As a Michigan author writing to a predominatly Buckeye audience, I have to approach things from a unique view. Many of my close friends are OSU fans and most of the year, we’re friends. Most of the year. We’ll comment more on this later though.
The Michigan football program is in major upheaval. Possibly the biggest internal shift in it’s history. The disciples of the 10 years war have all but faded away and we all knew this day would have to come. Bo’s offspring were dangling in the wind when Lloyd said goodbye and Rich Rod gave them the death stroke when he brought in his regiment. The Michigan football program is a completely different world and it happened almost literally overnight.
That brings us to Justin Boren. There are roughly 12 billion articles on the Internet talking about this kid and his decision to leave the UM program and go to, of all places, the Ohio State University. The opinions on this kid fall into the following two categories and I want to talk about both since they both have validity. (Contents have been hyperbolized for effect).
1. Justin Boren – Benedict Arnold Pansy.
This is the standard Michigan line. Justin Boren is a weak, sheepish little girl who couldn’t handle the new Barwis regime. The magnificent RichRod is having his name skewered and dragged through the mud by a sissy who couldn’t cut the mustard and expected his buttocks to be powdered for him as a starting lineman. Coach Carr was a delicate fellow who read bedtime stories to his offensive linemen and RichRod is the power dad who’s only try to spur the kids on to greatness.
Boren’s veins run thick with oil-like sludge that can only be explained by the fact that he’s actually worse than the Devil himself: a football player that would rather be in Columbus than Ann Arbor.
2. Justin Boren – Martyr for his midwestern values.
This is the standard OSU line. Justin Boren saw the incoming regime of Satan himself: the cussing, traditionless hack that is RichRod. He saw things like justice, truth and the American way flying out the window and he wanted to be close to home where his heart always was and away from this rotting pit of disease. In addition, Saint Tressel was a kind, cherished family companion whose heart he poured out on to the table with nothing but Justin’s best interests at heart and finally, Justin is where he always belonged.
Now keep in mind, both of these are relatively exaggerated expressions of the viewpoints I’ve encountered on this matter but, augmented or not, this is the underlying thought of it all.
The fact is, neither is right. I think there’s truth in both of these.
Even in Justin’s own words, he was not desirous of being part of that rigorous program. He’s getting later in his college career and “optional” summer conditioning sessions were optional, as long as you wanted to run Law School Hill at the end of the season. If you wanted to avoid that punishment, you had to get in line with the program. The problem is, RichRod is not Lloyd Carr. He’s NOTHING like that. He does cuss and yell. He does give players a hard time when they screw up.
You know who else does that? Pretty much every head and position coach in the NFL. If you want to fight with the best, you have to take some heat to get there. That’s all there is to it. Carr was known for coddling his starters and especially the senior ones. We saw where that got us. All the players loved him but Michigan was FAR from the best conditioned team in the Big Ten, much less the NCAA. Our playing style was outdated. Our strength and conditioning was outdated. And as
much as I loved the man, Coach Carr was outdated. The evidence was in a string of losses to Ohio State, up and down seasons and numerous bowl losses. Regardless of what anyone says, there are many parts of Justin Boren’s responses to questions that show me he did not want to punish himself for months on end to get inline with the new program. OSU offered him something different from that and he took it. Does that make him a pansy or weak? That’s up to the reader.
At the same time, Boren saw a change coming that offered him the opportunity to get some things he wanted. A chance to be closer to home arose. Ya know what, he’s a kid. He’s a good kid. He drove home from Ann Arbor in the winter to help clear streets in Columbus when big snow storms came along. That’s a sign of character. He used an opportunity and blamed it on family values. That’s fine. Now if you try to tell me Tressel is a coach who cares about nothing more than the well-being of his players, you’ll get me riled up. He’s a coach. He’s a recruiter. His job is football and winning games. That’s what he cares about. That’s clearly evidenced by a 53% graduation rate of his players, 3rd worst in the Big Ten. His primary concern is not education and honestly, it’s not my job to judge on whether he should care more or not about that. He’s doing his job. He’s winning football games.
Now when you add up every interview with Justin Boren and his dad and put all the pieces together, it all weighs out to this:
Justin Boren did not want to play for Michigan anymore. He especially didn’t want to spend 5 months beating the crap out of himself to play for Michigan. He knew coach Tressel and he used RichRod’s personality and coaching style as his excuse to get out. In the end, it’s his decision. He was a good player for Michigan and I appreciate his hard work and efforts and I hope he does well because he’s a kid caught in a tough situation. He’s not the bastion of nobility that some OSU fans
make him out to be. He’s also not the villainous demon that some Michigan fans make him out to be. The fact is, he’s not coming back so I think everyone will agree that it’s time to put this one to bed. I think Woody and Bo would agree it’s time to let this go.