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Century-Old Letters Add Recent Twist to Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry


The Buckeyes had high hopes going into the 1922 season, with its offense powered by Noel Workman, a quarterback from West Virginia who was nicknamed Dopey, and his brother Harry, a halfback. The Workman brothers selected Ohio State over Michigan in 1919.

But about every week before the season began, Ohio State announced some crushing news. Evidence had surfaced that Noel Workman, the quarterback, was not eligible to play college football because he played at a small West Virginia school in 1917. Players were limited to a few seasons of eligibility on the time, and Workman had reached that limit with one season in West Virginia and two at Ohio State. The ultimate decision to disqualify Workman was made by John L. Griffith, the commissioner for the Big Ten, who was chargeable for enforcing eligibility rules.

The choice, said Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, deprived Ohio State of “probably the most uncanny quarterback” within the conference and “the person on whom most of its faith was pinned this season.” The team’s coach, John Wilce, moved Harry Workman to quarterback, and the Buckeyes’ offense sputtered early within the season. And against Michigan, before a crowd of greater than 70,000 fans packed into grandstands plus extra chairs and bleachers, Harry Workman threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in Michigan’s rout.

The sport was so lopsided that Buckeyes fans began heading for the exits within the third quarter, abandoning their recent edifice to delirious Michigan supporters. Ohio State alumni “pulled out their eyebrows listening to them,” The Detroit Free Press reported. The Michigan band, together with some 5,000 Wolverines fans, marched through the streets of Columbus playing their fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” based on The Lansing State Journal.

After the sport, Yost reportedly crowed, “We put the dead in dedication,” based on Bacon’s book “Fourth and Long.”

What was alleged to be a celebration for the state of Ohio became a humiliation — due to Michigan. Coaches and administrators at each schools knew the reality on the time about how Ohio State’s team, which finished with its first losing season in 23 years, had been weakened.

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