Vegas Stops The Michigan Game

The Second Essential Scary Truth

An impressive 132-year streak ended Saturday at the University of Michigan: a Wolverines college football game was cancelled due to weather concerns.  This didn’t get much press in Indiana where Notre Dame fans were licking their wounds over a loss to the University of South Florida or in Dallas where Baylor alum were partying in a strictly Baptist way after thumping TCU.

Of course, one would like to believe this would have been a watershed moment in the college game.  The kind of moment grandfathers tell their grandsons while fishing in a creek: serving in the War, where they were on 9/11 and how they watched the first ever Meeschigan game cancelled with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. After all this happened to the hated Michigan Wolverines, major college footballs all time leader in wins and winning percentage – the NCAA’s version of the New York Yankees and Manchester United.

The ‘snub’ is understandable on certain levels: despite ESPN’s best efforts to corporatize the sport, college football is still ruled by regional rivalries and greedy alumni.  Add in the downturn of the Michigan football for the last three “Rich Rodriguez Wilderness’ years along with the rise of warm weather schools playing a fast, exciting offensive game instead of the plodding three yards and a cloud of dust Big 10 Midwestern version of the sport so loved by Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes and of course the end of an impressive streak would go largely under-reported.

I mean Jesus, Michigan was thumping Western Michigan, an inferior rival, 34-10.  The game was cancelled by a lightning storm – the bolts struck just half a mile from the stadium for the love of Pete.  There were over 109,000 spectators sitting on metal bleachers.  The right call was made by NCAA and university officials in an effort to avoid the biggest tragedy ever seen in United States athletic history.

Yes, there was grumbling among various football junkies but everyone seemed to walk away satisfied the right thing had been done.  You’ve got to die of something but by lightning strike whilst sitting on a metal seat?  Yes, all those with a vested interest in the Western Michigan v. Michigan were secretly or outwardly pleased.  Everyone except for the Las Vegas sports books.

(From the Detroit News)

Michigan’s unusual season-opener Saturday in Ann Arbor was a loss for Western Michigan — and for bettors.

Due to thunderstorms in the area, Michigan was declared the winner, 34-10, with 1:27 to play in the third quarter. That meant the Wolverines easily covered the 14-point spread, right?

Not so fast.

Nevada sports books won’t pay on games unless 55 or more of the regulation 60 minutes are completed, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

“We were going to lose on the game,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood told Matt Youmans for the Review-Journal. “That was by far the biggest public-backed game on the board. The ticket count was ridiculous, like 20-1 for Michigan.”

Rood added: “I would rather have seen the game get in and played than end the way it did, when maybe some people feel like they were cheated.”

Notre Dame plays in South Bend, a city approximately an hour’s drive from Ann Arbor and they were able to get their delayed game in.  Michigan AD Dave Brandon claimed the game would have been completed had the score been close.

Personally, I think it was a conspiracy here, along the lines of The Sting’s “The Shut-Out.”  With the bettors favoring Michigan by a 20-1 margin, the bookies exerted their influence over whoever likes to play in the Michigan Athletic hierarchy.  Having to payback the cash wagered on a push?  It happens.  Not having to pay out the winners?  Priceless.  Five words: no jobs in August, baby.

(Hat Tip: Penny Parker.)


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