|Photo Credit: Thomas Beindit|
There's no doubt that in 10-15 years, sports will probably be one of the smaller things I remember about my time in Ann Arbor. The friendships, the experiences, and the lessons I learned will be what lasts the longest. Those late night study sessions around campus, the strolls around Ann Arbor to enjoy the non-freezing weather, and the many people from freshman to senior year. I'm sure most graduates hope to stay friends with the people they've met, but everyone comes to terms with the concept that things will change after they exit the Big House on graduation day.
Despite the fact that these are things that will be the most long-lasting, it's crazy to think about the things I've experienced as a student in just my four years in Ann Arbor. People always talk about how Michigan is known for having great sports programs and competitive teams, but I can't imagine a more wild ride ever occurring for any other group of students. The 2013 class has experienced more ups and downs than perhaps any other class in the university's history, at least for sports.
When I got to campus, the football team was coming off a horrible 3-8 season with losses to Notre Dame, MSU, OSU, and the end of its cherished bowl streak. Not only this, but the weekend when I arrived to campus, allegations were running wild that Rich Rodriguez had broken NCAA rules. Many had high hopes for the coming season and Rodriguez's tenure, but needless to say, feelings probably weren't too high considering the preceding events. Unfortunately, the "improvement" during my freshman season meant no bowl game and losses to MSU and OSU. My sophomore year was perhaps even more frustrating as Michigan was able to improve to a 7-5 regular season record, but got demolished against just about every legitimate opponent on the schedule and were completely dismantled during the bowl game.
My junior year was when things got really exciting. The half game opener against Western, Under the Lights, a great win over Nebraska, breaking Ohio's winning streak, and finally the win in the Sugar Bowl. It was a great season. My senior year didn't quite live up to the year before, but the team still made the Outback Bowl and were able to defeat MSU (a team Michigan had not beat for 4 straight seasons at that point) and Iowa (another team Michigan had not beat for awhile). When I arrived on campus, there was such negativity surrounding the team. When two frustrating seasons followed, I never would have imagined I would have been able to experience Under the Lights, a win against MSU, a win against OSU, a BCS bowl win, and the massive improvement under Brady Hoke. There were so many highs and so many lows in such a short period of time.
The basketball team had an even more radical improvement. When I got to campus, there were high hopes for the team. They had won a game in the NCAA Tournament the season prior and entered the season ranked. However, they had an underwhelming season and missed the tourney. Arguably the only good thing about that year was a win over an injured OSU. Similar to the way things began for the football team, expectations were pretty low for basketball.
They then followed this by sweeping MSU the next season, getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and crushing Tennessee. The next team was even better with a win over OSU and MSU and a Big Ten Championship. Finally, there was last season. A win against MSU, OSU, a trip to the Final Four, a narrow loss in the national championship game, and a flurry of national player of the year awards for Trey Burke. Would anybody have believed that Michigan would be in the national championship game before I graduated during my freshman year? No way.
The hockey team even experienced some crazy history during my time in Ann Arbor. Yes, we all know the NCAA Tournament streak unfortunately came to a close, but the team also made it there three times and was the national runner-up one of those years. Plus, nobody will soon forget the "Big Chill", which broke the all-time hockey attendance record. If you were at the game, it was just plain awesome. That's a pretty exciting list of events over just a four year period.
I'm sure some would have rather experienced some different times in Michigan history. The Fab 5 would have been great, Woodson and the championship year would have been fantastic, and of course the Mad Magicians team would have been something to see. College isn't about how the school's sports teams perform, but we all know they're fun to watch. The last four years has been incredibly unpredictable for Michigan sports and I've enjoyed my ride. I'm on to other things now and I'll be sure to follow the teams, but it's been a special trip. As the commencement speaker said last Saturday "There is no script to life". It's been shown in my last four years at Michigan and I'm looking forward to it in the future.