On Nov. 17, 2006, Bo Schembechler died. He was 77.
For Michigan fans, the bad news hasn’t ended. Second-ranked Michigan lost the next day’s game to top-ranked Ohio State, missing a shot at a national title. Then the Wolverines lost the next three straight, including the historic upset by Appalachian State. That was followed by Rich Rodriguez’s troubled three-year run, and now almost four years of Brady Hoke. After Hoke’s honeymoon season in 2011, the program has been sliding steadily downhill.
The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan.
But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since – and not always for the better.
Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches.
But the phrase really took off in 1989, when Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder, on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament, because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season.
If you’re not a Michigan football fan, you probably haven’t heard of Vada Murray, but you might have seen his picture.
It’s one of the iconic images of Michigan football, along with Tom Harmon standing in his mud-soaked, torn-apart jersey, Ol’ 98, and Desmond Howard diving to catch a touchdown against Notre Dame -- two Heisman Trophy winners, winning big games.
But the photo I’m talking about depicts Vada Murray and Tripp Welborne soaring skyward to block a field goal.
They were a kicker’s nightmare, but even when they got a hand on the ball, it simply denied their opponent three points -- not the kind of thing that wins you a Heisman Trophy or an NFL contract.
They don’t even keep records of blocked kicks.
But, over two decades later, something about that photo still resonates, perhaps because it captures their effort, their intensity, their passion – all of it spent just to give their teammates a slightly better chance for success.