PARADISE ISLAND, The Bahamas — For a handful of Michigan fans, Thanksgiving turkey was served with a side of college hoops this year.
Andy and Chrissy Schoonover — both of whom graduated from the University in 2005 — have been attending the Michigan men’s basketball team’s tropical Thanksgiving-time tournaments since 2011, when they went to the Maui Invitational in Hawaii.
The couple went to watch the Wolverines play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament in San Juan two years ago, and in April of this year made plans to catch Michigan play in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. There was only one problem: Shortly after making arrangements at the resort, Chrissy found out she was expecting.
“We didn’t book a flight until Thursday — this past Thursday,” Andy said. “Because we didn’t think our doctor would let us come.”
Chrissy’s due date is Dec. 30, but even the couple’s first child wasn’t going to stop them from supporting their first love: the Wolverines.
“(Our doctor) wouldn’t give us her blessing,” Chrissy said. “But she said that I was healthy and so was the baby, so that meant we got a flight.”
So, bags packed, the couple left from their home in Lansing and headed to warmer weather accompanied by Chrissy’s mom and aunt. Chrissy’s mom was sure to remind her that “Grandma was going to be here,” just in case there was an early delivery.
With Michigan’s first two games of the tournament tipping off at 9:30 p.m., the family had the opportunity to relax by the pool during the day and even ran into a few Wolverines around the resort.
“(Andy) got a picture with Spike (Albrecht),” Chrissy said. “And I got a picture with (Moritz Wagner) on the beach. … He looked like he was more surprised to get a picture with me than I was with him. It was so cute.”
Basketball in the Bahamas was just part of a week of Michigan sports the Schoonovers had planned. The couple hoped Michigan would win its first game and play in the winner’s bracket — guaranteeing an early game Friday, meaning they could watch all three games. They booked their return for Friday night so that they could be back for the Michigan-Ohio State football game on Saturday.
But Michigan lost to Connecticut on Wednesday, and after a Thursday win against Charlotte, it was slated for a 7 p.m. tip off on Friday. So the couple caught just the first two games, and took off Friday night to make it back for the football game.
They said they loved the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, but their trip to Maui was tough to top.
“Maui was better,” Andy said. “We did a Nebraska football game on Saturday, left Sunday to go to Maui, had basketball Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, left Thanksgiving night to get back for the Ohio State game Saturday — won four of the five games, so that’s ultimate.”
Not every Michigan fan had the foresight to get back in time for the football game on Saturday. When Jay Clothier was planning his family’s trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis, he didn’t think to check the football schedule, so they flew back Saturday during the Michigan-Ohio State game.
“We got so excited and blinded by this, I didn't even realize it was the same weekend,” Clothier said.
Clothier, who graduated from the University in 1990, was part of a group that traveled from Michigan to the Bahamas for the tournament.
The trip was originally his nephew’s idea. Carson Butterfield, 14, thought up the vacation when he was watching the Battle 4 Atlantis last year. When the field was announced for this year and Michigan was included, Carson went to his grandmother Gaye Butterfield and suggested the trip.
Gaye, a 1965 University graduate, was on board. So were her sons, Mike and Dave, who graduated from the University in 1989 and 1991, respectively. The trip quickly turned into a family vacation with 24 aunts, uncles and cousins in total.
Mike Butterfield, Carson’s dad, was a student manager for the 1988-89 NCAA championship team and occasionally traveled with the Wolverines, mostly to other Big Ten cities, so getting to watch Michigan in the Bahamas was a special treat.
“This is a heck of lot better,” he said. “Let me tell you.”
With two nightcap games, the family had plenty of time to hang out by the pool, ride the water slides and spend a little time in the casino.
For Gaye, it was the perfect mix of family time and watching her alma mater.
“I don’t get all excited about whether they win or lose,” she said. “It’s just nice to be there.”