May 13, 2017 – Rest in Peace William Allen!

Michigan Football Team 1898 |
William Allen was a member of the 1898 Michigan Wolverine Western Conference Champions. He is not pictured with the team because he didn’t play enough to earn a letter. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Today’s post celebrates the memory of William Allen who went to rest in peace on this day in 1907. He was only thirty-years old when he died. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, William L. Allen was born in Iowa in 1877. So, yes, the story of this Wolverine “Pigskin Pioneer” goes way, way back to the nineteenth century! 

William Allen Michigan Football 1899 |

William Allen was a member of the 1897 and 1898 Michigan Football teams. He didn’t earn a letter, but this “Pigskin Pioneer” is still an important part of Wolverine Football History. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

William Allen began his studies at Notre Dame, but came to Ann Arbor in 1897 to study law. According to the 1987 Michigan Football Roster, Allen was a “reserve” on the 1897 team. He did not play any varsity games that season and did not earn a letter on the Michigan team that finished the season with a record of 6-1-1. The Wolverines ended with a record of 2 wins and 1 loss which was only good enough for third place in the Western Conference.

Allen came back for more football in 1898 and may have started three games (Michigan State Normal, Kenyon College and Illinois). Unfortunately, he did not earn a letter in 1898. The good news was that he was a part of Michigan’s first Western Conference Championship team that year. The Wolverines were perfect (10-0-0) for the season and finished with a record of 3 wins and 0 losses in the conference to claim the undisputed title!

William Allen continued his association with Michigan Football in 1899, but in a different way. Apparently, he coached the reserves that year and did not practice with the varsity. Allen was connected to the Michigan Football program for all three years of his time in Ann Arbor. He graduated from Michigan with his law degree in 1900.

Although he is not a “famous” Wolverine, William Allen in connected with some Michigan Football “firsts.” Here are some of the best ones that I found for William Allen:  

·         Played on the first team of the Gustave Ferbert Era in Ann Arbor in 1897.

·         Member of the first team to play Ohio State, Ohio Weslayan in 1897.

·         Played in the first games against Beloit College, Illinois, Kenyon College, Michigan Agricultural and Western Reserve.

·         Member of the 1898 team that was the first Michigan team to win the Western Conference championship and win ten games. 

So, today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. William L. Allen was definitely a “Pigskin Pioneer” in the days when Michigan football really started to become a powerhouse team in the Midwest. Now, one hundred and nineteen years later, Michigan Wolverine football is still going STRONG! Thanks to William Allen for his contributions to the great history of Michigan football. May he always rest in peace. Go Blue!


Barry Gallagher

Barry Gallagher

Barry Gallagher is a self-proclaimed Michigan Football Archeologist. He spends a considerable amount of his time digging into the 138-year history of Wolverine Football. He is on a mission to share his findings with Maize and Blue football fans everywhere. He is the author of one book about Michigan Football titled "21-194-13 Michigan Football's Greatest Era". His second book titled, "The Legend of Bo Schembechler-How an Unknown Buckeye Became the Winningest Coach in Michigan Football History" was released on September 12, 2017. You can learn something about Michigan Football everyday by going to his website at: You can also follow him on Social Media.
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