Let’s Go Blue: Athletics at the University of Michigan


By Alison Denton Unigo Campus Rep at the University of Michigan When it comes to college sports, the University of Michigan can be thought of as the country’s quintessential athletic program. And rightfully so; Michigan Wolverine history is rooted in what makes college sports so entertaining— true school spirit, deep-seeded rivalries, and legendary athletic performances. The Michigan Wolverines are best known for their dominant football program. The team which has been an integral part of the University of Michigan experience since 1879, holds a number of national college football records. The Wolverine football team has accrued 11 national titles, 33 consecutive winning seasons from 1967 to 2008, and three Heisman trophy winners. Unfortunately for the Michigan football team the 2008 season, though currently still in session, has been the first non-winning season in over thirty years. The team lead under its new head coach, Rich Rodriguez, ie  experiencing  one of the worst seasons in Michigan history: five consecutive losses, seven losses in total, and no bowl prospects. The University of Michigan football program is probably best known for its rivalry with Ohio State. Considered one of the greatest collegiate rivalries in the nation, the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes meet every year at the end of the regular football season. Often, it is this last game of the season that decides not only the champions of the Big Ten Conference, but, it frequently decides who will be invited to the prestigious Rose Bowl in January. In 2006, the rivals were ranked the number one and the number two football teams in the nation. Michigan has other notable rival, mainly Michigan State, Notre Dame, and University of Minnesota. “By far the best part of football season is tail-gating,” said senior English major, Karen Pedley. For students, the best part of the football season may not be the chance to witness a Michigan victory over Ohio State, but it is the chance to participate in the one of the greatest athletic traditions at the University, the tailgate. Every Saturday morning, prior to a football game, student rise early and don their maize and blue gear to party before the game. Two-story beer-bongs, slip-in-slides, and mechanical bulls are prominent features at a Michigan football tailgate. For particularly important games, students wear all maize. Aptly named the “Maize Out”, the bright sea of maize helps to highlight the vast school spirit Michigan fans hold during nationally televised games at  Michigan Stadium. “Football isn’t just a sport at our school,” remarked Daniel Heiman,a  junior studying sports management major, “it’s a culture: everything from the way we dress to how we cheer is part of a greater tradition.” For many students, the chance to participate in football season’s festivities is a familial tradition kindled at a young age.  “I can remember coming to watching the football games with my family since I was six”, said Daniel. While football is the most prominent sport of the fall months, Wolverine fans spend their time attending basketball and ice hockey games during the winter. Both teams have equally large facilities and their share of important titles and accolades. In the past, the Michigan men’s ice hockey team has won nine NCAA national championship titles, while the men’s basketball team has won 12 Big Ten regular-season conference titles. Despite having a strong female varsity sport program, women’s varsity teams at the university draw significantly smaller crowds and receive less national attention than the big three men’s sports.  Nevertheless, both the women’s swimming and diving team as well as the women’s softball team competed in the NCAA national championship in 2008. During the 2008 summer Olympics, the Michigan presence was most notable in the success of Michael Phelps. The record-breaking swimmer trained with the Men’s swimming and diving team while attending the University of Michigan. Perhaps the greatest way to describe the legacy of University of Michigan sports is with the phrase “Michigan Man”. The phrase—and highest honor of the athletic program—was often used by the late Michigan football head coach, Bo Schembechler, to describe what Michigan sports are all about: honor, tradition, and excellence.

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