Michigan Football: Success Follows Wolverines on Field After Final Fours

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Michigan Football: Success Follows Wolverines on Field After Final Fours
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UM football coach Brady Hoke has reason to be optimistic this fall if past trends hold true.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary and the Michigan Wolverines basketball team's supporting cast just raised the bar—not only for the Wolverines on the court, but for the Wolverines on the gridiron. 

The University of Michigan has long been known as a football powerhouse, but thanks to this year's national championship run, the institution is quickly regaining attention for its success on the hardwood. 

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Whether they know it, Burke and Co. just put immense pressure on their fellow Wolverines. Michigan football is thought to be on the rise, and the basketball team's magical season begs for the Wolverines to follow it up with a banner year on the field. 

Michigan, for now, is a football-first school, although its hockey players may have something to say about that. Brady Hoke's squad can't afford another subpar 8-5 season—and he can thank basketball front man John Beilein for that one. 

This article will examine just how the Wolverines football squad rises to the challenge after the basketball team reaches a Final Four or better.

The results may surprise you. 

 

The History 

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The Michigan Wolverines ran to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years, but lost to Louisville in the title bout.

Basketball records courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library

 Michigan basketball has reached the Final Four seven times since 1964that's impressive. And for those who subscribe to the idea that basketball is a secondary sport at Michigan, here's a little food for thought: Since 1964, the Wolverines have reached the Final Four at least once each decade, with exception being 2001-2010. 

OK, so you may be asking yourself where this is going—and that's a fair question. We'll get there, but you'll have to wait for the back story to develop.

Sit tight. 

The basketball team's Final Four run in 1964 was followed by a Wolverines Rose Bowl victory in 1965 (34-7 win over Oregon State). Not a bad way to ride the coattails of the warriors on the court, right? 

However, after the Wolverines rush to the Final Four in the spring of 1965, the Wolverines stumbled to a 4-6 record and seventh-place finish in the Big Ten under coach Bump Elliot that fall. That wasn't the way to follow such a triumphant term on the court, now was it? 

But in true fashion, the football team would go on to find a way to bounce back after the basketball team's net-cutting festivities. 

In 1976, the Wolverines once again reached the national semifinals. Football coach Bo Schembechler rallied his troops and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press polls with a 10-2 record

Michigan lost 14-6 to USC in the 1977 Rose Bowl, but it was a vast improvement from Elliott's blunder in 1965. 

Loy Vaught, Rumeal Robinson, Terry Mills and Glen Rice made up arguably the greatest Wolverines basketball ensemble of all time. In 1989, they led Michigan to a national championship win over Seton Hall. 

So how did Schembechler's Wolverines respond? They went 8-0 in Big Ten play, posted a 10-2 overall record, but lost 17-10 to USC in the 1990 Rose Bowl. 

Regular-season dominance on the gridiron for Schembechler followed Final Fours. That's a promising sign for Hoke's Wolverines this fall. 

 

UM Football in the Fab Five Era

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Former UM coach Gary Moeller had success after the Fab Five dominated basketball courts.

Football records courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library

The vaunted and controversial Fab Fivea group of heralded high school superstars from the Detroit areacame to Ann Arbor in 1991, and reached the NCAA title game in 1992. Led by Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and Juwan Howard, the group was nearly unstoppable. 

As freshmen, the Fab Five reached the Final Four in 1992, but lost in championship to Duke. As sophomores, the Fab Five lost to North Carolina in the 1993 championship. 

Michigan football didn't fare too badly after Rose and Co.'s wild rides in the early '90s, either. 

In the fall of 1992, the Wolverines rolled to a 9-0-3 overall record and dismantled every opponent but Illinois, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Coach Gary Moeller was in his third year at Michigan, and guided the program to a 38-31 victory over Washington in the 1993 Rose Bowl. 

The next year, 1993, wasn't great by Michigan standards, but it wasn't a failure: The Wolverines went 8-4 and manhandled North Carolina State, 42-7, in the Hall of Fame Bowl. 

Note: Read my previous story on the third-year rule (e.g., Moeller Rose Bowl in 1993) for Michigan football coaches. It'll make you think about Hoke's upcoming fall.

The coincidences, if anything, are entertaining to well...entertain. The Wolverines have strung together a couple of "fabulous" recruiting classes in football under Hoke that are capable of bringing Big Ten championships back to Ann Arbor.

Hoke and his staff may not buy into historical tie-ins. And that's OK. They don't have to. But if history repeats itself, Michigan can expect a hearty run at a Big Ten football title and, dare it even be suggested, a Rose Bowl appearance in 2014. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines lead football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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