Time has a way of evaporating history. I am told that much of history would never have been recorded in the Middle Ages were it not for the painstaking effort of Catholic monks who recorded what others would not.
Thankfully, Michigan State University has done an amazing job of recording its legendary football history since 1896, spanning 110+ seasons with some stellar performances among its many coaches and players.
Here are the Spartan trainers who rank among the best:
Chester Brewer 1903-1910 – The genius of defense
Brewer, a 4-sport star at Wisconsin, knew a thing or two about playing defense. In 8 years he went 54-10-6, busting out ties and his 54-10 winning record was an incredible 84%. This is pretty impressive, even more impressive was the fact that out of his 54 wins there were 43 shutouts, 79% of his wins were shutouts.
In 1904 he had a 6-game shutout streak while going 8-1. Among his 6 draws there were 4 without goals (0-0). Two other facts about Brewer shine very brightly, 1) he has NEVER lost a home game in 8 years and 2) he has only lost 10 games in 8 years. In 1904 he had a 104-0 loss to Hillsdale, but his highlights were a 0-0 loss against Fielding Yost’s 1908 Michigan team and a 17-0 shutout over Notre Dame in 1910.
John Macklin 1911-1915 – The Pacesetter with a String of Firsts
Macklin, an outstanding athlete in Pennsylvania, succeeded Chester Brewer. He went 29-5 in 5 seasons for an 85% winning percentage, and ran in the standings in 1913 with a 7-0 mark that included Michigan State’s first win over Michigan, a 12-7 win at Michigan .
Among Macklin’s other finest moments were a 6-3 upset against Penn State in 1914; another 24-0 road victory over Michigan in 1915; and a 35-20 win over Ohio State in 1912, the first by a MAC team against a Big Ten team.
Jim Crowley 1929-1932 – One of the Four Immortal Knights of Notre Dame
After several years of mediocrity, Crowley returned Michigan State to national prominence by going 22-8-3 (a 73% win-loss percentage) with 4 winning seasons and a win before a perfect season with a 7- 1 his senior year. Crowley’s teams had a pair of 0–0 ties against Michigan in 1930 and 1931, which snapped Michigan State’s 14-game losing streak against Michigan.
Crowley was one of Knute Rockne’s Four Horsemen during Notre Dame’s glory years made famous by legendary sportscaster Grantland Rice. Crowley would become head coach at Fordham in 1933 and create the “Seven Blocks of Granite” which included legendary Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi.
From Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen to Michigan State to Fordham’s Seven Blocks of Granite and Green Bay Packer’s Vince Lombardi is a pretty good legacy created by the man known as “Sleepy Jim” Crowley.
Charlie Bachman 1933 to 1946 – Introduced the winning system at Notre Dame
Bachman followed Jim Crowley and brought the Notre Dame system with him and managed to post 10 winning seasons in 13 years with a 70-34-10 record (a 67% win-loss percentage). There was no football in 1943 due to World War II.
Bachman was a teammate of Knute Rockne and a Notre Dame alumnus like Crowley. He led the Spartans to an 8-1 mark in his sophomore season, including a 16-0 win over Michigan, the school’s first overall victory in 19 years; it would be the first of 4 games against Michigan that Bachman’s teams would achieve. After posting another 8-1 season in 1937, Michigan State received its first postseason bowl game bid, the 1938 Orange Bowl.
(Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series.)
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley