Neither is the prettiest girl in the room any longer, guaranteed the salivating suitors of their choice with a wink of the eye or a purse of the lips.
The problem with Michigan’s and Notre Dame’s football programs is that neither has figured that out yet.
Both desperately cling to fond memories of yesterday when their stoic Midwestern traditionalism defined competitive excellence — work hard, keep your mouth shut and good things will happen. The Wolverines’ and Fighting Irish’s current struggles more than adequately mirror the domestic automobile industry that painted the middle-class mosaic that delineated Middle America. They closed their eyes and minds to the changing realties of competition, arrogantly thinking that a trusted brand name and a thick history of achievements would insulate them from transforming how they conduct business.
Notre Dame and Michigan are no longer top 10 national programs.
Same as General Motors, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish must reinvent themselves or risk banishment with the irrelevant. But that first demands both programs understand what they are as it relates to what they want to be in the near future.
If Michigan wants Rich Rodriguez for a third year despite evidence that the Wolverines regressed further in his second season, then he should remain. But he should only stay if university president Mary Sue Coleman, the as-of-yet unnamed new athletics director and the influential boosters who control the purse strings fervently believe that he’s the right long-term fit.
If he stays solely because Michigan believes that dumping a coach after just two years conflicts with its holier-than-thou image, then it’s only inviting more problems.
What’s wrong with Michigan finally admitting that it’s really a “football factory”?
It doesn’t mean that the winningest football program in college football history accepted the path of least NCAA compliance resistance, but at least Michigan could finally relinquish the hollow charade of winning coming behind honor.