The Big Whatever Conference

Nov 16, 2013

How many teams in the Big 10? The Big 12?...

Can you name the early teams in the Big Ten-ish?

The conference we now call the Big Ten has not always held that name and not always had that number of teams.

When it was originally formed, this league was called the Intercollegiate Conference.  It was later called the Western Conference.  Then the Big Nine.  Finally the Big Ten.  I have no idea how many teams are in it now.  LOL.

The 7 original members in this league were:   Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Chicago, Illinois, and Lake Forest.  A gold star to anyone who got those teams right!

Lake Forest was out not long after, and in came the University of Michigan, followed by the Universities of Indiana and Iowa.  This was the Big Nine

Mighty Michigan dropped out in 1908, after the league created a few rules trying to bring them down to earth.  In those days, when “professionalism” was considered taboo, Michigan had a “paid coach” (Fielding Yost) who was not a faculty member.  Michigan played more games than the league wanted……….13 in 1905 (12 at home).  Michigan also did several other things that favored their team, which the rest of the members did not approve.  Digressing here……….Michigan taught ND how to play football, in 1887, and was gracious enough to play us every once in a while (8-0 from 1887-1908) until we traveled to Ann Arbor and defeated them in 1909.  The following year, while we were en route to the train in Niles, heading to Ann Arbor, they contacted us to cancel the game!  They didn’t play us again for more than 30 years.

Ohio State joined in 1912 and Michigan came back, in 1917.  Chicago began to deemphasize varsity athletics, before phasing them out completely, and dropped out in 1946.  Michigan State University (former called Michigan Agricultural College) joined in 1949.  That was the makeup of the Big Ten until Penn State joined, in 1990.  Incidentally, Penn State wanted to join the Big East, but in one of the dumbest moves a conference ever made, the Big East turned them down.

So………..why is the Capster writing about the Big Ten?  I thought it would be interesting to see some ND connections to the colleges in the league (skipping those which have most recently been added).

Chicago                The only league team the Irish have never defeated.  We’re 0-4.  But we owe Amos Alonzo Stagg for training Frank Hering and Jesse Harper, the two most important coaches in the early days of Notre Dame Football.

Lake Forest          The Irish were 4-0 against them, 1899-1903.

Illinois                  We are 11-0-1 against the Ilini.

Northwestern       Our first win over a college (we had defeated a Chicago high school for our first ever varsity win), 9-0, on November 14, 1889.  We can also thank them for training Ara Parseghian for us.  We are 37-8-2 against them and 1-0 against their Law School team (1895).

Purdue                  We are 57-26-2 against them, beginning this series in 1896.

Minnesota            The Irish are 4-0-1 against the Gophers.  We can thank them for giving Lou Holtz a place to coach after he flopped with the Jets, until we could pick him up.

Wisconsin             We are 8-6-2 versus the Badgers.  Four Horseman Harry Stuhldreher coached Wisconsin 1936-1948, later becoming their Athletic Director.

Michigan              Either ND or Michigan is going to end the season as the #1 winning percentage team, of all time.  One of our early coaches, who helped train the Irish to be more professional, was Frank “Shorty Longman”, a former Michigan player.  He coached us to the upset win over his alma mater and records of 7-0-1 in 1909 and 4-1-1 in 1910.  We had difficulty in scheduling games from 1910 through 1916, because Michigan discouraged Big Nine teams from playing us.  It was during these years that ND and MSU developed a strong relationship (and strong feelings about Michigan).

Indiana                 We are 23-5-1 versus the Hoosiers, beginning in 1898.  In the early days, we were often called “The Hoosiers” when we played on the road.

Iowa                     We are 13-8-3 versus the Hawkeyes.  Notre Dame All American Dr. Eddie Anderson, coached the Hawkeyes for eight years (35-33-2) including in 1939 when Nile Kinnick won the Heisman Trophy.  Anderson, also a prominent physician is in the College Football Hall of Fame, as a coach.

Ohio State            We are 2-3 versus the Buckeyes.  The 1935 Game, won by the Irish, 18-13, in the fourth quarter, after being down 13-0, was called the “game of the half century” in a sportswriter vote.

Michigan State     We are 48-28-1 versus the Spartans, going back to 1897.  Michigan relented and stopped blackballing MSU for Big Ten admission, because they hated their in-state rival less than they hated Notre Dame.  From 1939-1946, the Spartans were coached by Sleepy Jim Crowley, of the Four Horsemen and Charlie Bachman.  Bachman, is in the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach.  Crowley left MSU to coach Fordham, which was a bigger football power than Michigan State in those days.

Penn State            We are 9-9-1 versus the Nittany Lions.


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