My trip to East Lansing this weekend gave me a lot to dislike about the green and white. Their campus is pointlessly vast and desolate. They have a strange obsession with Busch Light, and that drainage ditch they call the Red Cedar kind of smells.

But there is one thing right about Spartan football Saturdays. Though Michigan’s student section triumphs over Michigan State’s in style, tradition and now volume, the Spartans’ way of seating students is superior to ours. At Michigan Stadium, this method could eliminate many headaches for fans and end the current haphazard seating delegation system. Even though I’m having a hard time convincing myself that giving up my personal piece of the Big House would be a good idea, I still think Michigan should make its student section first come, first dibs.

While I waited for my season tickets to arrive this summer, I was ecstatic. Finally, as a senior, I wouldn’t need supplemental oxygen to stave off hypoxia as I watched maize and blue ants scurry about from my lofty perch above row 80. With “low” hopes, I tore open my envelope and promptly lost much of my faith in humanity. Section 30, row 40, just halfway down the bowl.

I don’t know why I’m not sitting pretty in row 15 like I had always dreamed. Did I apply too late? Were too many people in my seating group? Too few? Had all those people in rows 1-39 amassed more credits than I did, or was I just unlucky? I’m sure many students are thrilled with their seemingly arbitrarily determined seats, but as an obvious loser in that drawing, frankly, I’m peeved.

In most stadiums, including the remainder of Michigan Stadium, the more you’re willing to pay, the better seats you have. Staggering the seating price in the student section might raise the chance of obtaining desirable seats for those who have the cash, but the price difference between the upper and lower rows would have to be massive to make a reasonable impact on which section students would choose. Also, raising some student section tickets above $25 would prevent many students on a limited budget from attending the games.

The simplest solution is also the fairest — make the student section first come, first served. Michigan could open a designated waiting section on Friday before game day and award the diehards who arrive early their choice of seats. As less crazed students file in hours before kickoff, they simply sit in the best open seat they see. Michigan State does it, and it works.

The benefits are plentiful. If I really wanted to sit in the front row during the Ohio State game, I could, but I better plan on bringing my camping gear. The desire to snag good seats would give me another motivation to wake up earlier and, naturally, party earlier. Any excuse for that is good by me. Best of all, the student section would be forever purged of latecomers whining about their occupied seats.

I can’t stress enough what a joy this would be. It’s incredible how so many people are astonished when they stumble into the stadium at the end of the first quarter and find their seats taken. Nothing disrupts the game more than the inevitable arguments, and often belligerency, that follows.

With thousands of students cramming into bleachers with no seat backs, it’s too easy for someone to migrate away from their assigned seat. All it takes is one wanderer and one jackass to start a chain reaction with the potential to ruin the game experience of many. First come, first served would end that. People may worry about the potential of overcrowding in the more popular rows. Well, come talk to me during the Penn State game and I’ll show you that it’s already a problem … in row 40!

I’m not naïve. I know that if I had a better seat this year, I probably wouldn’t be complaining. I’d also be a fool if I didn’t admit that I enjoy taking my seat — usually without problems — just moments before Blue runs under the MClub banner. But the more I think about it, the more first come, first served seating makes sense to me. The Athletic Department should seriously consider the shift, even if only as an experiment.

In the meantime, if everyone in rows 38-42 could arrive at the next game before kickoff, that would be super.

Chris Koslowski can be reached at cskoslow@umich.edu.

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