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Posted on Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 11:16 p.m.

Hard to get excited about UConn for the University of Michigan's 2010 season opener

By Pete Bigelow

The 2010 season opener was supposed to be special.

For fans, who anticipated a marquee opponent. For the Wolverines, who will open a newly renovated Michigan Stadium. For athletic director Bill Martin, who will see the crown jewel of his department’s building boom reach completion.

Instead, Connecticut is coming to town.

That’s the word from, which reported earlier this week that the two schools have reached an agreement on a home-and-home series to be completed with a Michigan road trip in 2013.

Martin was unavailable for comment earlier this week, according to a spokesperson, and neither school has confirmed the deal.

So one can hope the report is wrong or that the deal could be scuttled by some last-minute contractual snafu. But if correct, the scheduling move will be greeted with all the enthusiasm of a shanked punt.

No offense to the Huskies, but this is a big letdown for Michigan fans. An anticlimactic ending to what had been a high-profile scheduling search.

Rich Rodriguez had only heightened that anticipation earlier this week, when he said that Michigan had a BCS opponent under consideration for the 2010 opener while speaking at Big Ten media day in Chicago.

Technically, UConn fulfills that promise. The Huskies are indeed members of the Big East, one of six BCS conferences. But they’re not who anyone quite had in mind when envisioning a BCS opponent, which conjured thoughts of a respected opponent, perhaps one with a prestigious history that could rival Michigan’s own, or at least one that’s ranked consistently in the Top 25. Not an opponent that joined Division I-A this decade.

The disappointment lies not only in the fact Michigan has seemingly failed to land a marquee opponent for the game, but also that it failed to achieve its other key priority - staying out of a home-and-home contract. Home games mean significant money for the athletic budget. Signing on for a road game decreases future profits.

Martin succeeded in doing this last season, adding a highly-ranked Utah team to the schedule without sacrificing a future payday.

“You’re trying to get a one for none, not a home-and-home series,” Rodriguez said earlier this year, describing the financial goals that impact scheduling decisions. “You pay the bills with those home football games.”

If there’s not going to be a big payday, the reason should at least be because there’s a marquee opponent demanding a home and home.

UConn does not fit that bill.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s rivals continue to sign home-and-home deals that excite their fan bases. Michigan State has committed to home and homes with Alabama and West Virginia. Ohio State has previously engaged in a spectacular home and home with Texas, and continues its contract with USC this season.

Those games are good for college football, even if they take a bite out of the budget.

And if Michigan had accepted the fact it was faced with the prospect of scheduling a home and home, you'd think it would have been with one of the many big-name schools that still have openings on Sept. 4, 2010.

Michigan’s home-and-home agreement with UConn would make a little more sense if the travel game was held at a venue like Gillette Stadium outside Boston or Giants Stadium outside New York City.

Such a venue would maximize Michigan’s exposure to its formidable East Coast alumni base and draw more attention in those major media markets.

Instead, the game will be played at UConn’s Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., according to the report. The stadium only holds 40,000 fans and sits squarely on the outskirts of the New York and Boston media markets.

A road trip with limited exposure. Unless there are some unparalleled financial incentives for Michigan, it’s hard to make sense of the deal. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking to hope there’s some sort of miscommunication or that the report that this is a done deal is wrong. But if it holds, it’s a letdown.

The Wolverines had two priorities in scheduling an opponent for its unveiling of a renovated Michigan Stadium at the start of 2010.

In scheduling a home and home with Connecticut, Michigan accomplishes neither.



Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 3:16 p.m.

Poorly researched, poorly argued article, to say the least. First, Michigan's payoff for this home-home is quite substantial. Finding a BCS conference team that will agree to a return game three years after the initial game is extremely difficult, and that's exactly what Michigan was searching for. The Wolverines' only opening for a series like this was for Sept. of 2013 and UConn agreed. Second, Bill Martin and UConn AD Jeff Hathaway have forged a bond that has already produced regular season home-home matchups between the Huskies and Wolverines in men's basketball and field hockey. Though this particular deal relates strictly to football, this is also an extension of the continued athletic relationship between UConn and U of M that has already proved quite fruitful for both schools. Finally, with the significant improvements UConn has made in football since it went D-1 seven years ago (including bowl games in the past two seasons), by the time the 2013 date rolls around, UConn is likely to have improved its national standing even further. To lament scheduling a BCS opponent that has been on the rise over the past few years and that also agreed to take a return game THREE YEARS after the initial home game is utterly pointless. From a U of M fan living in Connecticut, I'm glad that we have sports writers who have some semblance of an idea of what they're talking about.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.

I'm sure Michigan fans felt the same way about App State as they feel about UConn. Get over yourselves.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 2:56 p.m.

I'm a UConn fan and I feel the same way about playing Michigan in basketball. Hard to get excited. But, you gave us a decent game last season and I expect the same in Ann Arbor. So look at it as payback for UConn agreeing to play Michigan in BB.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 2:34 p.m.

UM should put something on the field itself before its beat writers complain about who is on the other side of the ball.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:23 a.m.

However, Bo liked to open up against a weaker team to get the bugs out before playing ND or a top 20 team the following week on the schedule. I don't mind opening the season against a lower-level BCS team. What I don't like is having div 2a teams in our schedule. But Bo use to open against Slippery Rock, so I don't mind having a MAC team in the beginning of the year but not two! The big 10 needs the 12th team. I'd rather get rid on the middle non-conference game, since major conferences will not want to play b10 teams in the middle of the season. We need to have two divisions and play each of your division opponents at least once and have the two division winners play in a b10 championship game. Oh well that only makes sense but it will never happen!


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 8:36 p.m.

Lemans, I remember that year. A tough loss at Iowa 12-10 in a last second field goal. Hayden Frye won the B10 and got trounced in the Rose bowl. We beat a good, was it Neb. in the Fiesta bowl? I'd have to look it up. That aside, I think the staff and Martin are trying to ease us into contention again. We have a lot of underclassmen playing, skilled but not experienced. I agree with Willervrine. I'd like to see us get these boys seasoned at least one year, and let's bring on a tougher schedule. The BCS will grade us accordingly anyway, well they're supposed to. We will not make the AP top 25 this year, we'll have to work our way up, it's better that way.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 7:10 p.m.

My friend who is a gator fan sent me a story on Coach Bo in 1986 Mi opened with ND ranked #13, South Carolina #11 and Maryland #17 Mi went 10-1-1 that year and finished 2nd in the polls that is where we need to be...not scheduling the weakest teams we can find. Mi needs to play a worthy schedule I have a feeling we are trying to get the RR schedule when he was at WV. It is sad to see Mi football like this we should have higher standards to be the best you have to beat the best. Much respect to USC they schedule tough every year and also MSU I think they are getting it...Why can't we?


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 5:56 p.m.

An opening game loss does NOT take you "immediately" out of contention. If the BCS has taught us anything, it's that losing early in the season is a lot better than losing late. Every year many teams lose then fight their way back up the rankings by winning out. If Notre Dame is considered our "big time" out of conference opponent, I feel bad for Michigan fans. We play them EVERY YEAR. "Out of conference" is a term used loosely when referring to the Irish. And they haven't been good in a while. As for the comment, "Well i guess we now know that Michigan only cares about the money. Its official now. Ooh and by the way, every decent team is going to demand a home and home," well, duh! We know it's about the money and regarding the latter point, no kidding, THAT'S the point of the article. If you can't find a one-and-done opponent and have to go so far as to schedule a home-and-home, why not schedule someone who is going to bring you major national exposure and bring a lot of hype to the game? I know why... because some of you want the "weakest road possible" to the "mythical national championship." I, honestly, could care less about the mythical NC until it becomes a REAL national championship. Proving we can go undefeated against a bunch of MAC teams doesn't prove anything (well, maybe last year it would have, but in any normal year!). I'm just sick of our big bad football program that likes to tout it's rich history and tradition continue to deny fans of games against strong to elite competition because they only care about $$$. Gee, and here I thought college sports was about the student-athletes and the love of the game... UConn is a decent team and I have nothing against them. But, simply put, the name "UConn" doesn't hold the same weight in college football as USC, LSU, Florida, Texas, and so forth. With all the hype around the stadium renovation and searching for a marquee opponent for the opening game, UConn is a major letdown.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 3:40 p.m.

Am I missing something here? Power football teams have been scheduling weak non-conference foes for openers since like FOREVER! Basically, these games serve as tune-up games before conference play begins. You can't have it both ways. An early season loss can take you right out of BCS consideration. You can't have a grueling non-conference schedule, a regular season that might garner one or two losses and still be in contention for the BCS. Let's win a few games, start contending for the Big Ten Conference and get back into BCS contention before we start beating our chests and yell, "Bring it on!" We've got a young team. They need to gain experience and adopt a winning attitude before we begin talking smack. This is not basketball where you can lose to Duke or UCLA and still have twenty or so games to redeem yourself before NCAA Tournament Selection time. Even in basketball teams schedule nine or ten non-conference patsies to pad their records on their way to twenty-plus wins to impress the Selection Committe. I think Martin is doing the right thing. He's giving RR a chance to set UM's footbal program in order. You guys sound like youre not going to be happy until we're churning out consecutive 10-4 records again as we did under Carr. Let's wait until we're consistently beating the App States, Toledoes, Notre Dames, Michigan States, Penn States and Ohio States before we try to take on all comers. Sheesh, the more change, the more they stay the same.

Pete Bigelow

Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 1:48 p.m.

Thanks for the thoughts everyone. Tater, Michigan has the Notre Dame home and home. But I can't see that as a reason that justifies not scheduling another challenging non-conference opponent. One, Notre Dame's not that good, and hasn't been for some time. Two, you look at a Michigan State, which has a home and home with Notre Dame, if not though 2030 like Michigan, than at least most of the years in between, and the Spartans seem to have no problem scheduling quality opponents, i.e. West Virginia and Alabama. It hasn't been THAT long since Michigan scheduled the likes of Colorado, Washington and Oregon. Some of you are right: It does up the risk factor. But higher risk could bring higher reward. A quality win against a legit BCS team makes the argument that much stronger, if Michigan is a top team trying to get into a BCS bowl. @MITXGA: I think you're wrong. Bill Martin is indeed a big-time AD.... There wouldn't be a renovated stadium without him. But he only gets one chance to open it up the right way. And right now, the outdoor hockey game scheduled for The Big House seems a lot more interesting than Michigan-UConn.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 1:43 p.m.

Hey, it's a BCS team, at least they gave us that this time.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 12:07 p.m.

Who cares? Michigan needs to worry about beating Western in the home opener THIS SEASON. I frankly don't care who they open up with NEXT season, at this point. I want to see the team improve on the field and get back to winning football, regardless of who they are playing. The bottom line in regards to scheduling is that Michigan will play a full Big Ten slate every year which will always include MSU and OSU, not to mention our long term deal with ND. We will play a tough schedule whether we open with UConn or not. Let's get back to winning football games THIS season, then we can worry about who we are scheduling in future seasons.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 10:55 a.m.

" failed to achieve its other key priority - staying out of a home-and-home contract...." Well i guess we now know that Michigan only cares about the money. Its official now. Ooh and by the way, every decent team is going to demand a home and home. This is the worst article i have ever read about Michigan athletics. this article is much worse for Michigan fans than the "general studies" article.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 10:19 a.m.

Bill Martin is a not a Big Time AD is the real issue. The new Big House and we are worried about a home and away. You only get one chance at the new opening. How many years did he have to plan for this? Nothing against RR, but Martin knew well in advance about LC retirement and, he utterly fumbled the entire search process.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 8:50 a.m.

We are too good to even be concerned about adding "quality" competition. By 2010 we will be so much better than anyone else in college football that we may as well replace the Lions in the NFC Norris. Let's just enjoy the return of the 70-14 and 63-0 annihilations that Bo used to roll out in the 70's and 80's. Only difference this time is that the spucks will also be at the receiving end of one of those beatdowns each November.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 8:47 a.m.

No matter the occassion, it's the first game of the year and we know from experience that it takes a game for the Wolverines to warm up. Why would we want to risk an embarrasing loss to a marquee team on such an occassion? A win will be more memorable, no matter the opponent. Also, keep in mind that when Utah was signed up, it was as bad as Uconn. When Utah played Michigan, Utah was one of the best teams in the Country.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 7:04 a.m.

Ah, the halcyon days of college football... getting marquee opponents so there's a better chance of being ranked number 1 in a flawed, non-playoff system. Oh, and to improve the level of entertainment. Oh, and to insure the goals of avarice are reached. Wonderful, wonderful times are these....


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 7 a.m.

I guess I fail to understand why Martin can't schedule challenging home and homes in opposite sequence to the ND home and home schedule. I know it is ones less home game every two years, but one less rinky dink one. It makes the season tickets more valuable in the years we play at ND. It also gives us fans outside the midwest, Florida and Los Angeles a chance to go see our team play. (Duke or UVA would have been as much a let down as UConn, but I would have been at the game.) I keep hoping Martin is flying trial balloons to see what is acceptable (not UMass, how about UConn). Well no Bill, not UConn either. Give us someone deep with college football tradition. Even Harvard would be better...


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 4:34 a.m.

Michigan has a home and home with ND every two years. That game still excites both fan bases. Once they resume their status as an elite program, hopefuly this year, they will play four games a year that should be realistic chances at losses: PSU, OSU, MSU, and ND. Why should they add another when the current lack of a playoff penalizes a team so badly for one loss? UConn might not be a marquee opponent, but they will be perfect for UM at this stage in their development.


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 10:59 p.m.

Why must we be like everyone else??? We should create our own path to the ultimate goal. If that means we must go win a game in Connecticut in 2013 that eventually leads us to a title then so be it. For all we know, UM will be starting yet another true frosh at QB in Devin Gardner next year. Uconn sure sounds better than some of those top tiers... Oh, and don't we have a 2009 game 1? Let's get some info on Western Michigan. Go blue!