PASADENA, Calif. – The American flag at Monday’s Rose Bowl fluttered at half mast, honoring former President Gerald Ford.

Although it won’t make more than a line in the history books, many Michigan fans at the game remembered Ford as a diehard booster for Michigan athletics, willing to express pride in his alma mater and criticize schools he disliked.

Ford’s memorial during the pregame ceremonies bore the trappings of a state funeral. The announcer asked the fans to observe a moment of silence. Then, in Ford’s honor, four F-16 fighter jets from the California Air National Guard flew over the stadium in formation.

Ford’s memorial followed a moving video montage dedicated to former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Schembechler died last month on the eve of the game between Michigan and Ohio State.

Michigan football players honored both Ford and Schembechler with helmet stickers that read “48” – Ford’s jersey number – and “Bo.”

While most people in the audience turned and respectfully watched the homage to Schembechler, some noise echoed through the stadium during the moment of silence, and two fans in the Michigan cheering section shouted.

“I love President Ford,” yelled one maize-and-blue-clad fan. “Beat SC,” another screamed just before the moment of silence ended.

Although the shouts were untimely, Ford would have understood the sentiment, fans said.

Michigan fans said they remembered Ford’s outspoken support for Michigan athletics, which stemmed from his three years playing center and linebacker on the Michigan football team between 1932 and 1934.

Mark Sullivan, a University alum who lives in West Lake Village, Calif., said he remembered seeing Ford speak at a political function while he lived in Ford’s congressional district in Grand Rapids. Ford was the U.S. representative for Michigan’s 5th Congressional District from 1949 to 1973.

“They asked him what he thought about Michigan playing USC in the 1970 Rose Bowl and Ford said ‘I hate those guys,'” Sullivan said. “I just remember that moment.”

Lisa Waits, a University alum living in Palo Alto, Calif., said she respected Ford for pursuing a career in politics even though he had offers to play in the National Football League.

“He embodied the very strong principles of the University of Michigan,” Waits said. “Everybody liked him.”

She said she thought the loss of Schembechler and Ford would motivate the Michigan team to play their best.

Although the game ended up a devastating loss for Michigan, Ford and Schembechler will remain symbols of true “Michigan men,” Sullivan said.

“I keep telling everybody we’ve got the 12th man,” Sullivan said. “Actually, we’ve got 13.”

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