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Sports

A Brief History of Michigan State Spartans Football

When we learn from history we can learn from previous mistakes and avoid them moving forward. This is only one of the reasons that history is so important. It also helps us understand how the modern world came to be. It can even be a source of inspiration and a guide for us to follow, if we see it in that light. One of the cool things about history is that it impacts all of us and everything around us. History has shaped and created the world and society that we live and operate in today. Even sports have a deeply rooted, and often storied history. Take American football, for example. American football was born somewhere in the mid 1800’s and it looked vastly different than what we know and appreciate in the NFL today.

American football started off as a blend between other internationally popular sports at the time. The two most dominant being Rugby, and of course, European football. In the United States, European football is known as soccer, but everywhere else in the world, it’s simply known as football, hence the European/American differentiation.

The various aspects and elements borrowed from European football and rugby are still ever-present in American football today. The format, for instance, 11-on-11 is the same as used in European football, as is the objective of scoring a goal in a specific zone. On the rugby side of things, the brute force and physicality is very much a mimicked playstyle.

A major evolution in American football, though, was when it was adopted as a widely popular college sport. Influencing institutions like Michigan State for centuries to come, American football has a special place among colleges and universities.

A Club Sport in 1884

When we look at the history of American football, we have to include its emergence in the context of educational institutions. When American football was first introduced to Michigan State, for instance, it was started as a clubsport. This rang true for a couple decades until the sport gained varsity status in 1896.

Michigan State football holds a special place in the hearts of Michigan fans, as it was one of the first two teams to ever play an intercollegiate football match in the state of Michigan. This had a pretty profound impact on the state and its residents for the following centuries, as the culture around Michigan State and Spartan football continually developed and evolved into what it is today.

Some of those early coaches in the early days of Michigan State football were historic, not only in what they did to establish and develop the program, but also in their accomplishments achieved on the gridiron. In fact, John Macklin coached the Spartans in 1911 as their head coach and saw a winning percentage of over 85%. In his historic season, he achieved a win-loss record of 29-5, which remains the best winning record a coach has achieved in all of Spartan history.

This was really just the beginning of Spartan football, though.

Joining the Big Ten

The next major move for the Spartans was when they joined the Big 10 conference, where they remain today. This was major news for Michigan State players and fans alike, as their prowess on the gridiron was finally being recognized on a more national level.

The Spartans performed well when they entered the Big 10, too. In 1951 and 1952 the team won back-to-back national championships under the leadership of Clarence “Biggie” Munn. Then in 1953, they joined the Big 10 conference and went to the Rose Bowl where they beat UCLA 28-20.

In October of that same year, Purdue would upset the Spartans, ending Munn’s 28 game winning streak.

A Change of the Guard

In 1954, things started to look a little different around Michigan State football. Munn moved into the athletic director position which was vacant after the previous director retired. Munn also named his successor, Duffy Daugherty.

Duffy would remain the Spartan’s coach from 1954-1972. His 17 year-run remains the longest run for a head-coach in Michigan State football. Both Munn and Daugherty have since been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The Current State of Spartan Football

Michigan State football has done a lot in the last 50 years, and have produced some of the most well known names in all of American football, even some of the infamous ones. Tony Mandarich, for example, was one of the most hyped offensive lineman to ever enter an NFL draft. While he dominated at the college level, his story was later revealed in depth.

In February of 2020, Mel Tucker was appointed as the head coach of the Michigan State football program, where he remains today. Tucker has spent time as a defensive coordinator with multiple NFL franchises, and was even the interim head coach of the Jaguars in 2011. Today, he has his sights set on winning more national championships with the Spartans.

 

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