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Posted on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 10 a.m.

John Pollack on Michigan Stadium, more on Brock Mealer, Denard Robinson and his clone, plus the mailbag

By Pete Bigelow

After undergoing a three-year, $226 million renovation, Michigan Stadium re-opened last weekend to rave reviews.

Wide sidewalks, wider concourses and more bathrooms made for a more fan-friendly experience, not to mention the Michigan football team’s performance on the field.

None of that necessarily answers the question of whether all the changes have altered Michigan Stadium’s image as one of America’s iconic sports venue.

John Pollack would argue they have, and not for the better.

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Michigan Stadium has a completely different look than it did a few years ago.

A founder of Save The Big House, a group that presented an alternative renovation plan for upgrades sans luxury boxes, Pollack thinks the refurbished venue has all the charm of an office park.

“What happened was that Michigan Stadium was a unique stadium,” he said. “With the renovation, it looks pretty much like every stadium in the country.”

Before, the majority of the stadium sat sunk into the ground. Now, the brick sides of the stadium rise from the ground and are visible for several blocks in most directions. To Pollack, that ruined some of the stadium’s intangible qualities.

“That aura of surprise and awe approaching and entering the stadium to see the mighty bowl fall beneath you, that was really special. It was a magical approach.”

It’s more than the architectural aesthetics that disappoint Pollack.

“Those luxury boxes are a monument to a past age, they’re not to the future,” he said. “They reflect the excess and materialism of the past decade, which has come crashing down.”

As of last week, 65 of the 82 boxes had received three-year commitments, as well as 90 percent of the 2,592 premium seats, according to The New York Times.

Revenues from the boxes and seat-license fees are expected to top $12 million this season and $14 million when all are sold -- enough to cover the approximate $9 million debt service, according to The Times.

Pollack argues that, through purchasing premium seating, the average fan winds up subsidizing the construction costs of the luxury boxes.

“If you take out seat-license fees, the whole financial model collapses,” he said. “And what did the average fan get in return? A quarter-inch. It’s not even worth repainting the numbers.”

Though the average fan received added amenities like the concourse space and bathrooms, Pollack shouldn’t be surprised that money drives every decision related to college athletics these days.

The Big Ten’s recent divisional split hammered that point home.

Luxury boxes and premium seating could generate another $3 to $5 million per year in revenue, and Michigan would be remiss if it didn’t chase after every possible dollar.

Do they alter some of the some of the intangible qualities that made Michigan Stadium a unique venue? Absolutely.

But Pollack seems not only interested in preserving the aesthetics of Michigan Stadium, but also an era in which college athletics were about more than the bottom line.

That’s an honorable position. It just seems that battle was lost a long time ago.

Brock Mealer's unwavering allegiance


Brock Mealer often has to answer questions about the Michigan sticker on his wheelchair when he's home in Ohio.

Melanie Maxwell |

As a current Ohio State grad student and inspiration to Michigan fans, Brock Mealer is in an awkward position. He’s discreet about his allegiance to the Wolverines while on the Columbus campus, only sporting a small ‘M’ sticker on his wheelchair.

Fellow students still notice.

“I get asked about the Michigan sticker on my wheelchair more than I get asked about the wheelchair,” he said.

Mealer, who walked to midfield from the Michigan Stadium tunnel last week despite being paralyzed in a car accident in 2007, has an undergrad degree in economics from Ohio State.

He considered pursuing his master’s degree in public affairs in Ann Arbor, where he would have been a student alongside his brother, Elliott, but the out-of-state tuition costs made it prohibitive.

“I figure if I can get two degrees from Ohio State, it might be close to Elliott’s undergraduate degree,” he joked.

The next Pat White?

The statistics on Denard Robinson’s record-setting afternoon weren’t even official yet, and the comparisons to former West Virginia quarterback Pat White had begun.

Rich Rodriguez, who coached White with the Mountaineers, thinks there’s some validity to them.

“Yeah, he runs fast,” Rodriguez said of Robinson. “The game may be fast for everybody else, but it’s slowing down for him. The game seemed a lot slower for him today than any time last year, which we expect. And it was the same way with Pat.”

Notre Dame cornerback Darrin Walls grew up in Pittsburgh and watched White often.

“Denard Robinson is looking just like Pat White when he was there,” Walls said. “I see Michigan going on the same path.”

Hopefully not too far down the same path, for Robinson’s sake. On the same day he trampled the UConn defense for 197 rushing yards last Saturday, White was released by the Miami Dolphins.

Tweet of the week

“NBC is really pumping the Michigan-Notre Dame game this week. I guess that's what happens when NBC televises only one NCAA football team.” - @dev_macd

This week's mailbag

Q: Does a loss to Notre Dame mean we are behind last year’s pace? - JD.

A: Not necessarily, JD. For one, this year’s game is tougher for Michigan simply because it’s in South Bend. Plus, both teams have gotten better. I think a better measuring stick for Michigan would be how the Wolverines perform against some of the middle-of-the-pack Big Ten teams that they lost to in 2009.

Q: Why should Michigan fans be more optimistic about this year, considering the striking similarities between the start of last year and the first game of this year, i.e. creeping towards the top 25, quarterback on the ‘Heisman watch,’ big home win to start the season. - Matt.

A: There’s no comparison between UConn and Western Michigan, Matt. But you want one reason to be more optimistic? Michigan’s offensive line is markedly improved this year. It’s gone from a weakness to a strength, perhaps the best position on the team.

Pete Bigelow can be reached at (734) 623-2556, via email at and on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.


Lorain Steelmen

Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.

I hope Coach Rodriguez remains the UM coach, and not Harbaugh, OR Miles. They would only take UM backward to an era that while nice, is now obsolete. Rich Rodriguez is the RIGHT man, at the RIGHT time, to lead this UM program back to the national elete! Go Blue!


Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 11:31 a.m.

Regarding realistic goals, I think it's fitting to read the story about Brock Mealer's 1% chance of walking again, and then to see him walk and touch the Michigan banner at the UConn game. Good thing Brock didn't set a "realistic" goal and chose one a little more incredible. If Coach Rod is to remain the Michigan coach, or if it's Coach Harbaugh next season as I believe it will be, I hope the goals set will always be beyond the bounds of what is deemed realistic.


Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 10:30 a.m.

@ Jaxon I agree. There are different types of goals. I think "Win this week," should be a weekly or a short-term goal. I think "Win the Big Ten," and "Win a National Title" should be seasonal or long-term goals, but their importance is immeasurable. If you're going to write a 500-page book, the long-term goal is "Write a 500-page book, your daily goal would be something like "write three-to-five pages today." Long-term goals act as a horizon to strive for, where the short-term or daily/weekly goals are the numerous steps needed to reach that horizon. You need a horizon. Here's hoping Michigan can pull off another victory today! GO BLUE!


Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

You can tell me I'm wrong all day long, but Bo did not make winning a National Title a goal and his teams never won one. Correct me if I'm wrong but his teams went 5-17 in bowl games, including a loss against Stanford in the 1971 season at the Rose Bowl that kept Michigan from a perfect season. In 1980 Michigan loses out-of-conference games to Notre Dame and South Carolina, then goes perfect the rest of the season. In 1982 Michigan loses to ND and falls twice to UCLA, one of them in the Rose Bowl. In Bo's final season, Michigan starts preseason #1 and goes perfect in the Big Ten with bookend losses to out-of-conference ND and USC. 2-8 all-time Rose Bowl record. I'm not attacking Bo. The man resurrected Michigan football and changed the way college football was played, and I doubt there will ever another like coach like him. I respectfully disagree with his decision to limit Michigan's goal solely to winning the Big Ten and not taking the goal further to winning a Title, regardless of the inane ways they were won pre-BCS (as if they are not still inane today). If he would have made winning a Title a goal, Michigan would have won more of the these tough OOC games. National Championships are important, or else we wouldn't keep track of the 11 NCs Michigan has won and advertise them on the Big House scoreboard and on the back of the maize-out shirts the undergrads wear at the games. If National Championships were not important, the 1997 season would be less significant and special, and the travesty of splitting the Title with Nebraska (for the sake of a lobbying Nebraska QB Scott Frost) less atrocious. Not making winning an NC a goal is the only criticism I could give Bo, and I am not taking anything away from the man. He took Michigan football to new heights. Setting a goal is a powerful thing, and as his goal was to win Big Ten Championships, seeing as he won 13 of them, it clearly worked. If only he would have set the stakes a notch higher, who knows how much more his teams could have accomplished?


Sat, Sep 11, 2010 : 12:11 a.m.

Lemansblue Bo was our coach for about 25 years, and i think he only won like 4 bowl games. I think there were 3 or 4 years we didnt even go to a bowl game. I think Bo had about the Worst bowl record ever.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 10:46 p.m.

I gotta agree with the majority here, Mr. Pollack's complaints and desires are way off base. I propose a "Save the memory of Fielding H. Yost," group to promote the ideas of Yost and protect the tradition he foresaw. He built the stadium on large footings for the sole purpose of future expansion. As far as I know, he put no limits on his vision, leaving it up to his successors. I have seen other stadiums and none are similar to the Big House. From the inside, the massiveness of the bowl remains the key aspect. It was a good addition and was well done. I think that is what Yost wanted. That is not the only thing Mr. Pollack is way off base on. The donation for premium seats, what he calls "seat license fees," are quite common in other stadiums and if a ticket holder does not want to pay for it, you can move to the end zone where you pay no donation. 80% of the donation is allowable as a tax write off. This is the second time recently that has written on Mr. Pollack's opinion. It's old news and there is no reason to bring it up further. Not sure why it appeared again, no matter how many angles you can find in the stadium.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:59 p.m.

John Pollack deserves the same attention as the guy who wants to burn the Koran. Apparently all it takes is being an eccentric buffoon and the press will beat a path to your door.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:53 p.m.

Michigan's string of wins from week to week last year: won week one won week two won week three won week four...


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Michigan's current goals should be: Win this week. Win this week. Win this week. They are in no position to establish a longer term goal when they have not been able to win week to week. Winning the Big Ten is out of the question - a ridiculous goal for this team. Goals need to be realistic. And, they need to provide a challenge. A challenge for this team is to win this week.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 7:29 p.m.

Rude Jude, you are wrong about Bo and what his goals should have been. They were goals he and his teams had control over, winning the Big Ten and winning the Rose Bowl, this was before the BCS so the Rose Bowl it, no Championship Game. Michigan current goals should be win the Big Ten and our bowl game that is all the coaches and players have control over.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 7:06 p.m.

Rude, You do not get it. When Bo coached it was more important to win on the field. Did you ever hear Bo saying anything about the NC it was completely different before the espn hype remember the BCS has not been here long. How can you decide a NC withouy playing it out on the field until their is a playoff it is just a vote


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 7:05 p.m.

John Pollack had a clear agenda, and his agenda lost, now you can and sore loser to his list of personal defects.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

@ Lemans Sister is saying that a player or coach can still be legendary without ever winning a national title. She/he is not attacking Bo. Regarding what you said about the lack of importance of "mythical" national championships, you and Bo must have been the only two guys that held that sentiment, as it seems NCs mean a lot to the rest of Michigan Football world. I respect Bo for reigniting the Michigan Football tradition and lifting it to new heights, among other things. The only criticism I would give him, said without disrespect towards him, is that he never made winning a National Title a goal. If you don't make it a goal, then it will never happen.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

I prefer the artificiality of the current turf instead of grass, if artificial turf was good enough for all of Bos teams, and asked for by Lloyd Carr, and then it is good enough for me.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 3:16 p.m.

On the topic of changes to the stadium: I didn't get to watch the game on TV, but I watched the replay on ESPN3, and I kept wondering why the field looked like it was too bright, or "glowing". Then I noticed it was mostly the color of the maize "MICHIGAN" in the endzones, combined with the artificiality of the turf. How long has that turf been in there? I know about the positives of it, but there's something in me that just won't let it sit well with me. It's probably that when I think about fond memories of Michigan football, I envision the beat up grass and dirt of October and November. Anyway, even though my opinion holds no sway, I thought I'd see what other people think. Also, does it seem like the "maize" these days is really, really yellow compared to 10-20 years ago?


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

Sister, You want to slam Bo for not winning a NC when that was not what he was trying to do? Coach Bo every season would say our goal is to win the Big ten and go to the rose bowl period. He did not care about a mythical NC. The big ten championship was won on the field.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

"How many National Championship did Pat White win" How many National Championships did Bo win? Is he a bad coach because he did not win any?


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

"Since Tate won two Heisman's after his first game Robinson will probably win three." Hey redceder, just how many heisman winners does Michigan State have in it's history?


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

How many National Championship did Pat White win? rr can not win the "big" game even when his has the best guys to run his gimmick "system". Go research rr win-loss vs ranked teams, not very good.

John Ramer

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

Who CARES what John Pollack thinks. I suppose he is also opposed to Steward's purchase of Alaska, seat belts in cars, helmets for motorcylists, eating steak and making MSU fans feel badly when we beat them this year. ENOUGH already. As the Nanny would say: "Pah-leezz, no moreha John Pollack"

Sean T.

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:01 a.m.

iambill, I agree that equalling Pat White's college career would be a blessing.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 10:11 a.m.

Why are you subjecting your readers to more dribble from John Pollack. It is quite apparent this guy has not traveled to other venues or if he has his eyes are closed. Michigan Stadium is by far the best venue in the country. Unlikely that any other college owned stadium can match up to the wonderful changes. The old place had become dated and had fallen behind most of the other leading programs and other Big Ten schools that have already made updates to their stadiums. Please forget Pollack's whiny attitude and move on...Accept it for what it is, the best college football stadium anywhere!!!!


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

What a joke of an article. Interview one person with a clear agenda on the issue, a person who has repeatedly shown complete disregard to the facts of the situation. The patrons in the bowl aren't subsidizing the suiteholders, the luxury seating patrons are subsidizing everybody in the bowl. Why does allow such a narrow misguided view to be the only one discussed? Pat White was first college quarterback to go 4-0 in bowl games. #1 all time rushing yardage for a QB in NCAA history. 42-9 record as a starter (33-5 unter RR). He was a GREAT college quarterback, and drafted in the second round. I can't imagine a Michigan fan who would be disappointed if Denard Robinson matched this career.