Iowa vs. Michigan 1900
Of the Michigan football fans that give a damn about the history of the program, these are typically broken into two groups: those that cherish the program as they know it during their lifetime or thereabouts, often starting with the Bo era in 1969. And then there’s those who go deep, usually back to Yost’s first season in Ann Arbor in 1901. You’ll notice there are only a few pre-Yost posts on these pages.
Looking at Iowa, one thing that’s kind of curious is that despite their long history of playing Michigan (starting in 1900) and their involvement in our league (they joined the Western Conference in that same year), we’re really not stacked with a bevy of major moments in history that would yield a rivalry with the Hawkeyes, although there are certainly important ties between our programs.
Take Forest Evashevski, the coach that delivered Iowa’s only recognized national championship in 1958 (a postseason vote by the writers after the 8-1-1 Hawkeyes delivered a dominating performance in their bowl), who played for Fritz Crisler’s Wolverines. Evashevski is remembered by many as the man who helped lead Tom Harmon to the Heisman Trophy in 1940 as a “devastating blocker” per his college football Hall of Fame profile.
Today our rivalry with Iowa ranks somewhere buried beneath Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Penn State and even Wisconsin in that strata that probably includes teams like Illinois and maybe lately, Northwestern.
Reaching back to the game that started it all in 1900 I found some interesting stuff. This was of course the season before Yost stepped foot on campus and just as with the ‘68 team that Bump Elliott delivered to Bo, the cupboard wasn’t exactly bare. In fact ‘00 captain Neil Snow was an All-American on Yost’s 1901 team that outscored opponents 555-0.
The 1900 campaign started off with six straight wins heading into the first meeting with the team from Iowa. The game was played at Bennett Park, the early home of the Detroit Tigers at the famed corner of Michigan and Trumbull, the future home of Tiger Stadium.
Iowa won the game 28-5 and I’m just going to let you partake in a little turn-of-the-twentieth century beauty put down in print by a writer at the Detroit Free Press:
The visitors were a most gentlemanly set of young giants, though anything but gentle when in action. They showed magnificent education and training from the tips of their long scalp locks to the soles of their perniciously active feet. Their brains worked like greased lightning set to clock-work. They were shrewder than a strategy board and could mobilize in less time than is employed in an owl’s wink. When they charged it was like a bunch of wing-footed elephants, and when they tackled one of the enemy it was like the embrace of a grizzly. They could kick harder than a gray mule with years of experience, and with the accuracy of a globe-sight rifle.
Get a bunch of rooms, old time Freep dude.
And when the Iowa team returned to Iowa City, well, they found good times along with a small bit of crime and some damage:
The things that happened…that night are written in the books. When our train reached Iowa City…, every person in town was there. A farmer was just driving in with a load of shelled corn. The boys confiscated it and filled their pockets and hats with it. [Ed. Corn was a hot commodity in Iowa?]
We were thrown up on a Tally Ho that was pulled by students with a rope a block long. There was a bonfire on the field. The boys pulled President MacLean and faculty out of their buggies and carried them in a dance around the fire. The president’s hair was singed.
The fire’s heat was so intense that plate glass windows cracked and for a time, it looked as if the flames were threatening an entire block of the business district.
Then they ran to the field and painted the opponent’s locker room pink.