Today’s post celebrates the birthday anniversary of Mike Murphy. Michael Charles “Mike” Murphy was born on this date in 1860 in Massachusetts. Murphy was an athlete in his younger years who switched to coaching as an adult. He coached at Yale from 1887 until 1889 before he was lured away by the Detroit Athletic Club. His specialty was track sprinters although the Bentley Library linked below talks about his success with boxer John L. Sullivan. In 1891 Michigan’s Athletic Association secured Murphy’s services on a part-time basis while he still worked at the Detroit Athletic Club.
According to the Bentley Library, “Murphy and Frank Crawford are considered Michigan’s first football coaches.” The Bentley article states that Murphy was brought in to “get the team in shape to turn over to a coach.”
Apparently, Murphy worked as a volunteer coach and trainer. It appears that Murphy may have organized Michigan’s football team, conducted pre-season training and possibly coached one game against Ann Arbor High School on October 10, 1891. Frank Crawford, a law student at Michigan, wasn’t appointed as Michigan’s first football coach by the Athletic Association until October 15, 1891. It is unclear if Crawford was actually coaching the team before he was officially appointed to the job.
So, maybe Murphy coached that first game and co-coached the rest of the season. It should be noted that Crawford served as a player/coach, so Mr. Murphy may have done the “coaching” when Crawford was on the field. Or, maybe he just worked on pre-season conditioning so that Crawford could coach the team up on “football” strategies. Interestingly, Mike Murphy is listed as the “Trainer” for the 1891 team and Crawford is listed as the coach.
Regardless of what really happened, both men had short tenures on the sidelines at Michigan. Neither man returned, in any capacity, for the 1892 football season. Both men were “one and done” contributors to Michigan Football History.
Of course, the first season of “coaches” did not go well for the Wolverines. They finished their first nine game season with a record of 4 wins and 5 losses.
Of course, I wouldn’t be talking about Mike Murphy today if he didn’t have some “firsts” that connect him to Michigan football. Check these out!
- Mike Murphy was the first co-coach or athletic trainer in Michigan football history.
- Mike Murphy was on the sidelines (in some capacity) for Michigan’s first, and only, game against Ann Arbor High School on October 10, 1891.
- Mike Murphy was on the sidelines for the first and only loss in program history to Albion.
- Mike Murphy was associated with the first nine game season in Michigan football history.
- Murphy was associated with the first five loss season in Michigan football history.
- Mike Murphy was associated with the first team to lose twice to the same team in one season. (Cornell beat Michigan on 11/21/1891 in Detroit and 11/28/1891 in Chicago.
- Mike Murphy was associated with the first team to allow 58 points on defense in a 12-58 loss to Cornell on 11/21/1891.
Mike Murphy stayed at the Detroit Athletic Club until 1892. He returned to Yale where he coached track and served as the trainer for the Bulldog football team. He also coached at the University of Pennsylvania. Murphy coached track athletes in three different Olympics (1900, 1908 and 1912). He was one of the most respected track coaches in America when he died in Philadelphia on June 4, 1913.
So, today is a great day to remember the contributions of Mike Murphy. Of course, most of his best work was done outside of Ann Arbor, but he was still an important part of the growth and development of Michigan football. Thanks to Mike Murphy for his work at Michigan. May he always rest in peace! Go Blue!