The Wolverine

August 2022*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2022 E ver wonder how those ex- cruciatingly narrow losses to USC in the Rose Bowl would have turned out if played in snow flurries or 35 degrees and driving rain in Ann Arbor? You're about to find out. USC and UCLA, come on down. Oregon and Washington? Sorry, take a seat — for now. The Big Ten (or 16, or 20) is waiting on the blonde in the Flirt Like A Champion Today T-shirt. It's all about upheaval these days, college football shaking down the thunder in the form of dollars — billions of them. The SEC gets Texas and Oklahoma, the Big Ten reels in the Trojans and Bruins (and likely more, for both college football superpower leagues). How does it make any sense at all, you might say, to potentially feature the Rutgers cross country team flying to Los Angeles for a regular-season meet? What sense does it make to jam as many as 20 schools into a league that got along fine for decades with 10? Again, we'll find out. The devil is in the details, they say, and in this case, everyone's bedeviled by dollars. The one sure aspect about conferences swell- ing up like Tony Mandarich or an '80s Nebraska offensive line is simply this — the moves make all kinds of cents to athletes, coaches and administrators who can't seem to get enough cash these days. Name, Image and Likeness? Let it rain. The $100 handshakes have been replaced by multi-millionaire quar- terbacks, all legit and out in the open. Coaches, college athletics administra- tive staffs, etc., are swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck diving into his golden pond. Come on, you say. Join the 21 st century. Imagine that late November showdown in The Big House, Michigan and USC, with Ohio State just around the corner. Imagine a 16-team playoff, with a hand- ful of Big National (formerly Big Ten) teams making it in. Get real. Here's a little slice of real. Imagine a 9-3 Michigan team heading for Co- lumbus against the 10-2 Buckeyes, hop- ing for the win that sneaks it into the Sweet 16. Imagine the winning players in The Game netting $10,000 each from poster sales while the losers only pull in $5,000. Maybe we're dead wrong here. Maybe this is like mocking the Wright broth- ers for their foolhardy 100-yard early flights. For the sake of college football in particular and college athletics in gen- eral, we hope so. A lingering uneasiness remains. A few decades ago, young teens woke up on the morning of The Game with the exact same sensation as waking up on Christmas morning. They'd come out of the fog of slumber and realize it was all on the line that day — Bo versus Woody, Wolverines and Buckeyes, the game down to the wire, season success or failure riding on the outcome. The feeling proved mesmerizing. It carried some into a lifelong passion for college football. What will match that sensation, going forward? That's the question all the cash in the world can't answer. * * * We know one who will be watching, intently. Dr. Santa J. Ono steps into the role of Uni- versity of Michigan president as a dramatic shift from predecessors regarding athletics with antipa- thy or even complete hostility. He's a hardcore sports fan, one who has crowd surfed and who will no doubt quickly be- friend the Jim Harbaughs, Juwan Howards and the Carol Hutchins of the Michigan sports scene. Here's the Santa Clause that will have the recruiters energized — Dr. Ono wants to see Michigan win at the highest level, within all available means. That gives plenty of leeway t h e s e d ays. T h e a fo re m e n - tioned concerns notwithstand- ing, if you're going to play, play to win. This addition marks a help, not a hin- drance. * * * The passing of former U-M football coach Gary Moeller hit his players hard. Some wept, and others spoke passion- ately about Moeller's deep love for the game of football, but more importantly, for his players. He won three Big Ten championships in his all-too-brief five years as head coach, but those barely scratched the surface of his time at Michigan. Coming to Ann Arbor with Bo Schembechler in 1969, Moeller served as a coordinator on both sides of the ball. His defenses carried the Wolverines to several Big Ten titles, while his in- novative mind on offense moved U-M into the modern era of football. That's not what those who knew him best will remember, though. His undeniable care for his players trumped all. Those players will weigh in via a special tribute in the next issue of The Wolverine. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Seismic Shifts, Santa And Sadness New University of Michigan President Santa J. Ono posted this message on Twitter: "Wendy and I can't wait to hang out with Wolverine fans and watch @CoachJim4UM and @UMichFootball in the Big House this fall! #GoBlue." PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY/TWITTER Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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