Michigan 'really close' on night game announcement

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Jake Butt catches a pass during Michigan's spring game earlier this month.

Ann Arbor — Less than six months into his tenure as Michigan's interim athletic director, Jim Hackett still is going through many firsts and crossing several things off his to-do lists.

As Hackett is learning and producing on the job, he's bringing some innovative ideas and relishing the opportunity to make changes.

Michigan already has two night football games on the road — at Utah on Sept. 3 and at Maryland on Oct. 3 — and may be looking into additional home night games.

At UM's basketball banquet on Wednesday night, Hackett said there's no update on the progress for more night contests.

"There is no news yet; we're a few days away from an announcement — really close," Hackett said. "Just hang in there; an announcement is coming."

While Hackett's biggest accomplishment so far has been targeting and hiring Jim Harbaugh to replace Brady Hoke, there are other initiatives he is pursuing. Harbaugh has generated excitement with the football program, but without having played a game yet, the enthusiasm is just that.

"I feel like we're in a good space right now with our coaching hire — but as I tease him, we haven't won a game yet; he loves that challenge," Hackett said. "I just learned this week that he's not the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten — and that's good for me."

The reference is to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who got a contract extension this week that tops Harbaugh's deal in average salary.

Hackett is looking ahead to other priorities, including addressing the licensing agreement with Adidas and improving the fan experience at Michigan Stadium. That could include electronic tickets for football games instead of paper tickets.

"I said to myself one day that I don't need a boarding pass for the airplane anymore, so why are we making people carry tickets around?" he said. "We have a bigger challenge than the airlines do, because we have 100,000-plus people showing up in one moment. There is some promise in that, so that's an example of fan experience."

As for the basketball program, a 16-16 record left Michigan out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. But Hackett praised coach John Beilein for persevering through adversity and keeping the team competitive, even without two of its best players.

As two Big Ten teams, Wisconsin and Michigan State, reached the Final Four, Michigan was competitive against both with a depleted roster.

"We have the same outstanding coach who was in the (2013 championship game) and you see him do the kind of job he did this year when we saw two teams in the Final Four that we took to the wire," Hackett said.

"That's pretty good, given what we faced with adversity. It might have been one of his best seasons. I'm really proud of this team and this coach."