[Ed-M: Shoe, these are neat and all, but I think they're better left for the board or mgo.licio.us than the diaries. I'll ask Brian what he thinks]
Check out "Hailed! Retired jerseys at Michigan", a new article in Michigan Today by James David Dickson. It tells the story of how the decision to retired football jersey numbers was started by an unlikely member of the football staff.
At U-M, the tradition of retiring jerseys started not with a head coach or an athletic director, but with an equipment manager, Henry Hatch.
After Bennie Oosterbaan's record-setting career at wide receiver ended in 1927, sportswriters noted that equipment manager Henry Hatch, who assigned numbers for the football team, had taken Oosterbaan's number 47 out of circulation prior to fall 1928.
A decade later, before the 1938 season—between the time Harry Kipke coached his last game for Michigan and Fritz Crisler coached his first—Hatch made it official, announcing to the media that number 47 would never be worn again.
Just two years later, Hatch told the media in November 1940 that Tom Harmon's number 98 would see its last when Harmon hung up his cleats, a decision that seemed to presage Michigan's 40-0 romp over the Ohio State Buckeyes, which propelled Harmon to win the sixth Heisman Trophy ever awarded, the first to a Michigan player.
Henry Hatch, U-M's famed equipment manager, with two of the jerseys he retired: Tom Harmon (98) and Bennie Oosterbaan. (Photo courtesy U-M Bentley Historical Library.)
If allowing the equipment manager to retire numbers seems unorthodox today, at the time no one objected. When Harmon was honored, one newspaper caption referred to retiring jerseys at Michigan as "Henry's niche of fame."
The story goes on to touch on the retiring of the Wistert brothers jersey #11 and how Oosterbaan made the unilateral decision to retire Ron Kramer's #87. Obviously the decision to retire Gerald Ford's #48 jersey was an Administration decision. Here's the news:
One of athletic director Dave Brandon's priorities is setting a consistent standard for retiring jerseys at U-M. Only three sports, football, baseball, and basketball, have retired jerseys, but with some 27 sports at Michigan, Brandon says now is the time to set a consistent standard.
"Should the player have graduated from Michigan? Should professional success factor in? What about the player's level of involvement and giving back to the University? These are all things we're looking at," Brandon told Michigan Today.
What a surprise. Dave Brandon is trying to bring some order to this process. The artilce goes on to outline how baseball, basketball, softball and hockey handle the issue. Did you know:
...there is only one jersey that will never be worn again in "The House that Cazzie Built"—the number 33 once worn by the former Wolverines guard himself. Russell is widely credited with restoring Michigan basketball to relevance in the 1960s. The other jerseys [Glenn Rice (#41) and Rudy Tomjanovich (#45)] were honored by the program, but can still be assigned, Madej said.
Red Berenson and Carol Hutchins give some good insight into how they assign jersey numbers as well. You can sum up their approach with one word: tradition.
Then again, what's Michigan athletics if not traditional?