason. These in-state rivals play once in a while in the regular season and occasionally in bowl games.

These are my suggestions, I encourage any feedback and will answer all responses.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Highland Park High School Texas Trio

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Being a Florida resident, prior to the Detroit Lions 31-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday in Northern Florida, I haven't had the chance to watch QB Matthew Stafford perform in person.

After all these games on TV, the boyish looking youngster, made a believer out of me, that as long as he stays healthy, the Detroit Lions "finally" have a Thoroughbred at this position.

After toying with the Jags by amassing 285 yards, a lot of things came to mind about the 24-year old gifted Tampa native.

* How much faster and younger would Stafford have hit the 10,000 (10,233) yard passing mark if he wasn't hampered by injuries earlier in his career? Would he already be second on the team's yardage list without the injury problems? Check my previous blog "Lions Mastery In Florida Continues" to see the team's all-time leaders.

* Would Erik Kramer be amongst one of the all-time leaders in Lions passing yards that Stafford would be trying to surpass, if Detroit had kept him instead of pursuing Scott Mitchell, Dan Marino's backup with the Miami Dolphins? Kramer was the last Lions QB to win a playoff game crushing the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 during the 1991 season.

* As the Lions continue to bolster the offensive line, wide receivers and running backs, would anyone even guess how many yards Stafford will amass when his playing days are over?

* It's inevitable that Stafford and Lions Hall of Fame QB Bobby Layne will be No.1 and No.2 in passing yardage. My advice to the Lions is when they seek Stafford's eventual replacement, instead of scouting college teams, check back to Highland Park High School in University Park Texas, in the Dallas Metro Area, where they both played and draft their next star signal caller. Lions Hall of Fame Halfback/Punter Doak Walker also played at Highland Park High School. Two Hall of Fame Players from one high school with another potentially on the way. Enough said.

* During the Lions post-game press conference, I was impressed with Stafford's attitude about reaching 10,000 yards indicating that he he simply didn't care about reaching that plateau. He was giving credit to the organization and his teammates. After speaking with his teammates in the locker-room, they're impressed as to how he quietly leads by example and has no ego whatsoever. He fits in well with Detroit's Blue Collar approach. During many of his press conferences, Stafford is often seen wearing a Detroit Tigers Baseball Cap. He seems to have fit in and has embraced his new hometown.

* I am still mind boggled that Lions Owner William Clay Ford Sr. gave Stafford a $40 Million signing bonus. But in this day and age, Ford knew that he had to. I'd be curious if Ford included a small piece of stock in Ford Motor Company. I have a feeling that Ford has no regrets especially after Stafford threw for 5,038 yards in 2011 and will shatter every franchise passing record by the conclusion of his career.

* The Red Wings retired Gordie Howe's No.9 and although the NFL doesn't retire many numbers, I have a feeling that when Stafford's career is over, his number will never be worn again. The Lions also retired Layne's No.22 and Walker's No. 37.

* How much more of an exclamation point can you get when there could be three numbers retired in the NFL, on the same team, that all went to one High School, this one Highland Park High School in Texas? I don't know much about the history of Highland Park High School in Michigan, but I have a feeling it doesn't compare to the one in Texas.  Other athletes that attended Stafford's alma-mater include: Olympic Gold Medalists David Browning (1952, Diving), Mike Heath (1984, Swimming), Harrison Frazar (Pro Golfer), Kyle Rote Jr. (NASL Soccer), Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers) and Chris Young (New York Mets).

In my mind, there will always two questions that remain unanswered. Would the Lions even have Stafford if Joey Harrington had a stable head coaching staff in place like Stafford has with Jim Schwartz?

Would Harrington have fared better with a good offensive coordinator like Scott Linehan?

Harrington's tenure in Detroit saw both spots turn into a revolving doors that led to the unrest and lack of stability in both areas.

But I have a feeling that Lions fans don't care anymore. They just want to see the team improve on their 1-10 post-season mark since 1958 and finally get that gorilla off their back as one of the four teams that haven't reached a Super Bowl.

The only thing that Stafford and Harrington have in common is that Joey is a College Football studio host for Fox Sports on Saturdays while Matthew plays 14 games a year for the NFL on Fox.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.




Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lions Mastery In Florida Continues

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

JACKSONVILLE, FL-----The Detroit Lions did more than improve to 4-4 with their 31-14 win over the Jaguars at EverBankField.

They have created an interesting streak that began on December 19, 2010, continued on December 26, 2010, added to it on September 11, 2011 and built on it Sunday.

Detroit has a four-game winning streak in the State of Florida.

Game One saw Detroit end it's NFL record 26-game road losing streak with a 23-20 overtime triumph over the Tampa Bay Bucs.

A week later, the Lions faced the Miami Dolphins and won for the first time ever in South Florida.

Detroit returned to Tampa and defeated the Bucs 27-20 to begin their 10-6 playoff run.

In these four wins, the Lions won with three different quarterbacks.

Stanton defeated the Bucs the first time, Shaun Hill took out the Dolphins while Matthew Stafford defeated the Bucs and the Jaguars to complete the Florida Tri-fecta.

Going into this game, Stafford needed 52-yards to reach the 10,000 yard passing total. He added 285 and is at 10,233. He accomplished this in his 37th career game and reached this goal in the second fewest games.

The fastest was Kurt Warner, who did it in 36.

Warner was 30 years and 142 days while Stafford did it at 24 years and 271 days.

Only Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning reached 10,000 yards at a younger age.

Here is some more history.

The last time the Detroit Lions defeated Jacksonville was at home crushing the Jaguars 44-0 at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1995. This was the largest margin of victory in Lions history. I can just imagine the age of most of the players on this roster.

The only thing this game showed me was why the Lions are 4-4 and the Jaguars are 1-7.

The Lions cruised from start to finish. Detroit took a 21-0 lead at halftime and used a balance offensive attack to close out an opponent that played without it's best running back. Jacksonville could have used Maurice Jones-Drew.

Detroit out gained Jacksonville in total yards 434-279.

To see Stafford rise up the Lions quarterback passing totals means only two things. The kid has uncapped potential or that position has been that bad.

To think that Bobby Layne has 15,710 yards is Number One is just amazing.

In the Lions next game on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, Stafford will pass Joey Harrington (10,242) to move to sixth on the all-time list.

Eric Hipple is currently fifth with 10,711 while Gary Danielson is fourth with 11,885.

We might as well finish the ladder as Greg Landry stands third with 12,451 and Scott Mitchell is second with 12,647. This distance between Mitchell and Stafford is 2,414 yards. Stafford could be second by the end of the season or by the first four games of 2013.

That's remarkable. This is just for passing yardage.

As long as he stays healthy, he'll shatter career touchdown passes and career pass completions. He's already the team leader with 13, 300-yard passing games.

Against the Jaguars, Stafford didn't have to be the gunslinger. Running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell helped him. Bell had 13 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown while Leshoure had 16 carries for 70 yards and three touchdowns.

Calvin Johnson had his usual fine outing with seven receptions for 129 yards while rookie Ryan Broyles had six catches for 52 yards.

When the game was over, Stafford downplayed his milestone.

It's cool, but other than that, I don't really care," Stafford said. "The lucky thing for me is that I'm surrounded by a lot of great talent. That makes a quarterback in a lot of instances. It's fun to be able to play in this offense with these guys."

Lions Coach Jim Schwartz said the team came to Jacksonville for one reason, "The biggest thing we were able to accomplish was getting the win and certainly that's the only thing that we're concentrating on.

"So obviously, our future is bright with Matt Stafford. Whether it's a game like this where he's handing it off a lot, again he's got to go and play with a lead, or a game where he has to catch us up. He's able to do anything on the football field."

Kyle Vanden Bosch didn't know about the Lions four-game Florida winning streak until I told him. But he said the teams attitude has definitely changed when they board an airplane.

"This team when I got here had a lot of road problems historically," Vanden Bosch said. "It feels good, but it's not easy to win on the road in the NFL. It's a difficult thing to win on the road. We practice in 40 degree weather so to come down here in hot and humid weather and be able to execute and put a good game together was important. It's part of the process."

Now the Lions can take another stadium off the list that they've never won as they are 1-2 in Jacksonville and 2-3 overall in the all-time series. The Lions have now won in the Tampa Bay Area, North and South Florida.

It's too bad that they don't receive their paychecks in Florida because there is no state income tax.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.






Friday, November 2, 2012

Self Destruction 101

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I'll never forget what Ivan Drago's trainer said in Rocky V when describing his powerful fighter.

Whatever he hits, he destroys.

The same can be said about NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr. Whatever league he leads, he destroys.

In 1994, Major League Baseball cancelled the World Series for the first time in history as a result of a labor conflict.

This ultimately led to the demise of the Montreal Expos, who were on pace to reach the "Fall Classic" for the first time in team history. The Expos are now the Washington Nationals.

Thanks to a home run battle between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with Cal Ripken Jr's consecutive game streak, baseball eventually recovered although I wouldn't doubt it if some of the fans never came back.

During the last baseball negotiations, both sides quietly put another deal together in the off-season enabling peace and harmony to continue.

Meanwhile, Fehr is working for a league that cancelled the 2004-2005 season. The players revenue decreased from 74 percent down to 57 percent.

Once again, players have flocked overseas to play for minimum wage so they can pay their bills.

Nobody sees them on TV and you can rest assure that the crowds at the arenas are lower than the 15-20,000 per-game in the NHL.

Before he took the NHL gig, didn't Fehr realize that he's in a sport which has the worst TV Contract of the four?

I have a strong feeling that NASCAR's TV Contract is better than the NHL's.

To the NHL's credit, at least they're no longer buying their air-time on NBC because the product and star power is much better.

Oh well, now that the 2013 Winter Classic has been cancelled, it's time to say good-bye to the 2012-2013 season.

The Southeastern Michigan Region figures to lose $75 Million while Detroit figures to take a $25-35 Million hit that could have bolstered it's battered economy. Estimates of 114,000 fans were expected to go to Michigan Stadium's "Big House" to watch Hockey's Attendance Records get shattered.

The NHL has already announced that the 2014 Winter Classic will be played between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs providing that the owners don't get too mad in their quest to break the union again!

The fans aren't going to care. The NBA has all of the winter sports headlines to itself.

The NFL, College Football, Basketball, The Final Four, will hold us over until MLB begins Spring Training.

In a bad economy, there will be no sympathy for NHL Hockey.

I was looking forward to seeing the Detroit Red Wings play the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers in the Sunshine State.

There was an outside possibility I was going to spend my 50th birthday in Michigan then see the Winter Classic at the "Big House."

Instead, it will be short sleeves this winter and No. 50 will be spent near the beach.

I'm grateful to Fehr that he's saved me a lot of money with the high gas prices.

As I mentioned earlier, Michigan Stadium gets the 2014 Winter Classic. The only thing that will change are the players who will participate in the old-timers, regular game and the festivities.

Hopefully, some of the legends that were scheduled in the 2013 game won't be deceased.

Nonetheless, the NHL has set an example that they don't learn from past mistakes.

Look for empty arenas and lower television ratings.

As was the case with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Los Angeles Kings get to keep their Stanley Cup Trophy longer.

While I never visualized the Detroit Tigers would face the San Francisco Giants in the World Series during a recent blog, I safely made this prediction that the NHL would alienate its fans again thanks to greed.

The NHLPA will once again cave in.

The owners will make sure of that. They're stubborn and Commissioner Gary Bettman won't negotiate a bad deal for the owners even if it means losing another season.

They're losing revenue now and with the 2013 Winter Classic history, the owners aren't spending money on payroll.

Fehr the Fehr and congratulations Donald for wrecking another sport.

The backlash from the fans will be far worse than the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina (New Orleans) and Sandy (New York City) as Donald Fehr was the eye of the MLB and is the eye of the NHL Labor Storm.

Especially since Hockey has self destructed for the second time within a decade over greed.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.


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