The day U of D football program died, November 30, 1964

It was not an announcement UD president the Very Rev, Laurence V. Britt wanted to make: The University of Detroit has dropped Varsity football. His statement in part reads: “After careful appraisal of its most recently completed football season and detailed review of the program over the past ten years, the President and Trustees of the University of Detroit have now been compelled to make the decision to discontinue the university’s program of intercollegiate football. Despite concerted efforts to make the football program self-supporting, it has continued to be a deficit-operation. this year’s deficit will be well in excess of $65,000.00.”

It probably should not have come as too much of a surprise given the statistics such as falling game attendance (average 11,000 in a stadium that holds 20,000) and a losing record (in past three years a compiled record of 6 wins, 21 lost and one tie), in addition to the financial losses. The university had not made money on football since 1951 when UD played Notre Dame at Tiger (then Briggs) Stadium.

The president waited until after Thanksgiving to make the announcement. As might be expected, there were some very unhappy students.




In spite of the inclement weather some 800 students staged a massive protest against the decision to drop the football program. They tore down the now useless goal posts and marched over to Lansing-Reilly Hall where the priests lived. When their chants of “We want football” went unheeded, they turned to the intersection of McNichols and Livernois blocking traffic. The police did their best to quell the demonstration and had a couple of police cars damaged in the process. At one point the Detroit Fire Department arrived to supplement the 32 police cars on hand to see if prospects of a cold shower in 16 degree weather would¬† disperse the students back home.fprotest2

That was the first day reaction to the announcement. The students were not finished demonstrating just yet. The next day the protest took to the Lodge Expressway. There were rumors that during the half-time basketball game between UD and Purdue, there would be some kind of demonstration, but fear of forfeiting the game kept the protest to a vocal outcry. After the game, however, the crowd eventually grew and the cry of “To the Expressway” could be heard.¬† When the crowd reached the Livernois overpass, students leaped over the chain-link fence and swarmed over both lanes of the highway. Only about 200 students actually stood on the expressway, but it was enough to block traffic for a half-mile in either direction. After about twenty minutes, the police arrived and moved the students off the expressway. Some of the crowd then made a move towards Marygrove College. Continued police presence finally moved the students back to their residence halls and parked cars. After two nights, the student demonstrations finally came to an end and fittingly, a student bugler played “Taps” at the Fisher Fountain.

Laundry day at the university-hanging out the wash


Ever wonder how much laundry a family of four can go through in a year? To dramatize how many clothes and linens the average family of four must wash and dry, Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. used the University of Detroit Stadium, three miles of clothesline and 7,000 articles of clothing provided by Goodwill Industries. According to the September 9,1960 Free Press article: “…the hard work was done by 10 unhappy husbands. They toiled for nine hours, using 14,000 clothespins, three miles of clothesline and 100 yards of football field to hang out the clothes.”


The idea was conceived by a UD alumnus, Jerry Seitz, superintendent of sales training and promotion for Michigan Consolidated. He wanted to demonstrate how much labor the average housewife saves by buying a gas clothes dryer. The 7,000 articles, weighing 4,000 pounds represent the amount of washing done annually for a family of four.




I don’t know-in the interest of conserving energy, maybe we should think about going back using the sun in its natural form to dry our clothes.

“Light up the land” an update

lightup1A while ago I had posted on this blog about a UD musical “Light up the Land”. At the time we did not have a link to the video, but now you can see it for yourself in our listing of Special Collections. So as the cold winter nights start to creep in, you can curl up to your computer and see what all the hoopla was about back in 1952. It quite literally had a cast of thousands! It may not measure up to today’s cinema extravaganza, just keep in mind this was produced back in the early 1950′s.

Bet you didn’t know UD had a Polo team!


In the previous blog, while I was researching the boxing program, I came across some articles about the UD Polo team. It was also a very short lived program that lasted about two years from 1933 to about 1935. Unlike the boxing program, they actually played a few games with other polo teams. In the initial call to see if anyone had an interest in becoming a team member, twenty-two students responded. The first game was played as part of the activities for the 1933 Homecoming celebrations. They played Michigan State and won with a score of 12 to 4 1/2 (I guess in polo you can score half points). The new UD team consisted on one student, one alumnus and one outsider. The game was played at the Detroit Riding and Hunt Club (located at Nine Mile and Southfield) and some five hundred fans came to see the game.

polo2Some of the other teams the UD polo team played against: Detroit Rangers (lost with a score of 20 1/2 – 19 ) Cass Tech Alumni Club, University of Chicago (lost 10 – 7 1/2; third defeat so they must have lost to the Cass Tech Alumni Club (?), no news reports on the game), and Wayne (State) University (won 6 – 2). Wayne University is the last game reported on in the Varsity News. Some of the other teams that were on tap to play such as Illinois and Ohio as well as some local area polo clubs (Flint Woodcraft and Riding Hunt Club!) were never reported and maybe never played for whatever reason.

By the time the 1934 polo team was assembled, the entire team now consisted of freshmen and sophomore students. According to the polo intercollegiate rules, Detroit could have a non-student coach member play on the team. The Illinois team, however, could only play against teams that were composed of full-fledged students of the school. There might also have been travel issues which is why one game against Michigan State had to be cancelled. If you think about it, transporting people isn’t a problem-what do you do about transporting horses? From what I have been able to pick up on the internet, they don’t use the same horse for the entire game, horses need frequent resting time. The UD polo team was fortunate in that the Detroit Riding and Hunt Club helped to minimize some of the cost of supporting the school team.

I suspect the expense of supporting the polo team and the lack of student attendance at the games probably meant that a university polo team would not survive for very long.





A Technical Knockout: University of Detroit Boxing Program

Technical Knockout: When a fighter is taking too much punishment and the referee stops the bout without completing a ten-count.

1931 Boxing Team

1931 Boxing Squad

Once upon a time, the University of Detroit tried to start a program for boxing. They had a number of students express an interest, but it does not appear that it ever got off the ground except on an informal basis. Outside of the 1931 Tower yearbook, only a couple of articles about the boxing program can be found in 1931 issues of Varsity news. There were about thirty students who would work out in the Gesu gymnasium under the watchful eye of “Dad” Butler. Any afternoon between one and three, several students would be paired off at intervals across the floor. A few of the students would be classed as heavyweight or light-heavyweight, but most would be in the welterweight class.boxing2

The only other article I can find about boxing at the University of Detroit is in Varsity News, March 16, 1932 and it does not appear that it had any relationship to the university boxing program. A UD student a freshman, Jack Gibbons, son of a famous boxer Mike Gibbons, who was also his trainer and manager, had entered into a local tournament. It appears that the fledgling UD boxing program never got off the ground after the 1931 reports.

Boxing did not completely disappear-at least not in the library. There is one book I have in the archives, “Dempsey: By the Man Himself” that has been autographed by Jack Dempsey.








And of course, what would a library in Detroit be without something from the Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis!


boxing4I don’t follow boxing at all, but it seems to me it does not get much attention anymore like it once did.











The UDMercy Library (R)evolution: A look at the past and how it has changed

Whenever a UDMercy alumni comes back for a visit, they are amazed at how much the library has changed since they were students. Take a look at what they would remember back around 1960 and compare how things look now.


Circulation Desk 1960′s


Circulation Desk 2014

More than just the physical appearances have changed. Up until 1964, the library books were classified in the Dewey Decimal system. When it was decided to convert all the books to the LC or Library of Congress system of classification, it meant changing the call numbers of some 225,000 books. All the new books would get the new call numbers, but it was estimated that it would take four to five years to change the numbers on all the old books already in the library. This was not a big problem for students to retrieve the books because during that period of time the stacks were closed. If a students needed a book, someone on the library staff would have to get it for them. So if you ever wondered why there are these narrow steps leading to the other floors-only staff needed to access the other floors. It was not until 1977 that the stacks were opened up for students to find the book for themselves. Now there are a whole lot more books to check out, more than 600,000 and an additional 140,000 ebooks as well.


Searching for books also changed, from paper cards in a card catalog to an electronic system to identify print books and DVD’s and access ebooks and on-line journals.

Dudley Randall Reference Librarian

Dudley Randall, Reference Librarian

newlib1You no longer have to wait for the library to open , the library is available 24/7. However, with all the information sources available, the reference librarian can be the best resource to help make the most efficient use a student’s research time-just don’t wait until the last minute before that paper or project is due.

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