Via UM press release:
The University of Michigan Athletic Department announced today (Tuesday, July 28) plans to take the jerseys associated with the Michigan Football Legends back off the field. Gerald Ford (#48), Tom Harmon (#98), Desmond Howard (#21), Ron Kramer (#87), Bennie Oosterbaan (#47) and the Wistert brothers (#11) - Albert, Alvin and Whitey - will have their jerseys retired in a ceremony against Ohio State on
At this time, Howard’s #21 jersey will officially be retired. Howard’s was the only jersey of the six that was not formally retired at Michigan prior to the implementation of the legends program. He is the second of three Heisman Trophy winners for the University of Michigan and is currently an analyst on ESPN’s College Football GameDay Show on Saturdays during the football season.
“During the search process for our new football coach, I had a meeting with the Michigan Football team and they expressed their feelings associated with wearing these legendary jerseys,” said Jim Hackett, U-M’s Interim Athletic Director. “At one end of the spectrum they are awed by the legacy of the men who wore them and at the other end of the spectrum, and as part of a team sport, they wondered why we would call attention to one of our team members. I brought this issue to our new head coach Jim Harbaugh. He agreed with me that it needed a review. I then talked to the families of these great Michigan players. I called them directly and laid out the paradox of seeing players as a team and the due respect to these individual great players.
“The right plan is to retire them and display them in Towsley Museum which is connected to Schembechler Hall,” added Hackett. “Because we don’t have the display area inside the stadium, we have found an area on the concourse where fans can see and honor these retired jerseys.”.
As with pretty much every decision Jim Hackett has made since becoming the interim AD, this all seems about right.
It's been time to retire #21 for quite some time now, but the "legends" experiment probably delayed that eventuality, although we did get a chance to honor Desmond before the ND game in 2011 which was cool.
As for the rest...11, 47, 48, 87 and 98, those numbers will forever be remembered by this current generation of Michigan fans for the most recent players to wear them, and not the legends they were meant to represent...which is a shame. No disrespect to guys like Devin Gardner, but when I see that #98, I'd rather visualize Tom Harmon shredding Ohio State than remember Devin running for his life for two years.
The whole legends program had good intentions, but at the end of the day it was ultimately a flawed endeavor that was never a real hit with the fanbase - hence it's ending. It shared some of the same politics of the #1 jersey without any of the real upside.