Skip to content

When Rynearson Stadium was new…

September 12, 2011

A lot of folks around Ypsi remember EMU’s 1987 MAC Championship and victory over San Jose State in the California Bowl.

Far fewer remember 1971, when, in the school’s last season as an independent, the team went 7-0-2 before losing to Louisiana Tech in the Pioneer Bowl. That season also included one of just two sell-out crowds at Rynearson Stadium; on October 16, 17,360 spectators saw EMU battle Eastern Kentucky to a 0-0 tie (capacity was 15,500 at the time).

Unfortunately, we don’t have video (that we’ve found) of that defensive battle, but thanks to the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee archives we do have nearly 12 minutes of footage of the Hurons’ game the following week, in Milwaukee, which EMU won 31-0.

University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee has also uploaded a three-part video totaling 26 minutes of footage from the teams’ meeting in 1970, which the Hurons also won, 35-0. That game was in Rynearson Stadium, in its second season of use. (Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.)

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth Barna permalink
    September 13, 2011 10:21 am

    Dear cmadler,
    That was great to see. The one run for sixty or seventy yards, was Larry Ratcliff, the running back for Eastern, whom I’ve mentioned before on this site.
    I was at the Eastern Kentucky game, that you also mentioned, and with today’s rules, EMU would have scored a touchdown late in the game, but it was ruled a fumble, as the running back was crossing the goal line, and EKU recovered.
    In 1969, the year Rynearson opened, homecoming was played against the University of Tampa, and they had great teams for a small college. Anyway, my point was going to be, that there were over 17,000 fans at that game.

    • September 13, 2011 10:44 pm

      Hmmm…I’ll have to go back and double-check my notes (and my sources).

      • September 15, 2011 6:11 am

        OK, I’ve re-checked and found at least four “capacity” crowds (capacity in scare quotes because there’s always been plenty of additional standing room). I don’t know how I missed the other two.

        10/25/1969, 17,600 for a 17-7 loss to Tampa (stadium dedication)
        10/16/1971, 17,360 for a 0-0 tie with Eastern Kentucky
        10/22/1988, 23,003 for a 31-24 loss to Western Michigan
        10/27/1990, 24,622 for a 16-2 loss to Central Michigan

        There was also a near-sellout, short by just 91 people, on 10/8/1988, for a 20-6 loss to Central Michigan. (Yes, EMU hosted both Western and Central that year.)

        There may have been additional sellouts before the 1974 stadium expansion, because the list I have of biggest crowds stops at just over 17,000.

        The largest home crowd to see EMU win was 26,188, on 11/28/2008 for a 56-52 win over Central Michigan (though I think that was an NCAA attendence audit year, so that number is suspect). The largest home crowd I can find by percent of capacity to see EMU win was 94.6% (21,027) on 10/7/1989 for a 31-14 win over Toledo, though again, I don’t have all the pre-1974 records.

  2. September 13, 2011 11:50 am

    I was a freshman at EMU for the 1987 season.

  3. Bobby Wicks permalink
    September 14, 2011 6:33 pm

    That was cool! I didn’t know that they played baseball at Rynearson, as Oestrike Stadium was built by then wasn’t it?

    Secondly, everytime I try to get information on where EMU played football prior to Rynearson, it’s as if that stadium never existed. I cannot find any pictures or even a name for that field/stadium. I find that strange because Eastern would have played there for what? 68 years or so? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    • September 14, 2011 7:08 pm

      A quick search suggests Oestrike Stadium was opened in 1971, which is odd because he coached EMU from 1965-1987. Maybe it opened with a different name, though.

      As for the old field I have a fair bit of info, including a number of photos. That will be a post of its own someday…

      • September 14, 2011 7:13 pm

        According to EMU, Oestrike Stadium “was built in 1971, the year following Eastern Michigan’s NAIA Collegiate National Championship”. No indication as to when it got the current name, though.

    • September 14, 2011 7:42 pm

      AHA! Mixing together two different things.

      The video embedded in the post is from 1971, EMU’s bowl year. The game was at Milwaukee. The three videos linked at the end of the post are from 1970, at Rynearson Stadium, and there’s no indication that it was being used for baseball. (The baseball field prior to Oestrike’s construction was adjacent to the old football field.)

  4. Kenneth Barna permalink
    September 14, 2011 8:16 pm

    Dear Bobby Wicks,
    The old stadium, when I was attending Eastern, was called Briggs Field. It was located, just behind, and a little West of McKenny Union on Forest Avenue. Probably where the parking lot is, next to the new science complex. I believe it was Eastern’s home field for about thirty years. I’m guessing now, but about 1937 to 1968. It was called Briggs field because Walter O. Briggs donated some money for part of the stands. (For those too young, Mr Briggs was then owner of the Detroit Tigers, and after he purchased the team, renamed Navin Field to Briggs Stadium, which later became Tiger Stadium) I can’t remember capacity of Briggs Field, but it couldn’t be more than a few thousand.
    Rynearson Stadium was never used for baseball. Oestrike Stadium got it’s name when Coach Oestrike retired.

    • Bobby Wicks permalink
      September 15, 2011 6:07 pm

      Wow Kenneth, I bet you have some stories to tell. You attended Eastern during John Norman Collins’ reign of terror. That had to have been a horrifying time at Eastern.

      I bet Briggs Field was cool. A packed stadium right on campus! That had to have been wonderful. Hypothetically, I can’t help but wonder if there is enough land on main campus to construct a new football stadium, if they wanted to.

  5. Lou permalink
    September 14, 2011 10:23 pm

    The first time I was at Rynearson was for a game in the late 60s or early 70s. I have a friend and his brother kicked for the Hurons. Then I was there a few years later when the World Football League Detroit Wheels used it as their home field.

    The WFL took some big names from the NFL, but the league was seriously short on funds, especially the Detroit Wheels. They came to Rynearson and took our coach, Dan Boisture.

    A group of about 30 owned the Wheels, and either they didn’t have the kind of cash to make a real team or they refused to open their wallets. Mike Ilitch and Marvin Gaye where two of the owners. The team folded quickly. EMU lost their coach, but gained the lights that were installed for the Wheels.

    • September 15, 2011 5:39 am

      “The team folded quickly. EMU lost their coach, but gained the lights that were installed for the Wheels.”

      And gained 6,727 seats.

  6. September 15, 2011 12:20 am

    Is it roughly where Briggs Hall is now? I hated Briggs Hall because I had to register there in my Freshman (and I think Sophomore years) and use the stupid computer cards. It wasn’t too bad in my second year because I was an honors student then and could register before everyone else. After that, they got the phone in registration and I was in PHysics anyway so there wasn’t much competition.

    • September 15, 2011 6:18 am

      Briggs Hall was right next to the field, which makes sense since Briggs Hall was originally Briggs Field House, built in 1937. According to EMU:

      The new Field House faced the back of McKenny Union, placing it at the heart of the social center of campus. Inside, Briggs Field House contained lockers, showers, training rooms, and offices of officials. It also included a “large practice room with a dirt floor to be used for vaulting and other winter activities.”

      From its location at the heart of campus, Briggs Field House acted as a gateway to Briggs Field beyond. Here builders constructed a football stand and a baseball stand with seating for 300 spectators. Today, Mark Jefferson Hall, Strong Hall, and the parking lot cover the athletic park.

      This suggests that Briggs Field began use about the same time, in 1937. I’ll have to hunt around to see if I can find out where they played football before that.

  7. September 15, 2011 9:12 am

    I think I sense a photo project as this is information I did not know.

  8. Bobby Wicks permalink
    September 15, 2011 6:02 pm

    This is great information. I love history and there certainly was a lot of history and tradition before Rynearson was constructed that seemed to fall through the cracks. I look forward to the Briggs Field project and all the stuff that came before that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: