Lately, I’ve been considering switching my college football allegiances away from the University of Michigan Wolverines. The maize and blue has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember, and this is not something I can easily part with. However, the football program is a shadow of its former self and has been on a steady decline over the last several years. The decline started to happen at the end of Lloyd Carr’s tenure. I am now embarrassed to be a fan, as the Michigan football is not nearly the program I fell in love with as a boy.
My biggest two reasons for being fed up with the UM program are the corrupt program and head coach Rich Rodriguez. Scandal after scandal has plagued the program (coincidentally once Rich Rod took the reigns), including monetary scandals, recruiting violations, personal issues, and more. Rich Rodriguez is an egomaniacal doofus who thrives when he -and he only – is in the spotlight. He completely changed the program upon his arrival, demanding huge sums of money, revamping the classic pro-style offensive scheme for a more trendy and faddish spread offense, and he lost (or failed to gain) the respect of dozens of players. It’s no coincidence that when he took the reigns, many of the team’s star returning players transferred.
In answer to some possible objections here, I am well aware that the UM basketball program overcame some devastating scandals in the last 15-20 years. I have several answers to this objection. First, the basketball program’s scandals surfaced years after they actually happened (think the Chris Weber cash booster scandal). Time aids forgiveness. Second, the basketball program had a likable, thoughtful coach during the scandals in Tommy Amaker. Rich Rod is neither likable nor thoughtful. Third, I have comparatively little interest in Michigan basketball compared to Michigan football, and I strongly desire to have a college football team I can be proud of.
Perhaps more importantly, what about family ties? Isn’t this abandonment of Michigan football a betrayal of the Pearce name? What about all those strong memories with Scott and Dad tied up with the Wolverines? Good questions. I do feel a little sheepish in “quitting” UM football, but I’m also the middle child, so I’m a little more flaky than Scott. I have talked to Scott about these concerns, however, and have his blessing (or at least a mutual apathy for the UM football program).
Another objection/question is if I should switch my entire school’s allegiance, or just my football team’s? I’m leaning here toward just football. Like I said, I don’t have a strong tie to Michigan basketball, but I also enjoy seeing Michigan succeed in other areas like softball (thanks, Amy), not to mention their stellar Communication Studies program.
Objections answered, it’s now time to examine the criteria for selecting a new team. I can’t just pick any team, as this is a momentous decision to make. Here is a list of criteria, loosely organized from absolute necessities to preferences:
- Tradition. I’m not necessarily looking for a winning team, but for a program that has proven that they know what it takes to win, will make good decisions with that in mind, and have a concern about not alienating their fans.
- Professionalism. Do the coaches, players, fans, and administrators exhibit an aura of professionalism?
- Academics. I’m hoping to cheer for a school that has a solid reputation for academics.
- Proximity. Not just geographical (though East Coast would be nice), but also social (do I have friends who are fans?) and psychological (I can’t have disliked them in the past). Living near a team at some stage in my life is a plus.
- Outside the Big Ten. I have to make a drastic change and can’t inbreed within the conference.
- National reputation. Does the team/school command respect nationwide?
- Pro style offense. The spread is sexy, but I like to see success for my college’s players in the NFL, too.
- Bitter rivals. The school should have bitter rivals that I already strongly dislike.
- Colors. Everyone knows their team has to have good colors, but no one wants to admit it.
I realize that this drastic move goes against some of my strongest sports beliefs as a fan, but so does the immorality of the UM program. Enough is enough. I can’t in good conscience strongly support the Wolverines anymore. I want a program and a school I can be proud of.
With the criteria in place, I’ve narrowed it down to four finalists:
West Virginia University
Colorado State University
My final decision will be made before the Super Bowl. Feel free to weigh in with suggestions, approval, or mockery.