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Time has a way of evaporating history. I am told that much of history would never have been recorded in the Dark Ages had it not been for the painstaking effort of Catholic monks who recorded what others would not.
Thankfully, Michigan State University has done a remarkable job of recording its storied football history since 1896, more than 110 seasons with some stellar performances among its many coaches and players.
Here are the Spartan coaches who rank among the best:
Chester Brewer 1903 to 1910 – The Defensive Genius
Brewer, a 4-sport star at Wisconsin, knew a thing or two about how to play defense. In 8 years he went 54-10-6, throw out the ties and his 54-10 winning record was an astounding 84%. That is impressive enough, even more impressive was the fact that among his 54 victories were 43 shutouts, making 79% of his victories shutouts.
In 1904 he had 6 straight shutout victories while going 8-1. Among his 6 ties were 4 scoreless (0-0) ties. Two other facts about Brewer shine very brightly, 1) He NEVER lost a home game in 8 years, and 2) He only lost 10 games in 8 years. In 1904 he had a 104-0 rout of Hillsdale, but his greatest moments were a 0-0 tie against Fielding Yost’s 1908 Michigan team and a 17-0 shutout over Notre Dame in 1910.
John Macklin 1911 to 1915 – The Pacesetter with a String of Firsts
Macklin, an outstanding athlete at Pennsylvania, succeeded Chester Brewer. He went 29-5 in 5 seasons for an 85% winning percentage, and ran the table in 1913 with a 7-0 mark that included Michigan State’s first victory over Michigan, a 12-7 win at Michigan.
Among Macklin’s other greatest moments were a 6-3 upset against Penn State in 1914; another 24-0 away victory over Michigan in 1915; and a 35-20 victory over Ohio State in 1912, the first achieved by a MAC team against a Big Ten team.
Jim Crowley 1929 to 1932 – One of Notre Dame’s Immortal Four Horsemen
After several years of mediocrity, Crowley restored Michigan State to national prominence by going 22-8-3 (a 73% won-loss percentage) with 4 winning seasons and one win short of a perfect season with a 7-1 record his final year. Crowley’s teams had a pair of 0-0 ties against Michigan in 1930 and 1931 which broke Michigan State’s 14-game losing streak to Michigan.
Crowley was one of Knute Rockne’s Four Horsemen during Notre Dame’s glory years made famous by legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice. Crowley would go on to become head coach at Fordham in 1933 and create the “Seven Blocks of Granite” that included legendary Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi.
From Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen to Michigan State to Fordham’s Seven Blocks of Granite and the Green Bay Packer’s Vince Lombardi is a pretty good legacy created by the man known as “Sleepy Jim” Crowley.
Charlie Bachman 1933 to 1946 – He Brought in Notre Dame’s Winning System
Bachman followed Jim Crowley and brought with him Notre Dame’s system and managed to log 10 winning seasons in 13 years with a 70-34-10 record (a 67% won-loss percentage). There was no football in 1943 due to World War II.
Bachman was a teammate of Knute Rockne and a Notre Dame alumnus like Crowley. He led the Spartans to a 8-1 mark in his second season, including a 16-0 victory over Michigan, the school’ s first outright win in 19 years; it would be the first of 4 consecutive wins against Michigan that Bachman’s teams would accomplish. After posting another 8-1 season in 1937 Michigan State received its first bid to a postseason bowl game, the 1938 Orange Bowl.
(Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-Part Series.)
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley
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write by peterson