[Ed. A fascinating guest post from John Kryk, author of Natural Enemies. Check it out and thanks John. Don’t forget to look for Kryk’s upcoming book on Yost and his point-a-minute teams.]
Guest post by John Kryk
As I have found myself saying more and more in recent years, as I dig ever deeper into Michigan’s rich football past — it has all happened before.
Except for one year, Michigan hadn’t been all that good on the football field for six painful seasons. Students, alumni, fans — everyone had had it. The latest heralded coach had come and gone too quickly and, if anything, made things worse despite having some impressive talent at some positions. By the end of the most recent season, everything had fallen apart.
The athletic department then conducted an unprecedented, deliberate post-mortem. What were the causes of Michigan’s embarrassing fall from pre-eminence in football?
It was found, first and foremost, that to a "disgraceful extent" the Michigan football family was "separated into discontented and hostile" factions. And once a Michigan football supporter "becomes a member of one of these warring factions, he places the success of the members of his clique, faction or society above the University good. The unsuccessful factions are then consumed with a burning hatred of those in authority, which naturally leads and has led to (string) pulling and scheming, and to hostile criticism of every act of the athletic management."
Sound familiar? Yeah, no kidding. Except this was 11 months after the turn of the century. Not the 21st century — the 20th century. Yes, 110 years ago.
The suggested remedy for this poisonous affliction, wrote a prominent University of Michigan alum in the January 1901 edition of The Alumnus magazine, was to make such people "realize that their duty is to the University, and not to any faction," and that the hard-headed must be made to "feel that their conduct amounts to treachery to the University."
Oh, to be able to get that message across to all of the hard-heads today. Who was it who said those who fail to remember history are bound to repeat it? Exactly.
But here’s the ‘rest of the story,’ as Paul Harvey used to say. A month later, in February 1901, UM athletic director Charles Baird hired a coach by the name of Fielding H. Yost. He proceeded to turn the football world on its ear with his Point-a-Minute teams of 1901-05, which blew out almost every team it faced in going 56 games without a loss.
No more factions, no more cliques, no more treachery. Just a country full of unified, proud, celebrating University of Michigan alumni, fans, students and faculty. Oh, and Michigan’s vanquished rivals all seething and bickering.
Now THERE is some history worth repeating.