By TOM SHANAHAN
The sexual harassment charge against former Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker dropped a nuclear bomb on the program, leaving a plethora of issues to resolve. We face months of dealing with the aftermath.
I’ll leave to others dissecting X’s and O’s for the remaining eight games, the transfer portal impact, the 2024 recruiting class and the impeding litigation over firing Tucker. Same with listing names of leading candidates to take over program.
My bailiwick, as many of you know, is Michigan State’s football history, particularly under College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty. His 1960s teams changed the face of the sport with its first fully integrated rosters. And before the Underground Railroad, his teams were known for its Hawaiian Pipeline.
But before I get into my concern Michigan State will hire another Denny Stolz, Darryl Rogers or John L. Smith – coaches with either no understanding or appreciation of Michigan State’s transcendent history – allow me to get the disbelief I feel off my chest after having watched Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa beat the Spartans for the second straight year. Tagovailoa and his older brother Tua are Samoans who grew up in Hawaii. When Tua committed to Alabama out Honolulu St. Louis in 2017, the family moved from Hawaii to Alabama (yes, you read that correctly).
Michigan State abandoned Duffy’s Hawaii Pipeline that was accepted in the islands, particularly the 1966 season. The identity was as sure as the sun rises over Diamondhead. Or, these days, as sure as thongs will be out in full force on Waikiki Beach – and I don’t mean the kind worn on feet.
In all, there were 10 players riding the Hawaiian Pipeline to Michigan State under Duffy from 1955 through 1974.
My guess is Tagovailoa and other Polynesian players from Hawaii across college football have no idea about Michigan State’s history in paradise. Not a clue Hawaii football fans adopted Duffy’s teams as their own in the 1960s. That’s not his fault, of course. Michigan State abandoned Duffy’s foothold as the first college coach with a network tapping Polynesian talent when Hawaii was a sleepy football talent outpost.
Now, the islands produce national award winners. Oregon quarterback Marcua Mariotta of Honolulu St. Louis won the 2015 Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o of Honolulu Punahou was the 2012 Heisman runner-up while also winning the other Heisman, the Maxwell Award. Now, Michigan State is on the outside looking in.
Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te’o played at Punahou for coach Kale Ane, who was one of Duffy Daugherty’s Hawaiian Pipeline players, 1972-74. Michigan State coaches have failed to capitalize on the program’s ties to Hawaii.
The 1965 Spartans won the Big Ten title to advance to the Rose Bowl. Look Magazine — a pictorial journal that was to Life what Newsweek was to Time — included a spread on Duffy’s three Hawaiians the week of the Rose Bowl: fullback Bob Apisa, college football’s first Samoan All-American player whom Duffy recruited out of Honolulu Farrington; Dick Kenney, the Irish-Hawaiian All-Big Ten kicker from Honolulu Iolani; and Charlie Wedemeyer, a German-Hawaiian quarterback/receiver/holder from Honolulu Punahou.
They were back for the 1966 season and the Game of the Century that matched unbeaten Notre Dame at unbeaten Michigan State on November 19, 1966. A record TV audience of 33 million tuned into the game. Included in those numbers were fans in the state of Hawaii. The Game of the Century, thanks to new space-age technology, was the first live broadcast of a football game to Hawaii.
But to set up the Game of the Century, No. 2-ranked Michigan State needed a comeback at Ohio State to remain unbeaten. The Spartans escaped an upset with an 11-8 win. All 11 points were scored by Duffy’s Hawaii recruits – Kenney, field goal; Apisa, touchdown; and Wedemeyer, a two-point conversion pass from Kenney on a fake PAT. The Spartans trailed 8-3 before Apisa scored on a fourth-and-1 dive into the end zone.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s headline: “Hawaiians 11, Ohio State 8.”
All of that history began to be lost after Duffy retired following the 1972 season and Stolz was hired as his successor, 1973-75. One of the Stolz’s first moves was to sever the Hawaiian Pipeline. He told Arnold Morgado, a running back from Punahou, he was switching him to linebacker. He told Morgado since he didn’t plan to recruit Hawaii, he was unconcerned the move would alienate Hawaii’s high school coaches.
Morgado chose to return home for the 1974 season, the University of Hawaii’s first as a Division I program. He went on to play five NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs as a running back.
“When you come from a Duffy Daugherty recruiting experience and then run into a Denny Stolz at such a young, it makes a tremendous impact,” said Morgado in “Raye of Light,” Chapter 14, Page 172. “I refused to switch, but he wasn’t going to play me anyway. I wouldn’t waste a second breath on Denny, but I will talk to anybody about how great Duffy was.”
Rogers, 1976-79, came from California with a reputation for the passing game and an expectation he’d recruit the West Coast talent pool. It didn’t happen. By the he won the 1978 Big Ten co-title with Stolz’ players, he had alienated Michigan’s high school coaches. He left the cupboard bare before bolted for Arizona State.
Muddy Waters, a Michigan State player under Biggie Munn when Duffy was an assistant, recognized the Hawaiian history when he recruited Carter Kamana (1980-84) out of Honolulu Kamehameha. But Muddy wasn’t the right man to lead a program that was suffering budget cuts in the 1970s — cuts that allowed Ohio State and Michigan to soar while Michigan State regressed.
George Perles liked to portray himself as Duffy’s son, but he put his own ego over his paying homage to Duffy’s legacy.
What do I mean by that? At North Carolina, Roy Williams, a Dean Smith assistant, went on to win four NCAA titles – one at Kansas and three upon returning to North Carolina, his alma mater. Dean won only two NCAA titles. But don’t dare suggest to Ol’ Roy he was more successful than Dean or his legacy is in the same stratosphere as Smith. He’d cut that question off before it was finished.
George Perles was no Ol Roy. He let the program slide in a power struggle to wedge NFL jobs for money and to serve as both head coach and athletic director. George exaggerated his relationship with Duffy as if he was a son, while Williams portrayed Smith as a mentor and father figure. There’s a difference.
And then we had John L. Smith getting into a spat with Hawaii coach June Jones when the teams played in 2004 and 2005. When Michigan State’s basketball played at Hawaii in December 2005 and players suffered cramps, the Hawaii fans booed. They booed a Michigan State team. Duffy must have rolled over in his grave.
Imagine Ohio State coaches and athletic directors not understanding Woody Hayes’ legacy (the winning, not hitting players or opponents) or Michigan not promoting the history of Bo Schembechler (the winning, not looking the other way when over the sexual abuse by a team doctor on his players).
That’s what Michigan State allowed to happen with both its Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty legacies. And they don’t have shameful personal episodes in their histories to serve as a “yeah, but …”
And don’t use the excuse it’s too expensive to recruit Hawaii. Duffy’s eyes and ears were Hawaiian football legend Tommy Kaulukukui. He’s no longer with us, but Duffy’s players living in Hawaii — particularly Kale Ane and Kamana — are willing to play Kaulukukui’s role. Ane coached Te’o at Punahou, where Ane won three sta0te titles.
“There are a lot of us who would like to see Michigan State recruit Hawaii,” said Ane on Page 178 of Raye of Light.
To make my point Michigan State has failed to understand its own history, I’ve used this illustration before, and I’ll use it again. Two Michigan State national caliber women’s golfers, Katie Lu and Brooke Biermann, have done NIL messages to help me promote my books on Duffy’s leadership driving college football integration. When Katie learned Duffy’s history, she told me:
“I go into the Duffy building every day, and I didn’t know any of this.”
It’s not your fault, Katie.
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055.
Click here for my story on the 1962 Rose Bowl and Segregation awarded first place by the Football Writers Association of America. I tell untold stories on Michigan State’s leading role and the true pioneers of college football integration. Click here to read a summary.
Click here to purchase The Right Thing To Do
THE RIGHT THING TO DO
The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s
Foreword by Ruffin McNeill
Click here to purchase Raye of Light.
RAYE OF LIGHT
Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1ntegration of College Football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans
Foreword by Tony Dungy