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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Know Your Foe - Purdue 2007

The Wolverines get back into conference play this Saturday when they host Purdue. After starting the season 0-2, Michigan has won four in a row, while the Boilermakers lost their first of the year last week. Michigan has won 40 of the 52 meetings, including the last four. The teams haven’t faced each other since 2004 when Michigan won on the road, 16-14. Purdue hasn’t won in Ann Arbor since 1966, when they won their fourth in a row at Michigan Stadium. Despite the teams’ combined 9-3 record, this is another game relegated to the netherworld known as the Big Ten Network. But even if you won’t be able to watch the game on TV, you’ll want to know as much about Purdue as you can. And that’s why the MZone is proud to present this week’s rendition of KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Purdue University was founded in 1869 as a land grant college. But it wasn’t just the Morrill Act and some work by the Indiana General Assembly that got the school started. It was spite. John Purdue, who was a businessman in Lafayette, had been denied a professorship at Indiana University. So to help Indiana students have an alternative to the school in Bloomington, Purdue donated $150,000 to help start the school that would bear his name. Mr. Purdue’s grave is still on campus and is often the subject of fraternity hijinks. Classes first began at Purdue on September 16, 1874 with 39 students. Purdue issued its first degree, not surprisingly a Bachelor of Science, in 1875.

The reputation of Purdue as an engineering school is well earned. It was the first university in America to award an aviation engineering degree under the direction of the Wright brothers. Purdue was the first university in the country to offer college credit for flight training, and the first to offer a degree in aviation. Their student newspaper is called The Exponent. Even their mascot highlights the school’s engineering prowess.

Location – West Lafayette, Indiana. Located across the Wabash River from Lafayette, Indiana in Tippecanoe County, West Lafayette was formed in 1888. Its population of just under 30,000 is eclipsed by Purdue’s 40,000 students. Lafayette’s population is about double West Lafayette’s. Regardless of which Lafayette you find yourself in, you’re probably not going to be too happy. Sure, there are a few interesting campus places, like Harry’s Chocolate Shop, but the area is a pretty bleak place. First of all, it’s in Indiana. That’s miserable enough. But second, it’s in the middle of nowhere Indiana. Talk about depressing. Know Your Foe has been to West Lafayette a couple of times, and never thought it was much of a fun or interesting place to live or go to school.

Nickname – Boilermakers. The nickname dates back to 1891 when a local reporter referred to the football team as such following a 44-0 whitewash of Wabash College (Purdue’s non-conference schedule has gotten only slightly more difficult since then).The next year the “Exponent” began using the name and it’s been Boilermakers ever since. Last week Know Your Foe was critical of Eastern Michigan for choosing such a generic nickname. But Purdue did a great job. They are the only college known as the Boilermakers, and in a conference of great nicknames, Purdue’s might be at the top of the list. The nickname has come to symbolize all things Purdue, from their sports teams to their individual alumni.

Before becoming the Boilermakers, Purdue’s sports teams had a varied and interesting history of nicknames. The teams were referred to as the Haymkers, the Rail-Splitters, the Sluggers, and most interestingly, the “Cornfield Sailors.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Mascot – Well it depends what we’re talking about. The official mascot of the university is the Boilermaker Special, while the official mascot of the athletic teams is Purdue Pete. The Boilermaker Special has been around since 1940 and is designed to look like a train locomotive, though it has wheels. The train theme is another nod to Purdue’s engineering history. The Special makes an appearance at home football games, and, due to Purdue’s spotty football history, is often the highlight of the game for Boiler fans. They’re currently on the fifth version of the Special, which was dedicated in 1993. A smaller version of the Special, the X-Tra special (how X-Treme!) is built on a golf cart chassis and attends indoor events such as basketball and volleyball games.

Meanwhile, Purdue Pete, who has also been around since 1940, began as a logo for the college bookstore on campus. He started as the athletics mascot in 1956, and like Minnesota’s Goldy, Pete is often shown attempting various sports.

A live version of Pete appears at home football and basketball games.

In the interest of marketing, the university introduced Rowdy in 1997, an inflatable 10-foot high mascot, made of parachute material. Rowdy represents a young boy who hopes to become a Purdue Boilermaker. OK, that’s just creepy.

Colors – Old Gold and Black. Purdue’s colors have remained the same for 120 years. It was the brass and iron on the steam engine Lafayette that inspired the university to choose gold and black. And unlike Big Ten bretheren Iowa and Minnesota, the gold Purdue uses is actually gold, not yellow. There are only five Division I-A football teams that use this combination (Central Florida, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest are the others), along with one NFL team, the Saints. But only Purdue and Vandy, along with the Saints, use the classic gold helmet with black logo.

Logo/Helmet – A “forward moving” gold “P,” outlined in black. This is obviously supposed to mimic the P on the side of the helmet. However, the helmet P is black and has a much more elongated loop. But the P stands for Purdue, and regardless of color, that is clear. The athletic teams also use a graphic representation of the Special as an alternate logo. After 25 years of using a cute little train logo, they went all modern in 1996. Though not as endearing, the new logo isn’t as generic as many others that popped up in the past decade.

Though there have been some slight modifications, including a two-year dalliance with black helmets in ’89 and ’90, the Purdue helmet has remained largely unchanged since 1971. That’s pretty impressive for a school that hasn’t had a much football success. And you can’t really blame them for going with a special design for the 2001 Rose Bowl since appearances by Purdue in Pasadena happen so rarely (’67 and ’01 are the only ones).

As always, all images of the helmets are from the incredibly thorough Helmet Project site, and the logos are from the equally brilliant SportsLogos.net.

Fight SongHail, Purdue. Along with Go U Northwestern, this is the most underrated fight song in the Big Ten. Though not in the ranks with the classics like The Victors or On Wisconsin, Hail Purdue is a catchy song with decent lyrics. They invoke the name Purdue three times, and refer to the colors which always pleases Know Your Foe. The lyrics also talk about friendship, and time spent together, so it starts to devolve into a poem a guy would write to a girlfriend he just dumped, but overall a solid fight song.

Hail, hail to old Purdue!
All hail to our old gold and black!
Hail, hail to old Purdue!
Our friendship may she never lack,
Ever grateful ever true,
Thus we raise our song anew,
Of the days we've spent with you,
All hail our own Purdue.

Academics – According to the most recent U. S. News' ranking of America's Best Colleges, Purdue is tied for 64th, along with UConn and fellow Big Ten school Iowa in the National Universities ranking. That also ranks them 7th in the Big Ten. But what matters most to Boilermakers around the world is that they’re ranked ahead of Indiana, which is 11th in the Big Ten and 75th nationally. As mentioned above, engineering is what Purdue is known for. Over the last ten years, Purdue has awarded more aerospace engineering degree than any other school, and awards more engineering degrees to women than any college in the country. It’s known as the cradle of astronauts, and has one of the largest international student populations of any public university in the U.S. Boy, that’s a lot of disappointed foreigners when they see West Lafayette.

Athletics – Purdue is a charter member of the Big Ten, and has an intense rivalry with Indiana. Despite being a Big Ten member for over 100 years, the Boilermakers have won only one outright conference football championship (1929), and only a share of six others. Only two of those co-championships have taken place in the last 55 years. But basketball is a different story. The men’s hoops teams have won 21 conference championships, more than any other Big Ten school, while the women’s teams have won 6 titles, which is the most in the conference. But the men have only been to two Final Fours and have never won a national championship. The women have three Final Fours to their credit and won it all in 1999. The rest of the Boilermakers teams are quite weak. In this century, they’ve only won three Big Ten titles (two in women’s golf and one in women’s indoor track and field) and show no historical conference dominance in any sport. Other than the women’s hoops title, Purdue has only one other national championship in its history – a 1961 title in men’s golf.

Famous alums – For a school as large as Purdue, its list of famous alumni is pretty small. But that might be a function of engineers not being as famous as actors, journalists, or athletes. Purdue has obviously left its mark, though, particularly on the moon. The first man (Neil Armstrong) and the last man (Eugene Cernan) to have walked on the moon are both Purdue grads. Of course, neither planted a Purdue flag while they were up there. Other famous Boilers include C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, goofy popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher, basketball coaching legend John Wooden, former quarterback turned college football announcer Gary Danielson, as well as another college football color man, Brian Griese’s dad Bob. And though they could certainly say to Michigan “Space, Bitches, Space,” they can’t lay claim to a U.S. President.

The Game – What to make of this Michigan team? They’ve won four in a row, albeit against suspect competition. But does Purdue pose that much of a threat? Their 5-0 record was built against football powerhouses such as Eastern Illinois and Notre Dame. They were severely exposed last week against Ohio State. But the Boilermakers run an offense that was developed sometime AFTER 1920 and those types of teams have posed problems for the Wolverines for years. Michigan will have to do some consistent scoring to win, and despite experience on that side of the ball, they haven’t shown an ability to do that. PURDUE 36, MICHIGAN 34.


whetstonebuck said...

Excellent...as usual.

Dezzi said...

I am still amazed that living in Switzerland... I am able to get the Michigan games on the Big Ten Network because of the Slingbox being hooked up to my sister's Dish Network.... people in the US... even in Michigan's backyard can't watch it! That's just stupid.

My proposal... if anyone wants to come to Geneva and watch the game, I'll open my apartment up for the game this weekend....

TitleIX said...

ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

beast in 'bama said...

Prior to reading Know Your Foe, if you would have asked me to guess who had won the most Big 10 titles in basketball, I would have guessed Indiana, not Purdue. Thanks, KYF!

Ladies, is Purdue Pete the ultimate catch or what? He plays football, basketball, AND initiates home improvement projects.

My cousins who attended Big 10 schools are divided into two groups: the uber computer geeks went to Illinois and Purdue. The ones who went to Michigan? A lawyer and two doctors.

drexel80 said...

The mascot Boilermaker actually originated as an accusation. The headline read "Wabash snowed under by Burly Boilermakers from Purde." The article stated that Purdue was using workers from local factories as their players. They had to cheat to beat Wabash.

Scott said...

Michigan grads left an alumni association capter charter, not a flag.. A flag would be cooler, but The University of Michigan Club of The Moon isn't bad.


kristy said...

Great description of W. Laf. I went to Purdue on a scholarship for Track. Would've left for my FAVORITE blue and gold in a heartbeat but when they're footing the bill...
here's a bit of trivia. Wasn't it UM that was playing purdue when the rabbit got on the field and the game had to be delayed until they were able to catch it? It was back in the early 90's and I remember being at that game. could swear it was the UM game. Purdue sucked then and I wore my UM shirt over my Boiler gear.

kristy said...

hey, coming up for my virgin trip to the Big House and am pee-in-my-pants excited!!! About how early should we find our seats and get in to watch the band and take everyones' damn keys away and give out megaphones?

Steve Spurrier is God said...

34 - 17 mICHIGAN

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stu said...

If you don't have the big 10 network, you can listen to the University of Michigan student radio broadcast by going to: http://www.wcbn.org/listen.html and clicking on the sports stream link

srudoff said...

off topic but austin scott arrested for rape - man penn state are the bengals of the big ten

Katie said...

Katie needs a comment monitor for a few weeks. :o) I think this term at school is sending me to the edge of sanity.