Thursday, April 2, 2009

Michigan Athletics... According to Me

While it has been a rough week for me personally, with school work starting to pile up, I still made time to make my usual rounds through the blogosphere and podcast universe. A couple things I especially liked this week:

For those of you who haven’t made this connection themselves, I’m a huge Bill Simmons fan because….well, because I’m a huge fan of pop culture and sports (When my family plays “Trivial Pursuit: DVD Pop Culture Edition,” it’s my four family members vs. me. Not trying to brag, but this is the only way to make it fair). Simmons is the best in the business at blending these together. Anyways, Simmons does a great job of talking to former ESPN ombudsman LeAnn Schriber in his podcast this week. I really enjoyed the past few podcats because he has been critical of ESPN with John Walsh and Schriber. He gives his “gripes” with ESPN, and proposes changes to their coverage.

This made me think of the web site I work for (, and some of the changes I would make or things I would do differently if I were in power. Granted, Simmons has way more power at ESPN than I do at MGoBlue. Lemme put it to you this way: People beg Simmons to write more columns and do more podcasts. At MGoBlue, I’m the one racing just to do post-game coverage. So, his suggestions might actually get picked up. Mine have a much slimmer chance.

Awesome. Glad we cleared that up.

Nevertheless, I know a lot of you visit and watch the highlights that are up there. So here are my suggestions on changes I would make if I ran my own website:

More Athlete Blogs: Michigan has some of the most talented and intelligent athletes in the country, so why not showcase them? For example, Tim Kalczynski wrote an excellent live blog about the Baseball team’s trip to Iowa last week. I talked to Tim about his blog in the beginning of the season. He seemed a little embarrassed when I brought it up and said he didn’t have a great passion for writing. However, I’ve talked to a lot of people who really liked this post. Shout-out to our boy FormerlyAnonymous at Varsity Blue for mentioning this quicker than I could.

But why not do this for more sports? I give Michigan Baseball SID Matt Fancett a lot of credit. He is responsible for UM Volleyball as well, and used this idea a little bit at the end of the season with the team’s two seniors (Karpiak and Hance). This season’s “Captain’s Corner” blog for Baseball has been written nicely and at semi-regular intervals. These types of blogs can be very entertaining when you get the right people to write them. UM Hockey’s Chris Summers would have been the ideal candidate for this last year…along with Eric Puls from Basketball.

I mentioned this in The Mixer last week, but I’m still pushing for it. Puls has a great perspective from his spot on the team! If he is uncomfortable writing, I’ll volunteer my services and transcribe it form him. It’ll be the most read journalist/athlete duo since Barkley and Wilbon did a book together!

…OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But there is definitely a market for more student athlete insight!

Institute a podcast: This is probably my most realistic idea I’ll mention in this post. The website tried this with the “MGoBlue Report,” but there was one problem: It didn’t physically work!!!! I tried this link on five computers, and not a single one could play this file. So I technically have never heard an episode of the “MGoBlue Report.” But I like the attempt.

Here’s my plan: Make three “multimedia podcasts” that consist of the following: 1) A normal news-bulletin type podcast giving an update on scores, injuries, highlights, etc. etc. This could be done in video form too, almost like a Michigan Sportscenter (I’d watch!). 2) A coaches show, where you interview a different coach each week and ask them questions about the team and the season (i.e. The Rosen Report for Volleyball last year). 3) A show interviewing student athletes, and/or media members that cover U of M athletics, covering a wide variety of topics off-the-field and on-the-field. This is to be hosted by Yours Truly. Or Doug Karsch. Actually, Karsch already has his own radio show. Forget him! I’m doing this show. I’m calling the shots in this “never-in-a-million-years-will-this-occur” scenario. Number 3 goes along with my point that some of these athletes are extremely interesting and intelligent and would make great guests.

My first guest on this show? Eric Puls, for reasons already mentioned. Goalie Emmy Scheidt from Women’s Lacrosse, and Matt Miller from Baseball would be high on this list as well. Miller was very well-spoken and Scheidt is the funniest athlete I’ve talked to this season. Hey, even the varsity club sports are shown some love on my show!

More money for Michigan Sports TV: I’m biased because this is the department where I spend my time. However, if the University invested in more camera and editing personnel (while keeping all the great producers/editors already there), we’d have more highlights, videos, and interviews for MGoBlue. The biggest complaint I get from viewers is the fact that MGoBlue doesn’t put up enough coverage of the smaller sports outside of football. With limited resources, and football the obvious money maker for the Athletic Department, football is what people are going to get. With more personnel, better equipment, and better compensation, this problem would end and niche viewers get to see their favorite teams on a semi-daily basis. This will increase hits for the website. More hits translate to greater advertising, which means more money for Michigan. Everyone wins.

I really enjoy working for the AD and it has been a great experience. And if nothing changes, I won’t have any problems still working there. I love that job. But if these changes come to pass, I want to be able to show them this and say “Hey! I called this….. What’s that, Bill Martin? Sure, I’d accept a full time job.”

If this were the 90’s cartoon “Doug,” this is the part where the little dream bubble pops and I realize I have 5 more pages to write for tomorrow. Dammit.

Like the blog? Hate it? Are there changes to the website you'd like to see that I didn't mention? Leave them in the comments section


Anonymous said...

My suggestions (some of which match your own):

Televised events, if anything a pay per view structure for non-revenue sports. $70 gets you a year's subscription (9.95 a month) which allows you to see EVERY home event from baseball to softball to water polo to field hockey to wrestling to whatever. Any official school sport gets at least one camera on sight with a live internet stream. For non-sanctioned sports, let them pay a little to get themselves covered too (example: Lacrosse pays $150 a game, UM would get one camera and camera guy out there). This goes back to your Michigan Sports TV desires. Several schools and even conferences (Atlantic 10) already have this capability. Why Michigan hasn't tried this at least in the experimental stage is beyond me.

I really wish BigTenNetwork would reach out to students to help generate more television broadcasts, even if they were shown late at night. I know I'd watch a delayed broadcast of M Baseball at 10pm if it meant it got shown, not to mention the Tuesday night home games that aren't broadcast currently. While student broadcasts would be a slight step down in production value, I'm sure the events would generate more viewership than 1986 Illinois vs Indiana basketball being shown 4 times a month. Why BigTenNetwork hasn't thought of this idea is beyond me. I guess it fits their M.O. on being horribly organized.

Better RSS feeds for every page if necessary. I've set up crappy RSS feeds for the Captains' Corner, but there is not "baseball features" RSS feed through MGoBlue. Nor is there one for their "michigan baseball in print" page for the articles from other newspapers. There are so many pages that need RSS capabilities, this I think would be such an easy addition.

Consolidating links to coach interviews at other places. Michigan insider on 1050am does the interview with Maloney weekly, but I can't get an RSS feed for that, nor does MGoBlue mention it ever either.

Going back to video, you're post game coverage and highlights were awesome. I really wish there was more of that. I'd love to get more than just your broadcasts (sometimes they lack the best descriptions, no offense, but that's the price you pay for having young guys over radio rather than video).

Speak of MGoBlue's multimedia, getting it to work with Firefox would be the first thing I'd change. I've heard plenty of complaints from many people on its quality. Sometimes I'm left with loading screens on IE for a long while. For an institution like UM AD, you'd think they could create a state of the art multimedia center with levels of quality (much like CBS sports did with the NCAA tourney) to offer high and low qualities of video streams and a dependable product that works for one of the largest browsers available.


Anonymous said...

speaking of which, your recent broadcasts:

Matt Boyer said...

A 447 word comment post? Congrats to FA for setting the M&B record for longest post in our site's history. Clearly, this post should have been a joint venture.

@FA: Great suggestions.

1) I like the Firefox and RSS suggestions, although I have no idea who controls this. Probably a problem itself.

2)I like the A10 reference, but do you think people would be willing to shell out $$ for something they already gotten sparingly for free on MGoBlue? Also, do you really think there is enough interest in the smaller sports outside of Bball and Football, which already have TV deals? (Hockey has a partial deal, which is why I didn't mention it). I'm not convinced there is, but I would be very happy to be wrong.

3) I've read that the BTN is hurting from a financial standpoint (although I guess everyone is in this economy). Getting the type of content you are looking for would probably run into a snag with broadcast rights (the University would definitely want to get something back), regardless if you used students or not. Again, great suggestion and I'm just playing devil's advocate.

Thanks for the support!

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