Big Ten: Bo Schembechler

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The year was 1968. Michigan football had finished with a losing record in four of the previous seven seasons. Attendance at home games was dwindling. A reluctant athletic director with a business background faced his first big decision after only a few months on the job: Hire a new coach.

After a careful search, Don Canham offered the job to Bo Schembechler and started the longest period of sustained success in program history. Schembechler and Canham spent the next two decades working together without a losing season. Their teams were ranked in the top 20 in all but one year during that stretch.

[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezJim Harbaugh was Michigan's full-time starting quarterback in 1985 and 1986, when the Wolverines went 21-3-1 and won one Big Ten title.
There is no telling when the cycles of history will begin anew, but the pieces are now in place for another fresh start in Ann Arbor.

Two of Schembechler’s former players, interim athletic director Jim Hackett and new coach Jim Harbaugh, give current-day Michigan its best chance to build on the program’s rich history without being crushed by it. Along with a new university president, Hackett and Harbaugh provide a promising leadership group. All three are competent in their jobs and confident enough in their own skin not to try to encroach on the others' roles.

Harbaugh flirted with the Michigan job four years ago before deciding to try the NFL. As painful as that may have been for some Wolverines fans, they should feel lucky it didn’t work out. Harbaugh’s personality would have almost certainly clashed with the ego of former athletic director Dave Brandon. His departure from San Francisco despite success on the field is evidence that a bad relationship with bosses can lead to a toxic situation, no matter how good of a coaching job Harbaugh does.

Brandon’s five-year tenure as athletic director was marked by public relations disasters, poor performances in football and political maneuvering that left the athletic department in figurative flames. As in 1968, attendance steadily shrunk amid three losing seasons in seven years. Brandon resigned in October and Hackett inherited the ashes.

For many at Michigan, Tuesday is as much of a finish line as it is a starting point. Harbaugh's arrival and the manner in which Hackett pursued him are a sign that the internal problems that plagued Michigan's athletic department are on their way out.

The university's new president, Mark Schlissel, did his homework before offering the job to Hackett. Then he got out of the way. Schlissel said he quickly learned how important football was to the university, and he empowered his interim athletic director with the resources and authority to make a slam-dunk hire.

It’s not clear how long Hackett plans to stick around, but after catching a blue whale the first time he put his line in the water, Schlissel would be smart to let him drop that interim tag whenever he wants. Hackett's first deposit in the bank of goodwill came when he said he wanted to eliminate the "Michigan Man" term that epitomized much of the entitlement and exclusivity that has held back the program in recent years. Landing Harbaugh is another major line on his résumé that should buy him and his new coach time to turn things around.

Harbaugh's past accomplishments -- turning Stanford from a Pac-10 bottom-feeder into a national power and then making three consecutive trips to the NFC Championship Game with the 49ers -- are even more convincing arguments for patience while Michigan tries to untangle some of the knots it has created during the past decade. His status as a former Michigan star quarterback and his passion for his alma mater are just icing on the cake.

College football programs with strong tradition have a tendency to slow themselves with the weight of past successes. It often takes a slash-and-burn break from the old to return to the top (Alabama hiring Nick Saban, for example). Hackett has served Harbaugh a clean slate on which to start building.

There’s no guarantee that Michigan can still compete in a college football world where momentum continues to tip toward the South. There's no guarantee that the Wolverines can even make it back to the top of Big Ten, where Urban Meyer and rival Ohio State have a healthy start on Harbaugh. But Hackett has done all he can to put his program in position to compete. If Michigan is going to return, now is the time.
The motion W on Paul Chryst's hat and sweatshirt next fall won't stand for wandering eye. For that, Wisconsin fans can breath a sigh of relief.

It's humbling for a fan base to see a coach voluntarily leave its program. It's especially humbling to see it happen twice in the past three years. It's especially, especially humbling when coaches leave a winning, established program that is coming off appearances in the Big Ten championship game.

Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen clearly didn't see Wisconsin as a destination job. Bielema wanted to chase a championship in the nation's toughest conference at a program flush with resources. Andersen became fed up with Wisconsin's admissions office and the difficulty of getting his targeted players into school. Their eyes wandered and they left town.

Chryst is coming home to Madison, where he spent most of his childhood, his college years and part of his adult life as a Badgers assistant in 2002 and again from 2005-11. He intends to stay for a while. Those close to him say Wisconsin is his dream college job and that he would only leave to lead an NFL team. Coincidentally, Chryst did the reverse Gary Andersen, leaving Oregon State's offensive coordinator post for Wisconsin's after the 2004 season.

[+] EnlargePaul Chryst
Jason Redmond/Associated PressGetting Paul Chryst in the fold should close the revolving door at Wisconsin for a while.
Hiring a capable coach is Wisconsin's first priority here, and despite inheriting a mess in Pittsburgh from Todd Graham and yielding middling results, Chryst can deliver with the Badgers. But it's also important for the Badgers -- and the Big Ten -- to bring in coaches who want to stick around.

Let's not be delusional about the Big Ten or modern-day coaches. The days of Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Barry Alvarez, Hayden Fry, Joe Paterno and others who saw Big Ten programs as career endpoints likely are over. Kirk Ferentz is completing his 16th season at Iowa, while Pat Fitzgerald just finished his ninth at Northwestern and Mark Dantonio wraps up his eighth at Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. None seems to be in a hurry to leave on their own accord, but they're more the exceptions in today's game.

Expecting any coach to spend 15-20 years in one place isn't realistic. But the Big Ten also can't have coaches voluntarily leaving every season. A Big Ten coach has chosen to depart in each of the past three seasons: Bielema (2012), Penn State's Bill O'Brien (2013) and now Andersen. Of the three, only O'Brien left for a definitive step up, the NFL's Houston Texans.

Look at Big Ten basketball, which boasts elite coaches -- Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, Ohio State's Thad Matta and Michigan's John Beilein -- who view their jobs as destinations. That's what Big Ten football needs.

Chryst puts a stop in the revolving door at Wisconsin, and several of the Big Ten's top programs could be entering a period of coaching stability:

Nebraska: Whether Cornhuskers fans like the Mike Riley hire or not, Riley isn't going anywhere. He sees Nebraska as a last stop, and despite his age (61), he still has great energy for the job. His predecessor, Bo Pelini, didn't voluntarily leave Nebraska, but there were incessant rumors during his tenure about him looking at other jobs. Some think if Nebraska had won the 2012 Big Ten title game instead of Wisconsin, Pelini would have landed at Arkansas instead of Bielema.

Ohio State: Urban Meyer quickly has rebuilt Ohio State into a national power and a playoff contender for years to come. There's always some concern about Meyer's longevity at a job, but he's not mentioned for NFL positions and seems completely settled in Columbus. He might not coach the Buckeyes for 10-15 years, but he's seemingly not on the verge of an exit, either.

Penn State: Amid the excitement of his arrival, James Franklin repeatedly noted that Penn State had work to do with its roster deficiencies, which showed up throughout the fall. Franklin likely will see this process through, and, like Meyer in Ohio, he has roots in Pennsylvania. He has plenty of job security, and unless he becomes frustrated with the post-sanctions effects, won't be looking to leave.

Michigan is the wild card here, but the Wolverines should be seeking some stability in its next coach. After having just three coaches between 1969 and 2007, Michigan will have its third in eight seasons next fall. Jim Harbaugh is the home run hire for the Wolverines, but not if he returns to the NFL in two or three years. Michigan needs an elite coach who wants to stick around, and it shouldn't compromise either criteria. Brady Hoke would have stayed in Ann Arbor forever, but he wasn't getting it done on the field.

Stability doesn't automatically equal success. After a very disappointing regular season, Iowa's Ferentz finds himself in a category of long-tenured, mostly successful coaches -- Georgia's Mark Richt, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy -- who some want to see move on. Stability can become stale, but cycling through coaches every few years almost guarantees struggle.

Amazingly, Wisconsin has avoided a downturn despite its coaching turnover. Now it has a coach who can keep things rolling without constantly looking for the next best thing.

Michigan's impending hire should calm the Big Ten coaching carousel for a while. And with relative stability at the top programs, the league could be on the verge of a step forward.
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Michigan has made the difficult but correct decision to part with one of its own, a man who took the Wolverines' head-coaching job without discussing salary, who said he would have walked to Ann Arbor from San Diego for the gig.

"Getting over the Rockies would have been a little tough," Brady Hoke said in January 2011, "but we would have figured that out."

Hoke delivered that and other memorable lines during an introductory news conference that he won by four touchdowns, mainly because he accentuated his love and appreciation for Michigan's traditions and history. His three-digit labels for his Wolverines teams nodded to the past -- Team 132, Team 133 and so on -- and his refusal to call Michigan's rival by its full name delighted the fan base.

This guy gets us, they said, unlike that last guy. Never mind those unremarkable head-coaching credentials (47-50 at Ball State and San Diego State).

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsAs Michigan searches for Brady Hoke's replacement, winning should be the focus, not ties to the program.
"He doesn't have to learn the words to 'The Victors,'" then-athletic director Dave Brandon said at the time. "He has sung it many times in the locker room."

But Hoke didn't sing "The Victors" enough during his three-plus years at Michigan, and that's why he's out of a job. Appreciating and extolling Michigan's tradition isn't enough when you don't add to it. Dinging Ohio State isn't enough when you don't beat the Buckeyes very often. Defining successful seasons by Big Ten championships isn't enough when you don't deliver any. Wearing legends jerseys isn't enough when the current players aren't performing anywhere near legendary levels.

Hoke fit Michigan's culture better than Rich Rodriguez did. But neither man restored the glory. Michigan hired the opposite of Rodriguez in Hoke -- a defensive coach with deep roots in the program -- but got similarly underwhelming results.

As Michigan embarks on its third coaching search in seven years, it must truly look outward rather than inward. The school must cast a wide net and not eliminate candidates just because they've never set foot in Schembechler Hall and can't recite how many Big Ten championships the Wolverines have won.

It's 42, by the way. Michigan's top priority must be finding the guy who can win No. 43.

I'd be all for Michigan hiring Les Miles as its next coach or, as farfetched as it sounds, Jim Harbaugh (I don't consider John Harbaugh even a fringe candidate). But not because Miles and Harbaugh played at Michigan, or because Harbaugh grew up in Ann Arbor while his dad worked as a Michigan assistant coach.

Both are good hires because they win. Harbaugh transformed the Stanford program and has guided the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance and three NFC title games. Miles owns a national title and 103 wins at LSU.

Their Michigan connection is a nice bonus, but not the driving force.

If both men say no -- a likely possibility for Harbaugh, who will have other NFL opportunities if he parts ways with the 49ers; Miles, meanwhile, might want to stay with his damn fine football team in Baton Rouge -- Michigan must cast a wider net. Insular thinking will hurt Michigan in this search. So will arrogance.

Any coach interim athletic director Jim Hackett hires will have at least a decent knowledge of the program's tradition. Hackett, who, like Brandon, is a former Wolverines football player under Bo Schembechler, will make certain of it.

But celebrating what Michigan used to be ultimately isn't enough. Hoke showed that. It's about transforming what Michigan is -- a program that, despite every imaginable resource, has failed to win the Big Ten in a decade -- into something more successful.

Tradition is a great thing in college football. It also can be a crutch. Michigan's next coach should emphasize forging a new chapter in program history, while maintaining respect for the past.

If the right coach has no previous ties to Michigan, so be it. Alabama fell out of relevance when it made hiring its own -- Mike DuBose, Mike Shula -- a priority. Nick Saban was an outsider, and he's done OK in T-Town.

Former USC assistants Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner didn't work out as Trojans head coaches, but Pete Carroll, a first-timer at Heritage Hall, certainly did. Oklahoma has had more recent success hiring outside the Sooner family (Bob Stoops) than inside it (John Blake, Gary Gibbs).

College football history is filled with outsiders who pushed tradition-rich programs into the future, from Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame to Mack Brown at Texas to Schembechler at Michigan.

"I'm sure a job of that magnitude, that'll be a national search," an agent who represents college football coaches told me. "That'll be a big one."

During his introduction, Hoke bristled when told of the perception that Michigan is no longer an elite job.

"This is an elite job and will continue to be an elite job," Hoke said. "This is Michigan, for god sake."

He's right. But what Michigan is and what Michigan was are different things. Michigan fans hate the notion that the program is stuck in the past.

This hire is a chance to move Michigan forward. The right hire might happen to a Michigan Man, but it can't be the other way around.
It's championship Monday in the NCAA basketball tournament. And we're ready to announce the first participant in our all-time Big Ten coaches tournament championship game.

Our opening semifinal game pitted No. 3 seed Nebraska's Tom Osborne vs. No. 2 seed Michigan's Bo Schembechler. More than 13,000 votes were cast, and Osborne won in a rout, beating Bo by a count of 68 percent to 32 percent. Never underestimate the voting power of the Huskers faithful, but Osborne's record and résumé make him a very worthy finalist.

He'll advance to face the winner of the other semifinal game between Joe Paterno and Woody Hayes, which we'll reveal shortly. First, some of your comments about this matchup:
Lincoln S. from Sioux Falls, S.D.: I voted for Coach Osborne because what he did with the program has almost no parallel in the last hundred years. From what I can tell, besides Alabama, Cal from 1920-1925 and Minnesota from 1934-36, no one else has won three national titles in four years.

Nathan H. from Weeping Water, Neb.: All these coaches deserve admiration for what they've achieved, but at the end of the day, the championships are what really matter. Schembechler was an amazing coach, but the lack of national titles is why I have to give Osborne the vote.

Bill S. from Nebraska City, Neb.: Tom's record speaks for itself, and it was a lot of fun experiencing the incredible run in the 90s. What he has done off the field is what really defines him.

Walter from Omaha: It's Osborne, no question. Its hard to find a coach whose name is more synonymous with football, Big Ten or otherwise. He's one of the winningest coaches in history and has three national titles to boot, which as you noted, gives him a 3-0 sweep. Game. Set. Match!

Bob S. from Columbus, Ohio: I love (to hate) Michigan because of Bo, his Ten Year War and the universal respect afforded him and his program ... as evidenced by our tribute to him during The Game in Ohio Stadium the day after his death. Sadly, this icon of the Big Ten will lose this poll, as expected, solely because the minions that are the Red Sea have nothing better to do on prairie.

Crawdaddy from Ann Arbor: I love Bo. I grew up in Ann Arbor during the Ten Year War. I bleed Maize & Blue. But facts are facts. Osborne won three national titles. Bo zero. That is what separates the two. I voted for Osborne. Go Blue!
The real Final Four begins on Saturday, but our own version of it tips off right now.

The field in our all-time Big Ten coaches tournament has been whittled from 12 to four as our top overall four seeds advanced. As always, your vote will determine who wins.

Time now to take a look at our first semifinal ...

No. 3 Tom Osborne vs. No. 2 Bo Schembechler

Tournament résumés:
  • SportsNation

    Which coach wins this semifinal matchup?

    •  
      68%
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      32%

    Discuss (Total votes: 14,069)

    Osborne: It's hard for any coach to gain near universal respect and admiration, but Osborne achieved it with his illustrious tenure at Nebraska. He went 255-49-3 in leading the Huskers to three national titles in a four-year span (1994, 1995 and 1997), and his teams never won fewer than nine games in a season. Sure, he didn't coach in the Big Ten, but Nebraska is a member school and he was instrumental in getting the school into the league.
  • Schembechler: "Those who stay will be champions" was a motto Schembechler used early in his tenure, and he proved that to be true -- at least as far as Big Ten titles. His 13 league championships are tied for the most ever, and his 143 Big Ten victories are the second-most all time. Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) of any coach who competed in the Big Ten for at least 10 years. The one thing missing? No national championship.

Which coach moves on to the title game? Voting will be open through the weekend, and make sure to drop us a note saying why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts.
The Final Four of our all-time Big Ten coaches tournament is all set.

On Monday, we announced that Penn State's Joe Paterno and Nebraska's Tom Osborne both advanced to the semifinals. Now it's time to find out the rest of our field.

Our seventh game pitted No. 2 seed Michigan's Bo Schembechler against No. 10 seed Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin. Alvarez made this closer than expected for a while, but Schembechler finished as the victor, earning 61 percent of your vote to 39 percent for the Badgers' Hall of Famer.

Game 8 was an all-Buckeyes affair between No. 1 overall seed Woody Hayes and No. 9 seed Jim Tressel. Hayes won that one going away, by a count of 82 percent to 18.

So our Final Four matchups will look like this:

No. 4 Joe Paterno vs. No. 1 Woody Hayes

No. 3 Tom Osborne vs. No. 2 Bo Schembechler

We'll open up the voting for these semifinals on Thursday. This should be a lot of fun.

Curiously, we didn't really get a lot of responses on the Alvarez-Schembechler match. Don't forget to send in your comments (especially you Bo backers). Here are a couple of your thoughts on the Hayes-Tressel showdown:
Matt from Cape Coral, Fla.: I grew up a huge Tress fan and the 2002 national title game is what finally sold me on football as a kid, but when it comes down to it, Woody is Ohio State football and you cannot argue with five national championships. I voted for Woody.

Robert B. from Logan, Ohio: Brian, in 1964, I was 14. We were in Canton for the North-South game. Woody was recruiting the son of my parents' best friends and we were at a local restaurant for lunch. My father had died less than a month before. Now I don't know if Stein, the boy's father, asked him to, or not, but Woody came over to the table and sat down and talked to me for about 15 minutes. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of stories just like mine that prove that Woody Hayes was more of a hero off the field than on. His record speaks for itself, but I am one speaking to his compassion. To me, he was a soft-spoken, kind man. I bleed scarlet and gray, as my father did, my children do, and my grandchildren do. Woody Hayes was a complete person and that's why I vote for him, even over Tressel.

Big Ten coaches tournament: Game 7

March, 28, 2014
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Who is the greatest Big Ten coach of all time? There's one way to find out: by pitting the best of the best in our own version of March Madness.

Our Big Ten coaches tournament bracket is down to the final eight competitors, with a Final Four bid on the line. Our top four overall seeds received first-round byes but now find themselves in some heated battles.

The third of our four second-round games features the first upset from the first round and one of most-recognizable figures in Big Ten history ...

No. 2 Michigan's Bo Schembechler vs. No. 10 Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez


Tournament résumés:
    SportsNation

    Which coach wins this second-round matchup?

    •  
      61%
    •  
      39%

    Discuss (Total votes: 7,322)

  • Alvarez: He revived the Badgers program during his 16 years as head coach in Madison, compiling 118 wins and three Rose Bowl championships. In fact, Alvarez is the only league coach to win back-to-back Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010, and he always brought a certain swagger to the field that can still be felt in the program, which he oversees as athletic director.
  • Schembechler: "Those who stay will be champions" was a motto Schembechler used early in his tenure, and he proved that to be true -- at least as far as Big Ten titles. His 13 league championships are tied for the most ever, and his 143 Big Ten victories are the second-most all time. Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) of any coach who competed in the Big Ten for at least 10 years. The one thing missing? No national title.

Which coach advances? Voting is open through the weekend, and drop us a note as to why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts.
We're a 24/7/365 football blog around here, but it's impossible to not get caught up in the excitement of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

But while football will have its own, smaller version of March Madness with the College Football Playoff this season, we don't want to wait that long. Why let the basketball guys have all the fun when we can hold our own tournament?

In past years, we did this with the top players and championship teams of the past 15 years. This time around, we're going to pit the best coaches in Big Ten history against one another in a winner-take-all bracket.

The Big Ten has an incredible roster of accomplished coaches in its lore. (And, yes, we're including all current Big Ten member schools, regardless of how long they've been in the league. We're inclusive here. Deal with it.). Narrowing the field to our customary eight was difficult, if not downright unthinkable. So we've expanded the bracket to 12 this time, with the top four seeds getting byes and the others trying to play their way in. Be on standby, Dayton.

We're looking for coaches who have won Big Ten titles and national championships, those who stuck around long enough to pile up Hall of Fame résumés and build unmistakable legacies. No current coaches are involved, as we'll let them finish their careers before we start stacking them up against the all-timers.

The tournament will kick off Thursday with the first couple of matchups. But first, here is a look at the entire field, in alphabetical order:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: Alvarez revived the Badgers program during his 16 years at the helm in Madison, compiling 118 wins. He also earned three Rose Bowl victories and is the only league coach to ever win back-to-back Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
  • Bernie Bierman, Minnesota: The Gophers claimed five national titles under Bierman (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940 and 1941) and won seven Big Ten championships from 1932-41. He went 93-35-6 at Minnesota and also won a national title as a player with the Gophers.
  • Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State: Daugherty coached the Spartans from 1954 to 1972 and led them to back-to-back national titles in 1965 and 1966. The rest of his tenure didn't go as well, but Daugherty is tied for the sixth-most Big Ten wins ever.
  • Hayden Fry, Iowa: The Hawkeyes hadn't had a winning season in 17 years before Fry arrived before the 1979 season. He proceeded to go 143-89-6 in Iowa City, claiming three Big Ten titles. His 98 Big Ten wins are fourth-most ever.
  • Woody Hayes, Ohio State: Few coaches are as synonymous with a school as Hayes is with Ohio State. He won 205 games, the most of any coach while a member of the Big Ten, and a record 152 league games. Hayes also won 13 Big Ten championships, tying him for the most all time, and five national titles (1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970).
  • Tom Osborne, Nebraska: There aren't many coaches more beloved and universally respected than Osborne, who went 255-49-3 while leading the Huskers to three national titles in a four-year span (1994, 1995 and 1997). How about this: His teams never won fewer than nine games in a season, and this was before 12-, 13- and even 14-game seasons became the norm.
  • Joe Paterno, Penn State: JoePa won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986) and four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national coach of the year five times. His career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA.
  • Bo Schembechler, Michigan: Bo and Woody. Woody and Bo. Two coaches really defined the Big Ten for decades, and Schembechler was one of them. He is tied with Hayes for the most Big Ten titles ever (13) and his 143 Big Ten victories are the second-most all time. Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) of any coach who competed in the Big Ten for at least 10 years. But he never won a national title.
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg, Chicago: Listen up, youngsters. The University of Chicago was a charter member of the Big Ten, and Stagg was its sports titan. He won 199 games, including 116 Big Ten victories, as well as two national championships (1905, 1913). Stagg is credited with innovating many plays and formations used in modern football, and he was also named to the Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to that sport.
  • Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Tressel coached exactly 10 years in the Big Ten before he was forced to resign, but what a decade it was. He has the second-highest winning percentage both overall and in league play for coaches who spent at least 10 years inside the conference, and he won or shared seven league titles (though the 2010 co-championship was later vacated). Tressel is the last Big Ten coach to win a national title, in 2002.
  • Fielding Yost, Michigan: The Wolverines won six national titles under Yost (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) and his 10 Big Ten titles trails only Hayes and Schembechler. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best all time among those who coached at least a decade in the league.
  • Bob Zuppke, Illinois: He was the Illini head coach from 1913 to 1941 and won four national titles (1914, 1919, 1923, and 1927). Zuppke is credited for inventing the huddle, which is kind of a big deal, and he also coached the legendary Red Grange. He is tied with Daugherty for the sixth-most Big Ten wins of all time, and he captured seven Big Ten titles.

As you can see, this is an impressive field. We couldn't even include all the amazing coaches from history, including Michigan's Fritz Crisler, Nebraska's Bob Devaney or Minnesota's Henry Williams, to name just a few. (Sorry, Huskers fans, but while Osborne has a tenuous connection to the Big Ten as the athletic director who ushered the school into the league, Devaney's great career had no Big Ten ties. Don't worry. You can simply throw all your considerable voting power behind Osborne if you desire.)

Stay tuned for the opening matchups. "The ball is tipped ..."

Big Ten lunch links

November, 4, 2013
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Let's take a quick spin around the league …
The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry dates back to 1887 when the Wolverines instructed the Irish in the rules and ways of the game. Today, it’s still one of the most well-known and respected matchups in the country. But on Saturday, the two teams will meet for the last time (for the foreseeable future) in Michigan Stadium. To commemorate this event, we’ve counted down the top five games in the rivalry’s history in the Big House.

5. 2009 | Michigan 38, No. 18 Notre Dame 34

Enter Tate Forcier. His career at Michigan was short-lived, but as a freshman he led one of the greatest come-from-behind drives against Notre Dame in Michigan Stadium. With Notre Dame forced to punt, Forcier and the Wolverines got the ball back with 2:13 left in the game, down three. The freshman led Michigan down the field and capped the drive with a 5-yard TD pass with 11 seconds left in the game. The ensuing PAT sealed the victory for Michigan.

4. 1981 | No. 11 Michigan 25, No. 1 Notre Dame 7

The Wolverines had started the season No. 1 in the country, but Wisconsin wiped the floor with them. With Notre Dame’s season-opening win over LSU, the Irish came into the Big House ranked No. 1 in the nation, while the Wolverines had dropped to No. 11. But behind clutch defensive performances, which held the Irish without a second- or third-quarter first down, Michigan rolled.

3. 2011 | Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31

If we were counting down the top moments of the rivalry, this would arguably be No. 1. And there are 114,804 people to testify to that. However, as far as the game as a whole, this one was basically a snoozer until the final moments. Everyone remembers Roy Roundtree’s game-winning catch from Denard Robinson with two seconds left. Or they remember the catch, one play earlier, by Jeremy Gallon. Those kinds of memories erase the fact that the Wolverines went into the fourth quarter down 24-7. But that final quarter -- with all the emotion and anticipating -- gets the 2011 game on the top-five list.

2. 1989 | No. 1 Notre Dame 24, No. 2 Michigan 19

Bo Schembechler's final game in this series was not a memorable one for the Wolverines, who saw Raghib Ismail return two kickoffs for touchdowns. It was the defending national champions, the No. 1-ranked Irish against No. 2 Michigan, with Irish quarterback Tony Rice attempting just two passes in the wet conditions. The Wolverines saw a 10-game unbeaten streak snapped, and the Irish became the first team to beat Schembechler three straight times.

1. 1991 | No. 2 Michigan 24, Notre Dame 14

Up three early in the fourth quarter, Desmond Howard made the first of many memorable plays in what would become a Heisman Trophy-winning season. Howard caught a 25-yard pass from Elvis Grbac on fourth-and-1, a signature moment in this rivalry's history, known to Wolverine fans simply as “The Catch.” Michigan snapped a four-game losing streak to Notre Dame.
Sixteen years after Joe Tiller introduced the spread offense to the Big Ten at Purdue, the system still looks out of place on the hallowed grounds of historic stadiums throughout the league.

The spread remains, at its core, quite un-Big Ten. The Big Ten's image is still power football, 22 personnel, large groups of large men lined up close together, creating dust clouds after relatively short gains. It's not about five-wide sets and first-to-40 games.

In the celebrated "Ten-Year War" featuring Big Ten icons Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, neither Ohio State nor Michigan eclipsed 24 points. Michigan averaged 13.8 points, while Ohio State averaged a scant 10.5, scoring nine total points in the final three contests. Those games are part of Big Ten lore.

I value Big Ten history as much as anyone, but I also realize the glory days have long since passed. College football has changed. The game is played in space, especially by teams hoping to offset a talent gap.

[+] EnlargeBill Cubit
AP Photo/Al GoldisIllinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit believes the spread is an equalizer in the Big Ten.
The talent gap remains for Big Ten offenses. There's a shortage of dynamic skill players and even elite linemen throughout much of the league. We've detailed the Big Ten's dearth of star wide receivers, but there are other positions that lack difference-makers.

The Big Ten needs to catch up. It needs to become, with a few exceptions, a spread league.

"It's a bit of an equalizer," Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said of the spread, which he ran at Western Michigan and now with the Illini. "It’s just hard to drive the ball 80 yards. You better have some big plays. Well, where do you get those big plays? There's some teams that say, 'OK, we'll run the power for three-and-a-half [yards], three-and-a-half, three-and-a-half.' But eventually, you're going to break down.

"You've got to get the ball out in space, and the simplest thing is to spread your guys out, too, unless you're Alabama or Stanford."

Here's the thing people need to realize about the pro-style offense. It demands nationally elite recruits to excel. Teams such as Alabama, Stanford, LSU and, even now, USC can run the system because of their recruiting clout.

Most Big Ten teams don't recruit at a nationally elite level. Ohio State and Michigan do, and Penn State, despite its postseason sanctions and scholarship restrictions, has managed to bring in top prospects suited to Bill O'Brien's offense. But the majority of the league simply isn't there, especially on offense, and can even the playing field by injecting spread elements.

Some Big Ten teams -- Northwestern, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska -- already do it. But there are others -- Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue -- that continue to run pro-style offenses without elite talent.

In an opening weekend when Big Ten teams averaged 39.5 points, three of the four lowest-scoring totals came from Iowa (27), Michigan State (26) and Purdue (7). When you factor in that Michigan State had two defensive touchdowns and Iowa had one, the offensive numbers are worse.

Coaches Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Darrell Hazell (Purdue) all believe in pro-style offense. Ferentz, the dean of Big Ten coaches, has remained steadfast even as the spread popularized around college football.

"We've had two Big Ten championship games, and an anti-spread team [Wisconsin] has come out victorious in both of those," Ferentz said. "Any coach is trying to do what they do best with their personnel. The teams that are successful are the teams that execute the best, whether it's spread or conventional."

Ferentz's personnel at Iowa is geared toward a pro-style offense. But is the talent level good enough to execute at the highest levels? Not lately.

Would Iowa's offense be much better with spread elements? It could attract different types of players and stress defenses in different ways. Then again, a bubble screen on third-and-9 stresses defenses, too.

If you watch the Big Ten Network, you've probably heard analyst Gerry DiNardo say that he doesn't think a team can win the national title running the spread. But DiNardo notes that the spread can help teams with less talent compete consistently with tougher competition.

"Iowa and Purdue could continue on the offensive path they're on because I think they can meet expectations," DiNardo told me. "They can be competitive in 2014 and beyond in the West with that offense. Michigan State, because they have [freshman quarterback] Damion Terry on their roster, because they've struggled offensively since Kirk Cousins left, and because they're going to be in the much more difficult division in the East, I could very well see them making a shift to a spread offense."

[+] EnlargeMichigan State's Mark Dantonio
Mike Carter/US PRESSWIREAs they enter the new, rugged East Division of the Big Ten, Mark Dantonio might want to think about incorporating spread elements in the Michigan State offense.
Throughout the offseason, Dantonio talked about the need for quarterbacks to make plays.

"You have a better chance of doing that in the spread than you do in the pro formation," DiNardo said.

When Kevin Wilson followed Randy Walker from Miami (Ohio) to Northwestern in 1999, he installed the same I-formation, power run-based offense they had run at Miami. Northwestern ran more plays and had the ball more than its opponents ... and averaged a meager 12.8 points a game.

"We didn't have any playmakers," said Wilson, now Indiana's head coach, who has run different versions of the spread since 2000. "We died a slow death. We needed to make some changes."

Northwestern went to the Rich Rodriguez-style spread the following year and finished third nationally in total offense and ninth in scoring.

Some Big Ten teams can survive outside of the spread. DiNardo sees Michigan forming a similar offensive blueprint to Alabama and Stanford, largely because of its recruiting success. O'Brien's offense originates from a pro formation but incorporates an explosive, NFL-style passing attack and an efficient run game -- "Very unique," DiNardo said.

Wisconsin provides hope for teams like Michigan State and Iowa. The Badgers aren't a recruiting force, but they've built their program around the power run, elite backs and massive linemen for more than two decades.

At Wisconsin's level, a system change isn't in order.

"They never wanted to get into the elite recruiting battles, and they have to," DiNardo said. "Schematically, they're fine. They're not much different than Michigan, but Michigan recruits the elite athletes."

Not enough Big Ten teams are in Michigan's position. More teams should incorporate spread elements to start evening things out.

Hazell is on board, noting that Purdue's offensive struggles at Cincinnati -- the Boilers ran only 29 first-half plays -- reduced the playbook.

"Whether you're doing spread, a little bit of zone read, option, quick game, play-action pass, you have to have the whole package," Hazell said. "You probably would have seen more of that had we been able to run more plays."

Here's hoping Purdue and other teams showcase spread elements more in the coming weeks.

Otherwise, they'll be headed for a slow death.
There's hardly ever a perfect time to part ways with a coach, especially one who has had success. Some programs opt to nudge out long-tenured, mostly successful coaches only to pay the price later for their decisions. Others that part ways with a veteran coach end up seeing improvement. ESPN.com is taking a closer look at this topic today, and we're putting it under the Big Ten microscope.

Here are some notable Big Ten (and Nebraska) coaching forceouts:

LLOYD CARR, Michigan (1995-2007)

What happened: A longtime Michigan assistant for Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller, Carr moved into the top job in 1995 and two years later guided Michigan to a national title. He led the Wolverines to at least a share of five Big Ten championships and six bowl victories, including the 1998 Rose and 2000 Orange bowls. Carr had the Wolverines positioned for another national title run in 2006 as they faced archrival Ohio State in an epic matchup of undefeated teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally. But Carr's squad fell to Jim Tressel's Buckeyes, a theme during the later part of Carr's tenure. The 2007 season began with a humiliating loss to Football Championship Subdivision team Appalachian State. Although Carr officially retired in November 2007, there certainly was some pressure for the school to go in a new direction.

[+] EnlargeLloyd Carr
Chris Livingston/Icon SMILloyd Carr is carried off the field following Michigan's win over the Gators in the Capital One Bowl, which was Carr's final game.
What happened next: Michigan went away from its coaching tree and plucked Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia to succeed Carr. It was a rocky situation from the start that never truly smoothed out. Rodriguez's first Michigan team in 2008 might have been the worst ever, tumbling to 3-9 and ending the school's streak of consecutive bowl appearances at 33. The following summer, Michigan admitted to committing major violations for the first time in its history -- relating to practice time -- and self-imposed probation. The Wolverines once again missed a bowl game in 2009 and struggled to make one in Rodriguez's third season. After a blowout loss in the 2011 Gator Bowl, Michigan fired Rodriguez, who went just 15-22 at Michigan (6-18 Big Ten, 0-3 against Ohio State). Michigan might have slipped a bit from the ranks of the elite under Carr, but the program plummeted to historic depths under Rodriguez. Michigan replaced Rodriguez with former Carr assistant Brady Hoke.

JOHN COOPER, Ohio State (1988-2000)

What happened: After a rocky start (4-6-1 in 1988), Cooper went on a nice run at Ohio State in the mid- to late 1990s, averaging 10.3 victories between 1993 and 1998. He guided Ohio State to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 13 years during the 1996 season and emerged with a victory against Arizona State. He also won the Sugar Bowl after the 1998 season and coached Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. But Cooper had two problems: an inability to beat archrival Michigan (2-10-1) and struggles in bowl games (3-8). Three times the Buckeyes entered The Game with a perfect record -- 1993, 1995 and 1996 -- and fell to the Wolverines. After a 6-6 clunker in 1999 and another loss to Michigan in 2000, Ohio State fired Cooper, who finished second on the school's all-time coaching wins list, behind Woody Hayes, with 111.

What happened next: Ohio State made an unorthodox move in bringing in Youngstown State's Tressel to succeed Cooper. It paid off as Tressel guided the Buckeyes to a national title in his second season. Ohio State remains the only Big Ten team to win a crystal football during the BCS era. Tressel ended up dominating the Big Ten (six titles) and Michigan (8-1) during his tenure, leading Ohio State to five BCS bowl wins (one vacated) and three appearances in the national title game. Although Tressel's tenure ended in scandal, he certainly boosted Ohio State's program after the Cooper era.

BILL MALLORY, Indiana (1984-1996)

What happened: After mostly successful runs at Miami (Ohio), Colorado and Northern Illinois, Mallory came to Indiana and put together an impressive run, reaching six bowl games between 1986 and 1993. He became the first man to win back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1986 and 1987. Indiana had three top-four finishes in the Big Ten (1987, 1991, 1993), but after Mallory went just 5-17 (1-15 Big Ten) in 1995 and 1996, Indiana fired him. Mallory remains Indiana's all-time coaching wins leader (69) and is responsible for six of the Hoosiers' nine bowl teams.

What happened next: Indiana has yet to come close to achieving the type of moderate success it enjoyed in the Mallory era. The program struggled under Cam Cameron and Gerry DiNardo before surging a bit for the late Terry Hoeppner. Still, it took 11 seasons after Mallory's dismissal for Indiana to return to the postseason under Bill Lynch in 2007. Although the Hoosiers are making strides under Kevin Wilson, the program has a ways to go to match where it was under Mallory.

GLEN MASON, Minnesota (1997-2006)

What happened: Mason never got Minnesota to the promised land -- its first Big Ten championship since 1967 -- but he made the Gophers a consistent bowl team. He won six to eight games in six of his final eight seasons, slumping to a 4-7 finish in 2001 but breaking through with 10 victories in 2003. Minnesota reached bowls seven times under Mason, but his middling Big Ten record (32-48) and inability to challenge for league titles eventually stirred the administration into action. The school fired Mason two days after Minnesota squandered a 31-point third-quarter lead against Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

What happened next: The program backslid with the overmatched Tim Brewster at the helm, going 1-11 in 2007. Brewster made some splashes in recruiting but couldn't get enough talent to translate to the field. After a 7-1 start in 2008, the Gophers dropped their final five games, including a 55-0 decision to archrival Iowa at the Metrodome. A 6-7 season followed in 2009, and Minnesota fired Brewster after a 1-6 start in 2010. Brewster went 15-30 at the school and 6-21 in the Big Ten, which included an 0-10 mark in trophy games. His tumultuous tenure had many questioning why Minnesota ever got rid of Mason.

FRANK SOLICH, Nebraska (1998-2003)

What happened: A former Huskers fullback, Solich had the nearly impossible task of following coaching legend Tom Osborne, who won national titles in three of his final four seasons at the school. Solich won 42 games in his first four seasons, a Big 12 championship in 1999 and Big 12 North titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He guided the Huskers to the 2000 Fiesta Bowl championship, and the 2001 team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, played Miami for the national title at the Rose Bowl but fell 37-14. Nebraska then went 7-7 in 2002, its first nonwinning season since 1961. Solich rebounded with a 9-3 mark in 2003 but was fired despite a 58-19 record in Lincoln.

What happened next: Much like Michigan, Nebraska went away from its coaching tree and hired Bill Callahan, who had led the Oakland Raiders for two seasons. And much like Michigan, Nebraska paid a price as the program went downhill. The Huskers went 5-6 in Callahan's first year, their first losing campaign since 1961. They won eight games the following year and the Big 12 North in 2006, but a highly anticipated 2007 season fell apart, particularly for the celebrated Blackshirts defense. Nebraska surrendered 40 points or more in six games and went 5-7, leading to Callahan's dismissal. Although Nebraska has rebounded under Bo Pelini, its last conference championship came under Solich's watch, 14 long years ago.

A look at the rivalries: Big Ten

August, 12, 2013
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The Big Ten has its share of rivalries, but not all are created equal. Here's a closer look at the best, the worst and the rivalries on the rise:

Top rivalry: Ohio State versus Michigan. We didn't have to think too hard on this one. Few rivalry games currently have the cheapest nosebleeds going for $175 when the stadium seats more than 100,000. Fewer rivalries have their own hour-long HBO-produced documentaries. And of course, only one rivalry earned the top spot when it came to ESPN ranking the century's overall best. (Ali-Frazier finished No. 2, behind OSU-UM.)

Tradition, quality and history makes this rivalry one of the greatest in all of sports. The two teams first met in 1897, have combined for more than 70 conference titles and are both ranked in the top six when it comes to overall program wins. Usually, the only thing stopping one of these teams from heading to the Rose Bowl or another major bowl is just the other team.

Of course, what really makes this rivalry special is how much these teams have historically hated each other. And yes, we do mean hate. The series heated up in 1969 when Bo Schembechler's Wolverines upset Woody Hayes' undefeated Buckeyes -- and Hayes' hatred of all things Michigan wasn't exactly a secret. According to one anecdote, while in Michigan, the coach once refused to fill up his sputtering car with gas because he hated the idea of giving any money to the Wolverine State.

That tradition still continues. Michigan added to the back-and-forth this spring by stamping its footballs with the words "Made in USA/Not in Ohio." So it's pretty clear: This isn't just the best rivalry in the Big Ten; it's one of the best in all of sports.

Rivalry on the rise: There are quite a few worthy selections to choose from, but two immediately spring to mind: Michigan versus Michigan State and Wisconsin versus Nebraska.

The in-state Spartans-Wolverines rivalry is on the upswing because the teams have been more evenly matched in the 2000s -- and it doesn't hurt that the two schools are just about an hour's drive from one another. Since 1999, the Wolverines have only a slight 8-6 edge. Of those 14 contests, eight were decided by one score and at least six could be considered upsets (i.e., unranked MSU beats No. 6 UM 26-24 in 2001, unranked UM beats No. 11 MSU 34-31 in 2005). Also, last year's 12-10 Wolverines victory was decided on a last-second field goal and is a series classic. Michigan won after losing to the Spartans four straight years.

As far as Wisconsin-Nebraska, Cornhuskers fans would love to see the Badgers as their season-ending foe instead of Iowa. These will be the best teams in the 2014 season's West Division, so this new rivalry should soon become an intense one. Wisconsin dominated Nebraska 48-17 in 2011 -- but the Huskers rubbed Wisconsin fans the wrong way when the offense called a timeout with 12 seconds left on the 1-yard line. Nebraska responded in 2012 with a 30-27 win. This rivalry is just getting started and has a lot of potential.

Rivalry fading: Wisconsin-Minnesota. The game for Paul Bunyan's Axe has become less a battle and more a certainty as of late. The Golden Gophers last won in November 2003, two months after current quarterback Philip Nelson celebrated his 10th birthday.

The Badgers have won the last nine meetings by an average margin of 17 points and, put simply, this "rivalry" just isn't very fun to watch. What's left to say? Wisconsin rushed for 620 yards in the last two meetings, Minnesota made just one third-down conversation in the game last season, and Wisconsin has scored on every red zone opportunity in the last four meetings. Minnesota needs to bounce back in a big way to renew interest in a rivalry that traces its roots to 1890 and has had a trophy in place since 1948.
The name, game sites and logo for the upcoming College Football Playoff are set. Now comes the most important piece of the puzzle: the selection committee.

Everyone wants to know who will have the important and unenviable task of choosing the field of four for the Playoff each year. BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said the committee will consist of 14-20 members representing every conference in the sport. Hancock issued a statement following the recent meetings in California, saying that discussions about the selection committee's structure are ongoing, and that there's "no rush" to decide given the committee's importance to the process.

[+] EnlargeTom Osborne
Bruce Thorson/US PresswireTom Osborne believes retired coaches would be unbiased if chosen to evaluate teams for the upcoming College Football Playoff.
Who will serve on the group? Former coaches? Current administrators? Former media members? All have been mentioned as potential candidates. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com and several other outlets last week that the committee must first and foremost be "a core group who are football smart, football savvy, great integrity" and that a member "can’t be a congressman. You can't come from this part of the country to take care of that."

Tom Osborne once was a U.S. Congressman, but he also had a Hall of Fame coaching career at Nebraska and served as the school's athletic director from 2007-12. In my view, Osborne would be an excellent candidate for the Playoff selection committee. His football knowledge and experience in pressure situations -- as a coach, an athletic director and in Congress -- make him a great fit.

Osborne isn't one to promote himself for the committee, but he has thoughts on how it should be compiled, and shared them with the Lincoln Journal Star. Osborne told Hancock to consider members of college football's Legends Poll, a group of 17 former college coaches, 15 of whom are in the College Football Hall of Fame, who select a top 25 poll each week during the season. According to the Legends Poll Web site, the former coaches "review all of the relevant game film using a state of the art service called Hudl, discuss each team's performance during a weekly conference call and establish a ranking of the Top 25 teams."

Sounds a lot like what the Playoff selection committee will be doing.

Here's the current Legends Poll voting panel (along with the school with which they're most closely identified): Bobby Bowden (Florida State), Frank Broyles (Arkansas), John Cooper (Ohio State), Fisher DeBerry (Air Force), Vince Dooley (Georgia), Terry Donahue (UCLA), Pat Dye (Auburn), LaVell Edwards (BYU), Don James (Washington), Dick MacPherson (Syracuse), Bill Mallory (Indiana), Don Nehlen (West Virginia), John Robinson (USC), Bobby Ross (Georgia Tech), R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M), Gene Stallings (Alabama) and George Welsh (Virginia).

Osborne served three years on the Legends Poll panel, and former Iowa coach Hayden Fry also has been on it. Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was an active voter at the time of his death late in the 2006 season.

From the Journal Star:
"Each week, they would send us DVDs of the top games," he said. "So you'd get 8-10 DVDs. They sent you a video player. You could sit there and really study the games."

The coaches on Mondays would gather for a teleconference, which lasted up to two hours, Osborne said.

"Each coach would talk about the game he had gone to the previous Saturday, and also what he'd seen on video," Osborne said. "I was impressed by the fact they seemed to be objective. It wasn't like R.C. [Slocum] was pushing Texas A&M, or Gene Stallings was pushing Alabama. They were just talking about strengths and weaknesses of teams in their area, and teams they'd seen. It was a very informative discussion."

Weren't coaches biased toward former employers?

"I thought the discussions were pretty objective and pretty dispassionate," Osborne said. "I heard coaches say things about their former school that weren't highly complimentary. They might say, 'We just can't play defense this year.' Or, 'We're pretty good overall, but we don't have a quarterback.' I didn't hear anybody trying to pump up their school to the other coaches. They were pretty blank, pretty blunt."

It sounds like a good place for Hancock to start. Cooper, who coached Ohio State from 1988-2000, has said he'll serve on the committee if asked. Mallory, who coached Indiana from 1984-96, also would be a good choice.

I lean toward a mix of former coaches and current administrators, as a guy like Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez makes a lot of sense for the job. But the time commitment could be an issue for those still working in the sport -- Alvarez talks about it here -- and the retired coaches certainly have more flexibility in their schedules.

It would be a surprise if several members of the Legends Poll don't end up on the Playoff selection committee. Here's hoping they reserve a spot for Osborne, too.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- All players who walk through the door to Schembechler Hall understand what Michigan once was. They merely have to keep their eyes and ears open.

Many college coaches, even those at traditional power programs, concern themselves only with the present and the future. Michigan's Brady Hoke puts the past on a pedestal.

Hoke's players know what the numbers 134 and 42 mean -- Michigan enters its 134th year of football and boasts 42 Big Ten championships. They know about the program's national titles and award winners. They see the Bo Schembechler quotes, the Big Ten banners and the legends lockers dedicated to program greats.

Many of the current Wolverines hadn't put on a helmet and pads in their lives the last time Michigan won a national title in 1997, but they know what the program was like because coaches like Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, both Michigan assistants during the mid-1990s, tell them about it all the time. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk, who had no ties to Michigan before arriving with Hoke in 2011, often shows his players tape of former Wolverines stars Steve Hutchinson, Jake Long and Jon Jansen.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesBrady Hoke and the Wolverines are working to get the program back to where it once was.
"There's a tremendous sense of pride that Brady instills," Mattison told ESPN.com, "and our entire football organization feels that 'Let's get Michigan back to the way we remember it,' where when Michigan gets on that field, everybody goes, 'Whoa, here they come.' That's what I envision. I want to do anything that I can do to help us get there, to get Michigan back to the football level it was when I remember it."

Senior linebacker Cam Gordon was 6 years old when Michigan won the national championship and 13 when the Wolverines claimed their last Big Ten title (2004, co-championship). But he hears about the glory days from coaches like Mattison and new outside linebackers coach Roy Manning, who played for Big Ten championship teams in 2003 and 2004.

"I do remember the stories about Michigan," Gordon said. "Before they even stepped on the field, the game was won."

The constant history lessons taught inside Schembechler Hall don't stem from an unhealthy state of nostalgia. Hoke wants his players to understand the standard at Michigan. He's also extremely blunt about the fact that the Wolverines have yet to meet it.

Hoke guided Michigan to 11 wins in his first season and ended the seven-year losing streak against archrival Ohio State. He has yet to lose a game at Michigan Stadium. He has pulled Michigan out of the fog of the Rich Rodriguez era. Recruiting is undoubtedly on the upswing, and Michigan looks more like its old self on both sides of the ball.

But Hoke's tenure to this point, by his own barometer, has been a failure.

"We didn't get it done," he said of the 2012 season, when Michigan went 8-5. "We were still in a second year of changing a culture and changing a philosophy to some degree, offensively and defensively and the whole scope of what we try and do as a team. But still, at the end of the day, this is about winning Big Ten championships. We have 42 of them, and we need to start on our 43rd."

Hoke's message is heard loud and clear from the team's best player on down.

"The standard at Michigan is a Big Ten championship every single year," All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "That's the minimum. Everything else is a failure. The Sugar Bowl, the BCS game, that was awesome. It was such a great experience, Bourbon Street was cool, New Orleans was cool -- failure. Outback Bowl, close game, lost in the last 20 seconds -- failure.

"Those are all games that are failures. The only way this team would be happy, would be satisfied with one season, is if we win a Big Ten championship."

Things weren't that way when Lewan arrived in 2009.

"The main goal was to make it to a bowl game," he said. "I don't know if that's how it's supposed to be at Michigan. I don't know how much my opinion counts, but I think it should be a Big Ten championship every single year. These coaches have done a great job of preaching that.

"We're not going to settle."

It has been nearly a decade since the Wolverines could call themselves league champions, their longest drought since a lull between 1950 and 1964. Every year that passes without a title means Michigan moves a little further away from the great times, a little further away from regaining the mystique Mattison and others preach about.

Talking about a winning culture in the past only goes so far without establishing a winning culture in the present. It's why much of Michigan's offseason work has been from the neck up.

"There were times where we were down in games and we came back and won the game based off our mental toughness," wide receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "And there were times in games where we didn’t come back, and it was our lack of mental toughness."

Defensive tackle Quinton Washington said Michigan worked on breaking "mental barriers" this spring, one of which is playing better away from the Big House. The Wolverines dropped three road games (Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State) and two neutral-site contests (Alabama, South Carolina) last fall.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
AP Photo/Dave WeaverTaylor Lewan (77) knows expectations are high for every player who wears a Michigan uniform.
Michigan is just 5-7 in road or neutral-site games under Hoke.

"We didn't play well on the road," Hoke said. "We didn't play with the toughness that it takes. We learned a lot in the bowl game about us as people, especially the guys coming back, good and bad."

Hoke has a Sun Tzu quote displayed in the weight room that reads: Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. The goal is for the Wolverines to enter games with the same mindset as their predecessors.

Many think the Michigan mystique is dead, but Hoke's players are driven to revive it.

"If they don't fear Michigan," Gordon said, "then obviously that's something that we're going to have to change."

Beginning this fall.

"Anywhere you go in the world, everyone knows Michigan," defensive end Frank Clark said. "Anywhere in the nation, as far as college football, everyone knows Michigan. For the last couple years, we haven't lived up to those expectations. This next season, we have to.

"It's time. There aren't anymore excuses."

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