|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.