The fans started showing up at 8:20 — in the morning.
They trickled in as the day went on, setting up lawn chairs and gobbling burritos from the Chipotle next door.
And as the sun set in Ann Arbor, the line only grew bigger as fans eagerly awaited The M Den’s release of brand new Michigan Nike products. At midnight, the school officially began its new contract with the apparel giant and severed ties with Adidas.
When the intersection at Liberty was blocked off, State street was flooded by hundreds of people — some there to buy the newest gear, the rest there simply to take it all in. But at what point could things have been considered to be over the top?
It could’ve been when a stage more apt to be seen at a music concert was set up across the store.
It could’ve been when members of the marching band, dance, basketball and football teams all arrived to entertain the crowd.
And it most certainly could’ve been when Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh arrived and transformed the once docile crowd into a writhing mass of outstretched hands, pleading for the head man to pay attention to them with cries of, “Jim! Jim!”
Though Harbaugh would later climb upon the stage and tell the crowd that the rally was unlike anything he’d ever seen in his life, he seemed at home Sunday night. If anything, he delighted in the attention, at one point walking straight through the crowd and slapping five with as many hands as he physically could.
And that’s the thing: For Michigan, the switch to Nike and Jordan Brand and all its surrounding hoopla is only representative of the change that Harbaugh has brought to the football team in the short time he has been here.
For a team that was once missing — for lack of a better term — swag, Harbaugh and his Wolverines have certainly gotten their swagger back now.
It was just two years ago when Michigan’s former head coach Brady Hoke publicly apologized after a humiliating 35-11 beatdown at the hands of rival Michigan State for “poor sportsmanship” — former linebacker Joe Bolden had run out onto Spartan Stadium before the game and driven a tent stake through the middle of the field in a brazen act meant to inspire his team.
Now, could you imagine Harbaugh apologizing for anything at all?
In just a year and a half, he has drawn criticism from what feels like most of the college football world — for both his antics on the field and off of it.
He has led a march through the South in both offseasons, holding satellite camps in the backyards of his SEC counterparts and, when challenged by those same SEC coaches (and even the NCAA), he has taken shots at his criticizers on Twitter — something Nick Saban and ‘The Georgia Coach’ can tell you about.
His football team has only followed suit. Last season, Michigan bounced back from a total of five victories in Hoke’s final year to win 10 games, and the Wolverines ended the season with a 41-7 romp over a highly-rated SEC team. This year, with most contributors returning, they appeared poised to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
And what better way for Michigan to show off its new demeanor than with Nike, the flashiest and most popular apparel brand?
If Adidas and its sometimes tacky, alternative jersey designs represented the Michigan of old, Nike and Jordan Brand represent Harbaugh’s Michigan.
In your face, with a bright variation of maize, dubbed ‘amarillo.’ Proud and unafraid to show it, with a large block M and the famous Jumpman logo printed everywhere and on everything.
Everyone knows the swoosh when they see it — just like how they’ll know Harbaugh and Michigan, whether through watching the coach mean mug his way through a music video or by watching the Wolverines fight their way through the Big Ten.
Has it been mentioned yet that Michigan will be the first team to ever wear the Jordan Brand logo onto the gridiron? And that Michael Jordan himself will be there at Michigan Stadium as an honorary captain in the matchup against Hawaii on Sept. 3?
And if that seems over the top at all, at this point — after this night — it shouldn’t.