Talking Michigan

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Virginia Tech takes on one of the most tradition-rich programs in college football in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan is the all-time winningest program in college football history, and though they haven’t been on this stage recently, they are an easy program to respect.

The Tradition

My first exposure to college football was in the early-to-mid 1990s, and Michigan was one of those teams that you just had to watch every Saturday. The uniforms, the crowd, the fight song … it was all top-notch. Not only that, they won high level football games.

If you think Virginia Tech’s streak of 19 straight bowls is impressive, take a look at Michigan’s football history. The Wolverines went to a bowl game every single season from 1974 through 2007. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Lloyd Carr era ended with a Capital One Bowl victory over Tim Tebow and Florida, and in came Rich Rodriguez, who promptly crashed the program. Michigan went 3-9 in his first season, 5-7 in his second, and 7-6 in his third. RichRod’s team was hammered in last year’s Gator Bowl by Mississippi State, and he was promptly shown the door.

I think RichRod would have eventually won in Ann Arbor. For his system, he had to recruit a totally different kind of player. However, he won just 40.5% of his games in three seasons. The three previous coaches were winners: Lloyd Carr (75.3%), Gary Moeller (75.8%) and Bo Schembechler (79.6%). Schembechler is one of the most famous college football coaches of all time (but ironically he never won a National Championship at Michigan). When you’ve got that kind of winning tradition, a guy like RichRod isn’t going to last.

Brady Hoke is the new coach, and he’s given Michigan fans exactly what they demand: victories, and most importantly, a win over Ohio State, after seven straight losses to the Buckeyes from 2004-2010.

Michigan is big, in every sense of the word. They packed over 114,000 fans into the Big House for the Notre Dame game earlier this season. They have one of the largest living alumni bases in the country. They have 14,000 people on their waiting list for season tickets. Virginia Tech has fewer Hokie Club members than Michigan has on the waiting list. This is a huge, huge fanbase.

That shows in the money spent as well. As of a couple of years ago, Tech’s operating budget stood at $34.2 million. This past summer, Michigan athletic director David Brandon presented a budget with anticipated spending of $109.8 million. That’s a huge difference. I bet you could take the top two ACC schools in terms of