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Wednesday, November 6, 2013


In sports these days, every team is looking for their "signature win". It's no longer enough to win a lot of games, teams have to put together a monumental effort to create a memorable victory that will sway the pollsters and the selection committees, etc.

The Michigan Football program has so many of these big wins that they use a super-computer to keep track of them. Some say there are more UM football victories than there are stars in the sky. (Others point out that "you can see the stars and still not see the light.")

Today is a big day in history for the Wolverines. For it was on this day way back in 1880 that the Michigan "Football Team" defeated their arch-rivals from TORONTO. Not the University of Toronto, but the prestigious Toronto Lacrosse Club. If you read the game account carefully, it's hard to be certain whether they were actually playing lacrosse, cricket, rugby or rounders, but the UM faithful are certain it was a big win either way, by a commanding score of 13-6. Here is an excerpt from the report on this game:
"During the first inning, Michigan was aided by having the wind at its back and running downhill on a slightly sloped field. In the second inning, the teams switched sides. The game ended at 4:27 pm with Michigan ahead 13–6. The scoring for Michigan consisted of "one goal, two touch downs [one by halfback William Calvert], and two tries for goal, against three safety touch downs which Toronto was compelled to make."
This game was huge for the team-without-a-name-yet, and especially for the players-without-uniform numbers-yet, as it clinched their first-ever undefeated and untied season. They finished the year with an overall record of 1-0. This victory established the foundation for claims that UM was the "champion of the west", since they had never defeated an eastern team prior to this hallowed day.

There was no head coach and no tackling below the waist. There were no forward passes and the main offensive play was the "flying wedge". But the Wolverines count this game result, embedded into the total, every time that claim that they hold the "all-time wins record" in college football. This is one of those many "undefeated seasons" that they like to boast about.

It's "games" like these that Michigan folks point to as the basis for their self-supremacy. Good to know just exactly what they're talking about.

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  1. The oldest football conference in the NCAA still recognizes MSU as a founder.

  2. James is quite correct.

    That would be the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), founded in 1888, with Michigan Agricultural College, Albion College, Hillsdale College, and Olivet College. It evolved from annual spring "Field Days" which included a mixture of many different sports.

    Conference football started in either 1896 or 1897 or 1898 depending on which source you believe.

    MIAA is now a D-III conference.


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