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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Know Your Foe - Ball State

The Wolverines take a break from the Big Ten this week, as they play their last home game of 2006 against Ball State. Why is Michigan playing Ball State in November? In football? Well, this was originally an open date. When Vanderbilt was added to the schedule, the Ball State game had to be moved. The two schools have never played on the gridiron, though the game will put Michigan's 21-0 record against Mid-American Conference teams on the line. Oh, and there's that whole undefeated season the Wolverines are still playing for, too. Now that we have dispensed with the introductory notes, it's time for the latest edition of the MZone's KNOW YOUR FOE.

History - Though not officially formed until 1918, the history of Ball State really begins in 1899. A private school, Eastern Indiana Normal School existed at the current site to educate teachers. It closed due to lack of funding in 1901. In 1902 the school re-opened as Palmer University, and a few years later became Indiana Normal College. It closed due to lack of funding in 1907. In 1912, the school re-opened as the Indiana Normal Institute. It closed due to lack of funding in 1917.

During the summer of 1917, local wealthy industrialists the Ball brothers of Ball jar fame bought the property and donated it to the state. The school was operated under the auspices of the Indiana State Normal School in Terre Haute, but due to the continued contributions of the Balls, the name was changed to Ball Teachers College in 1922 ("Huh-huh-huh, you said 'ball teachers'"). In 1961 it was renamed Ball State Teachers College, and finally Ball State University in 1965.

Location - Muncie, Indiana. Muncie can be summed up by its pseudonym, Middletown. During the 1920s and then later during the Great Depression, there were two major sociological studies conducted in Muncie to observe changes in culture of a small American city. The authors of the studies, Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd used Muncie as a typical American town, thus the name "Middletown." Even today, Muncie is viewed as an average American small city, as many news agencies and pollsters use the town as an example of "how America thinks." There's nothing spectacular about Muncie other than its average and typical characteristics.

Nickname - Cardinals. The nickname was a result of a naming contest in 1927. So for the second week in a row, Michigan will be playing a team with a horribly generic nickname. I guess that makes sense for a school from Middletown Muncie. Surprisingly, there's only one other Division I-A football team with the same nickname - Louisville. Remember, Stanford, which is I-A in football in name only, is called the Cardinal. Leave off the 'S' for sucking.

Mascot - Charlie the Cardinal is the athletic mascot. He looks kind of angry doesn't he? The university uses him for athletic and fundraising events. The most curious way Charlie is employed at BSU is as "Concerned Charlie," where he answers questions from students as part of a counseling center program. OK, it's not the drunken mascot who does the answering (at least I hope not), but the name is invoked.

In addition to Charlie, Ball State also has an academic or campus mascot, Beneficence. The name is also the motto of the university, and means the quality or state of doing good. Beneficence is also a statue on campus, and was the final work of Daniel Chester French, the sculptor who created the sitting Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. Unveiled in 1937, the bronze statue is of a robed and winged woman handing out gifts of jewels from a half-opened casket she holds in one hand. She stands in front of five pillars, each of which represents a Ball brother. But most importantly, Ball State students refer to this most respected and treasured representative of the university as "Benny."

Colors - Cardinal and White. We covered the red and white combo in our Wisconsin Your your Foe. As we said then, red looks great in a group, but the red and white combo is nothing special and very common. Many Michigan fans have pointed to this game and next week's contest against Indiana as a good warmup for tOSU since these teams have mobile quarterbacks. I think it'll be good preparation for seeing red on the field. What is it about red that makes their fans wear it so proudly? And what's with all the different names for it? Whether it's Cardinal this week, Crimson next week, or Scarlet the week after, the Wolverines will be seeing a lot of red in the next three games.

Logo - From 1971 through 1989, Ball State used the same logo as the St. Louis Football Cardinals. Perhaps because were disappointed that the team moved to Arizona in 1988, or maybe because they just didn't want to be associated with the Arizona Cardinals, BSU changed their logo to the one they currently use in 1990. It's standard fare, I'm sure designed by committee, and introduced with a press release about how the logo reflects the teams going forward and moving in the new direction. At least they didn't change the colors. The current Cardinal is more modern looking but less ornithologically correct - what kind of cardinal has a white beak? Besides, to me it looks like a bird in the process of a crash landing. Not the type of image they were going for, I'm sure. In the history of Ball State helmets, the best one has to be the one used in the 1970 season. Sure, it's not red, and it looks like some sort of ghost, but it's much cooler than the one they use now.


Fight Song - Fight Team Fight. Could there be a more generic name for a fight song? That sounds like the title of the fight some from some fictitious school in some bad UPN CW teen drama. I have to admit, I've never heard the song but the lyrics are rather amusing. They try to implore the athletes by saying "We must win this game." Must. Like it's an ultimatum. They also - and I'm not kidding on this one - pray in their fight song. Not by invoking an actual prayer, but by saying, "Praying for a victory." Not exactly confidence inducing.

Academics - According to The U. S. News' ranking of America's Best Colleges, Ball State is "third tier." What does that mean? Well the magazine ranks 248 "National Universities." Just over half (126) of these are considered "First Tier." The third tier is the next 25% of schools. That's equivalent to a percentile ranking between 25 and 49. This is one area where Ball State fails to live up to being average.

Long known as a teacher's college, hence the Normal attached to its prior names, BSU now has strong programs in broadcasting, nursing, architecture and landscape architecture. Plus, it ranked as the nation's top wireless campus in a 2005 survey conducted by Intel Corporation and published in U.S. News & World Report.

Athletics - Ball State competes in the Mid-American Conference which is very familiar to Michigan fans. They offer 12 women's sports and seven men's sports on a varsity level - the same number as the Big Ten's Northwestern. The Cardinals last won the MAC in 1996, with their third title in eight years. They lost all three bowl appearances after these titles. The men's basketball team has had some success, winning six MAC titles in the past 21 years. But BSU is not really known for being good in any one sport, and has very few former players in professional leagues.

Famous alums - In honor of Ball State's most famous alum, David Letterman, I was going to make this category a Top Ten List. But I got stuck at #4 after Garfield creator Jim Davis, and Joyce DeWitt, the dark-haired chick on Three's Company. Even their sports teams haven't produced many notable professionals. The best is probably NBA itinerant Bonzi Wells or Chicago Bears punter Brad Maynard. This compares very poorly to the other MAC school Michigan faced, Central Michigan.

The Game - This game couldn't be more boring than last Saturday's 17-3 win over Northwestern, could it? It certainly won't be a nail biter and there will be plenty more for Wolverine fans - if they show up - to cheer for. Michigan 41, Ball State 9.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frank DeFord is soooooo awesome.

Parm said...

Wow. I was set to read the entire post until i read the headline-"know your toe." Then it occurred to me how much time I've spent getting to know my other anatomical parts, and realized that yes, in fact- i have been ignoring my toes! Four drinks later, I am much more well acquainted with my toes, and can only hope we beat the hell out of the Fighting David Lettermans.
Go Blue!

anonymosity said...

You forgot about the most famous Ball State student/alum of all time- famous news anchor Brian Collins, originator of the greatest phrase of all time - "He passes it to the man... And boom goes the dynamite!"

BaggyPantsDevil said...

It might just be a blessing that few people get to see this game since it promises to be a disappointment. Ball State has the 104th ranked rushing offense which means spiking the ball every play should be more effective than trying to run with it. It also means any positive yards will cause Michigan fans to have seizures.

Also, Ball State's defense is one of the worst in the country—93rd against the run, 106th against the pass, 116th—out of 119 folks—in total yards, and 95th in points surrendered—so unless Michigan lights up the scoreboard, we'll also be disappointed.

Oh, and they're tied for the 100 spot in sacks allowed, so the front seven should have an enjoyable afternoon. Actually, now I wish I could see it just to watch that gorefest.

And, it was already funny—in a Beavis and Butthead kind of way—to say Ball State, but now there's the Ball Brothers. They sound like producers of 80's porn. Their names are: George A. Ball, Frank C. Ball, Edmund B. Ball, William C. Ball, and--I'm saving the best for last so check this one out--Lucious L. Ball. I'm guessing he'd actually appear in their videos.

Aram said...

Anybody see Letterman give a preview of the game this week? He's promised that if his prediction of a 6-0 Ball State victory is incorrect, anybody who can prove they were in the stadium for the game gets "a shiny nickel" from him.

I plan on taking him up on it.

mgoblue84 said...

Benny,

you gave Ball State POINTS in your prediction?????

Come on guy! This is the best defense in the land we are talking about!

I did enjoy your comments on the helmet design and the fight song though!

Steven said...

I can't get the link because my work blocks it, but there's a fairly amusing youtube skit "Lazy Muncie" ala Lazy Monday from SNL. You might get an idea of the city from that. So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Anonymous said...

As a Ball State alum, I enjoyed your take on my alma mater. Funny stuff!

However, I'm a bit disappointed that you didn't include the best piece of trivia about Benny, that is.

Campus lore states that if ever a virgin graduates from Ball State, Benny will flap her wings.

Obviously, Benny's wings have never moved.

Oh, a few more famous alums: Papa John's CEO and founder John Schnatter (yes, the dude in the commercials), former ESPN and now-AOL Sports commentator Jason Whitlock (who got his start at the AA News, btw), Chicago Tribune columnist, ESPN NBA analyst and "The Jordan Rules" author Sam Smith, and Orpah's squeeze Stedman Graham. Other pro sports figures: four-time NFL Pro Bowl safety Blaine Bishop, former Dolphins and Jets RB Bernie Parmalee, and St. Louis Cardinals OF Larry Bigbie. (That should get us to ten, right?)

Looking forward to my first trip to Ann Arbor this weekend. Quick question, however. On the official websites, I see a bunch of "no alcohol" rules posted for parking at Pioneer High School. Are those enforced, or are those just a trump card for the authorities to use on folks getting out of hand? Our entire group is well into our 30s, so we're of age, but I don't want to get hassled for having a few libations before the game.

Also, is there anything about parking at Ann Arbor Golf and Outing that is worth an extra ten bucks over parking at Pioneer H.S.?

Just curious... any advice would be appreciated... thanks!

San Francisco Values said...

Yep, Colorado has some lions in front of their library or something that are supposed to roar when a virgin walks by. I think there are a lot of these types of things.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one other small clarification on your U.S. News rankings comments. Technically, only schools ranked 1-50 in the rankings are considered "Tier 1." Schools ranked 51-124 are "Tier 2," hence BSU's ranking in Tier 3 (#125-184).

All things being considered, you'll be hard pressed to find a BSU alum who thinks our being in the third tier is a bad thing. We're right alongside state flagship and land-grant schools like Arizona State, Oregon State, LSU, Ole Miss, WVU and U. of Arkansas, (despite the fact that we probably get no more than one-fourth of the resources from our state that these schools do from theirs) as well as national private schools like DePaul, St. John's and Seton Hall.

Sure, we'd love to move up (who wouldn't), but we can live with that.

IC said...

Another great KYF, Benny.

I particularly enjoyed your link to the Ball State student help resource, not-at-all-inappropriately-named "Concerned Charlie." I strongly urge everyone to visit it.

To entice you further, I honor Ball State alum David Letterman with the following Top Ten List:

Top Ten Problems of Ball State Students Sent to "Concerned Charlie"

10. "I have been have episodes of uncontrolled rage..."

9. "I don't even know where to begin..."

8. "My girlfriend and I have been debating lately about the effectiveness of multiple forms of contraception..."

7. "Someone I knew just shot and killed themself..."

6. "Hello, my name is JB. I am a freshman. I am having trouble understanding what I have read..."

5. "Last year I transfer here from the University of Southern Indiana..."

4. "I was happy until a few weeks ago when I went home for my 23rd birthday..."

3. "This is long and involved. I began dating a friend of mine I met online and had known for several years prior to deepening our relationship..."

2. "i get into these moods sometimes and i just don't want to talk to people, my head hurts, I feel like crying during this period..."

And the number one Problem of Ball State Students Sent to "Concerned Charlie"...

1. "I have been dating my boyfriend for over a year now and things have gone really good, except our frequent disagreements..."

As you can tell from these titles, the site is gold, Jerry, gold. It's a can't miss: serious problems being addressed by an imaginary, crash-landing bird who refers to himself in the first-person (or first-bird.)

The King said...

Out of curiosity, is anyone else getting really nerbous about Indiana? That has the markings of a complete landmine:

1) Traditional doormat that's better than public perception
2) Biggest game of the year the following week

Anonymous said...

BSU fan here again.

I wouldn't be too concerned about Indiana. They beat us by one, in a game we led 23-7 at halftime, and only because of miscues by our special teams (missed extra point, missed chip-shot FG) and a hideous *triple* no-call on a Kellen Lewis TD run (our DT was tackled as he was about to sack Lewis, then two clips at the point of attack downfield weren't called).

I love my Cards, but we aren't that good this year. And we outplayed Indiana for 90 percent of the night. Indiana's lone decent win is over middling Iowa. Every other good team they've faced has thumped them, and they've lost to even a couple less-than-decent foes (I-AA Southern Illinois, UConn).

Yost said...

King,

Totally agree.

Andy said...

King/Yost:
I have been a Michigan fan too long to also not be concerned with this "trap" game looming against Indiana.

Ball State for now.

One game at at time boys... one game at a time.

Anonymous said...

I agree- one game at a time. In fact, in honor of all those fuckchops who insist on spouting long "victory chains" in an effort to prove that their team is holier than tough...(insert sarcasm here) Ball State should not be taken lightly because last year:

Ball St beat
Northern Illinois who beat
Toledo who beat
UTEP who beat
New Mexico who beat
Missouri who beat
Nebraska who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State who beat
Ohio State

... so clearly Ball State was superior to Ohio St. last year which makes them a serious threat to our boys this year. Cheers!

source: http://www.cfbanalyzer.com/

TitleIX said...

yeah, and I guess you are going to connect that list to Kevin Bacon somehow?????

This game is a total favor to Brady Hoke--former linerbackers coach at Michigan and now the head coach at Ball Bangers U.
You scratch mine and I'll pummel yours??? or some such thing...

Anonymous said...

My favorite euphemism for Ball State is "Testicle Tech."

Ali Haji-Sheikh said...

Anon 7:39 you beat me to the punch on Testicle Tech. Another (somewhat) famous T.T. alumn is Jason Whitlock, sportswriter for Kansas City Star, contributor on ESPN.com and The SportsReporters, Michigan football beatwriter for the Ann Arbor News in the early 1990s. If you see his column on espn.com you will not his email address has "ballstate" in it (and I think the # he wore there as a football player).

WhiteDawg said...

I'm feeling a big win for Michigan...perhaps a breakout game for the offense which for the past 3 games has looked offensive.

Anonymous said...

Just wanna say, I go to Ball State and you almost lost. Guess your prediction was a bit off! I know deep down Charlie Cardinal strikes fear in your heart, as it should.