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There has no doubt been a lot of negative publicity around the University of Michigan football program the last few weeks. Between the losing and the injury issues, the Wolverines have hit a low point. This is a difficult time for anyone associated with the maize and blue, including fans of the program.
Growing up less than an hour from Ann Arbor gave me the opportunity to attend several University of Michigan football games on Saturday afternoons. Multiple trips to the ‘Big House’ with my dad, mom, and brother are some of my fondest memories.
Everywhere you looked inside or outside the stadium- on signs, on a video board, on tee-shirts, on banners, you saw the following phrases:
- 42 Big Ten Championships
- 11 National Championships
- 3 Heisman Trophy winners
In all, after the tailgating and pre-game festivities, 105,000 plus people pack the stadium, waiting for the Michigan Marching Band to take the field. Then, the players take the field to the tune of ‘The Victors’ – Michigan’s fight song, while they touch the banner at the 50-yard line.
‘GO BLUE!’ ‘HAIL TO THE VICTORS!’ ‘THIS IS MICHIGAN!’
That WAS Michigan. It is NOT Michigan anymore.
Let’s look at the reality of the situation and how the Wolverines got to this point.
42 Big Ten Championships: the last one came in 2004. Since then, Michigan has struggled in Big Ten play. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
Appalachian State: In 2007, App. St. came to Ann Arbor and stunned the Wolverines, 34-32. Michigan followed up that game losing to Oregon, 39-7. Michigan finished the season 9-4 and head coach Lloyd Carr retired. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-Rich Rodriguez: For three seasons, ‘Rich Rod’ gave Michigan a shot, bring his up-tempo, spread offense and 3-3-5 defense to Ann Arbor from West Virginia. The Wolverines went 15-22 in three seasons before he was fired by Michigan AD Dave Brandon. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-Brady Hoke: The so called ‘Michigan Man’ (What is a Michigan Man by the way?) came to back Ann Arbor. Hoke was an assistant coach on Lloyd Carr’s staff in the 1990’s. Hoke went 11-2 in his first season. Since then, it’s been a struggle. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-Hoke’s teams have gone 8-5 (2012), 7-6 (2013), and so far in 2014, 3-5. Michigan had three losses before the month of October for the first time in the 135 years of the program. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-In the Wolverines final scheduled game against Notre Dame, Michigan was dominated in South Bend, losing 31-0 to the Irish. Michigan followed that loss up with an un-nerving win over Miami (Ohio) and losses at home to Utah and Minnesota. The Wolverines’ offense has scored 17 points combined against the Irish, Utes, and Gophers. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-Against Minnesota, quarterback Shane Morris suffered a concussion on a very brutal hit. Morris got up from the hit, but he wasn’t able to stand up straight. He was allowed to stay in the game for another play, in which he threw an incomplete pass. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-Morris suffered a concussion and it took UofM more than 48 hours to release a statement confirming the injury. We live in 2014, where communicating with each other has never been easier. We live in a world where technology, along with science, has showed us that there is a link between brain damage and playing football. The Wolverines released the health prognosis of Morris two plus days later, citing that errors were made on the sideline due to a lack of communication. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-Between the underachieving football team with excellent recruiting classes, dwindling attendance at the Big House, student ticket prices for football games, trying to add fireworks to post-game festivities, and a star player with a head injury was allowed to stay in the game, Dave Brandon was nowhere to be found for several days. I thought Michigan was home to the ‘Leaders and the best?’ Leaders are supposed to lead during difficult and challenging times, not hide behind a press release, which Brandon did for several days. THIS IS MICHIGAN.
-The annual rivalry game against Michigan State was Saturday. The Wolverines had two weeks to prepare for the Spartans. The game wasn’t even close. MSU beat Michigan (again), 35-11.
Where does the football program go from here? Things actually can’t get worse, can they? As much as this pains me to write, this needs to be said:
MICHIGAN IS NOT MICHIGAN anymore. Gone are the days of smash mouth football. Gone are the days of having a dominant defense. Gone are the days where the Wolverines can compete to win a conference championship.
THIS, RIGHT HERE, IS MICHIGAN: They’re a 3-5 football team that probably won’t win 5 games total by season’s end. High end 2015 recruits have already de-committed and are looking elsewhere. Michigan State is quickly becoming a football powerhouse, playing smash mouth football on offense and taking care of business on defense. Ohio State has lost just 3 games with Urban Meyer as head coach- he’s in his third season in Columbus.
In conclusion, Michigan is NOT an elite program anymore. Fans expectations for this program are simply un-realistic. Can they get back to being one? Sure they can, but it won’t be overnight. It’s going to take time. More than three years. It’s going to take patience, something that fans of the football team don’t have. They don’t want to endure another rebuild. They want to win now- but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen with the current regime in charge. I would like to see this team get back to the days of playing competitive football. Right now, it’s not even close. THIS IS MICHIGAN.