Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Renewed Assault on Chanted Vulgarity

Michigan State officials are launching an initiative in hopes of convincing the sellout crowd against Michigan will abandon all vulgarity upon entering Spartan Stadium. No "One, two, three, first down bitch" or songs that begin with "F*** the Wolverines..."

And to do that, they're planning to convince fans with the opinions of... other fans. According to a university study:
  • 84 percent of MSU fans in the stands think it is unacceptable for fans to yell at or insult fans of the opposing team.
  • 80 percent of MSU fans never participate in a group chant that involves swearing or vulgar language directed at the opposing team.
  • 70 percent of MSU fans disapprove of players engaging in prolonged celebrations after a score or big play.
  • 68 percent of MSU fans in the stands think there is at least some need to improve the sportsmanship of fans at college or university sporting events.
Here's the thing I don't get though. Apparently, according to that study, just 73 percent of MSU fans approve of yelling or chanting to make it difficult for the opposing team to communicate.

So about 27 percent of MSU fans don't approve, or are unsure of whether it's OK to yell loudly when Michigan is playing a key third down near the goal line. What, does everyone need to be quiet like Spartan football is the next iteration of Wimbledon or the Masters?

It's ridiculous, and unfortunately it obscures the whole point of the survey, which according to TOSSS readers is a welcome thing. Recall that in a previous poll, a clear majority of fans said the level of vulgarity in cheers needs to be reduced or eliminated.

Regardless, the message was e-mailed to 150,000 Spartan fans today, so we'll see how well it takes. However, if Michigan finds itself down four and driving late, I would hope that Spartan Stadium would be rocking, profanity or no.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Memories of Michigan

Given that this week leads up to the biggest rivalry game on MSU's calendar, we thought we'd take a look at MSU fans' favorite memories of the Michigan football rivalry.

Perhaps it's dialing every Michigan fan in your cell phone after the Appalachian State loss "just to say hi." Maybe it's where you were when MSU beat Michigan in 2001.

Whatever your memory, we want to hear it. Leave it in the comments or e-mail it to In the interest of brevity, please limit it to 200 words or less. We'll post our favorites on Friday.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't Give Up Yet

The loss to Wisconsin hurt, bad. Nevermind the final score, MSU wasn't really in that game at any point. That makes three losses in a row with Michigan up next, and already the Spartan bandwagon seems to be a bit emptier.

I'm not among those bailing on this season - yet. Granted this season has started worse than anyone thought possible, but I just think it's too early to give up. And, given how MSU's preseason goals are still attainable, you shouldn't either.

The goals for every MSU football season are simple. In no particular order, they are:
  1. Make a bowl game
  2. Beat Michigan
Yes, most of us thought that bowl game would be in Orlando, Tampa or San Antonio - maybe even in Pasadena. I know I checked my work schedule before the season to see which ones I might be able to make. But frankly, MSU hasn't made a bowl game in three consecutive seasons since Nick Saban left, so even a date in Detroit in December would be a significant accomplishment.

Teams need to be 6-6 to be bowl eligible, while a 7-5 record practically guarantees it. At 1-3, MSU clearly has its work cut out for it, but such an achievement isn't impossible.

As for goal number two, well the Spartans have a chance to cross that off the list on Sunday. Don't give up hope yet, Spartan fans. There's still plenty of season left.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gameday Forecast: MSU @ Wisconsin

The temperature is supposed to stay in the 60's on State Street for tailgating before the game, and the good news is that the rain shouldn't come until after kickoff.

Madison has a high of 70 today, and is showing a 30% chance of rain, including possible thunderstorms. Light wind at 5-10 MPH shouldn't be much of a factor.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Destination: Madison

If you're going to the Wisconsin game in Madison, you're in luck. Not just because the last two games have been decided by a total of four points, but because Madison is quite simply the best tailgating town in the Big Ten.

The state capital of Wisconsin, Madison is sandwiched between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The capitol dome lies in the center of an isthmus, walking distance down State Street from the university.

No trip to Madison is complete without heading to the student union (which serves beer, but that's not why you're going there). The union building is on the shores of Lake Mendota, and there's a massive multi-level patio facing the lake. Stop by the Badger creamery which makes arguably the second-best ice cream in the Big Ten (tied with Penn State, behind MSU), then take the ice cream and a book and just spend some time near the water.

The walk to the stadium is a difficult, yet rewarding one. Difficult, because a good half of the fans will trash talk you the entire way. Rewarding, because the other half will invite you over to their house for beer and brats. Both of those are Sconnie specialties, by the way.

The brats in Madison are the stuff of legend. It's no surprise, given that the town is home to a working Oscar Mayer factory, while the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum sits just a 20 minute drive from the city. My recommendation for the best of Madison brats is at a joint called State Street Brats, just a few blocks from the heart of campus. Get a red and a white brat, add spicy mustard and relish to taste.

The beer is also sublime, thanks to a preponderance of craft breweries in the area. The pick here is the Great Dane, a pub with a pun name that only true Wisconsinites would get because only they'd know that Madison is located in Dane County.

Speaking of food, let's talk about the press box spread for a moment. Indiana has a burger buffet, MSU gives you two hot dogs and all-you-can-drink soda. Penn State has ice cream. That's all nice. Wisconsin does brats and Amish sticky buns. My friends, that's what we in the media world call game, set, match. I know some folks who will argue for Notre Dame's layout (I had great roast chicken there once), but to me, nothing tops Camp Randall.

Now that we're talking about Camp Randall, let's talk about what happens inside. Wisconsin gives some visiting fans tickets in the first row, in addition to the normal visiting sections. The two things to watch for are the fifth quarter, a great post-game band concert, and the infamous "Jump Around". For the uninitiated, that's when, after the third quarter ends, the entire student section jumps around to the old House of Pain song so much that the entire stadium shakes.

I took my dad to a game at Camp Randall when he lived in Madison and he swore to me that the upper deck would fall down it was shaking so much. In fact, Wisconsin officials have had to ask people in the upper deck not to jump because fans were genuinely concerned about the structural integrity of the stadium. That request is generally ignored.

Needless to say, if you have a chance to go to Madison this weekend, go.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why the State's Budget Woes Will Increase the Number of In-State Athletes

Monday, we looked at how this year's state budget cuts will affect MSU athletics. Tuesday, we looked at how those cuts will hit the university as a whole. Today, we pull out our crystal ball and peer into the future.

It will come as no surprise that the cash-strapped state of Michigan just isn't investing in higher education like it used to. State appropriations rose 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, which might sound good on it's own, but it isn't. The cumulative rate of inflation over that time period was a hair over 30 percent, which means that state appropriations to MSU actually fell in real dollars over those ten years. Not only that, but it's way below the national average of a 55 percent increase over ten years.

So what does the future hold for state funding? Nothing good. The small cuts this year, minimized by federal stimulus funding rules that prevented them from being sliced even more, will likely be magnified next year when those rules go away.

That, in turn, will increase tuition, placing a further burden on athletic budgets. The department doesn't get discount rates for tuition, it pays at the same rate as everyone else. However, the athletic department brings in out-of-state students at a much higher rate than the general student population, so those tuition payments are even more expensive. Consider that the estimated room/board/tuition cost for an out-of-state student is about $35,276 a year, while in-state students pay just $18,878.

My guess is that over the next few years we'll see that ratio swing back closer to the general student population's averages. In fact, we're already seeing such a move with the football team. According to, MSU has 12 verbal commits in its 2010 recruiting class, and eight of them are from Michigan.

Using those tuition estimates, MSU's football program is poised to save more than $520,000 over the next four years just from those eight kids not being out-of-state students. That's not chump change, and if Mark Dantonio can find a way to recruit mostly in-state and still win consistently on the national stage, this could be the money-saving wave of the future.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How the State Budget Crisis Could Affect MSU: Part Two

Monday we looked at how the state's budget crisis could directly affect MSU athletics. Today we turn our attention to the university as a whole.

The item on the most chopping blocks is also the one that would impact MSU the most - the $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarships that are given to most in-state high school students who attend a state university for at least two years.

Simply put, it would be hard for many people who have been counting on that cash to make their Spring tuition to pull it out of their backsides if it's taken away now. Perhaps student loans, or parent loans are an option for some, but there are many who are maxed out on Stafford loans and can't qualify for private loans. And given the dive home values, forget about getting a home equity loan.

Another sticking point is paying for the new State Police headquarters, currently nearing completion in downtown Lansing. The deal was headed up by MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson, a developer who also headed up construction of the Anderson House Office Building. The State Police are renting their current space off Harrison Road on campus for $1 a year, though that building needs repairs, the projected costs and relative value of which are a source of amazingly heated debate.

Rent on the new building is estimated at about $4 million a year, and neither the House nor Senate are eager to provide that amount of cash. In fact, several legislators have said they flat-out won't provide it.

If the State Police stay, nothing really changes. If they go, MSU gets a massive building located on prime parking space near the Breslin Center. There's no formal plan on what to do with that space, but the best guess is that it will become parking in some form, either as a flat lot or garage.

MSU will likely be spared significant mid-year appropriations cuts because of federal stimulus rules that say if universities are cut too much the state will have to give back some of its stimulus money.

Coming Wednesday: Decisions made to resolve Michigan's budget crisis this year could have far reaching effects that reach far beyond the current fiscal year. And if you think this year is bad, next year promises to be far, far worse. We'll look at what the next year has in store, as well as how the persistent budget deficits will hit the university in the years to come.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Your Team Sucked, Here's Your Money Back

Ever been to a game that was so terrible you wish you could just get your money back? I can think of a few: The 2003 loss to Louisiana Tech was brutal. That come-from-ahead loss against Notre Dame in 2006. Central Michigan a week ago.

Well, the Oregon-Boise State game a few weeks ago was just such a game for Tony Seminary, a 1996 Oregon grad who e-mailed Coach Chip Kelly and asked for his money back - not just for the tickets but for the entire cost of his trip to Boise - some $439 in all.

And guess what? Kelly cut him a check. Seminary didn't cash the check, but wow, what a display from the coach.

Perhaps I should invoice Bobby Williams...

How the State Budget Crisis Could Affect MSU: Part One

Facing a massive budgetary shortfall, state lawmakers are looking to cut roughly $1.2 billion out of about $9 billion general fund budget, and almost nothing is safe.

Mid-year cuts to schools, shuttering prisons, scaling back even further on road repairs, everything is on the table. However, none of those cuts are likely to directly threaten MSU sports in any significant way.

How's that, you ask? Simple. MSU athletics isn't funded, in whole or in part, by tax dollars from the state of Michigan.

MSU requires its athletics department be fully self-sufficient, meaning that its revenues are solely drawn from things like ticket, concessions and merchandise sales. It also makes money from sponsorships and Big Ten revenue sharing. Profits made by the athletics department stay within the department and aren't filched by the university for educational purposes.

The reason for that rule is simple. You never want athletics to "compete" with, say, the College of Education for money. However it comes in extra handy during times like these, when one wants to protect the sports (and things like Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio's multi-million dollar contracts) from state funding cuts.

Now, there is obviously some overlap. Big-time donors to academic pursuits often get sports tickets or facility tours as a "thank you" for their generosity, for example. But should the state cut, say, $30 million from MSU's budget mid-year, you won't really see the impact on the football field.

If no budget is passed by October 1, state government in Michigan will shut down for the second time in three years, and that could potentially impact football Saturdays in a small way. In a government shutdown, essential services performed by the State Police would remain in operation, however it's unlikely that directing traffic for MSU football for the Oct. 3 game against Michigan would be seen as "essential" under that mission. It would be an inconvenience for MSU to replace those officers, sure, but the university doesn't rely that heavily on the State Police and could likely pick up the slack by bringing in more officers from other municipalities.

Coming Tuesday: While the budget mess won't affect MSU sports directly, it is likely to impact the rest of the university quite severely. We'll take a look at what cuts are on the table, and what the fallout might be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gameday Forecast: MSU @ Notre Dame

If you're traveling down to Spartan Stadium South for today's game, bring along a sweatshirt for tailgating, but leave it in the car and take some extra sunscreen and water for the game. The sun is already up over South Bend, with tailgating temperatures rising to the 60's quickly.

By game time, the temperature will be mid 70's with sunny skies. There will be a light wind, but nothing that Swenson needs to worry about.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, September 18, 2009

What We're Playing For: The Megaphone

We're putting off Final Four Friday for a week to examine the thing MSU and Notre Dame are playing for Saturday: The Megaphone.

The Megaphone trophy is a college football institution, begun in 1949 and handed out annually to the game's winner. The trophy is jointly sponsored by the Detroit alumni club of MSU and Notre Dame. Half of it is blue, half is green, and it sits on a base so you can't actually talk through the thing.

Unlike the three other trophies MSU plays for, however, they're not actually going to be presenting the original Megaphone on the field.

Instead, the trophy MSU's 2008 team is holding aloft in the picture at left is the third such megaphone. Each score is printed on the trophy and they've run out of room twice, hence the three trophies. However, the schools do take possession of all three trophies between games.

Notre Dame is one of four trophy games Michigan State plays (the others are Indiana, Michigan and Penn State). Notre Dame has five trophy games (USC, Purdue, Boston College and Stanford are the others).

The Irish have dominated the series with Michigan State, 44-27-1 since the Megaphone was introduced. The Irish won it in each of their first eight tries, and 15 of the first 17 times. However, MSU has owned the series of late, winning nine of the last 12 games (including the last six away contests).

Here's hoping those winning ways continue.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

U2 in Spartan Stadium

For over a week now, there have been rumors circulating that U2 will perform in Spartan Stadium on July 8th, 2010. The U2 blog has done a good job of researching this possibility, breaking down the evidence from the websites StubHub and Eventful. The date was after Spring Football ends, and well before the actual season, so it didn't bother or excite me much. But then one thought crept into my mind.

"What about the football field?"

A concert can do major damage to grass. It doesn't have to do damage, and doesn't always do damage, but it can. There are so many factors involved with an outdoor concert that even with all precautions to prevent damage, the risk cannot be reduced to zero. If you are having a hard time following me, just think about driving a semi truck through a field after a big rain storm.

If you're still not with me, look at the Chicago Bears. Two concerts in Solider Field last weekend did so much damage, the entire field needed to be re-sodded before this weekends home opener. The band that did the damage? U2.

I tried to remember the last major non-football events in Spartan Stadium, and how they affected the field. The Rolling Stones performed there once, way back in 1994. The Cold War hockey game in 2001 certainly could have torn up a field like a concert. But neither of those damaged the field at all, because natural grass wasn't introduced until 2002.

Now I began to get worried, because while I am a big music fan (my friends know that my dream was to someday see Michael Jackson perform in Spartan Stadium), I am a football fan first, and would never want to compromise the field turf for a concert.

That was when the thought of removing the grass for a concert crossed my mind. After all, the field in Spartan Stadium is not just some basic grass field. According to Sports Illustrated back in 2002, the field is made up of 4,800 grass modules.

"The major benefits of a modular field include rapid drainage, air exchange and forced heating capabilities. If a section of the field gets damaged, the individual modules can be replaced in a few hours, The Detroit News reported.

When each of the sections are locked in place, Michigan State will have its first grass football playing surface since 1968, according to the Lansing State Journal. About 1,200 replacement modules will be ready at all times."
Not only does this suggest that the field modules could be replaced if damaged, but intuitively would suggest that they could be removed to prevent damage. These were the questions I put to MSU athletics this week.

According to Greg Ianni, MSU Senior Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Sports Management,
"While initially designed for potential removal, the field modules in Spartan Stadium would not be removed for a concert. Should a concert be held in the stadium, we would protect the field as best we can and evaluate after move out, if the field can be saved. If it is beyond repair, we would have it replaced, at a cost of around $200,000."
So there you have it. If U2 does come, they may end up damaging the field. I have to assume that any agreement MSU would make to have this concert would have the potential costs of field replacement being covered by concert promoters and insurance as opposed to simply risk taking that big of a hit on the facilities budget. But is it worth the risk?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Destination: South Bend

I wanted to write something about things to do in South Bend, but there's just one problem. Each of the three games I've been to there I've never strayed off campus. Don't get me wrong, the campus is gorgeous, but there's got to be more to South Bend, right?

So to give our readers a real feel for the place, I turned to my friend Ed Ronco, a former State News editor-in-chief who was until recently a reporter for the South Bend Tribune. I asked Ed to give me an idea of a few things people shouldn't miss in South Bend.

He kindly obliged and what follows is a local's guide to the best spots in South Bend. Enjoy!


IRISH/AMERICAN: Fiddler's Hearth, 127 N. Main St.: An Irish pub big on authentic atmosphere (everything on the wall has a reason for being there, for example; not just a decoration from "corporate") and very comfortable. Lots of beers on tap, food late, and all ages welcome at all hours. Live (generally acoustic) music every night. My favorite place in town.

ASIAN: Cambodia Thai, 229 S. Michigan St.: If you didn't know where it is already, you'd never find it, but it has the best Thai food in town. Small; could be hard to get a table, but robust and tasty -- the way Thai food would be if you picked it up from a street vendor. Siam Thai, 211 N. Michigan St., also has good food, but in a more delicate preparation and a fancier atmosphere. Thai food for a less adventurous palate, I think. Mandarin House, 2104 Edison Road, near campus (and five doors down from my old house): Traditional Chinese food in a white-tablecloth atmosphere. Reasonable prices. Walkable from campus.

PIZZA: Barnaby's Pizza, 713 E. Jefferson St.: Just across the river from downtown. GREAT pizza in a dark, cavernous Bavarian-style beerhaus. Family friendly. And seriously, the pizza is crazy good.

WHOLE FAMILY: The Emporium, 121 S. Niles Ave.: Standard fare, right on the St. Joseph River. Nice atmosphere, great view of downtown's "skyline," if you could call it that. Salads, burgers, steak, etc.

BEST KEPT SECRET: Chicago Taqueria, 2920 W. Western Ave.: Authentic, DELICIOUS Mexican food on the city's West Side. Breakfast all day, including huevos con chorizo, my favorite. The tacos al pastor are great as well.

FINE DINING: The Vine, 103 W. Colfax Ave.: AMAZING food and a lovely atmosphere. Reasonable prices for a fine dining establishment. LaSalle Grille, 115 W. Colfax Ave.: The most upscale restaurant in town. Go upstairs to its "Club LaSalle" bar for some classy music in a classy environment.

OTHER: Trio's Jazz Club, 129 N. Michigan St.: The jazz is great, the food is incredible, and the bar is a lot of fun, too. Great listening without the music being too loud to have a conversation. And if you can't get there for dinner, check out the Sunday brunch. One of South Bend's newest places, it's really taken off, and deserves to.

Bars and Hangout Spots

Simeri's Old Town Tap, 1505 W. Indiana Ave.: Simeri's Old Town Tap doesn't look like much from the outside, or from the inside, for that matter -- your run of the mill neighborhood bar. But take a few more steps out the side door just beyond the bar, and you end up in a huge courtyard/performance space. Simeri's bought the house next door, and installed a garage door in the side of it, then put up a stage outside the door. It's one-of-a-kind, and well-hidden from outsiders. 21+, but a varied crowd.

Corby's Irish Pub, 441 E. LaSalle Ave.: College bar. Depending on the time of day, it's either empty or jam-packed full. Thumping tunes, lots of dancing. More room to stand than sit. Pitchers o' beer. Pool tables and darts, too. You know the kind of place.

Club Noma, 119 N. Michigan St.: Put on the good shoes and iron the collar for this uberstylish "go clubbing" kind of place. Pricey.

Madison Oyster Bar, 129 N. Main St.: After Fiddler's Hearth closes at a relatively early 1 a.m., many people migrate here to keep the party going. This is more bar than restaurant, although you can get food late.

Things to Do

South Bend Civic Theatre, 403 N. Main St.: Catch a play here Friday nights, after an early game, or Sunday afternoon. With 15 shows a year, something's always playing. One of the country's best community theatres with numerous awards to its name, including a production named second place in the country this year. Beautiful old Scottish Rite temple converted to two performance spaces: a 200-seat traditional stage upstairs and a 90 seat black-box theatre downstairs. Some shows sell out quickly. Info at;

Potawatomi Zoo. For directions/info,;

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Touch of Class From Ann Arbor

There's an old and sacred rule in sports media: No cheering in the press box.

According to the New York Times, the violation of that rule wasn't just a freak occurrence, but it was actually encouraged in the press box at Michigan Stadium as their PA guy announced the final score from the MSU - Central game, at which point a huge roar went up from the assembled media.

The PA guy's quote: “Cheering is not allowed in the press box, but it is right now.”

The first draft of this post had me going off on those journalists' credibility, decrying the cheering lot of them as unprofessional hacks. That seemed a bit, um, direct, so let me instead remind all the Michigan reporters at that game that a large part of their beat this year is chasing the fallout from a single report that saw each of them got their journalistic backsides handed to them by the Detroit Free Press. Hope that's going well for ya.

As for the Notre Dame writers, well, I'm actually disappointed. I've never had a bad experience in covering 3 MSU games at Notre Dame Stadium. Everyone I met, from the staff to the writers, were professionals who truly seemed to take pride in what they did. They all understood what it meant to cover Notre Dame football, Touchdown Jesus, Wake up the Echoes, all of it. Epitome of class, every one of them.

That's why this was really out of character. Rubbing salt in an opponent's wounds just isn't the Notre Dame way.

I don't expect to hear of much cheering in the press box this weekend. Either A) the Notre Dame media will have learned their lesson, or B) their team will have lost. And given that MSU is on a six-game winning streak in South Bend, I like the odds of option B.

Update: Just saw Joe Rexrode's post on this subject, where he points out that not everyone in the press box is working media. That's true, but I'd make the following three points:
  1. The no cheer rule is still always explicitly stated before (and usually during) the game.
  2. The overwhelming majority of people in the press box are working press or athletic department staff. Usually about 90 percent or so.
  3. "Waiving" that rule, even if you're trying to be funny, is tacky at best and classless at worst.
I should mention, by the way, that the next time folks head into the Spartan Stadium press box to cover a game it will be against the Wolverines.

Sparty's Humiliation

My fears have come true, as the lack of a true Victory Burrito in Spartan Stadium is the only possible reason I can imagine for this weekend's unfortunate events. We'll leave the rest of the game discussion to other blogs...

But, to add insult to injury this weekend, there was an unfortunate incident involving Sparty.

During the game, Sparty was "engaged" with Central's mascot, as often happens when an opposing mascot is in Spartan Stadium. During this engagement, Sparty's head was unfortunately... removed from his body. In other words, it sort of fell off.

While this is incredibly traumatic for me, I cannot even begin to imagine the nightmares children had on Saturday night. I know that images of Dan LeFevour throwing touchdowns and then wearing the head during his "EA Sports NCAA '09 style celebration dance" were running through my head all night...

Joking aside, this has got to be disappointing for the Student Alumni Foundation, the Sparty Escorts, and Sparty himself. They all go to great lengths to keep Sparty's identity a secret until graduation, and for a Sparty to be "outed" in this way is sad.

Image courtesy of the Student Alumni Foundation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gameday Forecast: Central Michigan

If you're in East Lansing for today's game, you'd better send a little thank you note skyward because you're never going to see a more pristine day in your life.

The weather at kickoff is forecast to be 70 degrees and sunny, rising to 74 throughout the game with winds less than five miles per hour all game.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, September 11, 2009

MSU to Mark 9/11 Anniversary Before Kickoff

Michigan State will pause to remember the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 a few minutes before kickoff Saturday.

The tribute will come via a public address announcement before the national anthem, Athletic Department Spokesman John Lewandowski said. Unlike in some years past, however, there are no plans for to unfurl huge flag, have a military flyover, or pause for a moment of silence.

It would be a huge mistake to forget to take note of one of the worst terrorist attacks in history at the football game nearest 9/11. And while I am personally a big fan of huge patriotic displays – flyovers especially – a simple pause to reflect can be a beautiful and poignant thing too.

We should always be mindful of the folks who have risked their lives in the service of this nation so that fans like you and I can watch football on a Saturday afternoon. We should always remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and the families they left behind.

Thank you all.

Final Four Friday: Favorite Tailgate Location

This Saturday will mark the second home game for MSU football this season, and while there was an unusually large crowd last week for Montana State, this weekend will be the first sellout crowd of the year. With that large number of people comes the tradition of tailgating, and so we thought we would talk about some of our favorite spots. Right away, Derek and I disagreed over which spots would make the Final Four, and so I know that this choice is highly personal. We also had a long discussion over the boundaries of the locations. For instance, would "Around Spartan Stadium" be a location? Or would it be several, with "North Stadium Lot" and "South Stadium Lot" each deserving their own nomination because of their drastically different cultures?

Finally, we settled the arguments by me picking my Final Four and letting Derek have his say in the comments, and by dividing the areas around the Stadium into multiple spots. I've left off some major and traditional locations from the Final Four, such as Munn Field, South Stadium lot, the Library and Commuter Lot, but for what I believe are good reasons such as "you have to be somewhat close (sorry Commuter Lot)" and "you have to allow alcohol (sorry Munn Field)." So on to the choices...

North Stadium Lot

This is a smaller lot located in the shadow north of Spartan Stadium. If you don't have money to donate, you had better hope you know someone who does, or don't even consider trying to set up here. The regulars in this area are here every game, and each week has sort of a family reunion feel as it is often the same groups, year after year. Some benefits of setting up here besides that five minute stroll to your seat? The Alumni Association tailgate tent is nearby, along with the stage that traditionally hosted the Geriatric Six Plus One (and lately has held the radio pregame show or other music, if anything). The Spartan Marching Band comes by before and after each game playing "The Series" and you also get to witness the players walk to the stadium from Kellogg before the game.

Walter Adams Field

If you like the Spartan Marching Band, then this is the location for you! Tailgating is very limited as most of the field is utilized for band warmup and the pregame show. Best spots ring the outside of the field along West Circle Drive on the north and south. Regulars show up early and every week, but they mix with the Band Fans and Band Parents, who only show for the few years their child is performing. As the time gets closer to 10:30 (on days with a noon kick), the population explodes and your tailgate is treated to the best concert possible: One blasting the MSU Fight Song! One downer: The party dies when the band leaves about 50 minutes to kickoff, as all the parents follow their kids over to the stadium.

Lot 7 & Field bounded by Old Horticulture, Student Services, and Natural Science

This lot remained relatively unknown to me until recent years, but is actually a great spot. Relatively cheap to park (and no season pass required), it is filled with young alumni and families. Plenty of students walk through, but it is mostly just fun gatherings with hot dogs and beer. With no crazy distractions like a band hogging the open space, you are free to toss the football around, but watch out for the five year old running around your feet! It's low key, good ol' boy tailgating here.

Tennis Courts

If you like to drink, look no further. This is where the party is at, every week! It's true that the official student tailgating spot has mellowed some from recent years, but it is still the biggest and best location for students to gather and go crazy. While the drinking games were banned a few years back, ASMSU has done a good job of making sure that this area is student oriented, with loud music and food options. Parking is students only, but that doesn't stop their 50 closest friends from showing up with drinks to pass. Looking to have some Facebook photos posted that will keep you from getting that dream job? This is your place!

And the winner is... Lot 7

This is where my friends have been setting up since graduation, and it has really grown on me. There is enough space to toss around the football, just the right balance of drunk students (less then 10 at any given time within ear shot is perfect, sorry Tennis Courts), a short walk to the stadium and it doesn't require me to donate anything to park there. Getting out after the game is quick enough (sorry North Stadium Lot), and the party here can go right up to kickoff (sorry Walter Adams Field).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Assault on Chanted Vulgarity

Editor's Note: Just like the stands at Spartan Stadium, the following post contains language not fit for everyone's ears. This post is about (and liberally references) such language, so consider yourself warned.


A few years after trying (unsuccessfully) to take the "bitch" out of the Spartan Stadium student section's first down chant, MSU officials are trying once again to remove a swear word from a cheer.

This time they're tackling a more vulgar word in a much more drastic - and effective - manner, by completely eliminating the Spartan Marching Band's song that prompts it.

According to a State News report, the so-called "Hockey Cheer" usually played at third downs that ends "bahm bahm bahm, Let's Go State!" has been axed. The problem, of course, is that the "bahm bahm bahm" bit was usually replaced by something on the order of "Fuck U-M!", even if MSU wasn't playing Michigan.

The song was removed by an order from the highest levels - both Athletic Director Mark Hollis and SMB Director John T. Madden agreed it should go. Hollis left the door open for a possible return, however, by saying the song would "rest for a while."

Long-time fans will remember a similar campaign by the band in the 2005, when the first down chant was supposed to be amended to something on the order of "1, 2, 3, First Down, Spartans!" or "... First Down Yeah!". It didn't work.

Here's the thing with stadium chants. They need to be loud and annoying and they really need to get into the heads of the visiting team. The "Little Sister" chant, for example, is great because it's usually done at great volume and it annoys the crap out of Michigan players and fans. Love it.

I also get the idea that one doesn't want the kids at Spartan Stadium to be barraged with F-bombs. But surely there's room for a little common sense here.

Football is by definition a PG-13 sport. For one, it's incredibly violent. Remember when Tyrell Dortch, in 2001, snapped his leg so loud in a game against Wisconsin that you could hear the crack in the upper deck of Camp Randall Stadium? Dortch was lucky, he came back to play again. However, throughout football history many men have been carried off the field of play with far worse injuries, some have been paralyzed - some have even died on the pitch. You know you take the risk of your seven-year-old having that image burned in their brain forever when you bring him or her to the game.

For two, it's generally accepted at a major college football game that, if the ref blows a call and costs your team a touchdown, the entire student section will unite in pitch-perfect harmony to call that gentleman an asshole. That's their right, they bought a ticket. In addition, creative insults toward opposing players and coaches are not just OK, they're encouraged.

For three, even the worst the chants at Spartan Stadium seem fit for children's television when compared with some of the bile that comes from "ultras"-style supporters sections like, say, the Barra Brava at D.C. United soccer games. Among the Barra's classics are: "If I had the wings of an eagle, if I had the ass of a crow, I'd fly over (insert city here) tomorrow, and shit on those bastards below...", and a Spanish cheer that loosely translates to "Anyone who's not jumping up and down right now is an asshole."

You don't get that at MSU football games, and that's probably for the best. MSU does have a point. There is a line. One doesn't need to be screaming F-bombs on a university campus, especially given that football is supposed to be a family affair. One definitely doesn't need to bring up an opposing player's mother, sister or other assorted female family member in said cheers. There is, to be sure, a question of class.

Given that, I think MSU is right to phase out cheers that seem to have attracted F-bombs or similar words. As for lighter, yet still offensive phrases, if fans generally decide that swearing is a bad thing then they'll end it on their own through peer pressure.

But it would be a mistake to step much further into the realm of what people can and cannot say at a football game. After all, if the ref is indeed being an asshole, you should be able to call him that. Loudly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We Need Your Help!

Looking again at the food offerings at Spartan Stadium, we at TOSSS need your help. We've lamented over the last few months about the loss of Pancheros, and a commenter brought up the fact that the Coney Island is also gone. The new Maria's Tacos got poor reviews, so now what?

We're looking for great food at Spartan Stadium for an upcoming Final Four Friday, and we would love to hear your thoughts ahead of time. We need the stand and it's location, and your favorite item from that stand. Tell us why it's good, the price, etc. We'll narrow it down to the top four and then feature those one of these Fridays.

Please leave your thoughts here in the comments or email us at

A Lesson in How Not to Schedule Road Construction

Today's lesson in not checking one's calendar before scheduling road construction is provided by the fine folks at the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Here's the story. Interstate 496 needs concrete resurfacing work. No surprise there. It's about five days of work, and it needs to get done before the weather turns too cold for the pavement to fully stick. The work doesn't beget anything else, meaning that this project is independent from any other project - it can basically get done whenever it's most convenient for MDOT to do it.

So, after what I'm sure was a careful consultation with its calendar, the non-sports fans at MDOT decided to close lanes on Lansing's central artery between Waverly Road and Cedar Street this weekend (Thursday through Monday), cutting off the prime driving route from Grand Rapids and West Michigan to Spartan Stadium this weekend, including before, during and after the Central Michigan game.

The odd thing about this is that MDOT could have just as easily picked next weekend or the week after, when Michigan State plays at Notre Dame and at Wisconsin, respectively, and the construction wouldn't disrupt game day traffic.

It's not just a little traffic either, MSU officials estimate that home football games bring in an extra 100,000 people to the East Lansing area, including spectators and folks who just want to tailgate and hang out.

It stands to reason that if one is trying to avoid inconveniencing drivers, one would want to do construction without those extra 100,000 people on the roads. And given how far in advance MSU publishes its football schedule, it wouldn't kill the good folks at MDOT to log onto a computer and check it once in a while so they could avoid just that situation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Scouting Report: Central Michigan

As we do every week, The Other Side of Spartan Sports takes a closer look at MSU's upcoming football opponent. This week's school in focus is Central Michigan.

Central Michigan University

Location: Mount Pleasant, Mich. Officially, the city is chartered as Mount Pleasant, though it uses the name Mt. Pleasant interchangeably (such as on its own website). Google Maps lists the distance between MSU and Mount Pleasant as 68.9 miles, the shortest distance any opponent will have to travel to get to Spartan Stadium. Google Maps also says it takes 1 hour 16 minutes, though I bet most folks reading this who have done the drive have done it quicker. My best time is about 50 minutes.

Founded: 1892. It was originally known as the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute.

Enrollment: Its 2008 enrollment was 20,246 at the Mount Pleasant location, with an additional 7,108 taking online classes or at a separate location.

Academics: U.S. News and World Report ranked the school as a Tier 4 national university in 2009, similar to many so-called directional and site-specific state schools like Southern Mississippi, Alaska-Fairbanks, UNC-Charlotte and Wayne State.

Like many regional Michigan schools, it carries a few outstanding programs - it's the only school in the state where one can major specifically in meteorology or public relations.

Tuition: CMU cost $10,048 in 2008, definitely on the cheaper end for Michigan universities.

Nickname: Central has been known by several names during its history, including the Normalites, Dragons, Wildcats, Bearcats and now, Chippewas. Though the name has been in use since 1941, it has faced significant opposition throughout its history.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission in the late 1980s recommended the university drop the Chippewa moniker completely. The university declined, though CMU did change its logos from Indian imagery to a block C in 1989 out of sensitivity. It adopted the motion C in 1996, and that logo remains in use today.

In 2005 the NCAA required member schools with Indian-themed nicknames like Central to either change their nicknames or get formal approval by the local tribes to keep using it. They received that support from the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Council.

Notable Alumni: Central has produced several famous faces, including actor Jeff Daniels, sports broadcaster Dick Enberg, journalist and Marley and Me author John Grogan and former pro wrestler George "The Animal" Steele.

Fun Facts: The biggest tourist attraction in the Mount Pleasant area isn't the university, it's Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort. The biggest metro area that contributes said tourists, outside the locals of course, is Lansing/East Lansing.

Central has not one but two fight songs, The Fighting Chippewas and Hail (to the) Chippewa!. The first one is a bold declaration of inevitable victory, with lyrics including "Fight! Fellows never yield" and "Central is going to win this game!" The second is somewhat more equipped for a parent to use for their kids at a youth league soccer match - it ends with the rousing lyric: "Win or lose we're proud of you!"

Monday, September 7, 2009

A New Victory Burrito?

Along with the opening of Spartan Stadium for the year came the opening of it's new concessions, and TOSSS asked frequent reader Tom Edwards to try out a burrito from Maria's Tacos. We're looking for a contender for the "Victory Burrito", a pretty high standard currently held by Pancheros. Here are his thoughts:

It was a beautiful day for football at Spartan Stadium. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the Spartans were up 28 points at halftime. So it was time to try out the new Mexican option at the stadium. First off, the option resides behind the south endzone, so I had to make the long journey from section six. This takes a while during the halftime rush. When I reached the stand I saw that I could immediately place my order. I should have taken this as a bad sign as everywhere else had long lines. However I took my beef burrito and drink and booked back to my seat only to emerge into the stands right as kick off occurred.

I sit down ready to enjoy my meal and the rest of the game. I then opened up the foil wrapping and was confronted with a yellow mass of food. It was not a trick of the bright sunlight overheard, nor was it even a yellow corn tortilla, it was a burrito positively bathing in grease. To add insult to injury, the burrito was obviously not loaded evenly consisting of a very skinny end and a very fat end. This forced me to take several bites of tortilla before even getting to the main part of the burrito. When I actually I found that the burrito consisted of five ingredients: a flour tortilla, ground beef, shredded taco cheese, red beans that appeared to have disintegrated to a paste, and copious amounts of grease. Before I comment further it is useful to look at the origins of Maria's Tacos. Going to the Maria's Tacos website yielded this interesting paragraph on its founding:

"In 1997 on the campus of Michigan State University, two friends Ruben De Los Rios and James Espinoza, began selling burritos every Sunday to the poor and hungry students of Rather Hall Dormitory. What began as a hobby and service to fellow students soon turned into an expanding business as customers lined up in Rather hall, establishing Maria's Tacos. When Michigan State University student organizations caught word of Maria's Tacos, the duo began catering for ethnic events and the operation was then in full swing!"

Yes, it was founded in a dorm room in the Brody Complex, and it tastes like it too. The cheese is of low quality, the beef is of low quality and obviously the only seasoning used are those packets of taco mix that you buy at the store. So basically this was a meal that could have been cooked up in any dorm room on a hot plate. The only difference is that I know that in the directions of those little packets of taco mix they instruct you to drain the grease before serving the meat.

Zero out of five stars

So, it looks like the search for a Victory Burrito in Spartan Stadium may be continuing. Our suggestion for now may be to visit Pancheros on Grand River before the game, and bring a burrito with you over to the game. Perhaps though, Maria's Tacos suffered some first game jitters, and they will be putting out a better product in future weeks.

If you are still brave enough for a try next weekend, Mr. Edwards took note of some options:

  • Beef or Chicken Taco - $2.50
  • Meal Deal of 3 Tacos - $6.00
  • Beef or Chicken Burrito Grande - $5.00
  • Beef or Chicken Taco Salad - $6.00

If you try one of these out next weekend, or already have, please let us know what you think!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Michigan State is the Real State University of Michigan

Michigan State University knows what it means to live up to its title as the state university of Michigan. Never has that been more clear than the past few weeks.

The most recent example was classic in its simplicity and effectiveness. This year, MSU added a "silver lining" decal - literally a silver-colored outline of the state of Michigan - to the back of its football helmets.

The move was suggested by Coach Mark Dantonio as a way to show solidarity with a state that is ailing economically. The idea started with MSU trying to support the auto industry, but evolved into what you see in the picture (at left).

It was a nice gesture, sure, but it would be just a symbol unless MSU backed it up with actions.

Like, for example, how MSU officials waived General Motors' sponsorship fees for the 2009/10 season and allowed the ailing automaker to sponsor the Spartans for free.

"GM has been a tremendous partner over the years and has provided millions of dollars in sponsorship revenue that helped to support MSU's 750-plus student-athletes, who annually participate in 25 intercollegiate sports," Athletic Director Mark Hollis said in a statement. "We wanted to show our appreciation and loyalty by assisting GM through this critical juncture."

The move is a similar gesture to one made earlier this year by the Detroit Tigers, which waived its fees for GM, Ford and Chrysler to sponsor the center field fountains at Comerica Park through the 2009 season.

But perhaps the biggest recent gift to the state of Michigan was when MSU signed a deal to play a total of 12 games over the next ten years against Central, Western and Eastern Michigan. The move will save all four universities a ton of money in travel fees and keep all monies from those early-season games in the state of Michigan. The deal represents millions of dollars to Michigan hotels, restaurants, gas stations, retail stores selling fan gear, etc.

And let's not forget how MSU's basketball team embraced the city of Detroit - while Detroit embraced Tom Izzo's boys right back - on their magical run to the national championship game.

Now, Michigan fans might find the title of this post a bit inflammatory. I don't think so, and I'll tell you why not.

The University of Michigan hasn't made any similar gestures. They certainly haven't given any ailing Michigan company a free sponsorship package. And given the chance, Michigan decided they didn't want any part of the Celebrate the State football series with the Directional Michigan schools. That's their decision, of course, just as it's their call as to how to run their own athletic department.

Michigan State, however, has taken the lead in standing up for the state of Michigan, which has had more than its fair share of problems of late. That's what a state university should do, and that's why MSU is the real state university of Michigan.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gameday: One Sad Thing

It's Gameday in East Lansing, and the tailgating has already started. The weather is good, the band will be out soon, and it's almost time to start another season of Spartan Football. But unlike other first games the Spartans have had in the past, there is one sad thing about today. No matter what the Spartans do on the field, they lose a recruiting talking point when that ball is kicked off at noon.

That's because since the NCAA created the two separate divisions for football, MSU has never played a team from the lower division. MSU is currently one of only a handful of schools to be able to say that, and even if we pound Montana St. by 50 points, we will not be able to brag about that stat tonight. It's gone forever.

Gameday Forecast: MSU-Montana State

The sun will rise just six minutes after tailgating lots open today, the dawn of a new season of Spartan football.

Today's game at Spartan Stadium is scheduled to kick off under sunny skies with very light winds. The game time temperature is forecast at 73 degrees for kickoff, edging upward to 76 degrees by 3 p.m.

It's a beautiful day for football!

Friday, September 4, 2009

TOSSS on the Radio: 5:30 p.m. on 1320 WILS (Lansing)

Attention all TOSSS fans in the East Lansing area: I'll be on the radio with Jack Ebling to preview the upcoming football season as only The Other Side of Spartan Sports can.

Ebling, as long-time MSU fans will know, was the former Spartan beat writer for the Lansing State Journal. He's now the afternoon drive voice of WILS, where he hosts the Ebling and You show.

Our segment starts at 5:30 p.m. on 1320 AM WILS.

Final Four Friday: Voice of the Spartans

Saturday marks a return to the broadcast booth for George Blaha, the legendary voice of MSU football. And while Blaha - also the voice of the Pistons - is an icon at Michigan State, he's not the only great broadcaster MSU has.

With that, today's edition of Final Four Friday takes a look at the play-by-play announcers who bring you each game.

George Blaha - Football

To many, Blaha is MSU sports, and for good reason. This will be his 32nd season calling MSU football, longer than either of this site's authors have been alive. Everything from T.J. Duckett's game-winning catch against Michigan in 2001 to Charles Rogers' miracle one-handed grab against Notre Dame has been punctuated with Blaha's "Touchdown, MSU!" call. The man is a legend.

Will Tieman - Men's Basketball

Tieman doesn't always get his due among most Spartan fans, I think mainly because he's such a different broadcaster. He's far more even-keel than other play-by-play guys, though I think that's a bonus when calling games at the raucous Breslin Center. Tieman is descriptive and never gets lost on a complex call - no easy feat considering how fast MSU has sprinted up the court in recent years. He always rises to the occasion in big moments - and his grace in calling the national championship defeat earlier this year was a real high point.

Scott Moore - Hockey

There are many games I think I could step in and hack out a broadcast in. Hockey ain't one of them. There are just so many substitutions on the fly, jerseys with confusing and conflicting color schemes and bad angles in worse podunk college hockey press boxes from which to watch a tiny puck squirt about. You won't miss anything with Moore calling the game though, he's a student of the game who never gets lost. And his calls during the 2007 national championship game made you feel like you were there in St. Louis while MSU stormed from behind to beat Boston College and win it all.

John Kreger - Volleyball

He's the only one broadcasting online, and budget cuts cut his coverage in half. But the way Kreger has handled it so far is pure class - and that gets major points in our book. He's damn good too, and has an award from the American Volleyball Coaches Association as the best volleyball broadcaster in America to prove it. We've called Kreger the most underrated broadcaster in the state of Michigan before, and we stand by that call today - though if he keeps winning those awards the word "underrated" may have to be changed to simply "the best."

And the winner is... Blaha.

Tieman, Moore and Kreger are all great, but Blaha is the undisputed king of broadcasting at MSU. For 32 years he's been the voice of the Spartans, and we can only hope he'll keep going for many years to come.

Budget Cuts End Volleyball Away Game Broadcasts

Today in Cleveland the Michigan State volleyball team will take the court against Syracuse for the first game of the Cleveland State University Invitational. The volleyball team is looking to expand on a perfect 3-0 start in a tournament filled with teams MSU should handle easily.

But it will be a sad day for many Spartan fans who, for the first time since 2002, won't be able to hear the voice of the Spartans (and reigning volleyball broadcaster of the year), John Kreger, call a road game.

Budget cuts have forced the elimination of all road broadcast coverage, MSU officials confirmed in an e-mail to TOSSS.

"A combination of the cost to send John Kreger on the road plus the number of listeners we had per road contest, led us to make the decision to only broadcast home contests," said Jim Donatelli, assistant athletic communications director. "As an athletic department, we have been under the directive to cut back our budgets in all areas. Due to these budgetary issues, combined with the number of listeners, it was deemed an area where we could cut back."

Olympic sports are particularly vulnerable to impactful cuts for two big reasons. First, their budgets are smaller so cuts are easier to notice than similar sized budget reductions in larger sports. Second, MSU is unlikely to cut something that makes money and Olympic sports just don't make money.

I asked Kreger for comment on the situation and he said that while he was disappointed to not be on the road with the team, he understood that "times are tough and everyone has to make sacrifices" and that he was "honored to still be a part of the volleyball program."

Kreger praised athletics officials and Coach Cathy George for keeping home broadcasts given the pressures on budgets throughout the department. "It says a lot about Michigan State and its commitment to women's athletics that they were able to find the money to keep broadcasting home games given the tough economy," he said.

True enough, but this is a sad day for all Spartan volleyball fans, and all those who continue to enjoy the game calls of the best broadcaster in all of college volleyball.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

MSU-Michigan Could Be a Night Game

Update: Joe Rexrode reports that this game has been finalized as a 3:30 p.m. kick. From an answer to a question in his LSJ chat today:
Joe Rexrode: Thank you for asking, BNS. to make this clear, the Michigan game is NOT a night game and will not be. It will be noon or 3:30. Night games for that weekend on the networks are already established.
Honestly, that's probably for the best. I love night games, but I stand by my analysis below that night games involving the University of Michigan are a bad idea given student safety concerns. Still, two night games this year is enough to be getting on with, surely.


Michigan State, for the first time in its history, could play a pair of home night games this season.

The Iowa game on October 24 has been confirmed as a 7 p.m. kick. That will allow for maximum TV exposure on either ESPN or ABC, one of which I'm pretty confident will pick up that game (likely ABC, if Iowa and MSU play as expected).

But in an interesting policy shift, MSU officials said there's a chance Michigan will be a night game too. The Lansing State Journal reported yesterday that it's a done deal, and that the game will kick at 8 p.m., though officials at MSU this morning told me that the start time has yet to be finalized and they "don't know where the LSJ got their information from."

Still, the fact that they're even discussing a night game against Michigan is a massive change of plans for a university that at one time considered banning night games altogether. Incidents of drunken debauchery and sexual assaults after previous night games led Ron Mason to all-but swear them off - backed to the hilt by the president's office.

In 2005, when I was on the East Lansing Riot Review Commission, we talked at length about "disturbances" and MSU football. The consensus was basically that it wasn't really an issue, though MSU and East Lansing police did say that their incident calls increased dramatically around night games.

The one thing that did worry us, again, not on the riot level but on a student safety level, was a night game against Michigan. People already pre-drink the Michigan game to a level not generally seen for other games, and being able to go until 8 p.m. would be a staggering amount of time for one to get one's buzz on.

I don't know if the LSJ's account is accurate - it wasn't written by Joe Rexrode, but it hasn't been corrected either - but if it is right, that will be one crazy night. I'm just hoping in a good way.

By the way, it's worth mentioning that MSU has an away night game scheduled as well. We'll be playing Minnesota at 8 p.m. on Halloween in their brand new TCF Bank Stadium.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pizza Pizza

Well, it's official! The Motor City Bowl is now the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. And unfortunately, they spurned all suggestions from TOSSS, removing all references to the Motor City and killing the brand identity that had been established for over ten years.

Funny thing is, this happened even though Ford remained a sponsor of the game! Tells us something about the power of the auto industry, huh?

It's possible however this is exactly what they wanted to do. While those of us with Michigan connections often look fondly on the Motor City Bowl, (I have been to almost every Motor City Bowl ever played) it was viewed as a much lower prestige game nationally, despite its Big Ten tie in. There could be many reasons for this, including that the Big Ten often doesn't actually send a team to this game, that Big Ten football has a lower national appeal recently, that the bowl payout isn't huge, and that it takes place in the City of Detroit, not exactly a "glamorous" city in the eyes of most Americans.

Will dumping all Motor City references help this? Well, probably not. But it may confuse people long enough that they buy their game tickets before they start their travel research...

Image courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Izzo + Corn Maze = Awesome

I don't know about you, but I love corn mazes. And were I anywhere near Romeo, I would probably blow a ton of money on this one.

Westview Orchards and Adventure Farm mowed Tom Izzo's face into their maze. Let that sink in a moment. Tom Izzo's face.

The corn maze opens Saturday, and costs $8 to go through. The proprietor, an obvious fan of puns, told WWJ that this was a chance for Spartan fans to "get into Coach Izzo's head."

Above his head is the honorary title: "Coach of the Ear. "

Love it.

Photo is courtesy: WWJ

Scouting The Other MSU

With just a few days before kickoff, we thought it would be prudent to take a peek at the other MSU - Michigan State's first FCS opponent since that sort of classification came into being.

Given the focus of this blog, however, we won't get into the nitty gritty details on Montana State's running backs or anything like that. We assume they have them, and that's about all on that point we care to get into. Instead, we figured we'd bring you a look at the university itself - your TOSSS scouting report on "the other MSU."

Montana State University

Location: Bozeman, Mont. It's a small town about two hours west of Billings, the state's largest city.

Founded: 1893

Enrollment: Montana State - Bozeman is the flagship campus of the four-campus Montana State University system. Its 2008 enrollment was 12,369, a record high.

Academics: U.S. News and World Report ranked the school as a Tier 3 national university in 2009, making it academically similar to a number of BCS schools including Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Kansas State or another MSU, Mississippi State.

Tuition: Montana State is relatively cheap for in-state students, with tuition at a hair under $6,000 a year. It's almost three times as much for out-of-state students at $17,650 a year.

Notable Alumni: Not too many names to tell you about here, in fact East Lansing High School probably has a more notable alumni roster. However, I found three Montana State alums you've probably heard of. Former Purdue football coach Joe Tiller, Arizona State football coach Dennis Erickson and former Daily Show host Craig Kilborn were all Bobcats at one point.

Fun Facts: There are a mountain of similarities between MSU and MSU - their identical initials being but one. Both schools started life as the "Aggies", before switching to their current mascots. Both schools at one point were called colleges, not universities, and carried the initials MSC.

Montana State, like Michigan State, asks its university community to read one book each summer. Both schools call it "One Book, One Community." And this year, both schools read the same book - The Soloist, by Los Angeles Times Columnist Steve Lopez.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

MSU vs. Montana State Coverage Map

The Big Ten Network has released its coverage map for this weekends games, and as one might expect, it's simply a mess. Several months ago, as the first weekend's slate of games had their start times announced, it was obvious that the Big Ten Network was not going to be able to please everyone. There were simply too many crappy games that were not going to be picked up by other channels, and therefore, Big Ten Network was going to have to carry them all.

As an MSU fan, my hope is that if MSU will be shown on the Big Ten Network, that we will have the channel to ourselves in our time slot. That way, MSU gets total national coverage. Every time there is another game on, the coverage is split up and we lose our national billing. And when there are five games on at the same time, and one of them involves Penn State, the show is over.

But, on the positive side, MSU is the only team besides Penn State to have their game shown as the primary game outside of the Big Ten area (and neighboring states). Granted it's only showing in Montana, but hey, better than nothing.

Don't fear though: While your cable provider may only carry one Big Ten Network, DirectTV and Dish Network, as well as some of the newer cable providers will show all of the Big Ten games. From the Big Ten:
Coverage map applies to cable systems only and indicates which game will be the primary game on the main Big Ten Network channel. Satellite providers DIRECTV and DISH Network will offer the primary game nationally and all other games on "extra football game" channels. In addition, subscribers to telco providers AT&T U-Verse and Verizon Fios should click on the map to see channel assignments.
Direct TV users can find the MSU game on channel 609. It does not appear that the game will be offered in HD.

Dish Network users can find the MSU game on channel 5440 or in HD on channel 9501.

AT&T U-Verse users can find the MSU game on channel 1691. It does not appear that the game will be offered in HD.

To check your specific zip code and cable provider, click here. Clicking on the actual map below won't work.

Image courtesy of

Scalpers: ND is MSU's Biggest Game

Sticking with our recent look at football ticket pricing, I came across something recently that those of you planning a trip to Spartan Stadium South - a.k.a. Notre Dame Stadium - may want to consider. And start saving for.

An analysis of ticket resale prices for Michigan State football games shows that, by a wide margin, the year's most anticipated game is MSU's road trip to Notre Dame, at an average cost of $340 a piece.

Remarkably enough, it's the first time in years that the most expensive college football ticket involving a Michigan school doesn't involve the Wolverines. MSU-Notre Dame easily beat out Ohio State-Michigan and the Spartans' priciest home game, Michigan at Michigan State.

In fact, the game against the Irish is the tenth most expensive regular season game in college football, period. Number one, at $574 per ticket, is preseason number one Florida at LSU. The Ohio State-Michigan game, played this year in Ann Arbor, comes in at 19th.

As for the home games, Michigan is easily the most expensive, followed a long way off by Penn State. Iowa is third, followed by Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Northwestern. All those games are projected sellouts. The Montana State game, as we reported yesterday, is the only one not expected to sell out.

These rankings, of course, may change throughout the season as teams win or lose and demand rises or falls. However, given the gulf in price between the Notre Dame game and anything else, my guess is that the Irish will remain atop this board all season.