Student section block 'M' to debut at Saturday's football game

BY VERONICA MENALDI
For the Daily
Published September 22, 2008

Students attending Michigan football games learn a litany of cheers and songs, many of them traditions dating back decades.

On Saturday, when Michigan plays Wisconsin, students and Athletic Department officials hope to add another tradition to the repertoire by coordinating a human version of Michigan’s iconic block ‘M’ in the middle of the student section.

Volunteers from the Michigan Student Assembly will hand out several thousand shirts — some maize, some blue — to fans entering certain rows.

LSA sophomore Andrew Chinsky, the plan’s main student organizer, said he hopes to see a blue block ‘M’ in a sea of yellow shirts. He said he's optimistic that students will do their part to create the block ‘M’.

More than 1,500 students had joined a Facebook group promoting the stunt as of last night.

“Once the students get the hang of it, I think they’ll really get into it," Chinsky said.

Chinsky initially proposed the block ‘M’ to the Athletic Department last year. He kept lobbying over the summer, and on Saturday, he’ll get his chance to start a new Michigan football tradition.

Mark Riordan, the Athletic Department's assistant director of marketing, said he was impressed by Chinsky's persistence.

“I think it’s an interesting idea," Riordan said. "It’s kind of neat, and is something to try."

The block ‘M’ is still an experiment, and no one is quite sure whether it will work. If too many students move around, the block ‘M’ could become an amorphous blob of blue in an otherwise maize student section — not the effect Chinsky is shooting for.

LSA sophomore Jared Gamelin said that while Michigan football games are already bastions of school spirit, another tradition could add to school pride.

“If it works, I think it’ll stick,” Gamelin said. “As long as people wear their yellow shirts and aren’t too drunk, it should work.”

Chinsky, a Pennsylvania native, said he was inspired by friends at Penn State University talking about the ‘S’ formation students make in the student section during some football games.

Chinsky and a few of his friends went to the Big House several weeks ago, using the block ‘M’ painted on the east sideline seats to plan their own in the student section. He said he plans to go to the stadium Friday to chalk off the ‘M’ so fans in the student section know who should be wearing blue and who should be wearing maize.

The organizers will hand out about 1,000 blue shirts and several thousand maize shirts, which are intended to form an outline so the block ‘M’ is more noticeable, Chinsky said. Telecom giant AT&T is sponsoring the shirts, he said.

Some students were more skeptical about the experiment. Its success depends on students sticking to their assigned seats — a relative rarity in the Big House.

“People would want it to work at first, but I don’t think it’ll last long,” LSA senior Brittanny Evans said. “People move around to different sections, and they don’t want to worry about what they are wearing.”

LSA senior Sabrina Shingwani, the president of the Michigan Student Assembly, said the block ‘M’ could give the Wolverines an advantage by firing up the crowd and distracting the opposing team.

“Football is a Michigan tradition, and the block ‘M’ would be one more thing to look forward to at every game,” she said. “Anything that’ll distract the other team, I say ‘let's do it,’ ” she added.