Inside Michigan: Beilein Weekly

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Our team played a couple of thrilling basketball games last week. The win against Michigan State last Tuesday at Crisler was truly a battle.

After being down four late in the game, our guys stepped up on defense and really showed their toughness to get us back in the game. But most importantly, they played smart and as a team to come away with the win.

Our players are always driven to win. The stakes seem higher in a rivalry game because of the emotion but it still is just a basketball game. The emotion can only carry you so far. Execution wins in the end.

Michigan State is a tremendous team and our guys knows that the entire conference slate of games is important to earn a Big Ten championship.

The game at Arkansas on Saturday served as an opportunity to play an out of conference match up in January. Their speed, pressure, and the atmosphere in Bud Walton Arena were all good for us to experience.

Arkansas really came out strong and had the momentum on their side after making their first 11 shots. Winning on the road is tough and we certainly showed some toughness by climbing back and having a chance to win it at the end on Trey's three.

The trip to Fayetteville was a great test to prepare us for our Big Ten road games at Purdue and Ohio State this week. Right now our focus is all on beating the Boilermakers.

Go Blue!
- John

Inside Michigan: Beilein Weekly

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Last Wednesday, we won an overtime game versus a well coached Northwestern team. We made plays on both ends of the floor when we had to and that is encouraging to our staff. Northwestern puts a ton of pressure on a defense because they run their actions with great pace and precision. As evident by their win over Michigan State on Saturday, they are a challenge to game plan for and teams have to be locked in defensively.

We met another tough team in Iowa on the road on Saturday. Unfortunately, we did not play one of our better games. We must credit Iowa for protecting their home court and for executing the details of the game better than us. Playing from behind is never a good thing, especially on the road. These are lessons that are learned over the course of a season and we expect our team to learn from the Iowa loss.

The reality of conference play is rarely do you have much time to dwell on losses. You certainly learn from them but you must move on to the next opportunity. There is no time to dwell on the loss to Iowa because we have another tough opponent coming into Crisler tomorrow.

There's never a need to get our guys pumped up for the MSU game. The challenge will be to play with high levels of intensity and execution because that's what it takes to win rivalry games like this one.

Go Blue!
- John

The Dual is a Tradition Reborn

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We love tradition at the University of Michigan. A walk through the Diag, a visit to the Union, a quick peek in the UGLI or just wandering around campus brings back vivid memories.

For the sports fan, it could be a visit to Yost, and there's nothing better than an autumn football Saturday afternoon at Michigan Stadium.

Tradition and memories are important.

For the track and field programs at Michigan, one event is attempting to cement itself once again as a tradition. And to date, it has been successful.

It is called "The Dual."

Just as the title reads "The Dual" is a dual track meet between two schools. On Saturday (Jan. 14) the Michigan women's track and field team travels to Columbus, Ohio, to go against Ohio State for its second indoor "Dual" battle, while the men host the Buckeyes Saturday night at the Indoor Track Building (field events start at 6 p.m. and track events start at 7 p.m.).

For the student-athletes, the dual meet is one of those events that bring the team concept together. Each event has one team poised against the other. There are more individuals from each team that are able to participate in the dual meet, and because of that they have a bigger share in each other's outcome. The strategy changes completely as more individuals are working with one another to get their team any possible advantage. The emotions run higher too as teammates cheer for everyone on their team -- from first place to fifth place.

The emotional pull carries over to the fans. The cheers emanating from the crowd make the Indoor Track Building come to life as a hockey crowd takes to a game at Yost.

"The Dual" is run annually between the Michigan and Ohio State men's and women's track teams. Anytime those two schools get together in athletic competition, that in itself gets everyone fired up.

The first meet in "The Dual's" rebirth was a men's indoor meet run on Jan. 19, 2008 in Ann Arbor. The house was packed. It was the first Michigan-Ohio State dual meet since 1993. And the actual first dual meet between the schools was a men's competition in 1932.

Tomorrow night, another 1,400-plus crowd is expected to see an event that once ruled the collegiate landscape before almost becoming extinct.

Now with two schools hosting "The Dual" an athletic tradition has been born again. Track and field has bounced back with the same excitement found on the cinder tracks and in the bleachers that everyone enjoyed years ago.

This tradition has a great chance to continue.

Inside Michigan: Beilein Weekly

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I've said it before, but after last week I think it's worth repeating. The Big Ten Conference is extremely competitive and there are no nights off.

Playing at Assembly Hall will be one of the toughest atmospheres we will face all year. There's a reason why Indiana has stayed perfect, even against No. 1 and No. 2 ranked foes, at home.

Our staff was impressed with how hard our team played and that they never gave up in Bloomington. We were down by double digits late in the second half and our guys rallied to make it a one possession game and we had several shots to take the lead.

As impressed as I was on Thursday, I was even more proud of how the team used the loss as motivation to get the win at home against Wisconsin on Sunday, despite the short turnaround. It was special for the whole team to help our seniors get a win over the Badgers in Crisler.

The entire weekend was a treat because we had our Player Development Center dedication. Former players, former managers and donors were treated to a weekend of events and fellowship. It was great to see so many familiar faces and to interact with people who absolutely love Michigan and how it has impacted their lives.

We had several former players in attendance at the game, making the win over Wisconsin even more special. Cazzie Russell, Phil Hubbard and Rudy Tomjanovich all spoke to the team in the locker room before the game. The pride and passion these men spoke with about Michigan provided our guys with a boost going into the game.

Our next opponent is Northwestern on Wednesday in Crisler at 6:30. We then travel to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes on Saturday. It does not get any easier!

Go Blue!
- John

More Than Bo vs. Bo in '84 Sugar Bowl

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During his career at Michigan, Bo Schembechler was not only instrumental in playing a part in some great football games, his name was also one that media and headline writers had quite a bit of fun with.

From the 1969 Detroit newspaper headlines of "Bo Who?" when he was hired to coach U-M to the stories of how Glenn Edward was given the nickname by his sister plus the combination of the ease of his using first name and the difficulty to spell and pronounce his last name made it a fun story.

Rarely was the name Bo used by anyone else of such an iconic nature.

There was the singer Bo Diddley and then the actress Bo Derek in the movie "10."

It wasn't until Auburn had an outstanding, tough running back that another individual named Bo would come to the forefront. And the two football Bo's met for the first time in the 1984 Sugar Bowl.

Many might remember the two Bo's from that game, but what few might know is it was a battle of the two of the great teams in nation -- Michigan was ranked eighth and Auburn was No. 3.

Bo Jackson was a great athlete and is still considered by many to be one of greatest of all -time. He played both professional football and baseball after leaving Auburn. Some believe he could even had been a world class track and field competitor.

It wasn't just Bo Jackson that made this team. He had already missed much of his 1983 sophomore season with a shoulder injury. It was the caliber of all the players on Auburn that made this team so good.

This SEC team had a great defense and an awesome offense. Tommie Agee and Lionel "Little Train" James were the running backs with Jackson. All three went on to pro careers in the NFL. Even Brent Fullwood, a backup back, went on to play four seasons in the NFL!

And then there was Steve Wallace. He might have been one of the greatest offensive linemen in the nation. He played 12 seasons in the NFL and was part of three Super Bowl championships with San Francisco. According to many, he was instrumental in changing the way an offensive tackle played the game.

"The caliber of football player they had at Auburn at the time was amazing," said former offensive lineman Doug James. "I played across from Doug Smith and Donnie Humphrey, two of the best I have ever seen. They were big, strong and extremely quick."

Smith played eight years in the NFL and also played professionally in the now defunct United States Football League. Humphrey played three years in the NFL.

Offensively, it was the option vs. the wishbone, and defensively it just as well could have been two heavyweight fighters slugging it out.

Michigan moved the ball well in the first quarter and scored the lone touchdown of the game on its second possession. U-M quarterback Steve Smith went right and scored on a four-yard run.

Auburn made the early mistakes, and a fumbled punt 47 seconds into the second quarter gave Michigan the opening it needed. But Smith was hit going back to pass and fumbled the ball, and U-M was turned away in the red zone.

The change of momentum was noticeable. After gaining 116 yards in the first quarter, U-M mustered only 31 yards in the second. And after that fumble, U-M registered only two first downs the remainder of the half and five more for the entire game. In the second half, U-M had just 96 yards in total offense.

Even with the change in momentum, the Wolverines had their chances. An incomplete pass with just over eight minutes remaining literally went in and out of the hands of a U-M receiver, forcing Michigan to punt.

Then Auburn nickel-and-dimed its way down the field. AU held the ball for an amazing 7:21 before letting Al Del Greco kick an 18-yard field goal with only 23 seconds left.

And even with that, Smith hit Triando Markray with a 38 yard pass on the last play of the game. And as Markray went out of bounds at the Auburn 25, the clock clicked down to zero and U-M lost the Sugar Bowl, 9-7.

The Wolverine defense was amazing. Nine players finished the game with six tackles or more, led by Mike Mallory with 12 and Tim Anderson with 11.

Bo Jackson, who was named the Sugar Bowl MVP, said it was one of the toughest teams he ever faced, calling the U-M players "like little bees always coming at you."

Yes, Auburn was the better team, but Michigan had its chances.

"We really could have won that game," said James. "I know it was the best team I played against in my five years at Michigan, and I know if we played them 10 times, they would have probably won seven of those games.

"We still should have won that game."

Auburn won the game, yet the season ended on a bittersweet note for the Tigers.

Even though AU was ranked No. 3 in the country and had won the Sugar Bowl, Miami jumped from No. 4 to national champions by virtue of its 31-30 win over the top-ranked Nebraska team in the Orange Bowl plus Georgia's 10-9 win over No. 2 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

Not all was lost for Bo Schembechler though.

The friendships that were made by all the Bo's lasted a lifetime. Bo Jackson became friends with Bo Diddley while our Bo Schembechler became good friends with Bo Derek.

Not a bad deal.

Happy New Year to all, and Go Blue!

Cazzie Was Right Man at Right Time for U-M

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Here's an interesting question: If the Detroit Pistons had won the flip to see who got first pick in the 1966 NBA Draft, who would be the mayor of Detroit today?

I know that sounds a little out of the box, but that's the first thing that went through my mind Sunday when I read an article about Cazzie Russell's induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

The short story is that the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks had to flip a coin for the right to pick first in the '66 draft. The Knicks won and selected Russell. The Pistons had the No. 2 pick and drafted Dave Bing, a guard out of Syracuse.

The longer story is more convoluted.

Professional basketball was relatively new in Detroit. Fred Zollner brought the Pistons here from Ft. Wayne, Ind., in 1957, and the sport was trying to find it niche in the Motor City. College basketball, on the other hand, was just starting to realize the impact of television and racial equality.

At the time, Wolverine head coach Dave Strack already had the makings of a pretty good team, but he knew Cazzie could make this team a national contender. He made an all-out push to get Russell signed.

Today, head coach John Beilein would bring a young Cazzie and his family on campus. He would proudly show off the new Player Development Center, let them see the beautiful changes inside Crisler Arena and talk about Michigan's plans for expansion with a smile on his face.

Strack wasn't as proud of his facilities. He brought Russell in from Chicago's Carver High School, showed him Michigan Stadium then took him over to Yost Field House. He told him the facility was locked and he couldn't find his keys. Russell never did see the inside of Yost until he started as a student. It was a great move on Strack's part.

In 1963, Loyola of Chicago won the national championship with a thrilling 60-58 victory over Cincinnati. At the time, it was the largest TV viewing audience to watch a collegiate game. Loyola also had four black players starting. In the semis, the governor of the state of Mississippi and its state police tried to stop the game from being played due to an unwritten rule disallowing teams from Mississippi to play an integrated team.

As for the professional game, player recognition was important. The NBA used what was then called "territorial rights." If an individual played in or near the pro team's location, the NBA team could request the territorial pick from the league office. They wanted the same players who had made their mark at the university to make their mark with the local pro team.

In 1965, the Detroit Pistons used their territorial selection to take another U-M star, Bill Buntin.

Of course, the NBA would not allow a team to have that luxury two years in a row. But with Russell now available in 1966, the Pistons requested to have the pick for a second consecutive year. The NBA denied the request, and thus the flip of the coin took place with the Knicks getting Russell.

The Detroit Pistons and local Michigan fans were not happy. For three years, the name Cazzie Russell was synonymous with basketball in southeast Michigan.

In many ways, Cazzie was the Earvin "Magic" Johnson of his time. He was the player who could do everything -- he was a playmaker, he could shoot, hit the boards, handle the ball -- and he was 6-5. At that time, there were few if any players who could do everything Cazzie was capable of performing.

It was easy to see why Detroit needed his brand.

This Michigan team led by Russell was the first TV basketball team of its time. WKBD-TV, channel 50, was the first all-sports station in the city and Wolverine sports were one of its mainstays.

Each game was an event at Yost and on TV. The fans couldn't wait to watch the Wolverines even before tipoff. The Wolverines would run out of the tunnel, head straight for the basketball, and slam dunk as many times as they possibly could to fire up the crowd.

What Cazzie did for Michigan basketball is truly amazing. He put the Wolverines on the national map and laid the foundation for years to come.

The induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame is a testament to his skills and popularity. He was an amazing basketball player and is still an amazing Michigan Man.

Congratulations, Cazzie!

We all seem to have a lot on our mind these days. Life seems so much more complicated. Not on a football Saturday though. It is a time to relax, escape and enjoy college football.

For some it is a time to give back to try and help others whose day-to-day lives are much more stressful yet so important to the way we live. This Saturday (Nov. 19) the U-M Athletic Department is having Military Appreciation Day to show its support and admiration for the all the branches of the armed services.

On a smaller scale, a group of tailgaters in the Crisler Arena Blue Lot parking area will do the same. On Saturday, they will bring together individuals from the 2-337th Training Support Battalion, also known as the Wolverine Battalion, to enjoy a tailgate experience and Michigan football.

This is not the public display of appreciation that everyone will see at Michigan Stadium. This is a show of appreciation by a few U-M Victors Club members who have been bringing together the Wolverine Battalion for almost three years.

It all started when Beth Bradley (U-M Athletic Development) received a request from a soldier's mom wanting to do something special for her son's command sergeant major, Marty Mieras, a huge Wolverine fan. The ball was signed and sent. The CSM was thrilled with this gift. Elated upon receiving the football, he noted he was coming back for some R&R.

"Beth asked us and another few families if we would be interested in hosting some members of the military," said tailgate crew member Warren Major. "We said yes and just kept it going.

"What's ironic is we didn't even have any idea the battalion's name was the Wolverines."

Other members of the tailgate crew are Warren's wife Cherie, Bob and Sally Elgin, Sarah Elgin, Bruno and Barb Jandasek, Brett and Krista Jandasek, and Herb and Linda Negendank.

Army reserve captain Joseph Sullivan, who works at Arbor Lakes and is contracted by U-M, and Bradley help coordinate the effort.

Military visit with Victors Club members at tailgate

It is not official; it is just something these families want to do to for the men and women in our military and especially those are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Last year, we even had a tailgate on the road for all of them," said Major. "They have a Wolverine Battalion in Indiana too, and when we went down there last year, they even gave us a tour of their offices. Like the Wolverines here in Michigan, their offices are all painted maize and blue."

Selfridge AFB is the home for the local Wolverines, while the Indiana Wolverines are located in Camp Atterbury. (Currently, the Wolverine Battalion is headquartered in Waterford. It was moved from Selfridge after individuals suffered Legionnaires Disease in the building on the base.)

This year, there has been one appreciation tailgate, and tomorrow will be number two. The Wolverine Battalion is greatly appreciative. They gave the tailgating families a plaque engraved with the following words:

Award of Excellence for Your Support of the 2-337th TSB (2010) for Efforts and Enthusiasm and Generosity Greatly Appreciated by all of the Troops! Go Wolverines! Hooah!

Everyone responsible for the tailgate was also invited to the battalion's annual Dining Out Gala. There the tailgate crew was treated like royalty.

Next week at the Ohio State game, another member of the Wolverine Battalion will join the tailgate. First sergeant Mike Poll is coming home for a short R&R from Afghanistan. He's been there since May and will return to Afghanistan. His current tour of duty should end in May of 2012. He became a grandfather for the second time in October and will meet his new grandson when he's home.

This small tailgate crew is just trying to say thank you. Even before they can express it, the men and women from the Wolverine Battalion are the ones who are thanking them for opening up their hearts and making these Saturdays special.

Hooah to the men and women of the Wolverines!

A Soldier Gets His Wish

Bo Leads Off Big Ten Coaching Icons

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There are many iconic coaching figures in Michigan athletics lore. There's Fielding H. Yost, Fritz Crisler, Matt Mann, Cliff Keen, Carol Hutchins, Lloyd Carr and we could go on. But in this day and age, one name still stands out above the rest: Bo Schembechler.

So when the BTN chose to unveil its first-run feature "Big Ten Icons" series on 12 top conference coaches -- one from each league school -- who better to lead it off tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 1) than our legendary football coach?

Few in their life are admired and known by one name let alone two letters, and those who knew Bo easily understand why he is truly a Michigan legend. He stood for the guiding principles of the University of Michigan. He used football as a tool to teach young boys to become men.

I was fortunate to know Bo as a journalist, co-worker, then as friend after he retired. Knowing Bo for 30-plus years would make one think I know all of the stories, yet every time I meet someone who played, coached, worked with or was a friend of Bo, I learn something new. Sometimes it is serious, sometimes it is funny, but each time the story is intriguing.

Having Keith Jackson as the "Big Ten Icons" narrator adds more than just a touch of nostalgia to this show, as those who remember Jackson's play-by-play and commentary know he covered Bo's Wolverines on many occasions and is a college football icon in his own right.

Of course, there will be those U-M fans who crave even more after the 30-minute show ends, and I'm sure producer Ashton Campbell has a vault of great stories he would have loved to air. But this half hour moves quickly and can be enjoyed by more than just Michigan fans.

Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon says in the show, "What you see is what you get with Bo Schembechler." And what we got was truly a legend -- a Big Ten icon.

The "Big Ten Icons" series on coaches debuts with the Schembechler episode on the BTN tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 1) at approximately 3:30 p.m. EDT following Michigan's football game against Minnesota. All episodes will air in their regular time slot at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesdays. More information on the show is available at the BTN site.

Bourbon Street, Toulouse and Newt

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The corner of Bourbon Street and Toulouse in New Orleans' French Quarter has a special meaning for me today.

A good friend and colleague of mine once told me of a story when he visited New Orleans many years ago.

He saw all the street entertainers doing their thing on the streets and when he got to Bourbon and Toulouse, the corner was open. He told me how he just started dancing. A crowd gathered. A few people even dropped some money at his feet. When he was finished, he received a big round of applause.

My friend and colleague loved telling this story. And today, I learned that individual passed away. It was Newt Loken, and he died at the age of 92.

Yes, he was a great athlete and a great Michigan gymnastics coach, and when I first started working at U-M in 1978, Newt became an instant friend. He always had a smile on his face, he always had time for a chat, and he always had a story.

Like most everyone in the athletics department, I couldn't help but listen to this man talk about sports, life, family or anything that crossed his mind. He could work with anyone, and everyone wanted to work with Newt.

Don Canham was the director of athletics and Bo Schembechler was our football coach at that time. They were different but both were dynamic. I don't know if Newt helped teach me the ropes in the fine art of dealing with those two individuals, but I sure remember how he dealt with Canham.

I would see Canham speaking to Newt on numerous occasions and sometimes Don was a little upset. But on all occasions, Newt would smile and walk away. He never was rattled; he always had the same demeanor.

Watching this happen on more than one occasion, I asked Newt why he didn't argue with Canham or at least explain his side of the story. Newt's reply was simple. He told me Canham wouldn't listen to him anyway and every time he would go into a meeting with Canham where he thought it would be somewhat confrontational, he would turn down his hearing aid. He claimed he didn't hear a word.

Newt was basically deaf in his left ear. The next time I watched a conversation between the two, I noticed how Newt would listen to Don with his right ear when wanted to listen and when the conversation went south, he turned his head and pretended to listen with his left ear.

After Canham retired, the three of us were at a dinner. I asked Canham, "Didn't you ever notice Newt turned down his hearing aid so he wouldn't hear you complain?"

Canham answered, "I knew all along what he was doing, but how could anyone really get mad at Newt Loken?"

Even when he pulled his favorite trick on the golf course, backing up the cart and having the beeping sound go off when you were in your backswing, no one could ever get mad at Newt.

There are so many stories to be told but the only thing one needs to know is that Newt Loken loved the University of Michigan and he loved life.

The next time I visit New Orleans, I will make a point to walk to the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse just to remember a truly wonderful man.

Lacrosse: Great Heritage, Now Varsity at U-M

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Lacrosse is a sport with a great heritage. It is a sport Native Americans played dating back to the 17th century.

If you ever want to shock hockey fans, ask 'What is the national sport in Canada?' Of course, the answer is lacrosse.

So, when Dave Brandon promoted men's and women's lacrosse to varsity sport status at Michigan this afternoon, I thought of the irony of the announcement.

In a day and age when the world is becoming more technology oriented and sports are growing with the new look of extreme action, mixed martial arts, Ultimate Fighting and the likes, lacrosse has become an integral part of this growth spurt. The speed of the game, the physical nature of the sport, the extreme look of its 'neat' equipment and continuous action make lacrosse a perfect 'retro' fit for the new age of participants and fans.

The number of participants and fans grows each and every year. In a time when universities are cutting sports, the men's college lacrosse programs have grown from 56 to 61 while the women are up from 79 to 90 teams in the last five years.

Television has to love this too. The new sponsors finding their niche with these sports along with a need for more content that can fit the screen have created a stir among TV executives. The game has a pace for modern day taste and lasts about two hours -- perfect for television programming.

What I especially like is the tradition and history of the game. The great All-Pro NFL running back Jim Brown is considered one of the true greats of football. He is also considered one of the true greats in lacrosse. He was an All-America football and lacrosse player at Syracuse.

Jim Thorpe excelled in the sport in the early 1900s, and arguments of the best in the game go on from there.

Personally, lacrosse probably even helped me in grade school. As long as an event was affiliated with sports, I could remember the date, the score, the meaning of the game, etc.

In 1763 in Northern Michigan, the Ojibwe tribe was under the harsh rule of the British. In early June, pretending to celebrate the king's birthday, Chief Pontiac used the game of 'lacrosse' as a trick to gain entry into the garrison at Fort Michilimackinac. As the soldiers came out to watch the contest as the Ojibwes played a game of stickball (forerunner of lacrosse) against the Sauk, a ball went into the fort. With the soldiers outside of the walls and Chief Pontiac's 'teams' gaining entry, a bloody battle ensued with the Ojibwe and Sauk taking control of the garrison.

To this day, I know this story. And on this day, it again surfaced in my mind.

This sport truly has an alluring spell to it. Now, Wolverine lacrosse fans will have the opportunity to welcome new fans as lacrosse continues to grow.

Good luck to both the men's and women's teams as they prepare to enter Division I varsity competition.