After a tumultuous week for the Athletic Department, the athletic community gathered together to show their support for the football team with a formal send off.
Student-athletes, coaches, athletic administrators and alumni gathered in Schembechler Hall Friday afternoon to cheer on the football team as they boarded the buses to Piscataway, New Jersey for Saturday’s game at Rutgers University.
The energy was positive at the indoor field. Pompoms were passed out to students as they created a tunnel down the center of the field. Members of the baseball and volleyball teams came dressed in uniform.
“We thought it would be a great way to show our support for our football team, cheer them on, let them know we got their back and that we are here as a family,” Associate Athletic Director David Ablauf said.
The Student Athlete Advisory Council, a committee consisting of representatives from each varsity and club-varsity sport on campus to encourage the student-athlete experience, organized the send off. Similar send offs and homecomings happen often for teams, usually when participating in big competitions or tournaments, such as the NCAA Final Four, Ablauf said.
“Our goal is to help the student athletes and coaches,” he said. “We want to go out and support them, weather it is in celebration, weather it is in time of need, for whatever reason or what ever they are going to do.”
Junior Volleyball player Olivia Reed found out about the send off through e-mails from her SAAC representatives. Right before leaving for Michigan State, the volleyball team found it important to support their football team, Reed said.
“Right now it is important for all of us to come together as a community,” Reed said. “To be supportive of our football team as they are maybe going through a harder time than we would expect.”
Senior Baseball player Eric Jacobson also attended with his teammates before their afternoon practice.
“We really want to show the football team that we have a lot of faith in them and that their success is important to us,” Jacobson said.“In light of the negativity there are still positives to be found in our community.
The football team has a 2-3 record going into its game against Rutgers, and the program itself has been criticized with regards to its coaching staff.
Students rallied Tuesday calling for Athletic Director Dave Brandon to be removed from his position. Brandon is directly responsible for football coach Brady Hoke’s performance, which is under scrutiny from media outlets for his handling of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion in the team’s game against Minnesota last week.
“Obviously this week has been tough on our football program,” Ablauf said. “We wanted those student-athletes to know that we are all here, we are supporting them, we are going to give them all the energy we possibly can, so they can go out and have a great game on Saturday.”
Ablauf said players and coaches need to stay focused and the send off was just part of that initiative.
“You want to try to keep things as normal as possible for them and not alter their routine,” Ablauf said. “I think we have been able to do that.”