Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Michigan Verus Tennessee

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

These two schools rarely face each other in the major revenue producing sports football and basketball, but when they do, it's been a one-sided outcome.

On Friday March 20, they met on the hardwood, and history was made for all of the wrong reasons.

The Michigan Wolverines whipped the Tennessee Volunteers 75-45 in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Three days later, Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl was fired after six seasons leaving Knoxville with a 145-61 record and six consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearances. But it wasn't the record that saw him get terminated, it was his dishonesty with the NCAA and recruiting problems which sees him looking for another employer. He had guided this program to great success and was popular at Rocky Top, but in the end, his successor is going to have to live with the upcoming NCAA sanctions and the rebuilding that comes with these mistakes.

The No. 45 is also connected with another Michigan versus Tennessee match-up that occurred on January 1, 2002. This time, the Volunteers hammered the Wolverines 45-17 in the Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl. At that time, this was the worst loss in Michigan bowl history prior to this season. There would be no coaching casualties after this game.

But when you look at these two schools, there are some interesting comparisons.

On January 1, 2011, the Mississippi State Bulldogs whipped the Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl and this became Michigan's worst bowl loss ever. A few days later, Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez was fired after compiling a 15-22 record in three seasons and also had NCAA problems due to excessive practice time.

Like Tennessee basketball, the Michigan Football Program is in transition under a new coach.

Since both schools have outstanding football traditions, here are some other numbers worth comparing.

Michigan is the All-Time Winningest College Program with 884 wins. The Wolverines have 11 National Championships, a record 112 winning seasons and the biggest stadium in the country. Michigan Stadium will pack 113,000 fans in the Big House.

Meanwhile, Tennessee has 789 wins to go along with six National Titles. The largest crowd to ever watch a game at Neyland Stadium is 109,061.

These are definitely two first class universities, now the only question remains, will the next time they face each other lead to a more competitive contest? We'll find out, but as far as their proud sports histories are concerned, they're certainly worth comparing and this season in football, they'll have younger coaches on the sidelines trying to create their own legacies.

Derek Dooley was 6-7 in his first season while Brady Hoke will try to bring the Wolverines back to respectability in his inaugural year.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

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