47 Days: A Look Back At The Legend, Bennie Oosterbaan

With 47 days left until the 2016 season, we look back at one of the greatest players in the history of Michigan athletics, Bennie Oosterbaan. In high school, the Muskegon native was an All-American basketball player, a state champion in track and field, and an All-state player in baseball and football. Below is the very impressive list of his career highlights and achievements:


  • He was a three-time first team All-American football end for the Michigan Wolverines football team, two-time All-American basketball player for the basketball team, and an All-Big Ten Conference baseball player for the baseball team.
  • He was selected by Sports Illustrated as the fourth greatest athlete in the history of the U.S. state of Michigan in 2003 and one of the eleven greatest college football players of the first century of the game (ending in 1968).
  • During his collegiate athletic career he was a Big Ten batting champion in baseball, Big Ten scoring champion in basketball, and Big Ten touchdown leader in football.
  • He was the first University of Michigan athlete to become a first-team All-American in basketball and the first three-time first-team football All-American.
  • He threw three touchdown passes in the dedication game of Michigan Stadium.
  • His playing years and positions – Football 1925–1927,
    Basketball 1925–1928, Baseball 1927, Position(s) End (football)
    Forward (basketball), First baseman, pitcher (baseball)

His Coaching Days

  • After his playing career ended, Oosterbaan spent several decades working for the University of Michigan Athletic Department until the 1970s. Oosterbaan served as the football, basketball, and baseball coach for the University.

Overall Playing and Coaching Accomplishments 

  • Championships
    1 National (1948)
    3 Big Ten (1948–1950)
  • AFCA Coach of the Year (1948)
  • All-American 3× (football, 1925–1927)
  • All-American 2× (basketball, 1927–1928)
  • All-Big Ten (baseball, 1928)
  • Big Ten touchdowns leader (1925)
  • Big Ten scoring champion (basketball, 1928)
  • Big Ten batting champion (1928)
  • When he died he was the most recent Michigan football coach to have a team ranked #1 in the nation at the end of the season.

Bennie Oosterbaan’s jersey number 47 was the first Michigan football jersey number retired, and until 2011, it was one of only five numbers retired by the Michigan football program.

In 1999, Sports Illustrated published a list of “The 50 Greatest Sports Figures From Michigan” (in all sports), and ranked Oosterbaan fourth on the list behind Joe Louis, Magic Johnson and Charlie Gehringer.

Oosterbaan died on October 24, 1990, and spent his entire career associated with the University of Michigan. He will remain as one of the most accomplished in Michigan athletics history from his amazing success in his playing and coaching careers.

Go Blue!

David Noe