The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, January 15, 1980-Page 11
Michigan Football. ..
contender or pretender
ANEW DECADE has dawned on Michigan football history. Gone, hap-
pily, is the ten-year period during which the Wolverines were saddled
with the "choke in the big one" stigma.
On certain occasions, this stigma was inapplicable. A three-game win
streak against Ohio State (1976-8) and a convincing victory over Notre Dame
produced elements of impurity in the "choke theories" which many media
critics so vigorously proposed.
Yet as a rule, stereotypes usually have some factual basis behind them.
Just mention the word "bowl game" in Bo Schembechler's presence and
you'll witness a cringe resemblant of someone who just burned three fingers
on a hot stove.
The point is that the Michigan Wolverine football program is stalled in
third gear. Frankly, it's beyond me as to why this situation exists. The 17-15
Gator Bowl defeat suffered at the hands of North Carolina is just the
culmination of a losing season for Michigan.
It was certainly a hard thing for Wolverine fans to swallow. It was
especially disturbing because a Michigan victory was thought to be almost
guaranteed. Despite the Wolverines' tumultuous season, few local spor-
tswriters honestly believed that an ACC team which finished fifth in their
conference could actually beat the mighty Michigan Wolverines of the
powerful Big Ten, this one among them. In fact, one columnist expressed
disappointment that the Wolverines stooped so low as to play a second-class
team in a second-class bowl. Boy, was he off the mark!
In the end, David slew Goliath, and the Tar Heels came away with a
major upset. It's ironic that Michigan's horrendous kicking game, which
was at fault in the three season losses to Notre Dame, Purdue and Ohio
State, could not be held accountable.
Michigan simply did not live up to its potential. The defense which held
Notre Dame and California in check and the offense that belittled Michigan
State never materialized for any considerable length of time.
Consequently, the Gator Bowl loss leaves Schembechler's final-game
record at 0-.10 for the past eleven seasons. Seven of those non-wins came in
bowl games while the rest were against Ohio State.
In its own right, the loss to North Carolina may have been a fluke. It's
mind-boggling as to why Michigan folded. Certainly the seniors, Ron Sim-
pkins, Curtis Greer, Mike Jolly and company, have got to wonder what sort
of plague inflicts this squad year after year around New Year's time. And
undoubtedly, Schembechler's got to have some sense of helplessness. After
all, he can't go out and punt that ball, or block that pass.
However, looking at the Gator Bowl loss in the general context of
Michign football over the past decade, the figures stand clear - 0-10-1.
Did Michigan field great teams during the 1970s? From 1969 through
1978, the Wolverines never dropped from the coveted top ten in both the AP
and UPI polls. It is thus extraordinary that Bo's Boys failed to finish in their
Schembechler, however, (104-19-3 coaching record) has in large part
been responsible for building Michigan into one of the greatest athletic
programs in the nation. He has successfully combined academic
achievement'with athletic excellence. He has developed a great recruiting
program and has attracted some fine young talent - for example, Anthony
Carter. Most of all, Schembechler has conducted-himself and his program
with a touch of class, a lot of class.
In the= final analysis, Schembechler will become a legend in Michigan
history, and willFg6 d6Wn as one of the "greats" among names like Fielding
H. Yost, Harry Kip4; Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan.
Nevertheless, it's ironic that a coach of Schembechler's caliber hasn't
nailed down the honor which was earned by some of his famous
predecessors. The national championship has strangely eluded Schem-
bechler. And if you define a great team and great coach as one that has won
a national championship, then Schembechler's greatness quickly becomes
questionable. In this respect, he borders on it. After all, it's impossible for a
team to win the national title without winning its bowl game.
And the fans, who have been long starved of the ultimate victory in
rejoicing a national title, have got to wonder why their coach, considering
the talent he's had over the years, cannot win it once and for all.
All things considered, it's a mystery to me, just as the outcome of the
Gator Bowl was. The Wolverines have got to learn how to shift into fourth
gear as they enter the '80s. Perhaps the loss to North Carolina will be the
needed jolt. If it isn't, the Michigan football team runs the chance of stalling
for another ten years.
1. Northern Michigan 18-2 (6)...... 96
2. North Dakota 14-6 (4).........94
3. MICHIGAN 16-5-1 ............ 74
4. Clarkson 12-4-1.................72
5. Boston College 11-3-1.............48
6. Colorado College 12-9-1..........42
7. Wisconsin 12-8-1.................35
8. Michigan Tech 13-8-1...........27
9. Minnesota 13-9 ................. 23
10. Providence 9-6.................. 14
Michigan remained third in the latest
college hockey rdtings compiled by
radio station WMPL, as Northern
Michigan retained its top spot.
The Wildcats pushed their record to
18-2 with 4-3 and 2-1 victories over Ohio
State this weekend.
NORTH DAKOTS, 14-6, was ranked
second, as Clarkson stayed in fourth
place, Boston College jumped fromn
eighth to fifth place, and Colorado kept
its sixth place slot.
The Wisconsin Badgers moved up
three spots to seventh, Michigan Tech
slumped three to eighth, Minnesota
kept ninth position and Providence
made its debut in the poll in tenth.
All home events
Jan. 19-Ohio State
Jan. 18-Indiana State
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