For more than pride …
More often than not, something big and real is on the line when the Buckeyes and Wolverines meet -- used to be, that was a spot in the Rose Bowl. More recently, it's been a battle for a BCS spot.
Often, it's bye-bye to one team's undefeated season. In 1969, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and unbeaten. Then they met Michigan. And lost. Bo Schembechler's Wolverines were beaten by Ohio State -- and only Ohio State -- a bunch of times in the early 1970s. In the 1990s, Michigan sullied a flawless Buckeyes season three times.
I don't want the ball, you take it! No, you take it!
In 1950, playing in a snowstorm, the teams combined for 45 punts, often booting on first down. Michigan won, 9-3. The game was dubbed "The Snow Bowl."
The Classic Game
1973: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Michigan. Each team is undefeated. Big Ten title and Rose Bowl trip on the line. The teams play to a 10-10 tie, and share the title. Who goes to Pasadena? Big Ten ADs voted on it, and the Wolverines stayed home.
It's too good not to be true …
Here's the story: Ohio State coach Woody Hayes hated Michigan so much that he refused to spend a dime in the state … even when his car ran out of gas, a few miles away from the Ohio border. Hayes, legend has it, pushed his car into Buckeye territory to prevent a Michigan gas station from profiting from his misfortune.
Wouldn't he have just poisoned the food?
In the 1970s, when Archie Griffin starred for the Buckeyes, distrust between Hayes and Schembechler ran deep. Griffin recalled, for example, that Hayes once accused Schembechler of hiring very pretty waitresses to serve the Buckeyes breakfast the morning of the big game.
Obviously, that distraction could cost Ohio State the game. Hayes sent the waitresses packing. "They were all nice-looking ladies," Griffin said. "That's for sure."
What would Nixon have done?
In 1894, President Grover Cleveland held a special cabinet meeting to discuss … football. Army-Navy football, in particular. Just a few months earlier, the contest had inspired brawls in the stands and a near-duel between a rear admiral and a retired general. Fearing for the reputation of the military academies, Cleveland's meeting resulted in a cancellation of the game.
In 1899, President McKinley restored the gridiron rivalry.
More than just a game
In 1999, Navy safety Gary Lane gave Smithsonian magazine a taste of the game's importance. "I saw players crying in the locker room, the toughest guys I knew just blubbering like babies after we lost. And hugging the Army team even though we don't know any of them. Army-Navy is like playing your brother. You play harder, but you share something because you know what the other guy has been through."
Good luck, boys. I've got an important game to see
In 1926, Army and Navy saluted Chicago's spanking brand new Soldier Field by playing their game there. Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne clearly thought it was a big deal -- he skipped out of the Irish-Pitt matchup that day to spectate in Chicago. Meanwhile, Pitt upset the Irish, 19-0.
War is hell
During WWII, travel restrictions prevented the usual enormous cheering squads from going to away games. So in 1942, under orders from the Navy, some midshipmen filled the visitors stands in Annapolis and cheered for Army. In 1943, Army returned the favor.
After Army won in 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur took a moment. As his troops battled in the Phillipines, he cabled Army's locker room. "We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success," read the telegram.
That 1944 game was a huge deal. Army's cadets could cheer on their squad again (they came by steamer to Baltimore, protected by five Navy destroyers). Army was great, featuring Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, aka Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. And if you bought tickets, you bought war bonds -- the game was used to raise money for the war effort. The gate ended up bringing in $58 million -- with single tickets going for more than $1,000 each and private boxes fetching $1 million.
Aim for the pumpkin heads
In 1962, Navy's receivers played the game in orange helmets, intended to increase their visibility as receiving targets. Navy won.
And my leadership skills include …
Former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot pulled one of the all-time great pranks in Army-Navy history. In 1975, Perot, Navy class of 1953, managed to sneak into West Point chapel the night before, and serenaded the cadets with a few tunes from the belfry: "Anchors aweigh, my boys …," followed by "The Marine Hymn" and "Sailing, Sailing." Perot was captured by cadets and handed over to military police.