01. February 2011 · Comments Off on Big Ten Icon #5 – Why Tom Harmon Went to Michigan · Categories: Archive 2010 · Tags: , , , , ,

Monday the BTN revealed that Old 98 Tom Harmon will be the next athlete featured in their Icons series.  The Harmon segment will appear on Super Bowl Sunday at a special time: 2:30PM (it will re-air again at 9pm). 

Continuing the discussion of items you might not know about Harmon.  In the last post I mentioned his high school athletic prowess at Horace Mann high in Gary, Indiana.  An interesting question is why he ended up at Michigan.  Three factors would suggest that Harmon might consider a different destination during his senior year of 1936-37:

  • Harmon had brothers who were athletes at relatively nearby Purdue & another who landed at Tulane.
  • Michigan football was in the middle of a horrible stretch, coming off the worst 3-year span in school history from 1934-1936.  (And still the worst three year stretch, thanks Brian for having my back.)   He was walking into a serious rough patch and head coach Harry Kipke was under fire
  • The powerhouse at the time was jug rival Minnesota, with Bernie Bierman’s Gophers rolling up a string of 3 straight national championships.  Nearby Notre Dame and coach Elmer Layden had some decent teams in the mid-1930s as well.

    One disclaimer: I’m not a Harmon biographer of course.  These thoughts draw upon what I’ve read over the years (which isn’t everything).

    First, the cynical view of why he ended up in Ann Arbor:  It was alleged that Harmon benefited from a little financial “help” from the Gary and Chicago U-M alumni groups and this nudged him to Ann Arbor.  This is something Harmon and the groups vehemently denied.   When an investigation of illegal alumni support of 5 freshman (including Harmon) kicked in during his first year on campus, word got out that Harmon might bolt to another school most publicly Tulane (where he could get a scholarship).  He stayed of course and thrived under new Coach Fritz Crisler.

The non-cynical view:  THIS IS MICHIGAN!  Despite the tough stretch U-M was a still a great football power with two national titles in the decade under Kipke.  On top of this and perhaps more importantly, Harmon’s high school coach Doug Kerr suited up for the Wolverines in the late 1920s and he seemed to be a strong influence.   When it was learned that Harmon was staying in A2 after Tulane-gate*, one of the reasons cited was his relationship with Kerr.  Harmon also had thoughts of becoming a broadcaster after college and Michigan offered an top notch education to help make that happen.  Remember, back then “going pro” wasn’t an automatic given the choice.

There are a few thoughts, you decide.  In the meantime, here’s Harmon the BMOC:


* Yes, I’m dropping a –gate on something three and a half decades before Watergate.

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In this post last week I mentioned that I contacted the Big Ten about their listing of the all-time conference coach rankings by winning percentage.   I noticed that Jim Tressel (.823) was on the right on the heels of Fielding Yost (.833):


But Yost’s record included all 25 years that he was a coach but we know that Michigan wasn’t in the conference for a big chunk of his tenure.   I reran the numbers after removing the years the athletic department lists as out of conference (1907-1918), and the Yost’s winning percentage jumped to .888—a tad out of reach of The Sweatervest.

I shot an email to the Big Ten and was told they would look into it.  This afternoon Scott Chipman, Assistant Commissioner of Communications, got back to me:

We made the change in the weekly release and for next year’s media guide. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

My pleasure!

The new weekly release is out and here’s the updated listing: yost888

Much better, no?

Side note:  my pal, writer & historian John Kryk (Natural Enemies) knows his history and argues that Michigan didn’t officially leave the conference until January 1908 (and thus the 1907 should be considered as in conference).  The athletic department and the Bentley Library list 1907 as out of conference.  I asked Greg Kinney of the Bentley Library to give me a ruling.  But Yost fans fear not—if you add 1907 to Yost’s tally he barely budges (.885).

Michigan 44, Syracuse 0! – The Bentley adds another point for Yost and crew.

Jeff Arnold of AnnArbor.com mentioned this in his game notes from Saturday:

The 132 points that Michigan and Illinois combined for set a record for a Big Ten conference game. The previous mark was set in 1902 when Michigan and then-Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State) scored 119 points in a 119-0 Wolverines victory.

I read that in the paper Sunday but missed this error that MVictors reader "jmblue" points out:

By the way, we’ve been told repeatedly that the "highest-scoring Big Ten game" before this was our 119-0 win over Michigan Agricultural College, but that’s not accurate since M.A.C. wasn’t in the conference at the time. Any idea what the highest-scoring actual conference game was?

Yes, according to the Big Ten weekly release it was this game:

Last Saturday at Michigan Stadium, Illinois and Michigan went to triple overtime and piled up 132 points to shatter the record for combined scoring in a conference game.

The previous Big Ten record for combined scoring in a conference games was 115 points when Minnesota defeated Purdue, 59-56, on Oct. 9, 1993.

Other Stuff
While browsing through that release I stubbed my toe on a few other items of note.  Check these out starting on Page 7 at the bottom under "Current Players Amount Or Nearing Single-Season Leaders".  You knew that Denard was tops all time for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,349 so far) but did you know?:

* Currently active Big Ten quarterbacks rank as 4 of the top 5 all time in season completion percentage.  So were over halfway through the season — do we chalk this up the fact that we haven’t factored in the coldest weeks of the season?   And look at passing efficiency.  Did you know that the legendary Bob Chappuis is first all-time but Rick-freaking-Six is right on his heels?   "Miss it Ricky."


Finally check this out.  They list the all-time conference coaching records by overall winning percentage while a member of the conference, minimum 10 years.  Given this is Jim Tressel’s 10th season old Sweatervest McCheaty Pants makes the grade..and he’s right on the heels of The Grand Old Man!   He’s just a few percentage points away:


However!  Not so fast my Scarlet-sweatervested friend…

Note that this applies to all games "played while a member of the Big Ten."  Michigan wasn’t a member of the conference from 1907-1916 and they counted that in Yost’s percentage.  (For the purposes of record keeping Western Conference = Big Ten).

Here’s how his numbers stack up when you correct this and only account for his record while coaching in the conference:


Yep – not .833 but a whopping .888 percentage.   I contacted the Big Ten media relations folks to have them take a look at this and make sure there’s some breathing room between Yost and Tressel.

[ed. 11/8 -  I already got a response from the Big Ten.  They’re going to talk it over and get back to me.]


WTKA broadcast live from Schembechler Hall this morning and Sam and Ira did a solid segment with AD Dave Brandon.  Topics ranged of course, but Brandon also addressed some tough questions about divisional realignment, particularly where Ohio and Michigan might fall.

You can hear these and all the WKTA podcasts here, or click below, in two parts.  He gets into the division realignment questions in the second part:


A few key quotes on divisional realignment.

  • When asked if he were making the decision, would he put Michigan and Ohio State in the same conference division?  Brandon paused then answered. "No."
  • Sam asked, "Why?"  Brandon:  "Because we’re in a situation where one of the best things that could happen, in my opinion in a given season, would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice.  Once in the regular season and once for the championship of the Big Ten.
  • Sam asked about whether they would hold the tradition to keep that the last game of the season.   Brandon:  "I think there’s a distinct possibility that that game will be a later game in the season, but not necessarily the last game of the season.  And that’s simply because…I don’t think the coaches, or the players, or the fans, or the networks or anyone, would appreciate that match-up to happen twice within the same seven day period.  So, however the divisional alignments occur, and I think we’re getting closer and closer, and I don’t get to make the decision but I get 1/12th of the vote…"
  • Further. Brandon: "What you’re really going to want is that last game of the regular season to really determine, often times, the championship—who’s going to be the champion of that division and go to the championship game and play for all the marbles.  So from a scheduling/timing perspective it’s a new ballgame and although I love playing Ohio State in the last game of the year, I don’t think it’s necessarily a slam dunk that that’s going to continue."
    Translation?  Bank on it.  Ohio State will be in the other division, we’ll meet every year midway through the Big Ten schedule.



    The topic of conference rivalries came up on several occasions at Big Ten media days last week.  You may have caught Minnesota coach Tim Brewster utter the following:

    “We haven’t played Michigan for the past two years,” Brewster said. “To me, I don’t see anything different there. Obviously the Little Brown Jug is a historical game and it’s been really important to Michigan and Minnesota for a long time … I just don’t feel like that game is in the same place as the Wisconsin and Iowa games.”

    A few thoughts here. 

    Clearly the history of this game and its trophy means a lot to me and it seems to be a given that the Wolverines and Gophers will be on the opposite side of the soon-to-be-announced Big Ten divisions.  This will mean that the teams won’t meet on a regular basis and the battle for the jug will be an on-again, off-again affair. 

    I’m ok with this.  If the conference moves to a nine game conference slate, Michigan will still face four of the six team in the opposite division anyway.  The Jug game won’t be going away and when they do meet it’ll mean that much more.   

    And heck, we’re running out of space on the crock anyway:

    Related, The Little Brown Jug Lore Series:
    Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930s
    Part II: Spinning Myths
    Part III: Getting it Right
    Part IV: 2013: A Space Quandary
    Part V: Red Wing Roots
    Part VI: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
    Part VII: Open Questions

    18. May 2010 · Comments Off on Dufek’s Homer – The Call (audio) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

    Love this photo – mgoblue.com

    Certainly by now you’ve heard of Michigan’s epic comeback from down 14 runs to Northwestern this weekend on Senior Day.   The story made it to SportsCenter and prompted ESPN to ask, ‘Are you Serious?’

    WTKA’s Ira Weintraub called the game on the radio and was kind enough to forward over a clip of his call the Dufek’s bomb.  Per Ira, “Not a great call, but not bad for a guy who has now called 8 baseball games in the last 10 years!!”  

    Not to bad indeed, and note Weintraub using the Harwell technique of letting the crowd and band paint the scene after the blast:


    For more, check out frequent mgoblog diarist FormerlyAnonymous who gave his account of the game.   (HT: Ace @ TWB)

    And speaking of WKTA 1050AM, Rich Maloney’s call into Sam and Ira this morning is worth a listen.   Maloney effectively acknowledged the was over at 13-0, telling his players that no team of his has ever quit during a game, and it wouldn’t be happening today.  That said, he did tell the guys that the wind was blowing out and their pitching was a bit depleted.  Who knew?  Unfortunately I don’t see the podcast up there yet; it is comes up I’ll toss up a link.