This week we start with 1958, Bennie Oosterbaan’s final season at the helm in Ann Arbor and roll up to the coach and the team being honored Saturday in Michigan Stadium: Bump Elliott and the 1964 Big Ten & Rose Bowl Champions:

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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Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.

See Part I: Starting from Nothing
See Part II: 
The Season

Getting Business Time
The trip to the Rose Bowl was conducted in two distinct phases – party time and business time.   The first portion started off with the usual tours, some time to hang out and a bit of partying. And the team lost focus.

“Chrysler gave us a car for every 4 guys,” Barry Dehlin recalled.  “For the first week, you had a bunch of 20-year-old guys out there and we were partying.”

But as young men tend to do, they took advantage of their celebrity status with the California coeds.  “We go to Disneyland and the next thing you know we’re in our hotel room and there are eight or ten of the Disneyland tour guides,” Conley recalled.  And the captain wasn’t immune.  “We went to the Whiskey a Go Go.  The girls are dancing and all that, and let’s just say we had some guys that were good at what they do, you know what I mean?”  

“I’ll never forget, we’re walking into the hotel.  There’s Bill Laskey with me and a couple of other guys.  We’ve got these damn girls with us with those frilly skirts shaking around.  As we’re walking down the hall [assistant coach] Jocko Nelson walks by, looks at me and says, ‘Captain Conley.’ And I go, ‘Coach Nelson.’  And we just kept going right on by. [laughs]”

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Conley and Bump

Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.

See Part I: Starting from Nothing

 

The Season
Following Conley’s direction the team returned ready to go.  More than that, they were ready from something more—they were hungry.

A few players made personal sacrifices that fall to help stay focused.   Conley gave up drinking—at least for the most part.  “OK, I slipped a couple of times on a Saturday night after we won.  But for the most part I didn’t do it.”  Other guys on the team made more challenging sacrifices—like steering clear of the ladies before games.

The 1964 season began in Ann Arbor on September 26 with a convincing 24-7 win over Air Force.  The following week Navy’s Roger Staubach, the reigning Heisman winner, returned to town.  The rematch game got national attention but there was a lack of local media coverage—all season in fact–thanks to a Detroit newspaper strike.  

In 1963 the mobile QB had torched U-M for over 300 yards of offense (back when that was a huge deal) in a 26-13 victory for the Midshipmen.   Many, including Conley and Elliott, feel Staubach effectively won the Heisman due to his performance against U-M in ’63.  This time Staubach didn’t live up to his Roger the Dodger moniker as the defense suffocated him early on.  “Basically we ended his college career,” Conley recalled.  “Bill Yearby and I met him at the sidelines, more Yearby than me, and nailed him.  He should have got out of bounds and I was disappointed he didn’t.  That was the end of him.” 

With Staubach grounded, Michigan forced six turnovers and won 21-0, paced by a pair of TDs by back Carl Ward. 

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1 - Charm Front Conley’s 1964 Charm.   How he earned it?  Read below.  How got it in his hands? click here.

[Ed.  On Saturday the 1964 championship team will be honored during the Minnesota game.  Earlier this year I spent a couple hours with the (lone) captain on that squad, Jim Conley.  The full version of this story is available in mgoblog’s wonderful annual Hail To The Victors mag.   Given it’s their week, here’s a tighter and yes, less spicy, version of the story of that great season.]

“You’ve got to remember, we were a bunch of losers.”

That’s how 1964 Michigan team captain Jim Conley labeled his team before summer training camp.  But somehow this group of losers, who won just 5 games in 1962 and 1963 combined, captured Michigan’s first Big Ten title since 1950 then pummeled Oregon State 34-7 in the Rose Bowl.   Bump Elliott’s team transformed into a powerhouse that put away four top-10 squads, including powerful rivals Michigan State and Ohio State on the road.  They crushed teams led by a returning Heisman-winning quarterback in Roger Staubach (Navy), and a squad (Illinois) that featured Dick Butkus, arguably the greatest linebacker in football history.

So how did it happen?  Perhaps more importantly, why are these champions — who were literally inches away from a perfect season and a national championship — generally ignored by you, the well-informed diehards that make up the Michigan football fan base?

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29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , ,

3 - conleyspringgame

This morning 1964 championship team captain Jim Conley joined John U. Bacon on WTKA as part of the Fantastic Friday lineup.  Captain Conley covered a lot of ground – from leadership, to his unique set of teammates, to coach Bump Elliott – and of course shared a bunch of stories from that amazing season:

Conley also noted that the ‘64 team will be honored during the Minnesota game this year – which is great news.  Hopefully Bump (who is 89 and lives in Iowa) will be there.

 

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Hard Day's Night A Hard Night’s Day – via Hail to the Victors 2014

Yo!  I’ve been wrapped up for a while with all kinds of stuff, including working on some interviews and pieces that you coming up soon or this fall.  Things will being to ramp up on these pages soon heading up the season.  Things to look for:

  • Hail to the Victors 2014 –  Within the pages of mgoblog’s annual epic preseason book, this time I dropped in a piece on the widely ignored 1964 Big Ten/Rose Bowl championship team.  It takes you through the season primarily through the eyes of team captain Jim Conley, along with some help from his coach Bump Elliott and teammate Barry Dehlin.  Earmuffs!  It’s harsh – it’s spicy – and after you read it you won’t have a problem remembering the ‘64 team.
  • GoBlueWolverine Mag – Coming out before the season, I dropped in my interview with Bump Elliott that you’ll dig – it talks about the ‘64 team of course, but also gets into Woody, Bo, Bump feeling on his own legacy and much more.
  • 2014 Game Program – Still working on some stuff for the program (a few things in the works) and I  interviewed both Dan Dierdorf and Jim Brandstatter.  You’ll get the full interviews on these pages later on.  A sneak peak:

MVictors: You have a lot of friends in the business and many with Michigan ties. Any chance you’ll have a few visitors up in the radio booth during the year?

Dan Dierdorf: I would hope so. Yeah. Who knows who might stop by? I know I’ve extended an invite or two to some of the guys. Bob Seger has a home up by me in Northern Michigan. I know I have reached out to Bob, said “Hey, anytime you want to come to a game, feel free to stop by.” We’ll put him on the air for a while. He’s got a little bit of a following in Michigan.

MVictors: He sure does. How’s Bob as a person?

Dan Dierdorf: What a great guy. Just a wonderful guy. I’m not going to lie. I’m semi-starstruck around him. I’ve just been a fan of his for so long. He’s the most down to earth guy. If you didn’t know what Bob Seger looked like, you wouldn’t realize you’re in the presence of such a star by the way he acts. You’d think this is a guy that just drove up in a truck and wanted to hang out and talk for a while. Great guy.

More to come.

 

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WPW returns after a brief hiatus with a trip back to Ann Arbor in 1965, a few months following Michigan’s 34-7 Rose Bowl beatdown of Oregon State.   The folks at Esquire Magazine visited Ann Arbor and came to the Sigma Chi house looking for a few good men to model summer clothes.  This shot included a few of Bump Elliott’s champions strolling in the Arb:Photo May 06, 8 13 59 PM Photo May 06, 8 14 12 PM

[Left to right above you’ve got Captain Jim Conley (Sr – End) in his prime, joined by Rick Sygar (Jr. – fullback), the lovely Jane Horsfall (class of ‘65), Jane’s boyfriend Bill Laskey (Sr. – End), and student Norm Legacki.]

I recently caught up with Captain Conley recently who explained how it went down:

MVictors:  How did this shoot come about?

Capt. Conley: “It started at the Sigma Chi house. It wasn’t about the athletes because, of course, because they can’t do that, but they could do it about the student athletes. Since our house was totally filled with athletes, it was pretty easy for them to round up the right amount of guys and put this whole spring fashion thing together. The guy that was doing it apparently was a U-M grad.  He came to campus and he went and went to Sigma Chi house and said, ‘Hey guys, you want to get some clothes?’  What they did was they had all these clothes in there, and if did the shoot you got to keep the clothes.”

MVictors: Did it get any attention on campus after the shoot came out?

Capt. Conley: “Heavens, yeah. It was a lot of the fraternity guys were reading that magazine. Most of us had our nose in Playboy, not Esquire because we couldn’t afford anything that was sold in Esquire magazine. Anyway, it was funny. It just so happened that there was a good number of athletes in there and, of course, they wanted a good looking woman and we found Janie Horsfall.  It was fun. But I don’t know why they didn’t use some good looking guys! [laughs]”

* * * *

Speaking of Captain Conley, Bump Elliott and the ‘64 Rose Bowl Champions.. They celebrate their 50th anniversary this season and I just finished my piece for mgoblog’s HTTV ‘14 on their wild season.  It’s certainly not the kind of thing you’ll read anywhere else and I think you’ll love it.  More to come on these pages as so stay tuned.

 

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While the business of college football (and in particular at Michigan) seems to be on topic more than ever these days, the financial bottom line of the U-M football program and its projects have been measured closely over the years.   We know that Michigan’s share of the gate revenue from 1903 Little Brown Jug game was $13,000.   To finance the construction of Michigan Stadium in the mid-1920s, Yost sold bonds that gave the owners special seating privileges in the new digs.  

The cost associated with bowl trips has been watched closely as well.  According to 1964 team captain Jim Conley, then-athletic director Fritz Crisler tried to seize some funds donated to the team that was designated to give the players a football charm celebrating their championship year.  Why did Crisler want to such a thing?  The team racked up some serious phone bills on their trip to Pasadena and the old man wanted to recoup the cost.

Up on eBay right now, a letter including the estimated budget for the trip then-Coach Crisler and his Mad Magicians would take to Pasadena to pummel USC in the Rose Bowl.   First, the letter describing the logistics of the day and the nearly two day trek to the west coast involving stops in Chicago, Colorado, New Mexico:

letter

And here’s the budget for the contingent including 44 players, breaking out to about $750 per player:

Bowl Expenses

Perhaps the “Special Equipment” was the cloaking device or just your run-of-the-mill No Look Confusion Maker.   Whatever it was it worked as U-M pummeled USC so bad it prompted the Associated Press to cast an unprecedented post-bowl vote to name the Wolverines national champions.  I love how TIME Magazine described the beating Crisler’s men put down on the Trojans:

Southern Cal’s beefy bruisers, the West Coast champs, were not clubbed to death. They were just hoodwinked and whipsawed by Michigan’s slickers. Jack Weisenburger, Crisler’s sturdy spinning fullback, started most of Michigan’s backfield ballet and ball-handling hocuspocus, and chewed through the center of Southern Cal’s bewildered line for three Michigan touchdowns.

Southern Cal never really had a chance.  Here’s how it looked:

I’m sure they enjoyed the train ride home.

Speaking of finances…the seller is asking $65 for the righteous letter.

Related:
1948 Rose Bowl and the title debate
Affectionately, Fritz Crisler
From now on, You’ll be Fritz

 

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02. August 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , ,

nunley_burger_king

Scanning through the recent eBay auctions, this caught my eye.   It’s a 1972 Burger King cup featuring then-San Francisco 49ers linebacker Frank Nunley.   Nunley patrolled the middle for Bump Elliott’s Wolverines from 1964-1966, earning all-Conference his senior season.

I was able to connect with Nunley who explained why his face ended up on BK cup. “Len Rhode, 49er offensive tackle, owned a few Burger Kings around here.  Still does,” Nunley wrote me.  “He featured a different 49er each week. I think that is where this came from.”

It was during his stint in SF that Nunley earned his nickname, “Fudge Hammer”.   According to Matt Maiocco’s book, San Francisco 49ers, Nunley owes the nickname to his NFL teammate Stan Hindman.   Apparently Nunley didn’t possess an intimidating physique but could drill opposing players with the best of them, as in, “he looked like fudge but hit like a hammer.”  

Naturally I needed to get a few memories on Nunley from 1964 team captain Jim Conley, who once again did not disappoint.  Enjoy:

Frank Nunley was a freshman when I was a senior.  I remember his first significant contribution to our 1964 team occurred when Dr. Barry Dehlin got a knee injury.   He came running into the defensive huddle and asked, "What do I do?".  I told him that Bill Yearby and I were going to knock the offensive line men on their asses and he would fill the hole and make the tackle.  And for the rest of his college career and his 10 years with the Forty Niners that was exactly what he did. 

frank_nunley_Michigan Every year, there was a new group of talented LBs that wanted his job.  But Frank kept on filling the hole and making the tackle.  For nine years, he had to line up over Tom Mack of the LA Rams.  To hear them talk, it always ended up as a draw.  I suspect, however, that Tom may have had the upper hand since he is in the Hall of Fame.  Frank insists that Tom got his credentials in all the other games. 

As a player Frank always kept it simple–he just hit someone.  He was not the strongest or the fastest LB, but he had the heart of a lion.  He always made the tackle but no one ever go hurt from his forearm shiver.   Frank played in the era of less pay and needed to have a career outside of football.  He worked in the off season and founded Nunley and Associates and was a very successful manufacturing rep at the birth of Silicon Valley. 

He is a great Michigan man and family man and remains very close to his wife Lynn since she manages the money.  Frank and I still visit on a regular basis when we can and enjoy talking Michigan.  

Today Nunley sells electronic assembly for Sanmina, a contract manufacturer, and he’s been a rep there for the past 12 years. 

You can buy the Nunley cup for $18.99 on eBay right now.

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