The Players

There were many people involved in this intricate story revolving around the two books. Here are a few the reader will encounter in Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten and The Student and His Professor.


Ralph William Aigler

University of Michigan Law Professor Aigler played a critical role in Michigan State’s quest for membership in the Western Conference. The long-serving Wolverine faculty representative was extremely influential in conference politics. If Michigan State College wanted to gain the seat vacated by the University of Chicago, it would require Aigler’s support. And therein lay the challenge for President John Hannah. Professor Aigler, for various reasons, was no friend of Michigan State College. Portrait courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


John Alfred Hannah

Following two years at Grand Rapids Community College and one year at the University of Michigan Law School, a disgruntled and financially strapped John Hannah would transfer to Michigan Agricultural College in the fall of 1922. After graduating in the spring with a degree in poultry science, the 21 year old would assume a position in the agricultural extension service at the college. His propensity for leadership soon became evident. By the mid-1930s Hannah was promoted to secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, the governing body for the college. In that role he served as de-facto chief operating officer of Michigan State. Six years later Hannah assumed the presidency of his alma mater. Over the next three decades he would  direct the transition of an agricultural-based institution into a major research university with an outreach about the globe. Photograph courtesy of Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections


Herbert Orin “Fritz” Crisler

The Wolverine head coach and long-serving athletic director was an amateur purist in the same mold as Faculty Representative Ralph Aigler.  His affiliation with the university and his association with Aigler assured him a powerful voice within the Western Conference throughout the 1940s. In addition to proving a savvy politician among his administrative colleagues, Crisler also fared well as a gridiron tactician. His 1947 team won the mythical National Championship. Photograph courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Alexander Grant Ruthven

President Ruthven led the University of Michigan from 1929 through 1951. During those two decades, the renowned zoologist would defer to his Board in Control of Athletics on all intercollegiate policy decisions. But in March of 1946, President Ruthven would overturn board policy on one politically sensitive issue involving a a state institution located only two miles from the state Capitol. He offered his support for Michigan State’s plan to gain admission into the Western Conference. Ruthven’s two athletic board leaders, Ralph Aigler and Herbert Crisler, had no choice but to stand behind their boss-at least in public! Portrait courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Frederick Cowles Jenison

A graduate of the State Agricultural College, Jenison would one day bequeath the school an estate valued at over $600,000. The gift, the largest ever received by MSC at the time, would finance a fieldhouse as well as numerous college projects for many years. It also provided dollars-the controversial Jenison Awards-necessary to steer talented football players towards East Lansing and away from Ann Arbor. The grants, in the immediate post war years, were critical to Michigan State becoming a national football power by the early 1950s. Portrait courtesy of Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections


Governor Harry Kelly

The Notre Dame graduate (’17) and leader of the State of Michigan (1943-47) was close friends with both Father John Cavanaugh and President John Hannah. Due to his personal interest in resuming the old Irish-Spartan rivalry, the governor was privy to their confidential discussions. The former prosecuting attorney played a major role in the two schools consummating the “Spaghetti and Meatball” contract of October 1946.  Portrait courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Archives 


James Lewis Morrill

The president of the University of Minnesota was a very close friend of John Hannah. It was the Morrill Plan, as revised in the late spring of 1948, which proved critical to the Spartans achieving their goal of membership in the Big Nine. Four decades later, in 1987, the Council of Ten presidents and chancellors would essentially adopt his plan. The university leaders would assume control over all decisions pertaining to membership-a duty of the faculty representatives since the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives was founded in 1896. University of Minnesota Archives, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities



Henry Dirks

Unbeknownst to then Secretary of the College John Hannah, Engineering Dean Henry Dirks consummated a very lucrative contract with consultant Claud Erickson without a signature. The “handshake” agreement would indirectly lay the groundwork for Erickson’s booster club—one that would greatly embarrass the college years later. (MSU Archives and Historical Collections)




Edgar-HardenEdgar Harden

As the Spartans’ faculty representative, he was deputized by President Hannah to clean up the mess at MSC in the aftermath of the 1953 Spartan Foundation probation. He earned kudos for his exceptional performance. In 1978, MSU’s Board of Trustees would call him back home to serve as interim president of the university until a replacement was found. (MSU Archives & Historical Collections)




Claud R. Erickson

His booster club, the Spartan Foundation, was accused of funneling laundered money to former Jenison Award student athletes with residual eligibility, a major violation of Big Ten rules. (Department of Engineering, MSU)





Howard-Remus-SmithHoward Remus Smith

The distinguished 1895 graduate of The State Agricultural College played a major role in the first ‘name change’ battle of ‘54, in large part due to his friendship with a prominent law professor from Ann Arbor named Aigler. (MSU Archives & Historical Collections)






G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams

The governor’s Paul Bunyan Trophy proposal was a political campaign ploy to keep him in the public’s eye—and hopefully gain him some votes among loyal MSC/UM graduates. In hindsight, the liberal Democrat probably lost some voter support, at least in Ann Arbor. Most Wolverines vehemently opposed the idea. (Bentley Historical Library)





E. Blythe Stason

The UM Law School dean maintained a pivotal role in the name change battles of ’54 and ’55. His wise counsel to President Hatcher ultimately led to armistice—and a rare defeat for the Wolverines in a contest far removed from the gridiron. (Bentley Historical Library)






Kenneth “Tug” Wilson

The one-time Northwestern athletic director successfully politicked for leadership of the Big Ten following Commissioner John Griffith’s death. Within a few years, Wilson probably questioned why he ever left Evanston. (The Big Ten Conference)