Thoughts on your ideas of a "Michigan Man"

Submitted by Johnnybee123 on February 28th, 2010 at 6:50 PM

I had a conversation with a fellow Michigan fan the other day. Inevitably, we were talking about how RR wasn't a "Michigan Man." He went on to say that an institution like Michigan, one that's tradition laden and full of history and high expectations, should keep things in the family as much as possible, and that a "Michigan Man" should have gotten the job at Michigan, and that by hiring an outsider, we lowered ourselves to the other "lesser" schools.

To me, this idea of a "Michigan Man" is complete bs. And it's something that annoys the hell out of me with respect to the fan base. Why were so many people annoyed with the RR hire from day 1? We're an institution that prides ourselves on innovation and being the "leaders and best", but when push comes to shove, and close Michigan-family issues (like hiring a new head coach) decisions need to be made, we invoke ideas of tradition, keeping it in the family, sticking with the way things have traditionally been done. And at the first sign of trouble, we bounce and attack for not following the traditional path instead of being patient and waiting for change. I don't really see how this is much different that "good ole boys club" idea that we see in other areas of life. I grew up down south, and the word "tradition" is thrown around as code for a lot of things, many of which are not so good. "Tradition" sometimes means, "this new thing (or these new people) scare me, and I don't like that, so let's keep things the way they were. They may not be perfect, by gosh darnit, it's familiar!"

So my question: what are you thoughts about this "Michigan Man" idea, do you think it caused a lot of fans to dislike RR on day 1, and do you think that Michigan should be so bound to tradition? I think that tradition should be followed (#1 jersey, running out the tunnel, etc), but following tradition just for tradition's sake is pretty dumb and doesn't leave room for adding new traditions. Under RR, we now have the Victor's walk, the Spring Game, the singing of The Victors in front of the student section after every win, and pretty soon, multiple national championships.



February 28th, 2010 at 6:52 PM ^

Every coach throughout Michigan history has been a "Michigan Man" and they were all great. I don't know why we had to screw it up this time.

Wait a minute...

...oh yeah...

...what I said above is very incorrect.


February 28th, 2010 at 10:49 PM ^

concerning coach Harry Kipke (MVictors), 1929-37.

When he was fired, the athletic board published the following complaints against him in the Chicago Herald Tribune:

1. That he engaged in the practice of subsidizing athletes.
2. He failed to organize his coaching staf. [yes, one f.]
3. He was incompetent.
4. The board objected to his private associates.
5. He tolerated summer football practice.

#4 refers to Henry Ford's hit-man and "head of security," Henry Bennet, who was suspected to be instrumental in more than one Detroit-area unsolved death. #5 -- Conference rules prohibited practice before September.

Kipke also brought 4 successive conference championships and two successive MNCs to Ann Arbor, 1930-33 (link), and then two of the worst seasons ever, 1934 and 1936. (Since we've been through this "worst season" semantics not too long ago, I think it only fair to point out at least one (perhaps understandably) winless season in 1881. The entire football season was five days long.)

This puts things in perspective for me. UM's historic rep for stainlessness is at least partly based on illusion. And this makes me wonder what Gerald Ford was thinking while all this was going on (at least the illegal practice).


March 1st, 2010 at 9:48 AM ^


Maybe Rod turned off people not appreciating the magnitude of the hire and the storied history, by the poor choice of the first words out of his mouth at the first press conference in saying " Great crowd...they must be giving out free hats or something " I know that turned me off big time. Here is someone who was hired out of the most storied program in college history, and cannot come up with something more reflective of that.


March 1st, 2010 at 11:34 AM ^

No offense to you personally, but I think that's a pretty dumb reason to not like the guy from day 1. Were you expecting him to bow down in front of the Michigan flag? If he's hired to be the new coach, the University must have seen something in him. Trust that. Also, being the new coach, he should have the liberty to set the tempo as he chooses. Lloyd was tight-lipped and didn't have a way with the media. But that's how he did it, and that's fine. If RR wants to be light-hearted and personable during press conferences, I don't see that as such a bad thing. I mean, being cool with the media could actually help you (see Urban Meyer re 2006 BCS NC game).

We Michigan fans need to stop feeling so entitled that people should be awe-struck that this is Michigan just because we are Michigan. Let's live with the ups and downs like everyone else does. And let's just let our accomplishments speak for themselves. Maybe RR will stay, maybe he won't. But you don't want to be that guy who was whiney during our down time, and then hopped on the band-wagon during our up time.

Robbie Moore

February 28th, 2010 at 9:55 PM ^

is throughly sick and tired of the whole "Michigan Man" thing. Can we please just have people with honor, talent, drive and a commitment to excellence? And let's take great pride in them and leave it at that. And if we do, that will be the Michigan Difference. And the Freep, Sparty, OSU, talk show hosts and the whole rest of that gaggle can just shut the fuck up.


February 28th, 2010 at 7:02 PM ^

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a Michigan Man to coach Michigan. That doesn't mean it has to be someone who came up through the program. Instead, it means that a coach (or a player, administrator, or hot dog vendor) must understand and appreciate what the block M represents to those who wore it in the past, and for those who wear it still.

I don't care if we pipe in RAWK MUSIC or wear new-fangled jerseys. I don't care that Fritz Crisler never ran the spread option, or that Bo didn't speak with a southern accent. As long as RichRod makes me proud of my alma mater, and represents the school with honor, dignity, and humility in the footsteps of those who came before, then in my mind he's a Michigan Man.

Zone Left

February 28th, 2010 at 7:07 PM ^

I think the real idea of the OP was that many people want to "keep it in the family" and have former players and assistants coach at Michigan.

Too bad Bo Schembechler and Fielding Yost--among others, weren't "part of the family" until they arrived.


February 28th, 2010 at 7:13 PM ^

But it was also the reason European Royals only bred within royal family lines. If there is something working within your family, by all means try to preserve it. But if you don't bring in some new blood from time to time, you end up a weak, decrepid, sickly shell of your ancestors.

Bando Calrissian

February 28th, 2010 at 7:04 PM ^

A Michigan Man doesn't get onstage and declare himself a Michigan Man.

The title is earned through your actions, not by simply holding a particular job.

That being said, he also must be given an opportunity to earn the distinction.


February 28th, 2010 at 7:04 PM ^

should have a weekly photo op eating donuts, brats or a venison steak.

He also should visit Frankenmuth, Mackinaw and kiss babies at the state fair.

He needs to practice the Carr stone face and Bo scowl.

He should be caught ice fishing, watching and Red Wings game and predicting the Lions will finally turn around.

Only then will he be a Michigan man!

Where is my warm Joe Louis stadium beer?


February 28th, 2010 at 7:04 PM ^

The two greatest football coaches in the University of Michigan's history had zero affiliation with the school before they got hired (Bo and Yost). You can throw in Crisler to that mix as well. Even Lloyd Carr, though a longtime UM assistant, played at NMU after transferring from Missouri. Where did this idea that hiring "in-house" and keeping things in the family was a good idea or that it has played any role whatsoever in the success of Michigan football?

Bando Calrissian

February 28th, 2010 at 7:08 PM ^

While I'm not disagreeing in theory, there was a bit of a difference in the state of the program and the University in 1902 and 1968. One could argue Bo made the Michigan Man moniker and tradition relevant, so it's a bit unfair to sit and say that it mattered as much in the pre-Bo/early-Bo era.


February 28th, 2010 at 7:12 PM ^

Not to beat a dead horse, but this is why the whole "tradition" aspect is overblown.

If Bo CREATED the Michigan Man theme, then it's only been a "tradition" to hire from within since Bo left in '89. We hired Moeller from within and then Carr... That's it. That's not much of a tradition.

It's similar to the #1 jersey. It wasn't really a "tradition" until Carr told Braylon that he needed to raise his level of play before he could earn the #1. Suddenly one guy made a big deal about it and Rich Rodriguez took a ton of heat for breaking the "tradition."

Bando Calrissian

February 28th, 2010 at 7:19 PM ^

Yet our tradition is what makes Michigan special. As Yost said, "you can't buy it at the corner store." There's many here who just throw it under the bus and say "as long as we win, I don't care."

Going 0-12 and doing it in a way that honors the integrity of our University is better than cutting corners, cheating, or damaging our University to go 12-0. I'll take losses and class over wins and asterisks. That's always been the values I was taught Michigan exemplified, the values Bo and Crisler and Yost exemplified. The kinds of things many around here say Lloyd Carr valued too much, leading to "underachievement."

I'm not disagreeing with you on specific points you mentioned, but at the same time, the larger picture of our traditions is what makes Michigan, well, Michigan.


February 28th, 2010 at 7:22 PM ^

I'm all for following tradition of it makes sense, but I think you need AT LEAST three incidents to determine whether there's tradition or not.

For example, if Schembechler was a Michigan Man and then came Moeller and then Carr, that might be one thing. Or if David Terrell and Braylon Edwards and then, say, Mario Manningham had to EARN the #1 jersey, then I might call it tradition.

As it is...they're just weakly linked coincidences.


March 9th, 2010 at 10:20 AM ^

absolutely true.

Not sure if you are being sarcastic...

He spoke about his few short months at West Virginia a few years ago to John U Bacon's class (as well as his stint driving a Budweiser truck while coaching/teaching at Eastern Michigan.)

For lack of a better link, this one still says what you need under "Coaching Career":


February 28th, 2010 at 10:18 PM ^

I disagree with your concept of a Michigan Man, as implied by your judgment, and with the value you place on the title.
My understanding of the meaning of a Michigan Man was largely formed through reading the books "What It Means to be a Wolverine" and "Bo's Lasting Lessons," but it was also hugely influenced by the number of Michigan Men (and woMen) in my life who were never close to competing for the university's athletic squads. This understanding is that a Michigan Man acts with virtue and honor, knows the necessity of hard work and planning to achieve goals, and believes in his ability to be one of the "Leaders and Best" that the university truly does have a strong hand in creating.
Bo's genius in popularizing the Michigan Man concept was that one's time at the university was not a goal to be reached by itself; rather, it was a process one committed to in order to better themselves as a person by learning successful habits of work and interaction with others. Bo's practice of meeting with players twice a year to discuss their goals was well-known for not centering on just athletics, but also addressing the development of the athlete as a person. From the standpoint of an education major, part of the brilliance in this was creating a way for different types of learners to still live habits of success; that is, while it is obvious to most how a dedicated science student learns how to operate in society well through the necessary effort of study and peer collaboration, this process is not as clear when considering those whose greatest contributions to society are not academic. In other words, he harnessed their athletic gifts and taught them life lessons that they otherwise had little opportunity to learn.
For me, this also relates to my discomfort with losing seasons. While the team may certainly be growing as men and still not be successful on the field, losses leave me worried that a lesson in success is being missed. Of course, a team could be turned into football-playing machines, win constantly, and not be able to relate the success formula to life, so I guess there's no way to know.


Moe Greene

February 28th, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

Coach's Michigan Man-ness (or the debate about its presence or absence) will only increase if there are wins.
8 wins and no one will say a peep.

And the silence will be friggin choice.....


March 1st, 2010 at 7:39 AM ^

when it comes to Michigan football history. I know that's a harsh assessment, but it seems to be inevitably the case that when somebody starts spouting off about "Michigan Men" they think it means the coach has to come from within the Michigan system. I mean, come on, this shit is easy to find out.

If you encounter this dipshit again, ask him:
• What previous connection to UM football did Fielding Yost have before he was hired?
Answer: None. Didn't attend UM, never was an assistant here.

• What previous connection to UM football did Fritz Crisler have before he was hired?
Answer: None. Didn't attend UM, never was an assistant here. In fact, he was an assistant at Chicago and a HC at Minnesota, two UM rivals.

• What previous connection to UM football did Bo have before he was hired?
Answer: None. Didn't attend UM, never was an assistant here. In fact, was an assistant at Michigan's biggest rival, Ohio State.

And to top it off, Yost was coach at Stanford for the 1900 season, but after that season Stanford enacted a rule that stipulated that only Stanford graduates—i.e., "Stanford Men"—could coach there, so Yost, a WVU grad, had to leave, ending up at Michigan. So, how'd that work out for Stanford?


February 28th, 2010 at 7:25 PM ^

It would be right up there with the best if people like the OP's buddy didn't bastardize it. A Michigan Man is loyal to Michigan. That's really all it takes. A Michigan Man doesn't, say, agree on a contract to coach Arizona State while expecting to continue to be the coach at Michigan. For example.

Loyalty to Michigan. If Rich Rodriguez is working his ass off, which I have no doubt that he is, and if he stays the course through the tough times, which I believe he will, then he's a Michigan Man. Easy as that.


February 28th, 2010 at 7:47 PM ^

A Michigan Man is loyal to Michigan. That's really all it takes.

And this, of course, is the context in which Bo meant his "Michigan Man" label to be taken. This is part of what makes all this factionalism around Rich Rodriguez so frustrating. Those who claim to love and support Michigan actively seeking to run Rich Rodriguez out of town in favor of a true "Michigan Man". Hypocracy in the extreme. And all because we've suffered a couple of tough years. I'd have thought the Michigan faithful would've showed more grit in the face of adversity.

Ironically, if Michigan had not gone on to win the National Championship in 1989, the whole "Michigan Man" meme would probably never have gained it's potency.


February 28th, 2010 at 9:57 PM ^

In Bo's parlance, the moment Frieder accepted the ASU job, he was no longer a "Michigan Man". Up to that point, no one would have questioned Frieder's worthiness to bear the status (if it had existed as a concept prior to that fateful news conference). But Frieder lost the honor because he failed to demonstrate appropriate devotion to the school. As we all know, even Bo flirted with leaving U-M for Texas A&M -- but he ultimately decided the grass was not greener on that side of the fence. From Bo's perspective, Frieder's mistake was not in looking, it was in leaving.

Bo may have considered Fisher a "Michigan Man" in 1989, but by the end of his tenure, there's no way Bo considered him worthy of the appelation. Fisher's willingness to look the other way as CWebb, et al. ate from the Martin trough made him the apotheosis of the term.

So, someone may qualify for the status at a given point in time based on demonstrated loyalty/devotion to the University and its ideals, but that status does not come with tenure -- it's tenuous and dependent on continued loyalty/devotion.

Ultimately, "Michigan Man" is as problematic as "Leaders and Best". We must always remember that both phrases are self-designated. Anyone who is considered a "Michigan Man" and the University community as a whole bear a heavy burden to continually demonstrate their worthiness to maintain these statuses.