Team Meeting Keeps U-M Footballers Together

The time -- early January, 2011. The place -- Ann Arbor Michigan. The issue -- the team was without a coach. Into the void stepped two seniors ...

Early last January the Michigan football program was at a crossroads.

The Maze & Blue had just got blown out by Mississippi State 52-14 in the Gator bowl. Rich Rodriguez was fired. Their next head coach was in doubt, with rumors of LSU coach Les Miles and then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh as the front runners to replace Rich Rod.

The team had gone through limbo before when Lloyd Carr retired and Rodriguez regime came in. And that time, the team fractured.

"It was kind of a whole transition where everyone that was kind of on that swing fence, where they could either leave or stay," David Molk said. "You know they left, they disbanded as a team, and it wasn't good for our team."

Most notably, former Michigan Quarterback Ryan Mallet transferred to Arkansas, and offensive lineman Justin Boren transferred to rival Ohio State.

But this time around things were going to be different, thanks to two seniors— Molk, and Ryan Van Bergen.

"That's something we didn't want to happen (this time)," Molk said, "and we've made sure that wouldn't happen."

And so, with the team in limbo, the two seniors who had played for both Coach Carr and Coach Rodriguez called a player only meeting to address team issues.

"That meeting happened in January," Van Bergan said. "Me and Dave Molk talked to the team—and this was before coach (Brady) Hoke was hired," Van Bergen said. "There were rumors that Denard (Robinson) was going to transfer. That there was going to be people going all over the place. There was going to be—everyone was going to jump ship."

Van Bergen, said he didn't want the team to go through a rough coaching change again. And so the purpose of the meeting was to get the players thinking about the team's future.

"We were just like, we've got to stick together, whatever happens we have a good thing going, that people don't necessarily see," Van Bergen said. "We all felt we had a good thing going and our record didn't show it, but have a great chemistry and a great bond between teammates. And that's something that we wanted to have regardless of who the coach was. I really wanted to see this thing through."

With the rumors swirling that Michigan Quarterback Denard Robinson possibly transferring, the what the two seniors said at the meeting definitely had its effect on the dual-threat signal caller.

"They had been through three different coaches. I know they'd been through a lot, so everybody is like, we have to maintain, do what you have to do." Robinson said. "And that is the biggest thing, everybody was like, we need each other, we've got to hold on to each other, we've got to feed off each other, we are a family and we need to stick together and all that. That was the biggest thing they kept saying, we got to stick together. Do what we got to do to be a team."

With rumors swirling about possible new coaches coming in, senior tight end Kevin Koger said the seniors stood up and told everyone to stay focused as a team.

"We talked about: whoever the coach is, we just need to buy in immediately. We just need to stick together and teach these young guys. That was the main focus," Koger said.

Van Bergen said a key part of the meeting was the underclassman buying into what the seniors had to say.

"Luckily—you say we have great leadership, we also have great under classman that buy into the leadership," Van Bergen said. "Without that—leadership doesn't mean anything if nobody is following you. Our underclassmen have done a tremendous job of just buying in and following us kind've blindly. And then we saw certain season results. Give them as much credit as they're due, because that is a big deal. It's hard to do."

Robinson said the meeting had an impact on his decision to stay at Michigan.

"Oh yeah man, cause this is a family and I love it. I love everybody that is part of this program. I appreciate it," Robinson said.

"That's why we addressed the team as soon as possible," Molk said. "Once that transition was made you keep everyone together."

And, Molk added, "This is why we have been as strong as we have been since I been here."

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