Rest in Peace William Wasmund!

Billy Wasmund | bigbluefootballhistory.com
Michigan Quarterback Billy Wasmund is shown here in the center of the first row. 1909 Team Photo courtesty of the Bentley Historical Library

William C. “Billy” Wasmund died on this date in 1911. He was only twenty-three years old at the time of his untimely and unusual death. More on that at the end of the article.

Billy Wasmund played quarterback for Fielding H. Yost and Michigan from 1907 to 1909. Billy came to Ann Arbor from Detroit in 1906. According to the Bentley Historical Library’s 1906 Team Roster, Wasmund was a reserve for his first year at Michigan. His entire career was played during the “Independent Years” which meant that he never played for a conference championship.

Billy Wasmund impressed Coach Yost enough to earn the right to lead the Michigan offense as a Sophomore. He led it well. The Wolverines scored in five of their six games, but they were held scoreless by a powerful team Pennsylvania in the last game of the 1907 season (Final Score 0-6). The Wolverines finished with a final record of 5-1-0 with young Wasmund at Quarterback. Wasmund’s offense averaged almost eighteen points per game (17.8) while the defense gave up only six points all season.

Wasmund’s Junior year (1908) was also very good, but not as good as 1907. He started all eight games and the Wolverines scored in six of those eight games. Offensive production went down slightly to an average of sixteen points per game. The bigger problem was the defense which allowed eighty-one points which worked out to just over ten points per game. All of Michigan’s victories were by eighteen points or less except for a 62-0 blowout over Kentucky State. The offense came up short in the last two games of the season. First they lost to eventual National Champion Pennsylvania by a score of 29-0. The season ended with a disappointing loss at Syracuse (4-28).

Billy Wasmund and the Wolverines came back strong in 1909! Wasmund started six of seven games and the offense scored at least three points in every game. Once again, the offense averaged just over sixteen points per game (16.4). However, the defense held opponents to an average of less than five points per game (4.9) so the point differentials were better than 1908.

Billy Wasmund didn’t play for any Western Conference Championships during his tenure, but he did do a good job of leading the Wolverines against the “rivals.” Look at the numbers below to see how well Wasmund and the Wolverines played against Michigan’s rivals.

Year Ohio State Michigan Agricultural Notre Dame Total
1907 Won Won Did not Play 2-0-0
1908 Won Tied Won 2-0-1
1909 Won Did not Play Lost 1-1-0
3-0-0 1-0-1 1-1-0 5-1-1

Billy Wasmund directed the Wolverine offense to at least one huge win in every season from 1907 to 1909. He led the offense to a 46-0 win over Michigan Agricultural in 1907. Again, he played his role perfectly and it showed as the Wolverines pounded Kentucky State by a score of 62-0. Finally, Wasmund and his teammates avenged a disappointing loss in 1908 when they blasted Syracuse (43-0) at Homecoming in 1909.

Wasmund’s toughest loss was probably the 1908 Pennsylvania game. Michigan lost by a score of 29-0. It was a close game in the first half, but the Quakers absolutely pummeled Michigan’s best player, Germany Schultz. The gutsy Schultz had to leave the game in the second half because the Penn players physically “beat him up.” With their Captain gone, the Wolverines just couldn’t compete. I am sure that Wasmund and his team wanted to “Win One for Schultz,” but it wasn’t meant to be.

The biggest disappointment of Billy Wasmund’s Michigan career probably came in the last game of the 1909 season. He was slated to lead his Wolverines  against Minnesota’s All-American quarterback Jack McGovern. I am sure that he would have performed well in the game. However, Minnesota, was still a Western Conference team and they hosted the game. The Gophers insisted that the Wolverines adhere to the three-year conference eligibility rule. This meant that the talented Wasmund would not be able to play since he had been on the Michigan team in 1906.  The good news is that the Wolverines returned to Minneapolis to reclaim the “Jug” that they had left in 1903. Final score: Michigan 15 Minnesota 6. Go Blue!

At the recommendation of Fielding H. Yost Billy Wasmund was hired to coach the Texas Longhorns in 1910. The twenty-two-year old Wasmund knew what he was doing and he led the Longhorns to an excellent record of 6-2-0 in 1910. Tragically, he was a sleep walker who apparently walked to his death on an October morning in 1911. The linked Wikipedia article below provides more details about his tragic death.

So, on the one hundred and fifth anniversary of his death, let us remember Billy Wasmund and his important contributions to the great history of Michigan football. You had to be pretty good player to start for Fielding Yost for three straight years, especially at quarterback. Billy Wasmund was up to the challenge and earned the respect of his legendary coach and Michigan Nation forever! Rest in peace Billy Wasmund!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Wasmund

http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1909fbt.htm

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: bigbluefootballhistory.com. You can also follow him on Social Media.
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