Last Saturday, the enduring walls of Michigan Stadium reverberated with a new, deafening chant: “Fire Hoke! Fire Brandon!” It was a sad sight to see and an even sadder sound to hear. The spirit of those walls seemed as absent as the upper portions of the student section.
That spirit, too, seemed absent in the play of the team that day, and it seemed absent in the subsequent press conferences and releases put out by Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Athletic Director Dave Brandon. The burning ember of our football tradition has seen its passion extinguished, replaced by an insidious sense of disgust and shame.
The hysteria ubiquitous during the beginning of last week began with an irresponsible call by an ESPN TV announcer. When the replay of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris’ stumble played, he, as is the tendency of the media, immediately resorted to hyperbole. This was an announcer in no position medically, nor organizationally, to make a claim about the health of our quarterback, nor the decisions of our staff. He was completely and utterly unqualified in this regard. He gave an uneducated, superficial opinion and extrapolated that out to a manifestation of a struggling football program. He had no right.
I resent the amount of coverage news outlets have given this debacle. It is without a doubt that we should be winning more games in the fourth year of Hoke’s tenure. It is without a doubt that Morris should have been benched, in the context of his obvious injuries. However we, as malleable and restless students, have perpetuated what were two manageable, resolvable situations into a festering sore on the face of a previously proud block ‘M.’
The calls and petitions for firings are the impulsive, defensive reactions of a cornered fan base. I, too, felt this immediately following what happened and I signed the petition. I wholeheartedly regret it. These acts have contributed more to the defacing of our university than anything else; particularly whatever nonsense came out of an announcer’s mouth.
So, to those who continue to rally on the Diag or in front of University President Mark Schlissel’s house, on Facebook or on blogs: what do you intend to achieve? Attention or relief? This is not the sort of attention that our school needs or deserves. Headhunting will achieve little more than rescinded commitments from recruits and more flux and uncertainty. None of the above are long term solutions: they are myopic forms of satiation for a bloodthirsty mob.
Bo Schembechler must have anticipated these problems long ago when he asserted that, “Those who stay will be champions.” Michigan football then was most certainly not in championship form. Neither is it now. It would have been easy for players to quit under the new, authoritarian regime Bo was putting in place. It would have been easier to speak out and bow out. He made his rallying crying not in the best of times, but in the most difficult. What happened? Bo demanded commitment, his players remained committed and they became champions.
We students must show the same sense of commitment now as his players did then. Loyalty is consecrated through hardship and challenge. Naturally, it is easier to love Hoke after winning a Sugar Bowl than it is after losing a Little Brown Jug. But our job isn’t to love the team when it’s easy. Our duty is to be there, through thick and thin: to brave the August heat, the September storms and the November ice, to man our posts in sections 26 to 33, to cheer for a team that may not be the best it has ever been, but is still ours. We, the students, ought to be those who stay, no matter what.
I support Hoke and Brandon because I support Michigan Football. I think you should, too. Forever and always, Go Blue.
Eli Cahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.