Shin-deep in mud, former members of the now-disbanded Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity hosted their 82nd annual Mud Bowl game on Saturday morning, despite University efforts to cancel the event.
Two teams of about 20 people played a game of two-hand touch football in an expansive mud pit constructed in front of the former SAE house at South University and Washtenaw avenues.
Though the final tally hasn’t been calculated, the charity touch-football game raised over $8,000 for C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Public Policy junior Zach Dubin, a former SAE member who helped organize the event, said about 2,000 T-shirts were sold for the event and almost $7,000 was raised on the Mud Bowl’s GoFundMe page.
Though planning for this year’s game was complicated by SAE’s status as a rogue fraternity, hundreds of students and alumni surrounded the muddy field to cheer. Dubin estimated the number could have been more than a thousand, with people covering the lawn and spilling onto the sidewalk.
Earlier this year, fraternity and sorority members were warned by the Interfraternity Council not to participate in the event, since SAE is no longer recognized by the University or its national chapter. The IFC expelled the fraternity in 2011 due to reports of hazing. Because Greek life members were told not to participate in the event, players took the field identifying not as Greek life members, but as individual students.
Durbin said the University’s decision to enforce these restrictions may have actually benefited the Mud Bowl in terms of boosting attendance and interest. However, he said donations were lost once fraternity organizations were barred from participating in the event.
“As for next year, I doubt the University will back offtheir stance, but I really hope they reconsider to let all students, regardless of Greek or non-Greek affiliation, participate in what should be an event for everyone in the Michigan community to enjoy,” he said.
The team composed of former SAE members, nicknamed the Flying Eagles, defeated their opponents — a team made up of participants from a variety of groups — 24-10.
Tradition was a word commonly used by both players and organizers when describing the event’s importance. The first Mud Bowl was played in conjunction with Homecoming in 1933, and the game’s rivalries and philanthropic goals have had a long history on campus.
Business junior Cole McConnell, a Mud Bowl committee member, said continuing the event this year was important not just because of the event’s tradition, but because the funds raised will benefit patients at Mott.
“It’s been our tradition … but it’s also all for the kids,” he said.
McConnell said putting on the game without backing from the University required more legwork on the part of organizers in terms of finding funding.
“It was tougher to raise money initially … but in addition to sponsorships, our alumni are glad the game’s going on, and contribute a lot of our funds,” McConnell said.
After deducting funds for the event’s private security, payment of referees, jersey costs, field fencing and water to muddy the field, profits will be donated to the children’s hospital on Tuesday.
LSA sophomore Nicholas Tannenbaum, who played in the Mud Bowl, said the event fosters a sense of camaraderie among players.
“Knowing the culture of the guys here, this game was so important,” he said. “I look to my left and right and see my brothers in the mud, and that’s the best feeling.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article included a quote that was incorrectly attributed. It has been removed.