Michigan Wolverines Football: The Death of Tradition

David DeRyderCorrespondent INovember 27, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines reacts while playing the Wisconson Badgers at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wisconsin won the game 48-28. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

What's in a name? Not too much as far as college football is concerned. Tradition and legacy are no longer the advantage they once were for the powerhouse programs.

It's the 21st century, and sports, like the rest of the world, move fast. The key to remaining relevant is winning now.

If the University of Michigan can't put together a Big Ten title run soon, any competitive advantage their name brings could vanish.

Attention spans have shortened. Patience has been out of style for awhile. Like Notre Dame, Michigan is in danger of only mattering to media members and football historians.

Sports history is about as popular as history. I'm a 21-year-old college student and I can tell you my generation doesn't value the past.

Things I thought were common knowledge clearly are not. While I enjoy watching the black and white footage of the all time greats, I don't think the majority of current recruits care.

Being part of a legacy takes a back seat to being part of a contender.

Winning snowballs into more winning. Once the W's halt, people (like recruits) stop caring. Every team has the opportunity to play on television. Viewers follow success.

It really is that simple.

BCS defenders claim that every game is a playoff game. That is only partly true. For most teams, regular-season games stop being playoff games once they lose one game.

Once a team is eliminated from the championship chase, their games quickly become irrelevant to most of the nation.

When was the last time anyone other than Michigan fans cared about their program? They haven't played a single must-see game since Rich Rodriguez took over three years ago.

The Lloyd Carr era ended in disappointing fashion (Appalachian State, anyone?). The year 2006 was the last time they were in contention for a title.

Am I overreacting? Maybe a little, but four years is a long time in fast-paced world of college football.

Since the recruiting class of 2011 has been in high school, Michigan has not been a contender. Traditionalists can say, "Don't worry, it's Michigan." They value the name, but I'm not so sure this generation of recruits does.

The real danger is how things are handled this offseason. Rich Rodriguez isn't popular with alumni and boosters. There will certainly be pressure to let him go, especially after the embarrassing beatdown Ohio State put on them.

Giving Rodriguez a pink slip could destroy the program. Consider this, for the past three years, Rodriguez has brought in players for his system.

If his replacement runs a more traditional, booster-friendly scheme, it would take time to bring players fit for that. Michigan can't afford to rebuild again.

Of course, they could hire a coach with a system based on speed and athleticism. Or they could keep Rodriguez (as long as Greg Robinson is shown the door).

Things could work out. However, if the University of Michigan is going to remain a premiere program, they need win now.