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Past is Prologue: Michigan and the Big 9, 1907

Scene: The Palmer House Hotel, Chicago 1907. Assembled at the executive meeting room's table are the presidents of the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Chicago, Iowa and Indiana, as well as the heads of Purdue and Northwestern University. All are resplendent in the coats and tails, stovepipe hats and monocles, with one exception…a mysterious figure lingers in a darkened corner of the room, noisily swigging rye from a dented flask while the gentlemen in tuxedos take indifferent sips from their post-dinner cognacs. As host and de facto commissioner of this conference, University of Chicago President Harry Pratt Judson steps to the dais.

JUDSON: "Ahoy hoy!"

ASSEMBLAGE: "Ahoy hoy!"

(Judson taps his megaphone)

JUDSON: "Is this thing on? I said 'ahoy hoy!"

ASSEMBLAGE: "AHOY HOY!!!"

JUDSON: "Bully! Gentlemen, these are exciting times, and our Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, or as the filthy Irish call it, "the Big Nine," is poised to carpe diem!

ASSEMBLAGE: "Huzzah! Huzzah!"

JUDSON: "Now, we have matters of much import to discuss, but before we so engage, the University of Michigan has made application to entertain us with some scintillating developments. Good and esteemed sir, the floor is yours."

(All eyes turn to Michigan President James Burrill Angell, who is distracted by the exposed ankles of a Chinese spittoon attendant. Taking advantage of the pregnant pause in the proceedings, the mysterious figure staggers to the podium, snatches the megaphone, and proceeds to bludgeon Judson into submission with it.)

FIELDING H. YOST: "Ahoy hoy!

ASSEMBLAGE: (Meekly) "Ahoy h-"

YOST: "SHADDUP! Now listen up, ya mutts! Perfesser Egghead here was right about one 'ting in dat deez are exciting times fer us…and by us I mean Michigan football. FIGHT ON BLUE AND MAIZE!!!"

IOWA: (aside to ILLINOIS) "Maize?"

ILLINOIS: "It's what your people call corn."

YOST: "Now the ways I hears it, Mr. Henry Ford is fixin' to build him a horseless carriage factory dat'll bring thousands of sawbucks of into the state. THOUSANDS I TELLS YA!!!"

PURDUE: "A passing fancy!"

NORTHWESTERN: "A novelty, nothing more!"

YOST: "SHUT YER YAPS! I ain't even told you the best part yet! I heard me a rumor dat soon the Marconi will carry voices across tens of miles. TENS I TELLS YA!!!"

MINNESOTA: "Wizardry!"

WISCONSIN: "A child's plaything!"

YOST: "Yeah, yeah, yeah you'll see! On autumn Saturdays you'll see all those tin lizzies headin' into Ann Arbor! You'll hear the wireless sounds of football coming from Ann Arbor!"

(A window flies open and a COSTUMED RAKE with an oversized head appears)

COSTUMED RAKE: "Ann Arbor is a woman of ill repute of the type unfit for gatherings in polite society!!!"

YOST: "WHO SED DAT?!?"

INDIANA: "Oh, that was Ohio State. They've tried in vain to infiltrate our gatherings for half a score."

ILLINOIS: "We will admit Michigan State University before those buckeye vagabonds, on this I swear!"

YOST: "Aw, never mind dat dirty brute and listens up some more! The ways I seez it, seeings how all deez carriages will be comin' to see us, and seeings how all deez folks will want to hear us, and seeings how our boys have owned the gridiron, it stands to reason dat-"

CHICAGO: "I dissent! Chicago have emerged victorious two autumns consecutive!"

YOST: "WE WUZ INSTALLIN' DA SINGLE WING!!! DEEZ TINGS TAKE TIME!!! Now, where wuz I?"

NORTHWESTERN (checking his notes): "I believe you digressed upon, 'it stands to reason…"

YOST: "Right. Anyways, it stands to reason dat we gets the lion's share of the proceeds from dis here windfall. So I propose-"

WISCONSIN: "What is this windfall of which you speak? Collegiate athletics provides no revenue! Why, the mere consideration of such impurity offends me greatly!"

YOST: "You know what offends me greatly? Lack of vision, you fat-faced hun! Think of it! We coulds charge, why, a nickel for the privilege of watch our boys tussle! We coulds create our own Marconi transmitter and folks would pays good folding money to hear the game! All Michigan asks in return is 50% of the profits! It can't lose!"

(A bleeding Harry Pratt Judson regains consciousness and confronts Yost at the podium.)

JUDSON: "Enough, say I! This vulgar proposition approaches blasphemy! You, sir, are exchanging monies in the temple, and this shall not stand!"

YOST: "Yeah, well I taut yous might say dat. Maybe da boyz over in dat new MVIAA will tink differently."

(The assemblage gives each other bemused looks.)

MINNESOTA: "You speak of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association?"

PURDUE: "Kansas?"

INDIANA: "Missouri?"

IOWA: "Nebraska?!? Surely, good sir, you play upon us a most humorous jest! Not one of those institutions would be worthy to attend this gathering of learned scholars!"

YOST: "Learned scholars, huh? Yeah, sez you. Last time I checked only us, Chicago and Wisconsin were AAU members…the rest of youz might as well be southern public schools!"

(An uncomfortable silence.)

YOST: "Yeah, that's what I taut. To hell with you all! This Michigan man is leavin'!"

MICHIGAN: "But aren't you, in fact, from the state of West Virginia?"

YOST: "Um, well, yes…BUT I'LL BE THE LAST WEST VIRGINIAN TO EVER COACH THE MAIZE AND BLUE!!!" /slams rye, punches the costumed rake and leaves.

(Epilogue: Michigan left the Big 9 prior to the 1907 season and didn't return until ten years later. By that time the Ohio State University had finally successfully crashed the party.)  

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