"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Ten Year War
The 1978 game set up as another in the Ten Year War with the winner going to the Rose Bowl. Bo lost to MSC for the first time since his rookie season, and the first time in A2, as QB Eddie Smith and Kirk Gibson rode roughshod over us. MSC lost their conference opener to Purdue, and ran the table after that, but, were on probation for some irregularities under Denny Stoltz, so ineligible for the Rose Bowl.
It was said that when Stoltz MSC assistants went into the lockerroom after the Ohio high school football all star game, some of the players started singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
Having had enough of Friday nights on High Street, another scalper friend and I decide to make the trip, but leave the morning of the game. We arrive in plenty of time to hustle tickets, make some money, and get in for the kickoff.
I have also moved to wearing neutral colors.
Our defense, incredibly, holds the Buckeyes without a touchdown, in their own stadium, against their archrival, for the third consecutive time.
Newt Loken, the legendary UM gymnastics coach, had a son who was on the cheerleading squad. My scalper friend, Jimmy, was friends with him.
Holding a 14 – 3 lead with about 6 minutes left in the game, Jimmy says, let's go down on the field and say hi to Newt's son.
I was skeptical, but, went along.
Times being what they were, pre 9-11, and all, we just drew his attention, and jumped on the field, in the corner by the visiting section at the closed end of the horseshoe.
Jimmy had a camera, and imposed upon junior to take our picture. He suggested that we back off the sideline, onto the field. I mean, literally, on the field of play.
The teams were around the 20 yard line at the other end of the field. We moved about ten yards out from the sideline, and the picture was taken of us with the scoreboard in the background.
I lost the damn picture years ago.
(If anyone knows Jimmy Chu, see if he can get me a copy)
This road trip thing seems to be working fairly well, two trips, two wins, so I go again in 1980. Again, the Rose Bowl on the line. Woody is gone, allegedly fired for punching that Clemson player in the Rose Bowl. But the real reason is, he lost to us three years in a row.
Earl Bruce had taken over and gone undefeated in the 1979 regular season, before adopting conference tradition and choking in the Rose Bowl.
1980 was not a good game for Ali Hadji Sheikh, our excellent kicker. He missed an extra point, and at least one field goal, but, again, incredibly, our defense held them without a touchdown, and we won 9 – 3.
In 1982, the conference schedule was supposed to be round robin, but the Suckeyes said they would not back out of any of their non-conference contracts, and so skipped playing a weak Minnesota squad.
Wisconsin came into the snakepit in the rain and stunned them, 6 – 0.
So, we came in at 8 and 0 in the conference, with Ohio at 6 – 1. The Rose Bowl was already clinched. Had the Buckeyes played and beaten the Gophers, would not have been so, but, their decision. And you know what they have for brains.
It rained most of the game, and we could not get a touchdown this time, losing 14 – 9. But Big Ten champs regardless. We lose, but our 8 - 1 record puts us ahead of the 7 - 1 Buckeyes.
So, I now have four trips, and four Rose Bowls.
The 1984 season being what it was, I skipped the trip that year, not wanting to endanger that perfect record.
1986, we are unbeaten, untied, and #2 in the nation for our last home game. Not worried about retaining the Jug, I am deer hunting in the Upper Peninsula when Ricky Foggie breaks lose for a 4th quarter 25 yard plus run leading to the winning score as the Gophers upset us.
That was the only run of longer than 25 yards that the defense alowed all season.
Undeterred by the loss, QB Jim Harbaugh guarantees a win over Ohio.
I go with a rookie, a friend from freshman year at West Quad Wenley House.
As we hit the border, I put the cruise control on 54. He protests loudly about how long it will take to get their at that speed.
I advise him it will take much longer if we go 56, because we will get a ticket. Does he think all those stories are fiction?
He says, the Ohio plated cars are all going 80 or 85 or 90, whizzing past us.
I say yes, they know they have immunity today.
Sure enough, he counts. Seven vehicles pulled over, all Michigan plates.
Being the pro, I make one trip around the stadium, checking the market, and tell him we can get a single for $50. He says that is too much, he will watch at a bar. I suggest that may be a more dangerous environment than the snakepit, but, he says he can buy beer there.
OK. I pick up a single, and stand at the top of the lower deck around the 40 yard line.
It is a gorgeous day, around 70 degrees. I think Jamie Morris has 26 carries, and Spielman has 24 tackles; they are bumping into each other all afternoon.
McMurtry loses a TD pass in the sun on our first possession, or I think we would have smoked them.
With a 26-24 lead, the Suckeyes line up for a game winning field goal attempt, about 43 yards.
I do not have a good feeling about this, but, all the Buckeye fans are screaming to go for it on 4th and long, with absolutely no confidence their guy can make the kick.
Fortunately, they are correct.
Harbaugh is right, we win, I am now 4 – 1 with 5 Rose Bowls in five trips to Columbus.
We go on to lose the Rose Bowl to Arizona State, coached by one John Cooper. The only blemishes on their record, one loss, and a season ending tie with arch-rival Arizona which put them out of the national championship picture.
In another year, tired of losing to Wisconsin, which is a quote from the Ohio AD, and thinking Cooper is a coach who can beat us, they eventually fire Bruce and hire Cooper.
They should have checked his record in season ending rivalry games, as he never beat Arizona.
And let us all be grateful: we are not Buckeyes.
On to law school. Not UM. Their decision, not mine.
But, that costs money too, so ticket scalping, uh, broker, business continues.
Thanks to my baseball buddies, I show up for the pre-season meeting for football program sellers, open to them, and the players on club sports teams. The varsity athletes get to keep their 7 cents per program (which cost a buck back then).
The club sports, like lacrosse, had their money go to their program.
I kind of let them think I was a baseball player (cough) so I got a check in December for my sales for the season.
Yes, this would now be an NCAA violation, as you cannot have benefits available only to student athletes. Program selling is now outsourced.
Hawking programs outside the stadium was perfect cover for hustling tickets. Which my bosses new, but I always sold all my programs, so?
On the first day of Legal Research and Writing class, taught by a recent grad, we were told we would get an “A” if we guessed his favorite number. No one did. Turned out to be #87, for Ron Kremer.
My kind of guy.
We had an undefeated season, except for an inexplicable loss at Purdue. So, beating the Buckeyes makes us the co-champs, with the tiebreaker, winning the head to head game.
The instructor tells me to meet him at such and such bar Friday night in Columbus.
A couple of bros still at the fraternity house are making the trip with me.
The trip down on Friday is uneventful, as, with Michigan plates, we carefully observe all traffic rules. We don't even drink in the car.
The national rule is that fraternity members can stay overnight in any house, so we plan on crashing at the Ohio chapter of our group.
The bar is on the aptly named High street.
In conditions that can only be described as just short of a riot, carloads of people are driving up and down High Street, singing, well, yelling, the obscene words to the greatest fight song ever written, “Hail to the mother----rs, hail to the big c---suckers, hail, hail, Michigan, the cesspool of the West.”
I ask someone what the straight metal poles are, about four feet high, regularly spaced along the sidewalk a foot or so in from the street.
Those are parking meters, is the response.
Where does the money go, says I.
Oh, now they remove that part the day before the Michigan game. Cuz one year you beat us, and people were pulling them off and throwing them through the store windows.
OK, we are not in Kansas any more.
Finally find the bar, gigantic line to get in, so we say the hell with it and head for the fraternity house.
Some Buckeyes start engaging us in conversation, being that I have Michigan attire displayed. No one else around. One guy is predicting glorious events for his team. Hands in my pockets, I calmly respond, well, we'll see on the field tomorrow.
Next thing I know, his fist has left my jaw after chipping two of my upper teeth.
There is a scrum for awhile with the two groups, and they scurry away.
Silly me. A crime has been committed. So, I walk the couple blocks back to High Street and find a payphone. To call the police.
There may be something more naïve I have done in my life, but, probably not.
I wait and wait for a car to arrive, looking at the chaos outside the window. And finally realize, they ain't coming.
At the house, there are actually a couple of football fans from Kentucky, or Tennessee, or both, who came up just for the big event, having heard what a colossal game this is. Cool.
We hustle tickets on the street.
Scoreless first half.
In the second half, Ricky Leach leads that option offense up and down the field. After one TD, our holder decides, on his own, to pick up the ball and run around the end for two points.
A 22-0 shellacking. Rose Bowl bound. Though, Rick Leach completed zero passes.
This is right up there with the births of my two children as a great event in my life.
(fact checkers, knock yourselves out, am still going mostly off memory)
Have yet to lose a home game during my tenure as a student.
The Big Ten is now going to allow two teams to go to bowl games.
The tie-breaker rules have been revised to eliminate AD votes. If records are even, and head to head is a tie, non-conference record will be the tie breaker.
Denny Franklin is gone, and we start a rookie QB from Flint, a 3 sport high school star who turns into one of the all time great UM athletes, Rick Leach.
To recap, Ohio, unbeaten-untied national champs 1968, upset by UM in last game of 1969 to cost them that title, lost Rose Bowl in upset to Jim Plunkett led Stanford to cost them 1970 national title, the super sophs graduated, well, left, so 1971 a rebuilding year.
1972 and 1974, lost at MSC in upsets both years, but beat us to go to Rose Bowl and choke.
1973, tie us, beat USC 42-21 in the Rose Bowl. The tie most likely cost them another title.
In those days of the Big Two and the Little Eight, other than MSC, which was away in years we hosted the Buckeyes, the other games were for drinking and passing up co-eds in the stands. Another ritual was throwing the Annie Greenspring – Boones Farm – Mad Dog bottles over the top of the stadium at the end of the 3rd quarter. Just pass them up in the stands to the folks in the top row, who threw them over the edge.
The streak of 100,000 plus started at the end of the 1974 season. The legal drinking age was 18. You could bring a keg into the game, if you had a ticket for it.
The field had not been dug down yet, so the cheerleaders did back flips off the wall after every score, counting up the Wolverine points. Whisky the dog still pushed a ball the length of the field at half time.
Almost, maybe every, game started at 1:30 p.m.
We had our own internal countdown clocks.
We start the year with 3 non-conference games, still an 11 game season and no Notre Dame contract yet.
Not sure which was first, but, I think the 19-19 tie with Stanford was. Not a vintage Stanford team. They missed an extra point and Bob Wood made a then record 4 field goals for us.
Despair. Unbelievable. How could this happen?
Then, next week, even worse. 14 – 14 with Baylor.
I could not get drunk enough.
Then the boys rounded into shape, knocking off one of the Little Eight after another.
My first trip for a game was to MSC in 1973. Very memorable. Played in a raging downpour. They crossed midfield once, on a completed pass, but the receiver fumbled and we recovered.
The ever-daring Denny Stoltz punted on third down on consecutive possessions. I think it was 42-0.
In 1975, they were supposed to be good. (OK, I am fact checking this one. I was right!)
I go to MSC to root against Woody once again.
The 11th game added to the former ten game season, is a conference game, before the three non-conference opponents.
Woody's team is loaded once again, led by returning Heisman winner Archie Griffin.
21-0 Ohio crushes Sparty. The long drought up north is over, as they have won all the rest of their regular season games this decade, and the last couple years of the 60s, except for games in our state. (with the exception of the 1971 rebuilding year)
Sparty then rips off 3 in a row, even beating Notre Dame at South Bend. A couple of my MSC buddies were in town for our game, at a kegger at a sorority house. The sorority had to get special permission from their national office to serve beer.
My fraternity then determined which sororities played at half-time of the Mud Bowl, so they were nice to us. Until after Homecoming.
There was still beer in the keg when we had to leave, so we took it with us.
Having run Duff Daugherty out of town for losing to Bo, MSC now thinks they can take us with their new coach, are hosting in East Lansing.
We get a 4th quarter TD and win 16-6.
MSC is now 0-2 in league play, with no real chance to pass us or Ohio and get to a bowl game.
Being Sparty, they blow a couple of games to finish 7-4.
We go through conference play undefeated, 8-0-2, to face the 10-0 Buckeyes. The Orange Bowl announces it will be ecstatic to take the LOSER of the game to face the Big Eight champ.
I decided it would be appropriate to greet Archie Griffin, finishing what would be his second Heisman winning campaign, with a couple of oranges.
A bunch of baseball players lived in the house and they/I invited me to join them and other male varsity athletes (uh, I was never in that category) to guard the banner from another Buckeye attack.
I just jumped on the field and milled around with them, following along.
It is awesome to stand at midfield and look up at a full house before the Ohio game.
Back in the day, I was big for my size. I was hoping Ohio would storm us at mid-field; then I would be sure to nail Archie with the oranges secreted in my pocket.
Sure enough, the Suckeyes stormed out of the tunnel and came right for us.
Man, they were big! Being in cleats didn't hurt as far as obtaining a height advantage over 6 foot even me. I let the legitimate guardians hold up the banner, and left my hands in my pockets holding the oranges.
The line held, and Woody led them off to the Ohio side.
I planned (again) to go the Rose Bowl after we won. The home team had not lost a Bo-Woody game yet.
Cornelius Greene led them down the field for a score on their first possession.
Our defense then held them to: ten
three and outs.
Greg Mattison, eat your heart out. Ten in a row, with the Heisman winning running back.
We are up 14-7 in the 4th quarter.
One of our Tds, I believe the first, was a halfback pass from Gordon Bell.
Buckeye ball. Third and long. Greene is backed into his own end zone. A Wolverine dives and grabs one ankle. Greene barely gets off the pass.
It is complete.
For first down.
They get all the way down to tie the score.
Now, a tie sends Woody to the Rose Bowl, because we would have the exact same conference record, and a head to head tie, but, we had those damn ties to Stanford and Baylor and would lose the non-conference tie break.
So, we had to pass.
Run back inside the ten.
Buckeyes get a touchdown.
Massive letdown. One home loss in four years.
So, Orange Bowl trip instead.
I was five rows from the top of the upper deck, and cringed at the hits the Selmon brothers were dealing out. Oklahoma had the two Selmons, and, another D lineman who also made all pro.
For the only time in his career, Ricky was knocked out of the game, by an blatant late hit about 3 strides out of bounds. In front of a referee.
Which was not called.
The Buckeyes had blown yet another Rose Bowl, this time to UCLA, opening up the national title.
And Oklahoma took it, by beating us 14-6.
Trivia note: NBC-TV forsook its longtime logo, the peacock, for a stylish “N”, unveiled, of course, on January 1, 1976, first day of the bi-centennial.
Turns out it was the same logo as Nebraska public TV, so they had to change it.
I sneaked into the NBC party before the game with a fraternity brother who did have an invite. When someone tried to bust me, asking if he could help me, I said sure, I'd like a scotch on the rocks. He said show me your ticket. My bro slipped his to me while the exchange took place.
Ahh, the brashness of youth.
P.S. to Ace: yes, I am older than dirt.
(fact checkers, knock yourselves out, am going purely off memory)
I walked by the TV my Dad was watching, asked him who was playing. Michigan – Ohio State. About 60,000 in the stands, not a vintage year for UM or Ohio. I watched maybe 3 plays. We lost.
In fact, one week that year Notre Dame, Indiana, and Purdue were all ranked in the top ten.
Purdue, Minnesota, yes, and, Indiana all tied for first. Purdue having gone the year before, it was ineligible for the Rose Bowl.
Next tie-breaker: who went most recently. The Gophers actually subbed for the Buckeyes in 62, when the faculty vote went against Woody, as they saw no reason why Ohio should go out west to play UCLA, having already whomped UCLA out there in the regular season.
Or, maybe they just did not like Woody. You decide.
So, Indiana made its only trip. I believe they were the first second place Big Ten team to lose the Rose Bowl.
That was back in the days when you could rake up the leaves, pile them on the drivewaway, and burn them. Even in the suburbs.
And only one or two UM games were televised each year, so, tend the burning leaves and listen on the radio.
Now, I am a serious Michigan fan.
Now a football player myself, having been way over the CYO weight limit in grade school, with high hopes of running through the tunnel in four years.
The good? I did start both ways.
The bad? We lost all out games.
Listening on the radio. In the upstairs of the neighbors' garage.
UM dropped the opener to Cal, at home, but has won 8 straight.
The Buckeyes are undefeated, consensus #1, the super sophs, who could not play the year before, freshman being ineligible.
Kern. Tatum. Stillwagon, et. al.
Close at the half, 21-14 Ohio.
Then, the roof fell in at Columbus.
48 for Ohio, and Dr. Strangehayes goes for two.
My hatred of Buckeyes begins. Unabated to this day.
I did not know it, but my career had peaked, having been called up to the championship varsity team for a cup of coffee. Though not playing.
My Dad buys us tickets for the showdown.
This is a juggernaut Buckeye team, defending national champs, going for the Big Ten record for consecutive conference wins. They enter the game having never trailed, for even a minute, the entire season.
17 point favorites.
A win sews up back to back titles, as the Rose bowl no repeat rule is still in effect.
If UM wins, they go to the Rose Bowl.
Though WJR sports director Bob Reynolds announced during the week on his 6:15 p.m. Daily radio show that the conference Ads had already voted to send UM
The game is not nationally televised.
My first UM game was a 7-6 loss to Georgia, I think 1965.
(The next time an SEC team ventured north of the Mason-Dixon line was Alabama at Penn State last year.)
I also saw Ron Johnson's record setting performance against Wisconsin in 1968.
Don Canham has taken over as AD and hired Bo when Bump Elliot retired.
Seems hard to believe these days, but NO ONE was marketing college football.
ABC did not even pretend to show the best game each week, and limited the appearances a team could make in one year.
A couple of years later, they telecast Indiana at Wisconsin, 9th and 10th in the league at the time.
Wisconsin won to break a long losing streak, and the fans tore down the goalposts.
So, Canham advertised tickets in Columbus. And sold about 40,000 to Buckeye fans.
I remember having to stop on 94 westbound at 23. Solid Buckeye traffic.
One charter bus covered in a gray blanket with scarlet letters:
Today: Michigan. Tomorrow: The World.
We are there early and seated in plenty of time, for the first sellout of a non MSC game since, who knows.
The Buckeyes score first. They kick the point, but UM is offsides, so Strangehayes goes for two. And misses.
So when we score and kick the point, for the first time that season, Ohio is behind.
Turns out, they were not a come from behind team.
Our 24-12 halftime lead holds up, scoreless second half.
The crowd counts down the clock, the players hoist Bo on their shoulders, and the upset of the century is complete.
And a legend is born.
This time, I sent in for two tickets, take my Dad for his birthday.
One morning he sees in the paper that the game is already sold out, and ruefully apologizes for having missed the boat.
I am delighted to tell him we are covered.
The super sophs are gone, so Ohio is in a rebuilding year. They lose at home to Colorado, MSC, and to Northwestern.
Don't laugh. If you read our media guide, Northwestern was the only ranked team our 11-0 squad beat that year.
The Big Eight reigned, as Nebraska finished #1, Okalahoma #2, and Colorado, losing only to #1 an #2, finished 3rd in the polls.
Why I remember this stuff. . . . . .
So, ten and 0 UM up against 6-3 Ohio. Rose Bowl trip is already sewn up, with narrow win at Purdue the week before.
We trail 7 -3 before getting our only touchdown.
"Touchdown! BIlly Taylor!" one of the most played Ufer recordings. Sprung by a block by FB Fritz Seyferth. What is forgotten is that Fritz made the 4th and one the play before that kept the drive going. As well as scoring our only TD in the Rose Bowl, a 13-12 loss to Stanford.
The Buckeyes are driving when we make the pick that drives Strangehayes into one of his tantrums, breaking the down markers.
We complete an undefeated season.
Overview: the 70s
Bo lost his first game to Sparty. Woody lost at Ann Arbor in 69, 71, tied in 73, and lost in East Lansing in 72 and 74.
He won all the rest of his conference games all those years, plus 1968.
After that MSC loss, Bo lost only to Woody until being upset by one team per year 76-78, and Woody went until a 78 loss to Purdue before losing to a non-Michigan based Big Ten school.
These records will not be duplicated.
And if you think the Big Ten is bad now, after Purdue fell off around 72, the Big Two and Little Eight featured an extremely weak Little Eight.
The way the schedule works, this game is after thanksgiving.
The Ohio game sells out early, again beating my Dad's ticket order.
To get him into the game, I buy the student season tickets of a bunch of friends who are not going to the games.
Back in the day, no student ID required. Students paid half the full price for tickets.
So, I found myself with a bunch of tickets to the other games to sell, and ended up in the ticket broker business through 1981.
So, for the first time, both teams enter the game unbeaten and untied, 10-0.
I am sure I can make a fortune selling tickets on the street the day of the game. But, most students are still home for the holiday weekend, and you can get tickets for face value or less. Another lesson in humility.
Bo gambles early with a pass, which is picked off.
I am told that Bo would say to Woody before the game, “I'm running right. Try and stop me.” Talk about predictible offenses.
Having listened to the replay on WTKA a few years ago, I was struck by one statistic: Ohio penalties: zero. Zip. Nada. Not a one.
Down ten zip in the fourth quarter, fourth and one, as Ufer says, everyone knows it will be Shuttlesworth up the middle, but, No! Franklin takes the ball outside and bootlegs untouched into the end zone!
The crowd reaction is the loudest noise I have heard in my life.
We hold them, get the ball back, and drive for a tying field goal.
And my Dad says, not likely we can score three consecutive possessions, after being shut out all day.
This is the game the Michigan player called time out after an incomplete pass, or out of bounds play. Bo was not happy.
Lantry missed about a 57 yeard FG near the end, but we students all assumed we were going to the Rose Bowl. Ohio had been the year before, conference records even, head to head even.
I was driving home from Ann Arbor when I hear the result of the athletic directors vote. 6 to 4 to send Ohio. By rule, a 5-5 vote would have sent Michigan.
Dennis Franklin broke his collarbone during the game; the Ads did not want to lose to the Pac Eight again in the Rose Bowl, so they voted to send Ohio.
I had trouble maintaining control of my car.
I will see Bert Smith in hell, or know the reason why.
And Ohio went on to beat USC, 42-21. We would have one that game.
I was planning on going to the game in Columbus, but sustained an injury in MSC's victory over Woody.
I was in the student section with my friend, the last time I wore green and white, actually.
Ohio unbeaten, untied, and number one in the country.
13 to 9 Ohio, with a couple minutes left. The punt pins Sparty back at his own 12 yard line.
In a daring call, on first down, Denny Stoltz sends his fullback, Levi Jackson, off tackle. He goes 88 yards for the touchdown. 16-13 MSC leads.
I am thrilled! However, thrilled as I am, I am even more inebriated and am unable to negotiate a landing after jumping in the air, twisting my left ankle.
I was, literally, feeling no pain.
No OT in those days. Woody drives all the way down the field to the one yard line.
No tying field goal for him.
No timeouts. Ohio snaps the ball, one official throws the flag. One official is waiving his hands, snap not off in time, game over. A third official signals touchdown when the Ohio running back crosses the goal line.
It took an hour for the outcome to be determined, as most of the crowd waited. Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke is at the game, and, the powers that be eventually determine that Sparty has, indeed, pulled off the upset.
My friend abandons me to join the crew that carries off the goal post, to a pre-arranged site where it is cut into souvenir sections for the organized team. Which had pulled off the same feat after the 1972 upset of Ohio.
His brother assists my limping ass back to the dorm.
I forget how I got back to A2; I know I did not drive.
One of my roommates took me to U hospital.
I was sure my ankle was not broken, because I could wiggle my toes.
However, when the doctor moved my foot to the left, I screamed.
When he moved it to the right, I screamed again. When he moved it up, the same result was produced. When he pushed it up, I turned up the volume all the way.
In a cast for a month. No trip to Columbus.
So I watch on TV at the SAE house. Up 10-0 in the first quarter. Awesome.
The defense holds Ohio to four field goals.
We move down for the game winning attempt on the last play. And, the kick was good! Way higher than the upright, and called, no good.
The Denny Franklin years are over, my first 3 years at UM, 30 wins, 2 losses, one tie.
No bowl games.
"Oh how I hate Ohio State"
It's a phrase I often hear tossed around this time of year, nicely summarizing the animosity felt between the two institutions. We've all know the history...
The battles between Bo and Woody,
the fiercly fought games,
the great victories
and the agonizing defeats.
Along with the long history behind it, The Game often has an intense personal importance for fans. But why do you hate Ohio State? Is there any instance that you can (Hoke) point to and say "This is the moment where I went from disliking That School in Ohio to hating them"? Or, is it a culmination of years of cheering for Michigan that have built up a steady distaste for that School down south?
For me, my dislike for Ohio elevated itself in 2005, and transformed into emnity in 2006. I was a sophomore in high school during Michigan's great 2006 campaign. I had been a big Michigan fan for my whole life, but I was still young and not as invested in the rivalry as I am now. The hype for the Michigan-Ohio game that year was huge. I was watching ESPN non-stop for days, absorbing every bit of information on The Game of The Century that I could. Then, the unthinkable occured. Bo, the hero of the Maize and Blue faithful and the patron saint of Michigan football, passed away. It was heartbreaking. Despite the fact I was too young to have seen a game by him I still looked up to him, he was a man who displayed every quality that (to use a much maligned cliché) a Michigan Man should, and thus he was a personal hero of mine.
The hype surrounding the game along with Bo's death put an immense importance in my mind. We had to win it. We had to win it for Bo. We had to win it because Ohio State had beaten us two years in a row (a streak, which now seems gloomily quaint). We had to win it to play for the national championship.
Unforetunately, in sports not everything goes your way (even for Michigan fans), and we ended up losing a close game. I was angry at everything: Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., the turf, the refs, even Shawn Crable. How could we lose? This was Michigan! We had such a great season, everything seemed to work in our favor until then. In school I had to face numerous jeers from my Sparty classmates and looks of gloom from my fellow Wolverines, and I knew why. Ohio State. It was their fault. It was at that time that my dislike for that southern school crystallized into the hate that so many of us feel. And I began to hate Ohio State.
So here we are, five years later, facing a battered Ohio State team. Michigan, on the other hand, is resurgant with our best record since that fateful 2006 season. I cannot help but think gleefully of the great oppertunity that we have to exact revenge on Ohio State.
So as we approach this most anticipated of annual meetings, I wanted to hear the rest of the MGoUsers stories. Why do you hate Ohio State? And what does this rivalry mean to you?
[Note: I know this is long post for a Board, and the mods can move it over to the diaries section if they see fit, but I put it on the board because I wanted to a discussion going, and I thought this would be the best way to start that.]
Few sports fans would argue that we needed yet another book about
the "Ten Year War" - the intense rivalry between the University of
Michigan and Ohio State football teams and their iconic coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. The subject has been covered voluminously in books, magazines, newspapers, and videos (I have reviewed a few myself).
So I have to credit Michael Rosenberg for coming up with a new angle to approach this classic subject. His book, War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest,
uses the backdrop of the protest movement in the era of Vietnam and
Watergate to situate this sports rivalry within the culture and history
of the time.
This allows him to portray the players and coaches as human beings
with opinions and emotions beyond the football field while reminding
the reader that the university, and the surrounding community,
obviously had to deal with a lot more than just the success of the
But while this background is interesting - the different levels of
political agitation on the Ohio State versus Michigan campus for
example - what really makes the book shine is Rosenberg's portrait of
By placing Hayes in this historical context and by connecting his
work as a coach with his unique personality and background - his
inspirations, dreams and deep seated beliefs - Rosenberg captures Hayes
as a multidimensional person rather than simply as an icon or
Rosenberg highlights two figures, among others, who made an impact on Hayes life: General George S. Patton and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And at key moments in the story we see how these influences made Hayes
the man he was. Military history and tactics were never far from
Woody's mind and he regularly used the language of war to describe
football. This is interesting but not shocking or hard to understand.
But Rosenberg's use of Emerson quotes to flush out why Hayes might
have acted the way he did or had the attitude he did jump out at the
reader. It is hard to believe that a Transcendentalist poet/essayist
would best capture the mindset of the famous coach but Rosenberg makes
a strong case that this is one of the most effective windows into
understanding Hayes' life.
Rosenberg also helps show how Hayes was a traditionalist in an age
of upheaval and conflict. He frequently visited the troops in Vietnam
and supported the war until the bitter end. He became friends with
Richard Nixon and was upset when the president resigned; l seeing that
act as cowardice in the face of your enemies.
Of course Hayes is most known for his temper on and off the football
field. Rosenberg discusses the theatrical nature of his temper when
trying to reach his team - and how this seemed to decrease in
usefulness over time. He also makes note of the role diabetes may have
played in his temper; including the actions that led to his being fired.
Hayes, however, always saw himself as a teacher. He was deeply read
in history (particularly military history) and was engaged with
politics and current events. Even in the era of student protests and
anti-war demonstrations he continued to reach out to young people and
he was always ready to decry what he saw as an assault on the
traditional values that made America great. Hayes may have been
increasingly at odds with the spirit of his age but he never stopped
wrestling with it and attempting to make an impact. His competitive
drive and energy drove him to never quit trying.
Hayes was clearly an incredibly unique individual who burst onto the
college football scene and left an indelible imprint. But he was also
a product of his time and time eventually passed him by; or caught up
with him depending on your perspective. There seem to be some
parallels with his friend Richard Nixon in this. Both men built
impressive careers before being brought down by poor judgment. And
both men attempted to live out the remainder of their lives so as to
not be defined by those infamous acts; with mixed success.
Rosenberg covers the other side of the field as well, but Bo
Schembechler doesn't stand out quite like Hayes. The iconic Bo really
develops after this "Ten Year War" period. Sure, the personality is
there but it doesn't quite blossom until after Hayes recedes. But this
history is a neccesary foundation for understanding the events that
were to come.
The other character who stands out in the book is Michigan athletic
director Dan Canham. Canham was a critical figure in the development
of modern college sports and in many ways made Michigan football the
marketing giant that it is. It seems off that this influential figure
is not better known outside of sports historians.
War As They Knew It is much more than a sports book. Sure,
it is a fascinating story about one of college football's greatest
rivalries and the coaches who put it on the map. But it is also a
valuable look into the time period through the lens of college
athletics. You don't have to be a fan of Michigan or Ohio state
football to enjoy the story because the characters and events involved
Of course, if you are a fan of either program and their legendary
coaches this is a must read. And really anyone interested in the
history and development of college football would do well to check it
out. You will come away with a better understanding of how the schools
became the dominant programs in the conference and even the nation at
times. And you will understand better the men behind these programs as
they faced each other in intense competition on the field and dealt
with the tumultuous times outside the stadium and practice field