The second installment of the Michigan-Michigan State series takes us to 2008. For the preceding 39 seasons, Michigan had been coached by descendants of the Bo Schembechler coaching tree, and those coaches produced fairly consistent success, including one perfect season, one national championship, 20 seasons in which Michigan won or tied for the Big Ten championship, and last but not least, pretty consistent success against Michigan State, with the Wolverines winning 30 of the previous 39 games. This produced an expectation of success against the Spartans.
All of that changed in 2008. Having been befuddled on several occasions by coaches who ran the spread offense, Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez, a spread guru, as its new head coach. Both sides will debate the reasons, but the Rodriguez regime didn’t produce the results that Michigan fans and alumni were anticipating. Conversely, Michigan State chose the opposite path, and had hired Mark Dantonio as its head coach the year before. Dantonio brought a basic I-formation offense back to Michigan State, and his focus on the power running game probably should have concerned Michigan from the outset. In 2007, Michigan defeated Michigan State with a classic comeback victory, prompting an exchange of comments in the media between Michigan running back Mike Hart and Dantonio. The rivalry probably would have experienced a shift at that point anyway, but Hart’s comments probably didn’t help matters.
Once the game started, it featured an interesting call, which is consistent with many of the games in this series. Running back Brandon Minor caught a pass and got his foot on a pylon, but it was initially ruled incomplete. After a review, the play was ruled a touchdown, which the network broadcast later said was incorrect. Ultimately, it didn’t matter much. Michigan State seized control the game in the final quarter, and came away with a 35-21 win, signaling the beginning of a Spartan green trend in the series.
Sadly, Rich Rodriguez never did figure out how to win in this series.
Brady Hoke expounded on the importance of tradition when he became Michigan’s head coach. Now entering his fourth season, high expectations fueled by the storied past of Michigan football threaten to swamp the program.
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.
Yes, despite record profits the Michigan Athletic Department announced that is raising taxes on football season ticket holders…err increasing the amount of preferred seat donations for those who wish to keep their season tickets.
The move will help pad the bottom line of the Athletic Department and help to fuel another wave of buildings on the athletic campus.
But the move intensifies the debate of how skyrocketing ticket prices impact the sustainability of the athletic department profit model.
The ranks of basketball and hockey season ticket holders have been thinned by years of price increases and student season ticket holder numbers have likewise fluctuated.
With huge pockets of empty seats in the student section in Michigan Stadium this past season, it appears that even football isn’t immune to the impact of high ticket prices. Many season ticket holders began attending games as students, transitioning to public season ticket holders after graduation. The Athletic Department risks losing these fans as they graduate.
Many current football season tickets holders are selling a portion of their season tickets to help subsidize their costs. This latest increase have caused some to question the true value of their season tickets. With a waiting list for football season ticket holders, the athletic department seems to be immune to people not renewing their season tickets.
If the athletic department could weather the RichRod era with its losing record and NCAA scandal, a few lost season ticket holders doesn’t seem like a big deal. But with every long time fan who gives up their football, hockey, or basketball season tickets the athletic department gets in return a customer with little or no loyalty to Michigan Athletics.
As the Big Ten expands to include such powerhouses as Maryland and Rutgers, season ticket holders are questioning what kind of games they’ll be seeing in the Big House in future seasons. While the future impact of expansion and tickets prices are unknown, the people making the current decisions won’t be around to face the long term ramifications of these recent developments.
I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of the money grab. Big Ten expansion will only drive revenues so far. Online viewing will start to erode the stranglehold of cable television and then the Big Ten Network will need to some other source cash. That’s why within the next 5 years we’ll see major event games follow the pay-per-view model. It’s the next logical step in the evolution of greed.
The conference will win, the schools will win, and college football will be headed down the road to being about as relevant as boxing.
It’s a bleak future when the people running your athletic program care more about dollars than fans. But more and more it seems that the short sighted greed of a few will lead to the death of college football as we know it.
Youth was served as the Michigan Wolverines barely scraped by Air Force, 31-25. Freshman were used extensively and Coach Brady Hoke acknowledged that there are more playing than on any of his other previous teams.