Ohio State spent much of the 2010 season demonstrating that it was possible for both teams to lose a football game. But can both teams win a game?
Visitors to Oberlin, OH on an autumn Saturday who happen to join the throng of hundreds at Savage Stadium and spend some time perusing the program for the day's football game might be surprised, if they're Michigan fans, to learn that Oberlin's all-time record against Michigan is 1-8-0. Oberlin is, after all, one of the 85 opponents Michigan claims an unblemished record against.
The late Geoff Blodgett, professor of American history at Oberlin and before that a wide receiver on the football team, spent some time in the archives and wrote a brief article on the disputed game in the Oberlin Alumni Magazine.
I recommend the piece. It's a great window into the world of college football in the 1890s--one part cutthroat mercenary competition in the style of Vonnegut's Player Piano (Oberlin had hired John Heisman away from the University of Pennsylvania not just to coach but to play!) and two parts glorified backyard pick-up game, officiated by subs from the two sides and with rules made up on the fly ("guys, we need to shorten the second half--the last train home leaves at 5 and we aren't going to be done in time to make it." "ok, we'll stop playing at 4:50.").
The latter went about as well as you'd expect. With the 4:50 deadline approaching and Michigan up by 4, Oberlin's Fred Savage ripped off a 90-yard run from scrimmage, tackled from behind by George Jewett at the Michigan 5. Blodgett picks up the story:
Two plays later Oberlin made its final touchdown. Score: Oberlin 24, Michigan 22, with less than a minute to go. As Michigan launched its last drive, the referee (an Oberlin sub) announced that 4:50 p.m. had arrived, time had expired, and the Oberlin squad trotted off the field to catch the train. Next the umpire (a Michigan man) ruled that four minutes remained on the game clock, owing to timeouts that Oberlin's timekeeper had not recorded. Michigan then walked the ball over the goal line for an uncontested touchdown and was declared the winner, 26 to 24. By that time the Oberlinians were headed home clutching their own victory, 24 to 22.
To Oberlin, well, damn it, a deal is a deal, the train is leaving the station and it's not as if there were alternate transportation options in 1892. To Michigan it must have seemed a lot like the guy that wins a big pot at the poker table, stuffs the winnings in his pocket, checks his watch and says "oops, gotta go."
I don't know how the dispute could have been adjudicated then--it's not as if there were any established procedures for it--and it's surely impossible now that all the relevant facts have been buried with the participants (what was really agreed at halftime? when did 4:50 really strike? what was the deal with the missing timeouts?).
As far as I can tell, the NCAA has recognized both team's claims to the victory. That seems fair--it makes a better story, and the double victory helps restore a little balance to the football universe after all the vacated wins of recent years.
Angelique Chengelis has an article in today's Detroit News regarding the kinship of Courtney Avery and Michigan legend George Jewett. Link: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20121005/SPORTS0201/210050350/Michigan-s-Courtney-Avery-proud-relation-history-making-Wolverine?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Sports
I'd been ignorant of Jewett's legacy until I saw an article in March's Michigan Today. The article (http://michigantoday.umich.edu/story.php?id=8143) is well worth your time to read, as Jewett's legacy is impressive. Michigan would not have another african-american player until the legendary Willis Ward. I cannot recommend the article highly enough if you're unaware of Jewett's story.
Jewett's father was an Ann Arbor blacksmith. Not only was Jewett Michigan's (and the B1G's) first african-american player (1890!), but he was a renaissance man and powerful business presence in Ann Arbor after graduation. He was also Ann Arbor High School's 1889 valedictorian. He played for the Wolverines in 1890 and 1892, later transferring to Northwestern to become their first african-american player too. (The transfer was motivated, according to Wikipedia, due to a dispute with Michigan's Medical School dean.)
Per Chengelis, Avery did not know of his relationship to Jewett until he arrived on campus. It's a wonderful bit of history, and with all the talk of "Legacy" jerseys I doubt Avery would trade his legacy for any teammate's.
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.