Nineteen years ago, the movie “Footloose” was released. In the classic film, Kevin Bacon plays a rebellious city kid who moves into an uptight country community. The minister of the community, played by John Lithgow, heads a movement that has banned dancing from the town.
Bacon, though, refuses to put up with the rules, demanding that the teenagers of the town be allowed to dance. As Bacon continues to rebel, the other kids rally behind him, challenging Lithgow’s authority. At the end of the movie, Lithgow finally relents, allowing the community the privilege of a long-awaited dance.
“How in the world is this relevant?” you may be asking. “Just talk about basketball you schmuck.”
Settle down, I’m getting there.
Michigan’s basketball team has reenacted “Footloose.”
Think about it … coach Tommy Amaker arrives in Ann Arbor, a town fed up with basketball. Shortly after his arrival, the ruling comes down – the Wolverines are not allowed to dance.
“Not fair,” cries Amaker. “Past mistakes shouldn’t keep my kids from dancing.”
So Amaker rallies his team, gets the support of the fans and the community, and the Wolverines keep on playing. They play through a 17-13 year, sending the message to the NCAA that things are different in Ann Arbor now. It’s a program of good kids, clean kids – kids that want to dance.
And then, at the last moment, with the first practice of the year clearly in sight, the NCAA changes its mind.
“Okay,” the committee says. “Dance.”
Well, Tommy, go ahead and kick off your Sunday shoes.
The black cloud that has been hanging over the Michigan program for what seems like an eternity has finally lifted.
With the Infractions Appeals Committee’s decision to lift Michigan’s postseason ban for this season, the Wolverines again have something to play for.
Not just pride or Big Ten respectability, but the ultimate goal: To hear your team’s name called off on Selection Sunday.
The last time that happened was 1998.
The last time it happened without a player who was paid by booster Ed Martin was when Michigan lost to Arkansas in the 1994 Elite Eight.
Remember that game? Led by Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose, Michigan looked like it was heading back to the Final Four until a crazy game of chicken involving two tractors … wait, I might be confusing the team with the movie.
Keep in mind that this wasn’t supposed to happen. The NCAA never does this. If there’s an organization in America that doesn’t loosen its stance, it’s the NCAA.
But this is the day that Amaker has been building toward since he was put in charge of saving the Michigan program in 2001. Everything – the recruiting, the rededication to the fans and the improvement of the team – has been leading up to this.
The Wolverines never stopped, like Bacon dancing in empty barns and in fields, knowing that, eventually, the Martin scandal would be in the background.
And now, here it is.
No, the torn-down banners won’t hang from the Crisler Arena rafters again. The Wolverines will still have to deal with probation and paying money back to the NCAA.
It’s got to be hard for the Wolverines to pay attention to that with the music blaring in the background.
Time to cut loose, Blue. Footloose.
You’re allowed to dance again.
– Chris Burke has no idea if this column makes sense, but he can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.