The decisions by Hofstra and NortheasternUniversities to drop football had ramifications in the Midwest yesterday. Thus, the shocking headline on the front page of today's New York Times, in two inch high black letters across the entire six columns of the front page, was "MICHIGAN DROPS FOOTBALL." This was only the seventh page-wide headline in the New York Times in the last 68 years. The others were "JAPANESE BOMB PEARL HARBOR," "GERMANY SURRENDERS," "JAPAN SURRENDERS," "KENNEDY ASSASSINATED," "NIXON RESIGNS," and "GEORGE W. BUSH READS BOOK."
The subheadline to the two inch high, six column headline of "MICHIGAN DROPS FOOTBALL" was done in one inch high type. It said "But Nobody Knows Because It Continues To Play."
Then came the lead paragraph, which read as follows:
"In a shocking development that stunned the entire sports world today, the President of the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman, announced at a press conference that the school had dropped football. Nobody will know this, however," she said, "because we shall continue to play. We are continuing to play so that we can continue to lose to OhioState every year. It wouldn't feel normal in Ann Arbor in the last ten days of November if we hadn't just lost to OhioState."
The President then explained the history of Michigan's decision to drop football, in answer to a reporter's question of whether Michigan's dropping football was in any way caused by the fact that its players kept dropping the football -- including dropping it out of the quarterback's hand in the end zone against Ohio State. The President's explanation was clear and to the point; she did not fumble around. "No," she said, "The fact that our players continually dropped the football did not bear on why we dropped football. Rather, we began thinking about it in 1940 just after Robert Maynard Hutchins announced that the University of Chicago was dropping football. We began thinking that, if a school with a storied football history like Chicago could drop football, why couldn't we? After all, our storied football history was similar to Chicago's, which beat one of our point a minute teams 2 to nothing in 1905. Chicago had Stagg, we had Yost. Chicago had Jay Berwanger, who won the first Heisman Trophy and whose pose is captured in the Trophy itself, and we had Desmond Howard, whose pose was captured in the end zone by TV cameras. Chicago gave up football for Economics, while we could give it up for Ed.School or the Marching Band. Chicago's field was turned into the site of a nuclear chain reaction, while ours can be turned into a forest, as we do at commencement when Birnam Wood is brought to the Big House. So everything was or could be the same. So we decided to do it."
At the press conference the President pointed out that for decades Michigan had not improved, as indicated by the story about the aged alumnus of 1948. It is said that, after Michigan's Rose Bowl victory over Southern California on January 1, 1948, its Coach, then Fritz Crisler (not the violinist, who spelled it Kreisler), found the alumnus crying in a hotel in Pasadena. Crisler asked what was wrong, and the alumnus is said to have replied, "I went to the first Rose Bowl game ever played, on January 1, 1902, when Michigan beat Stanford 49 to nothing. Today, it defeated Southern Cal 49 to nothing. Forty-six years and there has been no improvement."
At her press conference, President Coleman went on to say that, after about a dozen horrible years in the 1950s and 1960s, "Michigan was coming close to dropping football until its plans to do so were sabotaged, were derailed, by the unfortunate decades-long victories of Glenn Schembechler. But now that that is past us," she continued, "we have been freed-up to implement the decision to drop football while, unlike the University of Chicago, disguising what we have done by continuing to play. And, as I said," she added, "to keep up this pretense, each year in late November we shall lie down on the tressel to be run over by OhioState. For we at Michigan have great respect for tradition."
Meanwhile, Michigan's fans are in a stupefied state of shock that has caused nine out of every ten of them to walk around with their months agape -- that's 2,502,330 people walking around with their mouths hanging open. (As Dave Barry says, I'm not making this up.) The head of the Michigan Alumni Association, the inaptly named Samuel Winner, has announced that something must be done. He said he had tried to arrange a straight-up trade with Notre Dame of Rich Rodriguez for Charley Weis, but Notre Dame had refused because it was not getting sufficient value. Winner now is spearheading an alumni drive to offer the University of West Virginia 65 million dollars and the entire city of Cincinnati if it will take back Rich Rodriguez. Winner said, "We are not proud; we are open to negotiation. We are willing to also throw in John Beilin, Michigan's basketball coach, who came from West Virginia, the President of the University of Michigan, plus two Michigan vice presidents to be named later." The Board of Trustees of the University of West Virginia is reportedly dubious because, like Notre Dame, it is concerned over whether it will be getting sufficient value. However, a spokesman for the Board did drawl, "weellll, mebbe if they throw in Rich Little and a ten year supply of the Amazing Vegematic . . . . . . . ."
Meanwhile, back in Ann Arbor a crowd announced at 110,001 gathered at the University of Michigan Stadium -- at the Big House -- to protest the 230 million dollar luxury box building that overlooks the field on which Michigan will no longer be playing football while it plays at playing football. For two hours the crowd chanted "President Coleman, tear down that building."
During the entire two hours the jumbotrons at either end of the field played Michigan's new fight song, which has replaced "Hail To The Victors." The new song is the "Dead March" from "Saul."