John U. Bacon
Summary: Every Friday, author and sports commentator John U. Bacon offers up his thoughts and views on the sports stories going on around our region.
In 1895, the presidents of seven Midwestern universities met at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago to form what we now call the Big Ten. They created the world’s first school-based sports organization, predating even the NCAA. Soon the rest of the country’s colleges and high schools followed suit, forming their own leagues based on the Big Ten model. The uniquely American marriage of academics and athletics – something no other country would even consider -- had been officially consummated. The
L ast week, Michigan Athletics admitted student football ticket sales are down —from about 21,000 two years ago to just 13,000 this fall. How’d Michigan lose so many students so fast? A lot of hard work. Athletic Director Dave Brandon has often cited the difficulty of using cell phones at Michigan Stadium as "the biggest challenge we have." But when Michigan students ranked seven factors for buying season tickets, they ranked cell phones dead last. What did they rank first? Being able to sit
When Michael Sam told his University of Missouri teammates he was gay before last season, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a safe bet that NFL teams – who know what kind of gum their prospects chew – already knew this, too. But when Sam came out publicly, it changed the equation. The NFL has already had gay players, so that’s not new. But publicly declaring you’re gay is new – and so is the onslaught of media attention. After Sam came out, he dropped from a projected fourth- or fifth-rounder to the
Wednesday night the Detroit Red Wings lost their final playoff game of the season to the Chicago Blackhawks, breaking the hearts of hockey fans across Michigan. But according to Michigan Radio Sports Commentator John U. Bacon, it was still a series to savor. Most sports fans are happy just to see their team make the playoffs. But Detroit Red Wings fans have been able to take that for granted for a record 22 straight seasons. The last time the Red Wings didn’t make the playoffs, 1990, not one
For decades, students at Michigan games were assigned seats, with the seniors getting the best ones. But for some games last year, a quarter of the 20,000 or so people in the student section were no-shows. So, athletic director Dave Brandon decided to switch them to general admission – first come, first seated -- to get them to show up on time -or, at all. The students went ballistic. Yes, some can display a breathtaking sense of entitlement, and they won’t get much sympathy from the average fan
It wasn’t that long ago that Michigan’s basketball program was not merely unsuccessful, but the shame of the athletic department. Bo Schembechler fired basketball coach Bill Frieder on the eve of the 1989 NCAA tournament, famously barking, “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan.” Assistant Coach Steve Fisher filled in, and the team “shocked the world” by winning Michigan’s first-ever national title in basketball. But on the eve of Fisher’s ninth season, he too was fired in disgrace, because some