This week we head back to 1975 when Lee Corso and the Hoosiers came to town.  Of historical significance in 1975:

  • This game was the last time Michigan Stadium had an announced attendance of fewer than 100,000 (93,857).  So as Craig Barker suggests, should we blame Lee Corso?
  • 1975 was the first season the B1G allowed teams to go to bowl games other than the Rose Bowl.  And Michigan was invited to play the Oklahoma Sooners in the 1976 Orange Bowl.  (And at that Orange Bowl, the Michigan Marching Band unleashed the epic JAWS formation!).

Here’s the clip:

This was a tough year to pick – of historical note on this day in U-M football lore:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here…And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM starting at 11:30am.

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[Ed. You know I’m a huge fan of Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis & he’s featured here each postgame with Dr. Sap’s Decals.  You might know that his detailed knowledge of uniform tweaks since the Bo era helped spearhead the Uniform Timeline.    Bottom line - the Sap mind blended with the Sap archives is a Wangler-to-Carter-esque combination.    Here’s another great Bo-era story from the mind of Sap.] 

Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

After Bo Schembechler left U-M to become the president of the Detroit Tigers he met Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley.  Finley liked to dabble in the unique as he was the inventor of the high visibility yellow baseball as well as the green and gold tunics the A’s wore in the ‘70s.

The two talked about Finley’s new football invention – the reverse dimple football.  Its enhanced grip was supposed to improve the accuracy of throws and increase the distance it was kicked. [more on the patent here.]

The grip enhancement looked much like a golf ball’s surface and the leather looked something like this:

clip_image002

Bo was intrigued and told Finley to go see U-M equipment manager Jon Falk in Ann Arbor…and that’s exactly what he did in the spring of 1990.  The two hit it off and Falk agreed to try the new ball that Rawlings now dubbed the “Double Grip Football” with the 1990 Wolverines.

Everybody liked it.  The quarterbacks liked the grip and felt more accurate throwing it.  The receivers liked the tackiness and the kickers felt it sailed longer when booted. 

Falk wanted to use the new pigskin against  Notre Dame to start the 1990 season, but had to wait and use their existing ball, the Wilson 1001 AFCRT, until the new Rawlings ball was
accredited by the NCAA Rules Committee.  That didn’t happen until late October, which meant the Purdue contest on November 3rd, 1990 was the first time the Reverse Dimple Rawlings Double Grip Football was used in an NCAA game.  Michigan won 38-13 in West Lafayette that afternoon.

While U-M was the only school to use the ball during the regular season, it was used in several bowl games later that year.  Air Force defeated Ohio State in the 1990 Liberty Bowl while using the Double Grip football.  Washington would use it for the first time against Iowa in the 1991 Rose Bowl and trounced the Hawkeyes.

Of course we all know what Michigan did in the 1991 Gator Bowl.  Over 700 yards of total offense in a 35-3 beat down of Ole Miss was enough to convince everyone watching that the Rawlings Double Grip Football was no one-hit-wonder.

In the second game of the 1991 season, the Double Grip got even more publicity and exposure thanks to Desmond Howard and Elvis Grbac.
That diving catch in the endzone made by Howard against Notre Dame?

clip_image004That’s right. It was made with the Rawlings Double Grip Football.

While Grbac would become the first Michigan QB to be the nation’s most efficient passer, Howard would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that year.  Rawlings took notice and even issued a Press Release in December of 1991 saying its new ball resulted in greater accuracy, a higher percentage of completed passes, longer passes, a better grip in cold or wet weather and was the best ball for quarterbacks with small hands.

clip_image005”Howard caught 19 touchdown passes while Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac led the nation in passing efficiency and 24 TD passes–all with the Rawlings ‘Double Grip’ ball,” it read.

Here is Howard striking another pose – this time with the Rawlings ball on the cover of Beckett football card monthly:

desmond howard beckett

But much like the old saying goes, what goes up, must come down.   And in 1992, that’s exactly what happened.

Grbac would go on and become the nation’s most efficient passer again, this time without Howard’s heroics. Michigan would win their 5th consecutive Big Ten Championship but would finish with an awkward 8-0-3 regular season record.  Three ties were strange enough, but the one tie that took all the air out of the Rawlings Double Grip ball was the Illinois game on November 14th, 1992.

The weather conditions were typical for Ann Arbor in November: 32 degrees, 65% humidity and a 10-15 mph wind blowing from the southwest. It had snowed the night before and would do so occasionally throughout the game.  There was some concern about how the ball would hold up as this would be the coldest weather it would be used in.  Even in their wildest dreams, #3 Michigan could not have expected a nightmare like this.

When it was all said and done, the 22-22 tie knocked U-M out of the national championship race and the turnover stats line read like a horror show:

  • Fumbles – 10 (12, if you include two bobbled kickoffs)
  • Fumbles Lost – 4
  • Dropped Passes – 4
  • Interceptions – 2 (1 off a muffed reception)
  • 1 botched PAT snap/hold that was bobbled by the holder (Jay Riemersma)
  • 1 kick that hit the upright (no good)

And it was not like this 1992 U-M squad was a turnover machine – quite the opposite.  In the previous 9 games, Michigan had fumbled only 15 times and lost 7 of them.  Illinois, which used the traditional pebble grain Wilson 1001 AFCRT ball, had just 1 fumble (which they recovered) and 1 interception (from a dropped pass) along with 1 missed PAT kick.  It was a damning stat line for the Double Grip and one that caused Falk to take a closer look at the ball Michigan would be using going forward.

He studied the game tape and he told me that he noticed the ball became hard when the temperature dropped. The leather lost its tackiness and it became slick and difficult to handle.  While Rawlings claimed the ball would provide better grip in cold weather, it appeared as though that might not have been the case.

With the weather the following week in Columbus expected to be in the mid-50s, Falk gave the Rawlings ball one last chance against Ohio State.  Even though Michigan would not fumble the while using Double Grip against OSU, Falk officially pulled the plug on it after the game.

The guy who gave Finley’s invention the green light a few years earlier, was now putting the kibosh on it and gave Coach Gary Moeller the cold, hard facts.

“I told Mo that we had to change it up for the Rose Bowl against Washington,”  Falk said.  He said, ‘Ya. Let’s do it.’”

Michigan would switch back to the Wilson 1001 for the 1993 Rose Bowl and would use it until Rich Rodriguez took over in 2008.  RichRod preferred the narrower Wilson 1005 for his spread offenses. It is the ball Michigan continues to use to this day.

 

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image[Ed October 20, 2014.  In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Michigan-Georgia Tech game played on October 20, 1934, a repost on the campus protests leading up to this low point in Michigan football lore.  Original posted April 2009.]

The early 1930s are a fascinating stretch in Michigan football history and I’ve written much on the highs and lows of that period in eBay Watch and elsewhere.  A relative recently asked me which story from Michigan history was the most interesting to me, and the first thing that came to mind was the Willis Ward incident of 1934.  I’ve hit on it in Hail to the Victors 2008, in a few posts here, in a guest post on mgoblog, and even on WTKA radio with John U. Bacon.

This week an eBay auction got me thinking about the incident once again.  A seller is offering a pic of Ward (above) which is described to be an original wire photo.  The bidding started at $9.75.

Here’s a quick debrief on the controversy leading up to the game with Georgia Tech, as summarized in my mgo-guest post from earlier this year:

During the miserable 1934 season, controversy erupted prior to the scheduled game against Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jacket officials made it clear they would not take the field against a black player.  Protests ensued on campus and within the team (it’s rumored that [Gerald] Ford threatened to quit).  I’ve read that future famous playwright Arthur Miller, who was on the Daily staff at the time, tried to intervene.   Eventually the game was played without Ward and resulted in a 9-2 Michigan win.  [For more, here's a Daily article from 1999, and Ward's Wikipedia page.]

One correction:  I don’t think Miller was on the Daily staff in 1934 (he’s not listed on the directory in the ‘34 paper) although he did write for the Daily during his stay at Michigan and apparently did try to intervene with the Georgia Tech players.   Ward’s Wikipedia entry cites a story from a Miller biography explaining the future playwright’s role in the drama:

In his biography of Miller, Enoch Brater noted that Miller had friends from Arkansas who knew one of the Georgia Tech players. Brater described Miller’s involvement this way: “Remmel [Miller’s friend from Arkansas] took Miller with them to meet with members of the team, to protest but also to appeal to the athletes’ sense of fair play. ‘Miller was right in the middle of this’, Remmel recalls. Not only did the visiting team rebuff ‘the Yankee’ Miller ‘in salty language’, but they told him they would actually kill Ward if he set one foot on the Michigan gridiron. ‘The Georgia Tech team was wild.’ Miller was furious. He ‘went immediately to the office of the Michigan Daily and wrote an article about it, but it was not published.’

It’s a fascinating story and as I mentioned as an mgo-guest, it deserves a full documentary or movie.  One of the reasons I don’t think it’s been talked about very much is that the events didn’t exactly put Georgia Tech or Michigan in a favorable light, as Ward didn’t play in the game.**

The Protests
Despite mentioning the story in a few places, I really haven’t taken a deep dive.  I recently stopped by the Bentley Library and looked through some of the pages of The Daily in the days around the October 20, 1934 game against the Yellow Jackets.

As a student paper should do, their words focused on the situation on campus and it’s a pretty interesting tale.   Upon learning of the demand by Tech that Ward not play in the game, a group of students formed the ‘Ward United Front Committee’ and collected 1,500 signatures supporting their cause.  The petition read:

“We, the undersigned, declare ourselves unalterably opposed to the racial discrimination evidenced in the proposed exclusion of Willis Ward from the Georgia Tech game.  We support the slogan: Either Ward plays or the game must be cancelled.”

The United Front even reached out to quarterback Benny Friedman, who was coaching at the City College of New York at the time, hoping the legend would tender a statement in support of the cause.

The group scheduled a meeting for the Friday night (10/19) before the game, a time typically reserved for pep rallies.  The Daily wrote the meeting was called with “the purpose of  crystallizing sentiment on the Ward affair.”

The meeting, held inside the packed Natural Science Auditorium, was ugly. Daily writer Bernard Weismann described the scene:

Smoldering feelings on the question of Willis Ward’s participation in the Georgia Tech game burst into flame last night at what was probably the wildest and strangest Friday night rally in Michigan’s history.

Speakers on both sides of the debate tried to weigh in on the controversy only to be heckled by the other side.  The chairman of the event, Abner Morton, took the stage but was overwhelmed by “boos, clapping and ‘wisecracks’”.

Next up was a professor named Harold J. McFarlan who was forced to dodge “coins that were tossed at the speaker” along with the catcalls, and eventually he just walk off stage.   Morton then returned and challenged his hecklers to bring up a representative to speak their piece, which prompted “taunts of ‘yellow’” from the other side of the crowd.

Finally someone from the opposition group stepped up and argued that it wasn’t right to require Ward to play especially if he could be injured by the Tech players, and further, that the coaches had earned the right to say whether Ward should be exposed to potential harm.  The shouts and taunts from the crowd continued.

Breaking the hysteria was a gent named Sher Quraishi (fact: he’s the founder of that co-op house on State Street that stands today) who decided to tear everyone a collective new one:

[Quraishi] was the first to obtain a semblance of attention from the entire audience.  He branded the audience a “bunch of fools,” unable to learn from the mistakes of others.  “You with the advantage of a university education can’t even allow a meeting to be held until you are bawled out.”

Snap!  Things settled down after that and many left the meeting before it concluded.  Those who stayed agreed to formally protest the scheduling of the Jackets by the the university’s Board in Control of Athletics.

The Deal
The day of the game The Daily printed quotes from the key administrators in the athletic department.  Legendary coach and acting athletic director Fielding Yost told reporters, “I haven’t anything to do with it,” when asked whether Ward would play.   Chairman of the Board of Athletics Ralph Aigler echoed the sidestep as well, saying, “In the 22 years I have been a member of the athletic board, I have never had anything to say about who played; I am not going to begin now.”

Ward himself was reached and referred the questions to coach Harry Kipke saying, “I haven’t anything to say about it, you had better call the coach.”   An attempt to get a comment from coach Kipke at his home and at Barton Hills Country Club (where the team stayed before the game) failed.

A deal was struck before the game, and we know that Georgia Tech coach Bill Alexander agreed to hold out his regular starting end Emmett ‘Hoot’ Gibson.  There are a few accounts describing an all-night debate between Alexander and Yost (although Yost is incorrectly referred to as Michigan’s coach in many versions), and I’ve also heard that Gibson never forgave his coach for agreeing to such a deal.

There are various accounts in his Wikipedia entry as to where Ward resided during the actual game.  The Daily is pretty specific: he watched the game from the press box, sheltered from the “downpour which started with the opening kickoff and continued intermittently all afternoon.”   The Chicago Tribune also placed Ward and Franklin Lett ( another African American who is on the extended 1934 team roster but not in the team photo)  in the press box, specifically within the “broadcasting booths.”

Parting Shots
Several beautifully composed letters were printed in the Daily in the days after the game, generally venting their disgust over the entire incident: from the behavior on the students, to the actions of the athletic department for scheduling this game, to the Michigan Daily for its coverage and editorials.

Here’s an excerpt of one student’s view of the Friday meeting, describing some of the behavior as “Hitleristic” (keep in mind this was 1934):

image

One note, submitted by five students, was particularly poignant.  It blasted The Daily for its coverage of the controversy.  Two small excerpts, here’s the first:

image

And in further ripping the Daily, a few excellent questions for the athletic department:

image

Aftermath
Despite the sharp criticism of The Daily leveled by the missive above, the paper definitely did a fine job covering the temperature on campus that week.   Should they have dug deeper into some of the questions raised in the letters?  Probably, but I’m not clear on the type of access or control that they possessed at the time.  I don’t know if Arthur Miller’s draft piece still exists, but it would be fascinating to see what he wrote after facing the Tech players.  Was it squashed by the Daily brass?

In its editorial wrapping up the incident (and this was mentioned in the 1999 Daily piece on Ward as well as in his Wikipedia page), the Daily wrote:

“It was the peculiar characteristic of the Ward-Georgia Tech matter that everyone who touched it did so only to lose in respect and esteem.”

The auction of the Ward photo ends April 30th.

**Update:  This point (that we don’t hear about the stories where ‘good’ didn’t triumph) expressed better by The Joe Cribbs Car Wash:

For the past few years, one of the most tried-and-true feature story tactics from the likes of ESPN has been the “team from the earlier part of the century heroically stands up against discrimination.” I mean, who doesn’t love one of those stories? Easy journalistic money.

Of course, you don’t ever hear about about the stories where teams had the chance to take a similar stand and didn’t..

Related:
Yost’s Warning to you Drunks (1933)
1933 and the Dickinson Formula
1933 MSC Ticket Application
Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
Smoke ‘em if you Got ‘em (1935-ish)

1979 Michigan State

God bless your cotton pickin’ maize and blue fedora-covered ears, old Ufe returns Saturday!

Continuing an awesome tradition, starting at 9am Saturday WTKA 1050AM will air another game from the Bob Ufer radio archives, this time the battle between the #11 ranked Michigan men and #16-ranked Michigan State at Spartan Stadium played on October 6, 1979.

A huge thanks to the great Dr. Sap, a few clips from the game for you:

So after weeks of ignoring those important in your life, tune in while you are making good with your spouse, friends, family or putting rake to leaf in the yard.   Go Blue!

Stats, as you can see Braylon’s old man carried the load.  [more stats here]

stats

More on Bob Ufer here.    Follow MVictors on Twitter there.

maratop[4]

 

It was an odd vibe before the game.  While the atmosphere was a little more exciting than usual, probably due to the timing and the collective BAC, I asked few folks how they felt things would go in the game. 

Devin mgoblue Usually folks narrow in on a player or two or say something like ‘if we can just run the ball..’ or ‘if we don’t turn the ball over..or whatever.  Yesterday I got looks of confusion, bewilderment and/or just disinterest. 

The problem is fans don’t know up from down right now—the compass is broken, man.  It’s a bad place to be.  Last night’s win didn’t fix that but damn, it was nice to walk out of there with a win.

Speaking of up from down, these things happened:
* Players wearing blue pants
* Punt returners doing choreographed pre-punt dance routines with personally selected music blasting over the PA
* MMB doing light shows

If you told me 10 years ago that these things would eventually happen in the Big House I would have hurled.  Somehow last night each of those things worked for me (seriously).  More below.

To the game: Quick props out there to CAPTAIN Jake Ryan for getting better each week and leading the defense in putting up an inspiring performance.  And to Matt Wile for drilling those crucial field goals that proved to be the difference out there.  And finally to Devin Gardner…thank 98 if you see him about town.  He was clearly hurt but sacked up and made it back out to finish the game and make the next two weeks tolerable.

Arena
* No boycott – While there was talk of a pregame boycott there clearly was no boycott.  John (Captain Torso) Navarre went on WTKA pregame & urged students to not do it.  In fact the student section was a filled up early as it’s been all season.  I’m glad the students showed en masse.
* Section 23 Bo – This is great.  The usher all the way atop section 23 (50 yard line on the west side) affixed a Bo-bblehead doll to the wall outside the Regent’s box.  I love it:

Bo Usher

I know some of you want to stick something else outside the Regent’s box but please…maintain your dignity.

After the jump – Pomp, Uniforms, Tunnels of Love, MMB Killing it, Norfleet, MORFleet, More, more..

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Michigan Purdue

For tomorrow’s evening affair, a trip back to 1930, a season that started with a double-header(!) in front of only 13,000 fans but was notable nonetheless.  In that year coach Harry Kipke got things working and started a string of 4 consecutive conference crowns.   October 11, 1930 was week 3 when his Wolverines faced defending league champ Purdue.  This game also marked the debut start of would-be superstar quarterback Harry Newman.  Check it out:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here…And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge starting at 3pm.

 

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[Ed. With the talk of boycotting Saturday's game (or at least the kickoff), a repost.  It's not the first time there was talk on campus of boycotting a home game, although the circumstances in 1931 were quite different. Originally published in July 2011.]

1931

I rarely feature ticket stubs on eBay Watch but this one is pretty unique.  In 1931 the Western Conference agreed to schedule a full slate of games to benefit a fund for the many Depression-era unemployed worker at the end of the season.   The league also agreed the games would count in the tight conference standings.

A full unused ticket to the game between the Wolverines and Wisconsin on November 28, 1931 went up on on eBay:

Wisconsin Ticket Stub
Check out the backdrop of the stub with the football player tossing a bag of loot (“A Forward Pass”) to the mass of needy onlookers with arms outstretched.

It’s actually not a shock that this ticket appears to be unused given the story of this one.  Charity be damned, barely 9,000 fans (some reports say only 7,000) bothered to show up for the game.  This ticket sold for $1, others went for $2.  Regular season ducats went for between $2-$3 that season.

Why the poor turnout?

Well, it seems that early in the process of determining the match-ups for the charity games, it was decided that Michigan would square off in the Big House against Northwestern.  The teams had shared the conference crown in 1930 and were near the top of the standings again.  Thinking they could raise more money by putting Northwestern in Chicago’s Solider Field, a couple weeks before the date they changed course and pitted the Wildcats against Purdue. Michigan was left with Wisconsin.

unemployment

Everyone in Ann Arbor – from Fielding Yost to the editors of the Michigan Daily — went berserk.   After the Badgers were assigned, director Yost told reporters, “This whole thing has been such mess that I won’t even venture a conservative guess on how many will turn out.  It won’t be many.”

The Daily suggested a boycott.  Students were quoted saying they “wouldn’t give a nickel” or even “cross the street” to see a weak Wisconsin squad.

Ironically the biggest benefactor of the whole event, which raised $154,000, might have been Michigan.  Northwestern ended up losing to Purdue 7-0, so those who watched Michigan defeat Wisconsin 16-0 actually saw them earn a share of the league title.

The Wisconsin win propelled Michigan into the next two championship seasons when Kipke and crew won back-to-back national titles in 1932 and 1933.

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Bless you blogs.  During bona fide crisis such as this we need thee. 

Read this #1: Craig at The Hoover Street Rag explores why we are cursed.  (Because we are certainly cursed).   A list of the possible curses:

1. President Ford
2. Little Brother
3. Herbie
4. Tim Tebow
5. The Yost Bleachers
6. Clowney
7. The Kraft Noodle
8. Old 98 + 9. Chicken Dance + 10. Skywriters

Example:

HSR

Read this #2: Picking up on my 2011 post, Mgo-reader saveferris checks in with ‘The Clans’ and does an excellent job rolling through the state of mind of the clans, given the ugly state of affairs.  Well done sf.  Example:

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Do something worthwhile on a weekend this fall:

image

The Ann Arbor Chili Chowdown (A2C2), hosted by Ron’s Roadside BBQ, is scheduled for Sunday, Oct 12th from 12-3.   Currently there are 20 confirmed restaurants including Grizzly Peak, Blue Tractor, Zingerman’s, Wolverine Brewing Co, and Black Pearl.   The Ann Arbor community is invited to come out and cast their vote for Ann Arbor’s chili king.   Former Michigan running back and NFL record holder Jamie Morris is going to emcee the event and live entertainment booked for the afternoon as well.

Safehouse Center of Ann Arbor is the beneficiary of this first annual A2C2. If you’re not familiar with their work, they provide support for women and children impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault in Washtenaw County, including counseling, legal advocacy, and most importantly shelter.  This event is particularly fitting in light of the recent Ray Rice NFL scandal and considering October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

Tickets are available for $20 presale or $25 at the door, and 100% of the proceeds go to the SafeHouse Center. Children 5 and under are free, and ages 6-12 are $7.

For any more information, everyone can check out our Facebook event page at  https://www.facebook.com/events/791739284211770/

They can also email annarborchilichowdown@gmail.com or call (217) 621-7040.