When did Michigan Stadium become the "Big House"?

Submitted by M-Dog on August 3rd, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Now that the world has been introduced to the "Big House", it would be good to know when the name was first introduced.

It is my understanding that Keith Jackson coined the phrase, but does anybody know exactly when he first did it?  

I know it was not called that in the 80's and through much of the '90s.  I do know that by the time we reached the 00's, it was in use.  I went to Rome in June of 2001, and I remember contemplating wearing a "Big House" t-shirt and standing in front of the Colosseum for a "Wolverines around the world" picture to send to the Alumin magazine.  (Never did get around to it.)

Anybody know and have any video links?



August 3rd, 2014 at 5:50 PM ^

Miss that voice so much. He is the sound of CFB. Not even close. I'll never forget when he'd call a home game or our bowl game.....the drums and chants......real grass....KJ's voice and insights. To answer OP, I believe it was KJ in about 94ish. I would have been about 11 and the first time I heard it used was by him during a game vs a weak opponent I can't recall.


August 3rd, 2014 at 5:07 PM ^

John Kryk, author of Natural Enemies and currently with the Toronto Sun, wrote a long article about Michigan Stadium late in 2013 prior to the Winter Classic. He credits Keith Jackson with coining "The Big House" circa 1988.

NICKNAME: "The Big House," given by longtime ABC college football announcer Keith Jackson, circa 1988.

EDIT: A quick database search found an earlier use of "Big House" in a New York Times article about the 1985 Michigan–Notre Dame game:

After losing 20 of the 46 games in the Faust era, his team was beginning the fifth year on his five-year contract on national television and before a crowd of 105,523, the 61st consecutive six-figure crowd to watch the Wolverines at home. What better place than Michigan Stadium - ''the Big House,'' [Notre Dame tailback Allen] Pinkett called it - to regain the success the Irish followers have grown to expect?

There are other uses of the nickname in other articles from late 1980s without any mention of Jackson, so it might be more correct to say that Jackson popularized the nickname rather than actually having coined it.


August 3rd, 2014 at 5:51 PM ^

I tried for years to find the answer to this question - the exact year and opponent that Keith Jackson first called Michigan Stadium 'the Big House.'  I researched online and could find nothing.  Two years ago, I registered on 5 different forums just to ask fellow blue bloods if they knew and nobody could give me an answer.  But several fans on TheVictors.com said they remembered hearing Brent Musberger use the term a few times in the 80's.  

I'd upload the 5 second clip of him first using the term if I knew what game it was. 


August 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 PM ^

To be honest, it does seem more like a "Musberger-ism", but sounds SO MUCH better coming from Keith Jackson!
"Let's get ready for a tilt between 2 teams that just plain don't like each other - before 100,000 rabid faithful gathered together today in The Big House!!!! Whoa Nelly. .. "
Also, my Dad (class of '60) hates the expression, cuz they didn't use it in his day... get off HIS lawn!


August 3rd, 2014 at 7:53 PM ^

It seems like the kind of thing an announcer would say in the first 2 minutes of the game during the intro . . . "Welcome to Michigan Stadium - The Big House . . . "

It would be interesting to look through your clips of '80s games for the first couple minutes of the intros and see if we can hear the reference.  I've been following Michigan Football closely since 1982 and I just don't remember ever hearing it in the '80's.


August 3rd, 2014 at 10:22 PM ^

Welcome to Micigan Stadium fans, where once again you are a part of the largest crowd in America to be watching a live football game today.  You are part of  number of fans to be in attendance today.  Later on the official count is given after the turnstiles have recorded the entries. 

gustave ferbert

August 3rd, 2014 at 5:55 PM ^

was getting Keith Jackson off Monday night football . . almost as significant as Vince Lombardi being refused the job at Wake Forest because of his heritage. . .


August 3rd, 2014 at 7:41 PM ^

I was a football manager from '93-'96 and no one in the athletic department called it "The Big House" that I can recall during that time; but my 1996 media guide has a pretty comprehensive history of the stadium which references the moniker at the very end.  

Seeing the reference in that surprised me, frankly, because I never heard it (again that I can recall now) during my time working for the team.  It wasn't on any of the paraphenalia we got, clothes, watches, commemorative stuff, nothing.  I have a trunk full of stuff I accumulated during the early 90's and none of it references "The Big House."  Anything having to do with the stadium just says "Michigan Stadium."  

By the 2002 media guide references to "The Big House" in the "Michigan Stadium Story" write-up go from 1 to about 8.


August 3rd, 2014 at 8:28 PM ^

I went back and did another quick search (in what I should note is a not particularly comprehensive database of magazines and newspapers), and there are good dozen articles making reference to the "Big House" from 1996 and earlier. The nickname had to be in pretty wide use by 1996 because even opposing players were using it. Pat Fitzgerald, during his playing days, is quoted as using it more than once in an August 1996 article in the Capital Times (can't provide link to full article, only this paywalled version; emphasis added).

``Jarrett Irons,'' Fitzgerald went on, ``is the type of player who plays the same way every play. He doesn't take any off. He plays every down like it's going to be his last.

``When we were playing against him last year in the Big House (Michigan Stadium) -- when I wasn't gassed on the sidelines -- I got up and watched him chase after Darnell (Autry).

``I know what that's like because I play against Darnell in training camp.''

Irons did OK against Autry, just OK. He had seven tackles, five solos, while Autry had 103 hard-earned yards on 26 carries. By contrast, Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka rushed for 205 yards against the Wildcats.

But it was the yardage Biakabutuka didn't pick up on two consecutive goal line plays that spelled the difference in Northwestern's first victory in Ann Arbor since 1959.

Fitzgerald finished with 18 tackles, including those two critical stops on Biakabutuka inside the 5-yard line.

``I still remember that goal line stand where I hit him on two plays in a row,'' Fitzgerald recalled with a wry smile.

``We scouted them real well; our coaches did an outstanding job. We gambled a little bit on defense but it ended up working out.

``To beat them in the Big House . . . well, the Big House is the Big Ten. That's the picture that you have in your mind of the Big Ten and to win there was really something special.''

Is it possible that the Athletic Department didn't fully embrace the nickname in the early years of its use?


August 3rd, 2014 at 9:09 PM ^

It's really a weird thing.  It's got such blatant marketing appeal, and when Nike came in for the 1995 season things really ramped up from a marketing standpoint.  Prior to them, Nutmeg Mills was, well, terrible at just about everything... but that season we got just a TON of stuff, momentos, etc... NOTHING said "The Big House" on it, and plenty of it was stadium centric.  Our season tickets didn't say anything and the '95 media guide doesn't say it either, although the write up on the stadium is only a few paragraphs, as compared to the '96 write up which goes on for a few pages.  

Within the department, Michigan Stadium was just "The Stadium" and Schembechler Hall was just "The Building."  The athletic department in general, and the football folks in particular, had been there for so long, with so little turn over, that even if "The Big House" was a term in use, those folks probably never used it because it wasn't part of their general vernacular throughout the 70's and early 80's, consequently it was never something I ever heard said by anyone.  

I distinctly remember when I first started hearing the phrase widely used after the '97 championship and thinking "when did this catch on?"


August 3rd, 2014 at 8:43 PM ^

video out there and in the commentary they're giving the attendance figure, (a record) and Keith Jackson says as the blimp is shooting the scene from overhead "It is a big house", pausing brilliantly for effect only Keith Jackson could do.

I cannot for the life of me remember the game, but it was a blimp, a big opponenet,   and that comment has stuck with me since he made it.

I might even say it was 1994 Penn State or Notre Dame in that era.


August 3rd, 2014 at 9:16 PM ^

What I remember from the late 90s was how all the M fans I associate with hated "big house". It's funny to me seeing it embraced because I always thought there was a backlash.

Wolverine In Iowa

August 3rd, 2014 at 10:47 PM ^

I don't remember ever hearing anyone at U-M or any media call Michigan Stadium the "Big House" while I was there between 87 and 91....Not that it wasn't uttered, but I do not recall that moniker.

I remember people starting to say it in the late 90's-early 2000's, I think.


August 3rd, 2014 at 11:10 PM ^

In my time as a student, from 1990-1993, I don't remember Michigan Stadium being called "The Big House".  Maybe Keith Jackson or another announcer used the term occasionally during that time, but it was not common usage among fans.


August 3rd, 2014 at 11:53 PM ^

I know it was refrenced before this, but I remember that shortly after Michigan signed with Nike around 94 or 95 was when the name really became populare.  Nike put out at least 4 or 5 shirts with the term on it.  That is when I really began hearing people call it "The Big House" instead of Michigan Stadium.


August 4th, 2014 at 9:06 AM ^

I'm 51, and I'd swear I heard Keith Jackson use that phrase in the 1970s. I'm sure people who have virtually every home game on tape could review game films and come up with an answer, but believe me, I've heard that phrase most of my life, and I've been an avid UM fan since the early '70s.


January 15th, 2015 at 11:07 AM ^

Jackson didn't get to do many games at Michigan in the '70s--remember, each team was only allowed be on TV once per season then, which basically meant that the only network games from Michigan were the odd-numbered years against OSU. WolverineHistorian would know better, but I think the first game Jackson ever did there was '77 Ohio.


August 4th, 2014 at 9:08 AM ^

Being from NY/NJ, "Big Blue" was always the Giants, and Michigan was simply "Blue." When you've won more games than any major college football team, you don't need to say "big." Your actions on the field speak loudly enough.