"The Victors!" turns 100 years old

By Clay Shaker
For the Daily

It wasn't written by the King of Pop or the Father of Soul, but after 100 years, it could be called the grandfather of college fight songs.

The Michigan fight song, "The Victors!," celebrates 100 years of leading the Wolverines into battle on the field this season.

It was on a train ride back to Ann Arbor after the 1898 football conference championship that then-student Louis Elbel jotted down the words that would eventually adorn the outside of the Big House.

"Having the fight song written by a student embodies the school spirit even more," said John Schmidt, a former marcher who now works as the band's physician.

Elbel, inspired after watching the one-point victory over what was then the heaviest team in the conference - the Chicago Maroons - thought the Wolverines needed a fight song that matched their power.

The Michigan Marching Band practices Friday on Elbel Field. In honor of "The Victors!" and to raise funds, the band is asking for donations every time it plays the fight song at Michigan football games.
And so, "The Victors!" was born.

Elbel's brother read the chant and decided it couldn't go unpublished. He sent it to a printer - in Notre Dame's own South Bend, Ind., no less. The simple march ballooned into an elaborate 23-instrument arrangement that is now among the oldest and most recognizable college fight songs in the country.

The wind behind "The Victors!" - the Michigan Marching Band - also celebrates a 100-year anniversary this year.

The "100 years of tradition" banner hanging outside Revelli Hall, the location of the marching band offices, is only one part of the centennial celebration, which will kick off at the Michigan homecoming game against Indiana on Oct. 24.

At the homecoming game, more than 300 marching band alumni will perform traditional songs with the band.

The University has invited all of its former marching band directors to the homecoming game for a presentation by current Michigan Marching Band Director Kevin Sedatole. After 11 years of teaching and directing at Texas universities, Sedatole is in his third year with the 390 Michigan marchers.

"Most directors don't like their jobs, but my job isn't that way," Sedatole said. "The kids are great. Their work ethic is so high."

On the south side of campus, the band can be heard warming up for a 4:45 p.m. practice as early as 3:30 p.m. The drum line pops in earplugs to withstand the 110 decibels coming from their instruments. The trumpet line wears gloves to keep from dirtying their horns during practice.

"The traditions here are already established," Sedatole said.

In 1996, Sedatole switched the pre-game "Victors!" marching style from a '70s and '80s lock step to a traditional step from the '50s and '60s.

"We're more technically difficult and musically difficult than ever," Sedatole said. This came naturally from the hours of work put in by his marchers.

"We're ready to put on a show in Defiance (Ohio) and Battle Creek (Mich.)," said LSA senior and saxophonist Dan Mansfield about upcoming exhibitions.

Last year the marching band revisited Pasadena, Calif., where in 1948 they became the first Big Ten band to travel to the Rose Bowl.

The marching band is holding a fund raiser in honor of the 100-year-old fight song. The band is asking students, alumni, and faculty to pledge money to the band for every time the marchers strike up the tune at home football game this season.

So far, they've played "The Victors!" 48 times.

Information on making a pledge can be obtained at Revelli Hall or through a form found in Wolverine football program.

The funds go directly to the band.


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