After watching a December basketball game paint Brooklyn Maize, I was inspired to pass along a thank you.
It’s well known that Michigan has the largest living alumni base of any university. There are many of us who are proud alums and who never have to “justify” our fanhood. Being a Michigan fan came easy to me. The son of two alums (and native Michiganders) I was almost pre-destined to head to Ann Arbor after I graduated high school, despite having grown up outside Chicago. I was lucky and worked hard and managed to go to Michigan and graduate in 2009. There are many who aren’t as lucky as I was. To those of you who are fans of Michigan despite not having a degree: Thank you. You may have been questioned, demeaned even for supporting College Football’s most winning program.
Some may call you “Walmart Wolverine” in a derogatory manner because you choose to support Michigan. But guess what – Michigan doesn’t succeed without the support of everyone: Students, Alumni, Faculty, and (as Fielding Yost called them) “Friends of the University”. It’s true. Michigan Stadium doesn’t get built without non-alumni fans.
From page 190 of Soderstrom’s The Big House* “No one: no student, no alumnus, and no friend of the university would be “giving" anything to the athletic department. Rather, the athletic department would sell a bond at a given amount of interest and pay back all the money over time… it had always been a Michigan athletic tradition that no attempt would be made to secure funds from the state, like the school in East Lansing had done for its new stadium.” Yost needed investors to build the Big House, and it turns out that the first bond letter had provided a “disappointing alumni response” (Page 318)
After bonds were extended to anyone who wished to buy them, not just alumni, “by early 1927, the whole initial issue, 2000 bonds, was sold.” Yost actually angered some alumni (and students, who felt that their seats were terrible even then) by making sure that there were new seating blocks in Michigan Stadium that were specifically NOT for alumni. Yost’s appeal was as such: “’This is a State University – not a privately endowed institution. Ownership of this institution is vested not in our students, faculty, and alumni – but in the people whose taxes make it possible’ Yost would never tire of making this point” (Page 194). I’ll take Yost's point one step further – It’s not just the taxes or the tuition, but ANY support of Michigan makes you a “real” fan. Maybe you can’t afford tuition and thus aren’t an alum. Maybe you don’t live in Michigan and don’t pay Michigan state taxes. Maybe you can’t afford season tickets (which are no longer $2.50 per game like they were in the 1920s), maybe all you do is own some apparel and visit MGoBlog – both of which provide support to Michigan no matter how small. The next time someone asks you if you went to Michigan, just remember that it was fans like you (not just alums!) who gave us the greatest football stadium in the world. And remember that there can be a little inferiority complex around East Lansing, after all they needed money from the state to build their stadium.
*As an aside if you need a stocking stuffer or just a great read on Michigan’s history, I couldn’t recommend Soderstrom’s book more. Click through the MGoLink to Amazon and order it!
Ivan Maisel has an interesting piece on the roots of the Fielding Yost and Knute Rockne feud. It's a concise snapshot of the roots of the rivalry, and good fodder for the "slow season" we're in right now. The article is here: http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/7954463/hate-fueled-football-great-rivalries .
I've always enjoyed the rivalry, finding the Irish to be one of the classier rival fan bases, and less prone to cooler-pooping and couch-burning than some fan bases. Yost's delight in running up points and pissing off opposing coaches with a sharp tongue makes me think of him as an earlier-day Steve Spurrier type.
Choice bits from the Maisel article include:
When Yost became head coach in 1901, he transformed the Wolverines into the most dominant program in the nation. Michigan didn't lose a game under Yost until 1905. These were known as the "Point-A-Minute" teams, both for their margins of victory and to reflect the head coach's personality. Chicago sportswriter Hugh Fullerton would describe Yost's methods as "tramp on the injured and hurdle the dead."
Yost believed Rockne cut corners in recruiting, promising employment and scholarship aid that the rules did not allow and looking the other way when Irish players participated in pro football games on the side.
A quick search didn't turn up the link to this article, so...
First, the link: http://michigantoday.umich.edu/story.php?id=8143
We hear the name George Jewett once in a while on this board, with some of us recognizing him as the first African-American to ever play football at UM in 1890-- and the last for four decades until 1932, mostly courtesy of Fielding Yost --a story well told in a John Bacon article StephenRKass linked to last month: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120224/OPINION03/202240431/1131/sports0201/Willis-Ward-Gerald-Ford-were-their-best-when-U-M-wasn-t)
Michigan Today has a interesting article linked above that just introduces you to Jewett and his accomplishments off the field as well as on. It's not long and really, really worth a read
As you'd expect, there are some ugly stories of what he faced from opposing teams and fans who weren't, let's say, very "progressive" in their racial attitudes. Even by 1890 standards. But what's really interesting about the article is how accomplished the guy was. Summary:
- Captained the football, baseball, and debate teams at Ann Arbor H.S.
- Graduated as high school valedictorian
- Spoke German, French, and Italian
- Earned his medical degree from Northwestern in 1894, also becoming NW's first black football player
- Practiced medicine in Chicago before moving back to Ann Arbor to run a store on State St. called "The Valet" that pressed/cleaned clothes (evidently more lucrative than medicine back in the day)
- Led UM to an 18-0 victory over the Amos Alonzo Stagg-led U of Chicago (the original Monsters of the Midway)
- Scored 3 touchdowns in one half against powerhouse Oberlin, coached by John Heisman (YTH), and added another late in the game that Oberlin and Michigan still dispute to this day
He passed away after a heart attack in 1908 at age 38. There are probably plenty of folks who live on Jewett Ave. in Ann Arbor who don't realize what a great Michigan Man their street is named for.
Rather than engaging in the bouts of Hokemania running wild all over this site, or joining the numerous posters who seem to have forsaken Michigan for a love of RichRod forever-more (similar to my childhood fandom of "whoever Warren Moon plays for" after playing Tecmo Super Bowl as the Oilers), I decided to examine the rich and voluminous history of Michigan football to find some historical perspective.
While I bought in at the beginning of each of the last three years and convinced myself we were "just around the corner," I was disillusioned each year as the losses mounted and the victories failed to do so. I don't think the wins/losses did RichRod in, though - my sense from talking to other alums (and trying to track my emotional path through all of this) was that the sense of "time for a change" came less from the losses, and more from the MAGNITUDE of the losses. With that in mind, I first sought out a list of all seasons in which Michigan has been outscored by its opponents. There were twelve, which was actually more than I expected to find. The seasons (with coaches in parenthesis) were:
This list tells me a few things. First, having a season in which you were outscored by your opponent does not create a supportable assumption that you are a bad coach; if you remove the coaches on this list, Michigan's national championships decrease from 11 to 2. Second, having such a season does make it likely that you will be removed from your duties of coaching football at Michigan at some point; while Yost largely retired on his own terms, there was a movement to get the old man to move on by the time he stepped down. Wieman was gone after his bad season; while Kipke got a bit more rope because of his two national championships, his fourth led to his ouster as well. Oosterbaan's one season being outscored coincided with his last, and then Bump got a bit more rope...because he was cleaning up Bennie's mess? Either way, two for RichRod in three years didn't indicate a future of much success if you look at the historical numbers.
Next, I sought a way to quantify HOW MANY bad losses there had been; the three at the end of this year definitely wore on me, and so I looked at (a) how many games each head coach had lost by 10+ points each year, and (b) how many they did so on average. The numbers are as follows:
|Coach||10-pt losses||10-pt losses per season|
This chart was pretty striking to me; RichRod had more double-digit losses in three seasons than Lloyd had in his 13 seasons!! Also, while the likelihood of these events increased in the Mo/Lloyd years vis-a-vis Bo, they were still well below the Bump/Bennie/Kipke mark, and not far from Crisler and Yost's marks. Five per year more than doubled Bump Elliott, Michigan's 2nd worst coach (with regard to big losses).
Finally, I noticed that RichRod had 5, 4 and 6 double-digit losses in years 1, 2 and 3, respectively. I sought to put those in historical context; of the 110 seasons examined, there were only seven seasons of at least four double-digit losses in a season:
When viewed through this prism, it's much tougher to make the argument that the team was "competitive" and "just around the corner" the last few years - 2010 featured the 2nd-worst set of losses we've ever seen, eclipsed only by 1962. While improving from 3 to 5 to 7 wins seemed on its face to be "progress," the margins of victory and loss indicated otherwise - Michigan was soundly defeated in more games this year than in 2008. Three of the worst seven seasons (by this measure) don't point in the direction of a guy that should have been kept.
While we don't know what direction the team'll take under HOKEMANIA, we do know, at least, that our new coach has a love and appreciation for the history that is Michigan Football. Here's hoping we get fewer of these seasons and more that finish in Pasadena!
It could, perhaps, be defined as a bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to Sweet Home Alabama, a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash…
Irony could also be defined as follows:
A man swears under his breath and loudly and obnoxiously ridicules his team’s head coach while using demeaning rhetoric towards the state of West Virginia and towards the program for making the mistake to hire someone from such an inferior geographical region and inferior group of people.
Now, imagine this event occurring on a bench in the southwest corner of Michigan Stadium, and the man has cheered avidly all day for his maize and blue team, all while making multiple comments throughout the day about the beautiful venue steeped in history and tradition.
If you do not understand the irony, please read further.
We thankfully do not hear the belittling West Virginia rhetoric too often on the boards of mgoblog, but I am confident that we have all heard someone, somewhere, subversively or matter-of-factly, make snide, rude comments regarding the fact that our current head coach originates from the state of West Virginia.
I hear it often, and I laugh and shake my head at fans of our other rival schools who think it’s a funny joke that Rich Rodriguez was born, raised, played football and coached football in the state of West Virginia.
I do not laugh, however, when our own Michigan fans make the same snide remarks. I become frustrated and saddened, as our program’s proud history is intimately intertwined with that Wild and Wonderful state…
Fielding H. Yost, our man, our legend, the original epitome of a "Michigan Man" - who made our football tradition legendary, who oversaw 6 national championships, who designed and built our athletic campus including our beloved football stadium and hockey arena, and who gave our Athletic Department its strong identity which it maintains today - was born in West Virginia and played at WVU.
Every time a Michigan fan makes a sarcastic comment about Rich Rodriguez's West Virginian background, it is ironically ignorant - unless of course, they intended to throw Fielding Yost and the history of our program under the figurative bus too.
Now, do these things mean the current coach will be as wildly influential? I have no idea. Two data points do not equal correlation. This diary is not about his success or failure.
This diary is about our school’s history and our fans’ recognition of it, especially since we are always the first to flaunt our great history and tradition - a history and tradition footed in solid marble by Fielding H. Yost!
My plea to you is to please help educate our fan base to stop making silly remarks regarding West Virginia as some second tier state producing second tier people when the rich and beloved history of our program is based off, yes indeed, a man from West Virginia.
If you hear a Michigan fan make this mistake, simply kindly inform them of the facts about our history, as one can attempt to debate scheme, offense, recruiting, or leadership all day, but the history of the University of Michigan and its strong influences are not subject to debate.
Thanks for listening and thanks for your help!
Relevant aside: Lloyd Carr was hired from West Virginia prior to the 1980 season. Coach Carr was hired to serve under Don Nehlen when Nehlen was hired at WVU, but Carr did not stay long, as Bo Schembechler sought out his assistance only a few months later. Carr was only a coach at WVU during the offseason prior to the 1980 season.
In an annual tradition, the Thursday night before the Ohio State game, a group of Michigan faithful walk through the Ann Arbor cemetery, visiting the graves of Fielding Yost, Bo Schembechler, and Bob Ufer.
We meet at the Burton Clock Tower on Central Campus at 8pm. Some people bring flowers or candles, or nothing at all. Most people come decked out in Maize and Blue.
This is truly a moving experience, and one that I recommend for all who have a chance to attend. It's a solemn reminder of the reason we all love Michigan, and it really gets you in the mindset for the weekend.