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Friday, September 02, 2011

Know Your Foe: Western Michigan

Know Your Foe - an MZone staple started by Benny and continued by Andy - kicks off the 2011 season with our anything-but-X's-and-O's look at Michigan's first opponent, Western Michigan.  A huge thanks to Ron for helping keep this reader favorite going!

The 2011 Michigan Wolverines usher in a new era under first year head coach Brady Hoke tomorrow when they host cross-state rival the sort of school Dave Brandon would like to schedule each year so Michigan will never have an interesting home-and-home again opponent Western Michigan.  This marks the fifth time Michigan has played the Broncos, with the Wolverines emerging victorious from each encounter, even in 2009 during The Dark Times (31-7).

This also marks the beginning of the post-Benny, post-Andy Era of Know Your Foe.  While there are plenty of places to get a football preview on the U-M/WMU showdown, the MZone's Know Your Foe is the place for the other info about our foe from Kalamazoo.  So, without further adieu, let's begin, shall we?

History - In 1903 Dwight B. Waldo established the Western State Normal School. Waldo firmly believed in diversity and opened the doors to many females and minorities to attend the college. Western was also the first school in the country with a specific department designed to prepare teachers to effectively educate students in rural parts of America. Twenty-four years after opening its doors, in 1927 the school was renamed Western State Teachers College. Waldo is credited with keeping the school open when many government officials wanted to shut it down during the Great Depression. The school's football stadium and library are named in his honor.

In 1941, the school became known as Western Michigan College of Education. On February 26, 1957 Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams signed a bill making Western Michigan College the state's fourth public university. It was officially re-named Western Michigan University sometime after that.

Location - WMU's main campus is located in Kalamazoo, which is the largest city in the southwestern region of our great state. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of just over 74,000 people and cops who will kick your ass if you spit on them.

The city is named after the adjacent Kalamazoo River. There is disagreement regarding where the actual name Kalamazoo came from. It is generally believed to come from either the Potawatomi or Odawa Indians who were native to the area before the Europeans fur traders came through.

"You kids get off my village!"
In 1829, a Connecticuter/ee/whatever they call themselves named Titus Bronson became the first white settler to build a cabin in the area. He chose a spot near the fork of the river because several Indian trails converged there. It lay along the route of the Territorial Road (and present day I-94) that ran between Detroit and St. Joseph. In 1831, he surveyed and laid out the town naming it the Village of Bronson (not to be confused with the much-smaller Bronson, Michigan, which was about fifty miles to the south-southeast, or actor Charles Bronson, who will kick your ass like the cops in the video hyper-linked above). He was generally described as eccentric and argumentative (and he obviously had a huge ego as evidenced by naming the entire village where he lived after himself.  Put it this way, had he discovered America, we might all be living in Bronsonville today). He was especially outspoken against the imbibing of alcohol and was later run out of town (which had to suck since, you know, he named it after himself). The village was renamed Kalamazoo in 1836, due in part to Bronson's being fined for stealing a cherry tree. Today, a hospital and a downtown park, among other things, are named for Bronson, but no cherry trees.

Nickname - Broncos.

This picture is so staged, it's painful
Originally, WMU's athletic teams went by the nickname, “Hilltoppers."  Apparently, the original campus grounds resided on Kalamazoo’s Prospect Hill. However, this nickname led to confusion with other schools sharing a similar nickname (Western Kentucky and...uh...anyone?) and became outdated when the school expanded beyond its hilltop confines.  So they decided it needed to be changed.   (Plus, let's be honest, "Hilltoppers" is a really shitty nickname, even if nobody ever used it before in the history of nicknames and the stadium was located at the apex of the biggest hill in Michigan.)

In 1939, the “Broncos” nickname was selected by the athletic board. This was considered the best of the many suggested names turned in for consideration at the time (proving just how unimaginative folks in Kalamazoo were in 1939). The entry was submitted by assistant football coach and WMU alumnus, John Gill.  Gill later served as the Bronco head football coach and associate athletic director until he retired in 1969. For his naming efforts, Gill was awarded a check for $10.00. He promptly turned the money over to the Waldo Stadium building fund (okay, even in 1939, you have to think the building fund folks went, "Seriously?  Ten dollars?  Gee, thanks.  I don't know how we were ever going to pay for that one toilet paper holder in the men's room near the south tunnel.  But - holy crap! - happy days are here now and our problems are solved!  Thanks for giving 'til it hurt, John!)

Mascot - Since 1988, a costumed horse named Buster Bronco has been the official mascot. It is interesting to note that is the same mascot name is used by Boise State, yet there is no talk of changing the mascot like the original "Hilltopper" name, probably because they assume the suggestions for replacement might go about as well as they did when they chose the team name in '39. Buster is considered part of the cheer team, although he is not sanctioned by the NCAA.

I'm not drunk, my eyes are just tired

Buster's web page claims he is the world’s largest Bronco fan, and loves kid Bronco fans most of all, which probably gives Michigan AD Dave Brandon an erection (not about the kids, but for having a mascot that kids like.  Brandon believes mascots are the end-all-be-all way to hook young college football fans as evidenced by kids across Michigan constantly begging mom and dad to take them to Western Michigan games). Buster's site also explains that there may be a small fee if he is asked to attend a community event in order to help pay for transportation.  Note: never trust a mascot who hits you up for gas money.

Does my lightning scare you?
Colors/Logo/Helmets -  From 1907 to 1998, the Western Michigan official school colors were Brown & Gold. In 1998, they added black as an accent color to the traditional brown and gold.  I agree 100% with Andy's WMU KYF here, black is NOT a color. But yeah, it’s dramatic and stuff.

Their primary sports logo is a demonized brown horse head, which looks nothing like the mascot walking the sidelines, but does make me think of that scene in The Godfather. They’ve updated it to add the "W" behind the horse head.

This angry horse head logo has been used on their gold football helmets since 1998. Prior to the gold helmet, Western had a series of Brown, Yellow, and White helmet designs. This year, they’ve updated their helmet to add the W underneath the angry horse logo.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not a fan of having more helmet designs than there are James Bond movies.  It's anti-tradition. Again, just me.

This is NOT the WMU logo, but rather
Yost's reaction if we lose Saturday

Fight Song: The appropriately named “WMU Fight Song." (again, not too imaginative.  "I know, let's name our fight song, Fight Song!")  If you listen to it in the link below, it sounds like one of the songs that didn't quite make the cut in the original Broadway run of Hello, Dolly!  It was born as a result of a 1959 contest to replace existing songs (they sure have a lot of contests at WMU). The contest was open to the University community, and won by Walter Gilbert, a WMU Alumnus.

WMU Fight Song
Fight on fight on for Western;
take the ball, make a score,
win the game.
Onward for the Brown and Gold;
Push ‘em back, push ‘em back
bring us fame.
Fight on fight on for Western;
over one, over all we will reign.
Fight, Broncos fight,
fight with all your might.
Western win this game!

Traditions: I didn’t have much more luck finding WMU traditions than Andy did in '09.  As he mentioned then, the traditions link on the official Broncos website simply takes you to a page with general school info and words to the fight song.  I did discover a yearly event called the Bronco Bash, which is a welcome back festival for students, staff and the local community. And in the comments from 09, some WMU alums and attendees mentioned a touchdown cannon being a tradition (along with many, many, many other schools who also are not on hills).

My favorite tradition is the one started by Andy in the '09 edition of KYF (and continued here) of putting up this picture of their SAE rush recruiting effort.  More please.

Academics: The University offers 237 degree programs - including 29 at the doctoral level - through 7 academic colleges. They produce an incredible number of school teachers. Andy swears every teacher he had from kindergarten thru high school went to Western. WMU's College of Aviation is one of the largest and most prestigious aviation programs in the United States; the university is also noted for its Paper Engineering and Behavior Analysis programs, it's Army ROTC program, as well as for its Haworth College of Business Integrated Supply Chain Management (which, far as we can tell, has nothing to do with Harry Potter).

According to the US News and World Report list, WMU's ranking is #179 on the National Universities list. Michigan is #29. Back in '09, a commenter took exception to our arrogance about Michigan on a Michigan blog. If that's the case, then they're absolutely going to hate Yost's smart-ass asides sprinkled throughout the 2011 version here today.  Then again, we would expect nothing less on the WMU-Zone blog, either.

Would you rather see football players or cheerleaders?
Football Program: Western started playing football in 1906. In 1909, they went undefeated and outscored their opponents 194-8, which is very impressive until you realize they played both Dowagiac and Benton Harbor High School during that season (or as that's called today, "An SEC non-conference schedule.") They also went undefeated in 1913, 1914, 1922, 1932, and 1941. In 1946, they helped form the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Since then they have won 2 overall MAC championships and have recently won the MAC’s Western Division twice. The program has appeared in four bowls. They have never won a bowl game, but they have beaten Michigan State twice (CMU readers: "Big deal.  Us, too.").  Last season, the WMU Godfather Horse Heads finished 5-7.

In 1976, a sophomore tailback named Jerome Persell finished second in the nation in rushing yards (behind Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett). They have also produced NFL players John Offerdahl, Greg Jennings and, most recently, Louis Delmas (the Lions 2nd round pick in 2009). They currently claim 8 active NFL players and 3 CFL players.

U-M Connection: Three of the coaches at the University of Michigan were assistants together at Western Michigan in the 1980’s: Wolverine head coach Brady Hoke was an assistant with the Broncos from 1984-86, while Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno each served on the WMU football staff from 1982-86.

Other Athletics: It looks like they field six men’s and nine women’s varsity sports. We regularly play the WMU hockey team in the CCHA, where we hold a 60-25-10 advantage. In 1964 and 1965, Western Michigan won the NCAA Championship in Men’s Cross Country. These are the only NCAA titles for the school. The 1955 Bronco baseball team finished second in the nation.  WMU counts several active and former NHL and MLB players as alumni.

Famous Alums: Prominent former Western Michigan students include several state Supreme Court justices, lots of poets, and our very own Marching Band Director, Scott Boerma.  Celebrity wise, they have two American Idol contestants, actor Tim Allen, ABC Sports personality John Saunders, and a couple of Broadway actors as well.  In the "Space, Bitches, Space" category, we dominate as Western Michigan cannot claim any astronauts or US presidents.

But the coolest WMU alum just might be "President" Terry Crews, who played football for the Broncos and then in the NFL before segueing into a successful acting career (TV's Everybody Hates Chris and Are We There Yet? along with films like White Chicks and The Expendables).  The "President" title comes from my favorite role of his: President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in the underrated comedy, Idiocracy

The Game: Hoke has recruited like a mad man. He got Denard to stay (thank you, sweet baby Jesus).  He put together a great staff.  He’s said all the right things. Now it’s time see it all come together on the field. As a fan, I’m not asking much. Just, you know, win. And preferably a defense that I couldn’t rush for 250 on with both legs in a cast.

I’m confident, hopeful, terrified, and excited. Our defense should be better (could it possibly be worse?). Our offense should get it rolling, even with Shoelace under center. As a result, no matter what a douchebag like Colin Cowherd thinks, the faithful in The Big House will be rewarded.

Go Blue!

Michigan 35
Western Michigan 10


616goblue said...

This Victors Club member, Michigan Football season ticket holder and WMU Bronco alumnus thinks this a fair breakdown of my alma mater.

Football season is here!


Mikoyan said...

Not a bad Know Your Foe. If you're looking for one on the foe in two weeks let me know.

surrounded in columbus said...

like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the buzzards returning to Hinckley, the return of KYF signals the change of seasons once again...

Andy said...

Fine job Yost!

I could not have said it any better myself.

GoBlueBob said...

I am just disappointed that 616 was not listed as a famous alum since he was the organizer of the SAE pledge photo.

Rigby said...

I LOVE Know Your Foe. It's been one of my consistent favorite features of the blog. Can't believe it's this time of year already. As my girlfriend is already sick of hearing, it's FOOTBALL time BABY!

Mikoyan said...

Tomorrow I'm getting a chance to be on the sidelines for the Eastern game. Do you have any advice me on what to be on the lookout for? I'm taking pictures for an Eastern blog. Is the perspective any different than from the stands?

Yost said...

Andy! So good to see you 'round these here parts!

And you DID say most of it, in '09!

But kidding aside, all props to Ron for offering to get the 2011 edition rolling. He really is the reason we have one up today.

Andy said...

Yost: You knew I could not stay away on KYF days.

Mik: Shooting on the sidelines is VERY different from shooting up in the stands. The angles are better but much less forgiving. You will find a much higher percentage of your images will be ruined by players & refs moving into your view & blocking your intended subject.

Depending on your lens size/length, don't just position yourself on the sidelines. Try moving to the back of the endzone and let the plays come to you.

Also, don't just follow the ball. I always try to shoot the line play and post play jubilation. Middle linebackers are great to follow because they are typically around the ball and tend to be the most emotional players on the field.

Caread said...

Great KYF to get the season started! However, as the "WMU alum" who posted in 09 about the illustrious touchdown cannon, I wanted point out that I'm actually a K College alum. Go Blue!

Mikoyan said...

Thank you. This will be a new experience for me and I hope I don't screw it up too badly.

616goblue said...


I am not an SAE, those guys were the house next door to my chapter house at WMU...and that is NOT the SAE chapter house at WMU behind those smiling co-eds.

I know that one of SAE's sayings is "the lion sits at the foot of minerva" so in this picture we have a bunch of future lionesses, so that seems to be about right.

Shaner5000 said...

You missed an awesome famous alumn: Terry Crews. You know, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho from "Idiocracy", and the guy with the bad-ass shot gun in "The Expedables".

TitleIX said...

Oh Andy! Sigh!
I love it when you talk lens length and size....

(oh yes...she's back. Consider yourselves warned!)

Yost said...


He's a WMU alum? Awesome! Might have to update.

Yost said...

Updated. Thanks, Shaner!

Shaner5000 said...

No problem! As a fellow Bronco, I am proud to have Crews as our "famous" guy. Tim Allen is so 1990s!

Mikoyan said...

You know when I scroll quickly by that Bronco picture, it almost looks like he has a woman bent over in front of him....

bigGexpress said...