Not all of the University’s ground-breaking achievements are confined to the classroom. In the early 1980s, students put down their books in an effort to bake the world’s longest pizza.

Brian Merlos
“The Ultimate Za,” baked by University students and employees in 1983, was at that time the largest pizza ever made. It was longer than a football field and topped with pepperoni, onions, peppers and mushrooms. (SAM WOLSON/Daily)

Students began work on the massive Sicilian-style pie at 7 a.m. on Oct. 21, 1983, as part of a fundraiser for the United Way charity.

The pizza, which was nicknamed “The Ultimate Za,” measured 28 inches by 312 feet, and consisted of 900 pounds of mozzarella cheese, 300 pounds of pepperoni, 200 pounds of Bermuda onions, 80 pounds of green peppers and mushrooms, as well as 48 gallons of tomato sauce. These ingredients all sat atop of 1,600 pounds of dough.

Local merchants donated all of the pie’s ingredients.

With the help of Michael Crabb, the Michigan Union Food Supervisor, students cooked the pizza’s crust in shifts.

The dough was then put through a 30-foot propane-fired oven and wrapped in plastic wrap before being rolled out across 40 eight-foot tables outside the Michigan Union.

Around 4:30 p.m., students unwrapped the dough and placed cheese, tomato sauce, and various toppings and spices along the crust, which stretched longer than a football field.

To keep the pizza fresh, students moved an oven along the pizza throughout parts of day. Then-University President Harold Shapiro had the honor of cutting the first slice.

The festivities also included a pizza-eating contest, where contestants were paired into teams of a hand-tied eater and a blindfolded feeder, and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

For three dollars, students could help themselves to pizza, salad and beer.

While the event was very successful, a mound of leftovers was left behind until over 200 members of the marching band helped themselves to the remains.

The University’s attempt has long since been outdone. On Dec. 8, 1990, Norwood Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket in Johannesburg, South Africa claimed the record. The pizza measured 112 feet, 8 inches in diameter and consisted of more than one half ton of flour, nearly a ton of tomato puree, and 1,700 pounds of cheese.

The Ultimate Za was not the University’s first foray into the world of record-breaking snacks. The year before students set a world record by assembling the 300-foot long “Wolverine sub” sandwich.

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