I don't have the answers, but I am fairly certain that we didn't have a problem embracing diversity, considering U of M had its first African American player before the turn of the 20th century in George Jewett, who began at Michigan in 1890. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Jewett
Question About Michigan's Decline in the 1950s and 1960s
This question arose from the recent trend by the local MSM to predict a renaissance in MSU football under Mark Dantonio. The more bold of the MSU faithful have even dared to predict a reversal in the balance of power of college football similar to what was seen in the 1950s and the 1960s when MSU was a national power and Michigan was a middle of the pack Big 10 program.
Now it's been well-documented that MSUs rise to prominence in this era was fueled by the recruitment of African-American talent from the Jim Crow south. Segregation of southern universities and football programs provided for a vast talent pool of black players that coaches like Duffy Daugherty tapped. Once these southern schools embraced integration, this exodus of southern black talent was reduced and the MSU football program returned to being a mid-tier Big 10 program.
The conclusion we can draw from this is that MSU today is unlikely to surpass Michigan since the special social forces that assisted MSU to prominence before, no longer exist. The inherent assumption in this statement is that Michigan will more often than not, outrecruit MSU for talent based on it's higher national profile.
The contradiction to this assumption though is why wasn't this the case in the 1950s and 60s? Michigan was still Michigan in those days, yet MSU was able to draw talent from the south and Michigan appears to have not followed suit. Researching teams from that era, Michigan did not seem to be segregated as there were black players on both Bennie Oosterbaan and Bump Elliott's squads which would seem to rule out any kind of institutional racism.
I'm wondering is there are any MGoHistorians out there who can answer this question. Did Michigan fall behind MSU because we didn't embrace diversity? Our academic standards were higher for incoming athletes? Lack of institutional support for athletics? Or was it just plain bad coaching/recruiting? Does some sort of silver bullet exist to explain this dark period in Michigan football history?
I didn't think bigotry was the reason, but I've never been able to find the answer to this question. I think I have the inspiration for John Bacon's next U of M sports book. Come to think of it, has there ever been a comprehensive book that details the history of U of M football a la "Blue Ice"?
It is true, unfortunately, that Fielding Yost had issues with black players (as did most coaches during that time, it must be added). I think we were an all-white program when he was our coach. But we resumed recruiting black players after he retired, following the 1926 season.
munn goes to EL and HAyes to OSU in like 48 and 51, IIRC. we lose crisler in 47.
I dont remember him speaking about Bennie O specifically, but he did say that Bump did not like to recruit. According to my father, Bump was quoted as saying "A kid should want to come to Michigan, because we are Michigan" or something like that..... I dont know if that is true, and unfortunately my Dad is no longer around to ask about it.
We had a number of black players during that time, but they were almost entirely from the Midwest. Bo mentioned a few times that when he took over, our recruiting budget was very limited, which made it hard to recruit outside the region because of travel costs. MSU apparently was willing to spend more to get its players. They were one of the few programs that recruited nationally at that time.
Also, Oosterbaan and Elliot probably just weren't very good coaches and/or recruiters. (Oosterbaan started out great, but once the last of Crisler's recruits moved on, the program collapsed.) Perhaps we could have muddled through in a different era, but we apparently couldn't get by with those two leading the program at a time when MSU was unusually strong.
It might just be that Bump Elliot was a lousy coach along with a being a bad recruiter. A great player but not a great coach. Regardless of the fact that MSU rose during that time period and went to 3 Rose Bowls, that was just one game a year. And we struggled more than we should have against other teams as well. (Though we would have been national champs in 1964 if not for a 1 point loss to Purdue.)
When Bump left, Don Canham wanted to start steering away from hiring former players as coaches. That was one of the reasons Bo was hired in 1969. And that ended up being the right decision, obviously.
I remember asking my grandfather a similar question (he was born in '35) and he had no real answer, beyond coaching.
There was one main reason that Oosterbaan and Elliot were A.) hired and B.) not fired and that was because both had been All-American football players at Michigan and had strong ties to then-Athletic Director Fritz Crisler.
Some background for those unfamiliar:
Oosterbaan played in the 1920s, and he was a longtime UM assistant coach (he became an assistant immediately after graduating in 1928--he passed on NFL offers for religious reasons). He was Crisler's handpicked successor, and he won the Big Ten in each of his first three seasons (1948-50) including an undefeated National Championship year in '48, a victory in the famous Snow Bowl of 1950, and a win in the 1951 Rose Bowl game. Though the team slipped into mediocrity after this early success, it was enough to keep him in his job until he stepped down.
Elliot had been a star on Fritz Crisler's legendary 1947 team, winning All-American honors. He got off to a rocky start as Michigan's head coach (after 10 seasons as an assistant at Oregon State and Michigan) going 20-23-2 in his first five seasons (1958-63) but he had the support of Crisler and Oosterbaan. Elliot's 1964 won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl with a record of 9-1, the only loss being to Purdue (quarterbacked by Bob Griese who engineered a fourth-quarter comeback to beat UM 21-20). After a few more bad seasons, Elliot managed an 8-2 record in 1968 but this ended with the infamous 50-14 blowout at Ohio State. Elliot stepped down after the season and Michigan hired Miami (OH) coach Bo Schembechler.
So that's why they got their jobs and why they kept them. But the question asked was why were they less successful then the coaches before and after. The main reason I can think of (other than the excellent point made about Hayes' rise at OSU and Munn's success at MSU) is that they were "players' coaches." We've all heard this term before, and it seems to be the case that these two men loved their players and their players loved them. But the problem was they weren't tough enough on their teams. Crisler was a notorious perfectionist who ruled with an iron fist--his players called him "The Lord." The story goes that in 1947, if he could pick out where the ball was when the offense ran a play in practice he would make them run the play again and again until he couldn't find the ball. Part of the shock for the players when Bo took over was that he was tough, he cursed, he was a brutal taskmaster, he ramped up the lax conditioning program, et cetera. What this tells me is that Oosterbaan and Elliot had good years when they had fantastic athletes, but they were too soft on their teams when the talent was not enough to carry the team by itself. Why did Bump Elliot go from 4-6 in 1967 to 8-2 in 1968? My guess is because he had a solid crop of sophomores who were eligible in 1968--Jim Betts, Dan Dierdorf, and Don Moorhead stand out--plus some excellent juniors such as Jim Mandich, Dick Caldarazzo, Garvie Craw, Tom Curtis, and Barry Pierson. If you watch replays of the 1969 OSU-Michigan game a lot of these names will jump out at you. Under a tough, driven coach like BO, these excellent players were able to reach their full potential. My guess is that a similar situation happened with Oosterbaan's early success. Though many of the starters from the 1947 team had been seniors, Oosterbaan's 1948 and 1949 teams were full of players that had been on Crisler's last team. After they were gone, Oosterbaan's laid-back, player-friendly style produced mediocre results. That's my best crack at an answer.
Even more similarities to this new coaching staff. If history indeed repeats itself then I like the future.(obviously a few differences, but many similarities....a players coach, etc.)
Kudos to the OP, as this is one of the best topics among recent threads.
I think that the significance of a set in it's ways, behind the times AD can't be stressed enough. When Canham took over he started marketing the program around the state in an effort to begin to fill an empty Stadium. He worked UofM onto WJR in place of State. He began a building program to update the facilities. (Remember the story of Bo's coaches bitching that the facilities at Miami were better?)
Canham was the first modern AD in college football and he shook a decrepit old program back to life. Hiring the right coach in 1969 didn't hurt either.
You can almost make the case that Canham being the first modern AD in college football was our equivalent to Michigan State's recruitment of African-American talent ... both teams received a considerable bounce from these respective events.
Just as it was with MSU tapping into South, the hiring of a modern AD was a "special force" that drove U-M's return to prominence.
And now, just as recruiting the south is no longer a rarity and instead a necessity, having a dynamic, forward thinking AD is also not only the norm, but a necessity, as well.
As a result, one of Michigan's inherent advantages during the 70's and into the 80's no longer exists.
That wasn't an issue, Bennie started out as having these great teams that Crisler had put together and recruited but when it came for players he recruited to shine we would fall short at one point or another. If Bennie was more interested in pushing his players and preparing harder, especially in 1955-56 we would've made the Rose Bowl one of those years, both of those teams were top 10 caliber but would fall short twice both seasons in Big Ten play.
A lot of those teams' success depended on Ron Kramer and Jim Pace, once they were gone the team struggled immensely. Bennie was not as interested in recruiting the way that Woody, Duffy and Evy (Forest Evashevski, Michigan grad and Iowa coach at the time) were. If Michigan had any sense they would have hired Evy as coach in 1959 instead of Bump.
Bump Elliot took a while to come around on recruiting, the first player he "recruited" was Bill Yearby a DT from Detroit in 1962. Yearby later became a two time All-American and helped us achieve that great season in 1964. That season and our demolishing of Oregon State helped convince Ron Johnson to come here, he became an All American on our team in 68.
It wasn't that he was a bad recruiter or a bad coach, it's just that he preferred to develop talent over time. By the time Canham came over, it was clear that wasn't going to work, fortunately for us, he had a very good recruiting class in 68, which propelled us once Bo got here.
that except for Ohio State, the rest of the Big Ten was down when he came on board, setting up the Big Two, Little 8 scenario. Oosterbaan and Elliott had to deal with some great depth in the Big Ten from the early fifties through the mid-60s. Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota were all national powers along with OSU - with Iowa falling off the map earlier than the others. Wisconsin went through some major up and down cycles and Illinois was strong with Butkus and Grabowski until the slush fund scandal hit. Indiana and Northwestern were pretty much down the whole period with occasional competitive seasons (1967 for Indiana) and Purdue played their traditional "Spoilermaker" role. The limit of only having the Rose Bowl, with no repeats, also made it so that years where Michigan finished in the top 10 in the nation in the 50s seemed as if they were unsuccessful.
As to race, although Michigan had Black players on the team in the 50s and early 60's, it was not to the level that MSU did. (Check out the annual team pictures on the Bentley Library web pages). Michigan also did not make significant recruiting efforts for Black players from the south, the way MSU (Bubba Smith, Jimmy Raye, Sherman Lewis, Jess Phillips, Gene Washington, George Webster etc) and Minnesota (Carl Eller, Bobby Bell, Sandy Stephens, McKinley Boston and others) did. Jim Pace and Bennie McRae being Michigan's only southern Blacks until Tom Goss and Cecil Pryor in the late 60s.
Yost had one black player on the team during his tenure, Belford Lawson (the father of a friend of mine), who was stuck behind All-American Harry Kipke and never played (race may have been a factor). The Ann Arbor Observer should be having a story on it in the October issue. A book in the mid-70s did focus on the history of African-American athletes at Michigan - Hail to the Victors by John Behee. The book did not cover the Lawson story at all, though.
What does all this history mean for the future of the UM-MSU rivalry?
Welp, UM is still much more of a national force in recruiting--and that will help regardless of what type of offense each team runs (more on that later). I don't see that changing. As the OP argues, the souther pipeline to MSU dried up long ago and is not coming back.
In Michigan, MSU should be benefitting from UM's switch to a spread, as well as benefitting from the transition period. But I don't think they are. They had last year, nabbing a bunch of Michigan talent, but this year, outside of Gholston and maybe Hicks, would you take ANY of their recruits?
And they seem to be feeding off UM leftovers, even in a strange Dantonio passive agressive kind of way. Last year they took Henry Conway, an OL out of Ohio who spent almost the entire offseason around UM's campus hoping for a scholarhip offer. This year they took the punter Sadler and the DE Marcus Rush--again, both of whom would have committed on the spot if their committments would have been accepted by UM, but both were "slow-played" and turned up on Dantonio's lap soon after UM said "thanks, but not just yet"
MSU may beat UM this year, but onl if UM can't find a quarterback and are hit hard by injuries going into that game. After this season, I can't see them being big time competitive in the Big Ten. They are not showing any recruiting prowess, and Dantonio is not showing anything special other than being able to clean up the house and put a pretty decent product out there week in and out.
This is one story hat is going to be fun to watch. MSU crumbling, UM rising, and then watching all the SE Michigan media hacks jump on Rodriguez's jock.
I find it ironic that MSU's only "glory days" were fueled by national recruiting, because they now criticize UM for it and think that they can win by focusing on instate recruiting.
I think the results will be the same: the team that recruits the best nationally will be the dominant program. So far, that is UM; I see no reason for that to change.
As for the bad era, I agree that hiring former players to be head coaches was a mistake. They just didn't do that great of a job. The program was stale and inbred, and bringing in an outsider was the correct remedy. Sorta like now.
Enjoyed reading both the OP and the responses, as I was always somewhat curious, but never understand some of the possible reasons for Michigan's football performance in both the 50's and 60's.