Many U-M historians know that it was the Michigan Marching band that first performed the ‘Script Ohio’, the beloved pregame formation favored by the Buckeyes.   As I understand it was first performed in 1932 in Columbus, in fact I understand that this is a photo of the mega-sized writing lesson:


I bring this up because check out this clip I ran across from the October 16, 1932 Michigan Daily, published a day after the Wolverines’ 14-0 victory down in the snake pit.   Not that this fact has been disputed, but the article confirms that this happened (“’OHIO,’ spelled out in script..”) and it provides some validation on the photo above (“diagonally across the field”):


I like that apparently the band didn’t stop there, mixing in a MICH (was it a script MICH?) along with the tradition block ‘M’.

I’m sure the Wagner prelude certainly powerful but I’m guessing it was dropped from the regular MMB rotation thanks to rise of the soon-to-be Chancellor over in Germany.

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Ira Weintraub and I walked through a bunch of topics related to 1930s Michigan football early Thursday morning on WTKA 1050AM.  One thing we didn’t discuss was why Kipke’s Wolverines were named national champions back then (and consider so to this day).

Harry Kipke’s 1932 and 1933 teams were champions not by virtue of a poll of writers or coaches.   The two titles were determined by the most widely recognized method at the time: the Dickinson System, a formula devised by Illinois economics professor Frank Dickinson that ranked college teams at the end of each season.

Michigan_Rockne_Trophy The formula was pretty simple.  Each game outcome (win, loss or tie) earned a score based on the quality of the opponent. The total of points for a season was then divided by the number of games to arrive at a common rating metric.    They key for teams in these parts: Dickinson added a factor to adjust for games that involved teams from different parts of the country and it contained a very heavy “Middlewest” bias:

“differential points” would be factored in for an “intersectional game”, with ratings of 0.00 for East schools, higher points for “Middlewest” (+4.77) and Southwest (+1.36), negatives for the South (-2.59), the Big Six (2.60) and the Pacific Coast (-2.71).

Strength of your opponent was a huge factor in the Dickinson system.  A loss against a ‘first division’ team earned you 15 points, while a win against a ‘second division’ team earned you just 20.  In 1933 consider that Michigan actually earned more points for tying Minnesota than did Fritz Crisler’s Princeton for pummeling Amherst 45-0.  I mention the Tigers as they were the only unbeaten, untied team that year but only received sparse support for recognition as national champ as they finished a distant seventh according to the Dickinson.

The NCAA has collected all the other groups that did or have since devised a method to determine the champion.  They’ve since taken them down or moved these listings, but here’s how they break down 1933:

Michigan: Billingsley, Boand, Dickinson, Helms, Houlgate, Football Research, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis*, Poling
Ohio St.: Dunkel
Princeton: Parke Davis*
Southern California: Williamson

Without getting into too far into these ridiculous arguments over who’s better, Ohio State and USC both had losses that season (the Buckeyes were shut-out by Michigan!). Princeton has a beef given they finished 9-0-0 but played what is perceived to be a much softer schedule.  Not a major surprise but the Tigers do claim ownership of the ’33 title per their horrible & shameful website covering the rich history of their football program:

Art Lane ’34 captains the Princeton eleven to an undefeated, untied season and the national championship. This is one of the best defensive teams in Princeton Football history allowing only eight points.

So yes, it was a mathematical formula created by an economics professor that gave Michigan the 1932 and 1933 national titles.  The Dickinson ratings were published until 1940 but in 1936 it was displaced as the accepted determinant of college football champion by the Associated Press writers poll.

Further demonstrating the silliness of these various methods of sorting out the college football season, check this out.  In 2004 the folks down at Southern Cal were digging around and noticed that they held the highest Dickinson rating in 1939 (again, a few years after the Dickinson system took a backseat to the AP Poll).   According to the NCAA no other body views the 8-0-2 Trojans as the champion and all (including the AP) give official the honor to undefeated Texas A&M.  “Whatever,” said USC and in 2004, a month before kick-off of the college football season, USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett made an announcement:

“It was brought to our attention by various individuals that we should be claiming the 1939 Trojans among our national champions in football,” said Garrett. “We took this matter seriously, did significant research and determined this to be true. That 1939 team was one of the greatest in our history.”

If you are curious, here are a few unclaimed national titles Michigan can go after–so someone email Dave Brandon and tell him to get crackin’:

1910: Billingsley
1925: Sagarin <—you could argue this was Yost’s best team
1964: Dunkel
1973: National Championship Foundation, Poling
1985: Matthews, Sagarin


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[Ed. November 10, 2012 – The Wistert Brothers enter the Michigan Football Legends Program]

A truly unique item leads this edition of eBay Watch.  It’s auction of the U-M student identification card for the 1931-32 school year for the first of the legendary Wistert brothers: Francis Michael ‘Whitey’ Wistert:

“Say Cheese!  Fine, just sit there Mr. Sweatervest.”

As the card indicates, Francis was a Chicago native and after graduating from high school worked in a factory building radios.  A decision to tag along with a classmate on a visit to Ann Arbor effectively kicked off the Michigan-Wistert tradition.   Several online references claim Whitey had no football background before coming to Michigan, but he is enshrined into his high school Hall of Fame for “Baseball and Football”.   Oh and yes, he could also play some baseball—he was named Big Ten MVP his senior season.

Whitey anchored the line for Harry Kipke’s back-to-back national championship squads in 1932-1933, and the 6-2, 210 pound stapping lad was named All-American in ‘33:


I’ve written on the Wistert Trio before but in a nutshell, each played football for Michigan of course, each played tackle, each wore 11, all three made it into the college football Hall of Fame and they are the reason you won’t ever see another U-M football player wear jersey number eleven.

The seller is asking $250 or best offer to the Wistert ID card.  Also included is an ID from 1938 when Wistert returned to assist Harry Kipke and his staff: