We play against the University of Toledo this week. It is hard for me to bring my fingers to type the words must win in a game against a MAC opponent, but this is a MUST WIN for this Michigan team. Look at it this way, winning this game will guarantee that we have a winning record against teams from the state of Ohio in 2008. What do you need to know about Toledo ?
History: In 1868 Jessup W Scott, the former editor of the Toledo Blade newspaper published a small pamphlet published entitled, "Toledo: Future Great City of the World". Scott often used his writings to promote his beloved city. This pamphlet articulated Scott’s belief that the center of world commerce was moving westward and by 1900 would soon be located in Toledo. That dream led him to endow what would become The University of Toledo. To help realize his vision Scott donated 160 acres of land as an endowment for a university to train the city's young people to assume roles in the future great city. The school was established shortly thereafter in 1872. Initially it was a private arts and trades school offering painting and architectural drawing as its only subjects. Scott died in 1874 and the school was forced to close in 1878 due to a lack of funds. On January 8, 1884, the assets of the university were turned over to the city of Toledo and the school reopened that year as the Manual Training School.
In the 1920’s the school was growing faster than their buildings could handle, so the school campaigned for and got a local bond passed to build a new campus. This bond past less than a year before the Great Depression hit America. The University of Toledo might not have survived if they waited any longer. In 1967, Toledo became a member of the 14 school state university system.
Location: Located tantalizingly close to the Michigan/Ohio border, Toledo was once considered an important area for the growing United States. Prior to the rise of the railroad industry, rivers and canals were the major "highways of commerce" in the American Midwest. At the time, there were plans to connect the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes through a series of canals, and Toledo was a key part of this plan.
As a result, the first Michigan vs. Ohio contest erupted in 1835; now known as the Toledo War. The dispute centered on a disagreement around our shared border. The governments of Ohio and Michigan to both claim sovereignty over a 468 square mile region along the border, known as the Toledo Strip. When Michigan pressed for statehood in the early 1830s it sought to include the disputed territory within its boundaries but Ohio's Congressional delegation was able to halt Michigan's admission to the Union. Unable to come to a solution, Michigan and Ohio raised militias and helped institute criminal penalties for citizens submitting to the other's authority. Both militias were mobilized and sent to positions on opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo. There was little interaction between the two sides except mutual taunting (a preview of future Michigan Ohio State games to come). The single military confrontation of the "war" ended with a report of shots being fired into the air, incurring no real casualties (unless you count one stabbed thigh).
In the end, President Andrew Jackson pushed Michigan to compromise – it was an election year and he needed the electoral votes that the state of Ohio could deliver. This agreement allowed Ohio to keep the Toledo strip in exchange for Michigan gaining statehood and the western part of the Upper Peninsula. At the time, the compromise was considered a poor outcome for Michigan; however the eventual discovery of copper and iron deposits and the plentiful timber in the UP more than compensated for the loss of the strip.
This might be hard to measure, but based on my limited exposure to Toledo, I get the feeling that there are as many Michigan fans as there are Ohio State fans in Toledo. So the place can’t be all that bad.
Nickname: The call themselves The Rockets. The name was born in 1923 when Toledo played then-powerful Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) in football. Pittsburgh sports writers were surprised to learn that UT did not have a real nickname. The nameless team was previously referred to as the Blue and Gold, Munies (for municipal university) and Dwyer's Boys (after head football coach James Dwyer).
Though an underdog, Toledo fought formidably but still lost 32-12. Pittsburgh writers pressed James Neal, a UT student working in the press box, to come up with a nickname. Neal labeled the team "Skyrockets," obviously impressed by his alma mater's flashy performance against a superior team. The sportswriters shortened the name to "Rockets," which has been used since.
In 1961, the school procured a genuine rocket from the U.S. Army missile program. This one-ton rocket used to sit behind the north endzone goal post, but now is outside their stadium (called the Glass Bowl). Legend has it that the rocket’s trajectory is pointed toward Bowling Green State University, 25 miles south. If the Rocket were to be lit, it is said, it would blast off and land directly on the 50-yard line of the Falcons’ Doyt Perry football stadium.
Mascot: The new mascot Rocky the Rocket was introduced this year, replacing the 10 year old Rocket Man (complete with jet pack and astronaut helmet). Numerous versions of Rocky have been used since the first mascot appeared in 1966. The 1st costume was essentially a pointed rocket top made of paper-mâché. Since then, Rocky’s costume has changed many times. In the early 1970s, Rocky wore a tall, metal rocket helmet with many different jumpsuit-type outfits, including bell bottom pants. In 1977, with the help of former astronaut and Ohio Senator John Glenn, an authentic spacesuit, helmet and boots was donated by the NASA Space Center in Houston. This used until 1980, when the mascot took on a more futuristic look with a costume designed to present more of a space rocket image. Another Rocky costume, which was plush with huge feet, was introduced in 1983, but was only for three years when a big blue plush Rocky with smaller feet was unveiled.
Colors/Logo/Helmet: Midnight Blue and Gold were selected as the school’s official colors by the Varsity ‘T’ club, at its organizational meeting in December 1919. Currently they claim that their colors are "Rocket Gold and Tower Blue". I guess the difference between Rocket Gold and Gold is the same difference as Maize from Yellow. Predictably, the logo includes a flying Rocket. Their football helmets have been through several design changes over the years, but nothing out of the ordinary or outrageous.
Fight Song: Initially I could not find any history on their fight song entitled U of Toledo. After reading the lyrics I understood why. Absent an official recorded history I made one up: On October 31st, 1953 after a pre halloweeen all night drinking binge a part-time Toledo student named Adam Utley stumbled into the Glass Bowl right before kickoff muttering these inspiring words. The team lost to in state rival Miami 81-0.
U. of Toledo, we'll fight for you (Fight! Fight! Fight!)
U. of Toledo, we love your gold and blue. (Fight! Fight! Fight!)
Men of the Varsity, the enemy must yield
We'll fight like our ancestors
And march on down the field.
Then I found the real history here -- yawn -- I like my story better.
Academics: Despite what Jim Carty might lead you to believe, Toledo is not one of the nations top academic institutions. They are not ranked in the US News and World Report National University Rankings. The magazine puts them into the Tier 4 category, joining their MAC brethren of Akron, Central Michigan, and Northern Illinois in that lower tier. Eastern Michigan is only MAC school that does not have a category.
When the Toledo merged with The Medical University of Ohio in 2006 it made the University one of only 17 public institutions in the country with a school of medicine, law, business, education, pharmacy, and engineering.
Further research tells me the Princeton Review ranks Toledo’s Graduate School of Engineering as the 18th best in the country (I am going to guess fed by the Detroit automakers for students). The College Of Law is ranked 85th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in 2008. They have the highest first time bar exam passing rate in the state as well as being in the Top 10 in passing rate in the country (better than Harvard).
Athletics: Toledo Rocket football dates back to 1917 when a group of students put together a football team with the help of a young engineering professor, John Brandeberry. Toledo lost its first game to the University of Detroit by the incredible score of 145-0. Toledo finishes that season with a 0-3 record, and was outscored 262-0. Coach James Dwyer led Toledo to its first winning record and its first Northwest Ohio league championship in 1923. Eventually Toledo became a reliable football program, with just one losing season from 1933 to 1948. Toledo joined the Mid-American Conference in football in 1952 and won its first MAC championship 15 years later. They have won a total of 15 MAC championships and 7 bowl games, including the 2005 GMAC Bowl against UTEP (edit: where one of their players had a point spread deal with gamblers)
From 1969-71, Toledo won 35 consecutive games, three straight MAC championships, and three straight Tangerine Bowls. In each of the three undefeated seasons, Toledo was ranked in the top 20. These teams were led by legendary quarterback Chuck Ealey. Ealey also became the first player in MAC history to receive votes for the Heisman Trophy, receiving 168 points for an eighth-place finish in 1971. Ealey eventually played in and won Grey Cup Championships in the CFL, because black guys didn’t get a chance to play QB in the NFL in the 1970’s. Check out inductchuck.com to learn more about this QB that never lost a game in high school or college.
Toledo's primary rival is Bowling Green. The two teams play for a six foot trophy each year known as the Peace Pipe, a prize that originated in basketball but progressed to football in 1980. BGSU currently holds a 36-32-4 advantage over the Rockets, but Toledo has won four of the last five contests between the two teams.
According to the Rocket's web site, they play a total of 6 men’s varsity sports and 9 women’s varsity sports. There is no comprehensive list of MAC championships won; it does not appear that Toledo has ever won an team NCAA title in any sport. Greg Wojciechowski did win the NCAA Heavyweight wrestling title in 1971 before he became the The Great Wojo in the WWA.
Famous alums: As you would expect, the Toledo famous Alum list is not tremendously interesting. Semi recognizable names include former NFL backup QB Bruce Gradkowski, Inventor of the Pringles Can Fredric J. Baur, Movie Actor Philip Baker Hall, and former United States Secretary of the Treasury John Snow.
If you are keeping score, Toledo has no US presidents and despite being called the Rockets, they don’t have any astronauts, although they do have current NASA Flight Director Bob Dempsey, who also has astronomy and physics degrees from Michigan.
The Game: I am having a bit of trouble feeling good about any team after they give up 45 points to Juice Williams and Illinois (the most by an opponent in Ann Arbor since Florida State scored 51 in 1991). But this is still Michigan we have never lost to a MAC team and despite the train wreck this season is turning into, we are not going to start now.
Terrance Taylor and an inspired defense dominates a weak Rocket offense and the Michigan offense, led my Michael Shaw shows some spark and finally score some points. Football can be fun when it is played correctly.