By Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

In the 1970s player introductions for college football games were very different compared to the productions that they are now.  There were no fancy graphics, no computer generated backgrounds and no animations some forty years ago.  While the intros back then lacked the glitz and glamour of today’s game, they made up for it in uniqueness and creativity.

In 1973, the player introductions for the Michigan-Ohio State game were announced over the Michigan Stadium public address system. ABC-TV’s Bill Fleming was live on the field and had the players run up to the on-field camera as he announced their names to the sell-out crowd and national TV audience, literally minutes before kickoff.  Those introductions were epic and captured the emotion of the moment.  None were better than Michigan’s Curtis Tucker, Dave Gallagher and Paul Seal’s introductions.

A few years later, ABC decided to use video mug shots at the Friday walkthroughs for both teams instead of delaying the start of the game with on-field player introductions.  This was relatively boring as the players were usually just standing there in their team-issued sweat-suits as the camera moved down the line, one by one.

Then, in 1978, Michigan tailback Harlan Huckleby added a subtle coolness to his intro for the game against Notre Dame.  When the camera moved in front of #25 and paused for about 3 seconds, Huckleby winked:

When I recently asked Huck about it he didn’t recall doing the wink or what his motivation was at the time.  Whatever the reason, it was a cool move by one of Michigan’s coolest cats, for sure!

The next time Michigan was on National TV, Michigan’s Russell Davis, Ralph Clayton and Doug Marsh all decided to continue the tradition of the Huckleby Wink. During the 1978 Michigan-Ohio State game, all three players winked when the ABC camera got in front of them.  The next year, during the 1979 Notre Dame mug shot player intros, Stan Edwards, Lawrence Reid, Clayton and Ed Muransky all winked to the ABC camera.  Who knew that what Huck started on a whim a year earlier would continue with the next group of Wolverines?!

For the 1979 Rose Bowl, NBC took the player introductions to a new level.  The peacock network already had the players introducing themselves, as well as their hometown and degree of study for the previous few Rose Bowl telecasts. In 1979 NBC decided to have the starters for each team hang out in a picturesque garden while they shot their player intros.  It was a little more dynamic and flashy than ABC’s Friday walk-through mug shots, but not by much.

For Michigan quarterback Rick Leach, NBC decided to add a little pizzazz to his intro. After announcing all the offensive starters, NBC had Leach crouch down behind his offensive linemen. As legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy announced that “you can’t hide an All-American,” the Wolverine offensive linemen all knelt down on one knee and up stood the Guts and Glue behind them. It was classic!

I’ve made a video collage of some of the more memorable Michigan player introductions of the 1970’s for all to see and remember:

Ed. You can check out the whole Dr. Sap Archives video collection here, including the intro clips from several games in the 1970s.


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04. November 2014 · Comments Off on Wangs and the Red Jersey | Storytime with Sap · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , ,

[Ed. Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis is featured here each postgame with Dr. Sap’s Decals.  You might know that his detailed knowledge of uniform tweaks since the Bo era helped spearhead the Uniform Timeline.    Bottom line – the Sap mind blended with the Sap archives is a Wangler-to-Carter-esque combination.    Here’s another great Bo-era story from the mind of Sap.]


Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis


Nowadays it’s commonplace for quarterbacks to wear red (or sometimes orange, /wink) colored jerseys in practice. This of course is a reminder to all players and coaches that they are not to be hit or tackled in drills. Last year, former Michigan quarterback Rick Leach told me that he never wore a redshirt at practice during his four years as Michigan’s man under center. I was shocked to hear that, especially when you consider two things: 1. Bo liked to hit in practice as much as possible and; 2. Leach ran Bo’s option offense and got hit quite a bit carrying and pitching the ball.


So all this got me thinking – who was the first QB to wear a redshirt at practice for Bo?  I know it wasn’t Tom Slade shown here at practice in 1972:


And like Leach said, no redshirts here in 1976 when President Ford dropped by to see the Wolverines at practice:
Or in 1977 when the Prez popped in again:

Here’s Michael Taylor and Elvis Grbac in 1989, but I knew it didn’t start with them:

I knew Taylor & Grbac weren’t the first because I saw this on Michigan Replay:

Michigan red jersey

That’s Jim Harbaugh and Chris Zurbrugg under center wearing red tunics during Spring Practice in 1985. 


Legendary U-M equipment manager Jon Falk told me that the QBs wore the red tunics only during scrimmages in the mid 80s.   I asked Big Jon if Steve Smith wore a redshirt in 1983 after he separated his shoulder in the 1983 Rose Bowl.   He did not recall Smitty wearing a redshirt, but remembered him wearing a harness underneath his shoulder pads to keep his shoulder in place.   That was a serious injury – especially for a QB.  So I thought, if it wasn’t Smith, it must have been…..John Wangler.


“[Wangler] just came off a very bad knee injury and we wanted to make sure he could take hits,” Falk recalled. 


That injury was thanks to Lawrence Taylor, who pounded Wangler’s knee In the 2nd quarter of the 1979 Gator Bowl.  I remembered Wangs being held out of spring practice in 1980, but did he wear a redshirt when he finally rehabbed his knee and returned to practice in the fall?  


“Well, actually, I didn’t wear a redshirt during the season,” Wangler told me.  “I wore one during two-a-days in the fall of 1980. But even though I had the redshirt on, it didn’t stop my good friend Mel Owens from tackling me one time at practice!” [laughs]


Former Michigan assistant and longtime West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen told me that because Bo had his guys going all out in practice, the only way he could get them to stop, when he wanted them to stop, was to use a short whistle.  Wangler confirmed this.  “He would use that short whistle to make sure you didn’t get hit hard.  I mean there would be some contact, and guys could wrap up, but he would limit the hard hitting with his whistle.”


So in lieu of having his quarterbacks look like prima donnas by wearing different colored jerseys, that’s what the General had used for all those years to protect his quarterback – a short whistle.


After finding all that out, I had one last question for old #5– Did ALL the QB’s wear a redshirt during two-a-days in 1980, or was it just him because of the knee injury?

Wangler’s response? 


“Just me. The other guys were a lot tougher!”


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[Ed. You know I’m a huge fan of Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis & he’s featured here each postgame with Dr. Sap’s Decals.  You might know that his detailed knowledge of uniform tweaks since the Bo era helped spearhead the Uniform Timeline.    Bottom line – the Sap mind blended with the Sap archives is a Wangler-to-Carter-esque combination.    Here’s another great Bo-era story from the mind of Sap.] 

Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

After Bo Schembechler left U-M to become the president of the Detroit Tigers he met Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley.  Finley liked to dabble in the unique as he was the inventor of the high visibility yellow baseball as well as the green and gold tunics the A’s wore in the ‘70s.

The two talked about Finley’s new football invention – the reverse dimple football.  Its enhanced grip was supposed to improve the accuracy of throws and increase the distance it was kicked. [more on the patent here.]

The grip enhancement looked much like a golf ball’s surface and the leather looked something like this:


Bo was intrigued and told Finley to go see U-M equipment manager Jon Falk in Ann Arbor…and that’s exactly what he did in the spring of 1990.  The two hit it off and Falk agreed to try the new ball that Rawlings now dubbed the “Double Grip Football” with the 1990 Wolverines.

Everybody liked it.  The quarterbacks liked the grip and felt more accurate throwing it.  The receivers liked the tackiness and the kickers felt it sailed longer when booted. 

Falk wanted to use the new pigskin against  Notre Dame to start the 1990 season, but had to wait and use their existing ball, the Wilson 1001 AFCRT, until the new Rawlings ball was
accredited by the NCAA Rules Committee.  That didn’t happen until late October, which meant the Purdue contest on November 3rd, 1990 was the first time the Reverse Dimple Rawlings Double Grip Football was used in an NCAA game.  Michigan won 38-13 in West Lafayette that afternoon.

While U-M was the only school to use the ball during the regular season, it was used in several bowl games later that year.  Air Force defeated Ohio State in the 1990 Liberty Bowl while using the Double Grip football.  Washington would use it for the first time against Iowa in the 1991 Rose Bowl and trounced the Hawkeyes.

Of course we all know what Michigan did in the 1991 Gator Bowl.  Over 700 yards of total offense in a 35-3 beat down of Ole Miss was enough to convince everyone watching that the Rawlings Double Grip Football was no one-hit-wonder.

In the second game of the 1991 season, the Double Grip got even more publicity and exposure thanks to Desmond Howard and Elvis Grbac.
That diving catch in the endzone made by Howard against Notre Dame?

clip_image004That’s right. It was made with the Rawlings Double Grip Football.

While Grbac would become the first Michigan QB to be the nation’s most efficient passer, Howard would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that year.  Rawlings took notice and even issued a Press Release in December of 1991 saying its new ball resulted in greater accuracy, a higher percentage of completed passes, longer passes, a better grip in cold or wet weather and was the best ball for quarterbacks with small hands.

clip_image005”Howard caught 19 touchdown passes while Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac led the nation in passing efficiency and 24 TD passes–all with the Rawlings ‘Double Grip’ ball,” it read.

Here is Howard striking another pose – this time with the Rawlings ball on the cover of Beckett football card monthly:

desmond howard beckett

But much like the old saying goes, what goes up, must come down.   And in 1992, that’s exactly what happened.

Grbac would go on and become the nation’s most efficient passer again, this time without Howard’s heroics. Michigan would win their 5th consecutive Big Ten Championship but would finish with an awkward 8-0-3 regular season record.  Three ties were strange enough, but the one tie that took all the air out of the Rawlings Double Grip ball was the Illinois game on November 14th, 1992.

The weather conditions were typical for Ann Arbor in November: 32 degrees, 65% humidity and a 10-15 mph wind blowing from the southwest. It had snowed the night before and would do so occasionally throughout the game.  There was some concern about how the ball would hold up as this would be the coldest weather it would be used in.  Even in their wildest dreams, #3 Michigan could not have expected a nightmare like this.

When it was all said and done, the 22-22 tie knocked U-M out of the national championship race and the turnover stats line read like a horror show:

  • Fumbles – 10 (12, if you include two bobbled kickoffs)
  • Fumbles Lost – 4
  • Dropped Passes – 4
  • Interceptions – 2 (1 off a muffed reception)
  • 1 botched PAT snap/hold that was bobbled by the holder (Jay Riemersma)
  • 1 kick that hit the upright (no good)

And it was not like this 1992 U-M squad was a turnover machine – quite the opposite.  In the previous 9 games, Michigan had fumbled only 15 times and lost 7 of them.  Illinois, which used the traditional pebble grain Wilson 1001 AFCRT ball, had just 1 fumble (which they recovered) and 1 interception (from a dropped pass) along with 1 missed PAT kick.  It was a damning stat line for the Double Grip and one that caused Falk to take a closer look at the ball Michigan would be using going forward.

He studied the game tape and he told me that he noticed the ball became hard when the temperature dropped. The leather lost its tackiness and it became slick and difficult to handle.  While Rawlings claimed the ball would provide better grip in cold weather, it appeared as though that might not have been the case.

With the weather the following week in Columbus expected to be in the mid-50s, Falk gave the Rawlings ball one last chance against Ohio State.  Even though Michigan would not fumble the while using Double Grip against OSU, Falk officially pulled the plug on it after the game.

The guy who gave Finley’s invention the green light a few years earlier, was now putting the kibosh on it and gave Coach Gary Moeller the cold, hard facts.

“I told Mo that we had to change it up for the Rose Bowl against Washington,”  Falk said.  He said, ‘Ya. Let’s do it.’”

Michigan would switch back to the Wilson 1001 for the 1993 Rose Bowl and would use it until Rich Rodriguez took over in 2008.  RichRod preferred the narrower Wilson 1005 for his spread offenses. It is the ball Michigan continues to use to this day.


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Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

On a cold, cloudy, 34 degree November Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mike Lantry pulled Michigan from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy. In the last minute of the tenth game of the 1972 season against the Purdue Boilermakers, “Super Toe,” as Bob Ufer referred to him, kicked a game winning field goal….that no one remembers.

Before getting into the reasons why this moment is lost in U-M lore, here’s how it all went down:

  • Trailing 3-0 at the half against a very determined Purdue defense, Michigan came out and scored a touchdown on their first drive of the second half. Unfortunately, Lantry’s PAT was wide right and the Boilermakers now only trailed, 6-3.
  • After Purdue tied the game at 6 with field goal on the last play of the 3rd quarter, Lantry had a chance to give Michigan the lead early in the 4th quarter. This time his 49-yard field goal attempt came up short.
  • Later in the final quarter, as Purdue drove down the field looking for the win, Randy Logan intercepted a Gary Danielson pass to set up a final shot for Michigan.
  • With the weight of the game (as well as the season) on his shoulders and left toe, Lantry composed himself and calmly booted a 30-yard field goal into a swirling 8 mph wind with one minute and four seconds remaining to give Michigan the 9-6 victory.

Lantry’s fourth field goal of the year kept Michigan undefeated heading into the season-ending tilt with Ohio State the following week.   The next time Michigan Stadium would witness this would be 11 years later when Bob Bergeron kicked the game winner against Iowa in 1983.

So why has this game-winning, last minute field goal not been remembered as such a big deal?   First off the game was not broadcast on TV.  On top of that, there is no known audio clip of Ufer calling this game-winning field goal, not even in the deep archives of the King of Michigan Media Art Vuolo.  And of course an audio clip might have helped immortalize Lantry (alongside the likes of Bergeron, Brabbs, etc.). 

Thankfully the U-M Bentley Historical Library came through with a classic pic of Lantry’s heroics from longtime photographer Bob Kalmbach:

Mike Lantry 1972 Purdue 
Attention(!) If anyone out there has Ufer’s call of this clutch field goal, by all means please pass it along!


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[Ed. In honor of national signing day 2014, Sap is back with a little story of how Bo nabbed the nation’s #1 quarterback.]

Steve Smith Michigan QB

Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

A few hours ago one of the nation’s top recruits, Jabrill Peppers, sent over his LOI and Michigan fans from coast to coast rejoiced.  Did you know there was a time when Bo Schembechler landed the nation’s top high school quarterback?

This quarterback was so talented (4.5 speed and a cannon for an arm) that every major college wanted him.   By most accounts he was the #2 overall high school recruit in the entire country.  But there was just one problem – he wasn’t exactly sold on going to Michigan.

Bill McCartney was assigned the recruiting responsibility to bring him to Ann Arbor but the QB had his mind made up – he was going to go to (/gasp!) Michigan State. The Spartans had just beaten Bo a few years earlier in Michigan Stadium and MSU’s passing scheme was exactly the type of offense this recruit wanted to play in.

When Coach Mac reported back to Bo that he couldn’t change this prized recruit’s mind, The General realized it was time for this QB to have a face to face with Coach Schembechler.   Bo went to this player’s high school and waited for him in a room while the Principal went and pulled this student-athlete from his class.

Finally, Bo had him right where he wanted him.

Bo saw the talent, the speed, the arm – this kid had it all. The dual-threat possibilities raced through Bo’s option-offense-oriented mind.  But when the kid told Bo he wanted to go to MSU because he wanted to throw the ball, Bo knew he was losing him.

Bo promised the phenom that he could play both football AND baseball at Michigan. Oh, ya – the kid was a great baseball player as well.

But nope.  ‘East Lansing here I come.’ was all this recruit was thinking.

Then Schembechler did something that finally made this QB realize how badly the coach wanted him at Michigan.  Bo got on his hands and knees and CRAWLED across the table and told this kid, as only The General could, that he was going to go to MICHIGAN!

And just like that, Steve Smith from Grand Blanc, MI decided to attend U-M on a football scholarship in 1980.  The #1 high school recruit that year?  Some running back named Herschel Walker:

Athlon's top 100 football recruits 1980 A list of future college HOF’ers for sure, lol.  #41 is on the all-time all-football all-name team forever though.


Great stuff Sap!

P.S. Here’s a favorite recruiting story of mine told to me back in 2009 by the great Mark Messner:

MVictors: So you weren’t a big U-M guy, how did Michigan get into the picture?
Mark Messner: I came back from my visit to UCLA, it was late December 1984.   My folks picked me up at the airport and I told them on the way home that I was going to be a Bruin.  I couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t go there.  My parents were both happy and sad.  UCLA had the most beautiful campus I had ever seen.  People on campus are lying around in bathing suits on manicured lawns studying.  I couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t go there.

But Coach Moeller and Coach Bo knew UCLA was my last visit.  So when my parents and I pulled up the house on the way back from the airport, there was this Delta 88 by the side of the driveway.  It was like 9 o’clock at night and getting dark.  The doors of the car opened up and out stepped Moeller and Bo.

Bo walks over, hands me a tape and says [Messner in perfect Bo voice]: “You’re a Michigan man and you belong at Michigan.”  That was it.  He didn’t come in the house, they just took off.  I couldn’t believe he came back up there.

I was in bed that night and I was thinking about the big picture, because now the recruiting was over.  I told [Coach Terry] Donahue before I left UCLA that I was a Bruin.  I didn’t sign anything, but I did tell him that I couldn’t see how I’m not a Bruin.

My dad was fighting cancer at the time.  I was thinking, “Wow, I’ve got Michigan in my backyard.  How many games might my dad be able to see at UCLA?”  So I did the very manly thing as a young adult: I called in the middle of the night and told UCLA I wasn’t coming knowing there’d be no way they’d answer the phone [laughs].   In the morning I told my mom and dad that I formalized everything and told them I’d be a Wolverine.  My mom, being a mom, said, “I thought they were called Bruins.”  I told her, “Mom, I’m going to Michigan.”

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