19. July 2011 · Comments Off on Why Michigan and Minnesota Played Twice in 1926 · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , ,

rivalry

One of my Little Brown Jug spies mentioned that morning host Ira Weintraub openly asked on WTKA 1050AM why Michigan faced Minnesota twice in 1926.

It happened…jug don’t lie:

1926 Michigan Minnesota

Here’s a nutshell of what went down.  First, the conference voted at the end of the 1925 season to require teams to play at least four conference games each year (starting in 1926).   For context, the Gophers had played just three conference games in 1925, the Wolverines played six.

Leading up to the annual coaches meeting in December held in Chicago, no team jumped at the chance to add the Gophers to the schedule so that they would meet the minimum four game requirement.

A big reason why no one would schedule the Gophers was that Minnesota’s coach, Doc Spears, ran his offense out of “the shift”.    Spears was buds with Knute Rockne—the man who perfected it the controversial moving formation.  Here’s how Rockne’s official page on the Notre Dame website sums it up:

In the shift, all four backs were still in motion at the snap. Opponents were so dumbfounded by the shift that they couldn’t find a consistent way to handle it. The rules board finally enacted a law against the shift.

The leading conference coaches (including Fielding Yost, Illinois’ Bob Zuppke and Chicago’s AA Stagg) felt it was not so much dumbfounding as it was illegal.  Opponents saw the shift effectively giving the backs a head start (or at least momentum) when the ball was snapped, putting the defense at a disadvantage.  Naturally Notre Dame fans argued (and still argue) it was brilliant strategy, while Yost and others said was cheating.   [Ed. And speaking of brilliant, check out John Kyrk’s excellent rundown of the politics of the shift in Natural Enemies.]

So while no one wanted to schedule Spears and the Gophers in 1926, when they met in Chicago, the tension over the matter was broken when Fielding Yost eventually agreed to play Spears twice thus giving Minnesota four league games.  But why?  I pinged John Kryk who explained, via email: “Yost got Spears to agree to drop the shift.  Actually, it was to agree to a two-second stop but such a delay rendered any shift superfluous, so in effect it was a shift-killing rule. As I wrote [in Natural Enemies],  Spears would rather give up his coveted offense than lose Minnesota’s football arch-rival.”

Yost beat Spears twice that season, 20-0 in October at Ferry Field, then 7-6 in the November finale in Minneapolis, Yost’s final game as head coach.

So there you have it.

Related – Little Brown Jug Lore:

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Next up on eBay Watch, here’s a Michigan football glass from 1969 commemorating the “centennial year of football”:

1969 Michigan glassThe back recognizes Bo’s 1969 team highlighted by the great 24-12 victory of Ohio State.   At first glance it looks like a major screw-up as the centennial of Michigan football would be in 1979, a decade later (when they would really screw things up.)

Upon further review, it might be a bit of early Don Canham marketing coupled with a nod to the 100th anniversary of college football, as Princeton and Rutgers first squared off on November 6, 1869.

The sellers wants <gulp> $64.99

Other stuff:

  • See you after We Beat Ohio.  People get a kick out of Coach Hoke calling the Buckeyes “Ohio”.  I started doing that in casual conversation a couple years ago because I like it, and that’s what I do with things I like.  And I like this: up on eBay there’s a pass for entry into Michigan’s locker room after the 1963 game with Woody Hayes’s “Ohio”: Ohio locker room pass As an aside, the ‘63 game with the Buckeyes was actually moved out a week due to the assassination of President Kennedy.  I touched on that in this post back in 2009.

  • Buy Blue Bonds!  About a year after I asked if anyone out there had one of the $500 bonds issued by athletic department to fund the Michigan Stadium construction in the 1920s, there’s this on eBay.  No, it’s not one of the bonds but rather the application to purchase one or two.  At $249, I’d want it signed by Yost himself.  (I’d say it’s worth $15).  It’s interesting nonetheless, check it out: stadium_bonds
01. October 2010 · Comments Off on This Week in Michigan Football History: Yost, President Coolidge and the 1926 Wolverines · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , ,

The Mighty Wolverine Pack (from this eBay Watch post)

Here’s the next entry in ‘This Week in Michigan Football History’ to be played tomorrow on WTKA 1050AM’s Key Bank Countdown to Kick-off pregame show before the Indiana game.

This time we head way back to October 2, 1926 for the season opener in Fielding H. Yost’s final year as head coach, and the last season the Wolverines would play at Ferry Field.  You get a little history on Yost, on the state affairs on the construction of the new stadium (it was a mess), and on a special trip out east where Yost and the boys met President Calvin Coolidge:

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The sponsor is Wolverine Beer so here’s where you can find it, or check out the Beer Wench’s Blog.  I’m still waiting to have my first Wolverine beer, perhaps some day soon.

You can hear all of the  This Week… clips here.

Check out these videos of Yost and the players from the U-M Bentley Historical Library:

A big thanks to Ira Weintraub down at WTKA 1050AM for passing these along, who in turn got them from longtime WTKA caller ‘High Octane Mike’.

Harold Sherman lived in the area and wandered over to the original Michigan Stadium construction site and snapped these shots.  They were passed along to his son Pete, who was kind enough to show them to the likes of H.O. Mike and Ira.

I’m thinking they date to the late spring timeframe, 1927, a few perhaps later on.   Why?  Well, it appears as though we’ve got some cement work going on here and Yost solicited bids for the concrete work in March 1927 and started pouring shortly thereafter.

Enjoy:

stadium1

stadium2

stadium3

stadium4

stadium5

stadium6

stadium7

Don’t see a steam shovel or crane buried?  From my upcoming interview in GoBlueWolverine magazine with Dr. Robert Soderstrom, author of The Big House:

GBW: One of the greatest tales of Michigan Stadium involves a crane or steam shovel being buried beneath the stadium, lost in all that water and sand during the build. But you didn’t find any evidence of this in your research?

Soderstrom: [laughs] I was unable to confirm that and I’ve heard that story since I arrived in Ann Arbor way back in 1968. I could not find anything in the current literature, either in the Ann Arbor News or the Michigan Daily or anything. I can’t imagine that wouldn’t have been recorded by somebody if in fact they had lost a whole steam shovel.

The [excavator] lost everything else. I also asked his granddaughter and she said she never heard that story from her grandfather.