Momentum seems to be building for another former M player (or 2) to have their jersey number retired, something that hasn’t happened since 1994 when we hung up President Ford’s #48.   As Mike Rosenberg discussed recently, Coach Carr brought it up and supports the idea:

"Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson, as winners of the Heisman Trophy, I think they are both deserving of having those jerseys retired," Carr said Wednesday. "I believe that … I think it’s an issue that is very important to Michigan football."

I’m not big on retiring jerseys but if the tradition is going to continue, I’d love to see Desmond and Woodson honored.  And while I don’t think there is racist intent, it’s still a bit glaring after all these years (and Heismans) that no African American is represented among those retired.

So this brings me to this, and thanks to my man and local writer James Dickson (see MVictors guest posts) for allowing me to post this beauty.  A while ago JD dug up this October 1997 report from Amy Whitesall of Ann Arbor News, announcing that #21 would be hung up for good:


Except of course none of that ever happened.

So what’s deal?  The report was pretty specific (U-M board voted Tuesdayceremony next season…) so you’ve got to believe something was seriously in the works.   James was working to track down the story but hasn’t got a clear answer.  I suggested it be posted here in case anyone knew the deal, and JD agreed. 

Coincidentally when the report came out, #2 was doing things like this on his way to Michigan’s third Heisman.

We’ve solved a few mysteries here on these pages, how about this one?  What happened?

1 Comment

  1. Just a little historical info on the history of retiring numbers. At U-M, the tradition of retiring jerseys started not with a Coach or an AD, but with the Equipment Manager, Henry Hatch.

    After Bennie Oosterbaan’s record-setting career ended in 1927, sportswriters noted that Henry Hatch, who assigned numbers for the football team, had taken Oosterbaan’s number 47 out of circulation prior to fall 1928.

    A decade later, before the 1938 season—between the time Harry Kipke coached his last game for Michigan and Fritz Crisler coached his first—Hatch made it official, announcing to the media that number 47 would never be worn again. So this is the second number Harry decided to retire.

    Just two years later, Hatch told the media in November 1940 that Tom Harmon’s number 98 would see its last when Harmon hung up his cleats, a decision that seemed to presage Michigan’s 40-0 romp over the Ohio State Buckeyes, which propelled Harmon to win the sixth Heisman Trophy ever awarded, the first to a Michigan player. The third number Harry retired.

    If allowing the equipment manager to retire numbers seems unorthodox, at the time no one objected. When Harmon was honored, one newspaper caption referred to retiring jerseys at Michigan as “Henry’s Niche of Fame.”

    More than seventy years after Hatch established the custom of retiring jerseys at Michigan, things have gotten a bit more formal, maybe.

    Words in recent years from Fort Schembechler are, for instance, Lloyd Carr said he “was never under the impression” that it was in his power to retire a jersey. One of athletic director Dave Brandon’s priorities is setting a consistent standard for retiring jerseys at U-M. Only three sports, football, baseball, and basketball, have retired jerseys, but with some 27 sports at Michigan, Brandon says now is the time to set a consistent standard. I think maybe that to have your number retired you be a Michigan Graduate, but maybe not ?

    So, with Lloyd saying in the past it was his impression that it was “not in his power” to retire jerseys, sounds like he has changed his tune some as he pushes to have jerseys 21 and 2 retired, which they should be. I think there is only one solution, let the great Jon Falk decide which jersey number to add to the retired list. Then we can say this would be “Jon’s Niche of Fame.”