The Importance of "THE" Rivalry

For an article in a GBW Magazine issue, I sat down with former Michigan greats <strong>Stan Edwards</strong> and <strong>Butch Woolfolk</strong> and spoke with them about their memories of the greatest rivalry in collegiate sports, Michigan versus Ohio State. Their recollections were so vivid that it was almost as if they were preparing to play in the game themselves. <br><br>Here is an excerpt from the mag piece that will surely illustrate exactly what this game means.<b

Did you have an appreciation for the rivalry before you showed up to Michigan?

(Stan Edwards) “I did, not as much, but I did. You have to experience it, being in the game and on the field, to really know what it means because there is a different level of play when you are playing Ohio State. It’s hard, intensity is raised 10-fold, maybe a little bit of talking back and forth here and there, but not too much. Very few people out of position, and most people are playing their best brand of football.”

(Butch Woolfolk) “I agree. You have to experience it. When it’s time for the game to start, you step on the field and you are trying your best not to throw up! And you are trying to remember all the plays and you are trying to perform … all at the same time. Your mind is just spinning. It’s just going so fast. And of course it is always cold, but that is the last thing you think about is the cold. I’m from New Jersey, I didn’t have any certain feelings about it before I got there. Of course I knew about the rivalry, but you don’t have the feeling. It doesn’t take long with being at Michigan to get that feeling.”

Do you recall your first contest with against the Buckeyes?

(Butch) “It was my freshman season in '78. I got a chance to start in that game, Huckleby was hurt, Roosevelt Smith was hurt also, and Stan was injured, and they asked me start as a freshman. It was kinda’ scary because (I think) it was the last year Woody Hayes was coaching, and it was rather intimidating. We got caught in the tunnel the same time as Ohio State, and I was standing right next to Woody Hayes … and I felt very intimidated. But I was getting a lot of support from the senior guys because it meant so much to them. It meant so much to them, and I felt like I was just carrying the weight of the whole senior class on my shoulders starting as a freshman at tailback.”

(Stan) “Interesting, because I was a spectator, I didn’t play in that game at all. (laughter) That was in 77. The game was very very tight, and there were very few substitutions. It was a very well played game. I believe there were no penalties at all that game, or very few. “

Do you have any “not-so-good” memories of the rivalry?

(Butch) “I remember my senior year, (and this happened several times) where the guy kept getting his finger in the ear hole of my helmet and gouging out my ear. The inside of my ear was bleeding. Now it happened one time and I thought, it was a fluke, it’s not going to happen again. Then it happened again. And he was gouging out the same raw ear, and it hurt, and the guy had a hard thick fingernail. That’s all I remember. I remember thinking, ‘this is vicious, this is not football.’”

So that was one of things that showed you just how heated the rivalry was?

(Butch) “Yes. Another thing was every time we went down to Columbus; they figured out some sort of way to turn the water off in our hotel! (laughter). That happened every time we went down there and played in Columbus.”

(Stan) “That did seem to happen every time we were down there!” (laughing)

How was Bo during the week of the Ohio State game?

(Butch) “It was just that there was this feeling in the air prior to the Ohio State game. You could tell that this game was different from the other games. With the tearing in his eyes, and the breaking in his voice, you could tell that this game meant just a little bit more than the other games. Plus all the marbles were riding on that game, so they always had a little bit more intensity to them.”

(Stan) “You know, he gave Ohio State all the respect in the world. He talked about having a hard fought game. The tone of his speech was almost as if he were saying, 'If you lose it's okay, because it's Ohio State. Play your best, it will be okay.' And it wasn’t, 'It’s okay to lose,' but more don’t be embarrassed to lose to Ohio State.”

One of the things that Bo said was that he did something every day to prepare for Ohio State.

(Stan) “He’s right. You really didn’t pay attention until later on in the year, you were like, 'Oh, Okay, we did this earlier in the year, we never ran it, but we are going to run it now'.” (laughter)

As a former player, what is the significance of the rivalry with Ohio State?

(Stan) “It helps Michigan define who they are. If you don’t have any team that matches your intensity, and matches your play year in and year out, you really don’t have anything to measure yourself by. It really defines what Michigan is all about playing a team like Ohio State because you know they will have as good of players, some years better, and they are going to have as good of a coaching staff. The preparation is going to be as good, it is who is going to have the execution that day.”

Butch, Stan can be a really intense guy. What was it like to play with him?

(Butch) “Stan was always intense. Always focused. Of course he was my roommate the whole four years and I was with him constantly, and he was always intense. And I would always want to relax a little bit, but we were playing against some pretty tough guys on the other side of the ball, so he was always focused.”

Stan has given me his version of how his move to fullback transpired. How did it go down in your opinion?

(Butch) “To tell you the truth, it was Coach Schembechler’s choice. He tried me at full back for a couple of days…”

(Stan cutting in …) “Until Butch threatened to transfer, so he moved my ass to fullback!”

(Butch) “We were about the same size back then …”

(Stan cutting in again …) “BS! He was about 12 pounds heavier than I was! “

(Butch) “I think I had a little weight on him.”

(Stan) “Butch was going to transfer, and Bo didn’t want him to … so he moved me to fullback!”

(Butch) “He didn’t give a damn about me transferring!” (laughter).

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