Whether you’ve been to a Michigan men’s basketball game in person or watched one on TV, you’ve seen them.
Perched in Section 130, eight individuals decked out in cow costumes jump up and down over the course of two hours, pumping up the Wolverine faithful and jeering opposing players. These costumed students, known as Howard’s Herd and previously known as the Bee-Line, have become one of the most visible and recognizable parts of attending or watching a Michigan game.
Three years ago, Section 130 was a more relaxed alternative to the student section. Featuring cushioned seats instead of benches found in Section 129, where the Maize Rage student section resides, most fans seated in Section 130 spent much of their time sitting down and casually watching the game.
But in 2017, the Maize Rage decided it was time to change the culture of Section 130. One meeting, the Maize Rage announced they were looking for eight members to attend every game in Section 130 to try and increase its spirit and engagement. For senior Drew Hirselj, the decision was a no-brainer.
“I mean, getting free food vouchers and guaranteed seating?” Hirselj said, “It was one of the biggest no brainers of all time for me. I was sold right away.”
Then freshmen, Hirselj and seven friends attended Michigan’s first game of the season against North Florida, where they led Section 130 in chants, distracted opponents taking free throws and wrote quips on a whiteboard to poke fun at Osprey players. The group had succeeded in energizing the section, but they still felt like they needed an identity to separate themselves from other Maize Rage members.
“We were actually called the 130 Boys for those first few games,” senior Josh Goldstein said. “Then someone had the idea to have us dress up in bumblebee costumes to honor John Beilein and things really took off from there.”
As Big Ten-play kicked off in 2018, so did the “Bee-Line.” Decked in bee onesies, the eight freshmen presided in the front row of Section 130 and served as one of the most visible figures of the Crisler Center crowd that saw Michigan start 15-1 at home.
“In the first half, we’re doing what we can to help on offense,” Goldstein said. “In the second half we’re helping out on defense.”
When the season came to a close, Beilein took the time to meet the group that paid homage to him at each game, giving them fist bumps and handshakes before posing for a photo. The moment served as validation for the Bee-Line, who were starstruck by their namesake’s support.
The Bee-Line, though, would experience a name change just three months later when Beilein accepted a coaching job in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“After Beilein left, we didn’t really know where we would go,” Goldstein said. “We weren’t even sure if we would dress up anymore.”
About a week later, Juwan Howard was named Michigan’s coach. Almost as soon as the deal was finalized, the Bee-Line began brainstorming potential ideas for a new name, and came up with the aforementioned “Howard’s Herd.”
Despite new costumes, the spirit of Howard’s Herd has remained steady. Whether they’re dancing to “Everytime We Touch,” executing free throw distractions or trash-talking opponents, Howard’s Herd is always front and center in Section 130 and a constant presence on TV broadcasts.
“That’s how my parents know I’m alive,” Hirselj said. “Every week when they see me on TV that’s my weekly check-in with them.”
While Howard himself has not approached the group personally yet, the group was excited when he posted a photo featuring Howard’s Herd in a Twitter post thanking fans for coming out to the season’s first home game.
“Knowing that he appreciates and supports us means a lot,” senior Adam Sadowski said.
With the 2020-21 men’s college basketball season clouded in uncertainty, it remains unknown whether or not fans will be able to attend games at Crisler Center in the near future, or if there will even be games to attend. Howard’s Herd has discussed possible alternatives, including hosting socially distanced watch parties outdoors and producing social media content, but they know that one way or another their time in their roles are limited with graduation looming in the distance. For Hirselj, finding a successor means finding people who will appreciate and enjoy the experience as much as they have.
“We were really gifted this opportunity,” Hirselj said, “and I feel like the next lineage of it should go to people that want it even more than we do.”