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Sunday, December 03, 2023
Badger fans should be proud of athletics that rank among the elite

Mark Bennett

Badger fans should be proud of athletics that rank among the elite

I call it the Lloyd Carr effect.

For 13 seasons Carr led the Michigan Wolverines football team to a 122-40 record, including five Big Ten titles and a share of the national championship in 1997.

But after a 2007 season that saw Michigan finish 9-4, including a 41-35 victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl and just one season removed from a Rose Bowl appearance, Wolverine fans got greedy. They fired Carr and hired Rich Rodriguez to head the program.

Rodriguez was fresh out of West Virginia, where he led the Mountaineers to four Big East titles in seven seasons, and brought home two BCS bowl wins.

However, at Michigan Rodriguez brought nothing but shame and embarrassment to the Maize and Blue. In three seasons under Rodriguez, Michigan won just six conference games and only 15 overall. They never finished better than seventh in the Big Ten and were trounced by Mississippi State in their only bowl appearance, the 2011 Gator Bowl.

So sure, Carr lost three Rose Bowls in his tenure while he won just one. And sure, 2005 and 2007 were rough seasons. But this was a man who had ensured greatness for over a decade, and there was little reason to believe he couldn't continue to field a solid team year after year.

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But, like I said, Michigan fans got greedy. So they kicked Carr out and brought in Rodriguez, expecting national titles to begin raining down upon Ann Arbor. Instead, Rodriguez all but destroyed a program that had been at the pinnacle of college football for over 100 years—almost uninterrupted—prior to his arrival.

Today, fans can take two important lessons from this case.

Lesson one: Don't hire Rich Rodriguez as head coach of your football team.

Lesson two: Don't get greedy. If you have a solid program year in and year out, don't toss that away because you think a different coach can come in and run the table instantly. In fact, as Michigan experienced, you may just throw away everything you once had.

And so what can Wisconsin fans learn from this story?

Take Bret Bielema and the football team for example. Yes, 2008 was a rough year when the Badgers lost six games, but the university stuck with him and he brought home 11 wins, a conference title and a Rose Bowl appearance this past season.

It's hard to argue anymore that this team isn't Bielema's team either. In 2006, when the Badgers went 12-1, that was Barry's team. But the program today is entirely Bielema's recruiting and entirely indicative of Bielema's success

And sure, Bielema couldn't bring home a Rose Bowl victory this year, but he has now proven himself among the country's coaching elite, and this is a program that seems destined to return to Pasadena soon.

Wisconsin fans must not get complacent. Do not become so bored with top-25 finishes year in and year out, that you're driven to madness when Bucky isn't hoisting the crystal football each season. This is a team to be proud of, and Wisconsin fans need to realize the fortunes they have in the current successes.

This argument can be applied to other programs at UW as well.

Take, for example, Bo Ryan's basketball program. Every season, the man brings in a ragtag group of guys and turns them into legitimate conference contenders. And, sure, we all want national championships, but no coach has been more consistent in his success over the last decade than Bo Ryan.

Could another coach win Wisconsin a title? Maybe. But in all likelihood, you take a huge risk off hiring someone who will do far worse than Ryan.

So Badger fans should be proud of the successes Wisconsin teams have had. Our men's hockey team floundered down the stretch this year, but head coach Mike Eaves is only a season removed from a Nation Title game appearance in 2010.

Early in the fall semester, I made the argument that Wisconsin is the only legitimate three-sport school in the NCAA. With our football, men's basketball and men's hockey teams ranking among the elite in the country every year, while racking up professional-level attendance figures, UW athletics have never been stronger.

It's important to keep this in mind. Yes, I want national championships as much as anyone, but I also appreciate the un-paralleled level of success our athletic department enjoys regardless of whether we're cutting down the nets.

The saying goes, ""You don't know what you have until it's gone.""

So don't get greedy—you may just come to regret it later.

And always remember the two words universities across the nation envy:

ON Wisconsin.

—Mark would like to thank those who have supported him throughout this past year, especially his two co-editors, Parker Gabriel and Ryan Evans. He would also like to make known his appreciation for the help of those who came before him, as well as the entire Daily Cardinal staff. Finally, he would like to thank family and friends for learning to understand his regular schedule of disappearing into the bowels of Vilas Hall for prolonged periods of time. He owes you all. Refer all comments to

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