Since the turn of the last century, as I see it the Michigan coaching hires have fallen into 2 buckets:

  • Legacy Hires > under the Michigan Man umbrella, these are guys with playing and/or coaching experience in Ann Arbor before they took over.  (And FWIW a lack of outside heading coaching success).
  • Hired Guns > gents with head coaching “success” (let’s call it .550 or better) at other college programs but no previous coaching or playing experience at U-M.

Harbaugh is the first hire that really falls on both sides of this divide, having had both college (& NFL for that matter) head coaching success along with U-M ties as a player and alumnus.  A breakdown*:


* I removed George Little who kinda/sorta coached U-M for one season in 1924 while Yost took a breather, and ok, if I moved the mendoza line for “success” down to .500 Hoke gets a check.

A few thoughts:

  • Of the 4 Hired Guns, I think Ivan Maisel of ESPN got it right, comparing this hire to that of Fritz Crisler who won two national titles at Princeton before taking over in Ann Arbor:

For one thing, Harbaugh is the most successful head coach Michigan has hired since it swiped Fritz Crisler from Princeton in 1938. All Crisler did in 10 seasons in Ann Arbor was slap the wings on the helmet, invent two-platoon football, go 71-16-3 (.806) and finish with a 10-0 record in 1947.

  • The next highest profile hire would be Rodriguez (on the brink of a national title shot at WVU), then Yost (short term dominance wherever he went), then Schembechler (Bo who?).
  • Speaking of Yost, he didn’t have the reputation of Crisler or even Rodriguez because in 1900 he still just didn’t have the name out there to attract him to the major college programs.  Michigan found him thanks to a lead from Illinois (Yost had applied for the gig in Champaign in December of 1900—thank goodness they didn’t bite).   I found this short clip in the 1934 Michigan Alumnus where Charles Baird, the AD who hired Yost, described how he found him:

imageDamn, Yost was a beauty.


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02. April 2014 · Comments Off on Wire Photo Wednesday | Demonstrating the Dropkick & 1922 Buckeye Smack · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , , ,


WPW leads off with an awesome shot of old Fritz:

 Fritz Drop Kick 351030697500

Is that Fritz Crisler dropping the ball?  No way man – he’s demonstrating the drop kick.  Back in 1958 Crisler was chairman of the NCAA rules committee and a major change for that year was the introduction of the 2 point conversion.  Coaches weren’t sure what the impact would be—many thought teams would go for 2 after TDs early in the game and then see how things played out.  But it was quickly figured out that hitting paydirt with one play from the three yard line was far from a 50/50 proposition (one source had the success rate in 1958 was around 35%), and most coaches defaulted to kicking the extra point. 

Bringing us back to the photo, it was also suggested that having the option of the two point conversion might result end up in more teams trying the old dropkick.  I think the scenario was that you’d see teams effectively lining up in a triple threat position where the offense could try to run or pass for 2, or execute the drop kick for 1…but that really didn’t happen.  (Heck, it hadn’t even happened in pro football since 1941 and until Doug Flutie’s epic dropkick in 2007).



Above:  Of course that’s not a wire photo but you’ll forgive me.  From a June 1923 athletic department publication, that’s a shot of one of the cars that traveled to the ‘22 Ohio State game down in Columbus, on the day they dedicated Ohio Stadium.  Note the smack talk scribed on the roof “WE’LL DEDICATE IT..” – a reference to the Buckeye plans to dedicate the shiny new Ohio Stadium during the game.   Beyond a big fat YOST on the front, and the “from and from U-M” painted on the door I can’t make out any other gems.  Either way a priceless paint job and yes, Yost and the Wolverines “dedicated” it—crushing the Buckeyes 19-0.

Below: From the same publication, a very cool shot of the frame of what would become Yost Field House, dedicated a few months later in 1923.


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26. March 2014 · Comments Off on WPW | Jimmy Orwig’s Righteous Swig · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , ,


Hump Day!   Wire Photo Wednesday leads with something near and dear to my heart, the Little Brown Jug:


A great shot of a few men from Bennie Oosterbaan’s 1957 roster. Left to right I believe you’ve got: Stan Noskin (QB), Dave Brown (QB), ‘57 captain Jim Orwig (LT) taking a pull, Larry Faul (LG) and Jerry Goebel (C).   We don’t have a lot of information on this shot, but it looks like it appeared in the Minneapolis Star, making me think it was shot just prior to the ‘57 battle for the Jug.  The caption also says that’s a replica – which is looks to be (for starter, there are no scores down the side, at least on the side we can see…).   Good news – Orwig took back the real jug after Michigan’s 24-7 victory on October 26, 1957.


Fritz image

Fritz: “..and finally, we’re getting new helmets..with yellow wings on them.”  
[Team breaks out in laughter]
Fritz:  “Trust me on this one. Wings are the future. Wings I tells ya.”

So I’ve seen this shot on eBay before but never noticed the significance of the date it was taken.  This is actually a pretty historically significant shot from March 28th—the start of Spring football back then.  This is probably one of, if not the first, published photo with Fritz Crisler and a Michigan team.  Fritz of course had just been wooed from Princeton to replace Harry Kipke, who was unceremoniously canned in December 1937.  Good stuff.



Not a wire photo per se, but pure eBay gold nonetheless.  Left to right you’ve got QBs Johnny Wangler, Rich Hewlett (with the pigskin) and Steve Smith on the cover of “GO BLUE Magazine”.   Looks like the photog asked them to say the word “Girls!” because these guys caught a case of the giggles for this shot. 


Previous editions:


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MaraWatch - Wolverines Collection!  Go Blue

Good Wednesday to you, friends.  WPW leads off with a classic shot of the B1G football coaches meeting prior to the 1931 season:

 Kipke and coaches 1931 360785202817   Kipke description
This photo, from the Big Ten meetings prior to the 1931 season, is probably worth its $44 auction price.   On the floor you’ve got M headman Harry Kipke with Purdue coach (and former player under Rockne) Noble Kizer demonstrating life in the trenches.    Minnesota’s Fritz Crisler, who would replace Kipke later that decade, watches from the back.   Amongst the men seated is Illinois legend Bob Zuppke sitting next to the one & only Amos Alonzo Stagg.  Great shot.  Dress code in ‘31?  White shirt, tie, Brylcreem in the hair (except for Stagg).


Benny Friedman 1926 201047600870

I don’t know when wire photos started to be distributed to newspapers, but this has to be a fairly early one (from 1926) featuring the great Michigan quarterback and NFL HOF’er Benny Friedman.   Seller claims it is an original and wants a mere $30.  If it’s truly the original it’s worth over $100 easy IMO.


Iowa Depression 360685717404

The Depression was a bitch.  It was tough to get folks to the Big House in 1933, despite the team entering the season as defending national champion and back-to-back-to-back B1G champs.  Above is a shot from the Iowa game in Ann Arbor on November 11, 1933 and the Wolverines were 6-0 – despite all this but a mere 22,000 fans waddled into the Big House on this day.  (Memo to the sardines crammed in end zone—umm, spread out!!).

Michigan would go on to claim the 1933 national title after tying Minnesota the following week and blanking Northwestern in the finale.



Previous editions:


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05. October 2013 · Comments Off on TWIMFbH: You Gotta Hand it to Chap (1946) · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , , ,

This Week…heads to back at the battle on a hot October 5, 1946 day at the Big House against the Hawkeyes.   That summer we lost Michigan’s Grand Old Man, but returned to us (from World War II) was the great Bob Chappuis.  The formula for coach Fritz Crisler was simple so dig it:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here….sponsored in 2013 by Ziebart of Yspilanti.  Listen to it live tomorrow on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or catch it live inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge.

Radio notes!!

  • I’ll be on with The Wolverine guys at 11am – you can catch it here.
  • I’ll live in the WTKA Victors Lounge at around noon talking jug
  • Catch me on the Michigan Tailgate Show on WWJ 950AM at 2:20pm


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From the front page of September 24, 1940 edition of the Michigan Daily, announcing the demise of the once-great University of Chicago football program:

RIPSo why did one of the original members of the Big Ten, who brought us the heralded Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (and Fritz Crisler, for that matter), ditch football?  This issue of Sports Illustrated from 1954 put it nicely:

The University of Chicago abandoned intercollegiate football in 1939 because the game hampered the university’s efforts to become the kind of institution it aspired to be. The university believed that it should devote itself to education, research and scholarship. Intercollegiate football has little to-do with any of these things and an institution that is to do well in them will have to concentrate upon them and rid itself of irrelevancies, no matter how attractive or profitable. Football has no place in the kind of institution Chicago aspires to be.

It has been argued that Chicago is different. Perhaps it is and maybe it is just that difference that enabled the university to separate football from education.

That’s sweet and all, but methinks the 85-0 beating at the hands of Tom Harmon’s Wolverines in 1939 had a hand in it as well.  Here’s one of my favorite all-time photos featuring Tom Harmon cooling off on the sidelines during that very game:

1939 Tom Harmon vs Chicago

Following the game there was bit of a media frenzy about the future of college football in the Windy City, stemming from a few remarks from the President.  Here’s a tasty headline from the (St. Petersburg) Evening Independent:

Chicago Football a JokeThat same week the Milwaukee Journal quoted one demoralized UC loser student discussing the state of their pigskin program:

“It doesn’t matter much, does it?  The players are having a lot of fun, so why worry?  If a man must look at football, he can always go to see the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.  They’re even better than the best of the college teams.”

At the turn of the century Stagg’s Maroons were Michigan’s fiercest rival and it the squad that handed Yost his first Wolverine defeat in 1905.  And speaking of Stagg & Yost – the heavy drama between the two is being chronicled by writer John Kryk (Natural Enemies) for a new book that will certainly be required reading! 


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Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis vs. Michigan 1945 - Yankee Stadium

While 1945 isn’t the greatest in Michigan football history, Fritz Crisler’s crew finished the season #6 in the country and played one of the toughest schedules in the land.  More importantly, Crisler made history when he faced #1 Army at Yankee Stadium and their Heisman winning duo Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard.

TWIMFbH gets into it here, and I even said “Fritzmen”:

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here.   Listen to it live tomorrow on the KeyBank Countdown to kick-off on WTKA 1050AM or catch it live inside the Bud Light Victors Lounge.


1932 –“I thought Crisler was a Violin Player”
1934 – Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
1937 – Fritz’s Secret Practice
1938 – Harmon and Old Number..Six?
1938 – Debut of Crisler’s Winged Helmet
1944 – Michigan’s Debut as a Nocturnal Eleven
1945 – Army Program from Yankee Stadium
1947 – 1948 Rose Bowl and the title debate
1948 – Crisler Describes the Spinner

Take a look at this wire photo from the 1938 Michigan-Ohio State game:


According to the caption those are two befuddled Buckeyes, namely Mike Kabealo (#16) and Jim Strausbaugh (#4), who opted to break out the Thriller dance instead of catching the pigskin during the November 19, 1938 season finale in Columbus.    Michigan cruised to a 18-0 victory.

1938 was special year in Michigan football history.  It was Fritz Crisler’s first at the helm of the Wolverines and thus the debut of the coveted winged helmet.   Crisler was tasked with cleaning up the mess that Harry Kipke left behind and clean it up he did, leading the squad to a 6-1-1 finish.  The lone defeat was a 1 point setback to Minnesota and it would take Crisler a while to crack that Little Brown nut.

1938 also marked the debut of Tom Harmon on the varsity squad and this was the first season since OSU started the “gold pants” tradition in 1934 that a Buckeye team walked away without the precious charm.  


1937 – Fritz’s Secret Practice -Pass to Princeton football practice
1938 – Harmon and Old Number..Six? – Tom Harmon wearing number 6
1938 – What a Woman! -Rose Queen holds 1901 team pic
1938 – Debut of Crisler’s Winged Helmet -Helmet history
1939 – Tommy’s the BMOC – Tom Harmon photo in classroom
1939 – Intrepidus, the Last Wolverine – Last visit of a live wolverine at game
1939 – Harmon Takes a Sip, Chicago Quits – Old 98 wire photo
1940 – The Drunk and Old 98 – Life magazine scene



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I love dropping by the U-M Bentley Historical Library.  I stopped in recently doing a little research for the 2012 edition of HTTV and check out this gem Brian W., one of the archivists, shared with me:

ufer pigskin

Now we know that the late, great U-M radio voice Bob Ufer played freshman football in Ann Arbor and was a U-M track star at Michigan, but I didn’t know he gave varsity football a run.   Apparently so, as above is one of Fritz Crisler’s preseason surveys filled out by old Ufe himself.   (Here’s Tom Harmon’s 1943 form, posted in 2010, worth a look if you haven’t seen it).  

He was living at the Phi Delt house at the corner of South University and Washtenaw at the time and as a good Pennsylvania worked in the steel mill during the summer. 

Speaking of Ufer, had to scan eBay for a cool photo and jackpot.   Here he is in 1976 showing off his luxurious sled and his fitting vanity plate:


Bentley bio and sound clips – official site, clips and more
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29. August 2011 · Comments Off on Closer to the Poof Scenario · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , ,

The latest Ohio State media guide apparently wiped Tressel’s 2010 coaching season from the books:

— 94, career wins for Tressel at Ohio State. The media guide does list Tressel’s win total after subtracting the vacated 2010 season. So he’s 94-21 (instead of 106-22) and is credited with an 8-1 record vs. Michigan (9-1 before 2010 was erased), nine bowl appearances (instead of 10) and six Big Ten championships (he had seven before the self-imposed penalties took away last season).

We’ll see how the Big Ten treats it.  As discussed here, if the Big Ten agrees that the 2010 season never happened for Tressel, he’ll be wiped from #2 behind Fielding Yost in the all-time conference coaching standings which requires a minimum of ten seasons at the helm.   Tressel would just have nine, and thus…see ya.

The bonus: guess who’s currently at #3?  Bo Schembechler of course, meaning General Bo will nestle up to Yost in second place if this goes down: