Soggy field conditions at Michigan Stadium were no match for the liquefied, upended front lawn of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Before the Wolverines went up against the Hawkeyes Saturday, several of the Greek community’s boldest squared off in two backyard football games to compete for charity, as well as for recognition in one of the University’s fall traditions, which SAE has hosted for the past 69 years.
“It is one of the very few proud traditions this school still has,” said LSA junior Jay Kopfer, referee of the Mud Bowl.
“We had a tournament last weekend between fraternities and sororities,” said LSA junior Jim Bryan, president of SAE. “Each team pays $150 (for entry), and they write the check straight to Mott’s Children’s Hospital.”
The final brackets for the Mudbowl included SAE versus Sigma Nu, and Delta Gamma versus Delta Delta Delta for the sorority match.
Dana Friend, the father of Engineering sophomore Katie Friend, a member of Delta Delta Delta, attended the Mud Bowl in support of his daughter. “The Mud Bowl is more fun than watching Michigan versus Iowa,” he said.
The DGs came out on top in the game with a score of 6-0.
“This is just something different. It really brings everyone together – Greek or not. Just take a look around,” said Kristin Wolf, an LSA junior and DG sister.
SAE won the interfraternity game, 12-6.
“Sigma Nu played a good game. We have an advantage because we have the experience of playing in the mud,” said Matt McGrail, SAE brother and Engineering junior. McGrail played quarterback for the team and scored one of its two touchdowns.
“The game is sloppy to say the least, but it is all in good fun. It’s a little rough out here, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Nate Hall, Sigma Nu brother and LSA junior.
Although interchapter rivalries spiced up the competition, the higher purpose of the Mudbowl didn’t escape Bryan or his teammates.
“We have no second agenda,” he said. “This is all going to charity.” Bryan also felt that service events like the Mudbowl give fraternities a chance to fend off negative stereotypes about the Greek system as a whole.
“What people don’t know is that every fraternity and sorority has charitable events every year. Hopefully things like this can dispel some of the bad perceptions about the Greek community.”
Bryan referred to SAE’s quota requiring all brothers to contribute to community service events. He estimated this year’s quota to be around 3,000 hours for the chapter. However, he said community service is a hallmark of Greek life. “Community service needs to be done,” he added.
For the mudbowl, a large portion of SAE’s lawn are turned into a huge mud pit each year. In preparation for the game, the field is soaked for two weeks. Pledges dig and comb over the field, and then just before the game, the Ann Arbor Fire Department completely waters down the field.
All this hard work allows the players to play in mud half way up their shins. Every player gets covered in mud from head to toes. They each proudly donned their fraternity T-shirts, duct-taped around the sleeves and waist for security. All wore cleats although they really had no effect in the foot-deep mud.
In the spirit of the game, two fights broke out on the sidelines between the fraternities. Punches and mud were thrown by the opposing teams until other brothers could break it up to allow the game to go on.
“This is the (University’s) best tradition. Even ESPN came out. The defense shut out Sigma Nu except for one long run. We’ll be back next year,” said LSA junior Jeff Kroeger, an SAE brother. Kroeger, a running back for SAE, also scored one of the two touchdowns for SAE.