How 2 ball boys stopped opponent’s signal-stealing, saved U-M’s 1997 title

It was a Monday morning like so many others since Jonathan Datz began working for the district attorney’s office in Broomfield, Colo.
His assignment this April day — as a deputy DA in a town halfway between Denver and Boulder — was to follow up on a minor theft, talking to the victim of a car break-in and prepping her for the trial.
But when the victim wasn’t home, Datz and other members of his office were stuck killing time with her husband. And in just a few minutes, Datz learned the information he had craved for 10 1/2 years — and it had nothing to do with criminal justice.

At last, he had confirmation that his quick thinking — and that of two other student managers — helped preserve Michigan’s undefeated football season in 1997.

‘Your heart skips a few beats’
In 1997, the Wolverines were coming off four straight four-loss seasons, the first two under Gary Moeller, the last two under Lloyd Carr. Datz, a senior from Philadelphia majoring in political science, was one of the bevy of managers assigned to handle the menial tasks associated with Michigan football.
“The job of a football manager probably hasn’t changed much,” said Eddie Magnus, who was a head manager that season. “They help organizing things during the week, the practices, setting up drills, making sure practice runs smoothly, all the way to helping out with travel and doing wakeup on the morning of the game days.”
At home games, Datz and Mike Youtan, a senior from southern California, worked the opponents’ sideline as ball boys, keeping their mouths shut and staying out of the way.

Until the fifth game.

freep.com
6/18/08