Editorial: U of M, the NCAA, & The Apocalypse

Photo caption: “Post-Apocalyptic Deer” is a great artwork by Gregory Potter.

“Did you ever have a sister? did you?”

~~~William Faulkner from The Sound And The Fury

“Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”

~~~The Core Purpose of the NCAA from their Mission Statement

I’ve addressed the Regents at my alma mater like five times now. It’s crazy. All on the same theme. They basically just stare at their navel and drool for five minutes when I address them; but I refuse to believe The University of Michigan should settle for being just another mediocre member of the NCAA that doesn’t care about the fact that its Core Purpose is treated like flotsam and jetsam.

Back in late 1978, I applied at only one University. U of M. I was a Stallion at Sterling Heights High School. I lettered in Cross Country in 10th grade, and was the managing editor of “Reputance,” our literary magazine my senior year. I coined the word. It means “a good thing.”

Mr. James Otis Strong was the Editor-In-Chief. He taught Philosophy and Creative Writing. He gave me an “A” for a short story I didn’t even write for class, but just for the lit mag. It was called “Rabbits In The Sand.” I still have it, I think. He was a great teacher. I learned about Socrates and Plato from him and the shadows on the wall of the cave.

In early January of 1979, I got a letter in the mail from Ann Arbor. I was accepted. I bawled my eyes out. It was probably the happiest moment of my life, to date.

I remember calling my dad in Florida. He and my brother were down there visiting my Gramma Wrathell in Clearwater. I really threw him for a loop; but I could tell he was proud of me. He wanted me to go two years at Macomb County Community College (now Macomb Community College) like my brother and then transfer to MSU. Right. LOL! My brother ended up transferring to U of M, instead. Ha!

Armed with Platonic virtues and ideals, I entered the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at U of M – Ann Arbor in September of 1979.

Three Latin words are on the seal of U of M. Artes. Scientia. Veritas. Translation: Arts. Science. Truth.

I refuse to give up my ideals. It’s just not going to happen. I believe in Love and Truth and that man has Free Will and freedom of speech. I believe that when the Founding Fathers wrote The Constitution, the freedom of speech they were talking about was absolute, and was the same as the freedom of speech Mankind is already blessed with. That being said, if someone in a cave is goading others to kill innocent people and the CIA hunts them down and caps their ass, so be it. I won’t lose any sleep.

Anyway, exactly a week before Thanksgiving, I walked to the podium to give a five minute speech to the Regents and President Schlissel. I congratulated him on his new job and he stared grimly back at me.

He never went to U of M. I’m not sure where they found him. Maybe Craigslist.

U of M is a member of the NCAA, and, as such, has the ability to advocate for rule changes. I asked the Regents to advocate three rule changes at their annual meeting in Indianapolis every July. Maybe they can tear themselves away from the bottle rockets, and go down there themselves, and do something cool for a change. Maybe The Michigan Daily, who was in attendance at the meeting, and heard my Address, could assign a reporter to ask each Regent if they’d ever consider advocating a rule change at the NCAA annual meeting, or, if they are happy to be, unlike Oliver North’s attorney, happy to be mistaken for potted plants.

One. Student-athletes should be able to transfer schools without losing a year of athletic eligibility. Right now, even if a student-athlete is raped by a teammate (as in the case of Katie Hdina of U of Colorado, the first female to score a point in Division I Football), they have to grovel before the NCAA and request a waiver of the Draconian rule that doesn’t in any way, shape, or form, comport with the NCAA’s Core Purpose, viz.:

“Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”

I also mentioned a student-athlete who suffered from this rule that hit a lot more close to home. Former U of M quarterback Tate Forcier was kicked off the team when new coach Brady Hoke decided to go with Denard Robinson as starting quarterback, tried to transfer schools, and, eventually his girlfriend had to call the Grand Rapids police when he was reportedly hanging from outside their third floor window back in 2011. (The police report is now highly redacted, by the way.) I could feel the intensity of the room increase. Neither Katie nor Tate should’ve had to request a waiver to transfer schools without a punishment as a Greek gift from the NCAA. Why is U of M kowtowing to this life-destroying rule? Tate is more than a cash cow; in fact, he isn’t even a cow. He is a Wolverine and a man. Once a Wolverine always a man. Once a man, well, almost always forever a man. And if you want to get a sex change, it’s no skin off my, ah, back.

Two. Right now, if a student-athlete retains an agent and/or a lawyer to represent them when merely testing the waters of a professional sports draft, they lose all their scholarships and athletic eligibility, even if no one drafts them! That is absurdly Draconian. That is like saying a person charged with a crime must be guilty if they retain an attorney. Seven of eight Regents are lawyers. I told them it “shocks the conscience,” which is a stock phrase from law school. I’m still not sure my point sunk in.

The threshold should be if, and when, a student-athlete signs a contract with a professional team or league, period.

The Regents are sort of like a Star Chamber. They are really into the stony silence thing. I find it very disrespectful. Speakers pour their hearts out to them; and they sit there like bumps on a log. Whatever.

Three. The National Letter of Intent Day for Division I and II football should be at least a month closer to the end of the school year for high schoolers. That way college coaches won’t be lured away from their college teams before the Bowl Season ends; and tampering by any member institution with any contact whatsoever with a college coach before then should be banned.

When Mary Sue Coleman was President of U of M, she began talks with Les Miles of LSU even before their conference championship game; and it blew up in our face (thanks, Mary Sue, and yes, “our”…..I am as much or more of a Wolverine as any Regent), cementing Miles’s commitment to LSU, and dragging U of M’s reputation into deep mud.

Part of the logic behind luring Les so early was the impending National Letter of Intent Day, mind you.

Lastly, I offered a fourth point my brother suggested: when you sign a college sports coach, make damn sure the contract extends past the championship stuff, like the Bowl Season and the Final Four thing.

I told them about how Rich Rodriguez, former U of M head football coach, had once quit his coaching gig at Tulane after a perfect regular season, and before their bowl game. That’s pretty low, bro. Do not pass go.

I must add it’s pretty hypocritical and disturbing that the NCAA allows coaches to jump ship at any time without repercussions; meanwhile, making student-athletes who are raped and/or suicidal formally request a waiver from a one-year ban on participating in college athletics. It’s downright shameful, in fact. It’s none of the NCAA’s business why a student wants to transfer; and, no punishment whatsoever should run concurrent with a transfer. Period.

I finished that point as the timer went off, thanked the Regents, and walked back to my seat. Stoney silence permeating the rarefied air.

The next speaker was Valeriya Epshteyn, a U of M student from a group called Divest and Invest. She urged the Regents to sell off U of M’s fossil fuel assets. The audience erupted in eardrum-hurting, somewhat-obscene applause after my heart-felt speech received none.

But I am used to it. A few years ago when I addressed the Regents a large cabal of pro-let’s-spend-millions-of-dollars-on-adorning-the-football-stadium yahoos left right before I addressed the Regents and Mary Sue about how the NCAA was making student-athletes grovel before them, even if they were raped by the starting quarterback of the football team like what happened in Boulder, Colorado. So, this was nothing.

I remember when I was a freshman living in West Quad there was a lot of heat applied to make U of M sell off its South African assets so as not to support apartheid. I got into it myself, and walked up to then-President Harold Shapiro’s front door of his on-campus mansion and left a message with his maid to ask him to divest those assets. She told me to go to his office with the message. I never did. I figured she was just as likely to give him the message as his secretary in my youthful nonchalance.

After Ms. Epshteyn concluded her five minute speech, the applause was even louder and I saw Regent Mark Bernstein of 1-800-CALL-SAM smile wryly as he looked down at some papers or something. I meekly said not-so softly, but not too loud, either, that no one clapped for me; the young woman sitting to my left chuckled a little bit to herself.

I don’t mind at all that today’s generation of U of M students wants the “U” to divest its fossil fuel assets; it just bothered me a little that what I had to say didn’t seem to soak into a single skull; although, I did see Mr. Bernstein nod a little after I made my final point.

After the final speaker in the public comments section of the meeting spoke, the President boomed, “This meeting is adjourned!” Wow, the President speaks!

I stood up and took off my suit coat and put my NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto fleece jacket back on with a Tiger Sex button on it. Tiger Sex is a really great punk rock band from Vegas/Cincinnati.

Then, amazingly, a young man walking toward the exit stopped and told me he liked what I had to say. Geeze, I’m tearing up as I write right now. I looked him in the eye and thanked him. Good kid. Maybe there is hope for my suggestions, someday.

When I got out of the Anderson Room at the Michigan Union building, I stopped to talk to Valeriya Epshteyn for a moment. I told her I supported her position politely, and added that Arnold has a Hummer that runs on hydrogen. She thanked me, and seemed pleased to receive that datum, to boot.

I walked briskly back to my Pontiac parked on State Street, filled with regular gas from Speedway or Marathon, and jetted off to Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger next to the Fleetwood Diner to have a triple burger with blue cheese with some old Ann Arbor friends. Unfortunately, Miranda had left. She was super-nice. I had popped in there after visiting a few art galleries on Main Street and Liberty Street for a bottle of Coke with real sugar before zipping off to the Anderson Room.

I told Miranda I was an attorney, but also an artist, and gave her my card, writing my art site URL on the back of it. I can’t remember if I showed her “Pluto XXX” on my cellphone. I am getting old, lol. It is kind of scary. I am taking turmeric so I don’t get a bad brain.

I need to get more artist cards. My girlfriend used to make some really cool ones for me, with an artwork of mine called “War Kat” on them; but she died a year ago on October 14th. I miss you, sheila. I love you, pumpy!

There was one really cool work of art at one of the galleries called “Post-Apocalyptic Deer” by Gregory Potter. My mom keeps telling me the end of the world is coming soon; and I better get right with Jesus, or I’m going to burn in a lake of fire – joining my father there.

One good thing is I just won a bid on Ebay, and am now the proud owner of a swanky pair of Vilebrequin swimming trunks. God is going to let Billy Graham live to be 100; and then, Jesus is coming back to Earth to render judgment and sort.

Billy just turned 97 on November 7th. Maybe U of M will get those rules changed before The Apocalypse.

By the way, after my friends left, and I had a Founders Red Rye IPA at the bar across the street, I decided to get a coney at the Fleetwood Diner next-door to Blimpy Burgers. I hope it was an aberration; but, it was absolutely the nastiest coney island hot dog I’ve ever had in my life; and I had one on 8 Mile Road that cracked my front tooth! And, I just had to have the tooth pulled in July, right before I went to Washington, D. C. on an invite to go to mission control for NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft to Pluto and beyond. The dog itself was dark and dried up; and the outer skin was peeling off like it’d been in the fridge for months, perhaps hiding behind the muenster cheese, or stuck in the coils. How the cook thought it was okay to use, and how the waitress thought it was okay to serve was, and is, beyond me.

Of course, I still ate it. I lived with my dad after my parents divorced; so I have a cast iron stomach. It tasted burnt and crusty and nasty as all Hell. It probably wasn’t as nasty as when Divine ate dog poop in Pink Flamingos, though. I always like to think of something positive to say. The waitress asked me a couple of times if everything was okay. I nodded affirmatively with dead, contemptuous eyes. What’s the point? The cook obviously didn’t give a crap. But I am enjoying shaming the Fleetwood online. Maybe the owner will hear about it this way. It’s cool they turned a railroad car into a diner; and it obviously needs a charge up its ass to get back up to snuff.

So do the Regents; and I’m just the Wolverine to do it.

Go Blue! Do the right thing and get my proposed rule changes implemented! Make it so! Follow through! Build a coalition of schools to compose them! You can do it, Mark! Call 1-800-GIVE-A-HOOT-ABOUT-STUDENT-ATHLETES! If you need help, you can call me.

I wonder sometimes why people run for Regent, or any public office, if they don’t have the fire to fight for making the world a better place. Is it just for the money? The prestige? The free publicity for your law firm or your pizzeria?

The Regents need to stand up for student-athletes to make the college experience better for all students, and confront the forces (like the NCAA) that negatively impact that experience. By rendering its Core Purpose into boilerplate, the NCAA is injecting negativity into college campuses across the nation. If we at U of M and other member institutions across Michigan and elsewhere don’t confront the NCAA on this, we are just as morally bankrupt as it. I don’t like that feeling. It is a bit selfish of me to speak out against injustice in that respect, I suppose; but I try to live my life backing up my words. I wish the NCAA and its member institutions adhered to the same principal. Try it; you might like it, too.


I addressed The University of Michigan Regents for the fifth time. (Photo by Mike Wrathell/AmericaJR.com)
“Pluto XXX, Frame 3” is an 11-frame animated gif on my website. This is one of the frames. It is a color photo of Pluto taken on July 14, 2015 by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft that I recolored for artistic purposes. The actual animated gif can be seen here. http://ultra-renaissance.com/Autumn15.shtml (Artwork by Mike Wrathell)


“War Kat” is a work of art I made using a photo of an American soldier who I believe is in Iraq during the Iraq War of 2003 and an Iraqi cat who he befriends. Or perhaps I should say the cat befriends him. Not really sure how it all went down. I just know it makes for the foundation of a great artwork.


This nasty Coney was served at the Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor. (Photo by Mike Wrathell/AmericaJR.com)


“3 Years to Apocalypse” is inspired by a prediction of the end of the world. (Artwork by Mike Wrathell)

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  1. Hi!, saw your icon on Vaughter’s twitter page and had to drop in..Sorry about your loss on Saturday. I know it’s going to be a rough year for ol’ Blue.. As I told my felolw UofM fans, be sure and establish counseling sessions with your pastor weekly this year..In all seriousness, I’m happy football season is back. I love it! Have a great season and enjoy it!Go Bucks!Mark B

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