image[Ed October 20, 2014.  In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Michigan-Georgia Tech game played on October 20, 1934, a repost on the campus protests leading up to this low point in Michigan football lore.  Original posted April 2009.]

The early 1930s are a fascinating stretch in Michigan football history and I’ve written much on the highs and lows of that period in eBay Watch and elsewhere.  A relative recently asked me which story from Michigan history was the most interesting to me, and the first thing that came to mind was the Willis Ward incident of 1934.  I’ve hit on it in Hail to the Victors 2008, in a few posts here, in a guest post on mgoblog, and even on WTKA radio with John U. Bacon.

This week an eBay auction got me thinking about the incident once again.  A seller is offering a pic of Ward (above) which is described to be an original wire photo.  The bidding started at $9.75.

Here’s a quick debrief on the controversy leading up to the game with Georgia Tech, as summarized in my mgo-guest post from earlier this year:

During the miserable 1934 season, controversy erupted prior to the scheduled game against Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jacket officials made it clear they would not take the field against a black player.  Protests ensued on campus and within the team (it’s rumored that [Gerald] Ford threatened to quit).  I’ve read that future famous playwright Arthur Miller, who was on the Daily staff at the time, tried to intervene.   Eventually the game was played without Ward and resulted in a 9-2 Michigan win.  [For more, here’s a Daily article from 1999, and Ward’s Wikipedia page.]

One correction:  I don’t think Miller was on the Daily staff in 1934 (he’s not listed on the directory in the ‘34 paper) although he did write for the Daily during his stay at Michigan and apparently did try to intervene with the Georgia Tech players.   Ward’s Wikipedia entry cites a story from a Miller biography explaining the future playwright’s role in the drama:

In his biography of Miller, Enoch Brater noted that Miller had friends from Arkansas who knew one of the Georgia Tech players. Brater described Miller’s involvement this way: “Remmel [Miller’s friend from Arkansas] took Miller with them to meet with members of the team, to protest but also to appeal to the athletes’ sense of fair play. ‘Miller was right in the middle of this’, Remmel recalls. Not only did the visiting team rebuff ‘the Yankee’ Miller ‘in salty language’, but they told him they would actually kill Ward if he set one foot on the Michigan gridiron. ‘The Georgia Tech team was wild.’ Miller was furious. He ‘went immediately to the office of the Michigan Daily and wrote an article about it, but it was not published.’

It’s a fascinating story and as I mentioned as an mgo-guest, it deserves a full documentary or movie.  One of the reasons I don’t think it’s been talked about very much is that the events didn’t exactly put Georgia Tech or Michigan in a favorable light, as Ward didn’t play in the game.**

The Protests
Despite mentioning the story in a few places, I really haven’t taken a deep dive.  I recently stopped by the Bentley Library and looked through some of the pages of The Daily in the days around the October 20, 1934 game against the Yellow Jackets.

As a student paper should do, their words focused on the situation on campus and it’s a pretty interesting tale.   Upon learning of the demand by Tech that Ward not play in the game, a group of students formed the ‘Ward United Front Committee’ and collected 1,500 signatures supporting their cause.  The petition read:

“We, the undersigned, declare ourselves unalterably opposed to the racial discrimination evidenced in the proposed exclusion of Willis Ward from the Georgia Tech game.  We support the slogan: Either Ward plays or the game must be cancelled.”

The United Front even reached out to quarterback Benny Friedman, who was coaching at the City College of New York at the time, hoping the legend would tender a statement in support of the cause.

The group scheduled a meeting for the Friday night (10/19) before the game, a time typically reserved for pep rallies.  The Daily wrote the meeting was called with “the purpose of  crystallizing sentiment on the Ward affair.”

The meeting, held inside the packed Natural Science Auditorium, was ugly. Daily writer Bernard Weismann described the scene:

Smoldering feelings on the question of Willis Ward’s participation in the Georgia Tech game burst into flame last night at what was probably the wildest and strangest Friday night rally in Michigan’s history.

Speakers on both sides of the debate tried to weigh in on the controversy only to be heckled by the other side.  The chairman of the event, Abner Morton, took the stage but was overwhelmed by “boos, clapping and ‘wisecracks’”.

Next up was a professor named Harold J. McFarlan who was forced to dodge “coins that were tossed at the speaker” along with the catcalls, and eventually he just walk off stage.   Morton then returned and challenged his hecklers to bring up a representative to speak their piece, which prompted “taunts of ‘yellow’” from the other side of the crowd.

Finally someone from the opposition group stepped up and argued that it wasn’t right to require Ward to play especially if he could be injured by the Tech players, and further, that the coaches had earned the right to say whether Ward should be exposed to potential harm.  The shouts and taunts from the crowd continued.

Breaking the hysteria was a gent named Sher Quraishi (fact: he’s the founder of that co-op house on State Street that stands today) who decided to tear everyone a collective new one:

[Quraishi] was the first to obtain a semblance of attention from the entire audience.  He branded the audience a “bunch of fools,” unable to learn from the mistakes of others.  “You with the advantage of a university education can’t even allow a meeting to be held until you are bawled out.”

Snap!  Things settled down after that and many left the meeting before it concluded.  Those who stayed agreed to formally protest the scheduling of the Jackets by the the university’s Board in Control of Athletics.

The Deal
The day of the game The Daily printed quotes from the key administrators in the athletic department.  Legendary coach and acting athletic director Fielding Yost told reporters, “I haven’t anything to do with it,” when asked whether Ward would play.   Chairman of the Board of Athletics Ralph Aigler echoed the sidestep as well, saying, “In the 22 years I have been a member of the athletic board, I have never had anything to say about who played; I am not going to begin now.”

Ward himself was reached and referred the questions to coach Harry Kipke saying, “I haven’t anything to say about it, you had better call the coach.”   An attempt to get a comment from coach Kipke at his home and at Barton Hills Country Club (where the team stayed before the game) failed.

A deal was struck before the game, and we know that Georgia Tech coach Bill Alexander agreed to hold out his regular starting end Emmett ‘Hoot’ Gibson.  There are a few accounts describing an all-night debate between Alexander and Yost (although Yost is incorrectly referred to as Michigan’s coach in many versions), and I’ve also heard that Gibson never forgave his coach for agreeing to such a deal.

There are various accounts in his Wikipedia entry as to where Ward resided during the actual game.  The Daily is pretty specific: he watched the game from the press box, sheltered from the “downpour which started with the opening kickoff and continued intermittently all afternoon.”   The Chicago Tribune also placed Ward and Franklin Lett ( another African American who is on the extended 1934 team roster but not in the team photo)  in the press box, specifically within the “broadcasting booths.”

Parting Shots
Several beautifully composed letters were printed in the Daily in the days after the game, generally venting their disgust over the entire incident: from the behavior on the students, to the actions of the athletic department for scheduling this game, to the Michigan Daily for its coverage and editorials.

Here’s an excerpt of one student’s view of the Friday meeting, describing some of the behavior as “Hitleristic” (keep in mind this was 1934):


One note, submitted by five students, was particularly poignant.  It blasted The Daily for its coverage of the controversy.  Two small excerpts, here’s the first:


And in further ripping the Daily, a few excellent questions for the athletic department:


Despite the sharp criticism of The Daily leveled by the missive above, the paper definitely did a fine job covering the temperature on campus that week.   Should they have dug deeper into some of the questions raised in the letters?  Probably, but I’m not clear on the type of access or control that they possessed at the time.  I don’t know if Arthur Miller’s draft piece still exists, but it would be fascinating to see what he wrote after facing the Tech players.  Was it squashed by the Daily brass?

In its editorial wrapping up the incident (and this was mentioned in the 1999 Daily piece on Ward as well as in his Wikipedia page), the Daily wrote:

“It was the peculiar characteristic of the Ward-Georgia Tech matter that everyone who touched it did so only to lose in respect and esteem.”

The auction of the Ward photo ends April 30th.

**Update:  This point (that we don’t hear about the stories where ‘good’ didn’t triumph) expressed better by The Joe Cribbs Car Wash:

For the past few years, one of the most tried-and-true feature story tactics from the likes of ESPN has been the “team from the earlier part of the century heroically stands up against discrimination.” I mean, who doesn’t love one of those stories? Easy journalistic money.

Of course, you don’t ever hear about about the stories where teams had the chance to take a similar stand and didn’t..

Yost’s Warning to you Drunks (1933)
1933 and the Dickinson Formula
1933 MSC Ticket Application
Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
Smoke ‘em if you Got ‘em (1935-ish)

[Ed. This was originally posted July 31, 2011.  I’m reposting again for Notre Dame week once again, this is one of my all time favorites.]

Yost was such a beauty.


Up on eBay right now is a 1910 panoramic postcard featuring the Wolverine football squad that season.  In the realm of postcards this is a choice collectible—and the seller is asking $600 for it.

While we’ve seen various postcards featuring squads from this era, what caught my eye is the special addition to the gathering–the white bulldog mascot at Yost’s feet (inset left).

I slung the photo over to my pal John Kryk (Natural Enemies) who, after a laugh no doubt, wrote me back suggesting ol’ Yost probably put the pooch in the photo to counter the antics of then Notre Dame coach Shorty Longman and his bulldog mascot “Mike”.

Longman was a player on Yost’s point-a-minute squads but even after he took the coaching reins in South Bend, Shorty kept his permanent home in Ann Arbor.   In 1909 the Irish defeated Michigan 11-3 in Ann Arbor for their first win in the series.   As Kryk wrote in Natural Enemies, apparently after that historic game Shorty outfitted “Mike” with a little jacket that advertised the 11-3 score and was known to parade him around town.  Ugh.

Michigan and Notre Dame were scheduled for a rematch in 1910 but the game was abruptly cancelled due to a contention over the eligibility of two of the Irish players.  [Ed. Kryk broke down the whole thing here in an excellent guest post.]

While we don’t know for sure when (in 1910) this photo was taken, it’s safe to say that one way or another Yost included the conspicuous canine as a response to Longman’s “Mike”.  And speaking of postcards, here Shorty’s best friend featured in a 1909 Notre Dame postcard:


So…either Yost captured Mike for the team photo, or more likely he rustled up a Mike lookalike and had his tailor work up the cute little jacket.  My only regret—we can’t confirm that FHY put a big fat ‘bite me’ on the dog’s jacket.   If I had to guess, it would have read something like, “Michigan – 1909 Champions of the West” as a stick in the eye to Notre Dame’s similar claim.

1909 U-M Bentley Library team photo

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Related: Teaching Them Modern Football (1887)

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:

19. July 2011 · Comments Off on Why Michigan and Minnesota Played Twice in 1926 · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , ,

One of my Little Brown Jug spies mentioned that morning host Ira Weintraub openly asked on WTKA 1050AM why Michigan faced Minnesota twice in 1926.

It happened…jug don’t lie:

1926 Michigan Minnesota

Here’s a nutshell of what went down.  First, the conference voted at the end of the 1925 season to require teams to play at least four conference games each year (starting in 1926).   For context, the Gophers had played just three conference games in 1925, the Wolverines played six.

Leading up to the annual coaches meeting in December held in Chicago, no team jumped at the chance to add the Gophers to the schedule so that they would meet the minimum four game requirement.

A big reason why no one would schedule the Gophers was that Minnesota’s coach, Doc Spears, ran his offense out of “the shift”.    Spears was buds with Knute Rockne—the man who perfected it the controversial moving formation.  Here’s how Rockne’s official page on the Notre Dame website sums it up:

In the shift, all four backs were still in motion at the snap. Opponents were so dumbfounded by the shift that they couldn’t find a consistent way to handle it. The rules board finally enacted a law against the shift.

The leading conference coaches (including Fielding Yost, Illinois’ Bob Zuppke and Chicago’s AA Stagg) felt it was not so much dumbfounding as it was illegal.  Opponents saw the shift effectively giving the backs a head start (or at least momentum) when the ball was snapped, putting the defense at a disadvantage.  Naturally Notre Dame fans argued (and still argue) it was brilliant strategy, while Yost and others said was cheating.   [Ed. And speaking of brilliant, check out John Kyrk’s excellent rundown of the politics of the shift in Natural Enemies.]

So while no one wanted to schedule Spears and the Gophers in 1926, when they met in Chicago, the tension over the matter was broken when Fielding Yost eventually agreed to play Spears twice thus giving Minnesota four league games.  But why?  I pinged John Kryk who explained, via email: “Yost got Spears to agree to drop the shift.  Actually, it was to agree to a two-second stop but such a delay rendered any shift superfluous, so in effect it was a shift-killing rule. As I wrote [in Natural Enemies],  Spears would rather give up his coveted offense than lose Minnesota’s football arch-rival.”

Yost beat Spears twice that season, 20-0 in October at Ferry Field, then 7-6 in the November finale in Minneapolis, Yost’s final game as head coach.

So there you have it.

Related – Little Brown Jug Lore:

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The saga continues on the Big Ten all-time coaching statistics.  Readers of this site know that at the urging of a pesky blogger, the Big Ten officials updated their records last season to reflect the time Michigan left the conference from 1907-1916. 

The result was a boost to Fielding Yost’s lead over Jim Tressel in conference win percentage by coaches from .833 to .888 (here are the current numbers, through last year’s bowls):

B1G Conference Records

Mark Snyder discussed the ramifications of the Ohio State self-imposed vacated wins on the all-time records in this recent piece, & note Mark corrected Yost’s official win pct last night ;)

As Snyder points out, I think we can assume nothing is official until the NCAA/Big Ten complete their investigations.   I asked the Big Ten offices to confirm and I’m guessing they will say it be resolved when the investigation is completed. 

[Update July 11] I got the expected response from the Big Ten’s Scott Chipman:

My question:  Scott, is there an official ruling from the Big Ten on how the Ohio State sanctions/vacated wins affect Tressel’s conference win percentage?  Or is this all pending the final NCAA/B10 rulings on the sanctions?

Chipman’s reply:  Greg, As of right now, that’s all TBD.

I see a few possible outcomes that could impact these records once again:

Final Punishment



Revised  Win %


1 NCAA reverses vacated wins; no change in 2010 record. 106 22 0.828 Pigs fly.
2 All 12 wins taken off the books, only the loss to Wisconsin remains 94 22 0.810 Tressel remains #2 behind Yost on the Big Ten books, slightly above Bo who’s at .796
3 All 12 2010 wins now reflected as losses on the books 94 34 0.734 Tressel drops to #7 on the all-time list, behind Yost, Bo, Crisler, Carr, Woody, etc.
4 The entire 2010 season is wiped (0-0), but Tressel is still officially coach for the 2010 season. 94 21 0.817 He remains on the list at #2, given he still qualifies with 10 seasons.
5 The entire 2010 season is wiped (0-0), and Tressel doesn’t get credit for coaching in the conference last season 94 21 0.817 Poof! Tressel completely wiped from the record books–he would not meet the minimum 10 year qualification.


Of course that assumes the punishment stays somewhere within the framework for the self-imposed penalty.  If not, there are many other potential outcomes:

  • The Big Ten could decide to take some action that’s not consistent with the NCAA ruling (like making a ruling on only the conference games, which would tweak the above table).
  • The NCAA penalty could go deeper than 2010, resulting in a bigger shift in the rankings.
  • And there’s the off chance the other coaches (Carr) could be credited with additional wins shifting the rankings even further.

Related: The ‘H’ is for Handlebar (1896)

You might know that Yost Ice Arena, the current home of your beloved Frozen Four bound hockey squad, was once the home of the Michigan basketball team.  Up on eBay right now is a wire pic of hoops star Cazzie Russell and notice the gent who’s featured on the wall with his familiar grin:

cazzie with Yost

I’d like to see that giant photo hanging somewhere inside Yost–AD Dave Brandon, you must bring it back.  Extend the Yost brand!

A couple other items of interest.  First, up for bid an actual official 1953 Heisman ballot with one reporter giving the nod to a Paul Geil of “Michigan U.”:

Paul Geil Michigan Heisman

If you don’t remember Geil’s exploits here in Ann Arbor, don’t feel bad.  He actually played for Minnesota and had a fine career.  Merrell’s messy vote didn’t matter as Geil finished second to John Lattner of Notre Dame in a very tight vote.

Finally, I love this shot of Bo with Ricky Leach in a classroom setting, talking some serious football:

leach and bo

So over the weekend a gent named Neal Rubin for popped up and wrote this piece on Rodriguez in the Detroit News, basically talking about how much of an a-hole Rich Rod is.   Normally I wouldn’t bother to say anything – it reads like a bad sports radio call – but after basically calling Rich Rod a slippery, money-grabbing phony, he went here:

Fielding Yost didn’t sign contract extensions and then flirt with other schools to extort raises.

Actually, despite this being a completely different era in college sports, Yost maneuvered quite a bit with his contracts and with U-M.   I know FHY on some level—he was a very savvy negotiator and businessman, go read The Big House–so when I saw this I got a laugh.

I asked author/historian John Kryk [Natural Enemies], who’s in the process of writing the definitive history of Yost and his Point-A-Minute teams, and he shared this on the topic:

“No matter how long Yost’s contract was (one-year, two-year, five-year) in his first decade, it was always a source of relief in Ann Arbor every late-Nov/early-Dec when he announced he was for sure coming back. Occasionally, there were reports he was considering an offer from, say, Wisconsin — or from the East. One year he even boldly and publicly disputed the wording of his contract as to whether he’d be allowed to coach elsewhere if he opted out of coaching Michigan.   Another year he threatened to retire, he was so discouraged.  Yost worked it masterfully to his own advantage.”

Someone tell Rubin he just got served.  Then tell him what that means.

You’d think the more experienced writers would be a little more conscientious about tossing out these historical references but I don’t find that to be the case at all.   Rubin then mentioned some other big names:

Fritz Crisler didn’t try to weasel out of a buyout clause. Bennie Oosterbaan didn’t make an embarrassing public plea for his job at a banquet. Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr were in Ann Arbor for the long haul, and there was comfort and benefit in that for all concerned.

As for Crisler, while I wouldn’t characterize it as a “weasel” move, he did break his contract at Princeton to come to Michigan.  He was in the middle of a five-year deal with the Tigers and got out of it to coach in Ann Arbor.  Oosterbaan, who dedicated his entire life to Michigan, didn’t make a plea—he simply resigned from the heading coaching post to make way for Bump Elliott.

And Bo was in for “the long haul” all right, that is after he seriously considered but rejected Texas A&M’s 10-year deal that would have made him coach and AD.

Rubin should stick to the sweet and yucky love at Milford High


Here’s the last entry* in ‘This Week in Michigan Football History’ to be played Saturday on WTKA 1050AM’s Key Bank Countdown to Kick-off pregame show before The Game.

It’s probably the most unique segment in the series as we go back — ALL the way back – to the 1800s and talk about the game played on this day in 1883 against Stevens Institute, the first game ever played against Racine College and a few key facts from the underappreciated 19th century.  I hope you enjoy it:

Thanks to reader Scott B. for pointing out to me the tie to George Jewett, the first black player in Michigan (and conference) history, and the current team. 


Believe it – according to U-M Media Relations, freshman DB Courtney Avery is a descendant of Jewett.  I’m digging for some better details on this.

The sponsor of This Week…is Wolverine Beer so here’s where you can find it and you can hear all of the  This Week… clips here.

* Exclusive: We might to special hockey history segment for the Big Chill so look out for that.

20. October 2010 · Comments Off on A Century Ago: 1910 Michigan Football through the Words of The Daily · Categories: Archive 2010 · Tags: , , , , , ,

001 - Yost

Recently I visited the outstanding U-M Bentley Historical Library to wade through the pages of the Michigan Daily archives from fall of 1910.  Here’s a brief look back at Fielding Yost’s tenth season at the helm of the Wolverines:


Expectations were high coming into 1910, as the previous season Yost’s men became the first “western” team to knock off one of the traditional eastern foes when they defeated Penn 12-6 in Philadelphia, in a game not as close as the score indicated. They added a 15-6 win in the season finale over Minnesota and Michigan made claim to the mythical title of “Champions of the West”.

The 1910 season would prove a bit rockier, as Michigan was still settling into their status as an independent. Seven games were scheduled for the year, including four against rivals that are quite familiar a century later: M.A.C (later MSC then MSU of course), Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Minnesota.

Here’s how the season went, through the words of the U-M student newspaper from the fall of 1910:

Game 1: vs. Case, Ann Arbor, October 8, 1910

The 1910 slate started on October against Case, the Wolverine’s foe in the previous four season openers and a team that nearly spoiled the 1909 season. Yost squeaked by 3-0 that season and hoped to put up a more impressive showing this time.

On Yost’s mind: High expectations. “Michigan will send the strongest team against Case that has faced them in five years,” said Yost in the week leading up to the opener.

Scouting Report: According to the Daily, “..the Clevelanders will send up a powerful aggregation confident of providing the hoo-doo on the Wolverines by besting them in this thirteenth struggle between these teams.”

The Game: Michigan and Case tied, 3-3 in a tough battle. According to the Daily, despite displaying “clever plays and brilliant strategy”, the Wolverines “failed in the execution.”

Random Notes: That week the Daily chastised the practice of the hazing of freshman on campus, including a description of some of the incidents:



Game 2: vs. Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C), Ann Arbor, October 15, 1910

The “Aggies” as they were known and delivered a stinging blow to Yost’s men in 1908 when they tied their very much bigger brothers 0-0. The landmark tie was still on the minds of many in the state.

On Yost’s mind: Bouncing back from the Case disappointment with a mix of concern about the team from Lansing. “M.A.C. has a fine team,” Yost told reporters. “I hope to win, but the boys must play better than they did against Case.”

Scouting Report: According to the Daily, “The last time Michigan played M.A.C. the game resulted in a tie and ever since that time the Farmers have been boasting of what they would accomplish at the next meeting with the Wolverines.”

The Game: Thanks to a late rally Michigan prevailed 6-3 at Ferry Field. According to the Daily, the victory, “required every ounce of strength which the maize and blue players possessed to secure the verdict.” Apparently things looked grim for Yost’s crew late in the game, as the Daily observed, “the war correspondents in the press box began to write of a Michigan defeat, and black fear crept into the hearts of the rooters.”

001 michigan_bests_farmers

Random Notes: Earlier that week the topic of whether Michigan players should wear uniform numbers, as was the practice on eastern teams. Yost didn’t like it, telling reporters, " brings the individuals into too much prominence.  The team is a machine and should be considered as such and not their individual efforts."


Game 3: vs. Ohio State, at Columbus, October 22, 1910

Michigan blew out Ohio State 33-6 in 1909 but expected a tougher test this time in Columbus. The Buckeyes weren’t yet nearly the rival, at least for those in Ann Arbor, which they would evolve into over the next few decades.

On Yost’s mind: Fixing his team. Knowing the team needed much work, the Daily reported that Yost closed practice, working with the team “till dark behind closed gates.”

Scouting Report: Per the Daily the folks in Columbus smelled blood “Great local interest has been aroused and the indications point to a larger crowd. The O.S.U. backers believe that this year their favorites have an opportunity to vanquish the oft-triumphant Wolverines and they are planning to attend the anticipated massacre..”

The Game: Once again the teams ended the day tied 3-3 and Michigan could simply not get things going. The Daily came down hard: “it was the third time that they failed entirely to show the class expected of them.” The effort of Yost’s men was described as “ragged in the extreme.”

Random Notes: The 3-3 was tough to take in Ann Arbor, but Buckeye backers had a different view of the deadlock. The Daily observed the scene:

When the timer’s whistle made it certain that Michigan had indeed been tied, the Ohio rooters, who packed the stands, rushed onto the field and danced madly while their band played and the student clowns capered about “Berky” the mule, that was advertised as ‘having Michigan’s goat’. Factory whistles screamed and cannons boomed in honor of what the Ohio backers felt to be a triumph.


Game 4: vs. Syracuse, in New York, October 29, 1910

Michigan pounded Syracuse in Ann Arbor 44-0 [yes, 44 not 43-0 haha] in 1909 but this time the team would travel east for the battle, and that was not a trivial trek in those days.

On Yost’s mind: How to fix his team after the sluggish start. The Daily reported that, “Yost came to the conclusion that three times was often enough for a Michigan eleven to display miserable form in its gridiron contests” and reported there would be a “shake-up” in the team’s line-up.

Scouting Report: Syracuse fans were certainly still a bit shell-shocked from the 44-0 beatdown from 1909 but given Michigan’s struggles this season, the Daily’s read was that they were poised to win. They described the mood in New York, writing, “if the Wolverines do not leave the stadium a beaten eleven tomorrow afternoon, there will be disappointment and surprise in the orange and black camp.”

The Game: Finally Michigan “hit their stride as last,” shutting out Syracuse once again, this time 11-0 on a wet day. How sweet was the win? The Daily wrote that Yost’s crew, “played the kind of football that has made the maize and blue victorious on many gridirons..”

Random Notes: The Wright brothers had their famous flight in 1903 and the spirit of air travel infected Michigan’s campus. The Daily announced the forming of ‘The Aero Club’ because “Michigan is not to be outdone in the matter of aeronautics.” The agenda of the club (since they surely had no actual planes!) was unclear, per the Daily: “just what will be done by the club is as yet undecided.”


Game 5: vs. Notre Dame, in Ann Arbor, November 5, 1910

Notre Dame was coached by Shorty Longman, a former Michigan player under Yost and ‘The Catholics’ issued Yost his only defeat in 1909. A debate lingered from the previous season about who truly deserved the distinction of ‘Champion of the West’. Michigan was confident coming out of the huge victory in New York, and the Daily headline boasted, “Notre Dame Looks Easy For Varsity.”

On Yost’s mind: Trying to temper the team’s confidence. “They played poor football last week,” Yost said, “but look out for them.” He added, “Those fellows play real football.” Yost continued to practice in secret.

Scouting Report: Word out of South Bend reported that Longman was “busily developing the ‘system’ he has devised, behind closed doors.”

The Game: On Friday before the scheduled game, the Daily headline roared, “Rumored Ineligibility May Prevent Contest.” At issue were up to three Notre Dame players who Michigan argued exceeded the eligibility limits that the two teams agreed to contractually. This drama actually was being played out long before the scheduled game, but wasn’t resolved until a day before the scheduled kick-off. At noon Friday, Michigan announced the game was cancelled and tickets would be refunded. Michigan instead played an intrasquad scrimmage at Ferry Field on Saturday.

001 michigan breaks with notre dame

Random Notes: A week before the schedule Notre Dame, a senior wrote the Daily to air concern that the band stopped playing Michigan still relatively new fight song, ‘The Victors’, prior to games. Instead the senior noticed it was only being played at the half and he urged the Daily to poll fans to get their take on the matter.  More here.


Game 6: vs. Penn, in Philadelphia, November 12, 1910

The 1909 Penn game was one of the more memorable of the previous decade. Not only was it the first win for a western school for one of the traditional college football powers, the Wolverines were cheered to victory by the men of the U.S.S. Michigan, a navy ship that was docked in Philadelphia.

On Yost’s mind: He clearly wasn’t worrying about Notre Dame. As soon as he learned that the Notre Dame game was canceled, he hopped a train to Lafayette to scout the Penn team that was playing there that day. Later, once the team arrived in Philadelphia, Yost moved the team out into the country fearing for Quaker “spies”.

Scouting Report: In ESPN-style hype, the Daily declares that the winner of the game will likely decide, “the championship of America.” Rumors were abound pregame that two of the Penn stars would not be able play, but the Daily writer cautioned, “these stories are not, however, accepted at face value..”

The Game: For the third time this season, Michigan left the field in a tie, this time 0-0. The Wolverines seemed to own the pace of play but had a field goal blocked and what appeared to be a touchdown reception ruled incomplete as the receiver “stepped outside.” Yost declared, “We ought to have won.”

Random Notes: The Michigan band wanted to make the trip to Philadelphia to support the football squad, but needed to raise some money to supplement the university’s funding to make it happen. The Daily reported that a Mr. Joseph R. Smith, U-M class of 1848, sent $2.50 to the band leader to help. Eventually, thanks in large to the attention given to the matter in the Daily, the funding was secured and the band made the trek to the game to support the Wolverines.


Game 7: vs. Minnesota, in Ann Arbor, November 19, 1910

Much was on the line in the season finale against the Gophers. Despite the scars of the three ties, Michigan was undefeated and faced the undisputed champion of the Western Conference in Minnesota setting up the opportunity to stick it to the old conference. The Daily continued the hype declaring, “the greatest game of the season, east or west, will be played next Saturday on Ferry Field.” Hay was spread on Ferry Field to protect the gridiron from the snowfall expected during the week.

On Yost’s mind: How to fill some holes. Michigan agreed to play Minnesota under the eligibility rules of the Western conference, and that would mean that Yost would be short his right tackle.

Scouting Report: Word was out that a veteran player on the Gophers surprisingly returned to action the week prior after appendicitis earlier in the season. Seasoned writers in the Midwest were torn on who to favor in the game against the two rivals.

The Game: The Daily headline roared in blocked letters, “CHAMPIONS OF AMERICA”, the perceived spoils of the 6-0 victory over the Gophers. From the view of the student newspaper, “In a scintillating exhibition of modern football the Wolverines completely bewildered the much touted Gophers..” The Wolverines outgained the Gophers by 130 yards in tough battle, where the teams punted an amazing 43 times.

001  - champions_of_the_west

Random Notes: The Little Brown Jug rivalry was just in its infancy, having effectively been crafted the year before in the contest between the schools played in Minneapolis. The jug was now in Ann Arbor and a Daily headline read, “Fight For Old White Jug”, which was indeed the original color of the crock.

Joy Miller & The Disgrace of 1909
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