I’ve made a couple trips over to the Bentley Library researching a story on the 1909 season. I’ll probably have more on that later. But in between digging through the Michigan Daily archives, letters and contracts from the athletic department, and of course the online records, I uncovered a little oddity concerning the ’09 season.

According to the Bentley web page for the 1909 season, and this link from mgoblue.com which lists Michigan’s all-time record against opponents,  the official final score of the Syracuse game played October 30, 1909 at Ferry Field was Michigan 43, Syracuse 0:

Michigan 43, Syracuse 0 1909?

So that’s the published word on the game from the top two sources from the University.   But a little digging revealed some sources that differ.

Check this out.  An article in the of the New York Times from 1914 lists Michigan’s results against eastern opponents, and shows the result of the 1909 game as 44-0:

Michigan 44, Syracuse 0 1909

Further, John Kyrk’s wonderful book Natural Enemies, the history of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry, makes a short reference to the game with the same final result:

The Orangemen were supposed to have presented a stiff challenge, but Michigan surprised the Eastern folk by crushing Syracuse 44-0.

Finally, back to a University-published source, the U-M yearbook (Michiganensian) for 1910 recapped the season and made two references to the 44 point final tally, including this summary of the 1909 gridiron campaign on page 222:

Michigan 44, Syracuse 0 1909

If you handed me the above references, I guess I’d lean toward the forty-four score. The official Michigan sites clearly have a lot of weight, but one error could have rippled through to all the U-M affiliated sites. When you have the Michiganensian from 1910 having the higher score and backed up by the Kryk’s work (the book is meticulously researched) and top it off with the NY Times, if nothing else you’ve got to question the 43-0 score.

Thankfully the Bentley has an extensive archive collection of the Michigan Daily, which was first published back in 1890.  Here’s the headline on October 31, 1909, the day after the game:

Michigan 44, Syracuse 0 1909

So…case closed, right?  But this doesn’t explain why the other sources have the score listed as 44-0.

That is, until I looked a couple days later in the Michigan Daily and found this headline:
Michigan 44, Syracuse 0 1909?

The article explains a scoring error that occurred at the end of the game:

Michigan defeated Syracuse by a score of 44 to 0 instead of the 43 that was originally reported. The mistake resulted from a failure of the scorer to credit Michigan with an extra point after Referee Fultz and Field Judge Booth had both declared that Allerdice had kicked goal after Wells’ touchdown, the last one of the game. This credits Allerdice with kicking six out of seven goals instead of five.

I took the matter up with Greg Kinney at the Bentley Library.   He said the Bentley scores are fed from the athletic department and suggested the matter would need to be taken up with the folks in media relations.   Usually in a case like this, Kinney advised, they’ll add an asterisk by the score with an explanation (see the result of the Stevens Institute game back in 1883).

Here’s my suggestion:

  • Change the score to 44-0
  • Add an asterisk noting that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard showed 43-0.
  • Issue me a varsity ‘M’ for scoring a point.*

* Or a Varsity ‘N’ for being a nerd


  1. This is interesting, MVictors. Good sleuthing. If the officials signaled a good extra point, but the scorer in the press box (if there was such a thing) never recognized it, and the officials never made an attempt to correct it, does the point officially count (regardless of what the good students at the Daily say)? I suppose it comes down to who, in 1909, was responsible for the official score. I’d love to take a look at the full Daily article some time (and maybe earn my own Varsity “N”).

  2. lew, I republished the entire part of the article that discussed the error. I’m guessing the scorekeepers in those days were like the guys that kept score at your 5th grade hoops games–one of the parents or something.

  3. Pingback: Michigan 44, Syracuse 0! (Nerd kicks extra point)