The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 22 of 83

SEPTEMBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 23 showdowns against the Spartans and the Buckeyes split up, so that in any given year, one would be played at home and the other away. That's easier said than done, and Manuel knows it. "It is a tall order," he said. "That doesn't mean we don't try to figure out a way to balance our two big- gest rivalries in a season, to try to put them in different years so that we have the ability to play one home and one away. "When we play them both away, our fans are not happy, but when we play them both at home in a year, our fans are really excited. For me, the balance for our team to be able to play one rivalry at home and one away — which is also a balance for our fans — is one I'd like to achieve. "This is not a decision I can make on my own. I need to really under- stand the complexities of what has been done scheduling. Nine games in a conference is very complex, for the conference and the athletic directors to work through. There are a lot of variables that come into play. "There are things that need to be considered as you try to put together that schedule. When it comes up, the conversation I'd like the Big Ten and us to consider is, how can we get to that balance?" The question can only be answered by working with Big Ten Commis- sioner Jim Delany and Senior Asso- ciate Commissioner Mark Rudner, who is in charge of conference sched- uling. Manuel says he has a strong working relationship with both, but that doesn't assure anything in this situation. To this point, no optimistic assur- ances have been given regarding the hoped-for change. "I've gotten an openness and an understanding that it's important to us to look at ways to do it," Manuel said. "I have not gotten any commit- ments from anyone at this point in time because of the complexities of it. "I haven't yet talked to my fellow ADs and been a part of the conver- sation around football scheduling. There could be others within the league that have different things they would like to see. When you put all those things on the table, it continues to add to the complexity of trying to schedule football games for an entire conference of 14. "If I had my way, I'd shake it up and I'd do it. It's not just about what I would like to see done. It's about what's good for the league and what's possible to be done. The con- versations will be ongoing. But as Coach Harbaugh said, we'll play the games when we play the games. "Next season, we'll all be happy that both Michigan State and Ohio State are coming to Michigan Sta- dium. It's the imbalance of those two rivalries that causes the biggest is- sue, particularly in those years we are away." ❏ During his interview with The Wolverine, director of athlet- ics Warde Manuel touched on some other topics concerning athletics, including: How he sees a football game day at Michigan: "A game day at Michigan Stadium is a special time. I'm looking for- ward to being a part of that experience as an athletic direc- tor here. First and foremost, we want to make it a special day for our fans to be here in support of Michigan and Michigan football, to be with their friends in a safe environment. " We want them to enjoy the experience in the stadium. For me, the focus is always on the outcome and sup- porting the team. There are things we will do around that, but the fo- cus of a Michigan foot- ball game is Michigan football." The Learfield Sports D i re c to r s ' Cu p, fo r which Michigan fin- ished third this year: "The importance to me is that our teams are working hard to win conference champion- ships and to move into NCAA play, and focus at that point on winning NCAA championships on an individual, sport-by-sport basis. I don't lead this de- partment to say that I want to be No. 1 and we focus on the Directors' Cup. "If that's the outcome that happens, great. But we won eight Big Ten championships last year — more than any other university. We had 20 teams finish in the top 25. Those things are important to me — how individual teams do, not how we come out in a race that is predicated on monitoring success. "We're proud to finish third this year. But it's about those individual s p o r t s h av i n g w h at they need to be suc- cessful, on and off the field." The size of Michi- gan's athletic depart- ment, in terms of per- sonnel: "What is right sized? I'm still figuring that out as I learn all the things we do. I can tell you, I haven't run across one of the staff that are here that are not work- ing hard to make us better. "From my standpoint, we have grown consid- erably since I left, but they have all been great people working hard to produce success." Thanks to stellar seasons from teams like Michigan softball, the Wolverines fin- ished third in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, a national competition for the best overall athletic department, and won eight Big Ten championships — more than any other conference school. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS Other Items Worth Mentioning

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