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The Victors

How a 19th-Century Win Inspired One of College Football's Best Fight Songs

By

Michigan Wolverines football
(Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
The Big House. Bo Schembechler. Maize and blue. Winged helmets. And maybe most importantly, “The Victors.”

That’s Michigan football.

For more than a century, the mighty Michigan Wolverines have taken inspiration from their famous fight song. And while “The Victors” may not be quite as ubiquitous as Notre Dame’s “Notre Dame Victory March,” it might actually be a better fight song. More than that, just as the “Victory March” has evolved into a musical symbol of college football, so too has “The Victors”—a song that seems to be just as steeped in history as the program for which it was written.

'I Was Clear Off the Earth'

This great song was, fittingly, inspired by a great win—a great win that dates all the way back to the 19th century.

The year was 1898, and Michigan was one of the best team teams in the country. By late November, the Wolverines had compiled a 9-0 record—and had to face the one team that seemed to have their number: The University of Chicago, which had bested Michigan in both 1896 and 1897.

But on a frigid day in the Windy City, the Wolverines—backed by hundreds of students who had traveled from Ann Arbor in support of their team—snuck past Chicago by the score of 12-11. It just so happened that among the Michigan faithful to take in the great win that day was a young music student by the name of Louis Ebel, who later recalled being “crazed with joy” over the triumph.

In fact, Ebel was so inspired by what he saw that within the next couple of days he had composed and polished up “The Victors”—a fight song that has since become a staple of college football Saturdays.

"My spirits were so uplifted that I was clear off the earth, and that is when 'The Victors' was inspired,” Ebel later recalled, according to a 1979 edition of the Michigan Alumnus. “I put in a lot of ‘hails’ and I knew the fellows would get them in with the proper emphasis. Through them, the title suggested itself, and I dedicated it to the Michigan team of 1898."

The Lyrics

The Victors
©(L. Elbel)/Regents of the University of Michigan

Now for a cheer they are here, triumphant!
Here they come with banners flying,
In stalwart step they're nighing,
With shouts of vict'ry crying,
We hurrah, hurrah, we greet you now,
Hail!

Far we their praises sing
For the glory and fame they've bro't us
Loud let the bells them ring
For here they come with banners flying
Far we their praises tell
For the glory and fame they've bro't us
Loud let the bells them ring
For here they come with banners flying
Here they come, Hurrah!

Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the leaders and best
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!

We cheer them again
We cheer and cheer again
For Michigan, we cheer for Michigan
We cheer with might and main
We cheer, cheer, cheer
With might and main we cheer!

Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!

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