June 2009 | Home
One night during the Great Depression, police stormed U-M's fraternities.
Wolverines romp through the NCAA tournaments.
A U-M expert's advice for comfort, performance and injury prevention.
You can do the cha-cha on a choo-choo to Walla Walla.
How did D.W. Griffith's film become a recruiting tool for the Ku Klux Klan?
An online magazine for alumni and friends of U-M.
June 10, 2009
Michigan's unequaled football tradition is well known—from the records for wins and winning percentage to the helmet, the banner and the Big House. No football team in any conference has won more league titles than Michigan's 42.
The hockey team's nine NCAA titles put the Wolverines on top of that heap, too, and the men's basketball team hasn't done too shabbily either, with six Final Fours and a national title.
These feats have been widely celebrated—but what distinguishes the Michigan athletic department is the performance of the non-revenue or Olympic sports. The fact that these teams don't generate the kind of profits or attention that football, basketball and hockey do hasn't stopped them from excelling—from the dawn of the Big Ten to the present.
Michigan teams have won 52 national titles, more than any other Big Ten school. The men have won 266 conference crowns—far surpassing runner-up Illinois's 209—and the women have been even more dominant, taking 77 Big Ten titles, more than twice as many as second-place Wisconsin's 38.
The Wolverines lead the Big Ten in conference titles in fully half of the league's twelve men's sports, and five of the 13 women's. This explains why the Big Ten does not give out an "All-Around" trophy, a la the nationwide Directors' Cup: Because Michigan would win it almost every year, and the engraver would get cramps from pounding out the same letters again and again.
This year Michigan squads in softball, men's golf and men's club lacrosse took national honors. Wrestler Steve Luke added an NCAA championship to Michigan's 280 individual titles, track stars Tiffany Ofili and Geena Gall won three more, while Tyler Clary, Alex Venderkaay and Emily Brunemann all won NCAA swimming titles.
What makes this more impressive is the purity of the pursuit. The university has no tangible motive to strive in these sports, beyond the basic desire to be the best. Likewise, many of these athletes receive only partial scholarships, if they even get that—and there are usually no professional contracts waiting for them when they're done. Yet the coaches and athletes knock themselves out to make their mark for themselves, their team and their school, no less so than their more famous friends on the football, basketball and hockey teams.
For those who believe the ideal of the student-athlete is being crushed under the weight of national media attention and rampant professionalism, these teams and athletes might come as a welcome tonic.