Sunday, November 25, 1973.
It was a day that would live in infamy for players, coaches and fans of the University of Michigan Wolverines football team.
It didn’t sit well with the Lemon-Monroe High School community, either -- especially fans of Hornet-turned-Wolverine linebacker Steve Strinko.
That was the day Big Ten athletic directors chose Ohio State’s Buckeyes over the Michigan Wolverines to represent their conference in the January 1,1974, Rose Bowl game.
The controversial decision came a day after a grinding battle on the Michigan gridiron between the two rivals that resulted in a 10-10 tie. The fact that each team entered the game undefeated only heightened the intensity.
To say Michigan Coach “Bo” Schembechler was disappointed at the decision would be the understatement of all understatements. The Associated Press reported that his voice quivered with anger as he “blasted” the Big Ten officials and their momentous decision. “I’m very bitter. I regret it. It’s a tragic thing for Big Ten football…” he said. (1)
Associated Press writer Larry Paladino described the historic game at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Saturday, November 24, as “a typical Ohio State-Michigan battle featuring bruising ground attacks, hard-hitting defense and tremendous emotion from both the players and the huge crowd.” (2)
He wrote that a “national television audience witnessed the game along with a crowd of 105,223 -- largest ever to attend a college football game.” (2)
For Strinko, then a Michigan junior, and the Monroe football community, the pivotal match-up and its aftermath recalled a rather interesting anecdote.
Ironically, it turns out that opposing OSU Coach Woody Hayes had been “well aware of [Strinko’s] credentials” and, according to Jerry Nardiello, sports editor of the Middletown Journal, at one point even “had his eyes on the Hornet in hopes of recruiting him for the Ohio State football factory.” (3)
To this day the pivotal game in November 1973 is one of many chapters in Ohio State-Michigan rivalry lore. It was even chronicled by the Big Ten Network in a documentary called “Tiebreaker.” http://btn.com/2013/11/12/tiebreaker-how-1973-ohio-state-michigan-changed-big-ten/
No doubt it’s an oft-told tale in the Monroe community. But the ending never changes:
The Big Ten Buckeyes went on to win the 1974 Rose Bowl Game (the 60th) over the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans of the Pacific-8 Conference. (4)
The score was 42-21. (4)
1.”Buckeyes Going to Rose Bowl,” Middletown Journal, Monday, November 26, 1973, by Joe Mooshil of the Associated Press.
(2) “We ‘deserve to go’ to Rose Bowl, says Bo,” Middletown Journal, Sunday, November 25, 1973. Story by AP Writer Larry Paladino.
(3) “Strinko near record,” Off The Bench column by Jerry Nardiello, Middletown Journal, Friday, November 23, 1973.
The newspaper articles mentioned above can be accessed via the MidPointe Library website www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary > Research Databases > Magazines and Newspapers > Newspaper Archive
(4) Wikipedia: “1974 Rose Bowl.”
Photos of Steve Strinko are from the 1971 Lemon-Monroe High School yearbook, “The Monocle,” and the Middletown Journal, Friday, November 23, 1973.