Before UM's 'intent to deceive' there was the Lonesome End
Ann Arbor – The questions at Monday's Michigan football news conference had moved on, but Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had not.
Harbaugh was asked about a current player, but his mind was working on something else.
"The Lonesome End! You ever heard of the Lonesome End?" he asked, smiling.
There were some blank looks in response until Harbaugh finally was asked about the Lonesome End.
"Played for Army, became famous in 1958," Harbaugh said, enthusiastically. "He would stand out wide. So that's out of football apparently."
There was another pause.
"Red Blaik was the (Army) coach," Harbaugh said, completing the quick football history lesson.
Harbaugh has made it clear he was offended by the unsportsmanlike penalty for what was called "intent to deceive" on a play against Rutgers last Saturday. Michigan was on its 18-yard line, broke the huddle, and tight end Jake Butt headed toward the sideline, seemingly for a substitution. Butt lined up wide and quarterback Jake Rudock found him wide open for a big gain.
"They said it wasn't an attempt to deceive, it was an attempt to confuse," Harbaugh said Monday, when asked if he received clarification from the Big Ten office. "I take the rules very seriously. There's no rule in the rulebook you can say we broke."
In fact, Harbaugh asked for an interpretation from the Big Ten officials several weeks ago regarding the play.
"And followed it to the best of our ability," he said.
So back to the Lonesome End. While Harbaugh touched on it, Bill Gunlock was able to offer detail. Gunlock, a former teammate at Miami of Ohio and lifelong friend of legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, was on the Army coaching staff as coordinator in 1958 and helped design the offense around the formation that Blaik had created.
Army player Bill Carpenter became the Lonesome End who split out wide, as Butt did last Saturday, giving the defense headaches.
Gunlock, 87, laughed when he heard Harbaugh used the play. Gunlock had recruited Harbaugh's father, Jack Harbaugh, to Bowling Green, and assumes Harbaugh became aware of the old play from his dad.
"When I heard Jim saying something about it, he wasn't even in this world yet (when the play was created)," Gunlock said, laughing, during a phone interview Tuesday. "He had to know about it from Jack."
Gunlock described how the Lonesome End captured the nation's attention as the Cadets went unbeaten and were ranked No. 3 nationally.
"In that offense, he never came back to the huddle," Gunlock said. "The hash marks were wider than today, and he had to line up inside or on the hash mark until the huddle broke and he could go clear to the sideline. It was very unique. We sent signals to the wing back, to Pete Dawkins (Royal Oak native and Cranbrook graduate). The part I added, which we used to beat Notre Dame, the wing back went in motion the other way. In my mind that was the start of the spread offense."
It was a menace to defenses.
"They never figured it out," Gunlock said. "We were telling people after the season how it was done. We all copy from each other, modify, and call ourselves good coaches."
Coaches apparently borrow sayings, as well, and he laughed again when he heard Jim Harbaugh use one of them during an interview. Gunlock said Schembechler had visited with Kentucky coach Blanton Collier so that Collier could show him how they get into power-producing angles.
"So I picked it up," Gunlock said. "I go to West Point and I'm telling the players, 'Aim for the crest of the ilium!' just above the hip bone. I almost spit when I heard Jim (Harbaugh) say that. I'm sure Jim learned that from Jack, and this came from Bo."