More than 1,500 people crammed into the confines of the front yard of the former Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house on Saturday morning to watch one of the most time-honored fall traditions, for what could be the last time, at the University of Michigan: the 83rd annual Mudbowl.
The annual tradition, meant to raise money for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, used to be organized by the fraternity SAE. The University of Michigan banned SAE in 2015 over hazing allegations so SAE no longer officially hosts the event, but the Mudbowl is now organized by the Michigan Mudbowl Club, which is comprised largely of former SAE members.
The crowd standing alongside the former SAE house Saturday was watching what may have been the last time members of now-former SAE play in this event due to the closure of the fraternity on campus. The house will be rented out by Alpha Omicron Pi, a new sorority coming to campus, for the next few years.
This year, more than $47,000 was raised from the members, the members’ families and the alumni of the fraternities competing in the qualifying tournament and the Mudbowl championship game.
Public Policy junior Josh Martin, a Pi Kappa Phi member, said the philanthropic efforts tied to it are what make the Mudbowl a special event.
"We raised almost $50,000 this year,” Martin said. “It is a fantastic cause as (the hospital is) helping kids get better every day.”
Twelve fraternities compete in the week leading up to Mudbowl for a chance to play the Michigan Mudbowl Club on Saturday. Pi Kappa Phi ultimately beat out Phi Delta Theta in the 12-team championship Friday night.
For Kinesiology senior Alex Dolik, the game this year held extra significance for former members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon still at the University.
“This is the last one for us, basically,” Dolik said. “We are representing 150 years of (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) tradition that is not there anymore.”
Though this year the game felt extra special to Dolik, he emphasized that the Mudbowl also holds much significance to members of the University and Ann Arbor community.
“People think it is a fraternity event, but it is something way more than that,” he said. “It is 80-plus years of tradition in the community and in Ann Arbor as it connects not just the students but the people at large in the community.”
After both teams’ fans yelled insults at one another, the game got underway with Pi Kappa Phi racing out to an 8-0 lead. However, the Michigan Mudbowl Club scored two quick touchdowns to reach a score of 12-8, with the ensuing celebrations resulting in fans falling in the mud and beer being spilt on spectators. Each team would score one more touchdown before halftime, with the score at the break was 20-16 in favor of the Mudbowl Club.
Joey Burke, a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who was visiting Ann Arbor for the weekend, said the first half of the Mudbowl made for a unique game-day experience.
“The atmosphere here is unbelievable and everyone is in the game spirit,” Burke said. “We have tailgates at (my school) but we don’t have the Mudbowl!”
At the beginning of the second half, with the crowd growing larger and celebrating among fans increasing, a large fight broke out behind one of the end zones. A group of about 20 traded punches with one another, leaving some fans bleeding and covered in mud. Players from both teams stopped the game to break up the fight to continue the game.
After a brief hiatus, the second half saw a dominant performance by the Mudbowl Club as the team held Pi Kappa Phi scoreless while adding two more touchdowns to its haul. In the end, the game finished 36-16 in favor of the Mudbowl Club.
For LSA junior Nick Cargill, a key organizer of the event, his team’s victory in the mud marked the culmination of a memorable day.
“It is great to be able to come out here and raise money for the kids and have one last homecoming with the people who originated the event and win one last Mudbowl,” Cargill said. “Having organized it, I put a lot of work into making this happen, so just to see it all come to fruition is beautiful.”