Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

When looking back at some classic pictures and photos of Anthony Carter, you will notice that most of the time his jersey looked different from those worn by his Michigan teammates.  Your eyes aren’t deceiving you – AC, at times, did in fact wear a different jersey than his maize & blue brethren:

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From 1979 through the 1981 season, Carter wore tear-away jerseys made by Russell Athletic.

Created in 1967 and known for the name they were given, these jerseys would indeed rip and tear apart whenever an opponent tried to grab them.

Before the Michigan jerseys became skin-tight, custom sewn, works of art by a local Ann Arbor seamstress in 1987, football jerseys some 30 to 40 years ago were loose-fitting garments that draped over the players.  The excess material was perfect for a defender to grab onto and take an opponent down, sometimes even from behind. This technique was called a “shirt tackle.”  You’ve probably never heard of that term because when the tear-aways were banned by the NCAA in 1982 (the last year they were used in the NFL was 1979), football jerseys gradually became tighter fitting, making it almost impossible to bring down a ball-carrier via a shirt tackle.

Recently legendary Michigan Football Equipment Manager Jon Falk shared with me the story of how Carter got to wear the tear-away jersey at Michigan.   After sitting down with Bo Schembechler in the spring of 1979 and assigning the heavily recruited Riviera Beach, Florida wideout the #1 jersey Falk had a feeling Carter would be special.  Sure enough the first few practices indeed showed everyone how fast and dynamic AC was.  Never before had a receiver been able to catch every ball thrown to him in practice.  Carter was able to chase down any pass, no matter how far it was thrown.  For three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-Bo and Michigan, this sight was truly shocking.

Schembechler noticed that the times Carter caught the ball in traffic, the only way the Michigan defenders could bring him down in practice was to grab his jersey.  He was just too quick and elusive to bring down any other way.

Two weeks before the season opener against Northwestern, the Michigan jerseys arrived from manufacturer Spanjian and this got Bo thinking – if Carter wore a tear-away jersey the opponents would never be able to bring him down!   Schembechler told Falk to get some tear-aways for his freshman wideout, but there was one problem – with the college football season only two weeks away, Russell was too busy completing jersey orders for other teams.  When Big Jon asked the manufacturer to make some tear-aways, he was told they couldn’t meet his request at that time.

Undaunted, Falk pulled out a trump card and called a longtime friend–the owner of Russell Athletic.  Sure enough, the owner ordered the Russell plant to stop all other production so that they could make some maize and blue #1 tear-aways for Anthony “The Darter” Carter. The rest is history.  Here’s how they looked (note: no Carter nameplate on the back):

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Falk also confirmed my suspicion that Carter was the only player to wear tear-away jerseys at Michigan.  Big Jon told me that he would pack TEN (10) of the #1 tear-away jerseys for each game and that the most Carter went through in one game was four, which happened 3 or 4 times between 1979 and 1981.

Related:
Helmet Decal Details with Jon Falk
Keeping AC Warm – How Michigan Landed Anthony Carter

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Helmet Decals

So word is out that the helmet decals will return and the Legends program will be modified in some manner, starting with the patch on the jersey.  Bacs:

bacs tweet

Regarding the helmet stickers:  I’m not surprised (my spies confirmed a lot of chatter weeks ago) and you can imagine that I’m pretty jacked up and looking forward to the decal reveal. I’d prefer a replica or close variation of the Bo-era decals, but I’d go with a block M or whatever.  I know Dr. Sap has a few ideas that we’ll reveal down the road.  Heck, I’d even go with this design if it would mean cheaper tickets & Twizzler prices:Im loving it

On the Legends jerseys, I’ll start with Bacon’s tweet.  I think he’s probably right that Canham or Bo wouldn’t have been crazy about the concept, but I wonder if they would be ok with unwinding this (at least the jersey portion) after it was already unveiled. 

I need more info on what exactly happening here, but I really like the Legends program including the patch on the jersey.  Whether you like the aesthetics of the patch or not, what this concept did was bring these great players to the forefront and got people (people other than yrs truly) talking about them again.  Dave Brandon had to sell the families of those who had previously retired jersey numbers to bring them back on the field, so now what?  

Legends Program Montage(Bennie McCready & Jake Ryan | Ox Wistert | Mark Harmon)

I know that the athletic department has at least tried to reach out to certain family members of Legends recently I assume to, ahem, talk this through.

I think the biggest problem with the Legends program is that it became a burden on the coaching staff to dole out these jerseys to the “right” player and they felt obligated to include the families as much as possible.  It was probably easier to not bother.  My take, and what I’d sell to the families—just let the coach decide who gets the jersey and leave it at that.  If the designated player and the families form a relationship after that, all the better, but I wouldn’t ask the coaches to work all that out ahead of time.  To Desmond, one of the living Legends (along with Ox Wistert), I’d say the same thing – don’t worry about whether the player “earned” the right to wear #21, just let the coaches assign the number and that’s that.  It should be an honor to Desmond that his name is on any jersey on the sideline.    This bureaucratic burden was why RichRod buried the #1 jersey. 

So, before I blast away any further I’ll chill until I hear more.  My questions — Do the special Legends lockers in the stadium go away?  Does the section of the Towsley museum carved out for the Legends vanish?   Of course the biggest question – do the previously retired jerseys go back in the vault?

No matter what, looks like we’ll have some interesting tweaks to the Uniform Timeline this fall.

 

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10. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , ,

Former U-M media relations legend Bruce Madej guest hosted in studio with Ira on WTKA this morning.  They were joined mid-morning by WXYZ sports director Tom Leyden who shared a few stories, notably this recap, perhaps never shared before, around his first hand experience of the events when Bo Schembechler passed away back in 2006:

 

Whoa!  And when you deliver a U-M football story that Madej hasn’t heard, you know you’ve got something.

H/T to GN for passing this along.

 

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UGP

[Ed. In a repost from January 2014, Dr. Sap is back and offers up some Bo-era flavor that comes from the treasure trove that is the Sap archives. –G]

Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

When Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh scored on a quarterback draw against Notre Dame in 1985, little did he know that a photo of the classic TD would spark an interesting discussion in the national media.   As Harbaugh crossed the goal line that afternoon, Ara Parseghian exclaimed on the CBS broadcast, “A quarterback draw – great call!”

The next week, Sports Illustrated captured Harbaugh’s scoring play under the title, “A Cure For Bo’s Blues”:

A Cure for Bo's Blues - HarbaughA couple of SI readers took notice of the NFL football Harbaugh was cradling in the photo.  They were inspired to write the editor and ask why a collegiate athlete was using a professional pigskin:SI Letter - Jim Harbaugh's NFL Wilson footballAs noted by SI’s ED/Sir, this question was addressed by the NCAA and the next year they decided to modify their college footballs that were used by Division I schools. So when Michigan played at Notre Dame in 1986 Harbaugh was throwing around the new AFCRT Wilson 1001:

Jim Harbaugh - Notre Dame 1986It was the same model, size and shape as the NFL Wilson – it now just had a different, less professional-looking, stamp on it.  Of course everyone then was asking, “What the heck does AFCRT mean?”  It stands for the American Football Coaches Retirement Trust and is essentially a retirement plan setup for qualified college football coaches.

The ball stayed in circulation for a few years. In fact, when Demetrius Brown outdueled Rodney Peete in the 1989 Rose Bowl, this was the ball that was used in that glorious victory over the Trojans:

AFCRT pigskin Michigan

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Thanks Sap!  If you want to see the best looking ball from a Notre Dame game, that’s easy.  My pal and artist Jil Gordon does the handiwork on many of the game balls awarded to players and coaches.  Here’s what she did for UTL 1.0 – just amazing:

ND ball

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maratop[1]

[Ed. What the heck – a primer on Jim Harbaugh’s greatest moments as a Wolverine as we await the official decision. Once again a nicely done Bo-era gem from Dr. Sap!]

A guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

#5: 1984 Miami (FL) – Jim Harbaugh’s first start as a Michigan Wolverine would come against the #1-ranked, defending National Champion Miami Hurricanes and he didn’t disappoint. Wolverine fans, myself included, had long felt that the maize and blue lacked one thing on offense for a few years – a tall, pocket-passing QB, ideally from California. That finally happened with the Palo Alto, CA 6-3, 202 pound Harbaugh.

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Having heard that he had attended a high school passing camp with John Elway as his instructor, sealed the deal for me – Harbs was going to be the next starting QB in my opinion and his first start was highly anticipated by many. His first two passes against Miami – an out pattern to Vince Bean for 11 yards and another to Steve Johnson for 16 yards – showed off his strong arm, much to the delight of the Michigan Stadium crowd, as Michigan went on to win, 22-14. It was an impressive victory for the Wolverines and a great start for the new QB from California.

#4: 1985 Notre Dame – Remembering how Michigan finished the 1984 season at 6-6, not many gave U-M a chance in the season opener against Notre Dame in 1985. It was a statement game for both Michigan and its quarterback. Would the Wolverines bounce back with another 10-win season?

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Would their quarterback return to form after breaking his arm a year earlier? A strong defense and solid ground game would power the maize and blue to the victory, and while Harbaugh didn’t light up the scoreboard with his passing, he was effective enough through the air to get the win, 20-12. His 3rd quarter touchdown on a quarterback draw and his ensuing endzone celebration put an exclamation point on the victory – Michigan and Harbaugh were back. 

#3 1985 Ohio State – With Iowa having all but wrapped up the Rose Bowl bid a few weeks earlier with a one point win over Michigan, the Wolverines and Buckeyes were playing for Fiesta & Cotton Bowl bids respectively.

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Not quite the same, but the chips were still high and Harbaugh was clutch throughout the game – particularly on 3rd down. Michigan’s QB would finish the game 16 of 19 for 230 yards and 3 TD’s with 8 of 9 passing on 3rd down for 8 first downs. He topped his clutch performance with a 77-yard touchdown bomb to John Kolesar that put a dagger in the Buckeye hearts once and for all as Michigan won, 27-17.

#2 1986 Notre Dame – Going into the game against the Irish in 1986, Michigan was ranked #1 in some polls but Notre Dame was strutting out their new coach and no one knew what to expect from Lou Holtz and ND.

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Two moments stood out for me in this game: (1) After Harbaugh floated a perfect 27-yard touch pass to Jamie Morris for a touchdown, the Michigan quarterback flashed the #1 finger as he raced to the endzone to celebrate the score with his teammates. When did Michigan’s QB ever proclaim so visibly that they truly were #1? Never. (2) Late in the 4th quarter with the contest still in doubt and facing a critical 3rd & 6 at their own 22 yard-line, Harbaugh lofted a perfect 38-yard pass to Kolesar down the Michigan sideline that got the Wolverines out of trouble. When did Bo EVER throw deep on a critical 3rd & short with the game on the line? Never. Not until #4 arrived. A last-second John Carney field goal miss preserved the 24-23 Michigan victory.

#1 1986 Ohio State – After beating Notre Dame (twice), after beating Ohio State at home, and after winning the Fiesta Bowl, there was still something missing on the Harbaugh resume: a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl berth. Both were on the line in 1986. If that wasn’t enough pressure, Harbaugh put the bull’s-eye squarely on himself after he predicted victory over the Bucks on the Monday before the tilt with OSU.

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This game was what he dreamed about as a kid emulating his boyhood idol, Rick Leach – beating the Bucks & going to Pasadena – and nothing was going to prevent him from reaching his ultimate goal. Much like he said before his first start in 1984, he was going to do whatever it took to win. In this game it meant overcoming a 11 point deficit in the second half and the raucous crowd in Columbus he so incited with his guarantee. It meant cupping his hands around his facemask to make it appear that his teammates could not hear his audibles that he really wasn’t screaming to them. It meant not throwing a touchdown pass the entire game. It meant executing the game plan to perfection. When it was all said and done, Harbaugh & the Wolverines would emerge victorious In Columbus, 26-24. They were Big Ten Champs and would head west to play in the Rose Bowl, just like he dreamed about as a kid.

Other Notables on Harbaugh:

  • Harbaugh would be the first UM QB to throw for 300 yards in one game (1986 Wisconsin, 1986 Indiana).
  • #4 was the nation’s most efficient passer in 1985 & finished second in 1986.
  • He would also become the QB to successfully break the Bo threshold of attempting more than 25 passes per game AND WIN – another indication that Michigan had finally devised an effective passing game that could win games.
  • Harbaugh started his career being late for his first team meeting and held a clipboard that entire 1982 season. He ended his career by hoisting the Big Ten Championship Trophy and singing The Victors in Columbus.

 

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1969 Michigan Vanderbilt Program

This week we head back exactly 45 years to the opener of the 1969 season and a new era in Michigan Football History.  It was of course the debut of Bo…and Canham’s beloved new carpet:

Speaking of Canham’s carpet, I love this old shot of Dierdorf and Bo:

Bo and Dierdorf inspect new artificial turf

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here…And don’t forget to catch it live Saturday on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge starting at 11:30am.

 

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