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Not every football fan remembers the name Wilfred C. Bleamaster and yet, in a way, he made as significant a contribution to football as the inventors of the forward pass, the sucker shift and the single wing. But the football fans at little Alma College in mid- Michigan remember Bleamaster even today, for he was the coach who for two years running arranged to have his teams open the season against Notre Dame and play Michigan State on the following Saturday. He was the man, you might almost say, who invented suicide.
To be sure, neither the Spartans nor the Irish were the powers in 1914 and 1915 that they are today. But Bleamaster wasn't coaching at Yale either. Even today the enrollment at Alma just tops a thousand. In 1914 it was 144—64 of them males and fewer than 20 of them football players.
And it wasn't that Bleamaster didn't know any better. He had taken on Michigan State and the Irish at midseason in 1913 and was walloped 57-0 by State and 62-0 by the South Benders.
As the Alma College student newspaper put it back in September of' 14, "The team faces one of the hardest schedules ever arranged. Notre Dame and MAC [ Michigan State was then Michigan Agricultural College], the two contenders for the western title last year, meet the Presbyterians on succeeding Saturdays." Then, spotting the silver lining, the writer added, "But with these two games out of the way, there will follow more desirable games."
A week later, still looking on the bright side after a grisly whipping from the Irish, the paper reported that "the score of last year was reduced by six points and the coach is satisfied that the men played a far better game than was played in 1913."
It helped somewhat, of course, that in 1914 Knute Rockne was on the sidelines rather than at right end pulling in the passes of Gus Dorais, as he had been the year before. Dorais had graduated, too, so both barrels of this new weapon that had shot down Army, confounding the football world in the 1913 game that saw the forward pass come of age, were out of the lineup.
But, even without Dorais and the Rock, Notre Dame was able to muster a certain talent. A writer for the Alma College paper noted that "the Notre Dame players indulged in tactics that the Marquess of Queensberry's rules frown on. However, they were most hospitable off the field of play, and showed the Alma men a good time."
Dr. Verne Richards, now a retired Birmingham, Mich. dentist, doesn't remember much about the good times. He's still a little burned up about the officiating in the 1914 game. He'd arrived on the Alma campus just two days before the Scots left for South Bend. He started at end for Alma, and on the second play of the game, though "surrounded by three big brutes from Notre Dame," he caught a pass and took off for what should have been a sure touchdown. But, Richards contends, one of the "Irish officials" blew his whistle to halt the play. During the rhubarb that ensued the official pointed out that he didn't think the 150-pound Alma end would have been able to survive if the three defenders had pounced on him. Final score 56-0.
A week later Bleamaster's Alma men journeyed to East Lansing, in time to give one State fullback a chance to score five touchdowns against them as they lost 60-0. There was no chance for the student newsman to boast about improvement in comparison with the 1913 result this time. The 1914 tally was three points worse than the year before.
The second year that the Alma gridders were involved in their early-autumn insanity wasn't quite as bad as the first. At least in 1915 the Scots posted their best record against Notre Dame, losing only 32-0; and a week later in the second game of the season they scored 12 points against State—but lost 76-12.