LIVONIA, Mich. — Brian Griese made sure to remind this year’s Michigan football team that he and his teammates from the Wolverines’ 1997 national championship squad watched every game this season.
They saw the struggles that led to Michigan’s 7-5 finish and the downward slide that resulted in the team losing four of its final five games. Yet Monday night, Griese gave his 2013 counterparts a pep talk in the wake of what many consider a subpar season for the Wolverines.
“Take ownership of your team,” said Griese, a former UM quarterback who is now a college football analyst for ESPN. “It’s the decisions you make on a daily basis that matter. This team doesn’t belong to Brady Hoke, as much as I love him. It belongs to you.”
Sponsored by the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit, the annual banquet — known as the Michigan Football Bust — at the Laurel Manor Banquet and Conference Center honored this year’s team, its outgoing seniors, and the 1997 national championship team.
The Wolverines will play Kansas State (7-5) on Dec. 28 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
More than 25 members of the team that defeated Washington State for the Rose Bowl title joined Griese, including Steve Hutchinson and Marcus Ray. Those players, Griese said, were part of a group who didn’t go to the Rose Bowl for four years prior.
“Everybody remembers that [championship] season,” Griese said. “But what they don’t necessarily remember are the four seasons before that season. Four seasons of four losses for four years. I came in, in 1993 after Michigan had won five Big Ten championships in a row and had been to the Rose Bowl five straight times. I thought, ‘Well, this is always going to happen.’
“For four years we didn’t go. I remember the 1996 season. Painful. Bitterly. We beat Ohio State but we lost too many games. Sometimes there’s division. There’s adversity.”
Then Griese juxtaposed that experience with this year’s 7-5 team.
“This season could be looked at that way,” Griese said. “But in adversity you find leaders and resolve. For us, it was ownership.”
Hoke presented this year’s 18 seniors their “M” rings — a tradition for outgoing seniors — and each senior, including team MVP Jeremy Gallon, gave a brief speech looking back at his time in Ann Arbor. That tenure included a coaching change following the 2010 season and a trip to a BCS bowl game at the end of the 2011 season.
“I never thought that a small, unathletic boy from the south would get out and experience the things I’ve experienced,” wide receiver Drew Dileo said.
Linebacker Cam Gordon reflected on the fact that he had seven different position coaches and played at four different positions at Michigan.
“I’ve still managed to graduate and lead a group of guys I love to death,” Gordon said.
Hoke said this year’s team will leave its own legacy.
“Their legacy won’t be about going to the Rose Bowl,” Hoke said. “Their legacy will be the lessons taught, good and bad.
“We’re honoring these men because they moved the program forward.”
GARDNER BOOTED: Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner attended the Bust with a walking boot on his left leg and on crutches. Gardner sustained an injury against Ohio State that Hoke later labeled as turf toe.
THAT’S SWAG: Sports Business Journal published its annual bowl gift rundown on Monday, which details the gifts that college football teams in bowl games will receive.
According to the publication, Michigan and Kansas State will receive from the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl a Fossil watch, an Ogio Cube backpack and a visit to a gift suite, in which players and bowl VIPs are given an order form and select a gift up to a value that’s predetermined by each bowl and does not exceed the NCAA limit of $550 per player.