1973 Ohio State vs. Michigan football game
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|The Vote for the Roses|
|Date||November 24, 1973|
|Location||Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Chris Schenkel and Duffy Daugherty|
The 1973 Ohio State vs. Michigan football game was one of the most controversial games in NCAA history. In this game, both teams were undefeated, with Ohio State ranked 1st, and Michigan ranked 4th. A conference championship, Rose Bowl appearance, and possible national championship was on the line in this monumental game, part of the hotly contested stretch of the rivalry known as The Ten Year War. A then-NCAA record crowd of 105,233 watched the game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
With heavy rain prior to the game, the battle was mostly fought on the ground. Michigan had 90 yards passing and Ohio State attempted only four passing plays in a defensive contest. Ohio State failed to make a single first-down in the first quarter, but took an early 3-0 lead in the second quarter, with a 31-yard field goal by Blair Conway. Gil Chapman, Michigan's punt returner returned OSU's ensuing kick-off all the way to the OSU 27-yard line. A significant clipping penalty was called on Michigan which subsequently gave Michigan bad field position. With the way the game had gone, field position proved to be a huge advantage.
After a series of punts, Ohio State got the ball on their own 45-yard line. Back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin rushed for 41 yards on 5 carries, to get to 100 yards rushing, and OSU to the 5-yard line. Fullback Pete Johnson busted his way through the defense for a touchdown just before the half to extend OSU's lead to 10-0.
Michigan made defensive half-time adjustments in an attempt to crawl back into the game. The Wolverines outgained the Buckeyes 209-91 in total yardage in the 2nd half. Michigan took the 2nd half kick-off and marched all the way to the OSU 30-yard line. However, quarterback Dennis Franklin's pass was intercepted in the end zone ruining a productive drive. Midway through the third quarter, OSU faced a 4th and 2 on the Michigan 34-yard line, and decided to go for it. Their failed fourth down conversion gave Michigan new life, and lots of momentum. It is still looked on today as a controversial coaching call.
Michigan engineered an 11 play drive, using the rushing ability of fullback Ed Shuttlesworth. The Wolverines kicked a field goal to get on the board, and make the score 10-3. Midway through the fourth quarter, Michigan's defense held, and the offense was able to start the tying drive with great field position. Dennis Franklin threw a 35-yard post-out pattern to tight end Paul Seal to get inside the red zone. Three consecutive Michigan offensive plays failed to get them a first down, and they were now faced with a 4th and inches on the 10-yard line.
Ohio State loaded the box with 9 defensive players, and focused on stopping Shuttlesworth, who had burned them the entire game. Franklin faked the inside hand-off to Shuttlesworth, and then slipped through the tackles running 10 yards for a touchdown, to tie the score at 10-10. Michigan got the ball back with over six minutes to go for the game-winning drive, but had to start at their own 10-yard line. After a couple of completions to Clint Haslerig and some nice runs by Chapman and Shuttlesworth, Michigan made it into OSU territory.
Franklin then threw a seven-yard pass play to Shuttlesworth and was injured, breaking his collar bone with 2:23 left in the game. Three plays later, Michigan kicker Mike Lantry attempted a 58-yard field goal, but the ball missed the left goal-post by a few inches. Ohio State took over, but back-up quarterback, Greg Hare, threw an interception that was returned to the OSU 33 with 52 seconds left. Michigan moved the ball to the OSU 28 before settling for a field goal on 3rd and 5 with 28 seconds to go. For the second consecutive try, the field goal was missed and the game ended in a 10-10 tie.
Michigan's coaches and players felt that although the game was a tie, that they were the better team and deserved to go to the Rose Bowl. Even Ohio State coach Woody Hayes admitted that his team would not go to the Rose Bowl. There was lots of debate on who would play in the Rose Bowl. Michigan's strong second half, and Franklin's injury were factors in debating who would represent the conference in the "granddaddy of them all".
Ohio State had gone to the Rose Bowl the year before. The Big Ten, alongside the Pacific-8, at the time had a longstanding policy stating that only the conference champion would reach postseason, and that game was the Rose Bowl, and neither conference allowed other teams to appear in postseason games. The Big Ten also had a rule prohibiting teams from appearing in consecutive Rose Bowls until 1971, and had it still been in effect, Michigan would have gone to the Rose Bowl automatically, even if it had lost to Ohio State. If later-day rules were in place, Ohio State would have been selected due to being ranked higher.
The decision as to who would represent the conference would be left up to a telephone vote by the Big Ten's athletic directors. According to Michigan coach Bo Schembechler's 1989 autobiography, the Big Ten was nervous because the conference had lost the previous four Rose Bowls, and Franklin's injury may have been a deciding factor.
On the day after the game, following a conference call, it was announced that Ohio State would play in the Rose Bowl instead of Michigan. Schembechler was furious at the call, referring to it as "an embarrassment to the Big Ten Conference" and claiming "petty jealousies" were involved. Schembechler went on to demand changes to the Big Ten's policies regarding post-season play. Schembechler was particularly bitter because his 1973 team did not lose a game and was not rewarded with a bowl assignment, and remained angry at the vote until his death in 2006. Schembechler also claimed the Franklin injury was just an excuse, since Michigan's strength was a running game and not a passing attack. It's unclear why Schembechler felt Ohio State, at 10-0-1 with a tie in Ann Arbor, deseved the Rose Bowl bid less than Michigan.
It was rumored that Michigan State University voted for Ohio State in retaliation for Michigan's "no" vote in 1949 against admitting Michigan State to the Big Ten. There was also a rumor that Michigan State had voted for itself for the same reason. Neither of these charges were ever substantiated. For months afterward, Ohio State newspapers would be flooded with letters from angry Wolverine fans, and threats of lawsuits. According to a Tiebreaker, 2013 Big Ten Network documentary dedicated to the 1973 contest, the Buckeyes were supported by Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and possibly Michigan State; the Wolverines were supported by Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota.
It is unknown whether then Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke had influenced the vote in Ohio State's favor or not. Schembechler said he had spoken with Illinois coach Bob Blackman, who said his athletic director, Cecil Coleman, would vote in favor of Michigan. Yet following the vote, it was revealed that Coleman had voted for the Buckeyes. Even if the vote were tied at 5-all, Michigan would have been awarded the berth since Ohio State had gone the year before.
Wayne Duke continues to vehemently deny that he influenced the vote in any way, saying the athletic directors followed the procedure in place and that he was merely the messenger. Ohio State ended up winning the 1974 Rose Bowl over USC, proving that the athletic directors' vote was an accurate one. Ohio State's victory gave the Big Ten its first victory in the Rose Bowl since Ohio State's victory over USC in the 1969 Rose Bowl.
Among the changes that were made in the Big Ten Conference was, by 1975, to open postseason bids to four teams (since expanded to any team with six wins). This would allow conference teams other than the champion to accept invitations to other bowls. Michigan would be the first team to receive such an invite, to the Orange Bowl following the 1975 season. Another change, which also took effect in 1975, was the dropping of the athletic directors' vote in the event of a tie for the championship. The new rule stated the team which had gone the longest without appearing in the Rose Bowl would go to Pasadena. Schembechler had pushed for that reform, claiming that the athletic directors were not qualified to decide which team would better represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. That rule was changed following the institution of the conference championship game in 2011. The tie-breaker for that game is the head-to-head result.
The tie denied Ohio State the national championship. Alabama vaulted the Buckeyes into the top spot in both polls, and the Crimson Tide finished the regular season 11-0 to earn the number one ranking in the UPI coaches poll, which did not conduct a post-bowl poll at that time. Notre Dame ended up as AP national champions by defeating Alabama 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl, leaving the Buckeyes second in both wire-service surveys.
To this day, the aftermath of the 1973 Michigan-Ohio State contest remains a controversy, although Ohio State's strong argument for deserving the Rose Bowl bid just as much as Michigan, if not more, is often under-reported.