By Shoham Geva, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 23, 2014
When the University’s basketball team beat Michigan State Sunday afternoon, the energy inside the Crisler Center was unmatched. But for University students standing outside in line several hours earlier, the atmosphere was a little different.
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Controversy arose early Sunday morning over the formation of two different lines for first-come, first-served student seating. One line formed at the student gate at around 6:45 a.m. and was composed of students who were part of a pre-line at Kipke Drive that formed around 5 a.m. The second, was formed by a member of Maize Rage, converged in the parking lot of Crisler between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m.
At 7:30 a.m., Crisler security guards told the first line to move to the back of the Maize Rage line, which students in the first line objected to since they had been waiting outside longer. Maize Rage is the student organization dedicated to creating a prominent fan base for the basketball team.
LSA freshman Josh Deyoung, who arrived at Kipke at 4 a.m. and was part of the first line, said there was a lack of communication between the two lines at the beginning of the process.
“We waited probably for 15 minutes right by the gate, where precedent was set that you line up and at that point there were rumblings behind us of, ‘Hey, this isn’t the line, there’s a secondary line back there,” Deyoung said.
University Police were called in around 7:30 a.m. It’s unconfirmed who called them, though representatives for Maize Rage and the University Athletic Department both said they were not the responsible for the call.
Police directed students to either move to the back of the line or leave the property, adding that they would be arrested for trespassing if they stayed where they were.
No students ended up being arrested, University Police said.
Following the police announcement, most students moved to the Maize Rage line but 119 students who remained in the first line were brought into the visiting football team’s locker room by Associate Athletic Director Rob Rademacher.
Rademacher apologized to the students for the seating issues and told them they would have preferred admittance to the game in a section adjacent to the student section.
“This is the best and only way to manage this,” Rademacher said to students. “I can’t emphasize this enough.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after he addressed the students, Rademacher said he was made aware of the issue at 6:45 a.m. and arrived shortly after.
He added that the Athletic Department consistently reflects on common seating issues, such as the exact time that students can line up, barrier usage and security presence to improve attendees’ experiences.
“After every game, we sit down and say, ‘How’d it go? What went well and what went wrong?’ And we’ll do the same thing today,” Rademacher said. “We adjust from game to game.”
LSA senior Sasha Shaffer, president of Maize Rage, also apologized to students, for Maize Rage's role in creating the confusion.
“This will never happen again,” Shaffer said.
Following the comments by Rademacher and Shaffer, the 119 sequestered students were then led to Section 130 in the lower bowl, commonly referred to as “The Wedge.” The section, which is part of traditional student seating, is separate from Maize Rage bleacher seating and is behind the hoop instead of along the court’s baseline.
Rademacher said he felt the section 130 seating was the best way to resolve the situation.
“You had a group of students who came to the front of the line – whether they were first or not I don’t know – but they were there prior to 7 o’clock,” Rademacher said. “What I didn’t want to do was take this group of students and throw them to the end of the line, then that would have created more problems. I looked upon the best solution by accommodating them in a way where they still had good seats.”
Deyoung said although he understood the issues the University Athletic Department and security faced, he was disappointed with how the experience unfolded.
“I just wish that it was handled differently up front,” Deyoung said. “I wish they had the proper security there. I wish they had proper guidelines set. I would like to be reimbursed in some sort of way because I spent a lot of money and I was planning on camping out and getting the full experience and I don’t feel like I’m going to get that now.”
Both Rademacher and Shaffer told students they would be able to voice their concerns to Maize Rage and University Athletic Department representatives in the future.
In an e-mail interview with the Daily Sunday afternoon, Shaffer said she would address concerns at the next Maize Rage meeting, which is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.
Rademacher told the 119 sequestered students that they would be contacted for participation in a forum discussing Sunday’s seating issues.
In an interview with the Daily Sunday afternoon, Business senior Michael Proppe, CSG President, said today’s complications illustrate a systematic problem with student seating.
“The bottom line is that there needs to be more student seating in the lower bowl,” Proppe said. “It is kind of insane that people could get there at 5 a.m. and not be able to get a bleacher seat.”
LSA freshman Eric Montag, who was one of the 119 sequestered students, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I think that a lot of the other big basketball programs wrap around the entire lower bowl to some extent,” he said. “The fact that there’s just the bleachers that hold literally 400 people at the most is just way too small.”
Deyoung said overall, the experience made him feel like the University Athletic Department values profit over student experience.
“I know it’s a moneymaking business, but it seems like they’re not trying to serve us as much as they’re trying to serve themselves and that’s frustrating for me,” Deyoung said. “I think they’re going to lose a lot of support in the future as far as donations and fans, just because they treat us like patrons rather than students.”
—Daily Staff Reporters Jack Turman and Michael Sugerman contributed to this report.