...talks about how UConn hasn't been in contact and how they're out. (HT: UMHoops)
The First Touchdown in Michigan History?
Richard Retyi of U-M Athletic Media Relations has penned an outstanding article on MGoBlue.com with the story of the first touchdown in Michigan history. Not surprisingly for a sport that was just trying to figure itself out, the touchdown was scored in very unusual fashion by a student-athlete whose on field and off field contributions to the University of Michigan may qualify him for the title of the first ever Michigan Man.
Michigan football earned varsity status in 1879 and that year played the first two games in program history, defeating Racine College and tying the University of Toronto.
The U-M roster featured nine players from the state of Michigan (six from Ann Arbor) and one each from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. The team photo features 13 handsome gentlemen with team captain Dave N. DeTar standing in the back row with his mates. The team did not have a head coach until 1891. Hand written notes on the back of the team picture read:
"All except Collins H. Johnson were in Chicago for the game with Racine College on May 30, 1879. Petit was substitute and did not get into the game. Touchdown by Pond. Field goal by DeTar."
Pond referred to Irving Kane Pond, an Ann Arbor native and a halfback on the first-ever U-M football squad. Pond had the honor of scoring the first touchdown in Michigan football history, though he did not self-identify as much of a football player.
Pond recalled the milestone touchdown run in his autobiography, which involved running over bleachers and vaulting his tacklers like a superhero:
"I am not a modern footballist (sic) if indeed I were ever any kind of footballist. I played only for the fun of it! ... My touchdown was made towards the end of the first half and involved a long distance run to where the ball must be grounded directly behind and between the goal posts ... To Avoid being tackled I was forced to mount the bleachers and run eastward along them until I was opposite the goal when I stopped suddenly and -- fearing that a touchdown in the bleachers would not count-- jumped over the heads of my pursuers to the ground."
1879 U-M Football Team - Irving Pond is the somewhat disinterested fellow at left, middle row.
Pond went on to great success as an architect in Chicago in partnership with his fellow alumnus and brother Allen Pond. They were purveyors of the Arts and Craft style of architecture and helped to usher in the Chicago school, even if its greatest exemplar Frank Lloyd Wright considered I.K. Pond stodgy and dead fish-like:
"Yesterday someone told me [Wright] that truly-old I.K. Pond took exception to your [Lewis Mumford] 'Sticks and Stones' because you weren't a 'practicing architect.' What 'practicing architects' know anything at all of architecture anyway, -- even if they could write about it? Certainly not he. He's a dried herring, hanging beneath the eaves of Architecture."
Regardless of Wright's opinion of Pond, he was well liked by the U-M leadership and apparently, several other midwestern universities.
The brothers' Ann Arbor connection remains strong. They excelled in building large university student unions and used their skills to design student unions at Purdue, Michigan State, Kansas and of course at their alma mater, Michigan. The Michigan Union was actually constructed on the site of the brothers' boyhood home and the Pond brothers also designed the Michigan League, the Student Publications Building on Maynard and the old YMCA Building on Fourth Street.
Pond and Pond were responsible for a bevy of public and private buildings, including Hull House for the noted social and political activist (and first female Nobel Peace Prize recipient), Jane Addams.
Pond was clearly a highly athletic gentleman, and maintained his fitness into his eighties.
Pond remained physically fit well into his golden years and performed a backflip on the occasion of his 80th birthday, a feat that was photographed for Life magazine in 1937. In fact, Pond utilized back flips and somersaults as part of his daily exercise regimen. In an article written about him in the Michigan Alumnus Magazine in 1927, Pond recalled using his acrobatic skills to confuse his opponents on the football field.
"The great satisfaction I had in that game was in learning that I had confounded the other side in turning a back somersault at the signal for its kickoff at the beginning of the second half, grabbing the ball as I alighted upon my feet and going down the field for a long run."
Now who wouldn't want to see Daryl Stonum turning a back somersault just before catching the second half kickoff and racing down the field in honor of the late, great Michigan Man, Irving K. Pond?
[Edit 1: Here's the link to the picture of I.K. Pond doing a backflip at 80 as memorialized in the pages of Life magazine. Apparently Pond was an aficianado of acrobats and circuses and wrote a book on the topic: Big Top Rhythms: A Study in Life and Art.]
[Edit 2: Here's a link to a great history of the Michigan Union. The building was started in 1916 and completed in 1919. During it's very early existence, it was used to house the WWI version of the ROTC and NROTC units which as you might imagine, were quite large. I think it's fitting that the Navy Mess was established in the Union's unfinished swimming pool.]
Owing to wartime difficulties, however, the building was not ready for use by the students until 1919, although, with the aid of a loan of $260,000 from the Michigan War Preparedness Board, it had been sufficiently completed to be used as a barracks for the Students’ Army Training Corps; during this emergency it served as a dormitory for 800 men and as a mess hall for some 4,000.
[Edit 3: Is it possible the I.K. Pond's story of running along the bleachers and vaulting over the hapless Racine defenders is apocryphal? Oh yes. Greg Dooley of MVictors.com just alerted me to his MGoPost from Feb 2009 that includes a contemporaneous account of the game from the Racine Advocate.
Our Club [Racine] won the first "kick-off" and Mr. Parker sent the leather covered oval high in air and far over the field. There was a burst of applause from the grand stand which stilled as Campbell of the Michigan caught the ball, and at high speed rushed with it toward Racine's goal. From this time on our boys had the worst of it...
In the second struggle the goals were reversed, and the same tactics were employed as before, the Ann Arbor Club on the offensive and our boys simply endeavored to defend their goal. Mr. Chase made an excellent catch from a Racine kick, placed the ball directly in front of the Purple's goal and Mr. D Tarr kicked the oval ball high and clean over our goal just as time was called. This ended the game in favor of Michigan...
Also, the Bentley's page on the 1879 team records the score of the Racine game as 1-0 in favor of Michigan, so at least for now, the official score seems to be limited to Tarr's kick. Since Retyi's article credited the Bentley with research assistance, it would be interesting to know what their Michigan football archivists think about Pond's fantastic (in every sense of the word) account.]