Rather than engaging in the bouts of Hokemania running wild all over this site, or joining the numerous posters who seem to have forsaken Michigan for a love of RichRod forever-more (similar to my childhood fandom of "whoever Warren Moon plays for" after playing Tecmo Super Bowl as the Oilers), I decided to examine the rich and voluminous history of Michigan football to find some historical perspective.
While I bought in at the beginning of each of the last three years and convinced myself we were "just around the corner," I was disillusioned each year as the losses mounted and the victories failed to do so. I don't think the wins/losses did RichRod in, though - my sense from talking to other alums (and trying to track my emotional path through all of this) was that the sense of "time for a change" came less from the losses, and more from the MAGNITUDE of the losses. With that in mind, I first sought out a list of all seasons in which Michigan has been outscored by its opponents. There were twelve, which was actually more than I expected to find. The seasons (with coaches in parenthesis) were:
This list tells me a few things. First, having a season in which you were outscored by your opponent does not create a supportable assumption that you are a bad coach; if you remove the coaches on this list, Michigan's national championships decrease from 11 to 2. Second, having such a season does make it likely that you will be removed from your duties of coaching football at Michigan at some point; while Yost largely retired on his own terms, there was a movement to get the old man to move on by the time he stepped down. Wieman was gone after his bad season; while Kipke got a bit more rope because of his two national championships, his fourth led to his ouster as well. Oosterbaan's one season being outscored coincided with his last, and then Bump got a bit more rope...because he was cleaning up Bennie's mess? Either way, two for RichRod in three years didn't indicate a future of much success if you look at the historical numbers.
Next, I sought a way to quantify HOW MANY bad losses there had been; the three at the end of this year definitely wore on me, and so I looked at (a) how many games each head coach had lost by 10+ points each year, and (b) how many they did so on average. The numbers are as follows:
|Coach||10-pt losses||10-pt losses per season|
This chart was pretty striking to me; RichRod had more double-digit losses in three seasons than Lloyd had in his 13 seasons!! Also, while the likelihood of these events increased in the Mo/Lloyd years vis-a-vis Bo, they were still well below the Bump/Bennie/Kipke mark, and not far from Crisler and Yost's marks. Five per year more than doubled Bump Elliott, Michigan's 2nd worst coach (with regard to big losses).
Finally, I noticed that RichRod had 5, 4 and 6 double-digit losses in years 1, 2 and 3, respectively. I sought to put those in historical context; of the 110 seasons examined, there were only seven seasons of at least four double-digit losses in a season:
When viewed through this prism, it's much tougher to make the argument that the team was "competitive" and "just around the corner" the last few years - 2010 featured the 2nd-worst set of losses we've ever seen, eclipsed only by 1962. While improving from 3 to 5 to 7 wins seemed on its face to be "progress," the margins of victory and loss indicated otherwise - Michigan was soundly defeated in more games this year than in 2008. Three of the worst seven seasons (by this measure) don't point in the direction of a guy that should have been kept.
While we don't know what direction the team'll take under HOKEMANIA, we do know, at least, that our new coach has a love and appreciation for the history that is Michigan Football. Here's hoping we get fewer of these seasons and more that finish in Pasadena!
Fielding H. Yost, Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan → Rich Rodriguez? That's right, Rich Rodriguez and his offense are the direct descendant of some of Michigan's greatest coaches. Those of us who devoured HTTV 2010 already have an inkling of this after reading Chris Brown's (of Smart Football) chapter, "Back in Time" which explores the evolution of college football offenses through today linking Rodriguez's spread 'n' shred to its antecedents.
Now, Richard Retyi has penned a nice piece at mgoblue.com: "U-M's Shotgun Offense is Older than the Winged Helmets Themselves".
Adam Rittenberg: Good starts for both the Irish and the Wolverines on Saturday, and it should be a great one in South Bend. Let's talk offense. What do you think Knute Rockne and Fielding Yost would say about these two systems matching up?
Brian Bennett: I think both coaches would have spit in a leather helmet in disgust. What's the over/under on total number of snaps under center on Saturday? Five?
ESPN bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett aren't alone in assuming that Michigan's spread offense and, more specifically the shotgun snap from center, are products of a flashier generation of college football. The pro-style attack and three yards and a cloud of dust are synonymous with Big Ten and Michigan football.
But the facts of the matter are quite different.
"What about the Mad Magicians?" asks sophomore quarterback Tate Forcier, referring to the 1947 Michigan football team who some believe was the greatest college squad ever assembled. The 1947 squad averaged 39 points per game and beat USC 49-0 in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship. They didn't do it running out of the I-formation. "That team did some of the same things we're running today," says Forcier.
Give it a look. It may give you a different perspective on exactly how traditional Michigan's offense really is.
A Michigan football historical parallel I found interesting:
Fielding H. Yost died in 1946. The 1947 Michigan team won a New Year's Day bowl. After 1947, Fritz Crisler handed the reigns to 42-year-old Benny Oosterbaan, who Crisler described as "the best offensive mind in college football." Oosterbaan proceeded to thumb his nose at Michigan tradition by retiring Ron Kramer's #87 while he was still on the team. While Crisler had never had a season worse than 7-3 or finished worse than tied for 4th in the Big Ten, Oosterbaan had two losing seasons in his 11 years at the helm, as well as 6th and 8th place finishes to cap his tenure before handing off to Bump Elliott.
Glenn E. Schembechler died in 2006. The 2007 Michigan team won a New Year's Day bowl. After 2007, Lloyd Carr handed the reigns to 44-year-old Rich Rodriguez, who many described as "the best offensive mind in college football." Rodriguez proceeded to thumb his nose at Michigan tradition by ending the tradition of having season-long captains. While Carr had never had a season worse than 7-5 or finished worse than tied for 5th in the Big Ten, Rodriguez set the Michigan record for losses in his first season and then ...
Obviously the comparison is ridiculous (Oosterbaan did win a national title and 3 Big Ten titles; Crisler was the outside hire and Oosterbaan was a Michigan guy, whereas Lloyd was inside and RichRod was not), but here's hoping we're not heading for the 1950s and 1960s of Michigan Football (which included a span of 17 years with one Big Ten title from 1952-1968). I guess the bright side is that even if we are, history would indicate that this won't last forever, and that the next Bo is coming around...in 2028 or so?
First "Game" vs. Buckeyes:
Fielding H. Yost, 1901: W, 21-0
George Little, 1924: W, 16-6
Tad Wieman, 1927: W, 21-0
Harry Kipke, 1929: L, 0-7
Fritz Crisler, 1938: W, 18-0
Bennie Oosterbaan, 1948: W, 13-3
Bump Elliott, 1959: W, 23-14
Bo Schembechler, 1969: W, 24-12
Gary Moeller, 1990: W, 16-13
Lloyd Carr, 1995: W, 31-23
Rich Rodriguez, 2008: ________
Go Blue, Beat OSU!