With a win on Saturday over in-state rival Indiana, Purdue would become the 10th bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten. Even for a conference that has averaged an impressive seven bids per season in the past decade, 10 would be quite the feat. But back when Mike Lantry was booting field goals for the Michigan Wolverines from 1972-74, the rules differed drastically and six wins didn’t cut it.
One team went to the Rose Bowl, and the other nine stayed home. Ten wins was no different than no wins if you didn’t finish atop the conference, something Lantry found out the hard way. Two years in a row, with the game on the line, Lantry’s kicks were off the mark.
At 10:30 a.m. ET this Saturday on BTN’s pregame show, viewers will get the chance to learn of Lantry’s remarkable journey from Vietnam to Ann Arbor, and how his missed field goals have left an imprint on his life.
“What I hoped to accomplish with this piece was to show the whole man, to show his depth as a person,” BTN feature producer Julian Darnell said. “Are the kicks a part of his legacy? Of course. But I wanted to show more.”
Saturday’s feature will include interviews with Lantry, former teammate and current UM athletic director Dave Brandon, former teammate and current LSU coach Les Miles and former UM assistant coach Jerry Hanlon.
After graduating from high school, Lantry enlisted in the Army. He served three years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. Upon his return, Lantry fulfilled his dream of attending the University of Michigan as a student-athlete by walking on to the football team, and throwing shot put for the track team.
In 1973, Michigan was undefeated and ranked fourth heading into the final game against the also undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State in Ann Arbor. With the score tied at 10, Lantry missed wide on not one, but two field goals in the last minute of the game.
The game ended in a tie, and the Wolverines’ Rose Bowl bid hinged on a vote by Big Ten athletics directors. They voted for the Buckeyes.
In Lantry’s senior year, 1974, Michigan again came into the Ohio State game undefeated and eyeing the Rose Bowl.
The Buckeyes led 12-10 with 18 seconds remaining when Lantry was given a shot at redemption – a 33-yard field goal.
Snap was good, the hold was perfect, but while Lantry sent the kick soaring end-over-end, it missed wide left.
Watch Michigan historian John U. Bacon talk about the kick below, and continue reading after the video.
Despite a 30-2-1 record over the course of his three seasons, Lantry and the Wolverines never made it to the Rose Bowl or any other bowl game.
The irony of the story is that one year after Lantry’s eligibility expired, in 1975, the Big Ten changed its rules to allow more than just one Big Ten team to play in a bowl game. A change that can potentially result in 10 bids this year. Unfortunately, for Mike Lantry, he never got that chance.
“What I come away with is that this is a guy who wasn’t afraid to wear the hat of responsibility and accept it,” Darnell said. “Not to say he wasn’t disappointed, but when you’re close to death in Vietnam, it puts things into perspective.”
Mike Lanty reflects on the final kick.
As does Bruce Madej: