Spring Game: Time for me knock a little rust off this blog and post something of substance. The best thing about the spring game is that Michigan is guaranteed a win. I could put a joke in here that this game will be tougher than the upcoming Delaware State or Eastern Michigan game, but I can’t run the risk of jinxing myself or this team in April. Seriously, this is our first opportunity to see the “early enrollee” freshman play in game like conditions. I am excited to hear about how Tate Forcier and Will Campbell do. I don’t expect anything earth shattering, but it will be a good first step in getting the bitter taste of the 2008 season out of my throat.
History: In 1817 The University of Michigan was founded in Detroit by the governor and judges of Michigan Territory. It was known as the Catholepistemiad (an invented name mixing Greek and Latin). The original curriculum was strictly classical before adding sciences and research. The cornerstone of the university's first building, near the corner of Bates and Congress in Detroit, was laid on September 24, 1817, and within a year both a primary school and a classical academy were functioning within it.
As you might expect, the awkward name of the Catholepistemiad became a target of ridicule. Governor Cass referred to it as the "Cathole-what's its name" and thought it a "pedantic and uncouth name". Justice James V. Campbell said it was "neither Greek, Latin, nor English, [but merely] a piece of language gone mad." On April 30, 1821, Governor Cass and a couple of Judges passed a new act that changed the name of the institution to the University of Michigan and put control in the hands of a Board of Trustees consisting of 20 members plus the governor.
The University officially moved to Ann Arbor 16 years later (1837 is the same year Michigan became a state) onto a 40 acre plot now know as Central Campus. The first classes were held in 1841. Eleven men graduated in the first commencement ceremony in 1845.
Location: Located about 45 minutes west of Detroit, Ann Arbor is Michigan’s seventh largest city and the seat for Washtenaw county. It was founded in 1824 by land speculators. During the 1960s and 1970s, the city gained a reputation as an important center for liberal politics and this left-leaning culture continues today. The city's economy originally supported by manufacturing is now centered on education and high-tech. The University employs about 40,000 people in the area. Many technology companies drawn to the area by the research and development money pouring into the university. No matter how you slice it, Ann Arbor is still in Michigan which means the winters are brutally cold. If you have never lived in Ann Arbor it can be a wonderful place to call home and I would move there in a second if I convince my wife that it would not lead to my premature death via self-inflicted local sports insanity.
Nickname: We call ourselves Wolverines, and yes the wolverine is a member of the weasel family. As I have taught my kids, the wolverine is “pound for pound the most ferocious animal on the planet” and is “physically incapable of backing up”. Since the earliest days of recorded University history (as early as 1861), the students and alumni have been referring to themselves as Wolverines -- although no official reason is recorded.
General George Armstrong Custer (a Monroe Michigan native) commanded the Union Army's Michigan Calvary Brigade was known as the Wolverines in the Civil War. That turned out alright until he took his show west in a sad preview of future Rose Bowl performances.
There are lots of theories regarding how we became known as Wolverines, including a popular one involving the long running animosity and border war with Ohio. It is nice to see that things don't change much in 150 years.
While wild wolverines exist in Oregon, Montana, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, California, and parts of Canada, there are no wild wolverines in Michigan until 2004 when scientists confirmed they saw a Wolverine in Michigan for the first time in 200 years.
Colors/Logo/Helmet/Mascot: Maize and Blue. In 1867 a group of students met and adopted blue and maize as the official school colors. However, no one actually specified the exact shades until 1912, when school officials chose fabric ribbons depicting the actual shades. And since colors were not standardized at that time, azure blue could be every shade from a pale sky blue to a deep lapis lazuli, all of which were utilized along with a variety of yellows from the palest lemon to bright gold.
Michigan has a bunch of branded logos and a lot of rules about how they are to be used. The most common theme is the block M. However nothing has become more of a symbol of the University’s athletic teams more than the winged helmet. Originally lifted from Princeton and the leather helmet designs of the time, it has developed into the most recognized brand the University of Michigan has and is used by multiple sports teams on campus.
We don’t have a cute costumed mascot character that runs around with the cheerleaders like all of the other teams we play (I am looking at you Notre Dame, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State). However, in the mid-1920s we did use a mounted and stuffed wolverine as the team mascot.
In 1923, after seeing the University of Wisconsin football team bring live badgers to games, Fielding Yost decided we needed a live wolverine. Despite writing letters to 68 trappers, Yost was reportedly unable to find one. However in 1927 the Detroit Zoo got 10 wolverines and Yost made a deal for two of them named Bennie and Biff. They made their first appearance came on dedication day for Michigan Stadium in 1927. Over time Biff and Bennie grew larger and more ferocious, leading Yost to conclude, "It was obvious that the Michigan mascots had designs on the Michigan men toting them, and those designs were by no means friendly." The live wolverine experiment ended after just one season. Eventually became too vicious to remain on the campus zoo and were moved back to the Detroit Zoo.
Fight Song: The Victors is the official fight song of the University of Michigan. Written in 1898 by Louis Elbel after Michigan defeated the University of Chicago, then a national football power. John Philip Sousa called one of the best marches he'd ever heard and I don’t think you will find any un-biased person that does not rank it in the top 2 or 3 college fight songs available. On a personal note, I have found it to be quite a versatile song… as a young father I used it as a very successful bedtime lullaby and it was the first song my kids ever learned. It is the only tune I can play on a piano.
The long version of the lyrics can be found here :
We mostly just know and care about these:
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the leaders and best
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!
You can also find the sheet music here.
Academics: No matter how you slice it, The University of Michigan is a damn good school. More than 70% of universities 200 major programs, departments, and schools ranked in the top 10 in the United States. It is currently ranked as the 26th best National University in the US News and World Report behind only Northwestern (ranked 12th) in the Big 10. Amongst public schools on the list, only Cal-Berkley, Virginia, and UCLA are ranked ahead of Michigan. The university has matriculated 26 Rhodes Scholars.
Stadium: Michigan plays home football games at Michigan Stadium. When the current renovation is complete, it will once again be the largest college football stadium in the world. Currently the official capacity is 106,201 (the extra seat is said to be "reserved" for Fielding H. Yost) – but we routinely put more than 110,000. ABC’s Keith Jackson was the first to call it “The Big House”. Michigan Stadium has witnessed over 200 consecutive crowds of greater than 100,000 - dating back to 1975. We hold the NCAA single-game attendance record at 112,118 with the 2003 game with Ohio State (yes, sadly that is also the last time we beat the bucks).
In the early 1920s, Fielding Yost formed a vision that would become Michigan Stadium. He realized with winning teams and large fan turnouts, we needed for a larger football stadium. The stadium was built on land that had been home to an underground spring. The water posed a problem to the construction, creating a surface that resembled quicksand. It was this moist ground that engulfed a crane which remains under the stadium today.
On Oct. 1, 1927, Michigan played Ohio Wesleyan in the first game at Michigan Stadium, winning 33-0. Dedication of the new stadium came three weeks later, Oct. 22, 1927, against Ohio State, in another Michigan victory. The Buckeyes had hoped for revenge from the dedication of their own stadium five years earlier when the Wolverines came away with a 19-0 victory.
Athletics: Beyond football, Michigan has 23 other varsity sports. In seven of the past 10 years, Michigan has finished in the top six of the NACDA Director's Cup. We are one of only two schools (Minnesota is the other) in NCAA history to win a national championship in the four major men’s sports (baseball, basketball, football, and ice hockey). The Wolverines have won NCAA Division I national championships in lot’s of other sports including women's field hockey, men's golf, men's gymnastics, women's softball, men's swimming and diving, men's tennis, and men's outdoor track and field. Overall we have 32 official NCAA national championships, trailing only Penn State in the Big Ten for all time titles. We however won our titles while being a member of the Big Ten.
No one will argue that it is our football program that pays the bills. The football program is among the most successful in college football history. We have the most wins, highest winning percentage, and we won the first Rose Bowl game in 1902. The Wolverine football program has claimed 11 national titles. Three Michigan football (Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard, and Charles Woodson) players have won the Heisman Trophy. We have a decent rivalry with Ohio State. I could go on an on, but suffice to say Rich Rodriguez has a decent foundation onto which he can rebuild this program.
Famous Wolverines: There are more than 425,000 living alumni of the University of Michigan. Famous alumni include the "father" of the iPod, the founder of Google, the voice of Darth Vader, and the first American to walk in space. I don’t have the time or energy to start listing famous names. You can find a great list here. Michigan has seven Nobel prize winners, eight astronauts, and one US President.
The Game: I think RR has backed off on his original commitment to make the spring game more exciting and an event. Personally I just hope the weather is nice for T9 and everyone else. I also hope that no player gets injured badly impacting the team in the fall.
Other things I want to see: I hope that the offensive line improves. I hope that Will Campbell does not crush anyone’s soul and make them transfer to Ohio State. I hope that Vlad Emilien does not impale anyone. I hope that Tate Forcier does not break in half and is half as good as everyone expects him to be.