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November 18, 2011 - Image 11

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Historians had theories - but no
Greg Dooley, proprietor of the Michi-
gan history blog MVictors.com, never got
a good explanation for a couple of random
seats nestled up against the old press box.
Kinney never ventured a guess, but he
pointed out where the seats were added in
the 1956 renovation.
"When they built the new press box they
moved it back so it was more flush with the
outside of the stadium," Kinney said. "So
they gained those, maybe eight or 10 rows
of seats the width of the press box there.
"And at one point they found that people
at the bend had a few extra inches, so they
squeezed in a couple of seats there."
He pulled out a picture of the stadium
from the 1940s and pointed out how the
press box rose, and the seats were installed
beside and under it. Having an extra seat
in the area was feasible. If Crisler ended
up with 1,000 more seats than he intended,
he could have found a special spot near the
press box for one more.
Yet, the closer I got to an answer, the
more questions appeared. "Who was it
for?" accompanied "Where is it?"
The answer came down to three sus-
pects: Did Crisler give it himself, or did he
do it to honor either Yost or Crisler's men-
tor at the University of Chicago, legendary
coach Amos Alonzo Stagg?
Holland guesses it's Stagg's seat in his
Sports Illustrated article.
"(Stagg) wouldn't have wanted it any
more than Crisler would have (given him)
it," said John Kryk, historian and author of
Natural Enemies, a history of the Michigan-
Notre Dame rivalry. "I just don't believe
that happened. I really don't."
Kryk's didn't think Crisler had the per-
sonality to give the seat to himself. That left
"I would say it's definitely not for Yost
unless someone else was behind it, just
because there was quite a power struggle in
Yost's final years," Dooley said.

I left that question unanswered. It wasn't
my focus.
I ended my interview with Kryk on a
simple question: Where do you think the
seat is?
"I think it's a phantom seat," he said. "I
don't think it's a real seat."
Dooley mentioned the same thing. How
did I overlook this possibility? It made the
most sense. Michigan altered the seating
five times since the '01' first appeared. It
tore down the press box Crisler was instru-
mental in constructing. Even if it was there
and Crisler was the only one who knew
about it, how likely was it that the seat
remained through all the construction?
I had to alter my strategy.
The seat wouldn't be found in a program.
Historians know of events and results. Leg-
ends are different. They're passed on, one
telling at a time.
I didn't need hours in a library, just a
shoddy Internetconnection and an Android
phone with a sticky power button.
To get to the seat, I had to get to know the
The call changed everything.
The trail had run cold. Hope was dwin-
dling but my phone rang.
It was Kristie Crisler, the Fritz's grand-
daughter. Finding her was easier than I
thought. Some research on Crisler indi-
cated he married a Dorothy Adams. Their
son was Prescott Adams Crisler. His obitu-
ary from last year revealed Fritz Crisler's
After an expert-level Facebook stalk I
had an email address. From there I got a
phone number and left a voicemail. When
Kristie returned my call, I began to re-
explain what the story was about. "I'm
examining the story behind the extra seat,
to see whether it's real or not and I -" she
cut me off.
"Oh, it's real"
Finally, a breakthrough.
We arranged to meet face-to-face the fol-
lowing week. I spent the better part
of three days thinking about the seat.
How much did she know? Did Crisler
himself tell here Had my fairy-tale
' notion of this extra seat been true?
That night, I wrote an article
breaking down the Michigan-Iowa
game. The word count: 1,001.
By the time I sat in that Pizza
House booth, I was convinced it was
the day I would uncover one of the
greatest mysteries in Michigan ath-
letics. The waitress taking our order
had no idea she was going to witness
'Oaily Entering her 50s, Kristie sat across
from me in a Michigan T-shirt. She
elaborated on what she told me on

Wi mlr jets and football,
this Saturday is all about respect

Fritz Crisler (right) renovated Michigan Stadium in 1956, bringing the capacity over 100,000. He ended
up with 1,000 seats more than expected. Legend has it, he added one more seat for himself.

the phone.
"The seat is real. I would love to sit in it
some time. None of us kids have ever been
able to sit in it."
So she didn't know where it is?
"I can't factually say it's an actual seat....
Maybe U of M could be accountable for the
actual fact, I don't know. Maybe someone
could find out."
I was trying to find out. She was sup-
posed tobe the to tell me.
We were in a similar situation, believers
with no proof.
"Maybe we're on a ghost hunt here, I
don't know," she said.
There it was again, the phantom seat.
To figure out this if seat was realor just
a good story, I had to answer the question
I had pushed aside: Who was the seat for?
Kristie saw a Crisler that the historians
didn't. She saw the side of Crisler that didn't
include a suit and tie. Yet, she agreed with
"He would never give the seat to him-
self," Kristie said. "He wasn't like a person-
able, warm, fuzzy kind of guy. He was strict
on integrity and discipline. ... He had warm
sides with certain people."
Those warm sides showed when he with
his grandchildren. Crisler would take them
to Crisler Arena after hours, letting the kids
tackle big bags of popcorn.
"We'd go tackle it, break it open, sit on
the floor and eat it," Kristie said. "The jani-
tor would walk by and say, 'OK Mr. Crisler,
it's fine. I'll clean it up when you're done."'
As I got a firsthand account of Crisler, I
started to believe in the seat again. He was
the taskmaster his players knew, but there
was a softer side, one that had some fun
with people.
I added another possible location to my
list. Before it became WJR Radio's booth,
the Crisler family sat in the what Kristie
remembered as the "ninth booth from the
end" of the press box.

Was that booth the answer? Did Crisler
actually sit in the extra seat on game day?
There's no way to investigate now. That
booth is gone, along with the rest of the
press box from 1956.
By the end of the meeting, Kristie want-
ed to find the answer as much as I did. And
being Crisler's granddaughter had its perks.
She knew people. She reached out to her
When she hung up with her brother
Fritz, the answer was just a phone call away.
"He says he knows what grandpa told
him," Kristie said. "There's folklore and leg-
end but he knows what grandpa told him."
Fritz Adams Crisler didn't know it, but
he was my inside man.
He too was an '01' believer.
"I was fascinated by that," said Adams
Crisler, who preferred not to be referred to
as Fritz. "I probably spent a good 10 years
questioning him, 'Where was the additional
seat?' He would never tell me."
The only response Adams Crisler got
was, "You have to find it." So, long before
I was born, Adams Crisler looked. He
scoured the stadium, sometimes full, some-
times empty, looking for the seat. Eventu-
ally he would come back to Crisler with his
His grandfather would laugh. His only
answer: "You have to keep looking."
"He thought it was just so funny to talk
about it," Adams Crisler said. "It was part of
his playfulness."
Adams Crisler began running out of
options. He found a ladder in the press box,
climbed it and opened the latch to the roof.
No seat. Everywhere he looked, nothing
was unusual.
Eventually the search efforts faded.
Adams Crisler grew up. He attended Michi-
gan. And deep down, he still believed.

As the clock strikes noon
on Saturday, four F-18
fighter jets will soar from
south to north over Michigan
Stadium. Hun-
dreds of feet
below, 65,000
fans will cre-
ate a massive
American n
flag in the '
stadium's first-
ever card stunt
project. STEPHEN J.
A live feed NESBITT
from the lead
jet will play on
the video boards until it zips over
I-94, when a camera from field
level will take over, showing the
jets cross over the magnificent
patriotic display.
On the field, the Michigan
football team will wear a patch of
the American flag on the left side
of its blue jerseys.
The Athletic Department has
the program's second Military
Appreciation Day planned down
to the second.
The only question remaining
is: Will you be there to see it?
Brady Hoke and Michigan
are an unbeaten 6-0 at home,
outscoring opponents 222-65 at
the Big House. But most games
have featured an underwhelming
number of students in attendance
at kickoff. Consider this a chal-
It's my turn to inspire and
ridicule you. There's a reason
the card stunt won't include the
student section, and it's not just
the fear of the cards becoming
boomerangs, like a military rep-
resentative suggested. It's also
because the student turnout was
for the Purdue and Minnesota
games was a joke.
Show up on time. This game
is going to be special - and not
because of football.
On Saturday, the Wolver-
ines won't be highlighting any
particular legendary Michigan
moment, they'll be creating a
During the first timeout of the
game, Michigan will honor for-
mer cornerback Bryan Williams.
He made seven tackles in six
games from 1994-96. Insignifi-
cant then, Williams is being hon-

ored on Saturday because today
he will be commissioned into the
Air Force.
If that can't make you set down
your cup a few minutes early and
make your way to the stadium
before noon, you're a disgrace.
This is bigger than your frat
party or your tailgate.
Just like the four pilots rocket-
ing overhead, Williams is leav-
ing to fight for your freedom. If
Bryan Williams isn't a Michigan
Man worth recognizing, we can
officially shelve that term.
This is about respect.
Prior to the game, former
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr -
Williams's former head coach
- will be recognized for his
induction into the College Foot-
ball Hall of Fame. Ann Arbor was
the first and only stop in his head
coaching career. Carr's 122 vic-
tories as a head coach rank him
third in Michigan history, trail-
ing only Bo Schembechler (194)
and Fielding Yost (165).
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
took to the Internet to plead for
a respectable showing to honor
"Fans, please make sure tobe
in your seats by 11:45 this week-
end," a smiling Hoke said in a
video released by the Athletic
Department. "We face Nebraska
and we have a special tribute
planned for coach Lloyd Carr.
As part of our tribute, we will
need your help, so get there early.
Thanks, and Go Blue."
Hoke had to put on a pretty
face to urge you - don't make
him beg.
Carr was a disciple of Schem-
bechler, who lived and breathed
"The Team, The Team, The
Team." Like it or not, the fans are
a part of that team. The students
are that weakest link.
But hold on: Michigan is start-
ing a "Shred the Red" rallying cry
to span the last two weeks, hop-
ing to limit the red in Michigan
Stadium against Nebraska and
Ohio State. So if you need another
reason to show up on time - and
you shouldn't - there's a maize .
towel giveaway.
Notice that sudden urge you
just felt to get yourself one of
those towels? (Well, it would go
nicely with your Under the Lights

Michigan coach Brady Hoke released a video this week telling fans to arrive early to see the ceremony honoring Lloyd Carr.

pom poms.) That should make
you a little disappointed in your-
self. But let's move on.
They don't have 110,000 tow-
els, so if you're late you're miss-
ing out.
And with Nebraska making its
first trip to Ann Arbor as a mem-
ber of the Big Ten, it's appropri-
ate to heed the words of Yost,
the legendary coach and athletic
director who spearheaded the
construction of the Big House in
the 1920s.
"Let me reiterate the Spirit of
Michigan," Yost said in his fare-
well address in 1940. "It is based

on a deathless loyalty to Michi-
gan and all her ways. An enthusi-
asm that makes it second nature
for Michigan Men to spread the
gospel of their university to the
world's distant outposts.
And a conviction that nowhere,
is there a better university, in any
way, than this Michigan of ours."
That deathless loyalty isn't
a half-filled student section at
kickoff. Nebraska certainly quali-
fies as one of the world's distant
outposts, so spread the gospel
of Michigan. Those Cornhusker
fans aren't driving across the
Midwest to be late to the game.

The beauty of Michigan foot-
ball is that 110,000 fans will show
up at the Big House - eventu-
ally. Michigan fans are blessed
enough to be able to make that
guarantee. But don't be the weak
link, be there on time.
Do it for the military and Bryan
Williams. Do it for Lloyd Carr. Do
it for the Spirit of Michigan.
This time it's about respect.
- Though he was born in France,
Nesbitt recognizes America as the
Land of the Free and back-to-back
World War champions. He can be
reached at stnesbit@umich.edu.

Fielding Yost created the tradition that brought Fritz
Crisler to Michigan. Was the mystery seat his?

6 1 FootballSaturday - November 19; 2011

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