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university of michigan football

UM Ford School

Last week, I explained why Michigan students are dropping football tickets in record numbers.

It touched a nerve – actually a few thousand nerves.  Not just among Michigan fans, but college football fans nationwide.

It’s all well and good to criticize Michigan’s athletic administration – and cathartic for the fans, apparently.  But it doesn’t solve the central problem: How can they keep fans happy?

Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

A typical student's view inside the Big House.
Andrew Horne / wikimedia commons

One debate I could do without is this: Who are the real Michigan fans?

I realize that sounds pretty stupid. Anybody who cheers for Michigan is a Michigan fan, right? But we make it harder than it needs to be.   

Some folks believe only people who graduated from Michigan can call themselves real Michigan fans.

The rest? They are mere “Walmart Wolverines” – fans who pick their college teams the way they pick their professional teams: mainly by geography.

Michigan is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country heading into next weekend's rivalry game in East Lansing against Michigan State.
Flickr user Anthony Gattine/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

I’ve often joked that some Michigan football fans aren’t happy unless they’re not happy.  But after 11 games this season, even they could be excused for having plenty to be unhappy about. A week ago, the Wolverines were 3-and-4 in the Big Ten, with undefeated Ohio State coming up next. 

The Wolverines had been surprisingly bad all season -- until the Ohio State game, when they were suddenly, surprisingly good, falling short by just one point in the final minute.  It was the first time I have ever seen Michigan fans feeling better after a loss than before it. 

Still, the heroic performance was bittersweet.

Where was that team all year?  Which team will return next year – the one that got crushed by Michigan State, or the one that almost beat the Buckeyes?

But Michigan’s bigger problems are off the field, not on it.

Michigan Football / Facebook

Moments before the Michigan Wolverines introduced Brady Hoke as their new head football coach in 2011, Michigan fans had lots of questions. Why not hire a national star like Les Miles or Jim Harbaugh, who both played at Michigan? Who was Brady Hoke? Was he up to the task?

Hoke answered these questions by nailing his first press conference. He won over more Michigan fans in just a few minutes than his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, had been able to do in three years. When a reporter asked Hoke if the Wolverines would be rebuilding, he famously replied, “This is Michigan, for godsakes” – and a star was born.

It was hard to imagine a happier honeymoon than Hoke’s. In his rookie season, the Wolverines beat Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State – for the first time in eight years. They won their first BCS bowl game since Tom Brady did the job in 2000, en route to an 11-2 record. From the fans in the stands to the team in the trenches, the love for Coach Hoke was universal.

user CedarBendDrive / Flickr

No doubt about it — heads are sure to collide on Saturday’s football game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

But when heads collide on the field at Spartan Stadium, two neurologists will be on the sidelines, making sure no concussed player gets back in the game.

Both Jeff Kutcher, an associate professor of neurology at Michigan’s medical school, and David Kaufman, the chairman of the neurology department at Michigan State, will be working on the field for Saturday’s game.

According to the New York Times, while many Big Ten schools have medical consultants for their athletic teams, only Michigan and Michigan State keep them on the sidelines at all games.

TEDxUofM / Vimeo

 Jon Falk first met football coach Bo Schembechler in 1967.  Falk was a freshman working in the equipment room at Miami of Ohio, and Schembechler was the head coach. Schembechler seemed pretty gruff to Falk, so he avoided him. That was not going to work for long. 

Falk graduated from Miami in 1971 and stayed on as the football team’s assistant equipment manager. He lived at home with his mother and his grandmother and took care of them. In 1974 Bo invited Falk to interview in Ann Arbor. Falk had never lived anywhere but tiny Oxford, Ohio, so he was a little apprehensive about going to such a big place.

When he returned, he told his mother and grandmother that he was going to turn down Coach Schembechler’s offer because he did not want to leave the two of them by themselves. That night, around four in the morning, Falk’s mother came into his room, crying. She said it hurt her to say it, but he must go to Michigan. “I know Coach Schembechler will take care of you.”

user AndrewHorne / Wikimedia

For decades, students at Michigan games were assigned seats, with the seniors getting the best ones. But for some games last year, a quarter of the 20,000 or so people in the student section were no-shows.

So, athletic director Dave Brandon decided to switch them to general admission – first come, first seated -- to get them to show up on time -or, at all.

The students went ballistic.

Yes, some can display a breathtaking sense of entitlement, and they won’t get much sympathy from the average fan, who has to pay three or four-times more.

Bentley Historical Library / University of Michigan

With Ann Arbor’s own Harbaugh brothers about to square off in the Super Bowl, you’ll probably start to hear lots of stories from the folks who met them along the way. 

Well, count me in.

MGoBlog / flickr

This time last year, Brady Hoke was the darling of Michigan football fans. 

He’d charmed everybody at his first press conference, then led a team that had averaged just five wins a year to a 10-2 regular-season record, with thrilling wins over Notre Dame, Nebraska and arch-rival Ohio State.

Then he capped it all off with an overtime victory in the Sugar Bowl. 

The man could do no wrong.

When he referred to injuries as “boo-boos” and Ohio State as “Ohio,” fans did not conclude he was an ignoramus who knew nothing about the greatest rivalry in sports, but a motivational genius, who understood exactly what the duel was all about. 

Michigan vs. Notre Dame. The two teams play their final game in 2014.
Michigan Football / Facebook

Notre Dame announced this week the school is suspending its century-old rivalry with the University of Michigan after the 2014 season.

The only constant is change. 

Yeah, yeah.  We know that – and in case we didn’t, there’s always some office blowhard too eager to say it, as if it’s some profound truth.

But that’s why, the more things change, the more we appreciate things that don’t.

When Carole King sang, “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more?” she probably wasn’t talking about NFL franchises, but she could’ve been.

Denard Robinson avoids a rush from the Fighting Irish.
Michigan Football / Facebook

It appears that a storied college football rivalry is coming to an end. The two teams first met in 1887.

More from the Associated Press:

Notre Dame has notified Michigan it is exercising a three-year out in their contract, meaning their last scheduled game against each other will come in 2014.

A letter from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon cancelling games in 2015-2017 was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The AP reports the teams were scheduled to take hiatus for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The Notre Dame football team is required to play five games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams. The school recently joined the conference, but kept its football team independent.

ESPN.com reports the two teams have taken long breaks in the past.

They've played every year since 2002 and regularly since 1978 after not meeting from 1944 to 1977 or 1910 to 1941.

Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon was handed a letter before last Saturday night's game (which Michigan lost 13-6). Brandon said he hopes to work with Notre Dame on another contract in the future:

"The ball is in their court because they've triggered the three-game notice," he said. "We'll play them next year at Michigan Stadium for the last time in a while -- it appears -- and we'll make our last scheduled trip to South Bend in 2014. There will likely be nothing on the board for five years after that. Beyond that, I don't know what will happen."

ESPN.com reports "the Wolverines have an NCAA-best .735 winning percentage in football, and the Irish (.732) are second. Michigan leads all-time series 23-16-1."

No word on Notre Dame's game contract with Michigan State University.

Denard Robinson avoids a rush from the Fighting Irish.
Michigan Football / Facebook

Last week, the University of Michigan football team beat up University of Massachusetts, 63-13.

Okay, U-Mass was pretty bad. Even lowly Indiana crushed them.

But the Wolverines did exactly what they were supposed to do, and did it very well. Many Michigan fans complained anyway.

This is not uncommon.

A few years ago, Michigan blew out 15th-ranked Notre Dame team 38-0, the first shut out over the Irish in over a century. The next day, I challenged listeners on a sports talk show to find something to complain about.

The MGoPatio in Ann Arbor.
Martin Vloet / Facebook

Marketplace's Tess Vigeland handed out their "Piggy Bank Award" to Ann Arbor's Martin Vloet.

Vloet and his wife bought a house in Ann Arbor a few years ago near Michigan Stadium.

They knew the garage needed some work, so when they re-built, they decided to make the space big enough for tailgaiting events.

"I found through some of the people that I worked with and through some of my connections in town, that there was a lot of interest in a space like that, because it was so close to Michigan football. "

Just in time for college football season, we found this article about a young UM fan who got in trouble for wearing a Michigan shirt to school.

For the first time in almost 18 years, a Wolverine will don jersey number 48 this season. The number was previously retired for Michigan's 1934 MVP and the 34th President of the United States.

Michiganensian

At last week’s Homecoming Game, Michigan had planned to honor one of its great alums, a man named Chalmers Elliott – better known as Bump.

He was an All-American football player and a Big Ten champion coach, but earned greater fame as the athletic director at Iowa, Michigan’s opponent this weekend.

Pneumonia kept the 86-year old legend from making it, however, so we're honoring him today. 

Michigan football has produced a lot of big name coaches and players, but one of the finest men who played and coached for Michigan deserves to be a little bigger.

His name is Chalmers Elliott – which might explain why he goes by “Bump.”

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

University of Michigan football fans are gearing up for an historic game tonight, when the Wolverines host their first-ever nighttime game against Notre Dame.

There’s been plenty of hype in the lead-up to the event, and ESPN will broadcast the prime-time game.

U of M athletic director Dave Brandon said he hopes there will be more night games in future seasons:

"If this goes well, I would like to do one night game a year. If it goes well. If it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t matter what I’d like to do."

The University of Michigan Athletic Department has announced that San Diego State University football coach Brady Hoke will be the next Wolverine football coach, succeeding Rich Rodriguez. Here's the U of M statement Hoke Named Michigan Football Coach ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 11) the hiring of Brady Hoke as the 19th coach in the 131-year history of Michigan football. Hoke arrives in Ann Arbor after spending the past eight seasons as a head coach at Ball State (2003-08) and San Diego State (2009-10).

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