For the last 14 years, the Theta Xi fraternity has taken to Central Campus during the week before the Michigan State football game to protect the sacred ‘M’ at the center of the Diag from potential East Lansing vandals.

Early Wednesday morning, the ‘M’ was painted green, and the 15th “Defend the Diag” effort was stymied before it had even begun. The letters “S” and “U” were spray-painted in white alongside the ‘M’ for full effect.

The block ‘M’ on Michigan’s campus has been painted green.— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) October 22, 2014

Theta Xi’s “Defend the Diag” initiative is currently scheduled to start Thursday at 11 p.m. and conclude Saturday at 8 a.m.

Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the Division of Public Safety and Security, said she was surprised that the fraternity was not guarding the Diag earlier, as the event has occurred annually since she began working at the University.

She said defacing the ‘M’ constitutes malicious destruction of property, which would qualify in this case as a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

As to why the Theta Xi camp-out was slated to start so late in the week, rumors abound about the reason for the delay.

University alum Tyler Bernstein, a former Theta Xi brother, wrote in a Facebook comment that a “political rally” — possibly in reference to the candlelight vigil protesting domestic violence held Wednesday night — conflicted with “Defend the Diag.” As a result, Bernstein wrote, the fraternity wasn’t able to set up shop until Thursday night.

Current members and leaders of the Theta Xi fraternity did not respond to requests for comment on the alleged issue.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an e-mail interview that the administration did not have involvement in coordinating Theta Xi’s “Defend the Diag” event.

“Theta Xi decided on their own to guard the block M overnight just Thursday and Friday nights this year,” he wrote.

He said he was aware of other evening events on the Diag this week as well, including a pep rally Thursday night for the Michigan State game.

Workers came to clean off the ‘M’ and surrounding brick at about 10 a.m. Wednesday. Fitzgerald said cleaning and repairs to the ‘M’ are done from time to time, and procedures are in place to do so when necessary.

In the past, Theta Xi has successfully defended the block ‘M’ in the week leading up to the annual rivalry game. Additionally, the University hasn’t been the only victim, the Spartan statue having been painted maize and blue last year.

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