Detroit Free Press sportswriter Rosenberg views a tumultuous era in American history through the lens of the greatest rivalry in college football.
During the late 1960s and early ’70s, as the country experienced upheaval both at home and abroad, a different sort of battle was taking place on the football fields of the Midwest. As Rosenberg demonstrates, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines were the two most successful college-football programs during that time, and their success was driven by their respective larger-than-life coaches, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Hayes was a legendary disciplinarian and staunch conservative who believed in the sanctity of the game and traditional American values (Rosenberg’s title is adapted from the 1947 memoir by General George Patton, whom Hayes idolized), and he demanded diligence and obedience from his players. Schembechler learned the ways of the “Old Man,” as Hayes was often known, while playing for him at Miami University (Ohio) and working as a graduate assistant at OSU when Hayes took over in 1951. The Ohio State coach had already won three national championships before Schembechler became head coach of the Wolverines in 1969, but neither coach would win a title during the next decade of their intense rivalry. Rosenberg brings each man to vibrant life, exploring their tireless dedication to the sport and their players, as well as their relationship to their schools, their country and each other (the two remained lifelong friends). The author draws a colorful portrait of the bitter rivalry between the two Big Ten powerhouses, and he mirrors their on-field clashes with sharp glimpses of the turmoil occurring on both campuses as student demonstrations increased and the country fell deeper into the Vietnam quagmire. Rosenberg should also be commended for resurrecting the accomplishments of former Michigan athletic director Don Canham, whose aggressive marketing efforts helped the Wolverines set nearly every attendance record since 1975 (since that time, Michigan has sold more than 100,000 tickets for every home game).
An enjoyable, high-energy combination of cultural and sports history, and a must-read for all Wolverines and Buckeyes.