Whatever Happened to all of the Heroes?

Donald Lierman , Writer

The return of OD’s Rant…Go Blue.  

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? – Mark 8:36

A 10-3 record? In fact, Bump, Bennie and Bo are probably revolving in their graves. I’m sure they have turned their backs to Michigan as the Wolverines have devolved in honor, loyalty and duty in the past few years.

The time is nigh to question the powers that have created the current sports philosophy at the University of Michigan Athletics. There has been a transition from a focus on the team and sportsmanship to an emphasis on profit and individual aggrandizement.

The debacle began with the 2007 loss to the Appalachian State Mountaineers, a Division 1-AA school, 34-32, followed by a drubbing by Oregon. Although U-M would rebound in Lloyd Carr’s final season and win their bowl game (shades of things to come), the chip was etched into the University of Michigan’s football reputation–they were one of the big boys. This wasn’t supposed to happen to the champions of the West.

Later allegations would arise that some players were, ahem, imbibing substances of ill repute the night before the game.

During that season a U-M football player would make the infamous comment regarding the  Michigan State University squad as being the “little brothers” in terms of football competition. That disparaging remark only served to set a fire under MSU’s program, which proceeded to put the hurt on the U-M in eight of their next 11 meetings.

Being cocky is one thing, being unable to perform is another. If the party allegations are true, there was something rotten in the state of Ann Arbor football.

After Carr retired, the University of Michigan football program poached University of West Virginia’s head coach Rich Rodriguez. U-M was later forced to buyout Rodriguez’ contract as he supposedly broke his contract with WVU.  

This action only served to fuel questions regarding the athletic department’s integrity.

Rodriquez only lasted for a couple of years. He was replaced by Brady Hoke and then onto Jim Harbaugh and the 2018 season. All due respect is due to a Wolverine squad that ran the Big Ten table…until the OSU rout.

One could feel a loss to the Bucks coming when behaviors of the team are reflected upon. After throwing a tizzy because they didn’t feel the MSU Spartans paid them enough respect during the pre-game activities (at MSU’s house during the Spartan tradition of walking arm-in-arm across the field the Spartans to give way as the U-M football players dallied), one player dug up parts of the MSU logo at the 50-yard line.

Harbaugh’s reaction was to point the finger at MSU. Either way you perceive it, a more balanced response would have been felt to be appropriate.

A play-by-play announcer remarked that Michigan should be above such on the field antics. But the times have been a-changin’ in collegiate sports and the world in general.

Players later began to wear “Revenge Tour” t-shirts which was all well and good, but putting the money where the mouth was for the game in Columbus fell far short of the braggadocio. Do not poke a sleeping Buckeye.

But the straw that broke this poor hack’s back was the fact that three players opted out of the bowl game because they were afraid they might get hurt, and we all know that who cares about the school, the fan and the program–that dollar and the individual is all that matters (no “I” in team but plenty of potential money).

Harbaugh’s reactions were wishy-washy at best but quite politically correct. No more loyalty to the squad in college football.

There were eight out of the top 25 candidates who opted to participate in this year’s national championship game, and one even came back to play his senior year when he had the opportunity to go pro. That is called not only loyalty to the program that makes one excel and get scouts’ attention, but it highlights how far the University of Michigan football program and traditions have fallen from its once lofty heights.

Maybe we should change our team name, just for football, to the Weasels…‘cause the Buckeyes sure popped them.

Perhaps if a player decides his way is the only way, he should be kicked out of school and made to pay back his scholarships…hell, he will have enough money if he scores that big NFL pie in the sky ticket.

Sure, it’s the way of the West, but the University of Michigan is supposed to be the Leader and the Best. Playing for yourself may be the American way but it should never become the Michigan way.

The rest of the sports world may have degenerated to a revenue-driven sports mentality, however, U-M should stand for much more than this. It’s time for fans to demand a better sports ethos from the highest rung in the department of athletics all the way to the lowest. As proud sports fans and students, we deserve much more.

Oh well–there’s still the CFL.


This piece originally appeared in the winter 2019 print issue of The Michigan Times, released on March 18.