Gaps in the historical record of Michigan Wolverine Sports History
Esteemed writer John U. Bacon has written another book the on college football. Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, “…[which] searches for the sport’s old ideals amid the roaring flood of hypocrisy and greed, as he was embedded in four programs- Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern.” It joins Bacon’s other works; Blue Ice, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, and Three and Out, as mandatory reading for Michigan fans.
But what books should be written?
What gaps in the historical record still need to be filled?
I doubt that any of these men would write a no-holds barred account of their experiences but if they ever did it would be some amazing stuff.
Long time coach Fred Jackson has had a front row seat during the most turbulent times in recent Michigan Football history. Begin with that Jackson has been on staff for the four most recent head coaches; Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Brady Hoke. Jackson was there when Gary Moeller left the program in disgrace. He won a National Championship with Carr, and the was sole coaching survivor after RichRod brought in his own staff. As the losses and and criticism mounted, not to mention the problems with the NCAA , Jackson survived. When RichRod exited the Wolverine stage, Jackson once again made the transition to a new staff being retained by new Coach Brady Hoke.
A great recruiter and a talented coach, Jackson is in a unique position to compare and contrast coaching regimes.
A polarizing figure for many, Lloyd did what Bo was never able to do- win a National Championship. A great coach by the numbers and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, fans would probably be most interested in his thoughts on close of this career and the subsequent transition to RichRod.
A noted history buff, it would be fun to imagine Lloyd penning chapters in line with his interests:
Appalachian State- My Personal Waterloo
I am not Benedict Arnold- I Didn’t Undermine Anyone
Old Soldiers Don’t Die, They Just Fade Away- My Perceived Lack of Support for Rich Rodriguez
Humorous chapter titles aside, there are many questions that Lloyd could address. Starting with the persistent rumors of health problems, his snarly attitude with some members of media, and feuds with former Wolverine Quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh and Rick Leach. What about his take on the athletic directors he has worked for?
Not to mention the elephant in the room- his behavior and attitude towards his successor Rich Rodriguez.
Did Lloyd really call Rodriguez to gauge his interest in the Michigan job?
What was he thinking when he offered to help his players transfer before Rodriguez arrived on campus?
What really went down when he met with Rodriguez for lunch at the Michigan Union to clear the air?
Rodriguez and his staff have aired their grievances. Lloyd declined to make himself available despite John Bacon’s efforts during the writing of Three and Out.
Someday Lloyd should answer these questions on the record. His answers would make for interesting reading.
It was Winston Churchill who said, “History is written by the victors.” Lloyd is allowing the final word on his career to be told by RichRod- and that is unacceptable.
The highs and lows of Webber’s Wolverine athletic career alone would make for a great book. From high school phenom to a cultural icon as leader of the Fab 5 his ill advised time-out crushed the hopes Wolverine fans. But his involvement in one of the largest NCAA scandals in history elevates his tale to the level of a Greek tragedy.
Many fans would like to see Webber and Fab 5 honored in some way by Michigan. Webber could go a long way towards rehabilitating his image with a thoughtful account of his disagreements with the NCAA and troubles as a reluctant witness during the federal investigation of bookmaker Ed Martin.
With former athletes challenging the NCAA right to profit from their likeness, a book by Webber would be most timely.
Chris could thrust himself back in to spotlight and perhaps help current college athletes in their quest for more compensation from the NCAA.
Michigan Assistant Athletic Director Bruce Madej recently announced his retirement. His career has spanned from Athletic Directors Don Canham to David Brandon, football coaches from Bo to Brady Hoke. His tenure began with stories written on typewriters and published via printing press and ends with reporters tweeting from the their smartphones to a global internet audience.
Madej has help the guide the coverage of virtually every major Michigan sports story for the last quarter century. He is a living encyclopedia of Michigan Wolverine history.
The main difference was Brady’s easy going demeanor and uncanny knack for saying exactly what the Michigan faithful wanted to hear from the new coach.
But after an improbable 11-2 season, capped off by a BCS Sugar Bowl win, one thing is clear- the fort is back.
The steel curtain has fallen, the blockade is in place, choose your metaphor but fresh information is a highly restricted commodity as we enter season 2 of the Hoke era.
In retrospect, the curtain of secrecy first showed itself with the unexpected “big game” road uniforms unveiled against Michigan State last season.
People aware of the game day surprise faced serious consequences if the secret leaked out in advance.
This spring the control of information was further locked down with the banishment of media from practices. Even former players and high school coaches who were still allowed access to practice were given clear instructions reminiscent of the World War II Manhattan project’s directive- “What you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.”
After weeks of eager anticipation, the Wolverine faithful were treated to a spring game that showed…well not much. I’m convinced after watching the “game” on tape, that one conclusion is obvious- the Wolverines have great uniforms. After that I’m not so sure.
One thing I am sure of is that this atmosphere of secrecy sure reminds me of the Lloyd Carr era.
Hoke claiming he would like to have a full on competitive spring game for fans but is prevented from doing so because of “numbers” could have been taken verbatim from from a Lloyd Carr press conference. Fans can hold out hope for something more, some day, if numbers allow.
Don’t hold your breath for that to happen. Hoke like Rodriguez and Carr before him, is reluctant to risk injury in a meaningless exhibition.
So what does this mean for fans? Well they’re going to be reading a lot of re-packaging of press conference quotes and breathless recaps of official athletic department video clips.
And don’t expect a lot of insider leaks out of this version of Fort Schembechler. At least for now, the shields are holding.
The recent band-getting-hosed-by-being-left-out-of the 2012 College Football Kick-off game against Alabama seems to be a rare occurrence of unfavorable news leaking out before Athletic Director David Brandon could sprinkle his maize and blue pixie dust on it.
The veil of secrecy is not a bad thing. It served Lloyd Carr and Michigan football well during his tenure. But whether it can be maintained in an era dominated by social media and twitter is another thing altogether. It’s hard to imagine that a coach who doesn’t use email can appreciate the implications of these new information channels.
Is Brady Hoke taking a page out of his old boss’s playbook with the media?
We will have to wait and see if he starts trading verbal jabs with sideline reporters be sure.
To many Tom Brady was merely a stopgap falling in the shadow of Brian Griese (who led Michigan to a National Championship) and Drew Henson who was destined to lead the Wolverines to 3 or 4 National Championships, while leading the Yankees to World Championships during the football off-season.
No disrespect to Drew Henson but the hype surrounding him was completely out of control. The spotlight on Henson obscured Brady and many fans couldn’t wait for him to make way for Henson.
While Brady was technically the starter, Lloyd Carr employed the dreaded dual QB system giving Henson ample to time to challenge. At the time it seemed like a concession to keep Henson from bolting and playing baseball full time.
But Brady held on as the starter for two seasons and capped his career with an OT win over Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl.
During his time at Michigan no one could have predicted the success he’d have in the NFL.
I always thought that Brady would be successful at something- he had that air about him. A quiet determination and confidence. No matter how obnoxious fans would be, “Hey Tom, how long until Drew takes your job?” he stayed calm, cool, and collected.
Only later did we learn how close he came to transferring.
But there was one indication of his character. I took this picture during the 1998 season and was determined to get all three players who were featured prominently to autograph it. At 1999 Media Day fans had an opportunity to meet the players and I quickly tracked down center Steve Frazier (#64) tight end end Aaron Shea (#36) but couldn’t find Brady anywhere.
I went from line to line looking for him. Finally, I tracked him standing practically alone near the sideline. When I showed him the photo his first reaction was to ask how I took it (from my seats) and how cool it was that it showed all three players together in the same shot. I found out later that Aaron Shea was one of his best friends in college which helps explain why he liked the photo so much.
He signed the photo and said, “Go Blue!” and thanked me for taking the picture.
It always struck how classy he was. At the time there was a huge line of people waiting for Drew Henson’s autograph while Brady, the starter, stood by watching.
A lesser man may have been resentful, but Brady was a Michigan Man.
I wondered how he felt when he found himself drafted by the Patriots and was again overshadowed by another quarterback phenom named Drew (Bledsoe).
I have no doubt that he handled himself with the same class he showed at Michigan.
And his hard work and dedication have made him one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Lloyd Carr retired two seasons ago but his shadow still looms large over the Michigan football program.
Just ask former Wolverine QB Rick Leach, who this week blasted the former coach on local sports radio.
Leach, who has been a vocal supporter of Carr’s successor Rich Rodriguez, accused Carr of high treason for attending the Michigan/Iowa game and having “…the audacity, the unmitigated gall…” to not sit with the Michigan contingent.
It’s an ironic turn of events for two men who are both so closely identified with Michigan football. Leach for his outstanding college career and Carr for leading the Wolverines to the 1997 National Championship.
Leach, who is revered by many Wolverine fans, seems to represent a vocal minority of Wolverines fans who were critical of Coach Carr and pushed for his departure. What’s puzzling is why nearly two years after Carr’s retirement that the attacks continue.
My impression is that Leach wasn’t exactly one of the Lloyd’s favorite people. When Rodriguez become coach Leach got a new lease on life as a program insider. Since then Leach has been front and center in defending Rodriguez while continuing to take shots at Carr.
But Leach’s campaign against Carr will do nothing to stop the Detroit Free Press’ inquisition of current Coach Rich Rodriguez.
His radio tirade only exposes a fissure between two legends of the Michigan football program.
In times like this I wonder what Bo what would say about the situation.
My guess is he’d chide Lloyd for his choice of seating at the Iowa/Michigan football game.
But it wouldn’t anything compared to the ass chewing that he’d give Leach.