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
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
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.