"Directional Michigan" is a term used in college football to describe the three similarly named public universities competing at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level in the Mid-American Conference's West Division. While staying competitive in their own conference and against non-BCS conference opponents, all three have traditionally been unsuccessful against BCS conference opponents. The term has found repeated use in ESPN.com's Bottom 10 rankings, has been picked up by other sportswriters, and has worked its way into college football fan lore. Fans and sportswriters of other sports such as basketball are also using the term freely.
The three schools that make up the "Directional Michigan" moniker are:
In recent years, CMU and WMU have improved. Central Michigan improved their record to 6-5 in 2005 and 10-4 in 2006, culminating with a MAC football championship and a Motor City Bowl victory. Western Michigan increased their win total to 7 in 2005 and finished 2007 8-5, receiving a berth in the 2007 International Bowl. Eastern Michigan has continued to struggle however, finishing 4-7 in 2005 and 1-11 in 2006.
A fourth university, Northern Michigan University in Marquette, is not normally included in the group despite its similarly directional name. It competes at the Division II level as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Recently, other regional colleges, such as the University of Southern California have been referred to as directional school as well, despite a successful football program. Both the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida, have begun referring them themselves strictly by their acronyms (UCF & USF respectively) to avoid the "directional" moniker more commonly found in the other divisions.