MGoHistory - The Year In Review - 1971

Submitted by saveferris on May 23rd, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Since the stroll through 1986 came off pretty well, and since it’s the off-season, and since Seth asked for it, we step into the Quantum Leap accelerator, once again, and journey back into the glorious past to observe Michigan athletics as part of overall history.  We emerge in a time that will be unfamiliar to most of us, including yours truly as this is the year of my birth; a time without PCs, and cell phones, and ESPN, and internets, and blogs.  Journey back to the bizarre and colorful times that were….1971!

We are in the midst of Richard Nixon’s first term as president, where he shows a penchant for pointing at things. Vietnam is still going on and still unpopular.  It gets even more unpopular when the New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers, and all the dirty secrets of the war that past administrations have kept from the public are brought to light.  On the international scene, the United Nations formally recognizes the Peoples Republic of China and also declares the first Earth Day, Idi Amin leads a coup and seizes control in Uganda, and IRA-led rioting in Northern Ireland grows worse against British rule.

Human exploration of the Moon continues with the Apollo 14 and 15 missions, with Apollo 15 featuring a crew of Michigan alumni (Space, Bitches….Space) and a sweet ride in the Lunar Rover.  The Soviet Union also achieves a technological milestone with the launch of Salyat 1, the world’s first orbiting space station.  Other milestones in technology include the release of the Intel 4004, the first commercial microprocessor.  Texas Instruments introduces the first pocket calculator sounding the death knell of the slide rule.  And, the first e-mails and chat rooms appear on the ARPAnet, the precursor of the modern Internet.

1971 is the year that many sporting legacies are born.  Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in the “Fight of the Century” to set off one of the great boxing rivalries in history.  The great Roberto Clemente leads the Pirates to the World Series title.  In the NBA, future legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the Milwaukee Bucks to their only world title.  In other areas of sport, legacies are being solidified.  UCLA continues its era of dominance under John Wooden, defeating Villanova to earn their 7thtitle in 8 years.  The Montreal Canadiens win the 17thof what will be 24 Stanley Cups.  In the world of golf, Jack Nicklaus wins the PGA, rounding out the first half of his record 18 major championships.

In our spare time we watched television on just three stations.  We were offered edgy broadcasting like “All In The Family” and “The Odd Couple” and tamer fare like “The Partridge Family”.  On the big screen we were following the exploits of Popeye Doyle in “The French Connection”, Alex and his droogs in “A Clockwork Orange”, and we meet Dirty Harry for the first time.  On the music front, Led Zepplin IV is released, the Allman Brothers record At Fillmore East, Queen is formed, and Jim Morrison is found dead in Paris.

The music of Michigan was different during this time too.  The Michigan Marching Band is an all-men arrangement under the direction of the legendary William T. Revelli and are introduced with the less politically correct “Men, take the field!” during football pre-games.  Women would not be seen amongst their ranks for another year.  Women are not seen amongst the ranks of any of Michigan’s varsity sports in 1971, as Title XI is still a year away from passage into law. 

Bo Schembechler is in his 3rdseason as head coach of the Wolverines and fields one of his greatest teams and points at things while doing so.  Lead by All-Americans Reggie McKenzie, Billy Taylor, Thom Darden, and Mike Taylor, Michigan went 11-0 during the regular season and won Bo’s 2ndBig 10 championship.  Billy Taylor would finish his career as Michigan’s all-time rushing leader with 3,072 yards, a record that would stand for 6 years until broken by Rob Lytle.  Mike Taylor would go on to play 2 seasons for the New York Jets.  Reggie McKenzie would go on to a 13 year NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, blocking for the likes of OJ Simpson.  Thom Darden would be a 3 time All-Pro in his 10 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and is still the career-leader in interceptions for the franchise.

The season was highlighted by a thrilling 10-7 victory over Ohio in Ann Arbor.  The game’s memorable moment came late in the game when Darden came up with a win-preserving interception that Woody Hayes insisted to the referees should have been called pass interference.  Hayes proceeded on a minutes-long tirade, ripping up yard markers, drawing 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and making an embarrassing spectacle that aired on news programs nationally…quite an accomplishment in the days before 24 hour media coverage.

Michigan’s season would end with another disappointing showing in Pasadena with a 13-12 loss to the Stanford Indians (Stanford would not become the “Cardinals” until 1972 and not the “Cardinal” until 1981).  Michigan came into the game ranked 3rdin the country and a 10.5 point favorite against the 8-3 Indians, but Stanford managed to edge out the Wolverines with a 31 yard field goal with 16 seconds to play.  The 1971 Michigan team would finish ranked 6thin the AP and 4thin the UPI and is commonly regarded as the team that came closest to earning Schembechler a National Championship, although it is debatable that even a 12-0 Michigan team would’ve passed up eventual champion Nebraska.

Well, that concludes our nostalgic step through 1971.  A time where clothes were bold and loud, phones were rotary dialed, and Michigan still didn’t sell out every home football game.  It’s hard to imagine a time without video games, personal computers, and 24 hour news coverage, but those times existed.  Here’s hoping that Michigan’s upcoming season sees Michigan back in the Rose Bowl undefeated against Stanford.  I got a feeling Hoke would serve up epic payback topped off with a pointed finger.



May 23rd, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

This brings back fond memories of my days in Ann Arbor, while painfully reminding me that I am getting too damned old!

As a member of the MMB that year, I do have to correct that part of your historical perspective. William D. Revelli retired in the summer of 1971 and this was George Cavender's first football season as Director. Come Rose Bowl time, the band was oddly more in the news than the football team, in part because of controversy over the all-male composition and in part because of an injunction filed by the student council to keep the band off the field at the Rose Bowl. They were demanding that we perform an anti-war themed show of their design. They lost in court. Ah, the seventies.

Bando Calrissian

May 23rd, 2012 at 7:29 PM ^

And yet the halftime show ended up being a rather, shall we say, almost hippie-esque show centered on the environment.

My dad was in that band as well. There was a film made out of that Rose Bowl trip, though it functions more as George fantasy infomercial than film about the MMB.


May 23rd, 2012 at 5:26 PM ^

That's fine work. It's interesting for me to see how much I remember – I was 11 and sports fandom was just dawning on me. I don't recall the Ohio game but I definitely remember that Rose Bowl. Usually the most pristine grass field anywhere, it was a muddy morass that day. Stanford handled it better than Michigan did. The field goal at the end was a crusher – my first vivid Michigan sports memory. Thanks for bringing it back!



May 23rd, 2012 at 9:42 PM ^

Practices were rained out the week leading up to the game and Bo took the team as far away as an hour and half's drive from Pasadena just to practice in some dry weather.  The game itself was in dry weather but I'm sure the field was wet and muddy like your dad said.  (I'm going on second hand info and books seeing that I wasn't born for another decade.) 

I've also heard that game winning field goal by Stanford was set up thanks to a fake punt for a first down earlier in the drive.  Bo knew it was coming.  The players knew it was coming.  The entire coaching staff was screaming from the sidelines that a fake punt was coming.  It came, and Stanford still converted. 

The Rose Bowl REALLY hates Michigan. 

Bando Calrissian

May 23rd, 2012 at 11:56 PM ^

Best part of that film is the fact that the banner with the balloons totally failed to get off the ground in Pasadena, so they refilmed it a few weeks later in someone's backyard in Ann Arbor to get the money shot of the balloons gently floating into the sky.  

The magic of film.


May 24th, 2012 at 3:51 AM ^

still hate the Rose Bowl. By the time anything positive transpired there -- 1981, 1998 -- it was too late to change my conditioning about getting hosed there nearly every time M went.

In the little footage I've seen of that game, the field looks muddy. I don't remember noticing that at the time.


May 24th, 2012 at 3:55 AM ^

was the result of a Stanford kickoff return getting snuffed in the end zone for a safety; it looked for a long time like the game was going to end in a 10-10 tie.

The safety seemed to come out of nowhere, but M's next kick didn't pin Stanford nearly as far back and allowed them that last drive.

Michigan should have stopped going to the Rose Bowl after 1948.


May 24th, 2012 at 11:38 AM ^

in the 1964 Rose Bowl 34 to 7. Michigan lost only 1 game that year, by 1 point to Bob Griese and Purdue at home.

Michigan had a lot of very good players in 1964; Bob Timberlake, Mel Anthony, Bill Yearby, Jim Detwiler, Rick Volk, Frank Nunley, and Jim Conley to name a few.

I always understood that back then the Rose Bowl field was always in poor shape. High school games were played on it then, at least that was so for the 1970 Rose Bowl year. It was a common practice for them to paint the mud\dirt green so the field looked good on camera for the Bowl game.

Also, historically it was always the men of Michigan. In fact, no matter the Bo references, that is where the "Michigan Man" reference originally came  from. The Band was all men. The cheerleaders were all men. The Michigan Union was for men (the League was for women).

Just my links.

Edit: By the way, Jim Plunkett threw the ball all over the yard in the '72 Rose Bowl (71 season) and won himself the Heisman Trophy that year.


May 24th, 2012 at 8:09 PM ^

1965 is in.

"Bunce" is already covered below, so never mind.

Plunkett was the QB in the '71 Rose Bowl v. Woody. After 41 1/2 years, I can still hear the incessant bowl hype for that one: "Jim Plunket leads the Stanford 11 against the pulverizing ground attack of Ohio State." OSU is nevertheless one of three teams honored at the official NCAA site with an MNC for 1970.

By the end, the '72 Rose Bowl had a very déjà vue feel to it.


May 23rd, 2012 at 7:21 PM ^

Junior year of engineering school and did go to my only Rose Bowl, so far. The fg was indeed devastating. Calculators were on campus for some students but banned from being used for blue books, since most students could not afford them, $400 rings a bell, serious money in '71. As well as the band being all men, I think it was still all men cheerleaders, but could be wrong. Turned 21 that year at the Pretzel Bell, tradition was to have your friends buy you 21 beers(10 oz.), and get to ring the bell if you made it without getting sick. Many years since that place closed. Good memories.


May 23rd, 2012 at 7:29 PM ^

but still remember the anguished screams in my Grandpa's house after that field goal.  Excellent work; I would only ask you correct the finger slip: Title XI to the correct Title IX reference. (posterity and-the-like)


May 23rd, 2012 at 9:27 PM ^

Nice work.

It was only the second year that I went to all the games even though I was a senior. The enthusiam for the football team was building. Michigan expected to win and we expected a good conversation as we watched.

Bo was awesome as the coach but he was predictable. His philosphy was similar to Woody's "When you pass . . . two out of three times something bad is going to happen." This was my first Rose Bowl and you could see what was going to happen. The Standford team expected a run unless it was 3rd and long and defended Michigan by crowding the line. Don Bunce was the Standford quarterback and he picked apart the Michigan defense in the 4th quarter, I'm sorry to say.

I purchased my ticket to the game at the last minute at the stadium for $10. I sat surrounded by UCLA girls who were given tickets and could care less about the game. They were amazed by the cheering and spirit of the Michigan students. The M cheerleaders were mainly gymnatics guys and they did plenty of moves that were worth watching.

It was very warm that day (but rain the previous week made the turf soggy and slow to the benefit of Standford). I started out the day in a M sweatshirt and ended up without a shirt during most of the game. Beautiful weather and bad ending to a wonderful year.


May 24th, 2012 at 8:47 AM ^

Was one highlight of my freshman year, a school year that included the Michigan Supreme Court overturning the state anti-pot law, The Dead and Pink Floyd in Hill, John and Yoko (and many more) in Crisler for John Sinclair, the lowering of the drinking age to 18, and yes, Mr. Flood's Party, although I think I spent more time in the Blind Pig and the Del Rio.

I had great teachers, too, and I learned a lot in the classroom. These Kids Today don't quite get how much fun college can be, I don't think.


May 24th, 2012 at 10:58 AM ^ that it's attracting the 60s/70s era MGoBlogerati into the conversation. We need more of your perspective, gents.

(And I'm not just saying this because I'm in my mid-40s and I get called the old guy. Well, maybe that's part of my motivation.)


May 25th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

I really struggled with whether I should go 40+ years back, whether it would be very well-received since the majority of readers here are probably in their 20's.  I'm glad everybody liked it.  Future editions will probably be more recent, since I think I'll stick to the Quantum Leap principle of traveling within ones own lifetime.  Besides, if I were to go too far back, I'd be trampling on MVictors turf.

Glad everyone likes these, I enjoy writing them.  I'll try to squeeze in one or two more before the offseason ends and we get back to hardcore football content.


May 24th, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

Please keep up this series.

We now take it for granted the 100,000+ attendance and being part of the 'largest crowd to watch a college football game in the USA." But here was a team that beat OSU and finished the regular season as 11-0 and could NOT sell out every home game.



May 24th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

The year I came home from my government sponsered SE Asian vacation. 

My main memory of the Rose Bowl is that for some reason the Stanford defense was nicknamed the "Thunder Chickens".


June 1st, 2012 at 11:16 AM ^

USC's defensive line was called the "Wild Bunch" and the Stanford defensive line felt it was better and so they deserved one too. There was a biker gang called the Thunderchickens and one of the defensive linemen ran like a chicken, in the estimtion of his teammates, so there you go.

Section 1

May 24th, 2012 at 6:13 PM ^

Very possibly the best one I could ever hope to see, at age 15.

Darden's purported interference was a very close call.  I remember thinking at the time, real-time, that Thom got away with interference, and that Woody had a pretty good reason to be angry.  On the replay later, I recall it looking better, not such a terrible call.  Particularly since Darden came away with the ball!  One of those weird plays that might have been decided by the fact that the defender has a right to try to catch a thrown ball and because he did make the catch, the kind of contact that might be called interference on a reach-in to break up a play was overlooked.

Woody Hayes had a different opinion.

It is a hard play to review now; for some reason only a poor-exposure copy of the game film exists.  The play is at about the 8:30 mark on YouTube: 


May 24th, 2012 at 8:18 PM ^

expat in Atlanta that year, so I remember vividly that, other than the Rose Bowl, the MSU game was the only Michigan game televised nationally that year. It was thin gruel in those days. My dad occasionally brought back Ann Arbor News game articles from business trips up to Ann Arbor.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:14 AM ^

Of course one of them was beating Woody and finishing undefeated, preserving an outside shot at the national title. As a freshman, that was a pretty impressive way to start my in-person Michigan football fandom.

The other memorable thing happened at halftime. While while there was plenty of anti-war activism on campus, there were still frequent official public displays of support for the American military, including at football games.

I was standing on the very last row of seats at the top of the stadium in the north end zone at halftime. There was a tribute down on the field to the armed forces, especially for the numerous MIAs in SE Asia, and that's where my attention was directed.

With no warning, a group of F4 Phantoms flying a missing man formation screams directly over the stadium extremely low, from north to south. Nobody heard them until they were right over the stadium, and since I was at the top of the stands, I just about crapped my pants—it felt like the Phantoms were about 20 feet above my head. I've been to plenty of air shows over the years, seeing the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, and the like, but I've never experienced anything more heart-stopping than that brief moment way up in the stands that November.


May 29th, 2012 at 8:44 PM ^

Here's little oddity from the 1971 season.   After our defeat of UCLA in game #3 38-0 we moved to #2 in both polls where we remained until we BEAT Michigan State in East Lansing 24-13 in game #5 which caused us to drop to #3.  We stayed at #3 in both polls until we BEAT OSU in our finale whereupon we dropped again to #4 even though we were undefeated.

Can you imagine the furor that would errupt today if we went 11-0 and dropped in the polls not once but twice after victories?  And people think the polls are messed up now.....