clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This Wolverines game day in history looks back in a different way

Instead of reviewing how the Wolverines have fared on the 16th day of November, I've decided to look back at how quickly other Michigan coaches won the Big Ten.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

"The Michigan Wolverines have traditionally performed well on this game day's date....etc." Lather, rinse, repeat. "Like last week, the Michigan Wolverines have traditionally performed well on this week's game day...etc." Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you haven't noticed yet, these articles following the same formula week after week. Time and time again, we're reminded of how well things once were for the Michigan Wolverines football program, and comparatively, how bad things seems right now. Since I still don't think the sky is falling, I decided to change things up this week. Instead of writing the traditional game day article, I decided to take a look back at Michigan's previous head coaches to see how quickly they ascended to the top of the Big Ten (Note: excludes coaches without Big Ten titles, all of whom coached less than three years):

Coach Term Years until first Big Ten title # of Big Ten titles (Outright titles)
Gustave Ferbert 1897-99 1 1 (1)
Fielding Yost 1901-23, 1925-26 0 10 (2)
Harry Kipke 1929-37 1 4 (0)
Fitz Crisler 1938-47 5 2 (1)
Bennie Oosterbaan 1948-58 0 3 (2)
Bump Elliot 1959-68 5 1 (1)
Bo Schembechler 1969-1989 0 13 (5)
Gary Moeller 1990-94 0 3 (2)
Lloyd Carr 1995-07 2 5 (2)
Rich Rodriguez 2008-10 0 0
Brady Hoke 2011-?? 3* 0*

* = subject to change

From this, a few things to note (the list of every Michigan football season might be good to reference):

First, the Wolverines have 42 total Big Ten titles but only 16 outright Big Ten titles, which seemed odd to me. Further, Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler don't count in terms of this discussion. They coached at a level higher than any other name on this list. Two years after the departure of Yost (Elton Wieman coached during that period), Harry Kipke took over and coached the Wolverines to the top of the conference for four-straight years from 1930-33 (including two National Championships) but fell apart in his last four seasons. Crisler came in to salvage Kipke's mess, and while he never finished lower than tied for third in the Big Ten, Fitz could only win the conference twice -- in '43 and in '47, his last year of coaching (in '47 he also won a National Championship). Oosterbaan came into a great situation following Crisler and won a second consecutive National title and three more Big Ten titles in a row. However, his last eight seasons watched him fail -- while coming close at times -- to win the Big Ten. Unlike those before him, Bump Elliot acquired a squad with numerous issues and finished in the bottom half of the conference until his only title in '64. He left the program to Bo with the team on the rise again. Then Bo did his thing. Gary Moeller succeeded Bo and inherited an uber-successful program, which no doubt aided the three-straight Big Ten titles he won after taking the head coach job. He slipped a bit in his final two years before passing the team on to Lloyd Carr. Carr spent two seasons building up to the National Championship victory in 1997 and hovered near the top of the conference until giving the reigns to Rich Rod in '08. We all remember how that went.

So what does this mean for Hoke and Co.? Well, for starters, most Michigan coaches didn't enter a situation as messy and horrid as the post-Rich Rod Wolverines. That's not to say there wasn't anything to salvage from Rich Rod's disorder, but Hoke had to clean up a situation that compares to only a few other times in Michigan history. Three coaching changes stand out as similar to the Rodriguez-to-Hoke transition: Elton Wieman to Harry Kipke, Kipke to Fitz Crisler, and Bennie Oosterbaan to Bump Elliot. In Wieman's last season, the Wolverines finished eighth in the Western Conference at 3-4-1. However, the team was only two years removed from the Yost-era, and Kipke made a quick turnaround to win four straight titles. But in his last four seasons, Kipke's Wolverines finished as follows: 1-7 in 10th, 4-4 in T-6th, 1-7 in T-9th, and 4-4 in T-4th. Crisler took control at this point and worked for five years before winning the Big Ten in '43. After winning the National Championship in '47, Crisler stepped down and Oosterbaan stepped in and won three more consecutive Big Ten titles. Bennie's final eight years weren't so successful, however, as his teams finished higher than fourth only twice in that span. Oosterbaan and the Wolverines limped to a 2-6-1 record and an 8th place finish in his final season as head coach. Then Bump Elliot took five years -- finishing 7th, T-5th, 6th, 2-7, and 3-4-2 -- before winning the Big Ten at 9-1 in '64.

I just repeated a lot of text, but the point is that only Kipke-to-Crisler and Oosterbaan-to-Elliot come close to the Rodriguez-to-Hoke coaching shift. Both Crisler and Elliot took five years to lead the Wolverines to the top of the Big Ten. Granted, it's hard for me to easily put all of this in a broader perspective (which would include recruiting, the talent of the rest of the coaching staff, the overall strength of the Big Ten, other differences between the different eras of football, etc.), but the fact remains that only two coaches before Hoke entered a similarly rough situation in Ann Arbor. Based on history, Hoke has two more years to win the conference before becoming the first Michigan head coach to take more than half of a decade to do so.

So any one (and this includes me) who expected a quick turnaround and consistency and titles and championships and undefeated seasons needs to take a step back, breathe, and understand that Hoke and Co. will never bring home titles and trophies and praises like Yost or Bo. They might not even be as successful as Carr and bring home a national title. However, I see Hoke and Co. winning the Big Ten before the start of the 2016 season (and history agrees). I see them finding a stretch of consistency that puts the Wolverines in a position to win every Saturday, just like every other Michigan head coach (Rich Rod would have probably evened out too if he had been given enough time, like say, 20+ years). But take my thoughts with a grain of salt, because I also predicted the Wolverines to go undefeated heading into the Ohio game this year. Needless to say, I'm not the best at seeing into the future. However, I, like all of you (I hope), still head into every game day expecting to win, no matter the odds, no matter the disarray of the offensive line, no matter the lack of a rushing attack, no matter the frustration at Borges and Funk. And as football fans, we've already trudged through the Rich Rod era for Michigan, and if you're also a Detroit Lions fan, the first 0-16 season in NFL history. It can't get much worse than that, right?

As for the previous Michigan games on Nov. 16, the records are listed below. If any one reading wants to know more about a certain game, feel free to ask about them in the comments, and I'll respond with more info. Also, I should note that the Wolverines beat the Northwestern Wildcats on Nov. 16, 1940. Therefore, Michigan is obviously going to win this week. Go Blue!

Overall Record on Nov. 16


Game Scores

1895 vs. Purdue, 12-10

1901 vs. Chicago, 22-0

1907 vs. Penn, 0-6

1912 vs. Cornell, 20-7

1918 vs. Syracuse, 15-0

1929 at Minnesota, 7-6

1935 vs. Minnesota, 0-40

1940 vs. Northwestern, 20-13

1946 vs. Wisconsin, 28-6

1957 vs. Indiana, 27-13

1963 vs. Iowa, 21-21

1968 vs. Wisconsin, 34-9

1974 vs. Purdue, 51-0

1985 vs. Ohio, 27-17

1991 at Illinois, 20-0

1996 vs. Penn State, 17-29

2002 vs. Wisconsin, 21-14