Nov. 25, 1961
Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:
Ohio State 50, Michigan 20
Setup: Ohio State is a football school. These days, such a declaration would be met with a glance that says, “Thanks, genius. Is the sun hot, too?” There was a time, however, when the question of OSU’s place near the center of the college football universe was dubious. In 1961, the Buckeyes were 7-0-1 entering their season finale at Michigan and ranked No. 2 nationally behind Alabama but were hearing rumblings that even a Big Ten title might not result in a Rose Bowl trip. Ohio State’s faculty and some other administrators had gotten the idea that Buckeyes football had become a bit too big for its britches.
Stars: Fullback Bob Ferguson plowed his way to 152 yards rushing and four touchdowns to pace the Buckeyes’ 512-yard offensive effort, which included 312 on the ground. Halfback Paul Warfield added 122 yards rushing and 61 receiving. Joe Sparma passed for 200 yards, most of the total coming in a 29-point fourth quarter as coach Woody Hayes poured it on against the hated Wolverines.
Turning point: Warfield scored on a 69-yard run in the second quarter with such a sweet move that it left a Michigan defender on his backside. That made the score 21-6, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t score again until Ferguson’s third TD, early in the fourth quarter, pushed the margin to 28-12. After an interception, Sparma hit Bob Klein on an 80-yard pass to kick off the rout — and, yes, the Buckeyes did go for two and make it after their final touchdown, with 34 seconds left.
Impact: The 50 points against Michigan remains a high-water mark by Ohio State against its rival (matched in 1968). And the Buckeyes claimed the outright Big Ten title on the same day when Wisconsin upended Minnesota. But OSU’s 57-member Faculty Council was not impressed on either front. In a 90-minute meeting the following Tuesday, the council voted, by a 28-25 margin (there were four absences), to reject a Rose Bowl invitational to play UCLA; Minnesota accepted and beat the Bruins. The council’s reasoning was that football had become too emphasized, damaging Ohio State’s academic reputation. Hayes and OSU’s athletic administration seethed silently, but students were not. Some 7,000 demonstrated on campus and at the Statehouse after the decision, which included some faculty council members being hung in effigy.
Quotable: “We must not let anything happen at the university to cause animosity between the students and faculty. I respect the integrity of these faculty men who voted against the Rose Bowl, even though I may question their intelligence on this one issue.” — Hayes, taking the high road in the debate.
— Ray Stein / email@example.com