MGoHistory - The Year In Review - 1986

Submitted by saveferris on March 1st, 2012 at 5:02 PM

Since the men’s basketball team is still in the hunt for the Big 10 Conference crown, I feel inspired to look back at the year when Michigan last saw it’s hoopsters as the top of the conference heap.  Let’s journey back to 1986…


Ronald Reagan is president and disarmament talks with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev are in full swing.  It is the time of Perestroika and Russia is less scary than it used to be as the Cold War continues its denouement.

Reagan’s popularity takes a hit as the details of the Iran-Contra scandal begin to come to light.  Ferdinand Marcos is ousted from power in the Philippines and his wife’s shoe collection becomes an enduring punch line.  We learn about Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for the first time…and after we bomb Tripoli, we don’t hear from him all that much until the Arab Spring. 

It is the year of the Challenger tragedy and the Chernobyl disaster.  Halleys Comet paid the Earth a visit, the Dow Jones was approaching 2000 and we were joining Hands Across America.  It is the year the Bears did the Super Bowl Shuffle, Buckner doesn’t get his glove to the ground, and Larry Bird tastes champagne for the final time.  Jack Nicklaus wins his last major at 46, Argentina wins the World Cup in Mexico, and Mike Tyson becomes the heavyweight champion of the world.

If you were a teenager, like myself, then you probably had a crush on Alyssa Milano, and lusted after Kathy Ireland or Elle Macpherson.  You learned that Tom Cruise had a “need for speed” and Ferris Bueller explained to you that ‘life moves pretty fast”.  You still wanted your MTV, you watched movies on VHS, listened to music on cassettes, and didn’t know that television or music should be played in HD.  Aerosmith and Run DMC told us to “Walk This Way” while The Bangles wanted us to “Walk Like An Egyptian” and Bon Jovi just liked things “Slippery When Wet”.

1986 was also a pretty good time to be a Michigan Wolverine.  Men’s basketball finished 28-5, 14-4 in the Big 10 and repeating as Big 10 Champions.  That’s right, there was a time when the basketball team was a repeat conference champion.  Bill Frieder’s Wolverines were lead by stars Roy Tarpley, Antoine Joubert and Gary Grant.  Despite their conference title, Michigan continued their frustrating trend under Frieder of falling short of expectations in the NCAA tournament.  In 1986, Michigan entered as a 2 seed but lost in the 2ndround to Iowa State by 3.  Louisville, lead by “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison would go on to win the tournament (the first tournament to feature a shot clock FWIW) over Duke, who were making their first Final Four appearance under Mike Krzyzewski (and featuring future Michigan coach Tommy Amaker).

On the football front, Bo Schembechler fielded one of his greatest teams lead by senior All-American Jim Harbaugh and Jamie Morris and featuring All-Americans Garland Rivers and John Elliot.  The Wolverines looked like a strong contender for the national championship, climbing to as high as second in the polls before losing on a last second field goal to Minnesota on the 2ndto last game of the season.  Of course the enduring memory of the season now is the Jim Harbaugh guarantee to beat Ohio on the heels of that loss and making good on that promise in Columbus, downing the Bucks 26-24 and winning a share of the Big 10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. 

Michigan would go on to lose the Rose Bowl to John Cooper’s Arizona State Sun Devils, and finish 11-2 and ranked 7th.  Michigan would get the last laugh on John Cooper…or the last dozen laughs when Ohio hired him as their head coach 2 years later and inaugurating 13 years that Buckeye fans now refuse to acknowledge as happening.

The other dominant athletic program on campus was the baseball team, lead by Coach Bud Middaugh.  Having featured future MLB players such as Barry Larkin and Chris Sabo and incoming players such as Jim Abbott, Michigan was winning the 5thof the 6 Big 10 titles they picked up during the 1980’s.  Middaugh’s record would later be tarnished as Michigan would be placed on probation by the NCAA for violations incurred during Middaugh’s tenure.

Other Michigan sports were on the rise.  Two men who now lay legitimate claims to a spot on the Michigan Coaching Mount Rushmore were early into their tenures in Ann Arbor.  John Urbanchek was leading the mens swim team to the first of what would be 13 Big 10 titles over the course of his 22 years at Michigan.  The Michigan hockey program under Red Berenson was only in Year 2-3 of rebuilding in 1986.  Our helmets had no wings, Yost had few fans, and Tiny Jesus was a year away from even being born.   Glory seemed remote and fanciful as we were mostly suffering the indignity of living in the shadow of a Michigan State team that was winning the National Championship.

I hope you enjoyed this little stroll through “recent” history, especially since a lot of you probably weren’t even born yet.  Just remember that while 1986 may be nostalgia for a lot of you, for some of us it was a time where a guy could wear pastels without being looked at funny, cell phones were something found in prison, and news was disseminated on paper.  Here’s to hoping that should Michigan earn a share of the Big 10 title this year, we won’t have to wait another 26 years for the next one.  Go Blue!



March 1st, 2012 at 5:58 PM ^

That was also the year the Beastie Boys recorded "Paul Revere." You gotta fight for your right to party was their big hit, but I'll remember rapping Paul Revere with the fellas while waiting for the girls to get changed for gym class.


March 1st, 2012 at 8:20 PM ^

We also discoved that Antoine Joubert was a slacker and my IM basketball team lost to the football team 119-42.  Gilvani Johnson could dunk...well.


March 1st, 2012 at 10:13 PM ^

...on cassettes but the transition to CDs was underway.

I'll never forget Ricky Foggie going around the right end for 40 yds or so to set up the Chip Lohmiller winning FG for Minnesota. It was a stunning loss.

Basketball was a hell of a good time and we only went to Yost because the NROTC unit was paid to clean it after games.

Also they had concerts at Crisler.


March 2nd, 2012 at 8:42 AM ^

I'll never forget Ricky Foggie going around the right end for 40 yds or so to set up the Chip Lohmiller winning FG for Minnesota. It was a stunning loss.

The '86 Minnesota game was my first real experience at being stunned and crushed in Michigan Stadium. I was 15 years old sitting in Section 40 with my Dad and just praying that he would miss that FG. I learned the unfortunate truth that day that not all prayers get answered. After the game I was so upset and my Pops had this bemused smile on his face, almost as if to say, "Son, this is just the beginning...".


March 2nd, 2012 at 11:27 PM ^

I was at that Michigan game vs. Minnesota. We scored in the final few minutes to make it 17-16 and Bo chose to kick the XP (no OT in those days). We were #2. Bo thought we could hold them and get the ball back for a winning FG.

Even in those days, we couldn't slow down a mobile QB. Foggie was no Denard but his best play was a QB scramble. Our D lost containment and let him (predicably) run for a huge gain. Was in Section 12 with my sister watching Chip Lohmiller kick the FG right at us.

Had to self-medicate with many beers after the game at the now-defunct Thano's Pizza.

ps. Harbaugh made his famous prediction over OSU the next week and we beat the Bucks in the Horseshoe Cesspool so it wasn't all bad.


March 2nd, 2012 at 9:21 AM ^

I remember cleaning up after games as well, although by 1986 was out of college and in the Marines.

While the national drinking age was 21, lots of states still had rules that allowed 18yr olds to drink. Tennessee would allow active duty personnel to drink regardless of age.

The Challenger blew up that year, forcing us to realize that space travel is very dangerous, something many of us had seemed to forgot.

Geraldo Rivera opens "Capones vault" live and everyone watched as nothing happened.

Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France.


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:04 AM ^

A guy you may remember, Terry Mills, was named Mr Basketball, and would cap it off with a MHSAA Championship in Crisler Arena.  Mills and PG Stevie Glenn combined to score well over 60 percent of Romulus' points.  

Crisler was rocking with Michigan fans; the atmosphere was as intense as any Michigan game.  As good as that was, it was almost overshadowed by Christoper Coles' ridiculous buzzer-beater to win the Class B game.  I had great seats that year, and still smile every time I watch this replay of the end of the Class B game, courtesy of YouTube.  Sorry, no embed.


March 2nd, 2012 at 10:29 AM ^

Bears recorded the Super Bowl shuffle in 1985, although they did play in the 1986 SB. They caused quite a stir for recording the vid midway thru the season. Yeah, they were confident (with good reason).

1986 was my sophomore year in AA. God, we had great hair.


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

The single greatest year in the history of heavy metal music:

Peace Sells... But who's Buyin? (Megadeth)

Master of Puppets (Metallica, before Metallica sucked)

Reign in Blood (Slayer)


and that's just the tip of the iceberg...


March 2nd, 2012 at 1:24 PM ^

I recall my preoccupation that summer being the Tigers bumping along in 3rd rather than tearing it up as I thought they would with their roster.  Of course the 87 team (minus the MN nonsense) provided the most entertaining regular season I could hope for, so they made up for it.

A little trivia: the TEAM salary that year was $12 million-ish.

Naked Bootlegger

March 2nd, 2012 at 1:41 PM ^

That was a loaded squad.   Wow.   Loy and Glen were young pups.  Garde Thompson came off the bench.   This team had some great role players...Butch Wade is one of my all-time favorites, followed by Mark Hughes.   Robert Henderson was a tough big man who could defend and rebound.  All topped off by Tarpley, Grant, and Joubert.    Great regular season memories of this squad followed by complete tourney heartache.    This team had the horses to be national champs.

My dirty little secret...I Iiked the '87 squad even better.    We didn't win as many games, but the perpetual underdog role was fun, as was Garde Thompson and Gary Grant shooting 48%+ from the 3-point line (albeit a closer 3 point line than today).


March 2nd, 2012 at 11:21 PM ^

I was at the UM-MSU game late in the season in '86 at Crysler. Skiles had smoked us in Least Lansing earlier in the season. Went with some friends who were MSU students. I remember the intensity BEFORE and during the game.

Some women had brought in a "Mothers Against Scott Skiles" banner and tons of taunting between fans and players. Man what an atmosphere!

It seemed like MSU had just enough fans to piss us off.

The game was close until Skiles took over in the 2nd half and we got beat by about 15.

I used to taunt my Sparty friends, including making them wait and NOT BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE until the FINAL seconds had ticked off at the UM-MSU 42-0 route in E.L. This time is was my time to eat crow. Had to stay till the end, even after Skiles got fouled late and made free throws with juts a few seconds left.

At least we won the Big 10 in the famous Bobby Knight game at the end of the yaer (see: John Feinstein Season on the Brink)

ps: yes, this was the famous "C'mon fat boy, let's see what you got" game where Skiles taunted a chunky Antoine Joubert.

steve sharik

March 6th, 2012 at 12:06 AM ^

...for the trip down memory lane.  I was 16 and had a pair of these new Nike's called Nike Dunks.

Also, this poster hung in my bedroom and my HS team wore the orange/white Syracuse version.

The main schools represented by the shoes were:

  • red/white: St. John's
  • navy/white: Arizona
  • maize/blue: duh
  • orange/white: Syracuse
  • red/gray: UNLV (get bent, ohio)
  • blue/white: Kentucky
  • black/yellow: Iowa
  • navy/grey:  Georgetown

Indiana, Duke, and Kansas were adidas schools, Sparty was converse.


March 6th, 2012 at 1:20 AM ^

I lived on first floor of then all-male Rumsey Hall (is it wrong?) right next door to Jim Abbott and down the hall from Red's son Gordie. One day I couldn't get in my room because CBS's cameras were blocking my door as they filmed a segment on Jim. What a year! Far too much fun for this hombre.

Getting a buzz just thinking about it.


March 7th, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

...That was a great team and back to back victories over Nebraska in the Fiesta and then the Rose Bowl on January 1 of 87 would have been great.  Why Bo struggled so much in the Rose Bowl still befuddles me...

Icehole Woody

March 7th, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

Thanks for the flash back.  I managed to see two games that season, the Iowa game and the Rose Bowl.  From the Iowa game I rememeber Gillette's winning field goal in the final seconds and then partying in Ann Arbor afterwards.  I ran into Jim Harbaugh in a bar that night; it was no less than amazing to see how women in the bar reacted to his presence.  As for the Rose Bowl, what I remember most was  ASU head coach John Cooper jumping up on his bench swinging a towel over his head to fire up the Sundevil crowd.