We have a Muckraker in our midst. With a capital M.
Muckraker is a term considered to be popularized by Theodore Roosevelt in reference to journalists or reporters just looking to stir up controversy.
Now we have one embedded in the fabled hall of Bo Schembechler himself. This Muckraker denounced the Michigan Athletic Department for its “ways to get borderline guys in and, when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications.”
In 2007, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh talked about the standards that other esteemed institutions such as Stanford hold, standards that should be the model for the entire National Collegiate Athletic Association. These are the same standards that our beloved Michigan has let slip.
In retort, former football player Michael Hart, our fearless and never-outspoken leader, said of Harbaugh that, “He’s not a Michigan man. I wish he’d never played here.”
Well, Harbaugh did play here, and now he’s coaching here. Not coaching here – he’s the coach.
Harbaugh is said muckraker, and we shunned him for what he said. How could he dream of talking about his alma mater like this?
His only feeble counter was, “I learned from a great man named Bo Schembechler that you speak the truth as you know it. It may not be the popular thing, but you speak your mind.”
Well, Bo was right. They were both right.
No matter what has been shown to the contrary, it seems other people have noticed this same problem persisting. Newly appointed University President Mark Schlissel admitted, “We admit students who aren’t as qualified, and it’s probably the kids that we admit that can’t honestly, even with lots of help, do the amount of work and the quality of work it takes to make progression from year to year.”
Maybe we let two dissidents into our ranks: the wrong coach and the wrong president.
Or maybe we finally have the right two — Michigan Men — in the two of the highest positions of power.
Neither wants to relax his standards as to what this great University should and will hold. And on both campuses, they are high for sure, but our standards for Michigan aren’t high, they’re the highest. We’re not the leaders and the average. We’re not even the leaders and the pretty good. We are the leaders and the best. The best.
We shouldn’t be condemning Harbaugh and Schlissel, questioning their loyalty when they’re only questioning our mediocrity.
Michigan is a tough place to make a living. Things are never good enough. Ask Devin Gardner or Brady Hoke. Both great, unquestionably classy guys. Gardner gave a helping hand to the Buckeyes’ quarterback, J.T. Barrett, on national television, but he wasn’t the most successful quarterback we’ve ever had. He’ll be remembered as a failure.
In 2006, the Michigan football team went 11-2. They were basically three touchdowns away from doubling points scored versus points against. But we lost the two most important games, the last two. Another failure.
At Michigan, all we want is more. All we want is the best. As fans, we want more wins, more success and more victories over Ohio State. We ostracize the critics who are only asking for the better Michigan they know it can be. Then, they come home to fix those problems, and we applaud them as Michigan Men.
This idea of the Michigan Man, a tough one to narrow down, has come to seem like just being here would give you this distinguished title. Just like the idea that those who stay will be champions. Some, possibly, took that as a promise. As in, “Don’t worry, your championship will come in time.”
Like someone else was going to win that title for you. That’s not a Michigan Man.
This ideal, this vision of a Michigan Man, has caused our recent stumble. It was because this school needed a “Michigan Man” that we got rid of Rich Rodriguez for Hoke. That lineage was more important than skill. This idea that if we slap a moniker on someone, they have it for life, and are better suited for the job than someone without it.
Behind the idea of the Michigan Man is that this selfless person is striving for the greater good. Something beyond himself. Something more important than his own well-being. What we need is every person working and competing for the University of Michigan.
This is the aspect that we need to keep and pass on about the Michigan Man. But unfortunately, there’s more to it. There’s a stigma that all one needs is the block ‘M.’ That everything will be fine as long as you’re Michigan. Michigan expects to win. Michigan Men have a tradition of winning – the winningest program in college football.
But it was never the name that won all those games. It was never the Big House that scared the opponents. It was never the winged helmet that sent them cowering. And now it isn’t our shiny new coaching staff. What won those games and what will win them again in the future is the binder for all these facets.
Toughness. Toughness was what Bo Schembechler built his program on. It’s why Harbaugh spoke out about what he believed even against all the backlash of his alma mater. Apparently it meant something to shake hands with Frank Sinatra; who knows? Around here, shaking hands with Bo meant something, but not as much as taking a jab from him, right to the sternum.
Those who stay will be champions. Back then it was hard to stay and even harder to do. Staying meant that there would be more pain to endure. Staying meant that there would be less sleep, more work, more practices and tougher practices. Quit, go ahead, we wish not one man more with which to share the glory.
It has always been the people that bring glory to the ‘M,’ never the other way around. Those who stay will be champions, but only at a place where the only options are becoming a champion or quitting. We have an opportunity to right this ship with an old heretic at its helm.
The cynicism of a once-ostracized muckraker is now the resurrection of Schembechler’s long standards. The ideals of Bo are back. The ideals of toughness over selfishness and intelligence aiding toughness and Michigan woven throughout. It’s hard to tell if we’ll have a winning team next year, but you can be sure it’ll be brimming with tough men, intelligent men, Michigan Men.
David Moosman is a 2009 LSA graduate. He played offensive line for Michigan from 2005 to 2009 under Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez..