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Friday, October 05, 2007

Know Your Foe - Eastern Michigan

The Wolverines step out of conference play one more time in 2007 when they host next door neighbor Eastern Michigan this Saturday. The teams have faced each other seven times, though only twice since 1931. Michigan has won all seven previous match ups, shutting out EMU six times, including a 55-0 whitewash in 2005. If you want to see the game you better have a ticket as this one is only being broadcast on something called “The Big Ten Network.” And if you want to know about the Wolverine's opponent, then you better read this week’s edition of the MZone’s KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Eastern Michigan University was founded by the Michigan legislature in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School, and the first classes took place in 1853. It has undergone 3 name changes since then, first to Michigan State Normal College (1899), then to Eastern Michigan College (1956), and finally to Eastern Michigan University (1959). Boy they couldn’t have just saved a name change in ’56 by calling it a university instead of a college? Imagine the wasted money spent on letterhead because of that lack of foresight. Your tax dollars at work. EMU’s enrollment boomed in the ‘60s, and peaked at just over 25,000 in 1992. Current enrollment is about 23,000, with 90% from in-state, and 60% female. Hey, guys at Michigan: That’s a pretty good ratio. And they’re right down the street!

Location – Ypsilanti, Michigan. Certainly the most interestingly-named hometown of any team Michigan plays, Ypsi was first settled in 1823 as a fur-trading post. The town is named for Demetrius Ypsilanti (or Ypsilantis), a hero in the Greek war for independence. Ypsi’s population is about the same as the enrollment for EMU, and the town – like many in Michigan - has long been heavily involved in the auto industry. Punk rocker Iggy Pop grew up there, and indie rocker Sufjan Stevens included a song, For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti on his Michigan album. Though long looked down upon by it’s Washtenaw County neighbor Ann Arbor, Ypsi has seen a bit of a revival in the past decade. Many families and upwardly mobile singles in the area have settled there, finding the rents and mortgage payments far more reasonable on the east end of the county. On a weekend night, Depot Town is as lively as Main Street in A2.

Nickname – Eagles. The nickname was changed from Hurons in 1991 and the change still rankles many EMU alums, with a number of them refusing to donate money to the university, with some forming an organization to bring the name back. Know Your Foe has two problems with the name change. First, Hurons was an excellent, unique, and descriptive moniker. The Huron River runs through Ypsilanti, and the indigenous people for whom the river was named were native to southeast Michigan. Second, the nickname chosen is about as generic as they come and has no particular elucidatory significance to the area. There are over 50 colleges in the U.S. that use the nickname Eagles - most notably Boston College - and countless high school teams. The EMU regents would have been much more creative if they’d chosen one of the runner up names in 1991, Green Hornets or Express. Come on, you’re Eastern Michigan. You’re down the street from a prestigious, world-renowned university. Your sports teams rarely rise above mediocrity. Stand out for something, even if it’s for your nickname.

Eastern wasn’t always known as the Hurons. Previous nicknames included the Normalites and Men from Ypsi. Hurons was chosen as the winner of a naming contest in 1929. The name was submitted by two students and was chosen over the runner-up, Pioneers. Interestingly, that’s the nickname of one of Ann Arbor’s big high schools, but not the one named Ann Arbor Huron. They’re, of course, the River Rats, which is still a better name than Eagles.

MascotSwoop, the Eastern Eagle. Coincidentally, a costumed eagle was used at EMU sporting events since 1985, six years before they adopted the Eagles nickname, though when it originally debuted many thought it was a duck. Swoop debuted in 1994 and has undergone a couple of facelifts in that time.

Colors - Green and White. This is a surprisingly uncommon color combination in college football. According to the College Football Tradition Web site, there are only five schools that use this combination and Michigan will be playing two of them this year. Along with EMU, there is Sparty, of course, as well as Marshall, North Texas, and Eastern’s conference rival, Ohio. Though Know Your Foe’s loyalty to the Wolverines has never been in doubt, the green and white combination has always been a favorite. Along with being unique, it’s crisp and classic. Besides, green’s always been our favorite color, though we had some nightmares about green at Michigan Stadium this year.

Logo – A green block “E” with a confused-looking Eagle head on the left. Along with the poor nickname choice in 1991, EMU did themselves no favors when they changed their logo in the same year. Prior to ’91, the logo was unique to EMU, and though it could have used some updating, it had the makings of a classic. Add to that the fact that they used this logo on their football helmet for almost 15 years and the shame of the name change is compounded.

Since 1991, Eastern has had changed their logo twice.

The helmet changes have come much more frequently and with even more disastrous results. Eastern has changed helmet designs every two or three years since ’91, including emulating two NFL teams. There was even a dalliance with silver on the helmets in the late ‘90s. The current version is totally generic and it even has a black facemask even though black isn’t one of EMU’s colors. Their current headgear looks like a lame high school helmet.

As always, all images of the helmets are from the incredible Helmet Project site, and the logos are from the equally wonderful SportsLogos.net.

Fight SongEagles Fight Song, which replaced Hurons Fight Song in 1991. Know Your Foe has to be honest here. We’d never heard the EMU fight song until doing this research. It sounds like a fight song that would be used in a 1950s movie about college. Some of the lyrics were changed after the Hurons became the Eagles (and a nod to Title IX was included), which makes the current version strange in that it doesn’t seem to be able to decide what era to be from. The lyrics invoke such old-time classics as “Fight!” “Rah!” and the truly quaint “Hold that line.” But in the middle it starts to sound like a bad Bette Midler song.

Eastern Eagles hats off to you!
Fight, fight, fight for old EMU
Look to the sky,
The Eagles will fly,
The bravest will defy
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Hold that line for old green and white
Sons and daughters show your might
So FIGHT! FIGHT! for old EMU and victory

Compare those to the original:

Hurons, Hurons, Hats off to you!
Fight, Fight, Fight for old EMU.
Shout to the sky the Hurons' war cry
The bravest will defy!
Hold that line for old Green and White
Loyal sons come show your might
Fight! Fight! for old EMU and victory!

Academics – According to the most recent U. S. News' ranking of America's Best Colleges, Eastern Michigan falls in the “Universities–Master's (Midwest), third tier” category (whatever that means) with fellow Michigan schools Ferris State, Northern Michigan and U-M Flint. Eastern has long been considered a “Teacher’s College” and was the first teacher’s college outside of the original 13 states. If you went to high school in Michigan, you were likely educated by several EMU grads.

Athletics – Eastern Michigan plays in the Mid-American Conference and is in the West Division in football. Though the overall athletic program is not stellar, there have been highlights in the past, and the recent past is impressive. EMU won conference titles in eight different sports in 2006-07, a MAC record. They also have won 26 MAC titles in men’s swimming and diving (1978, 1980-1996, 1998, 2000-2005, and 2007), the most titles in one sport in the conference. And, amazingly, the then Hurons finished second in the 1976 College World Series. The basketball team has produced a number of NBA players, and has appeared in four NCAA tournaments, highlighted by their defeat of Duke in 1996.

The football team, however, has had very limited success. They suffered through a 27-game losing streak in the early ‘80s, but did win the MAC title and the California Bowl in 1987. But that 10-2 season is the only year they’ve been able to win the MAC, and they’ve had only one winning season since. Attendance is a continuing problem, as Eastern is in a constant battle to average over the 15,000 barrier to remain at Division I-A. With over 100,000 fans getting their college football fix seven miles up the road, EMU has had to resort to night and weekday games, as well as playing one game a season at Ford Field in Detroit to boost attendance.

Famous alums –Eastern isn’t a major, national university with 40,000 students so their list of famous alums reflects that. Granted, they’ve had some decent athletes come through, most notably NBA Hall of Famer George Gervin, as well as miniature current NBAer Earl Boykins, and 1990 American League Cy Young Winner Bob Welch. But looking over this list, Know Your Foe barely recognizes anyone except for the captain from the horribly written Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a winner of Last Comic Standing, and Judge Mathis. It’s amazing they have people to profile in their alumni magazine.

The Game – Most people think this will be an easy game for Michigan. But this year, unless they’re playing the dregs of college football, there’s no such thing as an easy game for the Wolverines. And EMU doesn’t quite qualify as a dreg, anyway. Michigan will win, but it will be ugly and will not be decided until the second half. MICHIGAN 28, EASTERN MICHIGAN 13.


Crazyswordsman said...

At times I really wish Eastern were good at something. I love crosstown rivalries, and in college football there are precious few of them (well, there's only one that actually could mean something in football).

Mikoyan said...

I think the mascot you mentioned before Swoops was actully supposed to be an emu and not an eagle, but I'm not 100% certain on that. I know we used to call him a duck.

whetstonebuck said...

"With over 100,000 fans getting their college football fix seven miles up the road"

There's another team playing Div. 1 college football in the state?

Must be a typo. Regardless, thanks for the info. I love "Know Your Foe."

Andy said...

"60% female" and "seven miles up the road"

I am sure there are others that will agree, but given the typical Michigan co-ed...I can confirm that the AATA bus ride down Washtenaw to EMU for girlfriend company was not a bad option...

Collegefootballfansite said...

Don't forget, Ypsilanti is home to the world famous Deja-Vu. 100s of beautiful girls and 3 ugly ones.

Steve said...

What? Not a single mention of local hero and Super Bowl (backup) Champion Charlie Batch?

kristy said...

Thanks guys for your weekly post of "know your foe". I really enjoy all the bits of school trivia and and how it is all done with the usual great sense of humor.
Not a lot of other sites would be as mature as that.
Keep up the super job!!
has anyone gone back and read the Appy State version of KYF? kinda funny to read it now.let's hope emu doesn't surprise us like that!!! Ugh!!!!Thanks again!!!

Terrin said...

Prior to 1956 Eastern Michigan College only had one discipline. Namely, Eduction. As such, it wouldn't have been appropriate to call it a University. Universities have more then one discipline. Over time, EMU expanded and offered more disciplines, and thus changed its name.

Michigan from its inception was intended to offer more then one area of study and thus was always referred to as a university.

MGoBlue93 said...

For the geographically or ticket challenged...

The EMU game is on DirecTV CH. 219. DirecTV only has CH. 220 active during the week but on football Saturdays, you'll find other channels active just for the games.

Here is a link to the gamecast.

Here is a link to streaming audio over the Meeeechigan Football Network.

Go Blue!!!

cmadler said...

I know this is an old thread, but I thought I'd toss out a correction. The original words to the fight song date to before the mid-50s name changes:

Hurons, Hurons, Hats off to thee!
Fight, Fight, Fight for MSNC.
Shout to the sky the Hurons' war cry
The bravest will defy!
Hold that line for old Green and White
Loyal sons come show your might
Fight! Fight! for MSNC and victory!