TIGER KICKOFF: 10 things you might not know about Toledo

Friday, September 6, 2013 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

While the Missouri and Toledo football programs have been in existence for a combined 219 years, the schools will meet for the first time Saturday at Faurot Field.

From Kid Cudi to Franklin D. Roosevelt to John Denver, take a minute to learn a little more about the Tigers' next opponent.

10. Thanks to the school’s relationship with the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Corps, the university received a 1-ton rocket for display inside the football stadium in 1961. While it now rests outside the facility, the rocket is reputedly pointed 25 miles south toward arch-rival Bowling Green’s football stadium, and if launched, would land on the Falcons’ 50-yard-line.

9. The school’s football stadium — The Glass Bowl, named after the city’s heavy involvement in the glass industry — was built as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Work Projects Administration program during the Great Depression. The facility was erected in 1936 with a $272,000 grant from the federal government, while the city and university were only on the hook for $41,558.

8. A 206-foot bell tower is the tallest structure on Toledo’s campus, but it has not held real bells since an electronic system was installed in 1986. That first carillon broke down in 2006, and while a new system was eventually donated, one of the school’s most prominent symbols became a major annoyance. “It has not been operating well,” curator Mark Walker told the Toledo Blade in 2006. “And when it does play, it sounds so bad that we decided it was better to not have it sound at all.”

7. The Toledo Zoo was the first zoo in the world to install a Hippoquarium, a 360,000-gallon attraction that has captivated visitors since 1955. The Hippoquarium (a trademarked name) was home to the second-oldest hippopotamus in North America until this May when Bubbles was euthanized at age 58.

6. Pop star Kid Cudi attended the Toledo Film School for one semester in 2004. He said he was punched in the face by a police officer after being cited for underage drinking. Other notable alums include “The Amazing Spider-Man” co-star Chris Zylka and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury John W. Snow. Actors Katie Holmes and Jamie Farr hail from the city of Toledo.

5. Toledo mascot Rocky the Rocket has seen several costume changes since his inception in 1966. Various outfits have included a wastepaper basket with a pointed rocket top made of papier-mâché, bell-bottom pants, and from 1977-1980, an authentic spacesuit, helmet and boots donated by John Glenn, a former astronaut and Ohio senator.

4. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was Toledo’s head coach from 1991-2000, but he hasn’t found nearly as much success as the man he succeeded, Nick Saban. The current Alabama coach spent just one season (1990) at Toledo, but he has won three of the past four national championships with his Crimson Tide and snagged the 2003 national title while coaching Louisiana State University.

3. The football team was horribly unprepared for its first game in 1917. After Dean Brandeberry was chosen as coach — “Nobody else wanted the job,” said former player Charles Morgan — Toledo decided not to conduct any scrimmages before its inaugural tilt with Detroit, a 145-0 loss that left four players injured.

2. The team didn’t even bother with a nickname until its seventh season. After a 32-12 loss to national power Carnegie Tech in 1923, Toledo student James Neal was so impressed with the players’ losing effort that he dubbed them the “Skyrockets.” The name was then shortened by other writers in the press box, according to the school’s football website.

1. Randy Sparks wrote a song for John Denver titled, “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio” in the late '60s after a less-than-satisfactory visit to the city. Lyrics included “Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, is like being nowhere at all / All through the day how the hours rush by / You sit in the park and you watch the grass die.” Denver returned to the city to play the song in front of a sell-out crowd at Centennial Auditorium in 1980. 

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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