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Thursday, April 23, 2015


It all had to start somewhere, didn't it? This massive list of football victories claimed by the University of Michigan must have had a grand and royal beginning, right? Probably a classic down-to-the-wire win over arch-non-rival Notre Dame, or a season-capping triumph over Ohio State. Or maybe a historic match-up against Cornell, or Harvard, or some of the other original "Beasts of the East".

Not quite that classy, as it turns out. UM began their mind-numbing victory march against an opponent that no longer exists.

The vanquished foe was not really a "college team".
And the game they played was not really even "football".

1879 vs Racine - Event Date - May 30, 1879
Racine College was an Episcopal preparatory school in Wisconsin, founded in 1852. Most boys enrolled at Racine College were grammar school students preparing for the Bachelor of Arts course. The collegiate department at Racine closed in 1887. The grammar school and a military school continued to operate until it closed in 1933.

So there, right? Michigan sure put those boys in there place, eh? Oh, did we mention the final score of this historic win?

Michigan defeated Racine, 1-0.

This game alone tells you more about the UM mindset than you ever wanted to know. They are willing to claim that Racine was a college team playing college football. They want you to believe that you can get a score of 1-0 playing football. And they want you to believe that they are "leaders and best".

According to accounts of the event, it was not "football" as we know it.

"We play according to modified Rugby rules, which we will be able to send you, in printed form in about a week."
-Excerpt from letter sent by Racine

"The Rugby game, then unknown to us, was to be played. The challenge was accepted, but no interest seemed to be taken in the game until late in the spring of the year, when elevens practiced evenings on the campus."
-Recollection by member of Michigan Rugby team

The Chicago Daily Tribune called it "the first rugby-football game to be played west of the Alleghenies." The Chronicle (a weekly newspaper at the University of Michigan) called it "the finest game of Rugby foot-ball every played this side of the Alleghenies."

So this classic victory started it all, way back before UM actually had a team. If that makes sense. (Which it doesn't.)

Michigan went on to play one more "game" that season, against Toronto. That clash ended in a 0-0 tie. No "extra innings" were played that day, just the normal two-inning game of rugby-football.

This makes 21 football victories claimed by Michigan
that are absolute bunk by any standard.

These 21 "wins" are total fabrications by Don Canham, former Athletic Director at UM. They are as fake as a four-dollar bill.

Our series examining the bogus baloney spun by Michigan about their "football history" will turn towards the classification of larger blocks of games that could be discounted based on general circumstances rather than specifics of the opponent. Do stay tuned!

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  1. Since they count non-games as games, you could have used a non-word as a word: STUPIDEST.

  2. Here's my only thing with these articles - Michigan isn't the only school to claim to be in the top 5 in all time "wins" to count these types of wins. In fact, Notre Dame, another top 5 all time "win" school has their fair share of these types of games. Look, I hate Michigan (and Notre Dame for that matter), but when you only take these types of wins away from Michigan, but not other schools on the top 5 all time "win" list or all other schools in general, there isn't a basis for comparison because you'll have moved the goalposts for Michigan, but nobody else.
    I think you should look at comparing Michigan to other schools since a major rule change occured. Surely there is a fair basis for comparison, with relatively modern rules that shows Michigan isn't as good as they claim to be over their history. I don't know which rule change to start at - you could go back to when the forward pass was legalized, or when the "flying wedge" formation was banned, or maybe 1929 or 1934 when the measurements for the ball became closer to modern size. In 1912 the field reached the modern length of 120 yards. In 1927 goal posts were moved to the back of the endzone. In 1912 touchdowns became 6 points. In 1937 players had to start wearing numbers on the front and back of their jerseys. In 1939 helmets became required. In 1948 they first legalized unlimited substitution on change of possesion. That was subsequently restricted again short after and "2 platoon" football was made illegal. 1965 was the first year that unlimited substitution was Fully allowed. I would think that, like the institution of modern pass blocking rules would be a bit too modern, though. Anyway, there's a ton of rule changes and years out there to choose from. Those early games weren't true football, but at somepoint the game resembled a more modern game. I think you should assign a rule change most important in the progression towards modern football, and make a comparison of all teams and see what the top 5 win list looks like then.

    1. Jim, you are absolutely correct, thanks for your comment! Your point is exactly what I was trying to foreshadow in the last paragraph of this article.

      We are definitely "mocking" UM by pointing out these silly claims of "early football", and we expect some other teams may also be counting equally silly "events" as football. While I'm interested in finding out more about those other teams, I'm unlikely to devote the research time to add up the entire landscape of college football history. I would only say the difference between UM and those other schools is that it's UM making all of the crazy claims to pump themselves up. That's what we call "The Michigan Difference".

      But again, you are right, and your point is precisely where we will head next month, by identifying major landmarks in college football history in order to re-define where the counting should begin. You seem very well informed, as several of your date references were new to me. I'm guessing the reason that players had to begin wearing numbers on their jerseys in 1937 was because that's when the NCAA began tracking football. Not to jump ahead here too much, but I think 1937 is a reasonable starting point for that reason. I think there's another great claim for 1950. But in no way do I count the thing they did with the young boys from Racine to be a significant "game" in college football history.

      Again, thanks for the very well-informed and intelligent comment! Please feel free to comment again at any time.

  3. Jim,

    I did that some 5 years ago on CBSSportsline.COM. I used different points based on fundamental rules changes many of which are those you suggest, including the NCAA division (re-)organizations. I started with the top 5 teams based on wins and percentages. What I got back was a whole bunch of Skunkbear stench because the data I used did not exactly match the official UM record. They would not tell me which game was missing or should be added. They could not speak to the concept because they were too busy deflecting.

    I still have that analysis somewhere, along with the write up. I am searching for it. When it is recovered, I intend to publish it as a companion to these fine pieces SM2 has been publishing.

    1. I just found the data. I have 248 teams in the data base. It needs to be updated for the past 4 seasons and run again.

      I will also update the profiles to include any major shifts in the sport that you listed if they are not already done.

      Will that answer the mail?


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