Memories from 1969: The Den of Mellow Men, View from the Sideline

Nov. 17, 2009

Saturday's meeting with Ohio State marks the 40th anniversary of Michigan's 1969 win over the top-ranked Buckeyes in Bo Schembechler's first season as head coach. All week on, former players and Bo himself share memories of that season and the memorable November upset, leading up to Michigan's pivotal regular-season finale with the Buckeyes in the Big House.

"The Den of Mellow Men"
Billy Taylor / 1969-71 Letterman

When I came to Michigan, I was part of the largest collection of black athletes ever at the school on scholarship. A close bond formed among us -- Thom Darden, Reggie McKenzie, Butch Carpenter, Mike Oldham, Glenn Doughty and me. We were all roommates in a house on campus that was called the Den of Mellow Men.

That was the time of the Black Action Movement and Vietnam protests, but Bo wanted us to stay out of politics. And we vowed we were going to be part of a championship team together. That fit well with what Bo was planning in '69 and he kept telling us we were going to beat the Buckeyes.

The Den of Mellow Men were all starters as sophomores and to this day I have never seen a team come together like we did for that Ohio State game. We expected a long oration from Bo before the game, but he just turned the bill of his cap to the back and said "our own newspapers are saying our chances of winning this game are slim and none."

Then, Bo said: "We are going to go out there and kick their ass!"

You had to be a real man to get out of the Michigan locker room that day and when we took the field, no one felt their feet touch the ground. What a great team game we played that day!

"The View from the Sideline"
Jim Brandstatter / 1969-71 Letterman

The '69 Michigan-Ohio State game is something I will always remember. We were going to the Rose Bowl no matter what happened against the Buckeyes, but we knew we were going to win that game. The rest is history.

As a team, we were probably the only ones who believed we could win ... I don't think the students did and I know my brother in East Lansing didn't ... and just recently, assistant coach Gary Moeller told me that our attitude as a team finally convinced the coaches on Thursday before the game that we were going to win.

I left the locker room that day and my feet never touched the ground. You cannot explain it to anyone, you can only feel it. I didn't play a down that day; yet, I knew I was part of something special. Maybe that's when the tradition of Michigan really hit me, but on that Saturday against Ohio State, I became a lifetime card-carrying member.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the gameday program at Michigan Stadium, featuring a commemorative section on Michigan's unforgettable win 40 years ago.

Previous Entries: Those Who Stayed Were Champions (11/16/09)

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