Congratulations are in order. As much as I despise that stupid, stupid team from up north of Toledo somewhere, I think that it should be recognized that on Saturday, October 20, 2012, they became the first college football team to win 900 games. The nearly equally ugly folks at Michigan State could have and should have kept this milestone at bay for another week, but there it is. It’s in the books now. Whoopity doo.
One hundred and thirty-three years ago, this same team from that same school up north won its first game. It was a 1-0 victory over the now defunct Racine College Purple Stockings and was played at Chicago’s Grant Park on May 30, 1879. The “rugby-football” game was played in two 45-minute “innings”, and would be unidentifiable to today’s football fan. By one account, “…when one of them caught the ball he instantly passed it to a colleague nearer the enemy’s goal and they were only discomfited when they practiced Racine’s attempt to run with the ball dodging others.” Clearly Deenard Robinson was not playing, as they passed well and struggled to run with the ball. The second and final game of this season was played (in what sane persons would consider the following season) on November 1, 1879 against the University of Toronto. Played in Detroit, the game ended in a 0-0 tie. The Detroit Free Press announced approximately 500 attendees, while UM’s records shockingly list a figure three times as large. If my experience of sitting in the visitors’ section at the “big” house is any indication, then they probably stuffed those 500 fans into 450 seats. BURN! Considering the dominance exhibited by this 1-0-1 season, it is amazing that the pollsters did not reward TTUN with a national championship.
In 1880, TTUN recorded its first undefeated and untied season with a record of 1-0-0. They unleashed hell in a return match against the University of Toronto in their own backyard: The Toronto Lacrosse Club. This 13-6 drubbing was the worst slaughter on this site since the now famous 1872 Hamilton Thursday Gentleman’s Lacrosse Club victory over the East York School for Boys.
The wolverines would not look this silly again until they donned their corn and blue.
In 1881, TTUN recorded its first losing season. In fact, it was their worst season ever. Perhaps playing actual football for the first time, and certainly against quality opponents for the first time, they went 0-3-0 against the Ivy League’s best, and oldest schools.
The 1882 season was memorable for two terrible reasons. First, they did not lose a single game. Luckily, they also neither won nor tied any games, as they did not play anyone from another school that year. Second, this was the first year during which an Ohioan earned a varsity letter for treason. Yes sir, Mr Horace Prettyman from Stryker, Ohio played “rusher” for the wolverines. You heard me right: Prettyman. Seems rather appropriate to me. He is also remembered as winning the most varsity letters for football, having played for eight years in Ann Arbor.
I’m not sure how you earn a varsity letter in a year when you don’t play any other teams…
Other opponents in the early years include the Detroit Independents, Stevens Institute of Technology, Windsor (from Ontario), Peninsular Cricket Club, the Detroit Athletic Club, Ann Arbor High School, the Michigan Military Academy, Rush Lake Forest, Physicians and Surgeons-Chicago, and Grand Rapids High School.
A game that was not included in the official team statistics was an 1885 match against the Princess football team from Detroit. It was played on roller skates, on a roller rink. Seriously. TTUN won, as they excel at roller skating.
In 1890, they defeated the Purdue Boilermakers in the first match-up of future Big Ten schools. In 1892 they would play against five future Big Ten schools, going 2-3 against Wisconsin(w), Minnesota(l), Purdue(l), Northwestern(l), and Chicago(w). The foundations had been laid for the formation of the Western College Athletic League, later the Big Ten.
October 16, 1897 saw Ohio State lose to TTUN in the very first installment of The Game. Booooooooooo!
In 1901 they got a new head coach named Fielding Yost, won the first ever college football bowl game (a 49-0 Rose Bowl victory over Stanford), and won their first national championship (shared with Harvard and Yale).
Aaaaaaaaand at about this point I grow sick of this project. I quit. Congratulations stupid michigan. I hate you.