The Student and His Professor

by David J. Young, M.D.

The Student and His Professor

      The Student and His Professor: John Hannah, Ralph Aigler and the Origin of the Michigan State-Michigan Rivalry explores the long-standing, adversarial relationship between Michigan State President John Hannah and Michigan Law Professor Ralph Aigler. Their behind-the-scenes feud—based in large part on the controversial “athletic” scholarship—arguably played a major role in eventually transitioning a lopsided, politically mandated intrastate football series into a bona fide rivalry of national interest; one that even included a trophy!

The story of that relationship and its role in advancing the intrastate series is built around four historical events: Michigan State’s quest for membership in the Big Nine; the Spartan Foundation Probation of ’53; the Paul Bunyan Trophy controversy; and the ‘name change’ civil war of 1954-55. As it turned out, Professor Aigler and fellow Wolverine leaders—obsessed with keeping the newbies in their rightful place—played no small part in trying to influence each outcome.

It was late September of 1921; the second week of the academic year in Ann Arbor. The lecture on procedural law had just ended. Professor Ralph Aigler asked the student to step forward. He was impressed with the young man’s presence under fire during didactic dialogue a few minutes earlier. The student performed extremely well considering the arcane question had nothing to do with the assigned readings. They shook hands. The professor predicted a bright future for the Grand Rapids native. Nine months later, John Hannah would drop out of law school. He planned to transfer to Michigan Agricultural College and study poultry science instead. Professor Aigler was surprised by the decision. He wished him well.

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Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten

by David J. Young, M.D.

Since the original announcement of the University of Chicago’s decision to disband its football program in late December of 1939, rumors were rampant in the press and among sports fans about potential suitors to replace the Maroons. As the amateur historian would discover, a number of programs confidentially expressed an interest in joining the organization. But only two schools, Michigan State College and the University of Pittsburgh, made any effort at actively applying for membership.
 
The Spartans and Panthers had strategic reasons, unique to each institution, for seeking the seat ultimately vacated by Chicago. Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten is about the roles university administrators, academicians and athletic leaders at various Midwest institutions-Notre Dame, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois-played in either aiding or hindering those suitors.
 
Through his painstaking research, the author has successfully dispelled a widely held myth about how a mid-sized, agriculturally based land-grant college achieved its coveted prize: membership in the exclusive club. Young also discovered in letters and documents, hidden inside folders boxed on shelves within 13 archives, that many of those highly respected university leaders, as well as the first two conference commissioners, were not opposed to using suspect tactics-rumors, twisted truth, espionage and insider scoops-to impact the intriguing course of events leading to the selection of an unpopular new member in May of 1949.