Tradition is one of the core principles the University of Michigan prides itself on. From apparel to the fight song, following in the footsteps of the ones who came before us is the norm here. And to be honest, there is a part of me that enjoys it. I do support the progression of this university academically as well as athletically, however, I believe that we can achieve this without completely altering the traditions and customs in which we carry.
Last week, Jim Hackett, the interim athletic director that replaced the recently resigned Dave Brandon, fired Brady Hoke, from his position. This was unfortunate, but probably the best decision given Coach Hoke’s track record since he arrived at the university. With that being said, Jim Hackett was quoted at one of the preceding interview sessions and said, “I want to get rid of the word Michigan Man.”
I am a firm believer in trusting those in charge and want to trust Jim Hackett just as I trusted in Dave Brandon. However, this comment I do not agree with. The tradition of the Michigan Man started back in the day with Bo Schembechler and what he looks for in potential coaches, players, and even staff. He prides himself on choosing the individuals that obtain characteristics in which Michigan Men carry. While talking about why being a Michigan Man is so important, Bo Schembechler states in his autobiography, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, “I can’t tell you how many times we passed up hotshots for guys we thought were better people, and watched our guys do a lot better than the big names, not just in the classroom, but on the field – and naturally, after they graduated, too.” (Schembechler, 108)
I am honored to be a part of the University of Michigan’s athletic community and each and every day I do my best to act as a Michigan Man would. I am curious, and hopeful, to see if Jim Hackett misspoke, or firmly believes that the term Michigan Man is unfit forevermore. Honestly, I do believe that it was just a slip-up from our new interim athletic director because he too is still learning the customs and traditions within the University of Michigan.
Referring back to Coach Schembechler’s quote regarding the high standards he held for his players, coaches, and staff, I am intrigued to see if these standards are brought back or forgotten in these next few months while looking for a new head coach. I definitely agree with Coach Schem’s observation that the guys he chose “did a lot better than the big names” on and off the field. Whether they were athletes or not, graduates from this university that attended before, during, and even after this time have become incredibly successful authors, scientists, athletes, actors, and even presidents. The standard to which we hold ourselves at UM is very impressive, and to be honest, I think many of us don’t realize that we hold ourselves to the highest standard because it is the norm here.
Michigan Man is simply a term used to describe an individual that holds himself to these higher standards every single day. I would argue that this term can, and should, be used to describe a man or a woman. I also strongly believe that Edmond Burke would agree with me that the term Michigan Man refers to all individuals, men and women, that work every day to become a better person individually and help those around them.
Overall, I support the higher standards that Michigan Men hold themselves to, but I do not want to sacrifice holding on to centuries of traditions hindering us from progression. It is essential to take a hold of these traditions and use them to help guide us through future decisions and to move past roadblocks we will encounter. We should use these traditions and customs to help guide us, not to follow as strict rules. It will take a crossbreed of the two to become completely efficient.