As I watched the Michigan men’s
basketball team pull out a one-point victory over Butler last night
in Indianapolis — a game this team would never have won a
year or two ago — something dawned on me. It was a thought
that I haven’t had once since I stepped on this campus.
For the first time in four years, I realized that this school
has the opportunity for tri-major-sport success in a single year.
As someone who pays close to attention to Michigan football,
basketball and hockey, major-sport success is very important to me
— and it has also been a major component of my frustration
during my time here.
I define major-sport success over my four-year Michigan career
as an outright Big Ten championship for football, an NCAA
championship for hockey and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for
basketball. Although this criteria may seem uneven, especially for
hockey, you’ll see why that is in a minute.
It began during my freshman year, when I witnessed the football
team give away a trip to the Rose Bowl and settle for a co-Big Ten
championship by losing at Northwestern. For those of you who
remember the end of that game, you know that when I say give away,
I mean give away.
Then came basketball season, which I quickly realized could only
provide a few cheap thrills here and there, such as a home win over
Indiana and a win at Iowa, but nothing lasting. So I decided to
invest myself in hockey, and was ecstatic to see the Wolverines
advance to the NCAA Frozen Four — a feat that I thought was
rare for Michigan at the time. The Wolverines, though, could not
bring home a title, losing to Boston College in the semifinal game.
I didn’t feel so bad after that game, though. After all, the
team had made if pretty far my freshman year, and its goal was to
win it all the following season. Things could only get better,
Freshman year: 0-for-3.
2001 was no different. The football team had everyone’s
hopes up after a miraculous win at Iowa, but the team went on to
lose to both Michigan State and Ohio State to finish without a
conference title. Tommy Amaker came to town, but the new head
basketball coach couldn’t turn the team around in one season.
And hockey went through its scripted up-and-down season, once again
losing in the semifinals of the Frozen Four.
Sophomore year: 0-for-3.
No big deal. Two big years to go, and things were looking up for
each sport, right?
Wrong. The basketball program was hit with postseason sanctions,
eliminating the possibility of a tournament berth before the season
even began. Football lost to the Buckeyes once again and found
itself in Central Florida, and the hockey team completed a hat
trick of its own with its third consecutive loss in the Frozen Four
Junior year: 0-for-3
Hard to believe three years went by without any major sport
success, but there was one year left. At first, a postseason ban
for the basketball team wasn’t going to allow tri-sport
success, but when the ban was taken away, a weight was lifted off
So far, with a Rose Bowl, Michigan is 1-for-1 in my senior year.
Hockey seems to be on the same track as usual, with its early
season woes, but I expect the team to be in the Frozen Four, and
maybe, just maybe, the Wolverines can get past that semifinal game
for the first time since 1998.
And then there’s basketball. With the way the team was
given new life earlier this season when the ban was lifted,
it’s hard to say it won’t have success.
The team might not be happy with just going to The Dance and
losing, but all I want is to hear that name announced on Selection
Senior Year: 3-for-3?
This could be the year for three successful major sports. And if
hockey and basketball don’t pan out, at least we’ve had
And one is better than none.