President’s column: The vanishing depth chart

This is starting to get ridiculous.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

It was one thing when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t have a flip card with a Wolverine two-deep roster on it in the press box before the home opener against Hawaii.  Now, he’s making it a habit for every home game.

But this isn’t just about Harbaugh.

It’s about the danger of a trend taking place when other coaches begin to believe it’s a good idea to never release a depth chart. That’s why it’s important to stand up to what’s happening in Ann Arbor and make sure it doesn’t spread nationwide.

And coaches need to release accurate depth charts, unlike the one Kansas distributed for its opener against Rhode Island. Eight players started despite not being listed on the first team, according to a story in the Lawrence Journal-World.

One or two is understandable. Coaches make late changes all the time based on a variety of factors, including injuries and tweaks to the game plan.

Not eight.

If a coach doesn’t want to release a depth chart during the week (hello, Jim Mora), we in the media won’t be happy about it, but that can at least be explained away as not wanting to give information to the opponent. But no credible reason can be given to not have a depth chart available shortly before kickoff on a flip card when there is no competitive advantage to be gained. The players already know their roles for that day.

The potential lack of flip cards in the press box also should be a concern for professional scouts and video crews _ not to mention the media, including the broadcasters for radio and television networks which pay millions in rights fees.

So what can be done?

Harbaugh has so much power that no one on Michigan’s campus is going to force him to have one.

We need outside help to make sure not only depth charts are released before kickoff, but that the information is genuine.

So we need the Division I Football Oversight Committee to not only implement rules to provide such depth charts, but to put real teeth in those rules. And while committee members are at it, establish some rules against coaches changing players’ numbers on a weekly basis. Confusion can reign.

A third area of concern is enforcing a rule already in place about the contrast between numbers and the color backgrounds of uniforms. The numbers in some of these combinations are increasingly difficult to identify.

Colorado visits Michigan this weekend, and the Buffaloes released their own tongue-in-cheek two-deep of celebrities and fictional characters. I do wonder about the decision to go with Bernie Sanders over Vladimir Lenin at free safety.

But even though you have to give Colorado credit for making light of the situation, the Buffs won’t release a two-deep because Michigan won’t do it. It’s a perfectly reasonable stance for Colorado to take.

One, however, the Buffs shouldn’t be forced to take.

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