(Note – Director Charles Baird is shown here with the 1907 Michigan Football Team. He is in the back row and is the last man on the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Charles Baird enrolled at the University of Michigan’s Law Department in 1890. During his years on campus he found time to serve as a “Manager” of the Michigan football team from 1893 to 1895. During his “manager” years, Michigan won 24, lost 5 and tied 1. He supported the coaches and players and it helped produce some excellent results on the field.
Baird left Michigan for a few years after graduation, but was asked to return in 1898. He was given full control over the finances and administration of all athletic programs at Michigan. During his twelve-year tenure, Baird hired the best people he could find and gave them the support they needed to field competitive teams in every sport. He also did everything he could to increase revenues and showcase the excellent teams that Michigan was producing on the football field, the track, and other venues as well. He was part business man and part showman. He was also a shrewd negotiator who scheduled some very favorable games and events for Michigan’s teams. The results were nothing short of spectacular!
When Baird returned to Ann Arbor in 1898, the Athletic Fund was three-thousand dollars in the hole. When he left, ample funds were available to support a growing athletic program and the infrastructure was in place to support Michigan’s coaches and athletes.
I could write a book about the contributions and achievements of Charles A. Baird. Obviously, there is no time for that today. I would like to highlight some of his important “first” contributions to Michigan football.
· Charles A. Baird was the first “Athletic Director” in the history of The University of Michigan.
· Charles Bair negotiated favorable terms with Amos Alonzo Stagg at Chicago and was on board to enjoy Michigan’s first Western Conference Championship in 1898.
· Charles Baird’s first coaching hire was Langdon “Bif” Lea who only stayed for one season and produced a record of 7-2-1 in 1900. His second hire, Fielding Yost did a little bit better!
· Baird’s second hire (Yost) produced Michigan’s first eleven-win season and the first national championship in school history (1901).
· Baird negotiated Michigan’s first Rose Bowl game and Yost won it in January 1902
· Charles Baird was responsible for building the first “football only” field/stadium at Michigan in 1906 which was named Ferry Field.
· An irate Baird gained the support of the Board of Regents so that Michigan could be the first team to leave the Western Conference over conference restrictions on games, tickets prices, coaching hires, player eligibility and other issues in 1908.
Charles Baird’s vision and business acumen allowed him to build facilities and produce football teams that set attendance records almost every year. He knew that the popularity of college football was growing every year. Baird also knew that a successful football team could do wonders for school spirit and the bottom line!
So, today is a great day to remember Michigan’s first athletic director Charles Baird. He set the bar at a very high level for all Michigan athletic directors who followed him. Baird’s contributions to the success of Michigan football are legendary. A belated Thank you to Charles Baird for putting Michigan athletics, especially football, on the map at the turn of the twentieth century. May he always Rest In Peace. Go Blue!
For only the second time this month, we only have one event on the calendar today. Actually, it happens to be one of my favorites. Today, is National Popcorn Day! Yes, if you need a reason to have popcorn, you have one! Go Blue!
The Legend of Bo Schembechler is a football love story. Millions of Michigan football fans loved Bo Schembechler almost as much as he loved The University of Michigan. This insightful book details how “Bo Who” simply became “Bo” to Wolverine Nation and to college football fans across the country and around the world. It details Bo’s twenty-one-year journey to bring Michigan Football back to national prominence and how he kept it there!
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