Why did Michigan withdraw from the Big Ten? (circa 1907)

Submitted by qbwaggle on March 4th, 2010 at 1:35 PM

This is random as hell, but does anyone know the story behind Michigan leaving (or expulsion from) the Big Ten/Western Conference in 1907?

I found a few references to it on the interwebs... the general idea is that U-M President James Angell did not see eye-to-eye with the rest of the conference regarding college football reform. But I'm curious what, specifically, were the issues that were so divisive? The Wikipedia article on Charles Baird suggests it was the number of games and ticket prices (Michigan opposed a reduction in games played and a cap in ticket prices).

Here are the links I found:

Does anyone have more to add to this story? Sorry I don't know why but I find this interesting.


The Original Seth

March 4th, 2010 at 1:40 PM ^

You might have a look at John Kryk's book about the Notre Dame rivalry; he looks at conference politics quite a bit. I'm not in the United States right now, so I can't check my own copy to see, but I think this receives several pages of analysis in there.

The Original Seth

March 4th, 2010 at 1:44 PM ^

More specifically -- from what I remember, it had to do with scholarship and eligibility reforms which would have taken players off of the early 20th century rosters that Yost used to annihilate all comers by changing eligibility from four years to three, it would have restricted training table privileges, and also would have mandated that football corches be RESIDENT members of their respective school's faculties in good standing.

Stagg, I think Kryk argues, was behind a lot of the reform language, and Yost and Michigan were furious because it seemed primarily aimed at them and their success.

Zone Left

March 4th, 2010 at 1:44 PM ^

Maybe because Baird realized California was actually "west" for the US and he felt being in the Western Conference set a bad example for Geography students?

Interesting question, hopefully we can get some good responses. It had something to do with eligibility rules, but I don't know the specifics.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

One of the things stated was that they didn't want professional coaches and the conference changed the rules so that there was no summer practices etc...stuff that they considered too professional. Baird wanted to make money and wanted to play more games than the conference would let them. So they left, when the conference rescinded those rules, they rejoined. One reference had Michigan listed as inactive for the years 1907-1916.
Probably didn't fill out his practice logs well enough for the Freep.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

Professor Soderstrom who wrote "The Big House" book gave a presentation on the history of the stadium that included this topic during a tour of the stadium and locker room last year. I can't remember the specifics but it did have to do with the other schools trying to dampen our success. It also was the reason we started playing Ohio State because WC schools were banned from playing us.

That's not a lot of help, but I'm sure the answer is in that book.


March 4th, 2010 at 2:03 PM ^

New York Times, April 14, 1907 (pdf)

CHICAGO, April 13 -- Michigan University was to-day ruled out of the Western Conference athletics because of its refusal to observe conference rules, and all athletic relations between the university and the other colleges composing the conference were severed. It was insisted by the other members of the intercollegiate conference that the rules adopted at the close of the football season of 1905, limiting the time of all athletes to three years, and the number of football games to not more than five, should be observed by Michigan, or that university should be left out of the conference. The representatives of Michigan declined to promise that the university would observe these rules, and itwas then announced that all athletic relations had been terminated.

The meeting was attended by [list of college representatives including Michigan's H.M. Bates, and that a game of baseball Michigan was supposed to play against Northeastern was canceled].

The committee also decided that no members of the conference shall hold athletic relations with schools competing for State championships which do not observe conference rules.

Michigan's position was set forth by Prof. Victor S. Lane at the alumni dinner last night. He said that the university has not intended to defy the "Big Nine" in any way, but that it considers that there is nothing improper in playing outside colleges under other rules.


March 4th, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

Google News Archive search is pretty awesome. It's how I looked up half of the Michigan baseball history I could find. Now if just more of it was free. There were 3-4 other articles I would have to pay anywhere from $3 to $25 to view. Some of them looked much more promising. The Chicago Trib/Chicago-something-another had sensationalist titles like "Big Nine says no more Mean Michigan"


March 4th, 2010 at 2:50 PM ^

The Big Ten again proposes Nebraska to join the Big Ten and, unlike last time, they accept! Although, much like last time, they have to agree to the new rules - the RosenFail rule where members of the "Free Press" (quotations because there is nothing 1) Free or 2) Press about it) are unequivocally barred from any sporting even that doesn't involve kissing Dantonio's ass :)


March 4th, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

...to Michigan Athletics history is mvictors.com. If Greg Dooley hasn't already covered the thing you're interested in and you have an interesting query, I'd imagine he'd consider researching it. His eBay Watch series is required reading as is his continuing exploration of the strange history of the Little Brown Jug.


March 4th, 2010 at 3:44 PM ^

This is just the kind of explanation I was looking for. Thanks for that link.

Also, it's funny how throughout history the same schools have been mentioned in expansion talks (ND, Rutgers, Texas, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, ...) as are discussed today. (this was mentioned by someone else in this thread too).

Another tidbit I didn't know that I read while researching... the Big Ten wasn't officially called the Big Ten until 1987 (officially it was the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives).


March 4th, 2010 at 4:22 PM ^

Are you working on a project on this? Look for GoBlueWolverine/Scout.com soon for a piece on this from me, incorporating some of what you found on that link along with some input from Bacs and hopefully Dr. Soderstrom. Also, my back sources tell me you might see something in the Daily soon on this topic from a distinguished M lecturer.

(and +100 for MGoShoe)


March 4th, 2010 at 5:23 PM ^

Not working on anything, just happened to notice that Michigan withdrew from the conference for a period of time and curiosity took over from there. I read your post on the subject at MVictors, it was really great. It provided the background I was looking for. If the Daily has something cooking on this subject then I might sit tight and see what gets published. If I have time I might check out some of the books that have been suggested.

Thanks to everyone for the info.

Tshimanga Cowabunga

March 4th, 2010 at 3:14 PM ^

covered this pretty well in his history of college athletics class. As I recall, the rules changes were led by Yost rival and UChicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. They were meant to undermine Yost and limit Michigan's success and growth. The break was the reason we took on Michigan State and Ohio State as yearly rivalries I believe. I'll check my old notes when I get back from work.


March 4th, 2010 at 6:50 PM ^

together with the MVictor article on Harry Kipke, it occurs to me that UM football actually had a sort of bad-boy image in the years 1901-37. (Kipke was only fired after a few losing seasons in a row.)

When did UM acquire its affirmatively "clean" image? Was that because of Bo, or does it go further back?