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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Via eBay, love this one.  Check out of few frames from a comic book featuring Michigan’s Heisman winner Tom Harmon and a few of the preseason college stars heading into the 1941 season.   A true beauty.

I cropped it down to highlight the sections featuring “Tommy” Harmon, which was basically all of it:

Tom Harmon Michigan Comic Strip
In this opening frame, Harmon’s depicted with the torn jersey which is a nod no doubt to his final game at Ohio State where his jersey was ripped up during and after the game.  More on that later.   It also looks like they kinda slapped a winged helmet on his above, which is appreciated.


Tom Harmon Yale 1938
Harmon was indeed good right when he came to Michigan in 1937, but back then of course freshman couldn’t suit up with the varsity.  In the ‘38 season he was named all-conference and indeed shined in the Yale game, coming in and tossing the game winner.   Speaking of Yale, did you know Harmon actually “applied” to go to Yale after Harry Kipke was fired in 1937?  In his only letter to the school he wrote that his credentials for admission to the Ivy League college were:“Four years of football, four years of basketball, two years of track.”  LOL.


Tom Harmon Iowa 1939
Speaking of the Iowa game, it was certainly one of Harmon’s finest performances perhaps most notably, he dominated the 1939-Heisman winner, Iowa’s Nile Kinnick.


Tom Harmon vs. Red Grange
A couple things here.  First, re: his 90 yard interception return.  After Brandon Herron’s 94-yard TD return in 2011 against Western Michigan I discussed whether Herron actually bested Harmon for the all-time standard.   Differing accounts had Harmon’s interception between 90 and 95 yards.  So here’s another one claiming 90 FWIW.In the second frame above the classic sports writers (sans stubby unlit cigar) mention Red Grange, which was certainly on the mind of folks when Harmon was doing his thing, especially after Old 98 broke Grange’s scoring record in 1940.


Tom Harmon - Lifeguard
How’s Tricks, Tom?”   Hahhaa.    Regarding Harmon being a lifeguard.  True, but he didn’t do that in Ann Arbor—it was back in his hometown.  Per Sports Illustrated: “He spent the summer before his senior year as a lifeguard at the municipal beach back in Gary (“and punting up and down the sand for at least an hour a day” as TIME noted) and was in shape to rule the Big Ten again.”

I’ve read he also sold gum and worked at the campus radio station to make a few extra bucks.


98 - 6 Ohio
His magnum opus against Ohio State in 1940 is a classic—enough to earn a standing ovation from (and get mobbed by) the Buckeye fans after the game.   The drawing in the second frame was certainly inspired by this famous photo below of Harmon after the game in Columbus:torn 2
And regarding that final quote…
None of Us
…that all changes in 2013 as someone will indeed wear the 98 once again.

All in all a classic.

My only nitpick?   No mention of the ridiculous performance in the 1940 Cal game on his birthday, especially given the fan who tried to drag him down!  Dang, they could have dedicated a couple frames to that alone and I would have loved it.    More »