Departing offensive lineman Justin Boren broke his silence on why he left the Michigan team, and some of the things he said were quite troubling.
“I regret leaving behind my friends and teammates, but I need to stand up for what I know is right,” Boren said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “I wore the winged helmet with pride, whether we won or lost, whether things were going well or times were tough.
“Michigan football was a family, built on mutual respect and support for each other from (former) Coach (Lloyd) Carr on down. We knew it took the entire family, a team effort, and we all worked together. I have great trouble accepting that those family values have eroded in just a few months. That same helmet, that I was raised on and proudly claimed for the last two years, now brings a completely different emotion to me, one that interferes with practicing and playing my best and mentally preparing for what is required.
“That I am unable to perform under these circumstances at the level I expect of myself, and my teammates and Michigan fans deserve, is why I have made the decision to leave. To those of you outside the program, the loyal Michigan fans and alumni, I know you will have trouble understanding, but I do want to thank you for your years of support. I wish my teammates the best and will always be proud to have been a part of Michigan football over the past two years.”
I really wish Boren would have been more specific in what he said. How exactly have family values “eroded” over the last few months? Better yet, why did Boren feel the need to write a prepared statement at all? All that was necessary to say is that he didn’t agree with the future direction of the program and didn’t fit in the new system. Why he felt that he had to throw the entire program under the bus is beyond me.
Since Boren did leave the specifics behind what he said out, allow me to speculate a little bit. The Lloyd Carr era produced many great teams and great players. There’s no doubt about that. Carr was a good coach and an even better person. However, in the last few years it was becoming evident that something was missing with this program. I don’t want to criticize Carr too much, but this so-called family atmosphere was not all positive by any means. Michigan teams started to become soft and some players just didn’t seem to have that extra edge needed to make this a team that opponents were afraid of.
In the last year of the Carr era specifically, the softness of this team was shown on and off the field in many ways. On the field, it was brought to the surface when Michigan lost to Appalachian State in its season opener. You can talk all day about the spread and a running quarterback, but all in all that team was not mentally or physically prepared to play football. That on the field result happened because of how some coaches treated the players off the field. Rumors even before last season were circulating about how offseason workouts no longer were taken all that seriously by many players, and overall, the team was lacking a strong work ethic. I am not saying every single player was like that as that would be completely false. I am, however, saying that many players seemed to feel like giving 100% during every practice and every game wasn’t needed.
It is the responsibility of the coaches to make sure their players are working hard, especially during practice. I can understand the occasional times when a player just simply needs to take a break, but past rumors have suggested that some coaches have been very lenient during workouts or even practices. That all helped to contribute to the soft attitude that we have seen in the last few years, and I have no doubt that every player is experiencing culture shock with this new coaching staff.
If the practices and workouts now are too much work or are too hard for some players, then I have no problem with them leaving. It’s their right if they feel that way. I also have no problem with a player leaving if he doesn’t agree with the new system or feels like he doesn’t fit in it. Again, go ahead and leave if you feel that way. I do have have a problem with a player leaving and then throwing the program under the bus. There is no need to throw out ambiguous negative statements toward the new coaches, unless specific details are provided to back up what is being said.
This all goes back to why Boren felt it was necessary to say anything in the first place. Personally, I think it was to deflect criticism he would receive for what some think is simply quitting the team because practice got too hard. We probably won’t ever know the exact reason, but as of right now, that seems to be the common conclusion by many people close to the program. If Boren had just left the team and said nothing at all, I guarantee he would have been criticized far less than he is right now. His comments have obviously angered a lot of people, and they were just so ambiguous that they left the door open for loads of negativity pointed in Michigan’s direction.
Boren’s comments aren’t the only reason people are beginning to really get upset with him as it appears there is a good chance he will transfer to Ohio State. When it was confirmed that he was leaving the team, rumors started to pop up that he was headed to Columbus, and now they are beyond the rumor stage.
Boren, a Pickerington North graduate who started for the Wolverines as a sophomore last season, released a statement in which he criticized the atmosphere under new coach Rich Rodriguez. Boren’s father, Mike, a former Michigan captain and linebacker, supported his son’s decision.
“Ohio State would be a good fit for Justin, and that’s why he’s not at Michigan anymore, because Michigan is not the right fit for him,” said Mike Boren, who played under Bo Schembechler in the early 1980s.
“I have not talked to Ohio State and I’m not sure about their situation. … But would he go to Ohio State? Yes. The only two schools he seriously considered three years ago were Ohio State and Michigan, and he almost went to Ohio State even then.”
If Boren actually ended up transferring to Ohio State, he would quickly become one of the most hated players involved in this rivalry. To leave Michigan is one thing. And to make the comments he did is pretty bad too. But to transfer to Ohio State would take things to a whole new level, especially since he would be paying his own way due to Big Ten rules about transferring in-conference. I don’t know if he will become a Buckeye or not, but if he does, the hate directed towards him really will be unprecedented.