Up for Grabs: College Football Allegiance

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:

Virginia Tech
Rutgers University
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.


18 thoughts on “Up for Grabs: College Football Allegiance

  1. Joel – this is a great post. very amusing. As a lifelong Cubs fan, my first thought was to tell you to stick it out. True fans stick with their team through thick and thin. But admittedly scandals are more trying on the fan than a simple 101 year world series drought.But based on your list, Penn State is the obvious choice. They have tradition galore. They consistently have one of the highest graduation rates, and the fewest number of penalties. The have character, they don't put player's names on the jerseys. The have nice colors. And Joe Pa. Who doesn't like Joe Pa? the only potential problem is that they are in the big ten. But hey, as long as you're abandoning your team, why not really stick it to 'em and root for a rival! That'll show 'em.

  2. Should you forsake the team of your youth, I suppose that there are greater disappointments that could befall the less flaky Pearce brother. Granted, the items on the list are few and are of much more eternal significance than Saturday football…Reasons to stay: 1) Flaky people change sports teams.2) Notre Dame possesses the only fight song in the same universe as U of M. Last I checked, you don't pray to mortal beings.3) Mike Hart, Tim Biakabatuka, Charles Woodson, Mario Manningham, Amani Toomer, Tom Brady, Desmond Howard, Steve Breaston, Sword/Steele/Gold/Irons, etc. You react emotionally to the mere mention of these names. I know this because I react emotionally to the mere mention of these names.4) You can change citizenship, but you can't change your birth certificate. Becca is an American citizen, but she can't give blood for the rest of her life because she was born in Scotland during the Mad Cow Disease flare up.5) Who comes out alive from the alley? The person who climbs mountains for a living? The red soldier from the Dark Ages? The sheep with hard growths on its head? OR THE WOLVERINE? Notice I didn't include "The Hokie" on the list, because "Hokie" is a made up word. VT's own website confesses that there plenty about their mascot's name to be embarrassed about: http://www.vt.edu/about/hokie.htmlThe defense rests. See you in Ann Arbor in the fall.

  3. Wow. Such a sad day. I'm not sure I will ever understand how someone can just switch favorite sports team, but in a country with divorce rates above 50%, its just something I will have to accept.Must feel nice to be on the prowl though! If I were so fortunate to be able to forsake the teams for which I have rooted for so long, I'd probably go for a team with a real shot at a national championship, perhaps Alabama and I'd start cheering on Thursday. Tough choices there Joel. If you choose Rutgers, be prepared for a lifetime of disappointment. I dont think I could chose West Virginia either, the Big East was terrible this year and I love rooting against Mike. Colorado State is a good choice but you'll never have a shot at a National Championship. If only TCU wouldve slaughtered Boise State, then the Mountain West would have a chance at a BCS bid in the future. Oh well. That leaves the team with the made up name… Made up names seem fitting for someone who can just break ties with their favorite team of all time and choose something new. Good Luck 🙂

  4. Great comments, all. Thanks. If there's one thing I've learned, it's not to make enemies with one's mother-in-law, so that means PSU and WVU are out for sure. Chris – a blog in response to my post? That's impressive, and a true sign of fandom (and friendship?). Alex – CSU was included as the Dark Horse candidate. They never had a chance.I definitely underestimated the emotional factor, Scott. Just reading those names brought back old, familiar feelings (including that "gut" feeling we get). I could add Chris Perry, Dhani Jones, Braylon Edwards, Larry Foote, Marlin Jackson, Chad Henne, Jake Long, Epstein, Tueman, Woodley, Wheatley, Massaquoi, Terrell, Henson, and the A-Train…

  5. I feel I must address the issue of changing teams being "flaky" since that seems to be coming up a lot. Before the beginning of the last baseball season I announced that I had become a Yankees fan. After months of ridicule, being called a “bandwagon fan”, and anger from my wife (who hates the Yankees) I realized that everyone else was just jealous. I grew up a huge Atlanta Braves fan. In South Carolina there wasn’t much to do in the hot summer evenings but watch Bobby Cox get ejected. I grew to love an idea of what I perceived the Braves to be as an organization as well as a team. Over the last 5 years I saw the team that I loved get dismantled from the inside. I realized that I was no longer a fan of the Braves, but a fan of what I believed the Braves used to stand for when I was a kid. Lots of people make questionable decisions when they are younger…if you got married in the 4th grade to Adrian Chicette you would most likely be regretting it now. I decided to look for a team/organization that I had family ties with, a strong tradition, and a team that operated along the same lines that my Braves used to and I wound up with the Yankees.I will never forget watching Andruw Jones smiling the same way after striking out that he did after hitting a HR. I will never forget watching Smoltz throw a one-hitter with my grandfather. I will never forget a little kid named Chipper and that I couldn’t stop laughing every time Chip Caray said his name. Players like Maddux, Avery, Murphy, Glavine, McCann, and Furcal will always have a special place in my heart and I will always be interested in how they perform, but I no longer get goose bumps when I hear the tomahawk chop. I'm sure Joel will look fondly on his memories that will forever have a tint of maze and blue, but I ask that his friends and family be supportive and not jealous ;)p.s. yes Hokie is a made up word…but weren't all words made up at some point?

  6. I have learned that it can be very tough to revere that which continues to be in existence. We used to say in fundraising that to name a building after someone who is not VERY dead spells disaster. Choose wisely, Indiana…..

  7. Jeff's wife here. I noticed there was a glaring absence from your list – not a single SEC team. Since everyone knows the SEC is the best football conference, you should really look there first. I'd tell you to cheer for my Gamecocks, but academics is definitely not a strength, they lose at important times (sort of like my husband's cubbies), and I'll let you decide about the professionalism of Spurrier. (Although he has definitely mellowed out a LOT since coming to USC – I guess a huge serving of humble pie will do that to a person. there was not a single visor-throwing incident in our recent bowl game loss.) On the plus side, we do have lots of tradition (the school is over 200 years old), a very unique mascot, and our bitterest rival is Clemson. And who doesn't hate Clemson, the team with the most obnoxious fans ever?? Our colors are garnet and black, which look really sharp. Our offense is getting better (or at least it was when we played Clemson, though not so much in the recent bowl game), and I have high hopes for next season.So come on over to the good side!! And if you don't like USC, there are lots of other great SEC teams Georgia, Alabama, or even LSU. I can't recommend Tennessee or Florida, since I hate both those schools, but I suppose they'd be viable options.

  8. Thanks for the suggestion, Aubrey. The problem is, I loathe the SEC (no offense). I might even hate Florida more than Ohio State (even in my Michigan hey-day). I don't even like Tim Tebow, and he puts Bible verses under his eyes. That said, if I had to pick an SEC team to like, it would be USC by a landslide. They have the mascot, colors, and friendship proximity. But the SEC is a huge blot on their resume.

  9. Rooting for the SEC is like rooting for Canada in winter olympic curling. The home weather environment poses a natural advantage. Who wants to see palm trees from their practice field?

  10. I'm in shock. Is this the same person who, asa youngster, used to call me 15 seconds after the clock expired and ask, Mr. Lewis, did you happen to watch the game today? Only after a MI victory of course. Weather the storm my friend. You will not be able to switch allegiances easily especially when you hear that fight song. As one who rubs shoulders with wolverine fans every day you are not alone in your sentiments. Old Blue will not tolerate the shananigans much longer. I fully expect Rich Rod to be gone after next season especially with the recent change in ADs. However, in this day and age, there is no guarantee to a return to the top with chgs in coaches as Nebraska can attest.

  11. If ya want to root for a winning program, ya gotta go for Central, don't ya think? Or maybe Hillsdale?As a MSU grad who was born 30 miles south of Columbus, RichRod is my favorite Michigan coach EVER. :^) (just like Gerry Faust and Charlie Weis are my favorite Notre Dame coaches)


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