Don Coleman, 1928-2017

1 02 2017
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Don Coleman, MSC football player, poses on the field, circa 1950s

Former Michigan State Lineman Don Coleman has died at the age of 88.

A three-year letter-winner (1949-1951), Coleman was MSU’s first unanimous choice for All-American, in 1951.  In that year, Don Coleman helped propel the Spartan football team to their first ever national championship.  He was also the first Spartan athlete to have his jersey retired (#78), and Clarence “Biggie” Munn called him “the finest lineman ever to play for Michigan State”.  Soon after being drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1952 NFL Draft, Coleman ended his football career to serve in the Korean War, adopting an orphanage overseas and acquiring clothing for the orphanage through work with the city of Flint, Michigan.

Coleman left the Army in 1954 to work in education in Flint, ultimately joining MSU’s faculty in 1968.  There, he served as an assistant professor in intercollegiate athletics, and even worked as an assistant coach under “Biggie” Munn that same season.  He was named Assistant Director of Student Affairs the following year, and was named Director of the Minority Comprehensive Support Program of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1974.  In 1978, Coleman was named an Assistant Dean of the MSU Graduate School, and soon after served as the first Executive Director of the Black Child and Family Institute in Lansing, among many other prestigious roles in the Lansing area.

Don Coleman was also the first player named to Notre Dame’s All-Opponent Team three years in a row.  A complete film of the historic November 20, 1951 game against Notre Dame, in which the 5th ranked Spartans shut out the 11th ranked Fighting Irish by a score of 35-0, is available at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections (UA 17.75, reel 653).

Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist





Audiovisual Collections: Blanche Martin and the 1957 Spartan Football Team

16 01 2017
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Blanche Martin

January 16, 2017 marks the 80th birthday of Blanche Martin – an academic all-American MSU football running back (1956-1959).  The 1957 Spartan Football team were national champions, one of six seasons in the team’s history in which they held that distinction, and thanks in no small part to Martin.  During that season, he scored 7 touchdowns and ran for over 600 yards.  But Martin is known for so much more than being a great Spartan running back.

Dr. Blanche Martin (DDS,  University of Detroit Dental School, 1967) was elected to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in 1969, the first African American to hold the position.  He chaired the Board from 1974 to 1976, and served on the board until 1984.  Dr. Martin also made great strides in improving conditions for minorities at Michigan State, increasing minority hiring and enrollment.  Dr. Martin was also a co-founder of the College of Urban Development at Michigan State University.

A video of the October 26, 1957 game film against Illinois is available for viewing online at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections’ site for digital collections, On the Banks of the Red Cedar: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-55F/msu-football-vs-illinois-1957/.  Other film reels from the 1957 season are available at the Archives, including most of the other games from that season, a highlights reel, and an “old timers” game reel!

If you would like to help preserve Spartan history and get this footage preserved and digitized for online access, please consider donating to the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund (https://www.givingto.msu.edu/gift/?sid=1484). More information about the Film Fund can be found here: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/msu-archives-preserves-spartan-history/.

Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist

Editor’s note: Dr. Blanche Martin was interviewed for MSU’s Sesquicentennial Oral History Project in 2000.  The recording and transcripts are available on our On the Banks of the Red Cedar website: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/sohp/Object/2-D-E3/blanche-martin/.

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MSU Board of Trustees, 1969. (standing L to R) Don Stevens, Frank Hartman, Warren Huff, Frank Thompson (sitting L to R) Stephen Nisbet, Blanche Martin, C. Allen Harlan, Frank Merriman





Earning a Seat at the Big Ten Table

6 10 2016

by Nick Kurtansky

This Saturday, the Michigan State football team looks to veer off the losing track with a visit from Brigham Young University. In many ways this game feels odd, and I believe it has to do with some source of unfamiliarity. Most likely it is because the two teams have never met before, especially since we are coming off of games with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Indiana, in which we have played a combined total of 194 times. But then again, after a string of years competing as one of the national elites, maybe we are less accustomed to our 0-2 record in the Big Ten than we are a Mormon school located in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. It is unusual that, after coming off of games versus two conference opponents, State faces a team that has no such affiliation. People today can’t imagine Michigan State not being part of the Big Ten. Yet it took a combination of administrative moxie by John Hannah, the cessation of an entire athletics program, consent among regional sportswriters, and a Clarence Munn coached football team to get them in. The only fans who might recall the independent status would have been born before World War II. So as we set to face conference Independent BYU, I figured I’d write about Michigan State’s ambitious campaign that triumphed in 1948’s vote into the Big Ten, where we have since grown entirely familiar.

John Hannah believed very strongly in athletics. He said, “I have always thought that a sound athletic program was good for a university… they unify probably more than any other feature of the institution… they merge the enthusiasm of students, alumni, faculty, friends and supporters of the university, and all to the university’s good.” In 1939, the University of Chicago dropped its football program, putting the Big Ten Conference, known as the Western Conference, at nine teams. From Hannah’s start as president of the college in 1941, his ambitions were to build Michigan State College into a worldly prominent university. He saw the open seat in the Western Conference as his opportunity.

Scheduling was very difficult for Michigan State as an Independent. In order to receive national or even regional attention, you have to play tough teams and be competitive. This has not changed. However, Michigan State was unable to attract tough teams or regional rivals to East Lansing. Reputable competition usually had to be played on the road, leaving home contests to weak, small schools and school out West, in which regional attention cared little. Only five of State’s 48 meetings against the University of Michigan were in East Lansing before election into the Big Ten. Inclusion into the premier Western Conference offered consistent opportunity to play tough competition evenly between home and road games.

As an independent, MSC did not have the same experience that Notre Dame had and continues to have. As a state college, they did not have access to similar resources or operate under such privileges as Notre Dame by virtue of being a rich, private, Catholic school. Nevertheless, Michigan State owes Notre Dame a great deal of thanks. John Hannah had built a valuable relationship with Father John Cavanaugh of Notre Dame, and in 1943 the two are said to have agreed upon an annual series beginning in 1948 (which lasted over six decades until Notre Dame’s recent decision to end the annual agreement). However Notre Dame has always been considered a powerhouse football program. This series was very attractive to the Western Conference as they considered candidates to fill the University of Chicago’s old seat in the Big Ten.

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1948 action shot from the first annual meeting between the Spartans and Fighting Irish in South Bend.

 

Understandably, the interest in sports was at a low during World War II. But shortly after the War had ended, Hannah wrote a letter to the Big Ten requesting admission into the conference. At the same time, the student population under Hannah at Michigan State grew exponentially with Hannah’s efforts and help from the G.I. Bill. Then in 1946, the University of Chicago dropped the rest of its athletic program and the conference began considering candidates including Michigan State College, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nebraska. The University of Michigan and their president, Alexander Grant Ruthven, represented strong opposition to Michigan State’s case. In the First half of the century the Wolverines had been nationally dominant. Adding an intrastate rival to the conference would undoubtedly dilute their resources and ability to sign the best athletes. Indiana and Illinois were concerned that an annual Michigan vs. Michigan State conference game would take the air out of their nationally recognized contest with the maize and blue. Iowa lobbied for Nebraska because of geographical proximity would have resulted in another neighboring rival. But for the most part, the Big Ten schools supported Michigan State in this so called election in order to weaken Michigan and level the playing field.

Especially beneficial was John Hannah’s relationship with Lewis Morrill, the president at the University of Minnesota. It was from this city that the sports editor of the Minneapolis Star urged his fellow Big Ten regional sportswriters to support Michigan State in their newspapers. Logically, media support weighed heavy in the conferences decision. Even legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote in support of Michigan State to a national reading audience, and in particular, expressed admiration for John Hannah. In justifying their case, he wrote, “And why not? Michigan State has more than 15,000 students. It also has one of the best football layouts in the game, a new stadium that can handle 55,000 spectators, the most modern one yet build. Beaten only by Michigan and Notre Dame, Michigan has known one of its best seasons this fall. It has a better team than several members of the Big Nine.” In support of Hannah’s ideas in favor of college administrative control over college athletic programs in order to preserve the purity of amateur athletics, Rice would later write in the Pittsburgh Press, “I would like to see Dr. Hannah put in charge of handling all of college football.”

One of the obstacles involved athletic scholarships. Michigan State awarded their Jenison Awards, a scholarship for tuition, books, room, and board, to 90 athletes each year. At the time, this aid was one the level of schools from the Southeastern Conference. The Big Ten did not approve of the Jenison Awards and looked down upon all athletic scholarships. State complied, and decided to drop this tradition in order to please the Western Conference.

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Clarence “Biggie” Munn and his assistant coaches, including Duffy Daugherty.

 

Biggie Munn was hired in as the MSC football coach perfectly in between the folding of the University of Chicago’s athletic program and the beginning of the series with Notre Dame. He went 7-2 and 6-2-2 in his first two years, 1947-48. As a great coach, Biggie looked the part, and he went on bring the football team to national glory in the early 1950s. When the Michigan State News published the headline “State Makes Big 10” on December 12, 1948, a crowd of students gathered outside the home of John Hannah. It was announced as a unanimous, although that score is a likely formality to underscore any strife. In front of the joyous crowd, Hannah graciously downplayed his role in the decision, boiling the situation down to a credit to Biggie Munn and the football team’s performance.

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State News of December 12, 1948 breaking the news with the headline “State Makes Big Ten.”

Because of scheduling, Michigan State did not play its first official conference football game until 1953. That year they were coming off of AP and Coaches’ Poll national titles in 1952 as independents, but in their first conference season, the Spartans won their first Big Ten title. As far as getting into the Big Ten, of course it was much more complicated than president Hannah claimed on the night of December 12, 1948. It required the recipe of student populating growth after WWII, administrative networking, one school’s crumbling athletics program to contrast State’s up-and-coming football program, and a little bit of help from our friends, the talking heads in the media, for Michigan State to since reap the fruits as a member of the proud Big Ten tradition.





1966 Game of the Century 50th Anniversary Celebration

15 09 2016

 

As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Game of the Century between Notre Dame and Michigan State, the university can remember it as the great national championship game that never was. Though American media outlets have gifted us with dozens of Games of the Century over the past fifty years, this one in particular is distinct. After what was a 60 minute clinical display of smash-mouth football, there was no celebration from the sidelines, no cheering from the grandstands, and no Gatorade baths. Instead, the game ended as it kicked-off: a tie. The game that would determine the 1966 college football season came and went, and in the end, settled nothing.

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MSU halfback Dwight Lee (with ball) receives a not-so-kind embrace from Notre Dame’s Jim Lynch. A001073

Certain characteristics are required to qualify a college football game as a Game of the Century. They are played between the top two ranked teams in the national polls. In our 1966 case, the Irish entered the game as the top-ranked team with the defending coaches poll national champion Spartans sitting at number two. The second characteristic is that there must be great talent on the field to constitute a Game of the Century. That may never have been more the case than the 1966 game, which featured 25 players who would receive All-American recognition, 31 future NFL players, including ten first round picks, and the future number one overall selection in the draft: Bubba Smith.  Michigan State entered the game as a 4 point underdog to a team who had outscored their previous opponents 301-28; the Fighting Irish had both the top scoring offense and defense in the nation. The country’s best two teams met in East Lansing on November 19, 1966, in 33 degree temperatures under cloudy skies, in front of an attendance of 80,011. However, since both teams had already used their allotted national broadcasts, ABC could not televise the live game nationally. So instead of leaving the other regions of the country in the dark, the network made a decision to air the game after it had already ended. That evening, in a time very different from the modern college football landscape, more than an estimated 30 million people watched the ABC tape-delayed broadcast.

Both the Spartans and the Irish were steered by legendary coaches Duffy Daugherty and Ara Parseghian, respectively, and each had assembled outstanding defenses. The game lived up to its billing as a defensive struggle from the start and never yielded. Some of those who played in the game have recalled it being the most physical they had ever competed in, and that is confirmed by the violent sounds of crashing bodies described in college football folklore by players, coaches, and spectators. Early in the first quarter, Notre Dame’s star quarterback Terry Hanratty was hit particularly hard by defensive end Bubba Smith and linebacker Charlie Mad Dog Thornhill, separating his shoulder and ending his season.

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From the November 19, 1966 Spartan Gridiron Souvenir Program

In the second quarter, Michigan State ended a drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Regis Cavender. Shortly after, Dick Kenney kicked a 47-yard field goal to extend the Spartan lead to 10. The Fighting Irish would strike back, however, with a 34-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Coley O’Brien to Bob Gladieux, which proved to serve as a crucial change in the momentum in the game. In the middle of the third quarter, O’Brien would orchestrate a long 70 yard drive that ended with a 28-yard kick from Joe Azzaro to tie the game 10-10 at the start of the final quarter. Spartan quarterback Jimmy Raye later threw an interception that set up Azzaro for an attempt to take the lead; however the kick went wide right from 42-yards out.

With a minute and half left in the game, Ara Parseghian’s team had possession of the ball near their own 30-yard line. Parseghian elected to call handoffs up the middle, instead of taking a shot at putting together a game-winning drive. Thus, the Game of the Century ended in a 10-10 tie. The Spartans won the total-yardage statistic 284 to 219. The crowd watched in disappointment as the two frustrated teams walked back into the tunnel. John Hannah and Father Teodore Hesburgh together visited both locker rooms to congratulate the players on an outstanding effort and competition.

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MSU fullback Reggie Cavender (25) hurtles past the Norte Dame defensive forward wall on his way to an 11-yard gain to the Irish 9-yard line early in the second quarter.  A001072

Parseghian’s play-calling in this game would go on to earn him a lifetime of scrutiny, and to this day, he has had to defend his decision making. The following Monday, the State News wrote, “A modification of an immortal plea keeps running through my mind: ‘Go out and tie one for the Gipper.'” However, the State News understood what many emotional football fans did not. Michigan State’s season was over. Notre Dame, on the other hand, still had a trip to Los Angeles to take on a tough Southern California team. When the polls came out, Michigan State sat atop of the coaches’ poll and Notre Dame sat atop the AP poll. After the following Saturday’s Trojan beatdown at the hands of the Irish, Notre Dame was able to swing the coaches’ poll in their favor, as well. Neither school could play in a bowl game. Notre Dame did not partake in postseason games at the time, and since Michigan State had played in the Rose Bowl the year before, in accordance with the Big Ten’s policy at the time, they could not go again in a consecutive year.

Michigan State did win the vote of other polls, granting them the rights to some share of the national championship, which the university proudly remembers on the plaques outside Spartan Stadium. However, this  Game of the Century is primarily remembered for what it was not. In what was to be a national championship game played at the end of the regular season, two of the best teams in college football history came out even and  left empty-handed. Despite this disappointment, nevertheless, the Game of the Century legend will continue to live on in the memories of Michigan State University.

Written by Nick Kurtansky

gotc-event-flyer_revcgOn October 12, 2016 the University Archives will be hosting a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the 1966 Game of the Century at Michigan State University’s Conrad Hall.  The main program of the event will feature a discussion of the game by 1966 MSU Spartan Football players, including Jimmy Raye, Clinton Jones, Jerry West, and Sterling Armstrong. Sports radio broadcaster and author Jack Ebling will serve as moderator. Tom Shanahan, author of Raye of Light, will also join the discussion to provide insight into the historical importance of the Game of the Century.  The event is free and open to the public.  More information about the event is available at 1966gotc.eventbrite.com.  Kindly R.S.V.P. by October 5th online (1966gotc.eventbrite.com) or by calling the University Archives at (517) 355-2330.  We hope to see you there!





Newly Digitized Film Footage of 1930 Spartan Football Team

5 10 2015

1-4-1548-48-MSCFootballGoesToWashingtonYour support makes a difference!

The University Archives recently acquired several hundred films from WKAR, including a 1930 nitrate film of an MSC football team trip to Washington, D.C. to play Georgetown.1-4-1246-54-19301101sm_Page_01Thanks to support from a donor, we were able to digitize the fragile nitrate film in high definition. The film shows the team touring the nation’s capital, visiting Annapolis and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and meeting President Herbert Hoover.

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President Hoover meets the Spartan Marching Band

Sadly, there is no actual gridiron footage because the game was played at night. But there are great scenes of football coach Jim Crowley, Spartan Marching Band director Leonard Falcone, and the MSU team enjoying this marvelous trip – which must have been a highlight of their college careers.1-4-1246-54-19301101sm_Page_04

The digitized film can be seen on our MSU history site, On the Banks of the Red Cedar (http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-1548/msc-football-team-goes-to-washington-dc-1930).

If you would like to help save Spartan history, please consider donating to our MSU Film and Video Digitization Fund (https://givingto.msu.edu/gift/?sid=1484).  More information about the Film Fund can be found here: https://msuarchives.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/msu-film-and-video-preservation-fund/.





Join us for “An Evening with Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” on Sept. 10

18 08 2015

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The Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections is pleased to announce our upcoming event “An Evening with Through the Banks of the Red Cedar,” featuring Clinton Jones, Gene Washington and special guests, with filmmaker Maya Washington, and moderator Jack Ebling. This event, which is co-sponsored by the MSU Retirees Association, will be held September 10, 2015 at Michigan State University’s Conrad Hall. Join us for a celebration of the College Football Hall of Fame induction of Clinton Jones and the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 National Championship team. Enjoy a preview of the highly anticipated documentary, Through the Banks of the Red Cedar, following the journey of MSU and College Football Hall of Famers Clinton Jones, Bubba Smith, Gene Washington, George Webster, and teammates during the historic era. Archival materials from the University Archives & Historical Collections will be on display for the public with an open house at 6 pm followed by the program at 7 pm. Admission to the event is free by RSVP. Please RSVP online at www.throughthebanksoftheredcedar.com/events/criticalconvo or call (517) 353-7896.

Free parking is available in Lot #32 on Fee Road.  Directions can be found on the MSU Archives’ website: http://archives.msu.edu/about/map.php?about_contact_map.

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Scrapbook History: Leon L. Budd

21 01 2015

The Michigan State University Archives hold materials that are decades and even hundreds of years old. Recently, pulled from the shelf was a scrapbook from a student that graduated from this university in 1915, exactly one hundred years ago.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Leon L. Budd’s memory book has specific pages for events to record throughout his college career. He records the scores of various sporting games and writes “Yell – Rah! Rah! Rah! Uzz! Uzz! Uzz! M-A-C!”. There is even a section for interactions with professors, where Budd notes that one of the most valuable lessons he learned was to “study chemistry”.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

The next section lists his dear friends, along with their happiest memories at Michigan Agricultural College. “It’s never late till 12 pm and it’s early after that” wrote John S. Hancock of Hart, Michigan. Budd’s friends proved to have some fun with the advice “If you can’t be good be careful”. A couple students bonded over their hall placement with the saying “To Hell with Wells and Abbot its Williams Hall for us” and the rivalry continued “To H—L with Williams – Wells is The Gentlemen’s Dorm”.
The happy thoughts did not disappoint, below are a few favorites:
“Of what shall man be proud of if he is not proud of his friends”
“MAC did it”
“RAH! RAH! For M.S.C.”
“Eat, drink, and be merry”
And of courses they remind us that Michigan’s cold hit this generation as well; “It’s so cold in here that the thermometer is froze”

The chants and songs during the football games shows just how much tension there was (and continues to be) between State and Michigan. Here are just a few of the “College Yells”:

We’ll rub it into Michigan, Michigan, Michigan;
Rub it into Michigan, M.A.C. can.
On to old Michigan.
Rub it into Michigan, M.A.C. can.

Hi-le, hi-lo, hilo,
Michigan’ chances grow slimmer and slimmer
Hi-le, hi-lo, hilo
Michigan’s chances must go.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

School dances were also recorded, with marks next to the name of the dances done at a party. Budd attended quite a few dance parties during his time at Michigan State.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Mr. Budd also has some memorabilia from days as an engineering student. One poster depicts a skeleton at a desk with an open book to “MAC valves”. The bottom of the poster reads “=Ye=Faithful=Engineer=”.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

The following pages are filled with pictures from Leon Budd’s time at MSC. They include the “Fresh-Soph Rush. 1912. ’16 vs ‘15”, places on campus, his friends, his love interest, and himself. Following those are pages of classic scrapbook findings, the football program, class schedules, and newspaper clippings from the games.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

We really get a glimpse into life at Michigan State during Leon Budd’s time here. The buildings have changed, the style is different, and the course options have diversified, but the smiles and comradely seen between Budd and his classmates seem to be an everlasting effect of time at Michigan State.

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 UA 10.3.124

Scrapbook #320 – UA 10.3.124

Written by Laura Williams