moes tourney

Ed. On the anniversary of Harry Newman’s passing on May 2, 2000 – a repost (originally from March 17, 2013:

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This edition of eBay Watch starts with a couple shots from Michigan’s 1932 battle with Northwestern played in the Big House:

1932 Northwestern - Pug 400433201511

The ballcarrier is #23 Earnest “Pug” Rentner, an All-American back for the Wildcats.    Here’s another shot in a separate eBay auction featuring Michigan’s star Harry Newman apparently snatching a ball out of mid-air:

1932 Newman front 360615511928

The caption attached to the second shot claims this is Newman intercepting a pass from Rentner, but I’ve seen no evidence in the recaps that Newman got a pick in this game.  He did a bunch of other things (fumble recovery, long passes, punt return, a field goal, etc.) but no interception.

While game photos are pretty easy to come by these days (heck, I have 100s from the Outback Bowl), I love these vintage photos.  There might be a film clip or two out there from this game but beyond that I’m guessing these shots are few and far between.

Despite the sparse Big House crowd (it was the Depression, man) this game was one of the most anticipated match-ups along Michigan’s march to the 1932 national title.   The Wildcats had put together quite a squad in the early 1930s and shared the conference crown with Harry Kipke’s Wolverines in 1930 and 1931 but…the teams didn’t face each other those seasons.  Via Hail to the Victors 2012:

Pug and The Purple Gang
The next week was the most anticipated battle of the season. Northwestern and Michigan shared both the past two conference titles and two of the biggest stars in college football: the Wildcat’s 1931 All-American back Earnest “Pug” Rentner and of course U-M’s dangerous Harry Newman. As an aside, Rentner’s moniker was spot on–hide the dog Two Pugs biscuits because my man Ernie was one pooch-faced fellow.

The story of the game was how Newman outshined the more nationally decorated Pug as the Michigan “system” defense stuffed Rentner in the 15-6 Wolverine triumph. According to the Daily, “Harry Newman completely dominated the limelight with his spectacular runback of punts, his accurate passing, and his excellent field-generalship.” That would become a theme in 1932. Suddenly the east coast media took notice of Newman and his Wolverines.

Pug fumbled on the first play of the game, and managed to net just over 30 yards on 34 attempts on the day.   Harry set up  both scores and kicked a field goal to cap Michigan’s scoring.   As noted in HTTV, the snuffing of Pug along with Newman’s performance put Michigan (and Harry) on the national watch list.

Newman carried Michigan on his back the rest of the way, finishing a perfect season and in December was quietly declared the 1932 National Champion thanks to the Dickinson System (via the Michigan Daily):

M Daily Dec 11 1932

Newman was named college player of the year and would have won the Heisman Trophy that season had it been around.   Not too bad for a feller who went just over 5’ 7”:

Lewan and Newman

You can own those 1932 photos – link to the Pug Rentner shot here, and the Harry Newman phantom interception here.

Related:  Two guys on that ‘32 squad were Willis Ward and president Gerald Ford (Ward saw significant action this season, Ford rode pine).  On eBay right now, check out these, umm, presumably unauthorized action figures (with several historical liberties!) of your heroes from Black and Blue.  Click the pics to see the auctions:

Gerald Ford Action Figure Willis Ward Action Figure

Ford carrying the pigskin?  Chip straps, modern shoulder pads, maize helmets?  Oy ! Oy ! Oy !

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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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