I track a few phrases that prompt a Google alert, including “Fielding Yost.”  If someone’s talking about the Grand Old Man I guess I want to give it a look.

This morning a Bleacher Report post titled, ‘Independance [sic] Day at Notre Dame: How Many More Will There Be?’ popped up.   Beyond tripping over the word ‘independence’ the author also struggles with the use of it’s/its:

What these people are missing is the reason Notre Dame celebrates it’s own independence, along with that of the United States this July 4th.

I usually [always] have a typo or two when I first publish a post and routinely mix tense so I won’t throw too many stones that direction.   But I’m more concerned with a few phrases that are either just wrong or at a minimum, worthy of some deeper analysis:

  • “Following a Notre Dame victory in 1908, legendary Michigan coach Fielding Yost….”  – Nope.  Notre Dame didn’t beat the Wolverines in 1908.  Michigan won 12-6.
  • That sentence continues.. “..refused to schedule the Irish and led the charge to deny the Irish entry into the emerging Big Ten.”   This isn’t wrong but it is worthy of some qualification.  I reached out to  John Kryk author of Natural Enemies for comment.  Via email, the foremost expert on the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry explained:

    Complicated. Not as simple as that, on either point.

    Michigan’s athletic authorities — from the chairman of the Board in Control of Athletics, to alumni members of the board, to athletic director Phil Bartelme — were just as opposed to scheduling Notre Dame in football in the immediate years following the 1910 cancelled-game controversy as was Yost. Michigan students might have been even more opposed. A student editorial in The Michigan Daily in November 1910 might be the most scathing attack on the integrity of Notre Dame athletics ever written.

    Re: Notre Dame’s many attempts to enter the Big Ten, circa 1899 to 1926: Yost’s role is overblown. Yost wasn’t even the most powerful member of the Michigan athletic department when it came to such matters. Ralph Aigler was. Aigler was the chairman of the Michigan Board in Control of Athletics and was Michigan’s faculty member in the Big Ten, and make no mistake it was those faculty members who ran the league in those days. Yost was only the secretary on the UM BIC. Did he hold a lot of power? Absolutely. Was his power absolute, as Crisler’s and Canham’s was in their day? No.

    Yost led the charge to have Big Ten teams boycott Notre Dame in football, and it went almost nowhere. Through the 1920s Notre Dame repeatedly scheduled games against Big Ten teams, from Minnesota to Purdue to Northwestern. Those that refused, like Yost, did so either because they disapproved of Rockne’s controversial football offense (the Shift) — such as Zuppke at Illinois — or disapproved of Notre Dame’s less strict competitive rules that allowed it to play more football games per season before the late ’20s, and thus gain more experience. This was a significant advantage in the early ’20s.

    Did Yost’s opinion and power — and position of power at politically powerful Michigan — have an impact on Notre Dame’s covert attempt to gauge the Big Ten on membership in 1926? No doubt some. Just not a lot, in my opinion.

    That was Notre Dame’s only attempt to join the Big Ten after Yost became athletic director (1921), and after Michigan returned to the Big Ten (1917).

    [Sidenote: Kryk is amazing as you can see.  He responded with the above about 15 minutes after I emailed him.] 

    More concerns:

  • The conference referred to in the Michigan fight song "The Victors" (hail to the victors, hail to the conquering heroes, hail, hail Michigan, the champions of the west")..”  Nope.  Champions of the West in the fight song or otherwise was not a reference to the Western Conference, it was a subjective distinction given to the top team in the region.  In fact when Notre Dame actually defeated Michigan (in 1909), by the end of the season the Irish laid claim to this title on the grounds they defeated Yost earlier that year.   And like Notre Dame, Michigan wasn’t a member of the Western or any other conference at that time.   At the end of the ’09 a heated debate erupted over this matter of the rightful ‘champion’.  From Hail to the Victors 2009:

    Yost explained away the head-to-head loss to Notre Dame by claiming the game was merely a scrimmage, saying “…you must recognize the fact that we went into the game caring little whether we won or lost. Practice was what we wanted.”   On top of this, Yost suggested the Irish were disqualified from any consideration due to their looser eligibility requirements arguing, “There are men on the Notre Dame team who have played years beyond the recognized limit in the West, so that bars them.” The folks in South Bend were furious.

    Despite Yost’s positioning, to this point most tended to give Notre Dame the nod (there was even talk of a “championship” game between ND and Eastern champ Yale) but then things got messier. The Irish had a final game on their schedule against Marquette– the same team Michigan squeaked past 6-5 back in October. The battle on Thanksgiving Day ended in a scoreless tie throwing any previous assumptions out the window. Legendary writer Walter Camp assessed the situation and on November 28, declared Michigan the champion after “taking the whole season and the schedule of both into consideration.”

    Yost let the debate roll on in the papers, but nothing was going to change his mind on who was the rightful owner of the title. The team went ahead and snapped the team picture with Allerdice holding a ball with “Champions 1909” painted upon it.

  • (hail to the victors, hail to the conquering heroes, hail, hail Michigan, the champions of the west")  While I give some credit for getting the name of the song correct, if you are going to quote the words do a quick Google search on the lyrics and get it right:

    Hail! to the victors valiant
    Hail! to the conqu’ring heroes
    Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
    the champions of the West!

    I stopped reading about that point.

    Speaking of Errors – It ain’t me, babe
    While I’m on the topic, thanks to Breeze for pointing this out.  Last week WTKA 1050AM part-time afternoon host Jeff DeFran asked my fellow GoBlueWolverine writer Steve Clarke why his photo didn’t appear along with his GBW article this month.   Jeff asked because he saw a photo inside my interview with U-M Soccer coach Steve Burns and thought it was of me.   Here’s the clip:
    Of course the photo was of COACH BURNS (hint: the M Soccer sticker, the pics of soccer players, the field chart in the background) and the tiny reference to Greg Dooley/GoBlueWolverine below the photo was the photo credit – for the photographer (me).  Although Burnsie and I do have the same haircut FWIW, :)


  1. How does he not know who you are AND know that you have "taken cheap shots" at him?

  2. Someone has to keep the Bleacher"Reporters" in line, especially the Irish ones who like to live in their fantasy world of historical persecution and noble "independance".