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NCAA frees Shea Patterson / Best of Bacon launches next week

Hello, Loyal Readers!

Before we get to this week’s Bacon Blog, on the NCAA finally doing the right thing and freeing quarterback Shea Patterson to play for Michigan this fall, Best of Bacon: Select Cuts, 40 of my favorite stories from my first quarter-century of writing, officially launches on Tuesday, May 8. Makes a great gift for Mother’s or Father’s Day!

Meantime, MGoBlog generously published an excerpt, “Bo is Back Where He Belongs,” my first story on Bo, which I wrote back in 1996, and John Borton at TheWolverine.com produced a podcast today from our conversation about the book. More to come from Michigan Radio, The Detroit News, and others, but that will give you a sense of what the collection is all about.

I’ll be launching the book on Friday, May 11, 7 p.m., at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library‘s fourth floor meeting room (200 capacity), with plenty of books to buy and sign, all sponsored by Literati Bookstore. I’ll also stop in Chicago, May 23, Traverse City’s Indigo Hotel May 29, and Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on June 12. Hope to see you on the trail.

Thanks to you all for allowing me to do what I love for a living!


  • * * * * *

Last season, for only the second time in Jim Harbaugh’s 14-year career as a head football coach, his team took a significant step backward. After leading Michigan to 10-3 records his first two years at Michigan, the Wolverines dropped back to 8-5, capped by a bad loss in their bowl game.

Michigan had great defense, but sputtered on offense, mainly due to sub-par quarterbacks. Of course, when injuries force you to use your back-up, then your back-up’s back-up, that’s gonna happen.

Salvation came from an unlikely source: the University of Mississippi, whose star sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson decided to transfer to Michigan. Patterson is the real deal. Three years ago he was the nation’s top high school quarterback, and played very well for Ole Miss in a very tough conference. If you think Patterson’s transfer sounds simple – college students transfer all the time, after all – you don’t know much about college athletics.

If you’re a college athlete, you can transfer – but only with the permission of your previous coach, for some reason. And you can’t compete at your new school until you’ve sat out one season. Because otherwise, the NCAA reasons, student-athletes would transfer from school to school whenever they thought they might find a better fit. In other words, they could do exactly what coaches do every season.

We can’t have that, of course, so it looked like Shea Patterson might have to sit out a season before he could play for Michigan. He had a wildcard, however, which he hoped to parlay into an exception to the rule.

The NCAA had just slapped his old school, Ole Miss, with serious sanctions, including three years’ probation, scholarship reductions, and no post-season play next year. So if Patterson stayed, he’d be in for a rough ride. Worse, Patterson claimed his coaches had lied to him when they told him they weren’t going to be in serious trouble, when they knew otherwise.

On that basis, Patterson appealed to the NCAA to waive the transfer rule, and allow him to play for Michigan this fall. This put the NCAA’s leaders in a tough spot, the kind they often get into because so many of their rules make no sense.  If they let Patterson play immediately, they feared it would establish a precedent for other players whose coaches lied to them – not a rarity. But if they refused Patterson’s appeal, they would once again be accused of punishing an innocent student-athlete to defend a thoroughly corrupt coach – because that’s exactly what they’d be doing.

Common sense and decency would seem to dictate that Patterson should be allowed to play this fall. But the NCAA does not function on common sense and decency. Likewise, Ole Miss’s leaders fought to defeat Patterson’s appeal, because they didn’t want to admit he was right.

To win this case, Patterson’s parents retained a big name lawyer from Arkansas who happened to be very familiar with Ole Miss athletics. He had represented their previous coach in a lawsuit against the school – and won. He lent his skill and expertise to Michigan’s compliance officers, who convinced the NCAA’s leaders to do the right thing, even if they didn’t want to.

Now Michigan’s future looks very different. With Patterson, Michigan’s diabolically difficult schedule becomes manageable. They could get back to ten or even eleven wins this season, with more ahead.

This is a pivotal season for the Wolverines, but now they’ll be led by the most important transfer the program has ever seen.




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9 comments Leave a comment  

  • Ken M. May 4, 2018 at 10:10 am

    “This put the NCAA’s leaders in a tough spot, the kind they often get into because so many of their rules make no sense.”

    “….the NCAA does not function on common sense and decency.”

    Two of the truest statements I have ever seen. NCAA: People in charge just because someone needs to be making decisions that line their own pockets, all in the name of advocating for the student athlete. Their hypocrisy blends in well with our world these days.

  • Dan streiff May 4, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Message (Required) where will you be in Chicago ?

  • Andrew Hunter May 4, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Serious question: would you run the NCAA if offered the job? That would be awesome for everyone involved, except maybe your publisher. An avid college sports fan can only wish…

  • Chuck Cady May 4, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Message (Required)CYA in TC on May 29!
    Go Blue & Go Book!

  • Si Coleman May 4, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Message (Required)
    Hi John,
    Todd forwarded to me your May 3 article about Shea P. Great observations.
    How do I get on your mailing list?
    Hope we see each other this year!
    All the best,

  • James F. Epperson May 4, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Message (Required)Patterson may well be the real deal—only time will tell. But last year’s problems were not really at QB. No offense can function when the QB is taking hits and the running backs have no holes. We had to use 3 QBs because of OL issues, and OL issues kept the 2016 team from the playoffs as well. IIRC, the last time we started 3 QBs in one season was 1984, Harbaugh’s sophomore year, when the team went 6-6. That ain’t a normal situation. And BTW, the coaching staff lost the MSU game last season, by not understanding the weather report. I still think Harbaugh is the answer, and I think “quick triggers” on coaches are a Very Bad Idea. But there needs to be improvement this year.

  • clifford craig May 6, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Message (Required) There is another Boston-Halifax connection which you might want to add in a second printing of your book. As mentioned in The Youngest Science by Lewis Thomas p.74-75:
    “A few days later we learned that John Dingle’s laboratory was being mobilized for a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where a meningitis epidemic had just been recognized and the health authorities, short-handed because of the war(WWII), had requested help from Harvard. So we packed again and flew to Halifax, where I went to work on the treatment of meningococccal meningitis with a new sulfonamide called sulfadiazine ……
    We were in Halifax for about a month …. Sulfadiazine was wonderfully effective…… the majority (of patients), recovered promptly when given sulfadiazine, and we saw none of the late complications….”

  • johnubacon May 7, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    At a UM-Club of Chicago event, their Annual Meeting, held at a law firm in the city. Even non-members are welcome to come. https://community.alumni.umich.edu/chicago/home

  • johnubacon May 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Much thanks, Andrew! I’m confident my name will never make any such list, but as crazy as it would be, I would love to run the NCAA for five years, in the hopes of fixing it moving forward. But I wouldn’t hold your breath!


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