Directional Michigan: Combining the MAC's 3 Michigan schools into a SUPERPOWER

Central, Eastern, and Western Michigan have had a few years of individual football success here and there. But what if they'd joined forces at some point to create a single university with a single football program?

Hello. This is the silliest thing you'll read all offseason, probably. It solves no problems, offers no lessons for the future, and only ends up affirming that there are many college football teams at the FBS level. In short, it is very important, and yes, we all have too much free time on our hands in March.

Let us now begin constructing the Directional Michigan football program by smashing together the middling MAC programs at CMU, EMU, and WMU. I will not apologize for spending a small portion of my life on this.

Location

First, we're going to need a place to put Directional Michigan University, home of the DMU Directionals. The team could try playing football games in three different cities. But no. We're going to combine three universities into one and plunk it down at a central location. Not a Central location.

This part is easy. First, the MAC map, via Wikipedia:

Mid-american_conference_detailed_map_medium

Next, we can eyeball the triangulation between Kalamazoo, Mt. Pleasant, and Ypsilanti, via Google Maps:

Screen_shot_2014-03-06_at_12

And so it's settled. We'll set up shop just north of Lansing, the state capital, whose metro area is about half a million. Michigan State's about 10 minutes to the east. Also, our enrollment has just soared to about 75,000 students, making us the largest campus in the United States, but that's not a sports thing.

Money

First things first.

The MAC Michigans currently rank Nos. 75, 80, and 88 in the latest athletic department revenue database. Combining their resources would rocket Directional Michigan to $82.7 million in sportsbucks. That would be good for No. 24 and ahead of Washington, North Carolina, and Nebraska.

But let's note Directional Michigan wouldn't need ("need") anywhere near as much in school athletics subsidies. Central, Eastern, and Western currently give an average of $20.2 million per year to each of their athletic departments, according to USA Today. So let's drop the school subsidy figure from three portions of $20.2 million to just one. That would leave us with $41.7 million in athletics revenue every year, both uniting the schools' spending power and cutting state subsidy money by $41 million.

We'd lose another $200,000 because of Directional Michigan only getting one slice of the MAC's ESPN contract, rather than three.

That new figure, $41.5 million (pending perhaps a few more minor deductions), would rank No. 60 among all FBS schools, ahead of programs like UCF, Utah, and Houston. That $20.2 million subsidy is still very large, and would rank No. 15 among FBS schools -- we could slash it in half and still be the MAC's richest program. But we've already saved the system $41 million, so let's hold for now.

The big previews

Facilities and attendance

First order of business for all that money: build a new stadium. DMU can't just play at the home of the Lansing Derby Vixens forever.

The Michigans' current football stadiums were opened in 1939, 1969, and 1972. Each has been renovated or expanded within the last 25 years, but about as ornately as you'd expect.

The stadiums' combined capacity is more than 90,000, but considering their combined 2013 attendance was all of 34,622 fans per week (mashing the three into one team means nearing ACC range, at least!), that's a little bit roomy. So we won't stack them on top of each other, quashing your dreams of the first MAC football arcology.

Here's a way to figure out what kind of building Directional Michigan might have if it had ganged up a few decades ago. According to Wikipedia the three stadiums' inflation-adjusted, combined construction budgets would come out to $106.6 million. That's about what Houston announced in 2012 that it hoped to spend on this new 40,000-seater, which is about 12,000 seats bigger than the typical MAC stadium:

6735834_medium

That would more than suit 2013's attendance demands, and since Directional Michigan would actually win games, it would likely sell out now and then. Directional Michigan would challenge for the MAC attendance crown every year. We are really accomplishing things here.

Coaches

According to USA Today's 2013 coaching salaries database, each _MU paid its head coach about $375,000 for the season. Pooling those budgets would've meant about $1.2 million for a head coach.

That would mean Directional Michigan could've perhaps lured Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter or Bowling Green's Dave Clawson (who both got big raises after the season), a top power-program coordinator (we* could give Michigan State defensive coordinator and Broyles Award-winner Pat Narduzzi a $300,000 raise over his 2014 salary), or a name like East Carolina's Ruffin McNeil, Marshall's Doc Holliday, Ohio's Frank Solich, or Utah State's Matt Wells. And maybe DMU could've kept Brian Kelly or Butch Jones from Cincinnati for another year or so.

* At some point, it felt right to start referring to Directional Michigan as "we."

At worst, we could still turn stuff like this by Eastern Michigan ...

2013 Ron English (2-10)
2012 Ron English (2-10)
2011 Ron English (6-6)
2010 Ron English (2-10)
2009 Ron English (0-12)
2008 Jeff Genyk (3-9)
2007 Jeff Genyk (4-8)
2006 Jeff Genyk (1-11)
2005 Jeff Genyk (4-7)
2004 Jeff Genyk (4-7)
2003 Jeff Woodruff (3-9)
2002 Jeff Woodruff (3-9)
2001 Jeff Woodruff (2-9)
2000 Jeff Woodruff (3-8)
1999 Rick Rasnick (4-7)
1998 Rick Rasnick (3-8)
1997 Rick Rasnick (4-7)
1996 Okay okay okay we get it, it goes on like this forever, make it stop, make it stop

... into something more like this resounding hall of champions, made up of the most successful CMU, EMU, and WMU coaches:

2013 Dan Enos (6-6)
2012 Dan Enos (7-6)
2011 Bill Cubit (7-6)
2010 Bill Cubit (6-6)
2009 Butch Jones (11-2)
2008 Butch Jones (8-5)
2007 Butch Jones (8-6)
2006 Brian Kelly (9-4)
2005 Brian Kelly (6-5)
2004 Brian Kelly (4-7)
2003 Gary Darnell (5-7)
2002 Gary Darnell (4-8)
2001 Gary Darnell (5-6)
2000 Gary Darnell (9-3)
1999 Gary Darnell (7-5)
1998 Gary Darnell (7-4)
1997 Gary Darnell (8-3)
1996 Dick Flynn (5-6)
1995 Dick Flynn (4-7)
1994 Dick Flynn (9-3)
1993 Al Molde (7-3-1)
1992 Al Molde (7-3-1)
1991 Al Molde (6-5)
1990 Al Molde (7-4)
1989 Jim Harkema (7-3-1)
1988 Jim Harkema (6-3-1)
1987 Jim Harkema (10-2)
1986 Herb Deromedi (5-5)
1985 Herb Deromedi (7-3)
1984 Herb Deromedi (8-2-1)
1983 Herb Deromedi (8-3)
1982 Herb Deromedi (6-4-1)
1981 Herb Deromedi (7-4)
1980 Herb Deromedi (9-2)
1979 Herb Deromedi (10-0-1)
1978 Herb Deromedi (9-2)
1977 Roy Kramer (10-1)
1976 Roy Kramer (7-4)
1975 Roy Kramer (8-2-1)
1974 Bill Doolittle (3-8)
1973 Bill Doolittle (6-5)
1972 Bill Doolittle (7-3-1)
1971 Bill Doolittle (7-3)
1970 Bill Doolittle (7-3)
1969 Bill Doolittle (4-6)
1968 Bill Doolittle (3-6)
1967 Bill Doolittle (5-4)
1966 Bill Doolittle (7-3)
1965 Bill Doolittle (6-2-1)
1964 Bill Doolittle (3-6)
1963 Merle Schlosser (2-7)
1962 Merle Schlosser (5-4)

That's such a fine list of leaders, we don't even have room for the father of two NFL head coaches, Jack Harbaugh (25-27-3 at Western Michigan, 1982-1986).

Recruiting

Now for the most important component.

Instead of squabbling over who's the No. 3 school in the state of Michigan, we'd automatically leave no doubt. And our upgrades in coaching, facilities, program prestige, the student body, and number of academic majors mean we could actually challenge Michigan and Michigan State for certain players.

As for how this would've changed 2014, I don't know how else to put this. Western Michigan recruited the shit out of the MAC in 2014. Its 153.7 class rating in the 247 Sports Composite makes it the conference's highest-rated class in the ratings era. It's so far ahead of everyone else in the conference that runner-up Toledo could've added No. 1 national recruit Leonard Fournette and still finished short. That's a ridiculous piece of evidence, but that's what the internet says.

Creating a composite Directional Michigan recruiting class for 2014 is kind of pointless. Replacing the lowest-rated players in Western's class with the best players from Central and Eastern (using 247 Sports' Class Calculator) barely nudges the needle. Here's WMU's class with CMU and EMU players added in -- 14 of the top 15 are still Broncos:

Screen_shot_2014-03-05_at_10

But of course it wasn't always like that. Central had the higher-rated class the previous two years, and Eastern ... isn't always quite so bad.

Combining their 2013 classes bumps the Michigans from Nos. 4, 8, and 10 in the MAC to No. 1, for example. Nationally, the Michigans rise from Nos. 100, 112, and 114 to No. 72*, ahead of Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Syracuse.

After glancing at previous years, I think we can say Directional Michigan would be the MAC's recruiting power almost every year. And that's before we start blowing that $41.5 million on recruitment gadgets.

* Western Michigan's 2014 class ranked No. 70 all by itself. Recruited the shit out of the MAC, I tell you.

Players

The simplest way to figure out the kind of talent Directional Michigan could generate is to go by NFL Draft picks. We could use the schools' All-America picks, but there aren't many. Or All-MAC picks, but the all-time All-MAC list isn't the simplest database to mess with.

Central had the No. 1 NFL Draft pick last year. Both Eastern and Western have had first-rounders, with five total all-time first-rounders between the three. Respectively Central, Eastern, and Western have had 17, 16, and 19 players drafted in the top 255 of a given Draft class (we'll cut it off there, since the modern Draft goes for far fewer rounds than the Drafts of yore did).

Combining those Draft histories gives us this, via NFL.com:

2013 1 1 Eric Fisher OT Kansas City Chiefs
2012 7 244 Jordan White WR New York Jets
2012 7 251 John Potter K Buffalo Bills
2010 6 181 Dan LeFevour QB Chicago Bears
2010 6 195 Antonio Brown WR Pittsburgh Steelers
2009 4 109 T.J. Lang T Green Bay Packers
2009 2 33 Louis Delmas DB Detroit Lions
2009 7 217 E.J. Biggers CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2008 2 54 Jason Jones DT Tennessee Titans
2007 1 28 Joe Staley OT San Francisco 49ers
2007 2 62 Dan Bazuin DE Chicago Bears
2007 6 199 Drew Mormino C Miami Dolphins
2006 2 52 Greg Jennings WR Green Bay Packers
2006 2 61 Tony Scheffler TE Denver Broncos
2005 4 119 Eric Ghiaciuc C Cincinnati Bengals
2005 5 153 Adam Kieft T Cincinnati Bengals
2005 7 237 Chris Roberson DB Jacksonville Jaguars
2004 1 27 Jason Babin OLB Houston Texans
2003 7 255 Kevin Walter WR New York Giants
1999 1 21 L.J. Shelton T Arizona Cardinals
1998 2 60 Charlie Batch QB Detroit Lions
1997 7 230 Scott Rehberg T New England Patriots
1995 7 221 Tom Nutten C Buffalo Bills
1994 6 166 Steve Hawkins WR New England Patriots
1993 6 152 Paul Hutchins T Green Bay Packers
1990 3 71 Joel Smeenge DE New Orleans Saints
1989 5 133 Kevin Haverdink T New Orleans Saints
1988 7 172 Gary Patton -- New York Jets
1987 7 177 Brian Williams -- Philadelphia Eagles
1987 6 146 Mark Garalczyk DT St. Louis Cardinals
1986 2 52 John Offerdahl LB Miami Dolphins
1985 2 52 Jim Bowman DB New England Patriots
1985 8 207 Curtis Adams RB San Diego Chargers
1985 4 102 Tom Toth G New England Patriots
1982 9 236 Mike Hirn -- Pittsburgh Steelers
1981 7 191 Ken Miller -- Dallas Cowboys
1980 5 133 Gary Hogeboom QB Dallas Cowboys
1978 1 22 Ron Johnson DB Pittsburgh Steelers
1976 7 204 Clarence Chapman WR Oakland Raiders
1975 3 54 Mike Franckowiak RB Denver Broncos
1974 6 132 Jim Pietrzak C New York Giants
1973 3 72 Paul Krause -- Kansas City Chiefs
1973 7 167 Bill DuLac G Los Angeles Rams
1972 6 142 Dave Pureifory DE Green Bay Packers
1972 7 170 Will Foster LB Philadelphia Eagles
1972 8 196 Larry Ratcliff -- Philadelphia Eagles
1972 7 181 Bill Slater -- Minnesota Vikings
1971 3 72 Al Clark DB Detroit Lions
1968 9 231 Billy Sinkule -- St. Louis Cardinals
1968 3 83 Dale Livingston K Cincinnati Bengals
1967 2 43 Bob Rowe DT St. Louis Cardinals
1967 10 251 Torre Ossmo -- San Diego Chargers

That's 52 players drafted in the Super Bowl era, if the Drafts had all been of about the same length. Miami (Florida) has had about that many in the last decade alone, but Miami (Ohio) sure hasn't, and that's what matters more for Directional Michigan.

We could also use that Draft list to slap together the beginnings of an all-time Directional Michigan team, if so inclined.

Football history

So let's say Directional Michigan had been established decades ago. If it had resources along the way comparable to what we've given it here, it would've produced the MAC's best all-time program. But if we based it on the individual histories of each school, maybe not by all that much.

Going back and simulating every season would turn up more accurate (and probably more complimentary) results, but using the combined best seasons of the three schools gives us a baseline.

Directional Michigan would probably have at least 10 all-time MAC championships, based on the 10 won by Central, Eastern, and Western. That's as many as anybody else since 1966 (Toledo has 10) and the most since 1979 (nine), but fewer all-time than Miami, which has 15.

As for FBS bowl games, Central has three wins in seven tries. Eastern won its only attempt, in 1987. Western is 0-4. If we combine their bowl records into one (which does require jamming some of their bowl trips into different years) ...

2012 Little Caesars Bowl win
2011 Little Caesars Bowl loss
2010 GMAC Bowl win
2009 Motor City Bowl loss
2008 Texas Bowl loss
2007 Motor City Bowl loss
2006 International Bowl loss
2005 Motor City Bowl win
1994 Las Vegas Bowl loss
1990 California Bowl loss
1988 California Bowl loss
1987 California Bowl win

... we'd likely have at least a 4-8 all-time bowl record, which isn't too bad. In terms of both trips and wins, it's about on par with 4-9 Nevada or 3-9 Iowa State and better than, say, 3-9 Duke or 2-7 Northwestern. And a seven-year bowl streak emerges, which is actually really hard to do.

Directional Michigan would likely at least tie with Bowling Green and NIU for all-time bowl wins and more bowl trips than any other MAC school besides Toledo, which has 13.

Also, Directional Michigan would have won every Michigan MAC Trophy ever.

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