10 Things You Didn’t Know about Michigan State Football

Michigan State University is represented by the Michigan State Spartans. It can be considered one of the best college football teams out there, seeing as how it can claim six national championships as well as nine Big Ten championships. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about the Michigan State Spartans:

1. The School Used to Use Aggies

There was a time when Michigan State University used Aggies, which is presumably because the school was still called Michigan Agricultural College in those times. When the school changed names from Michigan Agricultural College to Michigan State College, it held a contest to choose a new nickname.

2. The School Chose Staters

However, the school wasn’t the one that chose Spartans. Instead, it chose the much more cumbersome Staters, which met with a less than enthusiastic response from the sports editor of the Lansing State Journal George S. Alderton. Primarily, this is because Alderton thought that the name wouldn’t be practical for use in newspaper writing.

3. Alderton Searched through the Suggestions for a Better Name

As a result, Alderton asked Jim Hasselman of Information Services to see if the school had held onto the submitted suggestions. The answer turned out to be “Yes,” which is why Alderton was able to find something that he liked much better in the form of the Spartans.

4. No One Knows Who Suggested the Spartans

Unfortunately, Alderton forgot to record the information of who had submitted the Spartans suggestion. As a result, it remains unknown to the present who the Michigan State Spartans can thank for their name.

5. Alderton Popularized the Spartans

Amusingly, Alderton didn’t seek to change the school’s mind about what its name should be. Instead, he just started using Spartans in reference to the college football team. Initially, Alderton’s use of the name was sparing, but it wasn’t too long before he started including it in the headlines. Soon enough, other newspapers started using Spartans as well, with the student newspaper’s adoption of the name being what cemented it.

6. No One Knows When the Green and White Started Up

The Michigan State Spartans are famous for their green and white color scheme. However, no one knows when those colors started seeing use because the records are rather sketchy. For instance, it is known that the Athletic Association started using a green monogram for athletes who participated in intercollegiate events in 1899. However, the green and white don’t seem to have seen widespread use until 1903, which was when Chester L. Brewer took up the post of the school’s first director of athletics.

7. The Mascot Is Sparty

Michigan State University has one of the better-known mascots in the form of Sparty, who is supposed to be a stylized representation of a Spartan warrior. With that said, the costume bears more of a resemblance to a Roman warrior because of the Roman-style helmet.

8. There Are Various Traditions Associated with Sparty

There are a number of traditions associated with the statue called Sparty that can be found on the campus. For example, there are some Spartan fans who will take photos with the statue to commemorate important life events. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to see everyone from newlyweds to new graduates with their families at the site during the right seasons.

9. There Is a Gruff Sparty

It is interesting to note that there is a “Gruff” Sparty with a scowl as well as a few days’ worth of whiskers that sees use in printed literature. Historically speaking, Spartan warriors would have had beards because the ancient Greeks saw beards as a sign of masculinity. Furthermore, those beards would have been kept well-maintained under normal circumstances, particularly since the Spartans put a big emphasis on personal grooming even when they were out to fight a war.

10. The Fight Song Was Written By Francis Irving Lankey

Michigan State University’s fight song was written by one Francis Irving Lankey, a civil engineering major who was inspired by the fight songs of Michigan and Wisconsin in 1913. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to see his song popularized because it was his girlfriend who did that for him by publishing his work a few months after he had died in a plane crash because of a volunteer air demonstration in 1919.


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