Today’s post celebrates the happy birthday anniversary of Charles Baird. Charles A. Baird was born in Vanceburg, Kentucky on this date in 1870. Yes, 1870, as in a very, very long time ago Although Charles Baird never played a down on the Michigan football team, he was responsible for much of Michigan’s football success from 1898 to 1909. Charles Baird was the first “Superintendent of Athletics” in the history of the University of Michigan. Baird, along with Coach Fielding H. Yost, put Michigan football in the national spotlight at the turn of the century and kept it there for almost a decade.
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. He 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. Thank you – Charles Baird for putting Michigan athletics, especially football, on the map at the turn of the twentieth century. May you always rest in peace. Go Blue!