UT scores early win in Ann ArborWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the biggest games in UT football history may be more than 500 days away, but it’s safe to assume the Rockets faithful have Oct. 11, 2008, marked in their calendars.
Representatives from UT and the University of Michigan announced May 22 the schools would meet on the gridiron next season after an agreement was reached between UT athletic director Mike O’Brien and Bill Martin, U-M director of athletics. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools, which are separated by just 50 miles.
For UT, the game represents a chance to perform on college football’s biggest stage, Michigan Stadium, which boasts a capacity (107,501) more than four times the size of the Glass Bowl. The decision had to have been a no-brainer for O’Brien. The Rockets reportedly will receive a cool $500,000 to make the short jaunt north to Ann Arbor.
What will the Wolverines get out of the deal? Likely another mark in the win column. U-M has a 22-0 all-time record against eight different Mid-American Conference schools. Yes, MAC schools have gone into The Big House and put up respectable showings.
Last year the Wolverines needed to hold on for dear life against a pesky Ball State squad that came within two touchdowns of pulling a monumental upset.
But make no mistake: Martin didn’t schedule Toledo the week before Michigan travels to Penn State because he thought the Rockets would provide a good test between Big Ten games.
When national powers such as Michigan or Ohio State schedule games against schools from mid-major conferences such as the MAC it’s because they know there’s no realistic chance of losing. In an age when the difference between one and two regular-season losses could mean millions of dollars in revenue that comes with playing in a Bowl Championship Series game, U-M can’t afford to play a tough non-conference schedule.
Though they likely won’t leave Ann Arbor with a win, the Rockets can’t lose by playing Michigan. The game stands out from several marquee match-ups in coming seasons that will pit UT against such big-name schools as Arizona, Purdue, Ohio State and Syracuse.
Toledo students, alumni and fans will gladly make the less-than-one-hour trek up U.S. 23 even if it means watching a lopsided contest.
O’Brien should be commended for making the game happen. The announcement shifts attention away from the recent point-shaving scandal that involves former UT running back Harvey “Scooter” McDougle Jr. Coach Tom Amstutz now has a valuable recruiting tool. What high school player wouldn’t want the chance to take the field at Michigan Stadium?
When your team competes in the low-profile MAC, it’s important to find ways to draw positive attention to your program. O’Brien did that by landing Michigan.
Who knows? Maybe the Wolverines will enjoy their experience with UT so much they’ll accept an invitation to play at the Glass Bowl. Like the double-digit point spread that will likely come with the 2008 game, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Justin R. Kalmes is metro editor for Toledo Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com.