The Wave. It’s a Michigan football
tradition like “The Victors” or the “Go
Blue” banner. It also represents the state of the Michigan
football student section. In the third quarter of Michigan’s
game against San Diego State, fans in the front row of the student
section led the students in waving their hands in the air with
little regard to the play on the field.

Beth Dykstra

But there was one small problem. The Aztecs were down just three
and driving in an attempt to tie or take the lead, and the students
leading the cheers didn’t really seem to care. They were like
the guys you see behind a backstop at a baseball game talking on a
cell phone telling their buddies that they’re on TV.

Although the upperclassmen stopped attempts at the wave last
week against Iowa, there is still a severe lack of coordination
that makes the Michigan student football experience less than what
it could be. Thousands of students may comprise the student
section, but the only connection they have with one another is that
they attend the University.

The common bond stops there, as everyone seems to have their own
way of cheering. Some people like to do the chop after third down.
Others like to do the claw. Some people like to wave their hand and
yell with the band. Others like to talk on their cell phone and
tell the rowdy students behind them to be quiet.

Many have tried to unify the student section, and, for the most
part, have failed. Student groups made and sold “Blue
Out” and “Maize Out” (make up your mind!)
T-shirts after seeing similar things done at other schools. Other
individuals have attempted to bring signs getting those around them
to follow their lead. This past week, the Michigan cheerleaders
passed out yellow sheets of paper to some students asking them to
become the “12th man on the field.”

One endeavor that has been a success, depending on who you ask,
was the implementation of “The Claw.” Although some had
previously done “The Claw” (supposed to represent the
ferociousness of the Wolverine) as an alternative to “The
Chop” (supposed to mock the first down that the opposing team
failed to achieve), the increased awareness last year was like
throwing a match in an oil spill. Now, “The Chop” seems
to be upon its dying days.

But situations such as that one are few and far between. The
reality is that, without the support of the athletic department,
the Michigan student section will never be nearly as unified as it
is at other schools, nor will the Big House have the atmosphere it
is capable of.

One place on campus where the atmosphere has improved
tremendously is at Crisler Arena, thanks to the Maize Rage. A place
almost devoid of student involvement during the Fab Five era could
have one of its best seasons yet this year (ticket applications are
due today). Now students meet each Monday with the hopes of making
Crisler Arena as unwelcoming as possible.

As anyone whose sat in the bleachers at a basketball game knows,
they make a newsletter for each game, titled “Full Court
Press,” that gives the students direction on what cheers to
say when.

Ryan Shinska, Superfan V and head of the Maize Rage, said that
the group has tried to crossover its efforts to football, but the
immense size of the student section has prevented it from making
any headway.

“With 20,000 students, it’s a lot harder to do, as
opposed to 2,000 students for basketball this year,” Shinska
said.

Ideas to improve the student section have been bantered around,
such as starting games later in the day or allowing students to
enter the section in a first come, first serve basis. But the
athletic department would likely never allow a night game, and the
way Michigan Stadium is set up would make free-for-all seating a
recipe for lawsuits.

One initiative the athletic department should take is to help
create a group like the Maize Rage for football that could devise
and lead cheers from the start of the section and coordinate
cheering with the band and cheerleaders.

Michigan State has a similar organization called the Corner
Blitz run by the MSU Student Alumni Foundation, which also runs the
Izzone that swarms the Breslin Center during each Spartan
basketball game. Members of the Corner Blitz wear special T-shirts
and sit in a separate section from the rest of the students while
leading various cheers. The organization has grown in recent years
and now has over 1,000 members. Dave Jackson, Corner Blitz
co-director, says that the major success of the group comes from
the support it receives from everyone involved — from coach
John L. Smith to the band.

“If everyone wants it to happen, it can happen,”
Jackson said.

While a completely separate section may never exist in Ann
Arbor, a group could still create creative cheers and get the band,
cheerleaders and the students on the same page. The group could
also help put more emphasis on cheering on the team instead of
doing the wave during a key third down play.

But the first step that would have to be taken is the
realization by many that Michigan Stadium could be, and needs to
be, a better place to watch a football game. Watching the Notre
Dame student section a couple weeks ago, I was amazed by the
unification of the students — they had a ritual for every
part of the game.

Since Notre Dame is a small private school, it’ll be
difficult to emulate that enviroment. But that does not mean that
Michigan cannot and should not improve.

For a school with the academic and athletic reputation of
Michigan, one should expect so much more.

Bob Hunt thinks that Michigan students should emulate German
soccer hooligans and light fires in the stands after each
touchdown. He can be reached at
“mailto:bobhunt@umich.edu”>bobhunt@umich.edu.

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