Century-Old Letters Add New Twist to Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry


The Buckeyes had high hopes going into the 1922 season, with its offense powered by Noel Workman, a quarterback from West Virginia who was nicknamed Dopey, and his brother Harry, a halfback. The Workman brothers chose Ohio State over Michigan in 1919.

But about a week before the season began, Ohio State announced some crushing news. Evidence had surfaced that Noel Workman, the quarterback, was no longer eligible to play college football because he played at a small West Virginia school in 1917. The final decision to disqualify Workman was made by John L. Griffith, the commissioner for the Big Ten, who was responsible for enforcing eligibility rules.

The decision, said Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, deprived Ohio State of “the most uncanny quarterback” in the conference and “the man on whom most of its faith was pinned this season.” The team’s coach, John Wilce, moved Harry Workman to quarterback, and the Buckeyes’ offense sputtered early in the season. And against Michigan, before a crowd of more than 70,000 fans packed into grandstands plus extra chairs and bleachers, Harry Workman threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in Michigan’s rout.

The game was so lopsided that Buckeyes fans began heading for the exits in the third quarter, abandoning their new edifice to delirious Michigan supporters. Ohio State alumni “pulled out their eyebrows listening to them,” The Detroit Free Press reported. The Michigan band, along with some 5,000 Wolverines fans, marched through the streets of Columbus playing their fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” according to The Lansing State Journal.

After the game, Yost reportedly crowed, “We put the dead in dedication,” according to Bacon’s book “Fourth and Long.”

What was supposed to be a celebration for the state of Ohio turned into an embarrassment — because of Michigan. Coaches and administrators at both schools knew the truth at the time about how Ohio State’s team, which finished with its first losing season in 23 years, had been weakened.



Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/23/sports/ncaafootball/michigan-ohio-state-letters.html