A history lesson: 1926.
by Naughman (2005-11-09 01:07:26)
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Paraphrased from Murray Sperber's Shake Down the Thunder:

ND prepared its case for entry to the Big Ten, championed by none other than Knute Rockne himself. They asked that a committee from the conference visit the school to conduct an investigation of all conditions, both academic and athletic. The Big Ten sidestepped the request by voting 6-4 not to enlarge at the time, although this rendered them unable to formally denounce ND for its perceived improprieties, given that they refused the opportunity to investigate.

Later during the year, ND was on its best athletic behavior, trying to bring all of its rules in line with the Big Ten's to strengthen its bid for admission. The faculty board forbade the freshman and reserve squads from playing other schools' teams and also curtailed the practice of scrimmaging its interhall squads against amateur clubs. Further, Rockne accepted all of (Big Ten commissioner) Major Griffith's officiating choices for contests against his conference teams without bargaining. In particular, he appointed a Michigan man, Meyer Morton, to referee ND games against Northwestern and Indiana. During the ND-Northwestern contest, Morton gave out 95 yards in penalties to ND and none to their Big Ten opponent, which led Rockne to comment to the referee that "it looks to me like a Big Ten suckhole". The postgame report of the confrontation was exaggerated, and this led to the unraveling of any slim chance ND might have had at conference admission.

As the day of the conference meeting approached, the Big Ten coaches opposed to ND membership began feeding rumors to their friends in the press. Fielding Yost of Michigan told preposterous stories about Rockne's hiding and training players on the interhall squads for five and six years before suiting them up for three varsity seasons.

(Interestingly, Yost himself was once a lineman for West Virginia in 1896 when he "transferred" to Lafayette for a crucial game against Penn. After helping Lafayette win, Yost returned to West Virginia. A few years later when he became coach at Michigan, Yost brought in many "tramp players" as well as the graduate coach of Stanford to star on his first Wolverine squad.)

In the end, the Big Ten rebuffed ND's request for admittance, doing so based on misperception instead of reality. The conference adamantly refused ND's request "to appoint a committee to visit" the Catholic school and "conduct an investigation of all conditions, both academic and athletic". Instead, the faculty reps chose to believe the rumors about ND, especially those spread by Yost and Amos Alonzo Stagg. For "Academic Men" representing universities that considered themselves on the cutting edge of the scholarly research of the day, their acceptance of anti-ND gossip was reprehensible.


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