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Westsider Rider

Thursday, February 01, 2007

And the season is done

I have long been an optimist when it comes to Michigan basketball. It is the program I grew up with along with UCLA and when I finally enrolled at Michigan I thought this was going to be my chance to watch in person all those great teams I had seen while growing up. I thought this year we could get some things done and held out hope for an NCAA tournament bid. How wrong that turned out to be. By blowing last night’s game at home to a bad Iowa team, barring an unforeseen miracle, Michigan has sealed its fate as an NIT team at best. This is a sad sight for a program that has almost as much tradition as any other team in the country. Sure we are seen as a football school but Michigan is one of I believe 3 or 4 teams that had gone to the NCAA Championship game in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Many had given up hope earlier but now I am among them. I don't believe this team/program can get where it needs to be with Coach Amaker at the helm. From my encounters with him he is a great person, has represented the University well and has done what he can with the hand he was dealt but after the teams performance these past few years it's time to face the fact that he is not the right coach for this job. The frustrating part is I doubt he will be fired this year either. Bill Martin will not make the move and we will be stuck with a mediocre basketball team again next season, even with the stacked recruiting class of Copperyale "Manny" Harris, Alex Legion and Kelvin Grady. I have constantly stated to my friends with every incoming recruiting class that this is it and we will turn the corner but we haven't. It was supposed to happen when Daniel Horton came, then when Dion Harris came, but it hasn't and I don't see it happening.

The worst part about the inability/stubborness of our athletic department is that we are no longer the athletic program we once were. As a kid growing up in California I watched Desmond Howard, the Fab Five and the winged helmets and dreamed of one day playing for the Maize and Blue. My athletic prowess never allowed me to but my academic record did and when it came down to it I had to follow my dream of attending Michigan not only because of the excellent academic tradition of the school but in large part due to the athletic tradition that I grew up with. That allure was strong for me as I'm sure it is for a lot of out of state kids that end up attending Michigan. But the sad part is that allure is gone for most kids growing up now. To the kids growing up today they see Troy Smith, the "Thad" Five and the Buckeye stickers as the standard for athletics, or maybe Chris Leak, Joakim Noah and that orange helmet with Gators in cursive. These kids will grow up looking towards Ohio State or Florida as the standard as I did with Michigan and that is what upsets me. I truly believe in what Coach Fielding Yost said:

"What you remember as the Michigan Spirit is still throbbingly alive. This spirit is based upon a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways; an enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan men to spread the gospel of their university to the far corners of the earth; and a conviction that no where is there a better university than this Michigan of ours."

But unfortunately we are not showing that right now. Some may say I'm overreacting, which I'm sure somewhat I am but things must change not only in basketball but in football as well before we end up having a bad run much like other traditional powers have. We would be foolish to think that it can't happen to us and something must be done to ensure it doesn't.

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