This is a partial repost of my article from last year’s rivalry week. I bring it back to remind us all of how much this university has fought for its existence through the years and to bring some background knowledge of the rivalry itself outside of athletics. Michigan State has often been seen as the “underdog” and, psychologically, this seems to be deeply embedded in our rivalry. I know that many students and alumni, myself included, can become impassioned to the point of being enraged on this topic and I just want everyone to know - this is an incredibly complex issue that is not just deeply engrained in the culture of both schools, but also our state. It’s good to get an understanding of just what’s at play here - I think it will make you even more passionate.
Whether we win or lose this weekend, we know that our university is great, our university is strong, and we have defied the odds to become a world-renowned institution with incredible programs and opportunities for its students.
Remember that the next time a Walmart Wolverine insults your education on Facebook.
While U of M and Ohio State’s rivalry can be attributed to the tiny war for the Toledo Strip (which ultimately delayed our statehood and gave us the glorious Upper Peninsula), the rivalry between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan may not have been sparked by an actual war - but it certainly feels like one when looking at the early history of MSU.
- From the beginning, the University of Michigan was adamantly opposed to the existence of Michigan State, seeing it as a threat to their monopoly of the collegiate education system in the state. When an agricultural college was proposed by the state, U of M repeatedly attempted to claim the college for itself despite the evidence for the need for a separate institution.
- While MSU was the pioneer land grant institution and the model for the Morrill Act of 1862, U of M attempted to receive our funding from the Act itself. Since it couldn’t necessarily lay claim to it on its own, U of M proposed a merger of the two schools in 1863…and 1865, 1867, and 1869, attempting bribes and actually delaying our progress and growth as a school due to the constant jeopardy we found ourselves a part of.
- When the original Engineering Building burnt down in 1916, Michigan State was hard-pressed to afford another building to replace it. Using pure logic…U of M felt the need to inform us that we shouldn’t rebuild…because they could just take over ALL engineering majors for the state. Clearly there was no need for competition. Michigan State fought back…holding classes wherever they could and thanks to Ransom Olds, rebuilding an exact replica of the original building (today’s Olds Hall, the first building on campus to be named for a person).
- Lastly, when Michigan State was finally attempting to achieve university status (despite actually functioning as a university for years)…U of M fought us on the pure fact that the names would be too “confusing.” There is also evidence to argue that they opposed our entrance to the Big Ten Conference, which took place in the same few years.
So…believe it or not, this has a lot less to do with football and a lot more to do with over 150 years of oppression. U of M fans are always digging up the past to argue and we can certainly do so as well.
Expect some more rivalry posts this week, take it easy, and as always - GO GREEN!