Across Ann Arbor and the streets of Atlanta last night, Michigan fans somberly walked home in the wake of the University’s loss to Louisville in the NCAA men’s basketball Championship game. In spite of a few incidents around the city, the scene was comparatively quiet to that of previous championship games.
After traveling 710 miles to Atlanta, University students felt disappointment clash with school spirit: All but 30 or 40 Wolverines exited the Georgia Dome after the very soon game. Despite the swift exit and the deflated tone of the night, fans were mostly civil.
Even members of the Maize Rage, the spirit organization known for rowdy enthusiasm, couldn’t mask their heartbreak as the result of the game became clear.
“I’m disappointed, but we haven’t done this good in 20 years, so I’m proud of the boys and I know we’ll be back next year,” said LSA junior Sasha Shaffer, vice president of Maize Rage. “I was really confident; I knew it’d be a good game. I knew we’d play hard, and we played a good game — they just played a little bit better than us.”
Back in Ann Arbor, the crowd of about 11,000 at Crisler Arena reacted to each point scored — jumping from their seats with cheers and falling with heads in hands as the final buzzer sounded. The arena cleared out quickly after the game as students and Ann Arbor residents dealt with the University’s loss.
While the ending mood was somber, cheerleaders and members of the Marching Band entertained and led cheers before and throughout the game. Students and Ann Arbor residents wearing maize and blue waited in line hours before tip-off.
After the game, students said they were upset, but proud of the way the team had performed throughout the season.
“This is the most sad moment in my life,” LSA senior Nick Eickemeyer said. “I guess it was a good year. I just hope most of the players come back. It just hurts.”
Some students, including LSA sophomore Erin Burke, skipped class to wait in line.
One of the event’s attendees, LSA junior Devin Gardner, quarterback of the University’s football team, said although the result of the game was upsetting, he remains optimistic for the next season.
“I’m pretty hurt,” Gardner said. “It felt like I lost this game. I’m pretty sure (the team) can cope pretty well and will be back next year.”
A slow stream of students began to trickle across the Diag, quietly returning home from various viewing locations across campus.
The first students on the Diag were Engineering freshmen Linda Wu and O.P. Akinbola. They left North Campus before the buzzer, hoping to observe the post-game reaction.
“We still had hope even though it was only 30 seconds left,” Akinbola said.
As more students began crossing the Diag, small groups began to gather around the cement benches at the perimeter, the mood fluctuating between pride and anger.
A few times, students began singing a somewhat-slurred rendition of “The Victors,” and one trio of students paused to polish the Diag’s bronze block “M” with paper towels.
Between these moments of reserved spirit, groups formed and then dispersed, shouting and encouraging bystanders to “start a riot.” While a few belligerent students tore down a student organization poster and called for others to participation, the group scattered.
Students looking for drunken high-fives filed past officers from half-a-dozen jurisdictions. More than 20 officers, including some posted on rooftops with cameras to oversee the intersection, were posted on the corner of Church Street and South University Avenue.
As of 1:15 a.m., there were no serious incidents on South University Avenue. The last time the University won the NCAA Championship there was around $80,000 — about $160,000 today adjusted for inflation — in damage to the area.
On Main Street, fans poured out of bars with 1.1 seconds left in the game in low spirits and turning to one another for a friendly hug. Despite Burke’s inevitable upcoming departure, many expressed optimism for the 2013-2014 season.
“They played their best game of the season, and sometimes you don’t come out on top,” Dental School student Scott Ribitch said.
Santiago “Yago” Colás, an associate professor of Latin American and comparative literature who teaches a course, teaches a course on the culture of basketball. He said the national championship competition has brought more basketball excitement to the campus than any time since the Fab Five era.
“This particular game, I can’t imagine any Michigan fan that feels anything less than proud, regardless of the outcome. The kind of psychological equipment to handle that pressure is something they learn from one another,” Colás said.
Colás also happens to teach the basketball team’s five freshmen: forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, and guards Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht and Nik Stauskas.
“My sense is that it was a little bit more intense back in the early 90s, you know? Obviously, the student body today is definitely excited, and everybody’s got their maize and blue, but back then it was such a new thing,” Colás said. “What the Fab Five were and what they did went so far beyond just their efforts on the court and their representation of the University — they were a cultural phenomenon.”
Chris Webber, the most successful of the Fab Five after college, made a surprise appearance at the championship game in Atlanta. In nationally trending online letter published April 3, Colás encouraged Webber to attend the game to show support for the University and the program.
Daily News Editor Peter Shahin and Daily Staff Reporters Robert Aranella, Giacomo Bologna, Jen Calfas, Sam Gringlas and Stephanie Shenouda contributed reporting from Ann Arbor and Daily Staff Reporter Will Greenberg contributed reporting from Atlanta.