Thursday, March 18, 2010

Michigan-Notre Dame goes under the lights in '11

When I found out two weeks ago that I'd be getting laid off, I actually had a fleeting thought along the lines of "Hey, at least I'll have more time to blog."

But it doesn't work like that. First of all, I'm not really unemployed yet. My incredibly generous employer has decided to keep me around until the new guy takes over and decides I'm not worth paying anymore, so I've got a couple days left of showing up to work for no good reason other than to not lose my severance. Secondly, even when I do finally get laid off (probably Monday), I'll have to spend my newfound free time doing things like ... I don't know, looking for a job (on a related note, scouring the interweb job sites for something that pays me $100,000 a year to surf hasn't produced much so far).

It hasn't helped that my overall motivation level is near zero and that there hasn't exactly been a ton of exciting stuff going on in college football, but there are some things I just have to write about, specifically this:
University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon announced today a historic night football game at Michigan Stadium between the Wolverines and Notre Dame on Sept. 10, 2011. It will be the first-ever primetime game played at home in the history of Michigan football.
Excuse me while I throw a party ...

OK, I'm back. In case you're wondering why this is such a big deal, re-read the last sentence quoted from that press release: It will be the first-ever primetime game played at home in the history of Michigan football.

The school has always resisted night games for two very obvious reasons:

1. There are no lights at Michigan Stadium, so a ton of portable ones will have to be rented and brought in.
2. The UM fan base includes a lot of ... umm ... older alumni. They like morning tailgating, afternoon games, early dinners, etc. If you've ever watched an SEC night game, you've probably come to the stunning conclusion that students love night games because they get a full eight hours to drink beforehand and get totally jacked up. This obviously isn't the image the UM administration wants to promote for what's essentially a Midwestern Ivy League school.

So what changed? I'm not 100% sure, but Rich Rodriguez and Dave Brandon are both a little more new-school. RichRod was able to promote the spring game as a "come on down for a party" event and drew over 50,000 fans last year, which was roughly twice as many people as had ever shown up before. Brandon's a former UM player and CEO of Domino's, so he's in a unique situation as a guy who wants to promote football as a business but has explicit familiarity with what the players want. This is a good thing.

And I'll say the same for the night game: It's a good thing. It will be an amazing experience. If I can afford tickets (which I'm sure I can't), I'll be there. The crowd -- or at least the student section and the under-80 crowd -- will be electric. It will be on national TV. The recruits who talk about how awesome The Horseshoe and The Swamp are at night will finally get to experience that intensity at Michigan Stadium, and that can only help.

I know some people who have been complaining for a while about Michigan's schedule (Notre Dame, a mediocre second school and a couple of MAC snacks) and lack of innovation. "Where are the home-and-homes with Texas or the games at Yankee Stadium or anything that will actually be exciting?" This will be exciting. And it's only 541 days and 4 hours away.

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