1903 Ferris-Michigan Game Score Changed

A Ferris State football team from the early 20th century is pictured (date unknown)
A Ferris State football team from the early 20th century is pictured (date unknown)

Note: Information & images courtesy of the MVictors website

Big Rapids, Mich. - Ferris State recently came up on the short end of a controversial ruling from the 1903 season when a scoring change was made to the only football contest on record ever played between the Bulldogs and the University of Michigan after historical research uncovered by a writer this summer.

Distinguished writer John Kryk, author of the brilliant and definitive tome on the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry, Natural Enemies, uncovered information finding the score of Michigan's 88-0 win over the Bulldogs in 1903 (Oct. 21) was incorrect and should have actually been listed as 90-0 in favor of the Wolverines.

During a visit to the Bentley Historical Library in June, Kryk was thumbing through the bound copies of the Michigan Daily and spotted a nugget of information in the October 24, 1903 edition, which was printed just a few days after the game.

In the article, it was noted "the score of the game against Ferris Institute last Wednesday should have been 90 instead of 88, as everywhere printed.  In the first half, when Michigan, after the kick-off downed the runner behind the goal line, Referee Hollister called it a safety, which entitled Michigan to two points more.  Ferris kicked off from the 25-yard line and the game went on ........".

Recently, the folks at the Bentley Historical Library, which houses the University of Michigan Athletics History, applied an asterisk to the final tally.

The score change added two more points for Michigan's Fielding Yost and his point-a-minute reign of terror.  For those keeping score, according to Kryk, "that brings the point-a-minute team's point total up to 2,823 points in 57 games, from 2,821 - for a per-game average of 49.5 points over five years [1901-05]." 

"I aim to uncover both long-forgotten and never-known stories of the Wolverines of yesteryear," Kryk wrote, "and set the record straight a time or two Text From Article along the way."

The change marks the second time a Michigan score has been adjusted this summer after the Wolverines' previously added an extra point to a 44-0 contest versus Syracuse in the 1909 season. 

The 1903 game between Ferris and Michigan is the only football contest on record between the two teams.

Michigan concluded the 1903 campaign with an 11-0-1 record and a national championship under the legendary Yost.
The scoring adjustment came in a season in which the Bulldogs struggled to a 1-3 overall record after previously posting 6-2 and 5-2-1 marks in 1901 and 1902, respectively. During the 1903 campaign, Ferris was defeated 10-0 by Traverse City, bounced back to defeat Muskegon by a 31-0 score, fell to Michigan 88-0* and ended its season with an 11-0 loss to Alma.

Ferris State, which celebrated its 100th season of varsity football in 2008, began playing on the gridiron in 1900, according to archived records.  However, no football was played in 1908-09, 1917-18, 1932 and from 1942-45 for various reasons. Additionally, no scores are available from either the 1912 or 1916 seasons.

Below are Michigan's partial results from 1903 with the asterick added:

Michigan Results 1903