I’ve had a few days to think about the newly unveiled ‘Michigan Football Legend’ program.  Bottom line–I really like it.  My whole thing about the history of U-M is whatever gets people talking about former players, coaches, seasons, or games is a 99% of the time a good thing.  (Glen Rice).   The BTN Icons series, for example, had everyone talking about Harmon and of course this was a big couple weeks for Desmond.

legendAnother thing we learned is that it’s clear Michigan will not be retiring any new numbers and on Sunday, Angelique caught up with Dave Brandon who told her this:

Brandon intends to offer the families of the players whose numbers have been retired — Tom Harmon, Bennie Oosterbaan, the Wistert brothers, Ron Kramer and Gerald Ford — to have those numbers re-established but with the "Michigan Football Legend" patch associated with those players.

I’m hoping the families of the guys who have already have had their numbers retired agree to join this program.  The fact is no one really talks a whole lot about Kramer, the Wisterts and even Oosterbaan (unless of course we’re talking about retiring a jersey).

And I’m with Brian, it’d be cool to see someone wearing #98 on the field and have a tricked out Harmon locker.  Someone get Mr. Shoop on the phone to clear this STAT.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see these guys honored again in front of today’s fans?

This is a great opportunity to do a few things:

  • Bob Chappuis could be honored while he’s still with us.  That would be so cool.
  • I think it’s unfortunate that the museum in Schembechler Hall isn’t frequently open to the public, but it’s very well done.  I hope they enhance it with this Legends area and make it more accessible to the fans.
  • This is great way honor Benny Friedman, something that’s long overdue.

A couple questions remain:

  • Funny, after all this we still have an issue with the #1 jersey.  Is it still a Braylon/Carter scholarship thing?  Do we need to pick one person (Carter) to be the Michigan Legend for the #1?
  • Is there some way to honor the Willie Hestons of the world, who did great things before they installed jersey numbers players?
  • Here’s a silly thought but I offer it up nonetheless.  So let’s say a guy heading into his junior or senior season is on the Heisman shortlist.  Does he accept one of the Legend jerseys (if offered) or stick with his existing number, hoping that one day he too will be honored alongside the Desmonds, Woodsons and Friedmans of Michigan history?   What if C-A-T spelled dog?

As an aside, while as mentioned I really like this program and give the AD credit, I’ve gotta question who Brandon considers Michigan football program “experts”:

"In making the decision in how to do this going forward, I have consulted with people who follow the program and consider themselves experts. I would simply say, ‘Name the numbers and the players that have been retired.’ They may name one or two, but they can’t name all five.

Say what?


  1. Greg,

    Great notions on all of this. If I may chip in with my additional thoughts:
    1). I love that a former UCLA quarterback would potentially be part of the decision making process on unretiring “Ol’ 98”. Oh yes, I also hear he has some form of television program?
    2). There’d be something extra awesome about the idea of a Michigan running back in the back field wearing 98. The sheer strangeness of it would prompt discussions of Tom Harmon, which I think would be a great thing all around.
    3). Love the idea of honoring Bob Chappius, he certainly deserves it. He could be sort of the standin for the Mad Magicians as a whole.
    4). My solution on the #1 jersey issue feels like a cop out, but hear me out. Make Anthony Carter the Legend on the grounds that he was thrice all-America and thus he and Bennie Oosterbaan, the only two thrice all-Americas in Michigan history would both be honored in this way (or in the manner of a retired number.) However, on the bottom of the patch add “Braylon Edwards Endowed Scholarship Recipient” which will acknowledge Braylon’s financial largess and the meaning of the #1 jersey to him, while still honoring AC as the legend.
    5). I know there was some concern about an unretired #11 needing to have three names on it, but I think simply “The Wisterts” would get the job done. Would there be any issue with an O-Lineman wearing #11 in this day and age?
    6). If all of the numbers go back in to circulation, that means we get #11, #98, #47, #48, and #87 back.
    7). This is kind of weird, but I almost want #48 to stay retired because I feel the retirement of Gerald Ford’s number was honoring more of the man he became than the player he was. Then if #48 is the only retired number, the fact that the only one is for a U.S. President makes it even better.
    8). Greg, if Kramer were still alive, do agree with my thinking that he would have not only jumped all over this, he would have called Kevin Koger and said “Next game, you’re getting #87 kid, and there’s not two bleeping ways about it, you’ve earned it.” and then told Brandon to get his ass on it for the Eastern game?
    9). Greg, I feel really stupid for not knowing this, especially having read ~Passing Game~. What number was Benny Freidman?
    10). Dave Brandon clearly did not ask Bruce for one, Bacs for another, and Dave A. for a third. Or any of the working media. Or any of us. I suspect Mr. Brandon was engaged in a wee bit of sales based hyperbole.

  2. @Craig
    Awesome stuff Craig. Agree on many points. I can live with the solution in 4), and I totally agree with the thought on the Wisterts.

    I was thinking the same on Ford, but again, maybe he’s better honored/remembered by someone wearing the patch and it being discussed on ABC. (Better be a well behaved kid!).

    On 8), totally, Kramer would have dropped the apples and marched into Brandon’s office and done something just like that, haha.

    9) I know having numbers wasn’t quite mature at that point, but Friedman is recognized as #27 for Michigan.

    10) Perhaps it’s the hyperbole machine at work, but how about replacing “experts” for “longtime fans” or something. Dude.

  3. @Craig. To answer #9, Benny Friedman wore #27. Also, Kramer himself said that he wouldn’t mind seeing another player wear his 87 if he was worthy of it.

    Personally, I would be ok with 48 and 87 coming back, but I wish we could put 11, 47 and 98 up on top of the press box and put empty lockers in the locker room with their info in them. Oosterbaan (3x All-American in football, 2x All-American in basketball), the Wisterts (3 brothers, same position, same number, 4 All-American teams) and Harmon (2x All-American, Heisman, and Ol’ 98) are on a whole different level. But that’s just me.

  4. I’m coming around on the idea, but really, the patch needs some serious work. Way too big, far too ostentatious, looks completely out of place on a game-by-game basis.

  5. Bando, wholly agree on the patch being too big game by game. Maybe it moves to the shoulder on the regular jersey? And now I’m slightly worried that they haven’t thought about how it’s going to look on the road jersey, unless it will be a white background patch on the aways.

  6. #1 jersey goes to AC; 3x all-american; he immortalized the jersey number that everyone else following him coveted. Although Braylon endowed a scholarship, that doesn’t buy a legend status. Kipke wore #1 as well.

    Legend status goes to complete body of work and an exemplary representative of The University of Michigan…like a lifetime achievement award. Dierdorf comes to mind.

    Germany Schulz and Willie Heston just need an appropriate-for-the-position-they-made-their-mark-as number assigned when they receive their Legend status.

    so how many Legends could be come up with? 20 or more? and what’s the stats to become a legend…2x or 3x all-american, heisman winner or runner-up? a CHOFer? who votes…the AD and current coach?

  7. @MM10
    I get the Oosterbaan and Wistert part, but isn’t Harmon’s profile (two-time All-American, Heisman, made jersey number famous) a lot like Charles Woodson’s? I feel like Woodson and Howard would have been slam-dunk jersey retirements if they’d simply played half a century ago. If so, I’m not sure it makes sense to have any other football-only guys’ numbers stay retired. (BTW, Kramer was maybe the ultimate multi-sport guy.)

  8. @jmblue You make a good point about Harmon. If it was up to me, I would have all of the retired numbers displayed in the stadium (which would help eliminate their lack of exposure, which Dave Brandon pointed out as a benefit of the new system), plus I would retire #2 and #21. Or perhaps I would do something like what basketball has done. There are 5 numbers hanging in Crisler (#22 Bill Buntin, #33 Cazzie Russell, #35 Phil Hubbard, #41 Glen Rice, #45 Rudy Tomjanovich) but only Cazzie’s 33 is actually retired–the others are “honored” but the numbers remain in circulation.

    I think part of what separates Harmon is that he was the national scoring leader in both 1939 and 1940 (which very few players have done twice), he had impressive stats not only in rushing but also passing and receiving, and he also a dominant defensive player and handled some punting and kicking duties. A product of his time, to be sure, but nonetheless impressive.