Mark Dantonio was speaking at a luncheon Saturday afternoon three hours before kickoff of the Michigan game when he was surprised with a rare piece of Michigan State football history.
Bob Apisa, the All-American fullback at Michigan State in the 1960’s, walked up to Dantonio at the luncheon and surprised him with a game ball he had kept from his playing days.
The ball was from the most famous game in Michigan State history: the Spartans’ 1966 game against Notre Dame, a 10-10 tie between two undefeated teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country billed as the “Game of the Century.”
“I didn’t really know what to say because it really took me by surprise a little bit too,” Dantonio said Thursday on his weekly radio show. “But it represents a lot to Michigan State and to college football in general, that game. When you look at the history of Michigan State inevitably you’re going to come to that championship team and the 10-10 tie with Notre Dame is one of the great games of college football.
“That game ball has tremendous meaning and there’s a lot of emotional ties to that, so for him to give that to the program was a big event.”
The full story behind that ball was told Thursday’ on Dantonio’s weekly radio show.
Since the game ended in a tie, then-coach Duffy Daugherty decided that no game ball would be awarded, as is tradition after wins. But an equipment manager kept a ball anyway, and later presented it to Apisa. Before making the trip to East Lansing for Saturday’s game, Apisa, who lives in California, decided it was time for the ball to be returned to the program
The game ball was the only one in Apisa’s collection. He had been given a game ball earlier that year following the Spartans’ 20-7 win over Michigan, only to give it away minutes later to a young wheelchair-bound fan who asked for his autograph after the game.
So to complete the circle, Dantonio invited Apisa into the Spartans’ locker room following the team’s 35-11 win Saturday and presented him a new game ball from Saturday’s win.
“It’s this cycle story of three footballs that all have great meaning,” Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis said Wednesday on his radio show.
For the full article, see Kyle Austin, “How the game ball from the 1966 ‘Game of the Century’ returned to Michigan State last weekend”, MLive, October 31, 2014.