While the business of college football (and in particular at Michigan) seems to be on topic more than ever these days, the financial bottom line of the U-M football program and its projects have been measured closely over the years.   We know that Michigan’s share of the gate revenue from 1903 Little Brown Jug game was $13,000.   To finance the construction of Michigan Stadium in the mid-1920s, Yost sold bonds that gave the owners special seating privileges in the new digs.  

The cost associated with bowl trips has been watched closely as well.  According to 1964 team captain Jim Conley, then-athletic director Fritz Crisler tried to seize some funds donated to the team that was designated to give the players a football charm celebrating their championship year.  Why did Crisler want to such a thing?  The team racked up some serious phone bills on their trip to Pasadena and the old man wanted to recoup the cost.

Up on eBay right now, a letter including the estimated budget for the trip then-Coach Crisler and his Mad Magicians would take to Pasadena to pummel USC in the Rose Bowl.   First, the letter describing the logistics of the day and the nearly two day trek to the west coast involving stops in Chicago, Colorado, New Mexico:


And here’s the budget for the contingent including 44 players, breaking out to about $750 per player:

Bowl Expenses

Perhaps the “Special Equipment” was the cloaking device or just your run-of-the-mill No Look Confusion Maker.   Whatever it was it worked as U-M pummeled USC so bad it prompted the Associated Press to cast an unprecedented post-bowl vote to name the Wolverines national champions.  I love how TIME Magazine described the beating Crisler’s men put down on the Trojans:

Southern Cal’s beefy bruisers, the West Coast champs, were not clubbed to death. They were just hoodwinked and whipsawed by Michigan’s slickers. Jack Weisenburger, Crisler’s sturdy spinning fullback, started most of Michigan’s backfield ballet and ball-handling hocuspocus, and chewed through the center of Southern Cal’s bewildered line for three Michigan touchdowns.

Southern Cal never really had a chance.  Here’s how it looked:

I’m sure they enjoyed the train ride home.

Speaking of finances…the seller is asking $65 for the righteous letter.

1948 Rose Bowl and the title debate
Affectionately, Fritz Crisler
From now on, You’ll be Fritz


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02. August 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , ,


Scanning through the recent eBay auctions, this caught my eye.   It’s a 1972 Burger King cup featuring then-San Francisco 49ers linebacker Frank Nunley.   Nunley patrolled the middle for Bump Elliott’s Wolverines from 1964-1966, earning all-Conference his senior season.

I was able to connect with Nunley who explained why his face ended up on BK cup. “Len Rhode, 49er offensive tackle, owned a few Burger Kings around here.  Still does,” Nunley wrote me.  “He featured a different 49er each week. I think that is where this came from.”

It was during his stint in SF that Nunley earned his nickname, “Fudge Hammer”.   According to Matt Maiocco’s book, San Francisco 49ers, Nunley owes the nickname to his NFL teammate Stan Hindman.   Apparently Nunley didn’t possess an intimidating physique but could drill opposing players with the best of them, as in, “he looked like fudge but hit like a hammer.”  

Naturally I needed to get a few memories on Nunley from 1964 team captain Jim Conley, who once again did not disappoint.  Enjoy:

Frank Nunley was a freshman when I was a senior.  I remember his first significant contribution to our 1964 team occurred when Dr. Barry Dehlin got a knee injury.   He came running into the defensive huddle and asked, "What do I do?".  I told him that Bill Yearby and I were going to knock the offensive line men on their asses and he would fill the hole and make the tackle.  And for the rest of his college career and his 10 years with the Forty Niners that was exactly what he did. 

frank_nunley_Michigan Every year, there was a new group of talented LBs that wanted his job.  But Frank kept on filling the hole and making the tackle.  For nine years, he had to line up over Tom Mack of the LA Rams.  To hear them talk, it always ended up as a draw.  I suspect, however, that Tom may have had the upper hand since he is in the Hall of Fame.  Frank insists that Tom got his credentials in all the other games. 

As a player Frank always kept it simple–he just hit someone.  He was not the strongest or the fastest LB, but he had the heart of a lion.  He always made the tackle but no one ever go hurt from his forearm shiver.   Frank played in the era of less pay and needed to have a career outside of football.  He worked in the off season and founded Nunley and Associates and was a very successful manufacturing rep at the birth of Silicon Valley. 

He is a great Michigan man and family man and remains very close to his wife Lynn since she manages the money.  Frank and I still visit on a regular basis when we can and enjoy talking Michigan.  

Today Nunley sells electronic assembly for Sanmina, a contract manufacturer, and he’s been a rep there for the past 12 years. 

You can buy the Nunley cup for $18.99 on eBay right now.

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03. May 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , ,


I had the chance to take in the Bob Ufer Quarterback Club dinner last night at Barton Hills.  The highlight of the evening was the speech by 1964 captain Jim Conley, who gave a passionate speech in receiving the 2011 Bennie Oosterbaan Award for service, dedication and leadership.

Ever the captain, Conley thanked his teammates for the award and added, “it’s on behalf of them that I accept it.”   He also thanked the the Ufer Club for honoring him while he’s still alive noting, “Red Simmons got this award at 99.  I don’t think I’ll see 99 [laughs].”

He was about to step down from the podium, but grabbed the mic back from MC Jim Brandstatter, held up the plaque and added this:

Conley: “I just want to say one more thing…I will not trade this for a tattoo”

Per Bruce Madej of U-M Media Relations:

Bill Yearby died on Dec. 20th after a long illness.  His funeral is tomorrow Weds. Dec. 29 at 9 a.m. at the James H. Coles Funeral Home o at 2624 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, Michigan  48202. 

Bill Yearby, an All-American defensive tackle for the University of Michigan Wolverines football team from 1963-1965, died on Dec. 20th after a long illness. Yearby attended Detroit’s Eastern High School, where he was the Class A state champion in the shot put in 1962 and All-State in football. He was an All-American at defensive tackle for U-M in both 1964 and 1965 and was named the Wolverines’ Most Valuable Player in 1965.Bump Elliott’s 1964 team won the Big Ten Conference and played in the Rose Bowl. Yearby was a first round draft choice of the New York Jets.

I chatted with Jim Conley, captain of the ‘64 squad and ‘65 Rose Bowl champions who shared the following statement on Yearby:

Bill Yearby was a remarkable man.  As a 2 time all American, we all know he could play football.  But, as a teammate, you could never ask for a better leader.  Bill wasn’t vocal.  He led by example.  He was dedicated to the team and his teammates. 

At a time when campuses all over America were in turmoil, Bill provided a calming grace. His demeanor was that of a lamb, and his heart was that of a lion or should I say wolverine.  By the way Bill played, he set the tone for all who played around him.  As Captain, I could count on Bill to have  my back at every turn.  On the campus or on the field, Bill was the best friend you could have.

Late in life he faced a lot of adversity.  Through it all, he didn’t complain nor did he quit. In the end it was that big powerful heart that finally let him down.  We will miss Bill and hopefully he is in a better place.  In 1968, Ron Johnson became the first black captain of the Wolverines.  Bill, his teammates and coaches, paved the way for this event. 

In 1964, we all new that on the playing field, Bill was always in charge.  Go Blue!


Bentley page on Yearby.