Club History

 

The Association Between Football, Telegraphy, and Broadcasting at the University of Michigan
Provided by the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club; W8UM

Picture of Brown Jug

In 1903, radio, television, or methods to amplify a telephone conversation did not exist and
communication across distances depending primarily upon the use of telegraphy.

On October 31, 1903, the University of Michigan Football Team traveled to Minnesota to
play the Gophers. Both teams were undefeated and competing for the “Champion of the West”
Trophy. Fielding Yost, concerned that the Gophers would “provide” contaminated water, had his
equipment manager, Tommy Roberts, purchase a 5-gallon jug and fill the jug with water.

The game ended in a 6-6 tie with Minnesota scoring during the final seconds. Yost, in a hurry
to catch the train to Chicago accidently left the jug behind on the playing field. Later, when Yost
inquired about the jug, Minnesota is claimed to have said “if you want it, you’ll have to come up and
win it”. Six years later Michigan returned, beating the Gophers 15 to 6, and took back its jug.

Floyd “Jack” Mattice, an University of Michigan Law student, recognized the importance of
this game. Jack, who had experience as a telegraph operator, traveled to Minnesota to telegraph
the play-by-play, of the game, to the telegraph operators on campus. Taking turns, these telegraph
operators would decode the Jack’s messages and then announced the events of the game to the
5000 students seated in University Hall. This event marked the first time that Michigan students
could hear a football game “live” as opposed to reading the events of the game the following day in
the Michigan Daily.

This October 31, 1903 football game marked the beginnings of “sports broadcasting” (Jack
Mattice as the first football broadcaster) and competition for the “Little Brown Jug”, the oldest
trophy in college football. Floyd “Jack” Mattice would have a successful career as an attorney
working for the United States Justice Department while latter defending Japan in the 1945 Tokyo
War Trials.

The development of “wireless telegraphy” by Professors Augustus Trowbridge and Henry S.
Carhart, at the University of Michigan, has origins dating back to 1898.

Written by John Palmisano, KB8OIS

 

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