Monday, July 9, 2012

Moving Over

So, it's been a while, eh?

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know by now that I have taken my blogging over to The Only Colors, where I am now the blog manager. It took a while for all the paperwork to get through, so that's why there hasn't been an official announcement yet.

When I started Green Thoughts, it was a way to complement my work for The Oakland Press last fall. Once football season ended, I didn't really know what to do with it. But I wanted to keep writing, so I took the blog up a step, and I'm glad many of you enjoyed it. I'm still working at becoming a professional sportswriter, which is tough. I've been working four or five part-time writing jobs and getting along for now. There are so many journalism majors in colleges, and I don't know why. There just aren't jobs. I've been lucky enough to have a supportive family and fiancee to help me continue to try to live out my dream.

But enough about me. I'm still in talks with MSU about getting the "Random Photo" permissions for TOC. That's something I really want to take over there. We have a solid group of writers at TOC, and I hope you'll all take your interest for MSU news over there.

-Chris Vannini

Friday, May 25, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/25

From July 1950: "'How Drunk is Drunk?' is an article by Pageant Magazine about Ralph Turner's experiments on alcohol.

Funded by the National Traffic Safety Council, Ralph Turner ran an extensive experiment with individuals 'under field conditions.' Using volunteers as test subjects, he invited them for a night of cards, chatting, and drinking. Throughout the evening, each individual had their physical and psychological state monitored and recorded."

The words below read: "How does a man look and act when he's drunk? PAGEANT'S startling pictures of tests in Michigan provide an answer."

via MSU Archives

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Report: Football assistant coaches earn raises

We've known since MSU announced the retainment of Pat Narduzzi in January that MSU would increase his salary heavily. We'd known since last season that there were plans to give the assistant coaches raises.

Today, the LSJ got the details on those raises. Here are the numbers:

Pat Narduzzi (defensive coordinator): Raise from $233,000 to $500,000. The three-year deal has a retention bonus of one month's salary. Buyout of $250,000 Narduzzi must pay if he leaves for another coordinator job. Buyout does not go into effect if he leaves for a head-coaching job.

Dan Roushar (offensive coordinator): Raise from $230,000 to $305,000

Dave Warner (quarterbacks): Raise from $175,000 to $205,000

Brad Salem (running backs): Raise from $170,000 to $200,000

Terry Samuel (wide receivers): Raise from $163,500 to $182,000

Mark Staten (offensive line): Raise from $170,000 to $200,000

Ted Gill (defensive line): Raise from $163,500 to $182,000

Mike Tressel (linebackers/special teams): Raise from $170,000 to $203,000

Harlon Barnett (defensive backs): Raise from $170,000 to $203,000

Given the recent success of the football program, it's hard to argue against any of these raises, especially considering MSU was near the bottom of the Big Ten in assistant coach pay. Narduzzi obviously was the most deserving, given his recent track record and courtship from Texas A&M last winter.

MSU isn't going to keep Narduzzi forever, but this contract shows MSU is willing to pay what it takes for long-term success in football. This way, Narduzzi likely will only leave for a step up. If there's one thing every head coach agrees on, it's that their assistants are underpaid. Georgia head coach Mark Richt got in trouble with the NCAA for paying his coaches with money out of his own pocket. Brady Hoke's success at Michigan was helped by some of the highest salaries for assistants in the country.

Mark Dantonio is building his own coaching tree, with Don Treadwell and Dan Enos already having left for head-coaching jobs, and this money shows the program won't take a step back if more coaches leave. For what it's worth, I could see Warner, Tressel and Barnett earning head-coaching or coordinator jobs down the road.

For most of Dantonio's time at MSU, the program has gotten away with underpaying coaches to develop underrated recruits. The program is on the upswing with the play on the field and the renovations of that field. These salary increases will help MSU try to find consistent, long-term success — something the program has historically lacked.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/24

Apologies for missing yesterday. Had a busy day, got a new dog and it slipped my mind.

An aerial view of the MSU campus from 1920:

via MSU Archives

Football Recruiting Roundup: 5/24

My latest football recruiting roundup for The Only Colors is here. Does the Rose Bowl mean more to recruits than we think?

Mark Hollis named top AD by SBJ, but remains undervalued

The secret has getting out more and more, and if anyone didn't know before Wednesday night, they know now.

MSU athletics director Mark Hollis is one of the best at his job, and he's a steal for MSU. Hollis was named Athletic Director Of The Year by Sports Business Journal on Wednesday. He beat out Michigan's Dave Brandon, Arkansas' Jeff Long and Baylor's Ian McCaw.

The award wasn't a shock to those who have followed MSU sports over the last half-decade. Before he became MSU's top athletic official, Hollis engineered the Cold War ice hockey game at Spartan Stadium in 2001 and the Basketbowl game at Ford Field in 2003. Both events changed how games were played — literally.

He lived out his dream with the Carrier Classic in San Diego last year — an event that will continue in the coming seasons. Hollis continues to find new frontiers, with the goal on a basketball game in Greece possibly down the road.

Since taking over the reins of MSU athletics, Hollis has had unbelievable success in hiring coaches, including baseball's Jake Boss Jr. and hockey's Tom Anastos. Hollis also was a major part in the hiring of football coach Mark Dantonio and women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant. Since Hollis' promotion, MSU athletics is in the midst of one of its most successful eras. 

Off the field, Hollis' relationship with Nike has brought huge dividends to the department with the Spartan brand identity renewal in 2010. He helped the athletic department cut expenses and turn a profit after years of losing money. A few months ago, Hollis was named to the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee

But for all his accolades, Hollis is greatly undervalued. As part of a USA Today database released in Oct. 2011, it was revealed that Hollis receives the second-lowest salary among public Big Ten schools, ahead of only Nebraska's Tom Osborne. At $395,000, schools such as Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois each pay their ADs more than MSU pays Hollis. Ohio State's Gene Smith and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez each make more than $1 million. For more perspective, some other schools that pay their AD more (at the time of the database) include New Mexico, Florida International and SMU.

MSU has been lucky it has an alumnus like Hollis. From the USA Today story:

"We all have choices," Hollis says, "and as an AD, if you are not comfortable with your compensation, you have a choice. … Everybody knows where they rank and where they stand, and nobody likes to be in last place. With that said … my choice is, I want to be at Michigan State. I'm comfortable with what the president and the board have provided me. I know where it (ranks), but I also know the values that my family gets by being part of this community and that has a great value to me, as do the coaches. It's more than just compensation for me."

MSU came under some fire in the winter when football defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was courted by Texas A&M with some big money. MSU stepped up and gave Narduzzi the money to keep him around, but there's only so much dough. Tom Izzo is one of the highest-paid basketball coaches in the country, and MSU doesn't bring in nearly the same amount of money that Ohio State and U-M do, while having a comparable number of varsity teams to pay for. The university is having its own financial problems with dwindling public funding.

If MSU can't pay Hollis a completive rate right now, what happens when MSU needs its next AD? What if Hollis becomes the next Big Ten commissioner? (A role most everyone agree he would excel in).

Wednesday night was just a confirmation of what those in East Lansing have known for a long time: Hollis is one of the best in the business. But MSU's past drama with athletics management should be a lesson for what can happen when people aren't on the same page.

Hollis always says he wants to consistently compete for Rose Bowls and Final Fours. At some point, MSU will have to compete with the big boys financially in order to compete on the fields. ADs like Hollis don't come around very often.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thoughts on 2015/16 football schedules

The Big Ten released the 2015/16 schedules today, and my first reaction was that the MSU schedules are very similar to 2011/12.

Here's the 2015 Big Ten schedule for MSU:

Oct. 3 Michigan
Oct. 10 at Iowa
Oct. 17 at Ohio State
Oct. 24 Indiana
Oct. 31 at Nebraska
Nov. 7 Bye
Nov. 14 Penn State
Nov. 21 at Northwestern
Nov. 28 Minnesota

Here is 2016:

Oct. 1 at Michigan
Oct. 8 Iowa
Oct. 15 Ohio State
Oct. 22 at Indiana
Oct. 29 Nebraska
Nov. 5 Bye
Nov. 12 at Penn State
Nov. 19 Northwestern
Nov. 26 at Minnesota
(Here are the 2012/13/14 schedules)

MSU will play the same teams these two seasons as they did/will in 2011/12, with Penn State (remember them?) replacing Wisconsin. Compared to 2013/14, MSU will replace Purdue/Illinois with Ohio State and Penn State. The Land Grant trophy will (presumably) be on the line for the first time in five years when MSU and PSU meet in East Lansing on Nov. 14, 2015. After this coming season, the #borderbattle with Wisconsin will go on hiatus for five years. I'm sure MSU is happy about that, but it will stop what was becoming a great rivalry.

A reminder: Indiana is MSU's permanent division-crossover game. You can just feel the rivalry hatred oozing out of the Old Brass Spittoon.

The other major point is that MSU will open up the Big Ten seasons with rival Michigan, which has to be considered a disappointment. In these two years, the game's meaning in the standings won't really be known until later in the season. Given how early it is in the season, could it possibly be a night game? I wouldn't plan on it.

Considering MSU will have nonconference games against Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame over the two years, the first seven games of the season are going to be a real challenge. Games against Indiana and the MAC schools should help, but who knows how teams will look five years down the road.

As for the home/road difference, it is pretty balanced when you include the nonconference games.

Overall, the schedule looks quite difficult (if you go by current program standing), but it appears this is how the scheduling is going to be. For MSU, the 2011/12 schedules are really difficult, but the 2013/14 schedules are much easier. (Seriously, MSU could be a national championship contender in 2013).

Then again, if the ACC implodes and we get to four superconferences, none of this will matter. Tradition!

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/21

From 1913:

"Students stand in front of a M.A.C. train car coming home from a game in Wisconsin. Signs reads, "MAC Football Special" and "MAC Did It." The front reads, "At St. Johns on way home from victory at Madison Wis. M.A. C. 12 - U. of W. 7, Madison, Wis." Photograph has been cut out of a scrapbook. On the back is a picture of a M.A.C. military student in uniform."

via MSU Archives

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/18

An action shot from the MAC-Notre Dame football game in 1910. MAC won the game 17-0 in East Lansing and went 6-1 on the season.

The photo says "Exelby (MAC) thru line." This likely is referring to Leon Exelby, a fullback from Britton, Mich., who played at MAC from 1907-10.

via MSU Archives

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MSU Football Recruiting Roundup: 5/17

If you didn't know by now, I've been writing football recruiting roundups once a week over at The Only Colors for a while. I figure I may as well link to it here from now on.

Here is the latest, with updates on Texas OL commit Caleb Benenoch and some southern prospects MSU is going after.

Also, a quick note: B.J. Cunningham officially signed with the Dolphins, the team announced today. It is a four-year rookie contract.