All it takes is the opening bars of “The Victors” and the unfurling of a 30-foot-long banner emblazoned with the phrase “Go Blue” to turn Ann Arbor, Michigan into one of the most electric environments in the country. When the Michigan Wolverines storm onto the field, any and all other concerns become trivial. The Maize and Blue command full attention for 60 minutes each Saturday in the fall, and the 109,901 diehards in attendance will gladly give it to them. There’s honestly nothing quite like it.
With more than 50 national championships and nearly that many gridiron league banners, the university is widely recognized as having one of the strongest athletic programs in the country, and they have the Director’s Cup finishes to prove it. Men’s basketball, ice hockey, and swimming & diving have all captured NCAA glory, but it’ll always be the football crew that reigns supreme in the Wolverine State.
The winged helmets are iconic, but probably the most appealing aspect of Wolverines football is the fact that they have won a ton of games. From 1901 to ‘05, Michigan won the crown four years in a row, and at one point, had a 56-game winning streak. Subsequent title victories would be earned in both ‘18 and ‘23, and success became so staggering that the Wolverines even tried playing two opponents in one day. Championship quests had begun to feel like a part of tradition, and UM claimed four more between ‘32 and ‘48.
If there’s one individual who stands out in the annals of Big Blue lore, it’s Bo Schembechler, who served as head coach from ‘69 to ‘89. The fiery field general either won or tied for the Big Ten Conference title 13 times, led the Wolverines to 17 bowl game appearances (including an incredible ten trips to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena), and most importantly, beat Ohio State 11 times. Topping “George Patton” would be no easy task, but Lloyd Carr managed to find a way. The former Schembechler assistant guided the Maize and Blue to a national championship in ‘97.
Michigan Stadium first opened in 1927 and has added seats countless times in an attempt to keep up with the throngs of fans who want to see the Wolverines live and in person. In fact, with a capacity just under 110,000, “The Big House” is the third largest coliseum on the planet. Needless to say, a sellout crowd of Big Blue supporters creates one of the most intimidating atmospheres in the universe of college sports.
While their football exploits dominate the record books, the Michigan Wolverines have made an impact that’s larger than sports. The “Fab Five” hoops crew of the early ‘90s rocked the pop culture landscape, as their trademark look of baggy shorts and black socks has become the de facto style of basketball players around the world.
The school famously does not employ an actual mascot, and they may never. Until then, tens of thousands of screaming diehards will just have to do the trick.