University of Michigan: A Powerhouse or a Has-Been?

J Pat DyerAnalyst IDecember 22, 2007

IconWest Virginia University must be feeling like Michigan's Triple-A club these days.

First WVU loses it basketball coach to the Wolverines, then it loses its football coach.

Rich Rodriguez followed John Beilein's footsteps in beating a path from Morgantown to Ann Arbor—with big dreams and a fat wallet.

The coach told the football world that "it took an opportunity of Michigan's caliber" for him to leave his home state and alma mater.

Most of the football world assumed Rodriguez was referencing Michigan's tradition.

I assume he was talking about money.

Tradition is fine—but as the Irish would say, it doesn't buy potatoes.

I've been told by many self-proclaimed experts both personally and via my television that tradition makes recruiting easier. Recruiting in turn makes winning easier. And winning buys potatoes.

I agree—if you're recruiting middle-aged guys who know every detail about every major program.

I disagree if you're recruiting young men who can't remember when Miami ruled college football—much less when Michigan was on top.

So it must be recent tradition of which the experts speak. I looked at the basketball polls and I couldn't find Michigan. I saw West Virginia ranked with an 8-1 record—but Beilein's Wolverines were nowhere to be found.

How can that be? Michigan is all about tradition!

I finally went to the Wolverines' website and found they're 4-8 this year. My first thought:

That's an odd tradition.

Of course Rodriguez was obviously talking about football. I checked the latest ranking—again no Michigan, again there was West Virginia.

It's clear to me that someone needs to tell the school of Jerry West and Sam Huff to back off and bow to tradition.

Here's the experts' logic:

Michigan has been a national power in both basketball and football—and that's why the recruits will flock to Ann Arbor.

18-year-olds will vividly remember Michigan's winning the NCAA basketball championship...just a short 19 years ago.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, can sit in living rooms and tell the story of Michigan tradition. He can describe the feeling of watching the Wolverines win their last uncontested college football championship.

"I remember it well," he'll say. "It was the winter of 1948..."

Selling ancient history to middle-aged guys like Beilein and Rodriguez is easy, because like all middle-aged people they long for the good old days—when Michigan was king and gas was 29 cents a gallon.

I have a feeling the sophisticated kids they try to recruit will check the facts and find out Michigan hasn't been a power for a long long time.

If you don't believe me, just ask Jim Tressel.


J Pat

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