In what will be one of the biggest public appearances in Ann Arbor since his playing days, former Michigan basketball player and current ESPN basketball analyst Jalen Rose will emcee the 15th annual Mock Rock on Monday at Hill Auditorium.
The event, hosted by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), pits members from most of the University’s 27 varsity programs in a competition for the best on-stage variety performance. A trio of 2012 London Olympians — former Michigan water polo goalie and 2012 gold medalist Betsey Armstrong and former Wolverine hurdlers Jeff and Tiffany Porter — will serve as the event’s judges, alongside C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital patient Kaitlin Huff.
Mock Rock originated in 1999 to raise proceeds for the Jeff Reese Endowed Scholarship fund in memory of Reese, a former Michigan wrestler who passed away during midseason training in 1997. After the scholarship was amply funded, Mott became the primary beneficiary.
The money for Mott will go to the Family and Hope Fund, which “provides aid to families whose child’s illness has created extraordinary financial hardships or other types of challenges,” according to the event’s official press release. After raising more than $90,000 last year, SAAC’s goal is to raise more than $100,00 this year.
“Mott’s huge for the athletic department,” said senior lacrosse player J.D. Johnson, a Mock Rock chair. “They give student-athletes a great opportunity to volunteer all the time and they get our support 100 percent of the time, so in any way, building that relationship is always important. Mock Rock is no exception. This is just perhaps the most public way we do it, but it’s not necessarily (the only way).”
Rose’s charter school in Detroit, the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, will serve as a co-beneficiary. Rose, who will be on ESPN’s College GameDay set on Saturday in Bloomington covering the Michigan-Indiana basketball game, follows in the footsteps of an impressive collection of past special guests, including Desmond Howard, Adam Schefter and Dhani Jones.
“That’s the highlight, that’s the big thing,” Johnson said of Rose. “We know that he’s a great personality on TV and brings great life to his shows, so having him come back, bringing back the Fab Five, it’s almost like a homecoming. Even if it is only one of them, a lot of us feel like it is the homecoming for the Fab Five coming back.
“I know he’s excited. I know he’s really looking forward to having the show be huge, not only for himself, but … he’s always looking for ways to help out.”
Last year’s event — which included Denard Robinson dressed as a nerd and a trio of women’s teams mocking the academic standards at other Big Ten universities — was won by a skit featuring the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams. The men’s soccer team took home the “Better Luck Next Year” award, denoting the show’s skit that left the most to be desired.
“To get people to see the other side of athletes, it is extremely important and extremely fun for everybody,” Johnson said. “We’re pushing for the skits to be prime and top notch — definitely pushing for a great show, great entertainment value.”
But the senior said that fans shouldn’t expect skits this year to be as edgy as some have been in years past. Without citing any skits in particular, Johnson noted that some performances had lost sight of Mock Rock’s true values.
“I would say the focus of keeping a family-friendly show was made secondary and we’re trying to bring that back to forefront,” he said. “The goal this year is to bring the show back to its roots of a family-friendly, beneficiary focus show, rather than focusing on outdoing the last year.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that the competitive nature between the athletes has diminished.
“Now that the show’s getting closer, people will say, ‘Oh, you better not screw up this year,’ and that sort of thing,” Johnson said of the banter between teams. “Being that we’re athletes, competition’s always huge. That’s always important to see who wins and who goes home empty-handed.”
Tickets for the 7 p.m. show at Hill Auditorium can be purchased from the Michigan Athletic Ticket Office on Friday or Monday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., at the door or at mockrock.org, where donations can also be made. VIP seats are $30, while non-student general admission seats are $15. Students with valid M-Cards can purchase tickets for $12. Doors open at 6 p.m.