100 Things Michigan Fans Should Know & Do Before They Dieby Angelique Chengelis
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With traditions, records, and Wolverines lore, this lively, detailed book explores the personalities, events, and facts every Michigan fan should know. It contains crucial information such as important dates, player nicknames, memorable moments, and outstanding achievements by singular players. This guide to all things Michigan covers the story behind the Wolverine's winged helmets, the history of the team's colors, the 1997 undefeated and national championship season, and how to properly tailgate in Ann Arbor. This revised edition includes Brady Hoke's first season as head coach in Ann Arbor, featuring quarterback Denard Robinson, and the Wolverines' 2012 Sugar Bowl triumph.
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100 Things Michigan Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Angelique Chengelis
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Angelique Chengelis
All rights reserved.
Bo Schembechler: Legendary Coach
Bo Schembechler arrived on the Michigan campus in 1969 during a time of political and social unrest, particularly in Ann Arbor, where activism was a vital part of the culture.
Schembechler, though, was a football man. He wasn't interested in politics or protests. He was interested in one thing: football. And he was interested in rebuilding a Michigan program that had endured losing seasons in six of the previous 11 years.
So in came Schembechler, who once referred to himself as the "short-haired guy who believed in discipline and hard work." He took over the team in 1969, having been hired by athletics director Don Canham. Schembechler became head coach at Miami (Ohio), his alma mater, in 1963 and won two Mid-American Conference titles.
When he arrived in Ann Arbor, the knock on Michigan was that the Wolverines were not tough. Having a team not considered "tough" was not something Schembechler would or could tolerate.
On the first day of spring practice, he delivered a classic Schembechler speech that caught the attention of all the players. "Now you listen to me, all of you," he said to them. "I do not care if you are white or black or Irish or Italian or Catholic or Jewish or liberal or conservative. From this point on, I will treat you all exactly the same — like dogs!"
During that preseason, Schembechler and his coaches came up with the now well-known, famous slogan, "Those who stay will be champions." The sign was placed above the locker room door. Many left that first season, unable to cope with Schembechler's brutal workouts and practices. One player who left wrote in marker on that original sign: "And those who quit will be doctors, lawyers, and captains of industry."
Many years later, Schembechler said that of all the teams he had coached, that '69 team had every right to "resent" him. Those players had not come to Michigan to play for Schembechler, after all, and he was exceptionally tough on them.
But all these years later, his players speak lovingly and with tremendous respect for their coach.
"The thing about Bo was, he had a perception of being this real tough guy, and he portrayed that picture to everyone on the outside," said former All-America defensive back Tom Curtis. "But once you got to know Bo, he was just the nicest and the most caring person that you could imagine."
Schembechler's arrival at Michigan ushered in a new era of the Michigan–Ohio State rivalry, as well. Schembechler had played for Woody Hayes at Miami in 1949 and then became a graduate assistant under Hayes at Ohio State in 1951 and later an assistant coach from 1958 to 1962.
This coaching rivalry between teacher and student began in 1969, stretched a decade, and became known as the "10 -Year War." Michigan went 5–4–1 against Ohio State during the "war" between Woody and Bo, and it all started with an incredible opening matchup in Ann Arbor. Ohio State, ranked No. 1 and riding a 22-game winning streak, was a 17-point favorite, but the Wolverines pulled off the stunning 24–12 upset.
"You've got to understand, when I came here, I was sent to beat one and only one team," Schembechler said years later. "I only wanted Ohio State. That's the team I wanted to beat. I talked about it all the time. I did something every day to beat Ohio State and to beat Woody. That was the greatest challenge in my coaching career, was to beat him. If that added fuel to the fire, so be it. That's the way I approached it."
Schembechler's Michigan career was, of course, more than Michigan versus Ohio State. He was a seven-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, and he compiled a 194–48–5 record with the Wolverines from 1969 to 1989. In his 26 years as a head coach, he was 234–65–8 and never had a losing season. He was 11–9–1 overall against the Buckeyes.
There were other challenges throughout his career other than Hayes and the Buckeyes. Schembechler had a heart attack on the eve of his first Rose Bowl in 1970 and another in 1987. He had two quadruple-heart-bypass operations, and he also had diabetes.
He retired in 1989 because of his heart. His last game was a 17–10 loss to Southern California in the 1990 Rose Bowl. His final two teams in 1988 and 1989 won consecutive outright Big Ten titles.
His doctors later would say that Schembechler defied logic, beating the odds until his death at the age of 77. He died on the eve of the biggest Michigan–Ohio State game in history, when No. 1 OSU faced No. 2 Michigan in Ohio Stadium in 2006.
Those Who Stay ...
When Bo Schembechler arrived at Michigan in 1969, he knew there would be player defections. He intended to run hard, tough practices, and he wanted to build a challenging strength and conditioning program, and, rightfully, he assumed his style wouldn't be for everyone.
During his first training camp, Michigan started with about 140 players, but only 75 remained.
Schembechler's slogan would become: "Those who stay will be champions."
He created a sign with that slogan that has become forever linked with the Michigan program, and an updated version of that sign remains today in the locker room above the door. Schembechler's first sign, however, was defaced by John Prusiecki, who was one of the players who left the program. His final act was to take a marker and add a few more words to the sign.
"And those who leave will be doctors, lawyers, and captains of industry," Prusiecki scribbled.CHAPTER 2
Michigan Stadium: The Biggest and the Best
The Big House.
These three simple words say it all about Michigan Stadium, one of the most widely recognized football facilities in the country.
Legendary Michigan football radio announcer Bob Ufer also said it all each Saturday when he announced to the listening audience that Michigan Stadium was the "hole that Yost dug, Crisler paid for, Canham carpeted, and Schembechler fills every cotton-pickin' Saturday afternoon."
Michigan Stadium has been the home of the Wolverines since 1927. Within its confines, fans have witnessed the Wolverines earn major victories. It has showcased national championship teams and Heisman Trophy winners. And it also, naturally, has been the site of some of Michigan's disappointments.
But Michigan fan or not, Michigan Stadium is a must-visit on a Saturday afternoon during the fall.
A recent $226 million renovation and expansion project gave the stadium a facelift. Unveiled in 2010, the stadium now sports 81 luxury boxes, a new press box, and more than 3,000 club seats. The total seating capacity is now 109,901, the highest capacity of any football stadium in the country. During the renovation in 2008 and 2009, Michigan Stadium's official capacity temporarily dipped from 107,501 to 106,201 — ranking second behind Penn State's Beaver Stadium, capacity 107,282, for two seasons.
The Big House once again stands as the largest football stadium in the nation. But all of this would not be a reality had it not been for the vision of coach Fielding H. Yost.
In the early 1920s Yost began thinking large. Very large.
Even way back then, he envisioned a stadium that would seat 100,000 to 150,000 for each Michigan home game. But while campuses like Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois had built new stadiums during that era, Michigan had expanded its home, Ferry Field, and the regents were reluctant to approve another stadium enhancement, let alone new construction. Yost's plan was rejected, but he didn't give up. It eventually was approved on April 22, 1926.
His desire was to build the stadium where the Michigan Golf Course is now located, but that was nixed. Michigan Stadium would be built on land the university had purchased in 1925. That land, however, included an underground spring that had provided water to the school early on. The spring caused construction issues. Because of the high water table, nearly three-quarters of the stadium was built below ground level. Meanwhile, the surface was of a moist, sandy consistency, and legend has it that the quicksand-like ground engulfed a crane that remains under the stadium today.
Unheard of these days, construction of the new stadium would not be financed by taxpayers but by the sale of 3,000 $500 bonds. Those bonds entitled the holder to buy season tickets for every season from 1927 to 1936 — because of the Great Depression, nothing was paid on the bonds between 1931 and 1936, and the bonds were not completely retired until the middle of October 1947.
Four hundred forty tons of reinforcing steel and 31,000 square feet of wire mesh were used in the construction of the 44-section, 72-row, 72,000-seat stadium at a cost of $950,000. Wisely, Yost designed Michigan Stadium to run north-south to keep the sun out of the players' eyes and to make wind less of an impact.
As the stadium neared completion just more than a year after the groundbreaking, Yost requested — and received — 10,000 temporary seats for the concourse. With great foresight, he also had steel footings installed for a second deck. He had wanted to build a larger stadium, but to keep the construction costs down at the time, a "smaller" stadium was agreed upon. Still, knowing the steel footings were in place, Yost knew expansion was possible.
The stadium opened in 1927 at the corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard with a capacity of 84,401, the largest college-owned stadium in the country.
Michigan played Ohio Wesleyan in the first game at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 1927, and won 33–0. The stadium dedication came three weeks later against Ohio State. Michigan won that game 19–0, but more important, Michigan Stadium was sold out at $5 a ticket.
In the early 1930s electronic scoreboards were installed, making Michigan Stadium the first to feature that technology, and in 1949 Fritz Crisler, then the athletics director, had permanent metal seating replace the wood.
The field has undergone several facelifts. From 1927 to 1968, the field was natural grass. It was replaced in 1969 with the unforgiving TartanTurf — then thought to be an advantage for traction and wear and tear. It was changed back to grass in 1991, but because of the water table, maintaining a grass field became problematic. The field is now FieldTurf, a grass-like artificial surface.
For reasons that remain unknown, Fritz Crisler, in his role as athletics director, wanted the newly expanded Michigan Stadium that would be dedicated in 1956 to have a capacity figure that ended with "1".
The stadium that year had expanded from 97,239 to 101,001, thus beginning the tradition of ending all Michigan Stadium capacity numbers in that way.
In Michigan lore, that extra seat was later said to be reserved in honor of Crisler. The thing is, no one knows exactly where that seat is located.CHAPTER 3
The Story of the Helmet
So many Michigan players throughout the years have said one of the first reasons they became initially attracted to the program was because of the famed Michigan winged helmets. The blue helmet with the maize "wings" is easily one of the most recognizable in sports, if not the most recognizable. The design dates back to 1938, when Fritz Crisler arrived at Michigan from Princeton. Michigan's helmet had been black, and Crisler wanted to give the helmets distinction while making them useful at the same time.
Knowing his team would run the single-wing, noted for its speed and deception, Crisler wanted to make it easier for the Michigan players to locate each other on the field. He had the helmets painted in their now distinctive maize-and-blue winged pattern, the maize highlighting the original stitching of the leather helmets.
"There was a tendency to use different-colored helmets just for receivers in those days, but I always thought that would be as helpful for the defense as for the offense," Crisler had said.
It essentially was the same basic helmet Crisler had introduced at Princeton in 1935.
Michigan's winged helmet made its debut in the 1938 season opener against Michigan State, a 14–0 Michigan victory. Sophomore halfback Paul Kromer scored two touchdowns, becoming the first Wolverine to score wearing the new-look helmet.
Certainly there are no tangible records that indicate the helmet had anything to do with the improved statistics, but in 1938 Michigan's total yardage was nearly double that in 1937, interceptions were cut nearly in half, and completion percentage increased by 9 percent. Could it have been the helmet?
All of that aside, the bottom line is Crisler's vision has made Michigan's helmet an undeniable symbol of the football program across the country.
"It's the most unique helmet in college football," said Erik Campbell, a former UM defensive back and assistant coach. "You don't have to put a name on it, or a logo on it ... people know exactly what school it's from."
As a kid, Doug Skene, a former Michigan offensive lineman, wanted only one thing for Christmas — a Michigan helmet. He asked for the helmet several years in a row. "[I wanted it] to wear when I played Nerf football with Greg, Matt, Jeff, and Corey, friends from the old neighborhood," Skene said. "I was going to be Leach or Carter in the backyard."
Santa never left Skene the helmet. "I had to earn it myself," he said. "My dad told me when I was in middle school that if Ireally wanted to play at Michigan, I had to be the best. That helmet wasn't going to be a Christmas gift given to me by anyone.
"After I shook Bo's hand and agreed to come to Michigan in that summer of 1987, I couldn't wait to get that helmet! When I stepped on that practice field for the first time with my classmates and saw all of us in our helmets, my eyes welled up."
Skene's 11-year-old son in 2008 asked for a Michigan helmet for Christmas. He was told that he would have to earn it, just as his father and all of the Michigan players had.
"Mine sits in my office today, and I'll have it until I die," Skene said.
Coach Fritz Crisler brought the winged football helmet to Michigan, and it has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the program, but who said football players should be the only ones to wear wings?
Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson had for years wanted to incorporate the winged design into the team's helmets. On the eve of the 1989 CCHA playoffs, Berenson gave the Wolverines their winged hockey helmets.
Alex Roberts, a captain that season, said the players were walking up the stairs into the locker room when they started to smell fresh paint.
"We get up to the top of the stairs and see the training room tables in the hallway with a bunch of helmets on 'em painted dark blue with the yellow wings, just like the football team's," Roberts said in a UM Pressarticle published in 2001. "We literally thought it was a joke. We're like, 'Where are our real helmets, the white ones?' Then Red comes in and says, 'You guys are wearing these.'"
The team that night bought their coach a baseball hat that features the football helmet design and presented it to him the following day. The players told him, "If we're gonna wear these things on our heads, you are, too."
Michigan's baseball and softball catchers and field hockey goalies wear helmets with the winged design. Swimmers also have worn racing caps with wings.CHAPTER 4
The Game: The Michigan–Ohio State Rivalry
In so many ways, how Michigan players are defined has as much to do with that team down south in Columbus as how Ohio State players are defined by that school up north.
It is difficult to mention one without the other. Michigan–Ohio State, Ohio State–Michigan. It was rated the No. 1 rivalry in sports by ESPN, and it is unlikely that any who follow either team would argue with that assessment.
"Every time they play, one team can beat the other," the late, legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler said. "I don't care if one has had a better year than the other — it doesn't make any difference. Anything can happen. It's always been that kind of a game, and that's probably caught the eye of the nation."
Excerpted from 100 Things Michigan Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Angelique Chengelis. Copyright © 2012 Angelique Chengelis. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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Meet the Author
Angelique Chengelis is a sportswriter for the Detroit News. Michigan football has been her primary beat since 1992, but she has covered countless sporting events including Super Bowls, U.S. Opens, PGA Championships, Ryder Cups, Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, and NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. She is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage as part of the NASCAR Now show. She lives in Detroit, Michigan. Lloyd Carr is a College Football Hall of Fame coach who led the University of Michigan Wolverines to five Big Ten Conference titles and a National Championship win. He served as head football coach for 12 years and is a retired assistant athletic director. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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I got this book mostly because I own just about every book about the University of Michigan that there is to own but also because the topic sounded like something that would interest me. As a Michigan fan I would like to experience everything I can about Michigan football. The book is incredibly well researched, well written and thoughtful. It kept me interested for nearly three days straight as I sat in a hospital bed being encouraged to sleep, instead I stayed awake and read this. I have learned a lot about the Michigan Tradition that I didn't know (and believe me, I knew a lot going into this) and have added to the list of things I have to do before I die. This book brought me to tears within the first page due to a heartfelt forward written so eloquently by Lloyd Carr. I could go on and on about this book and I have recommended this to many friends. Now I recommend this to you if you have a child at the University, love Big Ten football, or are any kind of Michigan fan. This book is perfect for the die-hard Maize and Blue fan, like myself, or the casual fan looking to learn more about the Michigan Tradition. Believe me, these really are 100 Things Michigan Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.
I found this book to be both informative and enjoyable. It brought back memories of my time at Michigan. It also helped to explain why the Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry is so intense and why the Michigan football helmet is the way it is. I read this book to my children and they ask to hear more about Michigan. It is a book that helps to bring Michigan fans closer, to help them to understand the Michigan traditions more, and to remember why they are Michigan fans. Go Blue!