By Matt Slovin, Managing Editor
Published August 31, 2013
The first Michigan student arriving to sit in the first row of Michigan Stadium on Saturday wasn’t a wide-eyed freshman. Nor was it a senior who showed up at dawn to ensure a close seat to the opener against Central Michigan despite the switch to general-admission seating.
More like this
Instead, it was a father. A husband. A 10-year military veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Doug Krusell, technically an Engineering junior by credit hours, will turn 31 at midnight Sunday, and his first football game as a University student was a perfect gift.
The celebration, about an 11-hour ordeal altogether, began at 7 a.m. when he became the first to walk through the roped lines outside the Big House, securing his place in the front row. His party had a disc jockey (hired by the Athletic Department to provide entertainment while students waited for entry), plenty of guests (112,618 of them, to be exact) and a pizza lunch (hand delivered to the waiting area by Chief Marketing Officer Hunter Lochmann).
Along with other early risers, Doug got a first look at the Athletic Department's new general admission policy. He waited patiently in the shadow of the Big House until 12:30 p.m., when the hundreds of students were finally able to enter the stadium. First come, first served, and Doug was the first to arrive.
But he didn’t come alone. Beside him sat three more students who would’ve been wide-eyed had it not been for their exhaustion. This was their first time at the Big House. This was their first time attending a football game — they had transferred from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which doesn’t have a team. And this was their first couple weeks in the United States.
“They think I’m crazy, but you’ve got to be crazy to do this,” Doug said. “It’s been a long seven months without football.”
Doug dragged them here, out of bed early on a Saturday morning, when even some of the most overzealous pregamers had yet to stir. He didn’t introduce them to football without a little deceit, though it wasn’t intentional. The three women had believed the game would start at 8 a.m. They had no way of knowing the marathon day that lay ahead of them, nor the history they’d soon be making as the first guinea pigs of the Athletic Department’s new blueprint.
Lochmann said Saturday that the main intention of the general admission policy was to fill the seats, after plenty of them had been left open well after kickoff in recent seasons. The move proved to be a smash hit — barely any room remained by the time kickoff rolled around.
The shocking turnaround from years past — a near-full student section for a non-marquee opponent — surprised even Doug, who began his studies at Grand Valley State University knowing all along he wanted to end up in Ann Arbor.
“I don’t want to make enemies with the Athletic Department,” he said. “But the people they’re trying to encourage to show up early … this won’t do anything.”
Later, sitting in his long-sought-after prize, the concreted Row 1 of Section 26 at Michigan Stadium, Doug changed his mind.
“I may be eating my words,” he said. “If general admission is responsible (for the increased early attendance), then maybe it is a good thing.”
Some students might be satisfied with a one-week spot at the front of the sea of maize, near where the Wolverines sang ‘The Victors’ after the 59-9 victory. Once isn’t enough for Doug, though. This week was merely practice. The Notre Dame game, under the lights at the Big House next weekend, is where his focus has been since he found out about the new ticketing system.
“That’s the big one,” Doug said.