BTN is Getting into the Sports Documentary Game with 'Tiebreaker,' the Story of the 1973 Ohio State–Michigan Game that Ended in a Tie
Great news, people that love to watch good television.
BTN is getting into the feature-length sports documentary game – the same game ESPN's "30 for 30" series has done so well in – and will kick things off with Tiebreaker, examining the aftermath of the controversial 10-10 tie between Ohio State and Michigan in 1973, sending the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl after a vote of Big Ten athletic directors.
Tiebreaker features rare archival footage and interviews with student-athletes, coaches and administrators. The film includes drama and excitement from the battle on the gridiron, featuring audio from legendary Michigan radio announcer Bob Ufer, as well as details surrounding the controversial vote.
The film also includes footage from an historic dinner BTN convened for key contributors from Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes and Schembechler’s Wolverines for each side’s perspective. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, 1973 Heisman Trophy runner-up John Hicks, Buckeye signal caller Cornelius Greene, linebacker Randy Gradishar, defensive back Steve Luke and offensive lineman Steve Myers represented Ohio State. Quarterback Dennis Franklin, co-captain Dave Gallagher, fullbacks Ed Shuttlesworth and Bob Thornbladh, kicker Mike Lantry and defensive lineman Don Warner represented Michigan.
The program will air at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16.
At the time, the Big Ten only sent one team to the postseason each year and the 6-4 vote to send the 10-0-1 Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl over the 10-0-1 Wolverines was that era's announcement of "Legends and Leaders." Michael Rosenberg's book War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and America in a Time of Unrest, provides a pretty good account of that tumultious weekend, and it's fascinating.
Michigan, undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the country, had thoroughly outplayed Ohio State, then the nation's No. 1 team, even if the score didn't reflect that. Following the game, Woody Hayes attempted to swat a photographer, knowing his team needed the win to go to the Rose Bowl and play for a national championship. He was quoted in the postgame press conference saying as much.
Since the teams finished tied on the scoreboard, in conference and overall, a vote of the league's 10 athletic directors would determine the Big Ten's Rose Bowl participant. Ohio State had gone the previous season and although the league had abolished it's "no-repeat" rule, the spirit remained. And because the Buckeyes had gone to Pasadena more recently, Michigan needed just a 5-5 split in the vote.
Five of the athletic directors had either played or coached at Michigan and Schembechler felt so good about his team's performance that he told reporters that he'd vote the Wolverines No. 1 in his Coaches Poll ballot. He wasn't alone – the Ann Arbor News headlined Sunday's paper with "It Smells Like Roses!"
When the vote did come in, it shocked everyone. Athletic directors from Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana voted for the Wolverines. Meanwhile, Ohio State received votes from Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan State, and of course, OSU athletic director Ed Weaver.
Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin suffered a broken collarbone in the game and some believe that factored into the vote of Big Ten athletic directors – the thought being that the conference wanted to send the team with the best chance of beating its Pac-8 opponent. Michigan partisans weren't having any of that, however, with many thinking Michigan State was paying the Wolverines back for working to prevent the Spartans from joining the Big Ten two decades earlier. Northwestern was even fingered as a suspect because Michigan athletic director Don Canham had killed a stadium lease plan Northwestern had been working on with the Chicago Bears.
Two days after the game, Schembechler, speaking at the Ann Arbor Touchdown Club, told the audience, "A great wrong has been done to these kids. I wouldn’t trust the older generation either. All they do is scurry around worrying about themselves. The players don’t factor into it at all."
He was crying when he said it.
Ohio State would go on to throttle USC 42-21 in the 1974 Rose Bowl, but the events of that weekend still cut deep for those involved on the Michigan side.
For more, here's footage of that game: