“Biggie” Munn 1947 to 1953 – Two National Championships and the Best Winning Percentage Ever
Clarence “Biggie” Munn was an All-American at Minnesota before replacing Charlie Bachman. Despite getting waxed 55-0 by Michigan in his debut, he quickly logged a 7-2 record in his first of 7 seasons. By 1950 Munn had the Spartan program in the Top 10 nationally with an 8-1 campaign that included victories over No. 3-ranked Michigan and Notre Dame.
He would put together back-to-back 9-0 seasons in 1951 and 1952 to go 18-0 and win two National Championships as well as National Coach of the Year Honors in 1952, beating 3 nationally-ranked opponents-Penn State, Purdue and Notre Dame.
In 1953 he would go 9-1, beat UCLA 28-20 in the Rose Bowl and push his 3-year regular season record to 27-1 and his 4-year mark to 35-2 (a 94% won-loss record).
Munn ran Michigan State’s unbeaten streak to 28 games before losing to Purdue 6-0 in 1953. In 7 seasons, his overall record would be 54-9-2 (an 85+% won-loss record, the best ever at Michigan State) and he would produce 18 All-Americans, including the great two-way tackle Don Coleman.
Following his coaching career, the legendary Biggie Munn would serve as MSU’s Athletic Director for 18 years, building the Spartans into a nationally prominent program. He was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.
“Duffy” Daugherty 1954 to 1972 – MSU’s Most Popular Coach Wins Two National Championships
Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty became one of the nation’s most popular coaches in the history of college football during his 19-year career as the Spartans’ mentor. Daugherty was famous for his wit, personality and wisdom.
He became a great interview for sportswriters, coming up with quotes such as, “Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport” and “A tie is like kissing your sister” and “When you are playing for the national championship, it’s not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.”
He was a guard and captain of his Syracuse football team, was an assistant coach to Biggie Munn when Munn coached Syracuse before coming to Michigan State, and followed Munn as his line coach. After being part of Munn’s 2 national championship teams, he became head coach.
Daugherty’s 1955 team went 9-1 and beat UCLA 17-14 in the Rose Bowl. His greatest teams came in 1965 and 1966 when he went 19-1-1, won 2 Big Ten titles outright and 2 National Championships. His only defeat during the 2 years was a 14-12 loss to UCLA in the 1966 Rose Bowl. He will be forever remembered for his monumental 10-10 tie in the 1966 “Game of the Century” when the No. 2-ranked Spartans faced the No. 1-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
No less than 8 of the players from the 1966 team were chosen in the NFL draft, including defensive end Bubba Smith, linebacker George Webster, halfback Clint Jones, flanker Gene Washington, offensive lineman Jeff Richardson, defensive backs Jim Summers and Charlie Thornhill, and kicker Dick Kenney. Daugherty produced 29 All-Americans.
Daugherty’s overall record during 19 years was 109-65-5 (a 63% won-loss percentage).
He was named National Coach of the Year in both 1955 and 1965, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
After the 26-year run of Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty with 4 National Championships, the Michigan State football program pretty much went into the dumper.
It is true that after Daugherty, George Perles in 1987 would take the 9-2-1 Spartans to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 21 years, beating Southern California 20-17 to finish No. 8 nationally. Perles was the defensive line coach and defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense that led to Super Bowl titles in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979.
Despite turning around the MSU football program temporarily, Perles could not even sniff at the success of Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty. Since 1987 nothing much has really taken Michigan State back to the national prominence it enjoyed under Munn and Daugherty.
Michigan State’s football fortunes are now in the hands of Mark Dantonio, the former defensive coordinator for Ohio State’s 2002 National Championship team.
(Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-Part Series.)
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley