Winged Helmet Tradition

Origins:  More on this later…but this simple idea of listing out all of the Michigan traditions was spawned from article I was writing on the winged helmet tradition (the piece ended up in the 2013 Michigan/CMU Program.  That spawned a poll asking readers to choose their greatest tradition (pick 1: Wins / Helmet / Stadium).  And that spawned the thought to list out and perhaps slot rank all of the traditions.   Launched via a few emails to Craig Barker of The Hoover Street Rag on August 19, 2013.  Posted beta draft here on September 17, 2013.   Thanks to the instant Twitter feedback from DD (MGoShoe).

Note #1: Individual player accomplishments are verboten beyond events that transcend the field.  Heisman Trophies count.  Desmond Heisman pose counts.  “Braylonfest” does not.
Note #2: Must be something unique to the Michigan football experience or history.  “Tailgating”, for instance. is certainly a Michigan tradition but not unique.

Yost Class:

  • Michigan Stadium (1927)
  • All-time wins/winning percentage (1879)
  • Winged Helmet (1938)
  • Ohio State Rivalry (Ten Year War, The Game..) (1897)
  • 11 National Championships (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918, 1923, 1932, 1933, 1947, 1948, 1997)
  • The Victors (1898)

Schembechler Class:

  • GO BLUE banner (1962)
  • Michigan Marching Band (1898)
  • 42 Big Ten Titles
  • First Rose Bowl (1902)
  • Heisman Trophy Winners (1940, 1991, 1997)
  • Notre Dame Rivalry / Teaching Notre Dame to play football
  • “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions” (1969)
  • Point-A-Minute era (1901-1904)
  • President Gerald Ford (1932-1934 player)
  • Bob Ufer

Crisler Class:

  • Little Brown Jug / Minnesota Rivalry (1903/1892)
  • Yost Field House / Arena (1923)
  • Colors: Maize and Blue (1867)
  • The Mad Magicians (1947)
  • Desmond Heisman pose (1991)
  • “1” in official stadium capacity (1955)
  • 100,000+ attendance streak (1975)
  • Let’s Go Blue” tune + chant (created 1972, Michigan stadium debut 1975)
  • “The Team, The Team, The Team..” speech (filmed in 1983, origins likely prior)
  • Drum major backbend / Drum major goalpost mace toss
  • Bo & Helmet award Decals/Stickers (1969-1982,1985-1994)
  • Varsity (1911)
  • Yellow and Blue (1886)
  • U-M retired jersey numbers (98,47,48,11,87,21)
  • #1 Jersey tradition (Anthony Carter, Braylon Edwards – 1979)

Oosterbaan Class:

  • Michigan State Rivalry / Paul Bunyan Trophy
  • Announcing Slippery Rock Score/Game (1959)
  • Equipment Management (Henry Hatch / Jon Falk)
  • Michigan Football Legends Program – Numbers, Patch, Locker (2011=2014 – R.I.P)
  • Founding membership in Western/Big Ten Conference (1896)
  • Aerial objects:  Marshmallows (R.I.P.) / Toilet paper (R.I.P) / M flags on extendable flagpoles (R.I.P.)
  • Hawaiian War Chant/Temptation
  • Whiskey & Brandy / Dogs running with ball on the field (1968) (R.I.P)
  • Chicago/A.A. Stagg Rivalry
  • Slippery Rock score/game PA announcement (1959)
  • Band Takes the Field / Tri-Service Color Guard / National Anthem Presentation
  • “It’s Great to Be..a Michigan Wolverine” chant (circa ? early 1980s)
  • Cowbell with ‘Go Blue’

Bump Class:

  • Fourth Down / “You Suck”
  • MMB “Cake” Formation (1985)
  • Blue Brothers Dance (2008 Yost, 2011 M Stadium?)
  • Cheerleaders backflipping off the wall (R.I.P.)
  • Cheerleaders spelling Michigan in end zone
  • North / South Go Blue chant
  • Michigan Replay & the ‘Across 110th Street’ theme (R.I.P.)


Post feedback in the comments or via MVictors on Twitter (use #Traditions)


  1. Cool list!

    FYI, the drum major’s move is called “the backbend” and he carries a mace, not a baton. And you could throw an 1898 on the MMB as well (they organized earlier, but 1898 was their first season on the gridiron).


  2. Do you have any information of the origins of the varsity awards? Do second letter earners receive a watch; Do third letter earners receive an M blanket? I don’t know much about these traditions, but I have heard references to them.


  3. I think you’ve got a great thing going here, but maybe some adjustments could be made.
    How about re-classifying based on the originator (Yost/Crisler/Bo/Revelli/Canham/etc.) or the era the tradition originated in? And I suggest the MMB alone is worthy of both Revelli and Cavender groupings. To wit: IMO, the backbend and catching the baton (or mace) after it’s tossed over the goal post are two distinct “traditions.”


  4. Script OHIO since the MMB was the first to perform it and taught it to OSU.


  5. Big House moniker; Carl Grapentine, “Ladies and Gentlemen…”; Cheerleaders handstand race across endzone*
    * do they still do this?


  6. Bull winkle (= to 7 nation army)
    Ron Kramer bringing apples


  7. This may be lumped in with other MMB traditions, but after wins, the MMB plays the “Victors Waltz” and does the entire post-show with their hats on backwards.


  8. How about Keith Jackson and the “ghosts of Michigan Stadium”. I believe Lloyd started the tradition of taking the team inside a dark empty Michigan Stadium on Friday night before fall camp ended.


  9. How about adding the Slippery Rock University scores. This must date back to at least the ’50s as our high school band director (UM grad under Revelli) introduced us to it in the late ’50s. Great that Brandon or others restored the tradition during the past couple of years.


  10. I love this, Greg. Definitely agree that you need to add the Slippery Rock scores. These are way down the list (maybe Kipke Class?), but how about the talking traffic-lady cop at the corner of Stadium and Main entertaining the crowd as they’re waiting to cross; and the MMB drumline pregame show on the steps of Revelli Hall?


  11. love the list, its absolutely brilliant.

    my only comment is to say that I think winning the Big Ten should be the Yost Class. I think beating Ohio and winning the Big Ten go hand in hand (because usually they do!)

    besides that, I think its pretty spot on!


  12. I think the Blues Brothers dance moved over to the Big House in 2010. The MMB did a Blues Brothers halftime show for the opener against UConn, and part of it was teaching the student section/entire crowd how to do the dance.


  13. Pingback: Classifying Michigan Football Traditions |

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