All of the hype that comes with playing a prime-time game comes with hours of preparation and waiting for those trying to ensure its success.
Rob Rademacher, associate athletics director for facilities and operations, thinks he knows about what to expect after his experience with the previous night game, a thriller the two schools played in 2011 that culminated in a last-second win by the Wolverines.
“We went into it blind two years ago,” Rademacher said Thursday. “Will I sleep easier this year? Maybe just a little bit because we’ve done it before. But my job is not to sleep easy.”
Instead, his job is to make sure that every wrinkle of hosting such a major event — ESPN’s College GameDay program will originate from Ann Arbor the morning of the game — is taken care of.
Rademacher and his team — which includes Shelly Fabrizio, director of operations and events — will monitor vehicle and pedestrian traffic around Michigan Stadium. They’ll ensure the lighting system, which was first used at 2010’s Big Chill at the Big House, is functioning before the game. For night games, they bring in extra lighting fixtures. And they’ll hope that their security team, prepared for the attendees who have enjoyed a long day of tailgating, doesn’t have too heavy of a workload.
For the 2011 night game, Rademacher said administrators at other Big Ten schools reached out to him, telling him to expect at least three times more arrests and ejections than a typical Saturday at the Big House. Rademacher, however, said they dealt with the same number of incidents as usual.
While the event staff can prepare for a night game by beefing up on security, there isn’t a whole lot that changes for Michigan Marching Band Director John Pasquale. But for his 405 musicians, Saturday is going to be a long day. It’ll begin at 8:30 a.m., when the band gathers to play on College GameDay, and won’t end until about 15 hours later.
“We tell them to take it easy and hydrate as much as possible,” Pasquale said. “With those thick uniforms on, it gets a little warm.”
The band practiced in the stadium Thursday night and will do so again Friday night to incorporate elements that Pasquale said “have to do particularly with the evening.” He chose not to disclose these additions, only adding, “It’ll all make sense when you’re in the stadium.”
Pasquale knows that, like the football team, his pupils will have to deal with nerves of their own — nerves that, in a nighttime setting, can be intensified. He described the atmosphere at the 2011 Under the Lights game as “so loud it was nauseating.”
His freshmen band members come from high-school bands comprising between 100 and 200 members who are used to playing for a maximum of 10,000 people — the equivalent of one-third of the Michigan student section and less than 10 percent of Michigan Stadium’s capacity.
For this year, he expects the same atmosphere — possible even more intense because of the comments made by Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly earlier this week. Kelly said that he doesn’t consider Michigan to be a great, historic Fighting Irish rival before going back on those comments later in the week.