Friday, September 16, 2005

For A Huron (NOT Eagle) Alum, An EMU/U-M Matchup Always Fun

As an alumnus of Eastern Michigan University, it's always exciting when the Hurons (I am NOT an Eagle, nor will I ever be) engage in competition with the University of Michigan in anything more major than swimming or baseball or girls softball.

The Mighty Hurons travel to Ann Arbor for a presumed butt-kicking tomorrow, although with U-M's soft run defense, maybe Eastern can grind it out a bit and make the Wolves sweat for a half or so. Regardless, it's fun to match up with U-M, and every time that happens in a major sport, I think back to December 1981.

I was a freshman at Eastern and the Hurons traveled the eight miles down Washtenaw Road to take on Bill Frieder's basketball team in Crisler Arena. It was an awful snowy night but we made it down there too -- me and a few friends -- and rooted our EMU guys on.

The Wolverines of '81-'82 were not a very good basketball team. I believe they only won 8 or 9 games that season. Tim McCormick was in his sophomore season, and although he would lead U-M to an NIT title in 1984, this club was far from championship caliber.

So that may be why the Hurons, who were about a .500 club that year themselves, shot out to a 20 point lead midway thru the second half. But then, as Alex Agase, then EMU's Athletic Director and former assistant to Bo Schembechler, looked on a few rows behind me chomping on an unlit cigar and clapping, the Hurons started to wilt, throwing the ball away and looking like a team trying not to lose instead of one trying to win.

They held on and won -- by one point. I'm convinced that if the game was three seconds longer, Eastern would have managed to lose it. But the win over U-M, despite how bad they were, made the treacherous snowy drive back to campus much nicer.

Back in 1981, the thought of an EMU/U-M football game was folly. Eastern almost got kicked out of the MAC due to poor attendance in the early 80's, and in 1981 the football team was in the middle of a losing streak that reached over 20 games, I believe.

So to ratchet up the attendance figures for football, the school brought in gimmicks like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and other marginal performers to do their thing at halftime or after the games. I remember how disappointed the men were when the cheerleaders were in town, because due to the chilly weather, the girls wore spandex outfits instead of their traditional halters and go-go boots. Singer Lynn Anderson was booed for blatant lip-synching. Comedian Skip Stephenson was simply not funny. But it worked; attendance rose just high enough for the MAC to keep Eastern, and we all wore t-shirts around campus that said "I Survived The Big MAC Attack."

Ahh, those were the days.

There have been several tilts with U-M since that time in football and basketball, and most have ended in lopsided victories for Michigan. The basketball programs have been evenly matched at times, however. In fact, when Ben Braun coached EMU hoops, the school made some NCAA tournaments and sent players like Grant Long and Carl Thomas and tiny Earl Boykins to the NBA. Those teams were often better than what U-M was offering up.

But it's football time now, and I'm sure there will be some disappointed Huron/Eagles fans by the time the final gun goes off tomorrow afternoon.

But at least we aren't in danger of being kicked out of the MAC again, so that's something.

1 comment:

Edmundo Wanner said...

Stop blogging right now!