33 years. 33 straight seasons the University of Michigan had celebrated the holiday season some place warm. Some place far away from the 20 degree days in Ann Arbor. Most years it was Pasadena, where it never rains on January 1st.Other years in was in Central Florida with sun and temperatures in the 70’s. Some years the team was down in Texas laughing it up on a ranch.
Not this year. For the first time since the Big Ten Conference got rid of its archaic rule in 1975, which only allowed for one Big Ten team to participate in bowls, the Wolverines will be sitting at home with the rest of us watching the bowl season.
Ironically enough it was a game that involved Michigan that made way for the rule change. It happened after Michigan was shut out of the Rose Bowl after a 10-10 tie with Ohio State where the Athletic Directors voted in favor of sending the Buckeyes instead of Michigan to Pasadena. Ever since then Michigan was a lock to go bowling; until 2008.
This was a streak I never thought I would see end. Not when there are about 90 different bowl games starting in early December and running through mid-January. Six wins are required to become bowl eligible, and playing in the Big Ten with teams like Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue on the schedule six wins was always assured.
If, for some reason, Michigan stumbled in conference play it was OK because the Wolverines had the easy nonconference teams to play like Eastern Michigan, Toledo, or Rice. Not this year. Even if the schedule read "Miami, OH" 12 straight times I wonder if this team would have been able to get the required six wins.
Think 33 years is a long time? I have an even bigger number for you, 41. 41 straight seasons in Ann Arbor without a losing season; until now. Oh sure, there were times when the streak seemed to be in jeopardy. In 1984 when QB Jim Harbaugh suffered a season ending injury, but Bo guided that team to a 6-6 record and a trip to the Holiday Bowl.
In 2005 Michigan never seemed to find a rhythm but Lloyd Carr finished 7-5, with an upset of a then undefeated Penn State team, and ending up playing in the Alamo Bowl.
Last year, a season that had National Championship hopes, started off 0-2 with losses to Appalachian State and Oregon at Michigan Stadium. Starters Chad Henne and Mike Hart were both injured in those games and had to battle the injuries all season long. However, Carr rallied the team, rattled off seven straight wins and landed in the Capital One Bowl where Michigan defeated Florida.
There was adversity in those 33 years but Michigan always found a way, they always found a path to a .500 season and a bowl trip, but that ended Saturday in a small college town in Indiana.
Michigan lost a lot more than a game on Saturday. As Steven Threet’s desperation Hail-Mary fell to the turf at Ross Ade Stadium the Bo Schembechler Era official died at Michigan. Oh sure, we said the Bo Era came to an end when Rich Rodriguez was hired back in December, but things still looked and felt the same.
At Rich’s introductory press conference, held at the Junge Family Champions Center, you had to pass by a giant block ‘M’ on the wall with the saying, “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions” under it. This was Bo’s most famous saying, one that he put on the wall shortly after taking the Michigan job.
Fred Jackson was still on staff as the running backs coach, he coached under Lloyd Carr, who coached under Bo. Lloyd was still on campus serving as the associate athletic director, and the football practice facility was still called Schembechler Hall. It was going to be different, but it was still Bo’s Michigan. It was what he had built. It was what he had created.
And from 1969-2007 no other college football program was able to achieve the same level of sustained excellence. For 38 years this was Bo’s Michigan. He didn’t coach all 38 years himself, but there was always a part of him on the coaching staff, whether it was Gary Moeller taking over for Bo, or Lloyd Carr after him.
They were both Schembechler products, they came from the Schembechler coaching staff. They were one of us, they were familiar, they were comfortable, and they won.
The transition was easy from one to the other because they were essentially the same; they were Bo. When Lloyd would yell at an official you saw Bo coming through, when Chris Perry ran 50 plus times against Michigan State you saw Bo, when Desmond Howard scored touchdowns like Anthony Carter used to you saw Bo, or when five foot nothing Mike Hart was carrying the team like five foot nothing Jamie Morris did you saw Bo.
When Threet’s desperation pass fell to the ground on Saturday the Bo Era fell with it. It came to an end after 38 years and compiling a record of 360 wins, 101 losses, eight ties, 21 Big Ten Championships, and one national championship. And, like all history, when one era comes to a close another starts.
The Michigan football program now belongs entirely to Rich Rodriguez, and with it everything that has been familiar to Michigan’s alumni and fans is gone. Saturday officially marked the start of the Rich Rod Era, and that era is off to a 2-7 start, something Michigan has not seen since 1967, and something that is not going to sit well with the followers of the House of Bo.
Here’s hoping this new era is as prosperous as the last. Rich doesn’t have a choice.