Who could have guessed that such a colorful game as football would look so vibrant in black and white?
That’s the impression one gets flipping through Michelle O’Brien’s coffee-table volume Historic Photos of University of Michigan Football (Turner Publishing Co., $39.95), which covers a century of maize-and-blue gridiron action. From 1879, when the school’s football program started (the game then was a mix of rugby and football) until 1979, when Bo Schembechler’s reign was in full flower, the game is brought to life in nearly 200 photos. You can almost imagine you’re at The Big House on a chilly autumn Saturday afternoon. O’Brien chronicles the several fields where the game was played — the current stadium opened in 1927 — as well as fabled coaches such as Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler and top-notch players like Pete Elliott, Dan Dierdorf, and Tom Harmon. There’s even a 1932 shot of Gerald Ford, who would eventually sprint all the way to the White House. Culled from the archives of U-M’s Bentley Historical Library, the photographs also capture the intensity of the fans, the thrill of the Rose Bowl battles (including the first Tournament of Roses in 1902, when Michigan crushed Stanford), as well as the marching band and the cheerleaders, which remained an all-male squad until 1974. The Ohio State Buckeyes are undoubtedly the Wolverines’ all-time time biggest rivals, but nothing gets Big Ten fans in Michigan more worked up than the annual clash between U-M and their foes in East Lansing. It happens this month when the Michigan State Spartans tussle with the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Oct. 25.