In 1958, in the midst of a brutal football season and in particular, a 55-24 loss to Northwestern, some students banded together & hung a likeness of Michigan coach Bennie Oosterbaan from a tree on campus.  You stupid turds.  The incident is still recalled by many Michigan fans today.

This week someone is offering up a wire photo of the event, which took place October 20, 1958, for bid on eBay:


Oosterbaan is arguably the greatest athlete ever to step on campus.  He was a three-time All-American in football, an All-American in basketball and all conference in baseball.  All told he won nine letters in Ann Arbor.  Sports Illustrated recently created a ranking of the top Michigan athletes of all-time and slotted Oosterbaan #1.

The 1958 team ended up 2-8-1 to make Oosterbaan’s overall coaching record 63–33–4.  He retired after season and was replaced by former Michigan star Bump Elliott in November.  All told, Oosterbaan delivered three conference titles, a Rose Bowl victory and the 1948 national championship.  Those titles came in his first three years after replacing legend Fritz Crisler.  For his effort Oosterbaan’s name remains on the indoor practice facility where my pal Rogie caught a Hail Mary from Josh Cohen that delivered an IM football championship back in 1992.

As despicable as this whole act is, the U-M students responsible get a slight reprieve as apparently the effigy craze was in full force in 1958.   When asked to rank the greatest Spartan football coaches of all time, many today will point to Duffy Daugherty, who’s name, like Bo’s in Ann Arbor, adorns the school’s football complex.  And there’s little argument in Columbus that barring a string of national titles out of the Sweatervest, Woody Hayes will always be king at Ohio State.  Believe it or not both Hayes and Daugherty were hanged in effigy on campus that year as well, along a Minnesota coach:


It’s remarkable to consider that Oosterbaan, Hayes, and Daugherty were strung up in 1958.  These are seriously a few of the most important names in Big Ten if not college football history.

The ‘everybody is doing it’ excuse only goes so far here and the Oosterbaan hanging might have triggered the whole thing.  Turds.  By the way, even if a handful of bad apples assembled and performed the hanging, it doesn’t look like anyone bothered immediately take it down.  The media obviously had time to snap this photo, and judging from the notes on the back of the photo it might have been snapped the day after.  Bunch of turds.

After the season Benny Friedman, Oosterbaan’s teammate, quarterback and P.I.C. on the Benny-to-Bennie lethal combination in the 1920s jumped to his side.   Check out this letter Friedman sent to Sports Illustrated, nominating his friend as Sportsman of the Year:

I, too, would like to second my teammate at Michigan, Bennie Oosterbaan.

This year Bennie has gone up and down the ladder of success. First, the students at Ann Arbor praised him when the team did a fine job against Michigan State. A couple of weeks later the students hung Bennie in effigy because Michigan had lost so badly to Northwestern, but through all the vicissitudes Bennie has kept his head above water and has maintained himself with a sense of dignity and sportsmanship that has made his critics very little people.
Athletic Director
Brandeis University
Waltham, Mass.

You can buy the effigy photo for $9.99.

* SI’s Top 10 Michigan athletes of all-time (Oosterbaan #1)
* eBay Watch: Have a Highball with Bennie Oosterbaan
* eBay Watch: Ox, Moose and Whitey (1949) – Oosterbaan photo with the Wisterts
* eBay Watch: The Wolverine Pack & 1926


  1. Dools. Thanks for the props. One of my finer IM moments. Sammy still contends it was on 5th down but…whatever. We got the hardware.

    • Rogie, it was a beautiful thing. Haters like Sammy can talk about fifth downs, too many men on the field, or a generous timekeeper all they want. They can never takeaway the hardware, the women, championship parade and the glory

  2. Pingback: This Week in Michigan Football History: The Incomparable Bennie Oosterbaan & September 25, 1948 | | Michigan Football Blog

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