Maybe it was growing up a stone’s throw from “the Big House” in Ann Arbor, or maybe it was the sheer amount of people I knew that attended the University of Michigan, but I can tell you that I never had any interest in attending Michigan’s best university. I only really care about one thing that the University of Michigan gives to my hometown: their sports. It would be an understatement that the 2010s were a rough decade for the state of Michigan in the world of sports. The 2010s brought zero major championships back to the mitten, and the 2020s look pretty bleak as of now. While the professional sports of Detroit couldbecritiquedatlength,it is the Michigan Wolverines that weigh heaviest on my mind this week.
This past weekend I brought five of my friends to Ann Arbor to witness what was once the greatest rivalry in sports, Michigan vs. Ohio State. A football game dating back over one hundred years, between two of the most distinguished programs of all time, a game that always falls at the end of the season and a game whose outcome has often shaped both teams futures. There have been Heisman trophy winners from both schools in this game, and there have even been national championships at stake just from this one event, but we have not seen anything close to this in the last 10 years. Michigan may be the winningest college football program of all time, but let’s get real, most of those wins came from the early 1900s before the game of football modernized.
My friends were ecstatic to get to see this infamous game in the largest stadiuminthecountry,andIwas hoping that their presence would provide the luck needed to snap Ohio State’s dominance in this rivalry. I was mistaken. Without going into too much detail, Michigan got worked by the Buckeyes of Ohio State to the tune of a 56-27 defeat. As we left the stadium we could hear chants begging for the termination of Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh is now 0-5 against his team’s most important rival, and no matter how many star-studded recruiting classes he brings in and how many football helmets he gifts the Pope, he has been embarrassed on the biggest stage, and had little to say in his defense.
The term “hot seat” has been tossed around a lot in regards to Jim Harbaugh’s head coaching position at the University of Michigan, and while many analysts would agree that Harbaugh’s job is in question, I would have to respectfully disagree for one clear reason. Michigan is no longer a football school, and the University isbeginningtotransitionitselfinto a basketball powerhouse. Michigan’s athletic department dropped a pretty penny on the hiring of Harbaugh in 2015, and I do not see them making another huge coaching investment anytime soon. While it was seldom discussed in the streets of Ann Arbor this weekend, the Michigan basketball team defeated two top-10 opponents this weekend which jumped them from their previous unranked position, to number four in the country, the largest jump a team has made in NCAA basketball rankings in 70 years.
The new head coach, Juwan Howard, like Harbaugh, was once the king of Michigan’s campus, as he was part of the “fab-five” Michigan team during the 1990s. Howard was an exciting replacement to former coach John Beileine, who brought Michigan to two National Championships and five Sweet Sixteen appearances during his 12 seasons as head coach. Beileine arguably brought Michigan back into college basketball relevancy which had not been experienced since the late 1980s and early 90s. His departure in 2019 to the Cleveland Cavaliers was met with warm wishes and gratitude for his contribution to the program. Juwan Howard has some big shoes to fill, but with only seven games played this season, he has been perfect.
So should Michigan fans forget about their football woes and just focus on basketball? Probably not, but I urge any supporter of the Wolverine’s sports teams to try and forget about football for now, and enjoy what we have. It is easy to expect greatness from a historically great sports school, but should we not just be grateful that we have anything to be excited about? There are so many schools in the country that can be more upset than us, so for now, enjoy what we have, because it can still be truly great to be a Michigan Wolverine!