Michigan football used to be one of the gold standards of big-time college football. The winged helmets, the blue-and-maize uniforms, the Big House. It has long been one of the biggest and grandest programs in the country.
Now Michigan is a mess, riddled by scandal off the field and mediocrity on the field under Rich Rodriguez. So much so that big-name coaches and "Michigan Men" like Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles have said no to the Wolverines.
So with that in mind, let's look at the 10 reasons why Michigan has fallen on hard times.
Michigan will always be attractive to recruits in-state and inside Big Ten country. But in the rest of the nation, the Wolverines have fallen a long way behind most of the SEC powers and USC. The Wolverines (and to be fair, most Big Ten schools) have a hard time competing with the SEC and other powers for recruits, especially when those schools can offer chances at a national championship every year.
The Big Ten might be behind the other conferences and trying to catch up, but it's still a conference that wins with running the ball and playing defense. And Michigan's defense is...well, what's there to say? The Wolverines have gotten progressively worse defensively every season under Rich Rodriguez, and any new coach would have to first clean up the defense.
Since Rodriguez took over the Wolverines back in 2008, they've gone a combined 0-9 against their three main conference rivals (Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State), and even Lloyd Carr struggled against Jim Tressel. So any coach who will come in to Ann Arbor will have to be able to be competitive against the conference's elite, especially Ohio State, before they can make improvements.
After Lloyd Carr retired and Rich Rodriguez was hired, there was a small exodus of players transferring out. That included Ryan Mallett, who thought he didn't fit in Rodriguez' option system and decided to leave for Arkansas. Three years later, Mallett could possibly be the first quarterback taken in this year's draft, while Michigan is in disarray.
Any coach who will come to Michigan will have to install a new system and a new scheme. That means two or three more years of recruiting to try and get players that fit into the new system. If that's the case, then what happens to the current players who were brought in to run an option system?
Whether the program and those around it want to admit it or not, Michigan football has been going steadily downhill since the shocking loss to Appalachian State in 2007. Since then, the entire program has been in a daze and seemingly a shell of its former self. A lot of coaches have a lot of pride, and it's tough for many of them to take the losing that Michigan has seen the last few years.
Rodriguez was, if nothing else, a controversial hire when he came to Michigan. Not surprisingly, it caused a lot of infighting among notable former players and Michigan alums.
Angelique Chengelis, who wrote the piece for the Detroit News, talked to a number of former Wolverines, including Colts running back Mike Hart, who said Rodriguez was problematic because he was an outsider. The fact that he didn't win didn't help either.
Rodriguez seems to be showing a pattern of committing violations wherever he goes; it happened at West Virginia, and it happened at Michigan. The practice-gate scandal put Michigan on probation and had the university admitting "major NCAA violations." It seems like the scandal surrounding Rodriguez has calmed down for now, but another slip-up might lead to further action, which would scare a lot of coaches away.
Why did we hear so much about Les Miles and Jim Harbaugh and why they were perfect fits for the Michigan job? Because they were "Michigan Men." They're from the program, they understand the program and they understand the tradition and the pressure of winning. There are many coaches out there who understand the tradition of Michigan football, but the idea of having to be a "Michigan Man" scares a lot of coaches off.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Rodriguez was that he wasn't a Michigan Man and that he was an outsider to a large chunk of the fan base. That type of feeling led to many people waiting for him to fail to show he wasn't the right man for the job. There is intense pressure to win at Michigan, and when a large portion of people around the program don't think you belong, it's a very eerie and unsettling feeling.