Are these things connected?

Are these things connected?

April 25, 2011
Was Cullen Christian lonely?

Today at MGoBlog, Brian posted an e-mail from a former walk-on who said:

I talked with Bruce Madej for a while as well as Paul Schmidt.  I was surprised to learn that RR did not force freshman/sophomores to live in the dorm.  The only players who HAD to live in the dorm were the early enrollees, and they only had to stay there until after spring semester. Think about that. An 18 year old kid is going right from living at his folks place and attending high school to instantly living on his own, with rent and phone bills, gas bills, grocery shopping, etc ALL THE WHILE trying to maintain his athletics AND play for a demanding coach. There’s no way an 18 year should be put in that situation. It’s overwhelming.  Schmitty told me that was the first thing he told Hoke when he arrived.  Hoke immediately switched the policy back to freshman and sophomores MUST live in the dorm.

I found this interesting, since this information comes on the heels of some crippling attrition that included true freshman starter Ray Vinopal and highly rated cornerback Cullen Christian.  In an article on The Wolverine, Christian was quoted as saying:

I didn’t come up here for the new coaching staff. So when Coach Gibson left, it got crazy; I wanted to be with somebody who recruited me, somebody who knows me and knows what I’m about.  That’s why I picked Michigan in the first place, and if it was a different coaching staff, I wouldn’t have committed there. It’s a good school with a big name and everything, and they reeled me in. The main thing was Coach Gibson; that was the big thing in getting me to Michigan. I didn’t really like it up here.  I didn’t like the campus, and really, I’ve miserable since I’ve been up here. I think it was just about me and what I’m used to being around; there’s a difference between living in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor. A big difference. A lot of kids like it here, and some don’t. It just wasn’t for me.  So once the coaches left, there wasn’t much holding me here. I was like, ‘Why am I here? I don’t know these coaches and they didn’t recruit me.

The combination of these things makes me wonder if Rodriguez’s rule about living situations had anything to do with the departures of Vinopal and Christian, among others.  I did not realize that the players were allowed to live elsewhere on campus, and obviously, it’s difficult to know exactly how many freshmen in the past couple years took advantage of living off campus.  It had always been my understanding that freshman and sophomore athletes were required to live in the dorms, and I figured that was just the way of the world forever and ever.

But I do ascribe to the notion that living in a dorm is a key part of the maturation process for college students. I am not naive enough to think that kids can’t get in trouble when living in the dorms.  However, it does alleviate some of the stress of buying groceries, paying bills, meeting new people, etc.  When students are forced to live in such close quarters, there are surely clashes of personalities, dustups, etc.  But long-lasting friendships are also forged.  I know many people whose friendships with their freshman year roommates turned into relationships that lasted beyond college.

Christian and Vinopal very well could have ended up transferring whether they lived in South Quad/West Quad or not.  But when Christian says, “Once the coaches left, there wasn’t much holding me here,” I start to wonder how many friends he had.  What should have been present is a strong bond with one or two of his teammates, guys who could have repeated the mantra “Those who stay will be champions” or fellow freshmen who were also struggling to climb their way up the depth chart.  We often hear recruits or recruits’ mentors saying, “Don’t go somewhere just because of the coaches, because they could be gone in a year.”  That’s exactly what happened to Christian, and now he’ll be starting anew as a Pitt Panther.

Regardless, Brady Hoke has apparently returned to making freshmen and sophomores live in dorms, so all is right in the world.  Unless kids start transferring in droves.  Then we can blame it on something else.


  1. Comments: 21381
    Apr 25, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    Man I hope the kids are not that petty but you never know. Great article either way.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 3:34 AM

    Its hard to believe that that was the policy under RR. I couldn't imagine not going through the dorms as a freshman/sophmore. Best times in college imo.

  3. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 3:43 AM

    While I, like you, assumed thats just how it was always done, and I, also, am glad that freshman will again be required to live in dorms, I find the rationale here completely laughable.

    Break it down:
    "instantly living on his own, with rent and phone bills, gas bills, grocery shopping, etc "

    First, the kid is highly unlikely to 'live on his own'. These guys all still have roomates, especially as underclassmen, just like in a dorm.

    Second, dorms are not free – you still pay rent. The rent for an apartment is covered by the scholarship , just like in a dorm. I doubt the players have to deal with the paperwork themselves.

    These kids still get free food on their meal plans (for those that don't know they get a daily allowance for food, which they usually use on Spots or some other delivery – it's extremely generous and nothing prevents them from bartering it for whatever – also, they're generally terrible tippers) plus training table. They get prepared meals and then use groceries to supplement – snacks and beverages – just like in a dorm.

    Phone bills – do I even have to discuss how ridiculous this dinosaur sounds? I'm sure these kids have to pay cell phone bills, just like they would in a dorm.

    It shouldn't be 'overwhelming' for a student to live in an apartment. Whatever differences there are marginal and apparently most schools, even highly successful ones don't require that their students to be in dorms.

    Don't get me wrong, I see value in it just for the sake of getting a more typical college experience and mixing with a diverse crowd, not just fellow athletes. Its part of college for most people, especially at public schools. Its builds character and its a unique experience and…you get the picture.

    But preventing a kid from feeling 'overwhelmed' is total BS. Then notion that this is part of why Rich Rod 'doesn't get it' is just ridiculous.

    Anytime there is a coaching change there is attrition, theres no one to blame, its just how it is. Every recruit talks about 'relationship with coaches' in their criteria for picking a school. I agree it's not the greatest rationale, but it's reality that players bond with coaches and value those relationships. Some are going to be mature but others are going to get upset and move on.


  4. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    @ Lankownia 11:43 p.m.

    I think the truth lies somewhere between your interpretation and "this dinosaur's." I agree that the phone bill and stuff like that would still have to be paid. But you and I both know that living in an apartment and living in a dorm are completely different. Freshmen living in dorms have friends all around, R.A.'s keeping track of them, meals/snacks available as quickly as hopping on the elevator, etc. You also surely know that living in an apartment includes more responsibility than living in a dorm, including washing dishes, paying electricity bills, etc. I know that "washing dishes" doesn't sound like a big deal, but there were some pretty heated arguments about dirty dishes when I was in college. And obviously I'm not suggesting that having to wash dishes would force a kid to transfer; it's just one more potential straw on the camel's back.

    I agree that attrition would likely happen with a coaching change, anyway. But what about Brandon Smith? What about Austin White? Anthony Lalota, Justin Turner, Boubacar Cissoko, Sam McGuffie? All those guys disappeared before a coaching change ever occurred.

  5. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Magnus, you are 100% correct. The rash of people transferring (even before the coaches left) can definitely be attributed (partially) to not living in dorms. I was one of the rare cases of a freshman who didn't live on campus, and I think my college experience is far different from one who has, and I can see how a young kid with maybe his head not on straight could get confused.

  6. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    I've yet to see any convincing evidence that attrition under Rodriguez was substantially different than attrition under Carr.

    Even if it was, do you blame it on poor recruiting strategy (decisions to take marginal kids or even, as implied by many, that RR took character and academic risks that Carr never would have) or are you blaming it on how RR treated them when they got here?

    As for dorms vs. apartments, yeah, dishes and and vacuuming and a few other chores are going to be more onerous in an apartment, but you're also not right on top of each other and dealing with some of the crap that comes with dorm life. We can argue over which one is easier or harder, but the point is it's not going to be 'overwhelming' for 18 year olds.

    I actually think your point about making friends is a bigger issue. I'd imagine its good for these guys to have some friends outside of their primary activities – sports and class. I think it has a wide range of benefits.

    But blaming it for transfers seems like a pretty enormous stretch to me.


  7. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    @ Lankownia 11:21 a.m.

    I'm not "blaming" it on anything. As you should be able to tell, the post very clearly asks a question, "Are these two things related?"

    But the fact that these kids might not have strong relationships/friendships with other kids on campus COULD make it overwhelming. I'm not saying anyone's literally having a nervous breakdowns, screaming, "OH MY GOD I JUST CAN'T PAY THESE BILLS!!!!!!!!!!!" But these kids are obviously "overwhelmed" to the point that they're willing to drop everything, switch schools, and join another football program. I think your interpretation of "overwhelmed" might need to be broadened a bit.

    Again, I'm not reaching conclusions here. I'm just tossing out ideas, thinking out loud.

    As for the attrition between Carr/Rodriguez, I figured I'd wait until this off-season is finished. Then it might be a little easier to determine if attrition rates increased. I think Carr takes the hit for guys like Babb, Horn, etc. and Rodriguez should probably take the hit if a guy like Williamson transfers, too, so I'm holding off on a determination there.

    However, 7 guys have already disappeared from the 27-member 2010 class, and that number could increase shortly. That's a pretty bad attrition rate.

  8. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    To clarify, I take more issue with the former walk-on's "these kids can't handle not having a free rotary phone that a dorm provides!" and "but what will they do without Meatloaf Thursdays?!" than your comments, though I do think the notion is a little silly.

    I think there is some validity to living in a dorm creating some ties to the school, but it can also drive a lot of kids nuts. I thought they were silly for thinking so, but many people seemed to look forward to apartment life even though they seemed to really enjoy dorm life.

    It just seems to me that this (non-dorm housing) is probably a common practice at many schools. Probably they do this at WVU. Do most schools that don't force kids to live in dorms have attrition problems? I find that idea hard to believe.

    An in-depth look at attrition at Michigan would be interesting. I encourage you to do it, but I wouldn't include either of the transition years. There is a certain amount of 'legitimate', expected, understandable attrition whenever coaches change. I'd be more interested in how RR did in '09 and '10 compared to a typical year under Carr than how '08 compares to '11.

    Looking at historical attrition rates, 7 out of 27 isn't bad. But it might be a pretty bad start after one year, I don't know…


  9. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    As far as friendships and camaraderie are concerned, let's remember that the footballers spent *many* hours together in practice, etc. In many cases they probably also had classes (Sports Management and Communication, anyone) in common, too.

    So, even if they did live off-campus, their risk for isolation would be lower than that of an average student (without ties to a group/team).

    I'd love to know who opted out of living in the dorms.

  10. Comments: 21381
    Apr 26, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    @ Lankownia 12:22 p.m.


    One issue I have with just using the '08 and '09 classes is that the '08 class wasn't entirely Rodriguez's, and the '10 class wouldn't count beyond January 5th (or whenever the firing happened). So that would be a VERY limited sample size, with essentially just 1.5 classes to use.

    I also think it's valuable to look at how much Hoke is willing to adapt. A bunch of offensive guys left from Carr to Rodriguez, but so far none of Rodriguez's offensive recruits have departed (except perhaps Williamson) under Hoke. That might speak to Rodriguez's personality/willingness to accept kids he didn't recruit.

    I think 7/27 is pretty bad when you look at the fact that those 7 kids are gone even before the end of their freshman year. Picking a random year from recent Michigan history, 16/22 recruits from the 2004 class played out their eligibility at Michigan or at least played four years (Gallimore, for example, played four seasons but didn't return for a fifth year).

  11. Comments: 21381
    Apr 27, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    I think there's something to this. A lot of higher ed studies have shown that who students who live off campus during their first two years are much more likely (up to 15-20% more likely) to drop out, stop out or transfer. I don't see why a football player should be any different.

  12. Comments: 21381
    Apr 27, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    Alright as a current student

    Almost every kid (has to) live in as a freshman and most of us cannot wait to get out of the dorms our sophomore year. While s/w quad are better then some of the freshy dorms (baits I, northwood 3), they still suck. They are small, the beds are small, you have all the "community living rules bs" (if you have a hardass ra like mine, you can get written up for having your tv on too loudly after 9pm), as an athlete you are pry going in blind on a roommate, and to honest, the food sucks here (it has been better at every other college I have visited including "gems" like svsu, gvsu, and central). Seriously, I had more freedom and responsibility living with my parents then I did in the dorms. Straight up the dorms here suck.

    I guess I can see why they should live in as freshys (ie we all do), but why shouldnt they be able to move out after that? Also, when it comes to making friends, the best way to achieve that is to go out and make them. The kids who are socially active make friends regardless. If we are so concerned, make the players join another club or something.

  13. Comments: 21381
    Apr 28, 2011 at 2:00 AM

    Regardless of if you agree or not, this is one person's perspective and there are probably others who think like this, including some athletes. Perhaps its a recruiting disadvantage to mandate players live in a dorm.

    One thing I do disagree with is forcing them to live in dorms as sophomores. Usually by then most people had moved on so it was dominated by freshman. Maybe it's different today, but I doubt it.


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