It isn’t easy being a Michigan Football fan these days. In fact, I’m sure it’s downright painful for some more often than not. So what exactly is it like for Michigan Football fans? I’ll do my best to explain.
Even for those who were around to witness the greatness of guys like Howard and Woodson, or the epic battles between Michigan and Ohio State, the great moments contained within those grainy highlights now seem like lifetimes ago. For those who consider themselves fans but weren’t able to witness the great moments mentioned above, they often struggle to understand why a mid-tier Big Ten program like Michigan receives so much preseason hype on an annual basis. For both groups, Michigan Football often appears as little more than the imposter of a once dominant college football program.
Year after year, Michigan fans find themselves hopeful that next year will be the year — until it becomes painfully obvious that it isn’t.
Since the year 2000, Michigan fans have experienced a 3-17 record against their most hated rival — the Ohio State Buckeyes. During that same span, Michigan has experienced a 5-12 bowl game record and teams that failed to appear in a bowl game three times. When it comes to conference titles, Michigan fans have witnessed their beloved Wolverines capture just one outright title over the last 20 years, occurring in 2003 (17 years ago). Since the inception of the Big Ten Championship game in 2011, the Michigan faithful has never witnessed the Wolverines compete in Indianapolis for the title. In fact, Michigan is one of just seven Big Ten teams to have never made an appearance in the game itself, joining Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Maryland. What’s worse is that Michigan’s greatest conference Rivals — Ohio State and Michigan State — have participated in the conference championship game a combined nine times.
The oddity and frustration in all of this is that Michigan routinely has one of the most talented rosters within the Big Ten conference. Since the year 2000, Michigan has signed the No. 1 class in the Big Ten five different times, the No. 2 class 11 times and has never had a recruiting class ranked outside of the top five. With all of the talent coming through Ann Arbor on a yearly basis, it’s reasonable for fans to expect success. It’s also reasonable for those same fans to express frustration when it doesn’t occur, particularly when other programs manage to accomplish more with less.
In spite of all of these struggles over the last two decades, most fans have remained faithful to the program and steadfast in the belief that Michigan will eventually reclaim its rightful spot atop the Big Ten Conference. That unshakable belief, though admirable, also comes at a cost. The frequent disappointment is enough to wear on even the most loyal fans who feel as though the program has abandoned its desire to compete with the college football elite.
Although most still consider themselves to be loyal fans who believe that Michigan will eventually — and inevitably — make its way back to the top of the college football mountain, their faith in those who are currently tasked with leading U-M there is shaken at best.