Wolverines to spend Christmas in Tampa

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- During his first two seasons at Michigan, Roy Roundtree’s season would end in November the same way -- a loss to Ohio State and football disappearing until the spring.

So he would head back to Ohio for the holidays with nothing to do, get a workout in, perhaps, and sit on the couch and watch other teams play in games on television.

“It was boring,” Roundtree said.

Understanding what it felt like with no bowl is part of the reason this season will be easier, when Michigan’s players will miss the holidays at home with their families.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke decided to send his team to Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 23, which means the Wolverines will be there for around 10 days before their game against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

“Why not,” Hoke said. “For us, you’re getting acclimated to some different weather. That’s part of it. I think we’ll have all the game plan done before we go, so it’ll be an opportunity for them to really do a great job honing that thing up.”

Michigan’s somewhat quirky academic schedule also allows his players to head home for four days before heading to the bowl site on Dec. 23, as well as some time to head back home after the New Year’s Day game.

But being away for the holidays is something none of these players have experienced. In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Michigan did not qualify for a bowl game. In 2010, the Wolverines played in the Gator Bowl and were home for the holidays. Same last season with the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

“We all talked about it, like, ‘Oh man, we got to be a way for Christmas,’ " Roundtree said. “Some guys got kids, and they want to be there for them, but guys get to go home and be with their family before and then be with their second family on Christmas.”

Hoke plans on having something planned for Christmas for his team -- he said there will be a Santa Claus but would not say whether or not he would dress up himself -- but heading down early is something he picked up from his previous time at Michigan under Lloyd Carr.

“Not every time, but a few occasions,” Hoke said. “We do it a little differently, to some degree. But it gets them settled in where they’re at.”

In an effort to make sure players don’t get too comfortable or worn out by their surroundings for 10 days, Michigan will stay “three or four” days in one hotel, then shift to a second hotel, just to keep things fresh.

The decision left Hoke’s players with a potentially awkward conversation to be had with families, but they feel comfortable with at least knowing they’ll be in a warm place instead.

“I’m a family guy, but this is my family as well,” senior cornerback J.T. Floyd said. “I’ll be going down there and will enjoy Christmas with my brothers.

“We’ll have a good time with it.”