Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Saturday, September 27, 2008
  Money Isn't Blue
I have long acknowledged my hypocrisry regarding big time college and pro sports when it comes to Michigan Football. While I enjoy watching athletes in top form, the obscenity of the money in the pros and the exploitation of kids for the profit of colleges and corporations makes me a little ill.

Maybe it takes a lousy season for the Michigan Wolverines for me to acknowledge that even Michigan, a program that took pride on its adherence to tradition and avoidance the glitz and thuggery of other top programs, has become exactly what I despise. The decision makers in Ann Arbor obviously care about one thing, and one thing only - 'how much money can our program make.'

My father had season tickets to Michigan Stadium spanning over 3 decades. A few years back Michigan Athletics sent him and all the other ticket holders a letter demanding that they pay extortion make a donation in the thousands of dollars to the athletic department above and beyond the face value of the tickets in order to keep good seats. Seating assignments would be made on the basis of the size of your donation as well.

Last fall, Michigan's longtime coach Lloyd Carr retired and rather than pick a new head coach in the mold of conservative Michigan football they went out and stole another school's contracted showboating coach which cost Michigan $4 million dollars in addition to his $3 million dollar salary.

Then this past summer I traveled back to Ann Arbor and witnessed the construction of the two new sets of luxury boxes going up over the largest college football stadium in America. Having worked in an pro-sports arena, I can guesstimate that the leases on the luxury suites will go in the neighborhood of $30,000 a season plus the cost of tickets. This is for, maybe, seven games a year.

One of the things that differentiated Michigan stadium from the rest of the NCAA was the fact that 100,000+ football fans sat on unremarkable benches for four quarters of football. Not seats. Not luxury boxes. Benches. This simple fact alone is a testament to the nature Michigan Football and its fans. Or, at least, it was.

Michigan Football and the culture that has evolved this new breed of Wolverine is not representative of the school I attended. I made the decision after the season ticket shakedown to stop donating to the University's general funds. Now I might donate $25 the Glee Club, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society or pay Alumni Association dues in exchange for the free museum memberships nationwide, but I have no use for those who value your net worth over your character.

Michigan will eventually start winning football games again, maybe even with their new fancy-pants coach. I'll still cheer. But I probably will care more about how Williams is faring in the NESCAC than I will about the Big Ten.

It was nice while it lasted.

UPDATE: OK, I'll admit it. Michigan's comeback win shortly after I wrote this post was fun to watch. But I can't say my sentiments have changed.
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