Does"MIchigan Man" really exist?

Submitted by Wolfman on January 9th, 2011 at 2:06 PM

In trying to find an answer to that question, I did conclude proof that it does actually exist. However, and at the risk of committing blasphemy, using such rudimentary skills as logic and fact, your Michigan Man has nothing whatsoever to do with being a successful UM football coach and everything to do with being a student, fan and probably doesn't hurt to have graduated from that fine academic institution.

In reaching this conclusion, I merely looked at our glorious football history and matched the records of the head coaches with ties to the University and those that didn't. I could probably stop here because you probably know the rest.  But for the few who don't, here is what I found.

Perhaps the first "Michigan Man" hailed from the great state of W.Va., understood not a damn thing about the University of Michigan, other than it's label as a "darn, fine school" that wanted to field a good to great football team.  Needless to say, he did fall in love with AA and the university, and as to his task. Well it's pretty obvious he accomplished that. I mean he only made us the most feared football program in America and compelled Grantland Rice to come up with the now famous "Champions of the West" title we all hold so dearly.  But was he a "Michigan Man" when hired? 

The second man that might have earned this label coached under Stagg at University of Chicago but had a modicum of success there, prior to taking the job at Princeton.  This caused great concern among the "Princeton Men" because he was the first non-alumnus to hold the head coaching job there.  He merely took a team that had won one game the prior season and over his tenure there produced a record of 36 wins w/only 9 losses and five ties.  

He then moved westward and took the helm at Michigan, again w/o any ties to the school as either a fb player or student. In fact, he never played college football at all. Stagg tagged him as his successor because of his "acute understanding of the game," and an "ability to bond with the young student-athlete."

Now at UM, a well recognized football power with Yost having laid the foundation for greatness, he had another similar task at hand. After the great Yost years, a not so famous gentleman by the name of Kipke took over and enjoyed great success early. However, after a nice run of  five winning seasons, producing four conference champions and two NCs during that period, he finished up 1-7, 4-4 and 1-7 again. Fritz, COME ON DOWN.

Just like at Princeton, he returned UM to its former glory, but despite his outstanding winning % of .800, he had only one undefeated season and one NC, that being his final M team. He had done his job and the program was re-establshed as a national force once again.  So, actually Kipke produced one more NC than did Fritz.  Hmmmmm.  Also, he authored the concept of two-platoon football, and just like Yost before him who created the position of linebacker and was first to utilize the forward pass as a major part of offense, were truly innovators in very sense of the word. Sounds somewhat similar to RR.

Now we begin the era of the true "Michigan Man."  That was, of course Bennie Oosterbaan. How could he fail?. Up to that time, he was the greatest fb player in UM history and couldn't miss.  Afterall, he was a "Michigan Man." 

Inheriting Crisler's players, he finished his first seasons at 9-0, giving us back-to-back NC years. He followed that up with two successive Big Ten championship years, but would never have another undefeated record. In fact in his first season of primarily "Oosterbaan" recruits, he produced a W-L record of 4-5.  He had some decent years, hitting above .600 overall, but his idea of a western recruiting trip was the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. He loved AA so damn much, he didn't want to leave it, even if it meant to sustain the program's lifeblood, recruiting.  His final two years produced a record of 7-9-2 and his final year's record was 2-6-1. After 1950 w/Crisler's recruits, he never won another championship of any kind.

We follow that up with another "Michigan Man," one Chalmers "Bump" Elliot, who, just like Oosterbaan before him was a great UM player, but no fb head coaching experience.  From 1961 trhough 1968 Bump resided over a pretty rough stretch, and finishing 4-5 his first season. But remember, this was with Bennie's players. He then experienced two straight winning seasons w/records of 5-4 and 6-3.  But, and damn, this had to hurt, he finished 1962 at 1-7, '63 at 3-4-2, but finally got his only conference and RB championships in 1964, finishing up at 8-1 after demolishing OR in the RB.  The very next year it was back to 4-6, a record he repeated just two years later, one year prior to his final season here where led by Ron Johnson, he enjoyed a fine 8-2  record, but alas again w/o a conference championship and going out with the stigma of the 50-14 loss to arch-rival OSU.   He did one outstanding thing in those final few years, however. He recruited more future AAs in any five year period in Michigan History.  Any caveats here?  Oh yeah, we needed someone to take these tremendous athletes and turn them into the AAs they'd become.  Let's get another Michgian Man, right?  "Well, not so fast," as Corso like to say."

Our next head coach could hardly be described as a "Michigan Man,"  for the sole reason he came from (insert GASP here) fucking Ohio State and was mentored at Miami and in Columbus by none other than that feared General from the South, Woody "Fucking" Hayes. How the hell does this qualify as a "Michigan Man?"  Easily, read on.

We all know what he accomplished here, and the records of Mo and Lo who followed him.  So me thinks many of our fan base are confused about what constitutes a true "Michigan Man."  I like to think of it as I described above, former player perhaps, definitely a "supporting" fan of the head coach, and as aforementioned, it's nice to cap it off with traceable lineage to the school itself. The others?  Well, we can see by the above what the two "Michigan Man" accomplished throughout the '50s and '60s. 

So based on my understanding of our great record that includes most all-time wins, highest all-time winning % and strongest all-time SOS, "Michigan Men" are described as those above. Rosenberg, btw, does not qualify because support for program is a must, especially under the most trying times. Any that attempts, either successfully or not, to undermine or sabotage the program, can in now way, fucking shape or form be labeled as such. He's just a "fair-to-middlin" reporter with lots of unnamed sources.

What about Yost, Crisler and Bo?  Well, they were great Michigan coaches, who through their success on the field enjoyed what Bo liked to refer to as "the privilege of Michigan."

But, like all of you, we all have our own  ideas of the criteria to actually be any and all things.  These three are our greatest coache of all-time, none of which had a tie to the school prior to taiking over. You may qualify and label the term "Michigan Man " anyway you see fit.

Thank you.



January 9th, 2011 at 2:22 PM ^

I'm probably missing the point because I did not read this, but being a Michigan Man has nothing to do with wins and losses.

A Michigan Man is a man who is a representative of the university who represents the school well by being a decent human being. It is also not a birth right. Just because I am graduating from Michigan in April does not make me a Michigan man. I must earn it.

And yes, RichRod was, and is, a Michigan Man.


January 9th, 2011 at 2:30 PM ^

......last statement there. I truly believe RR wanted to be here for UM and make us a great program again. For whatever reason he failed that people bring up, it doesn't matter to me.

People need to get over the idea that "Michigan Man" only means someone with previous ties to the program. I have a hard time believing that Bo would have thought RR wasn't one, and that JH, with his desire for the NFL, was.


January 9th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

......term "Michigan Man" got mangled into meaning one who came from UM.

Bo's use of the term is the earliest I have heard, and when he used the term, he meant someone who was all in for UM will be a coach for a UM team.

Whoever this next coach of Michigan football will be, I hope that it is someone who truly wants to be at UM, for UM, and not just as some stepping stone to another job. I do not mean that the coach has to have previous UM ties, whether as a player or asst. coach. Someone who truly wants to be here above everything else out there is a big, BIG plus in my book.


January 9th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

Les Miles killed him a few years ago in single combat.  That is why Walker, Texas Ranger got cancelled and you haven't seen any of those shitty movies Norris used to make lately, like the one with that teenage girl from Seaquest who killed herself.

This was officially reported yesterday on this very message board.


January 9th, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

This was actually a pretty good post if a little long-winded. The Cliff Notes version: Yost, Crisler, and Bo did not have prior ties to the school and were very successful. Kipke, Oosterbaan, and Elliot had M backgrounds and were less successful.


January 9th, 2011 at 3:01 PM ^

The term "Michigan Man" was coined by Bo when Bill Frieder accepted the head bball coaching job at Arizona State before the '89 tournament, but agreed to coach the team through the tourney.  Bo had him replaced immediately, stating that "only a Michigan man would coach at Michigan."  So Steve Fisher coached the team through that tourney, Michigan won, and the meme was born.


This has been covered at length on this blog, so I'll give you an abbreviated account.  As it is being used by the MSM in the current context, I would say its more of a divisive tool than anything.  It's something that the Michigan faithful use to distinguish themselves from others, and to an extent, to discriminate against and elevate themselves above others.  

It's sad that this is how it has been bastardized.  At an abstract level, a Michigan Man is someone who lives with integrity and character, displays fantastic work ethic, loves the University of Michigan, and is "all in" for said university.  There is no qualifications about alumni status or previous affiliation with the university.


January 9th, 2011 at 4:00 PM ^


Bo didn't coin the term, but he did bring it squarely into the national discourse with his comment about Frieder/Fisher.

Read up on the history of the term at MVictors and the Hoover Street Rag. Here's Craig Barker at HSR:

Upon [Yost's] retirement as Michigan's athletic director in 1942, a major valedictory banquet was held by his friends in the Field house that bore his name. As John U. Bacon recounts in Blue Ice, Yost concluded his statement by saying:

"But do let me reiterate the spirit of Michigan. It is based upon a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways; an enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan men to spread the gospel of their university to the world's distant outposts; a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours."

Bo may have popularized the phrase "Michigan man", but I think it's important to understand that I've always taken Bo's point that "A Michigan man will coach Michigan" simply meant that someone who would rather be at Michigan than any other school would lead Michigan. Bill Frieder (a Michigan alum, by the way) was headed out the door for Tempe as soon as the NCAA tournament was over. That isn't loyalty to Michigan, so Bo hastened his departure, and lo and behold, it worked. Six games later, Steve Fisher and the Wolverines are national champions and the mythos of a Michigan man takes on a whole other dimension, one, I genuinely suspect, Bo never intended.

In my mind, if you want a Michigan man, it's simple, pick someone who gets that for so many of us, there is nowhere else in the world we would rather be associated with than the University of Michigan, for good or for ill, in right and in wrong. If they understand that, and if they feel the same way, if they are respectful of tradition without being beholden to it, if they are mindful of what has made Michigan great in the past without trying to do it exactly the same way, if they hold fast to the spirit of the thing rather than the letter of it, they will have a strong chance to be successful.

Hoken's Heroes

January 9th, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

That's it. It only exists so obnoxious and arrogant Michigan bloggers can feel good about themselves. Same goes for pumping U of M as a great academic institution that alone should lure all to it. But don't let reality get in the way of the Don Quixote vision that many on here like to wax poetic about. The cold hard facts is that U of M is a cold northern school that has a 2nd rate football team with no coach (as of now). It's a school that has put itself in a difficult situation where its own (ex players and journalists) threw it under the bus to make an example of the school. So now, the school is limited to who can coach it and limited to what kids will come to play. Elitism has a price and we now see how elitism has ruined a winning tradition.


January 9th, 2011 at 3:52 PM ^

Simple as that.The way it's being thrown around now is more alike to "ME ME ME!" Bo might be rolling over his grave over how the term has been used recently, especially with the media. 

Tha Quiet Storm

January 9th, 2011 at 4:01 PM ^

is a nostalgic, unattainable, mythical ideal, similar to the "Leave it to Beaver" good old days of 1950s middle-class white America. It's fine to daydream about, but it should never form the basis of an actual policy that is based in reality.


January 9th, 2011 at 5:12 PM ^

I was born in Dearborn, grew up in Northville and Saline, and attended the University of Michigan for my undergraduate degrees and Eastern for my graduate work and I work for Detroit Edison. It doesn't get more Michigan than this.

That being said, I think the "Michigan Man" label is something we have to reallt quit throwing around. I hate it when people talk about Bo being a Michigan man when he was a native Ohioan  who was, until he came here, an assistant at our most hated rival and a head coach at an relatively obscure Mid-Major called Miami of Ohio.

Labels are limiting. Get the best guy out there who wants this job. Simple.


January 9th, 2011 at 6:21 PM ^

Yes, Michigan Man exists... this was also a thread back in November.   Ugh.

Someone back then was silly enough to state with authority that the term came from Bo too.  As MGoShoe pointed out below, it came from Yost.

Anyway, I wrote back in November the term is real but it is frequently used out of context.

As far as I'm concerned, Michigan Man (or Woman) isn't specifically reserved for athletes.

It is a title bestowed upon any one in our Michigan family.  A Michigan Man (or Woman) is one who exhibits a life long commitment to our beloved University; one who has integrity, decency, and excellence... on or off the field.  Just as it says in the quote from Yost that MGoShoe cited

I refer to those I know from school as Michigan Men (or Women) regardless of their major, GPA, number of varsity letters, etc.

Anyone who suggests the term is overused is channeling their inner Drew Sharp -- that's some shit he'd say.  If you love Michigan like Yost did, it cannot be overused.  But you have to use the term correctly too.  The biggest faux pas is concerning geography.  Yost was from West Virginia but nobody gave him any grief... Bo was an outsider in 1968 too.  You don't have to be from Michigan to be a Michigan Man... just be committed to the University... and really committed.  Not one of those 50,000 assholes who sold their tickets to tUoOS fans in 2009.


January 9th, 2011 at 7:11 PM ^

....stated, and not just because you cited me twice. 

But that didn't hurt.

Seriously, you've got it exactly right. The misuse of the term is so egregious - in the media and even inside the Michigan fanbase - and that makes it seem that the concept is silly and petty.

The least we can do here is use it correctly among what we consider to be the most Michigan-literate segment of the Michigan fanbase.