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Taking a Step Back in Time

Eastern Michigan didn’t always play football in Rynearson Stadium

Currently Mark-Jefferson Hall Stands here. At one time Eastern Michigan (Michigan State Normal at that time) played Football and Baseball here.
Kenneth Bailey

When Rynearson Stadium opened in 1969 (almost two months after I was born), one chapter in Eastern Michigan sports history was closed and another one opened. Prior to moving off campus, Eastern Michigan used to play on campus. Based on the record, they played fairly well too.

With other blogs looking to the future, I figured this might be a good time to look at the past. Well, Eastern Michigan’s past anyway.

Currently named Briggs Hall and hosting part of the Eastern Michigan art department, back in the day this used to be the gate to Briggs Field (not that one but related).
Kenneth Bailey

We take a walk through the front door and we emerge to this...

I’m not sure when this picture was taken but this used to be the entrance to Briggs Field. To either side were the ticket windows. After some renovation, it became part of the athletic offices.
EMU Archives

But first, we step back a couple of years. The year is 1937, Alumni Field (it seems like many college stadia are named this) was showing signs of age. Coach Elton Rynearson was into his second stint as head coach of the now Michigan State Normal Hurons (prior to that they were known as the Normalites). At this point, Elton Rynearson was enjoying an 82-6-24 record. They may even emerge to be a potent force in college football.

After a donation of $150,000 by Walter O. Briggs who was an Ypsilanti native and also happened to own the Detroit Tigers, work began on Briggs Field in 1937. Part of it would be a baseball field and the other part would be a football field. The above pictured gate faced Forest Avenue (which is now a sidewalk through campus). Surrounding the field were locker rooms and other athletic facilities.

An overhead view of Briggs Field. Not sure when this picture was taken though. At the top of the picture is Sherzer Hall. At the upper right is McKenny Hall. Mark Jefferson would be around the 50 yard line (or so).
EMU Archive

The baseball diamond opened up on May 6, 1938, when the Hurons faced May 6, 1938 the team from the other side of Washtenaw County. Sadly, I can’t find the results of that game (I tried on Eastern Michigan and Michigan websites).

The football stadium would open up on October 14th, 1938. The Michigan State Normal Hurons would face off against Wayne State. The Hurons would win this game 20-7 and they would finish the 1938 season at 6-1-1. Elton Rynearson would continue coaching until 1948 and he would finish with an overall record of 114-58-15. He would end up being Eastern Michigan’s most successful football coach by far.

The 1949 season would be a harbinger of things to come as the Hurons would end up going 0-8. Their record would improve to 3-6 the next season and 4-5 season following that.

Briggs Field sometime in the 1950’s.
EMU Archive

The 1952 season would see the hiring of Fred Trosko as the head coach of the Huron football team. Trosko was a star running back for the Michigan Wolverines. The 1952 Hurons would then improve to 5-3-1. The 1953 Hurons would have a 7-1-1 record. The 1954 Hurons would improve to 8-1 and would bring the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) Championship to Ypsilanti. This feat was repeated in 1957. Also in this period, Michigan State Normal College would become Eastern Michigan College to reflect the growth on campus at the time.

Fred Trosko while he was a Wolverine

1959 would see the College become a University. It would also see the serious decline of the football team. They would end up going 1-7 in that year and would go winless until 1962 starting with the third game of the 1959 season. This was due to the fact that the Eastern Michigan administration would not allow Trosko to award scholarships while other teams of the IIAC did. Trosko would end up retiring in August of 1965 but would still remain on Eastern Michigan’s staff as a professor. His final tally was 50-56-4.

Jerry Raymond would coach the team in 1965 and 1966 and would actually have some degree of success with an 8-7-2 record.

Dan Boisture would end up opening Rynearson Stadium. He would take Eastern Michigan to it’s first bowl (the Pioneer Bowl)

Dan Boisture came to the Eastern Michigan Hurons in 1967. He would lead the team to a 6 and 3 record that season.

With Briggs Field showing signs of age and the need for additional space on campus, 1968 would be the last season there. Dan Boisture’s Hurons would close the field with an 8-2 record with the final game being a 34-7 victory against Northern Iowa. The final tally for the Hurons at Briggs would be 108-119-14.

The team would open up Rynearson Stadium on September 27, 1969 with a 10-3 victory against the Akron Zips. Briggs Field would be razed in 1972. Briggs Hall still remains standing and even has some elements of the days when it was an entrance to a stadium.

Rynearson Stadium as it appears now
Kenneth Bailey