[Ed.  Originally posted in 2010, a repost for the anniversary of this important day in Meechigan football history.  And if you love Kryk, and I know you do, get STAGG vs. YOST now!]

1910 Headlines 

Guest post by JOHN KRYK of Natural Enemies – (Follow John Kryk on Twitter)

On Friday, Nov. 4, 1910, Michigan authorities cancelled the showdown football game scheduled for the next day between the Wolverines and the University of Notre Dame on old Ferry Field, now site of UM’s track and field oval.  In a nutshell, the Wolverines contended that at least two Fighting Irish players were ineligible under the rules of the game contract, and when Notre Dame refused to sit them out, Michigan pulled the plug on the contest, and, as it turned out, on the series for the next 32 years.

As I wrote in the two incarnations of my book Natural Enemies, just who was right and who was wrong is difficult to ascertain, because the status of the disputed players rested on the vague and variant eligibility rules of the day. That each side devised interpretations to suit its position, then steadfastly defended that position, should come as no surprise. Nor should the explosions that followed.

Michigan had literally taught the game of football to Notre Dame, in November 1887. For the next 21 years, the teams played off and on, with  Michigan always winning. Small-fry colleges in the Midwest, such as Notre Dame at the time, were always desperate to get a spot on the football schedule of a Midwestern giant such as Michigan, and when they failed it could devastate them. But as I first wrote in Natural Enemies in 1994 (13 years before Mike Hart popularized the analogy):

In Michigan’s eyes, Notre Dame was just the pesky kid brother who refuses to understand he can’t always hang out with the big boys. And when kid brother goes off whining to the other small fry on the block, well, big brother couldn’t care less. But kid brother was determined to prove he belonged. Indeed, for the next two decades, Notre Dame aspired to be everything that mighty Michigan already was in athletics.

In 1909 Notre Dame finally defeated Michigan in its ninth attempt, 11-3 at Ann Arbor. It was the only blight on an otherwise landmark year for Yost and his Wolverines, who knocked off defending national champion Penn in Philadelphia, and Conference champion Minnesota in Minneapolis. The loss rankled Yost and his team, because Michigan was observing the new Conference rules that barred freshmen and limited player eligibility to three years, while Notre Dame was still wantonly playing freshmen and four-year men. More »

Readers of this site probably know that the season of 1909 is a real favorite of mine.  So much went down that year, and a true piece of college football history recently showed up on eBay from that epic season.  It’s a U-M athletic department-issued scorecard from the 1909 Notre Dame-Michigan game held at Ferry Field:

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This is a huge day in Notre Dame football history.  The Irish, coached by former Yost player and assistant Frank ‘Shorty’ Longman, defeated Michigan 11-3 for their first victory (ever) over the Wolverines.   Some contend that the game even was the origin of Notre Dame’s nickname:

Another tale has the nickname originating at halftime of the Notre Dame-Michigan game in 1909. With his team trailing, one Notre Dame player yelled to his teammates – who happened to have names like Dolan, Kelly, Glynn, Duffy and Ryan – "What’s the matter with you guys? You’re all Irish and you’re not fighting worth a lick."

Notre Dame came back to win the game and press, after overhearing the remark, reported the game as a victory for the "Fighting Irish."

My hunch is someone out there knew the significance, as the righteous piece of cardboard fetched a cool $567.

After the game Yost, perhaps just to get in Shorty’s craw and downplay the defeat, contended that his men really treated the game like a practice since Notre Dame and Michigan didn’t share common rules.   Despite ND’s victory, the ‘09 season concluded with a debate in the press over the rightful owner of the mythical title ‘Champions of the West’ between the two teams.    Naturally each team claimed the distinction.

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To fan the flames Coach Longman, who still lived in Ann Arbor, had his pet dog Mike (above) outfitted with a little jacket that displayed the score of the 1909 game and paraded him around town.   The next season the teams were scheduled to meet again in November but the game was abruptly cancelled due to an eligibility dispute and the teams didn’t meet again until 1942.   Pick up Natural Enemies for much, much more.

As far as the scorecard, it’s quite a relic from this historic game and even holds a little Ann

imageArbor history.  The ads on its pages range from bike and tobacco shops, clothiers, restaurants and funeral homes.  Best I can tell only one of the businesses is still with us—and that’s the Muehlig funeral home (although they’ve moved off main street).

A company called ‘Varsity Laundry’ also bought an spot in the score card.  It turns out Varsity was run at one point by Moe Dalitz, a notorious bootlegger and gambling racketeer.

Count the Handlebars
Elsewhere on eBay…if you missed out on the 1909 score card, you can still get this epic piece of history.  Check out this auction of a photo of a youthful, mustache-rocking Fielding H. Yost and his buddy showing off a couple shiny new bikes?!  Really:

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There’s no date on in the auction but it’s probably around 1897 when we know Yost wielded the wicked facial hair while at Ohio Wesleyan.