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Gerald Ford’s jersey number among those ‘unretired’ by Michigan

Gerald Ford

A little less than two decades after it was retired, the jersey number worn by a man whose post-Michigan exploits made him famous will be put back into circulation this season.

Speaking to a radio station in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday morning, Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke confirmed that jersey No. 48, previously worn by former UM offensive lineman and ex-President of the United States Gerald R. Ford, will be issued this year.  Just who will wear the jersey was not divulged by Hoke.

The number was retired in 1994 and is one of five to be bestowed with that honor.  The family of Ford, who died in 2006, was consulted prior to making the decision.

Instead of having a retired number, Ford’s No. 48 will be emblazoned with a “Michigan Football Legend” patch, similar to what the school did with Desmond Howard’s No. 21 last season.

“I think it’s a much better way to memorialize and honor those folks,” athletic director David Brandon had told the Detroit News. “In making the decision in how to do this going forward, I have consulted with people who follow the program and consider themselves experts. I would simply say, ‘Name the numbers and the players that have been retired.’ They may name one or two, but they can’t name all five.”

In addition to Ford, the other four numbers belonged to Tom Harmon (98), Bennie Oosterbaan (47), the Wistert Brothers (11), Ron Kramer (87).  The school has also had conversations with the family members of those players, although there’s no word on if/when those numbers will be put back into circulation.

(Photo credit: Michigan athletics)

UPDATED 8:32 a.m. ET: Michigan has also announced that the jersey numbers of Kramer and Oosterbaan will be put back into circulation as well.

“The success and acceptance of the Desmond Howard ‘Legend’ recognition led to conversations with the family members who had retired jerseys, several of whom were never recognized or celebrated in the appropriate manner,” Brandon said in a statement. “The Ford, Kramer and Oosterbaan families want to see their family member honored in this way.

“This program is about tradition and legacy and this is a unique way to recognize these great Wolverines.”

Brandon also clarified that there have been no discussions with the families of Harmon and and the Wistert brothers about unretiring those numbers.

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26 Responses to “Gerald Ford’s jersey number among those ‘unretired’ by Michigan”
  1. sportfan23 says: Jun 13, 2012 8:24 AM

    So is it 48 or 46? Can’t be both I’m guessing.

  2. tomtravis76 says: Jun 13, 2012 8:44 AM

    It seems like an honor to have a kid wear the number of a school legend, but never having another player wear that number again is such a higher honor.

  3. jimbo75025 says: Jun 13, 2012 8:50 AM

    The man died a few years ago. Talk about kicking someone when they are down.

    Seriously though, Gerald Ford did something only a little over 40 men have done in 236 years even if he did kind of back into it and was one of the few to play college football. Leave his number retired-show some respect UM.

  4. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2012 10:25 AM

    I tend to agree with jimbo, except I don’t think his presidency should be the consideration. Jersey retirement should be based on what the person did while a member of the school’s team. I obviously wasn’t around when he played there, but from everything I’ve read, it sounds like a strong case can be made that he earned it, although it’s hard to directly compare his or Tom Harmon’s contributions to the program to, say, Woodson or Howard’s in the modern era.

    I can understand the logic of honoring his jersey number with a legend patch (or, in the other division a leader patch), but think that should be applied going forward rather than retroactively. Ideally the program would’ve left all five jersey numbers retired, and then established a committee to honor some further jersey numbers with Michigan Legend patches. As a Heisman winner, Woodson’s #2 would obviously join Howard’s #21 as a Michigan Legend number, and the committee would be able to pick a handful of others, including candidates like Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Carter, Braylon Edwards, and maybe Rick Leach. I’m sure Michigan guys could add some other names. If the problem was that these guys with retired jerseys weren’t properly recognized, hold a ceremony at each home game to retire one jersey each. They have six home games this year, so since Howard has his recognition last year, go for the five retired jerseys over the first five games, then attach the legend patch to Woodson’s number at the last one. Then next season go forward with the others who make the committee’s cut.

  5. 12strikes says: Jun 13, 2012 10:44 AM

    My understanding is that the Kenya Rugby team is going to retire Barack Obama’s number.

  6. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2012 11:04 AM

    12strikes says:
    Jun 13, 2012 10:44 AM
    My understanding is that the Kenya Rugby team is going to retire Barack Obama’s number.
    ===================================
    Oh, a batshit-crazy birther and a troll. Very nice. I suppose I could respond in turn, except factually, but that’d be just as juvenile as your post.

  7. jimbo75025 says: Jun 13, 2012 11:43 AM

    burntorangehorn says:Jun 13, 2012 10:25 AM

    I tend to agree with jimbo, except I don’t think his presidency should be the consideration. Jersey retirement should be based on what the person did while a member of the school’s team.
    —————-

    Thanks burntorange, but I think you almost have to factor in the presidency for any number of reasons. First Gerald Ford credited the lessons learned from his playing days with some of his later political works. Second, despite the beating the office as a whole has taken in the last two decades or so, the presidency is still the most prestigious job in the world in a sense and would highlight the NCAA and UM dedication to excellence on and off the field. Third, numbers are retired for athletes on a regular basis who may not really deserve it based solely on their performance on the field due to a variety of factors. Arizona retired Pat Tillmans number-while he was a solid pro player, off the field events determined that. Other colleges have defacto retired numbers of players who were injured and served as inspirations, etc.

    While I know UM is in a completely different class, we are talking about 5 numbers here-not 50% of possible jerseys. I liked the suggestion someone had of patches going forward, but to me, once someone is given the honor of having their number retired it should stay that way unless the person does something incredibly horrid later in life(see Simpson, OJ) and not just because the school changes the policy 40 years later. That would be like my college taking away my diploma because they instituted a new course requirement effective today that was not present when I graduated.

  8. 12strikes says: Jun 13, 2012 12:38 PM

    @burntorangehorn
    Not not a birther, just a person putting out a comparison between 2 one term Presidents.
    And…
    “I suppose I could respond in turn..” actually you did.

  9. Deb says: Jun 13, 2012 1:06 PM

    @12strikes …

    This is a story about Michigan football players. It didn’t require a comparison of presidents, or snark about one-termers. For heaven’s sake, grow up.

  10. Deb says: Jun 13, 2012 1:17 PM

    Gerry Ford was a class act who spoke often of his love for Michigan and Michigan football. I’m not surprised his family would support whatever the school wants to do with regard to the jerseys.

    Retiring jersey numbers once seemed a good way to honor great players … but it was short-sighted. As years go by, there simply aren’t enough numbers to go around. I’m impressed that a program with such a storied history has retired only five jerseys. This seems like an excellent way to honor deserving former players while keeping their numbers in rotation–and reminding young players about the program’s history.

  11. dexterismyhero says: Jun 13, 2012 1:26 PM

    @12strikes…

    I thought it was funny…..I’ll leave the birthing to the women like Deb & burntorangehorn….

    For heaven’s sake ladies, lighten up.

    :>)

  12. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2012 2:06 PM

    12strikes says:
    Jun 13, 2012 12:38 PM
    @burntorangehorn
    Not not a birther, just a person putting out a comparison between 2 one term Presidents.
    And…
    “I suppose I could respond in turn..” actually you did.
    ===================================
    No, that would’ve been if I had taken a stab at a different president. At any rate, your response is also exceedingly presumptuous, and further betrays your attempts at political trolling.

  13. blueinok says: Jun 13, 2012 2:10 PM

    Being the only Eagle Scout to become president. President was also very active in the BSA. His daughter Susan lived in the Tulsa area and scouts in Tulsa would sent an invitation to President Ford to their Eagle ceremony. If President Ford was able to attend – he did. It wasn’t just that he was a great football player, or President of the US, he was just a great person. I understand both sides of the argument, I would go with the patch idea. As long as the jersey is being worn, there will sure to be mention of who wore it previously.

  14. 12strikes says: Jun 13, 2012 2:22 PM

    burntorangehorn says:
    Jun 13, 2012 2:06 PM
    12strikes says:
    Jun 13, 2012 12:38 PM
    @burntorangehorn
    Not not a birther, just a person putting out a comparison between 2 one term Presidents.
    And…
    “I suppose I could respond in turn..” actually you did.
    ===================================
    No, that would’ve been if I had taken a stab at a different president. At any rate, your response is also exceedingly presumptuous, and further betrays your attempts at political trolling.

    ==================================

    Does this constitute a response… or are you still not responding by responding to tell me your not responding?

    ——
    @dexterismyhero
    Thanks – I guess that its only funny to people that are not trying to justify why they voted for him in the first place.

  15. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2012 2:54 PM

    Apparently you don’t understand the difference between a response and a response in-turn, which isn’t surprising, considering your failed logic and ignorance of the difference between “your” and “you’re.”

    But had I been responding in turn, I would’ve said that the Iran Revolutionary Guard has announced that it will retire Ronald Reagan’s uniform.

    That, my friend, is a response in-turn.

  16. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2012 2:56 PM

    dexterismyhero says:
    Jun 13, 2012 1:26 PM
    @12strikes…

    I thought it was funny…..I’ll leave the birthing to the women like Deb & burntorangehorn….

    For heaven’s sake ladies, lighten up.
    ===============================
    Nice misogyny. That’s very awesome.

  17. 12strikes says: Jun 13, 2012 3:06 PM

    @burntorangehorn says…
    But had I been responding in turn, I would’ve said that the Iran Revolutionary Guard has announced that it will retire Ronald Reagan’s uniform.

    ====================================

    I don’t get the joke… They don’t retire uniforms, they retire numbers…If they retired uniforms they everyone would be running around naked.

  18. 12strikes says: Jun 13, 2012 3:09 PM

    @burntorangehorn:
    Oh I get it… sorry I didn’t understand you’re ignorance of the difference between uniform and number.

    Ok.. Got it now.

  19. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2012 3:21 PM

    Right, be sure to take it all literally. It’s a good thing they haven’t retired Woodson’s 2, because then no one could every wear 2, 12, 20-29, 32, 42, 52, 62, 72, 82, or 92 again. Plus, once retired, that’d be a lot of social security and medicare those numbers would be drawing, and we couldn’t have that.

  20. Deb says: Jun 13, 2012 4:43 PM

    12strikes, I didn’t justify anything. Just asked you to take your politics–no matter what they are–somewhere else. This is a football blog. Obviously “grow up” was a suggestion beyond your capability.

  21. Deb says: Jun 13, 2012 4:47 PM

    Dexter, there’s great irony in you making sexist comments on a thread about Gerald Ford. But I doubt you have enough knowledge of history to realize it.

    RIP, Mr. President.

  22. 12strikes says: Jun 13, 2012 4:53 PM

    Um @Deb..
    I’ve not be going back and forth with you… not sure why you would take offense to something that was not addressed to you, unless what I said was right.

  23. Deb says: Jun 13, 2012 6:44 PM

    12strikes …

    I say the same stuff no matter which way the jokes go. It would be better if I ignored comments like yours, but the football blog is my escape from all that lunacy. It’s like spotting a roach on your nice clean floor. You just start screaming and beating the crap out of it as a warning to the others not to invade your space ;)

  24. polegojim says: Jun 13, 2012 10:59 PM

    Michigan will treat it’s alum with class in any event and vice-versa. I don’t believe unretiring a number in this manner is disrespectful.

    Programs historically remembered for football excellence and integrity aren’t limited by any unilateral method. Their inherant atmosphere’s allow for individuality and flexibility.

    Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio, Penn State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, USC, et al

  25. kozbee says: Jun 14, 2012 9:41 AM

    Whoever gets Fords # can feel proud to say hey i wore the number to the president that cleaned up the watergate mess left by Nixon.And sure his name will go down in history as the wearer of his jersey #.Big deal huh.IMO i see no reason to bring out of retirement numbers of those retired.I feel we should all leave history hanging from the rafters alone.You might call me old school but i thought it was cool to see those numbers hanging and look at dad and ask just who they were.Its part of sports and the history of those that played the game,to me its football and all sports.So if they go with the patch will the sports announcer tell the croud about the patch or will it get buried with another name.Then someday they will take a patch off one player and give it to another,just plain dumb imo.Whoever thought of this must be snow blind.

  26. saginawspartan says: Jun 18, 2012 8:22 AM

    This is really critical, important stuff! I’m sure both of the people who give a rip will be pleased to read this waste of cyber space!

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