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Friday, September 16, 2011

Know Your Foe - Eastern Michigan

Your undefeated (by :02 seconds and 114,000+ heart attacks) Michigan Wolverines host our next door neighbor, Eastern Michigan, in The Big House this Saturday. Michigan has won all nine of the previous games between the two schools, including 45-17 the last time they played in 2009.  But you know all that.  What you don't know you'll find below in the MZone's 3rd Know Your Foe of the 2011 season.

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 (with most of those initial students still about 2 1/2 years away from completing their degrees).

The school has undergone three name changes since then: first to Michigan State Normal College in 1899, then to Eastern Michigan College in 1956, and finally to Eastern Michigan University in 1959 -- which must have been a bitch of an unexpected stationary cost for the school seeing as they had only switched over to EMC three years prior.  ("What do you mean we're changing the f**king name again?!  What the hell am I going to do with all these envelopes?!")

Location – Ypsilanti, Michigan. Our vote for the most interestingly-named hometown of any team Michigan plays this year.  Ypsi, as it's known, was first settled in 1823 as a fur-trading post and is named for Demetrius Ypsilantis, a hero in the Greek war for independence.

Of course, no discussion of Ypsilanti would be complete without mentioned the water tower pictured here (yes, a water tower!  What did you think it looked like?). According to long-time Mzone reader Mikoyan, there are two legends surrounding it.  One is that Paul Bunyan is buried there and they couldn't quite get all of him underground (no, not his thumb!). The other is that if a virgin ever graduates from EMU it will come crumbling down.  INSERT JOKE HERE.

Nickname – Eagles. The nickname was changed from Hurons in 1991 and the change still angers many EMU alums.  In fact, a number of them refuse to donate money to the university, with some forming an organization to bring the name back. Hurons was an excellent, unique, nickname. The Huron River runs through Ypsilanti, and the indigenous people for whom the river was named were native to southeast Michigan. Furthermore, the school had the support of two tribes. Also, by selecting the Eagles as the nickname, they've joined only 5 zillion other sports teams in the U.S. that use the Eagles nickname including Boston College, the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and every third middle school in the Midwest.

Do you see what can happen, Dave Brandon?
Mascot – Swoop, the Eastern Eagle. Coincidentally, a costumed eagle was used at EMU sporting events since 1985, six years before they adopted the Eagles nickname.  However, when it originally debuted, many thought it was a duck. Now there is just shame.

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. Besides EMU and, of course, Sparty the rest of the Green and White five are 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 (okay: any 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!

ED. NOTE: While the lyrics may sound like it, neither of these two songs were used in that one Brady Bunch episode. (Bonus MZone points if you get that reference)

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 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 recent past. 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.

Rynearson Stadium: We're not sure if this is a practice or a game as the attendance is the same

EMU Traditions - Eastern now has a touchdown canon and they used to have a touchdown bell (which was probably rung about as much as the Liberty Bell).  Our pal Mikoyan also says they jangle their keys ala annoying Michigan fans.  Although, at an EMU football game with so few people, that could just be some dude pulling his keys out of his pocket to bail in the third quarter.

Famous Alums - Eastern isn’t a 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 NBAer Earl Boykins, and 1990 American League Cy Young Winner Bob Welch. Looking over this list, Know Your Foe recognizes 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 - as WMU's first two drives and the first 3 quarters of the ND game proved - there will be no such thing as an easy game for the Wolverines. Yes, Michigan will win, but it will be ugly and will not be decided until the second half.


This is just...wrong

(special thanks to Mikoyan for his help with today's KYF)


Bigasshammm said...

M will score much more than 28.
Gardner will get at least a full quarter of playing time in the 4th.
Defense will still give up some points though.

M 40-20

Mikoyan said...

I do have one quibble with your Know Your Foe. Eastern was established in 1849 and at the time its official colors were determined to be Juniper green and white. Michigan State was established in 1855 and they stole our colors. Therefore, it is the Michigan State logo that bears an eery emblance to the Eastern logo.

And I want to say that there are a couple other famous alumni....but I wont.

And I still think the Huron debacle was stupid. It was handled stupidly, excecuted stupidly and the replacement is stupid (although after 20 years, I'm warming up to the Eagle). That being said, I kind of like Swoop. He is certainly better than the duck but still not as cool as a Huron (or Wyandotte).

Craig said...

Being married to an Eastern alum (yes, a teacher and yes, a serious Michigan fan), I will say I think Eastern missed a golden opportunity back in 1991. Let's say you absolutely must get rid of the Hurons (which as you said, seems like they did not), then you must go with the best choice possible, one that would make you unique in all of college sports and would make you recognizable across the country.

Who wouldn't want gear from the Eastern Michigan University Emus?

Mikoyan said...

I think EMUs might have been one of the suggestions. I also heard that they were sold on the Eastern Express (they would have had a train logo as a nod to Ypsi's rail heritage).

But as I said, I think they handled it stupidly. They could have at least put it to a contest amongst the students at the time (although informal polls showed variants of Huron to be the winner). No instead they cram the most boring sports logo on us. (Not that I don't like eagles...I do but there are far too many teams called Eagles).

616goblue said...

In the "where are they now" trivia contest for EMU Huron Football, the QB of the MAC and California Bowl Champs of 1987 is now the head football coach at Wyandotte Roosevelt High School, Ron Adams.

He has the Bears on a nice streak and he has a decent foundation to become the next legendary Downriver high school football coach like Trenton's Coach Jack Castignola.

Yost said...

Props to Ron for this week's KYF.

George Grady said...

For the hockey fans out there, North Dakota, Dartmouth, and Bemidji State are also green and white.

cmadler said...

Some corrections:
- EMU ditched the black facemasks prior to the 2010 season.
- The fight song precedes the name changes of the 1950s:
"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!"
- The other nicknames considered in 1991 were Green Hornets and Express. Either of which would have been better than Eagles.
- The runner-up nickname to Hurons in 1929 was Pioneers. It's not certain, but is believed that "Hurons" was actually inspired by the Huron Hotel in downtown Ypsi (where the student who suggested it worked), which was in turn named for the river.
- Take a look at this April Fools' Day article from 2010.

Mikoyan said...

I didn't know about the Green Hornet name.

And that article was pretty funny.

Ramona said...

That is a picture of... Mike Hart??