The Wolverine

August 2022*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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AUGUST 2022 THE WOLVERINE 23 not just for the school — which the school does incredibly well — but also the student-athletes that pour their blood, sweat and tears for the block 'M.'" They want the students to be creative and build their own brands around it … to be "entrepreneurial" off the field or the court "without sacrificing the iden- tity that makes Michigan, Michigan." "There are other things to do … to do things a different way," Acker continued. "If you're a kid out there looking for bids and saying, 'I'm going to take the biggest amount of money some NIL collective can give me in recruiting,' then this isn't the right place for you. "But if you're the kind of kid who has an entrepreneurial spirit — who wants to build their brand, learn about busi- ness, start a foundation, take the power of the block 'M' and all the resources of this campus and university as a whole — and you're willing to put in the work to do it, then this is the place for you. That's a big part of what Michigan's NIL should clarify." "Transformational, not transactional," as head coach Jim Harbaugh has said. So far, it has led to a slower start on the recruiting trail for the Wolverines in 2023. Michigan, coming off its first Big Ten title since 2004, was 24th in the recruiting rankings as of July 18 and fifth in the Big Ten. Ohio State was No. 2, and even Northwestern was No. 27 after a 3-9 season. Michigan administrators seemed confident that would change at some point. They'll abide by the rules to get there, however. "What we have done is given Jared ad- vice on what lanes are important for the university in terms of our ethics … how people represent the university and who represents the university," Acker said. "I think that's the most important thing you can do from a university perspective. That block 'M' is over 200 years old. It comes before us; it will come after us. Making sure we are really careful about it is re- ally important on both sides … first on preserving legacy and importance of the brand, but let's be frank — [also] winning. In the classroom, on the court or field. And we've seen that this year. "Our fans expect both, and they should expect both. That's the kind of student-athlete that has been drawn to Michigan and will be drawn to Michigan in the future now in this new era of NIL." Only time will tell. With agents now calling schools on behalf of preps and coaches like Ohio State's Ryan Day re- portedly challenging his boosters for $13 million annually just to keep his team together, it's clear we're in a new era of college football. How Michigan adapts in the next few years will play a big part in the direc- tion of a program that appears to be in the best shape it's been since Harbaugh took the reins in 2015. ❏ Santa J. Ono was introduced as the Uni- versity of Michigan's 15th president on July 13, and it appeared to be a big day for those invested and interested in U-M athletics. A big football fan, Ono — also a brilliant academic — once crowd surfed at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium when he was the president there, and again at the University of British Columbia. He's an avid follower of many sports, has sat in on conference restructuring talks and showed at his introductory press conference he knows a lot about the Big Ten. Ono made it clear he's happy with the way things are right now (at first glance) and that he wants Michigan to win and win big. He cited the school's "storied his- tory" in athletics and called the success a point of great pride for fans and alums, not to mention students. "It knits the whole community to- gether," Ono said. "There's tremendous synergy between academics and athletics, and I want to do everything I can to make sure Michigan competes at the highest level." He reiterated "highest" again, as though to emphasize its importance. It was clear it wasn't for show. Ono has been active on social media following Michigan football and others for sev- eral years, and he was actively involved in helping build the Cincinnati football and basketball programs into outstand- ing teams. He was so revered by his coaches that former Bearcats coaches used to put him in uniform and have his quarterbacks throw passes to him. "I have a lot of eligibility left," he joked, adding he wasn't very good and prob- ably wouldn't be an option for the Wol- verines. But it's clear he's invested, and that's a plus. He would often show up at games, even address the team when needed. "If you talk with the coaches and ADs at UBC and Cincinnati, they'll tell you I'm passionate about it and supportive of them," Ono said. "I'm even known to go in there during halftime and give the team a pep talk. Whatever I can do. " These are difficult roles, to be a scholar-athlete. You're taking classes and you're training. You're traveling. I'm there for them." He also had kind words to say about athletics director Warde Manuel, whose teams captured 13 conference titles this year. "It's important for a president of an institution to work directly with an athletic director," he said. "We have a great athletic director here." Asked specifically about name, image and likeness, a po- tential game changer for the high-profile sports, Ono only said he was aware of college football's state of flux and ready to tackle the challenges. Academically and athletically, he'll have a lot on his plate. It's clear, though, that he really cares about Michigan athlet- ics, and that's a positive. — Chris Balas New Michigan President Is Very Pro-Athletics Santa J. Ono, the University of Michigan's newly appointed president, noted the tre- mendous synergy between academics and athletics. The new leader empha- sized that he wants to do everything he can to make sure Michigan competes at the highest level in both areas. PHOTO BY ROGER HART/MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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