By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – The Michigan football program has struggled to live up to its lofty tradition for years, and in 2014 the program hit a new low. Between on-field mediocrity and off-field drama, Michigan fans would likely love to forget this season. For a plethora of reasons, however, they may have trouble doing so.

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January – The trials of Michigan football started early. News leaked at the end of the month that the university had expelled Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons for an alleged rape that occurred in 2009.

February – The Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education launched a federal investigation into Michigan’s handling of the rape allegation against Gibbons.

August – The football season started on a high note with the Wolverines whipping up on Appalachian State, 52-14, and even though no one expected the game to be competitive, it seemed a good sign for the team.

September – The second game of the season the Wolverines faced then-No. 16 Notre Dame on the road, and any optimism about the season could have died right then and there. Michigan lost in a landslide, 31-0. The Wolverines bounced back against Miami (Ohio) but then lost a wretched game – delayed more than two hours for torrential rain – to Utah.

Before the Minnesota game, the situation with Michigan took an embarrassing turn. In a promotion honored by convenience stores on campus, Coca-Cola was giving away tickets to the game – giving away tickets to a Big Ten matchup in the Big House. It seemed a harsh indictment of exactly how far the mighty program had fallen.

Michigan’s woes increased exponentially during the game against the Golden Gophers, however, and not just because the Wolverines lost. Backup quarterback Shane Morris, who had supplanted normal starter Devin Gardner, took a shot to the head that prompted the official to flag the defender for unnecessary roughness. Morris could be seen wobbling on the broadcast, leaning his head on the shoulder of his offensive lineman and looking woozy. He stayed in for another play before being removed from the game, and then he reentered the game later for one more play. The announcer of the game called attention to Morris’ obvious difficulties, and Michigan came under intense scrutiny for its handling of Morris.

The university managed to make a sticky situation worse by sending head coach Brady Hoke to his regular Monday press conference without an update on Morris, so Hoke said he did not believe Morris had suffered a concussion. Hoke said there would be a statement released by the medical team in answer to questions about the quarterback’s condition. Such a statement never came; instead, athletic director Dave Brandon released a statement at 1 a.m.

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October – The Wolverines lost a second straight game, this one to new Big Ten team Rutgers, and that defeat dropped Michigan to a record of 2-4. The Wolverines won against Penn State but then got smacked by rival Michigan State on the road. The loss to the Spartans was made worse by a Michigan motivational stunt gone awry.

Hoke had evidently been using a stake as a prop in the locker room, but players took it out onto the field and planted it in the Michigan State turf, and Spartans coach Mark Dantonio interpreted it as a sign of disrespect. Players insisted the gesture was not intended disrespectfully, but it looked ridiculous either way.

At the end of the month, emails surfaced that showed Brandon responding in a snide, condescending manner to disgruntled fans. The university did not deny Brandon sent the correspondence, and he resigned two days later.

Also in late October, former Wolverine Taylor Lewan pleaded guilty to drunk and disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, charges which stemmed from an accused assault in Ann Arbor following Michigan’s 2013 loss to Ohio State.

November – The Wolverines won two straight against Indiana and Northwestern, and then Hoke kicked star defensive end Frank Clark off the team following a domestic violence arrest. Michigan lost its last two games, including the finale to rival Ohio State, and finished the year with a record of 5-7. The Wolverines did not qualify for a bowl game.

Michigan had recorded the highest attendance of any school for 16 years straight, but Ohio State took over the top spot in 2014, per CBS Sports, and Michigan fell to No. 3 behind Texas A&M in the second spot.

December – Michigan fired Hoke, who had been the head coach four seasons. The Wolverines lost more games each year during his tenure.

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Michigan fans got no respite from the pain of losing when the football season came to an end; the basketball team, which had started the season by winning six of its first seven games, dropped three straight contests to New Jersey Institute of Technology, Eastern Michigan and Arizona.