Earlier today, SB Nation celebrity commenter blanx (@jblanx) made a case for bringing Michigan's patented brand of fandom to the Big 12. He makes some strong points, but it's abundantly clear the Big 12 does not need Michigan, and the reasons can be summed up in three words: tradition, arrogance, and delusion.
Michigan fans like to talk about "tradition," a convenient shorthand that implies multi-generational success as an athletics program. But tradition is the also the last resort of the irrelevant. To wit, Michigan fans will tout ad nauseum their 11 national championships in football, while glossing over the fact that 10 of those championship predate World War II. Michigan finally "won" half of a national title in an era with games broadcast in color, but that was in 1997, almost twenty years ago. Big 12 programs like Kansas State, Baylor, TCU, and yes, even Kansas, have been part of the national title conversation since Michigan football last mattered.
Michigan's most famous football alum was an all-star who played both ways and helped Michigan win a national title. No, not Charles Woodson, but Gerald Ford, who would go on to become the only U.S. President not actually elected to the post. This was entirely in line with a long-standing Michigan tradition of getting rewards and accolades not actually earned on the field. I'm not sure Texas would actually stand for another program getting all the freebies.
Those ugly helmets Michigan fans are so proud of are not even original! Depending on the source, the helmets were first used at Princeton or perhaps even earlier by many other teams including (gasp!) Ohio State. The two-toned leather helmet that came to be known as the "winged helmet" was actually a stock Spalding product that many teams used in the 1930s. The other programs just had the good sense to give up that monstrosity of a design when leather helmets passed out of use.
Then there's the stadium. Unironically nicknamed after a euphemism for prison, Michigan fans liken the venue to a cathedral of college football. They're not wrong, of course. Even on game day, with 100,000 fans in the stands, Michigan Stadium is as quiet as a church. Generations of stoic Michigan fans have perfected the art of sitting on their hands during the action, only rising to their feet occasionally to rattle their keys with indifference. The noise that accompanies "key plays" is often just enough to alarm that sleeping toddler in the next row, poor thing.
"The Victors" is horrible and made more so by its unexpected catchiness and ability to rile up Ohio State fans. The Michigan fight song somehow does the near-impossible and manages to be more annoying than Boomer Sooner. If Michigan joined the Big 12, they'd have to play Oklahoma and the rest of college football would have to throw a brick through our televisions just to avoid all that ridiculous noise.
In a sport stuffed to the gills with loud-mouthed windbags, Michigan's head coach, Jim Harbaugh, is the loudest and windiest. He is supremely awkward in interviews, micromanages every aspect of Michigan football, and alienates his peers and colleagues. In other words, he's a perfect fit for the Big Ten. In the Big 12, he'd have to sit down, shut up and actually listen to people like Bill Snyder. Harbaugh and Michigan wouldn't last a season in an environment where performance matters more than image.
Michigan basketball is essentially a nullity. The school's lasting contribution to the sport is long shorts and the most hilarious time out call in NCAA Tournament history... which, come to think of it, "never happened," because money. The Big 12 is a proud conference with a long history of true basketball greatness and doesn't need a team whose greatest basketball glories are fading memories from two decades ago, punctuated by a sad and lingering joke.
Michigan fans are delusional. The entire fanbase genuinely believes Michigan is on the verge of a return to the ranks of the elite. John U. Bacon, a sports journalist, wrote a book entitled "Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football" before Harbaugh had even coached a down in Ann Arbor. Last week, on a local Ann Arbor call-in show, a fan suggested that Michigan ought to have a bigger uniform-outfit deal than Ohio State because Michigan was a brand rivaled only by Manchester United!
Finally, there is the Michigan Man. Nobody knows what the term means exactly, but a picture is worth a thousand words:
In Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12 already has its fair share of tradition and arrogance. It makes no sense to add to that with Michigan, especially as it's been so long since Michigan football was relevant. Think about it: the average Michigan student was still in diapers the last time the Maize and Blue did anything useful in college football. Michigan has lost to MAC schools, to an FCS school (famously losing to Appalachian State at home as a 33-point favorite), and to Rutgers (for shame), while annually getting depantsed by rivals Ohio State and Michigan State! Michigan even had the honor of getting run over by Tyler Lockett, for which we thank you and laugh at you with finger-pointing derision.
In short, sorry, Michigan. The Big 12 is a real conference, and you are just not good enough. Go Bucks!