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Posted on Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 12:46 p.m.

Trashing the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry, the case for Tate Forcier and Jon Falk's book

By Pete Bigelow

With due respect to Michigan State and Notre Dame, there really is only one rivalry.

Ohio State and Michigan’s annual meeting defines the legacies of its coaches and players, schools and states. It’s more than a fixture on the late November calendar.

It’s a destination on the calendar.


Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel walks the Michigan Stadium sidelines against Michigan in last year's rivalry game. Since 1943, fans have always known where to find the annual showdown between Michigan and Ohio State: Right at the end of the schedule.

Associated Press

Survive the Big Ten schedule, and there’s still the biggest test of all waiting at the end. Suffer through an early slump, and there’s still a chance to save the season by spoiling the other team’s season at the last possible minute.

By now, you already know that tradition is about to be trashed in the name of … well, what exactly?

Even if the two schools are placed in separate divisions in the Big Ten’s upcoming alignment, they’ll still face each other once a season in a preserved “cross-over” game.

Scheduling the cross-over for the final week of the season seems relatively easy enough - except conference officials want to avoid the possibility Ohio State and Michigan face each other in back-to-back weeks should they both win divisions and reach the new Big Ten championship game.

So the regular-season matchup will be forever diluted to preserve the mere possibility of a championship game matchup.

This arrangement isn’t official yet, but it might as well be. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee have already been making the media rounds, getting an early jump on tempering the outcry before the official decision is announced.

Moving the game won’t ruin it. Reporters will still cover the game, fans will still pack stadiums and the Big Ten will still reap television profits.

But moving the game strips it of its importance, and cheapens one of the country’s great sports events. In the middle of October, Ohio State-Michigan isn’t a destination. It’s just another conference game.

Making the case for Tate Forcier

After Denard Robinson’s sensational spring and Tate Forcier’s summer-long struggles, it makes sense that momentum has swung in Robinson’s favor for Michigan’s starting quarterback job.

Let’s not be so quick to cast Forcier aside.

He started all 12 games as a true freshman in 2009, often playing with a bum shoulder and other assorted injuries.

This was not 2004 when Chad Henne started as a true freshman. Henne inherited an experienced offensive cast, led by a sturdy offensive line and receivers Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston.

For Forcier, it was the blind leading the blind. An inexperienced an oft-injured offensive line, a rotating cast of receivers, some split series with Robinson.

Forcier didn’t have it easy.

Michigan nonetheless finished the season with the Big Ten’s third-ranked scoring offense. Twice, he led comeback drives in the final minutes that resulted in wins over Notre Dame and Indiana.

Robinson may indeed be the more talented of the two. He certainly has more speed.

But the most important question for the Wolverines and a coach whose job may hinge on this season may not be which quarterback has the most long-term potential, but the one who has the best chance to win right now.

Catching up with U-M equipment manager Jon Falk

There are dozens of books that detail the on-field exploits of the Michigan football team. There aren’t many that tell readers what occurred on the sidelines or in the locker room after the Wolverines’ biggest games.

If These Walls Could Talk” does just that.

The book, written by Jon Falk, Michigan’s long-time equipment manager, was released earlier this month and contains a treasure trove of colorful anecdotes fans won’t find anywhere else.

“The history that’s in this book is so much different than what the history books are going to say,” Falk said.

Falk, who has been with the team since 1974, shared a few of the stories in his book with me last week.

One involved a request from many years ago. Bo Schembechler wanted Falk to purchase him a new pair of headphones because he couldn’t hear on the sidelines.

Falk followed the instructions and bought a $350 set, a premium model at the time reserved for airline pilots. The equipment manager gave the coach the headset, along with some instructions of his own.

“’Here’s the thing,’ I told him,” Falk recalled. “’You can’t throw it on the ground.’ Bo looked at me and said, ‘Well, Jon, I don’t throw headsets on the ground.’ And I said, ‘Well let me tell you, if you’re not, there’s somebody out there who looks just like you giving you a bad name.’”

Sure enough, on game day a questionable officiating call had Schembechler steamed and reaching for his headset. Falk jumped onto the field and stood in front of the angry coach.

“Bo lifts his headset up and says, ‘Damn you, Jon,’ and puts his headset back on,” Falk said.

In talking about his book, I asked Falk if, after 36 years, the seasons blurred and the memories faded when it came time to actually sit down and write.

Not in the least.

After my question, Falk immediately recalls a punt blocked in the 1984 Ohio State game, Earle Bruce’s final game at Ohio State in 1987 and more. He remembers everything, especially the Ohio State games.

“Every one of them,” Falk says. “The Ohio State games are ingrained in your heart and in your mind. Every one, you remember every one of them.”

Maybe Jim Delany should take note.

Tweet of the week

“Tampering with the Ohio State-Michigan game is the worst thing to happen in the history of college sports.” - treblig.

This week's mailbag

Q: What did you think of the radio reporter who wore a Florida hat to the Arkansas press conference a few weeks ago? - Kevin, Minneapolis.

A: Kevin, I never want to see anyone lose their job, but the Renee Gork’s hat-wearing was, at best, careless and unprofessional.

Same goes for the opposite situation, incidentally. Had she worn a Razorbacks hat, it would have been just as bad, although I’m not sure Bobby Petrino would have minded as much.

Q: My wife and I are coming to Ann Arbor for the first time for the UConn game on Sept. 4. Where should we eat? What should we do? - Eddie, California.

A: Eddie, you’d probably get a different answer from every person you ask, but in my book, you can’t go back to California without eating a reuben from Zingerman’s Deli on Detroit Street in Kerrytown.

(It’s No. 2 on the menu).

Be aware: You will probably pay $15 for that sandwich and a drink and on a game weekend, you might stand in line a while for the privilege. But once you get the sandwich, you won’t be disappointed.

Have a question about Michigan football? Email Pete Bigelow at or join him on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

enough dependable things have been screwed up regarding Michigan, let's not screw this up as well.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 8:47 p.m.

I am for keeping The Game on the 3rd Saturday of November. It could become "Rivalry Saturday" for the Big 10 with the 6 teams from one division playing the 6 teams of the other division. The division that wins the most games that day could be "home" for the championship game.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

For the record Mr. Carrs record against Ohio State was 6-wins 7-losses.

Sean T.

Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 10:37 a.m.

Sounds like a good book. (I'm buying it) I'm with Satch on this one. Tate has proved to me that he should be the starter because he's had two spring-camps and a whole season of experience. That basically makes him a junior in experience of the playbook. Denard has flash and he does have the makings of a star but his spring performance was average because of playing against the second-team defense and he showed poor accuracy and judgement in game situations last year. Either way, let's go Blue!!


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

Haven't read most of the comments closely this time around, but the part some people are quoting/arguing where Bigelow says moving the game won't hurt it and such, I believe, is his quoting (without the quotation marks) the nonsense others--such as Brandon and college football analysts--have said, not his opinion (if it is his opinion, it doesn't go with the rest of the tone of his writing about Michigan-OSU). Basically, I agree with everything Bigelow has to say about Michigan-OSU and Robinson/Forcier. And thanks for writing about "If These Walls Could Talk" by Falk...just ordered it. I think I've finally found a book I can get through all the way during the night shift.;) Atticus F., I wrote something similar about being done with Michigan athletics a day or two ago. I wish it were that simple...somehow I keep coming back to these articles, and I know I'm going to watch all the Michigan football and basketball games regardless of how bad I "know" they're going to be...I just can't stop torturing myself somehow...maybe I would have been better off if I'd just stayed down in TN instead of attending Michigan? hahaha. I know financially I would have been.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 6:22 a.m.

Say it isn't so Dave. Don't move the game. And lets get a coach that can make the game count again.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 12:35 a.m.

The B10 sports are all being taken over by former WVU employees. UM's basketball and football coach are former WVU coaches and OSU's president was a former WVU president. I'm not sure these guys ever knew what a real rivalry meant. I'll bet all three had a rather large input on the dissolving of the tradition. ND's former coach, Lou Holtz, was also a WV product. Of course, so was Soupy Sales and Don Knotts, so what's my point?

David Briegel

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

Mich-OSU is equal to Mich-Ind and OSU-Ill. No difference. Good job leaders and best! Who gets to sit in the unrented suites?? Club seats? Enjoy your $4 water or go early for your "commemorative"!! Like Marge in Fargo asked, "Why did you do it? For a few bucks?"


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

The article is right about Tate, except I think he is the most talented. But Rod will put in Robinson because he is fast. I have a feeling if Michigan had Tebow running this offence, he would be benched because Robinson is faster.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 8:20 p.m.

Michigan is getting the short end of the stick here. The Big 10 is turning its back on Michigan. Let's turn our back on the Big 10. I vote for seceding from the Big 10. Go independent.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

Not to overstate it, but in many ways moving the OSU/UM game cheapens the whole game of college football for me. Nothing is sacred, everyone and everthing can be bought or sold out if the price is right, and THE GAME is now just a game. Why bother with a crossover game? At this point it will simply be like trying to date an ex-wife or girlfriend and trying to put on a happy face when both of you know inside it's just doesn't feel the same anymore. Shame on Brandon, Delaney, Gee, and everyone else responsible for showing total disregard to the (formerly) greatest rivalry in all of sports.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 6:01 p.m.

Yep, many of you are right about not moving that game. All Big10 have to do is to realize that Bo & Woody would fling them to the ground like headsets and yard markers endlessly for Big10's idiocy in messing around with that UM-OSU tradition. I rather keep the UM-OSU tradition than the crummy championship game and the dumb BCS system. Hey Big10, BO & WOODY will come after YOU!

Stephen Landes

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 4:06 p.m.

Keep "the game" the same. There is little chance based on history of M and OSU facing each other in the conference championship, and if they do so what? I remember not too long ago that M and OSU wer 1 and 2, played, and everyone wanted them to play each other again in a bowl game. There ARE things more important than money, not that the leadership of the Big Ten understands that. They are all thinking short term -- no one in that group has the vision to think like Fielding H. Yost.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

The intensity of the rivalry with Ohio State began with the U of M victory in 1969. Attendance for The Game in 1967 was only 64,144. Dave Brandon is about to destroy the cash cow. The New York Yankee Boston Red Sox rivalry is an example of a manufactured for TV rivalry. Check out attendance figures some of the 1983 games. It may be a great rivalry but apparently not too many people on the east coast knew about it in 1983. Yankee Stadium Capacity 56,866 (YS) Fenway Park Capacity approx 33,000 (in 1983) (FP) Date Attendance Stadium July 1 32, 838 YS July 2 36,430 YS July 3 36,692 YS July 4 41,077 YS (Righetti pitched no hitter) Sep 19 24,447 FP Sept 20 24, 023 FP Sep 21 23, 314 FP Sep 27 20,143 YS Sep 28 20,214 YS Sep 29 22, 604 YS As one can see when the Yankees were in it in midseason they played to 63% capacity. When Yankees and Red Sox were out of it at the end of the 1983 season Yankee stadium barely filled 35% of the seats. And Fenway Park, which is virtually a sell out every game, barely had 66% of its seats filled. At The Game in 2009 Michigan went in with 5 wins and 6 losses. Attendance: 110, 922. There were more fans than the final five games of the 1983 baseball season Red Sox- Yankee rivalry combined.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

Yeah. Zingerman's is the bomb. Where else can you get 24 brownies for only $168? And you'll pay $15 for the sandwich, the drink will be extra.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 2:55 p.m.

If RR believes Tate is deserving of the starting role, I'm all for it. If he struggles or doesn't make good decisions or protect the football, then it is time for another QB to be inserted, albeit only temporarily. If Robinson appears to have grasped the offense and perfected his reads and passing skills, then I'm fine with that also. I just want them to win.

Atticus F.

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 2:54 p.m.

I'm through with college football. This, along with UofM's miserable perfomance as of late, has ruined the sport of college football for me.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 2:34 p.m.

"Moving the game wont ruin it." Totally disagree with this. It will ruin a great tradition. When folks talk about Michigan football, the word tradition is always included. Who wants to risk a loss to osu midway through the season? Or a win? By the end of the season, you should be at your best and that is the time to play your biggest rival. I would not be surprised to see fans stay home for later games if M looses to osu, especially if there are one or two more losses on the record. Two losses going into the osu game though is still pretty exciting But moving the game strips it of its importance, and cheapens one of the countrys great sports events. In the middle of October, Ohio State-Michigan isnt a destination. Its just another conference game. I understand Dave Brandon is a former M football player, but he doesn't sound like a Michigan Man by promoting moving the game from where it belongs. Playing osu two weekends in a row sounds really exciting to me. Damn that would be awesome. Forcier? Robinson? Who ever stops turning over the ball should play the most.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

Saying Michigan had the third-best scoring average in the Big Ten is inaccurate. Including only Big Ten play, the Wolverines were ninth. Playing 0-12 EMU and a school from one of the worst FCS conferences (Delaware State) really skewed the numbers. The 63 Michigan hung on the helpless Hornets was the most any Big Ten team scored last season. Agreed on moving the OSU game. I don't even see the problem when there's a rematch in the conference championship. The games would be two weeks apart anyway. The money argument makes no sense, it's just throwing away tradition.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

Keep Michigan OSU 3rd Saturday of November.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

You nailed it regarding Tate.