I realize this is highly subjective but I’m a bit burned up over this. Many in the media have taken the most losses in school history statistic to equate to worst season ever. The front page of this morning’s Ann Arbor News contained two items making this claim:
- A headline (below the fold) reads, “An epitaph for 2008: Wolverines’ worst“.
- In the lead column, columnist Pete Bigelow writes, “On his watch, the Wolverines careened to the worst season in their 129-year history..”
- Another Monday, Angelique Chengelis “There will be no bowl game for the Wolverines, and however you want to look at historical statistics, this will go down as the worst season in the 129-year history of Michigan football.”
Defend this! Saying it doesn’t make it so, these statements should be qualified. I went over this last week but it’s not going away and the two mentions on the front page of the News put me over the top. It’s clear that the nine loss number is what people are keying on, and I could see an outlet like ESPN running with that. But the AA News and Detroit News?
“Worst” and “Best” when discussing college football seasons is certainly subjective but how can you say this season is worse than 1934? Consider the following measures of ineptitude:
- Number of losses. Yes, most ever in 2008, got it. But for the first 60+ years of existence, Michigan didn’t consistently play a schedule of more than 8 total games.
- Winning (losing) percentage. In 1881, Michigan went 0-3, beyond that, the 1934 and 1936 teams went 1-7. These represent the worst seasons percentage-wise in team history.
- Expectation/Recent History. Listen, I don’t know exactly what the expectations were for the 1934 team but I can assure you they were not anywhere close to the one win that season yielded. In four seasons prior to 1934 Harry Kipke’s teams had lost just a single game, winning two national championships and four conference titles in the stretch. Heading into the 2008 season I’d say the consensus was that Michigan would finish with 7 or 8 wins amongst Michigan fans.
- How Ugly it was. Yep, it was fugly this year at times, getting shelled by Penn State and Ohio State, and losing to our rivals Michigan State and Notre Dame, added with the embarrassment of the Toledo game. But Michigan was in all these games for at least a half if not until the end. In 1934 Michigan was shut out in five of the eight games and scored a mere 21 points.
If you want to say that you can’t compare eras, that’s fine, but by saying this is the worst season in 129 years you are by definition including the other 128 seasons for comparison.
The answer is clear to me: the Gerald Ford-led 1934 Wolverines were the worst team in the history of this program.