A new feature on MVictors, periodically I’ll take a look at a passage from one of the great books written on Michigan athletics. This week we’ll go to the absolute definitive tome on the Michigan-Notre Dame Rivarly, John Kryk’s Natural Enemies. There are several anecdotes of interest in the book, some I’ve mentioned on these pages before, and I’ll revisit some of these in the future. But for today, here’s are a few selections from Chapter 4 ‘Yost vs. Rockne: 1918:31’.
[Note: These are selections from through the chapter, just trying to highlight the feud:]
In a nutshell, here’s what each came to think of each other from 1923 to 1931.
Rockne, then in his late 30s to early 40s, saw in Yost a “hill-billy” who was forever grinding the religious ax against Notre Dame, who was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, who was selfish and vain beyond comprehension, who was blindly jealous of Rockne’s own success and ascension to national stardom, and who coached boring, neanderthal football.
Yost, then in his mid to late 50s, saw in Rockne a coach who feared the regulatory confinement of a conference, who ran a renegade football factory at Notre Dame, who sought unfair advantages over his opponents, and who continually and deliberately broke football rules with his controversial offense.
Kryk found reams of letters from the two men which provided some insight to their true feelings. There are a few beauties reviewed in the book, but here’s a few excerpts from a back and forth between them.
First, from Rockne in a letter to Yost:
A half a dozen of my friends among the directors in the Conference came to me Saturday and told me that you had been haranging [sic] them all not to play Notre Dame in anything. I think this was very unfair of you. We live up to Conference eligibility rules as given in your code book, but not your special regulations, as we are not a member of the Western Conference…
…The Western Conference could put in a regulation that all coaches had to join the Ku-Klux-Klan, but that certainly will not apply to us any more than some of the other freak regulations they may have.
Now if you personally do not want to meet Notre Dame, that is your business, no holler from this end. If you do not feel that we are fair, we do not want to play either. But I do not think it is fair for you to carry a knocking campaign against us. I have always been a loyal booster and admirer of yours and I hope always to be. However, I am no quitter…I will not sit by quietly and have my school knocked.
Your letter of June 14th received. This I have read carefully. In my opinion, if a university deems it advisable to play on Thanksgiving, has a 10- or 120game football schedule, and has freshman competition with other schools, it should seek its competition with universities that have the same standards and privileges.
Creed has nothing to do with it. Three of the last four football captains at Michigan have been Catholic and many of my best friends are….
I do not believe that the Universities of the Conference should handicap their teams and men and put them in competition with any university that has many advantages that go toward the development of an athletic team with much added experience in competition. Even under these circumstances, Michigan has competed with Notre Dame for years…
I have made you a frank statement of my position and my viewpoint and I want to assure you that nothing personal enters into this in any way…
As aside, Kryk also notes that Yost told Rockne he was going to send copies of their letters to all the other conference directors since Rockne didn’t reveal the names of the other directors with whom he discussed Yost’s “haranging”.