4B Wednesday, January 9 20313 Te Statement
Wensdy Jnar , 03 /Th tae e B
he didn't have
to miss any
of the game,"
her father turned
the hospital room
television to catch the
second half, cradling his
newborn baby at the same
Earlier this month, Swa-
roop - who said Michigan
football has forever been a part of her family
- watched a game from a different vantage
point than her usual sixth-row seat in the stu-
dent section. This time, she traveled to Flor-
ida, where she attended the Outback Bowl
with her brother Alok, a University alum.
They weren't alone.
ON THE ROAD
It's a familiar story to Engineering senior
Kanchan Swaroop, though she'll never-
remember experiencing it.
On Sept. 14, 1991, quarterback Elvis Grbac
led Michigan to a thrilling 24-14 victory over
then-No. 7 Notre Dame at the Big House.
It was a career day for Grbac, who com-
pleted 20 of his 22 pass attempts - none more
famous than his toss to eventual Heisman
Trophy winner, wide receiver Desmond How-
ard. That play, known simply as "The Catch,"
involved Howard laying out in the end zone to
seal the win on fourth down.
The win breathed new life into a season
that would culminate in a Rose Bowl berth
for the Wolverines. And a stone's throw from
Michigan Stadium at the University Hospital,.
Swaroop took her first breaths.
Many students at the University claim to
have been Wolverine fans since birth. Swa-
roop can say so quite literally.
At halftime of the game, with Michigan
leading 17-7, Swaroop was born.
"It was perfect timingfor-(my dad) because
together as Michigan's bowl picture became
clearer, other students, such as LSA junior
Michael Wick, had theirs fall apart as the
season wore on.
After Brendan Gibbons connected on a
38-yard field goal to give the Wolverines the
win over Michigan State in October, Wick
and his father perused the team's remaining
"It became a reality that we could go to the
Rose Bowl," Wick said.
The Wicks knew from experience that
tickets and flights become far more expen-
sive after the bowl berths are officially
handed out in early December. Last sea-
son, they booked a Sugar Bowl package the
day before the announcement came that
Michigan would meet Virginia Tech in New
Orleans. Wick felt comfortable enough in the
experts' bowl predictions to give the trip a
According to Wick, he and his dad pur-
chased round-trip flights to New Orleans
for about $700. In the coming days, with the
Wolverines formally heading to the Bayou
and their plane tickets already purchased,
they watched as the prices skyrocketed to
well over $1,000. Eventually, the flights sold
That's why the Wicks decided to buy their
flights to Pasadena, Calif., as well as a hotel
early on in the 2012 football season.
"We knew Michigan fans in the state
of Michigan would want to go because it's
'The Granddaddy of'Em All,"' Wick said.
"After Michigan State, we made the deci-
sion because we looked at the schedule and
nately, we got a little surprise at Nebraska."
One week after the Wolverines edged their
in-state rival, they traveled to Lincoln, Neb.
to face the Cornhuskers. The offense failed
to show up for the tough road task, and the
Rose Bowl hopes were, for the most part,
The Wicks continued to scan prices for
a bowl trip, this time looking at the Florida
bowls - Capital One and Outback - as the
more likely destination for the Wolverines.
But after Michigan fell to Ohio State in the
season's final week, all bets were off. Wick
and his dad would be home for the holidays..
"It kind of left a sour taste in his mouth,"
Wick said of the loss to the Buckeyes.
Wick believes that a large part of the
appeal of traveling to a bowl game comes
from the Bowl Championship Series. With-
out it, there is less incentive to make travel
"In other bowls, you might not be playing
great opponents," Wick said. "As far as I'm
concerned, a BCS bowl shows you had a great
For Swaroop, driving to Florida from her
parents' home in Maryland allowed her to
avoid the holiday airline hikes in her pursuit
of the maize and blue.
Swaroop estimated that she spent about
$350 on gas driving to Orlando, where she
stayed with her maize-and-blue bleed-
ing family, to Tampa, where the game was
played, and back to Maryland. Swaroop
also spent about $50 on food during her trip.
south and at the bowl game. Staying over at a
friend's house helped her save money.
ticket, and Swaroop spent a grand total of
$565 to see the Wolverines play away from
the Big House's friendly confines for the first
time in her life. (She once thought of travel-
ing to Columbus for an Ohio State game, but
was deterred because of potentially hostile
Others;like LSA sophomore Michael Pus-
kar, who described himself as an avid Michi-
gan football fan, said he considered traveling
to the Outback Bowl, but decided against it
after learning the cost it takes to "Go Blue"
out of state.
"If it was the national championship,
maybe," Puskar said. "But the Outback Bowl
THE ALUMNI ADVANTAGE
Despite the less prestigious bowl bid, the
Michigan fan base continues to travel in num-
bers - just not as large numbers. -
According to Brad Whitehouse, senior
communications coordinator for the Alumni
Association, "there was a big drop" in num-
ber of bowl trip packages sold from last year's
Sugar Bowl game to this year. These packages
include airfare, hotel and a game ticket.
"Historically, the prominence of the bowl
game is a big factor in how many people go, so
it was probably a factor this year too," White-
house said. "This year, we also offered a tour
to the Cowboy Classic (against Alabama in.
Dallas) at the start of the season. That was
a popular trip, and some alumni probably
decided not to go on a second tour in the same
ciation is exploringnew ways to help students
get to bowl games in the future. But part of
the road-warrior Michigan fan base mental-
ity can certainly be attributed to the world-
wide alumni network.
"One thing about alumni that is obvi-
ous every day at the Alumni Association is
that their feeling of connection to Michigan
doesn't go away after they graduate," White-
house said. "I think it's that strong passion
and pride that make them so willing to go to
In the end, sports are big business. Wolver-
ine passion fills seats in stadiums and rows
on airplanes. Michigan athletics are like a
band, and away games are simply stops on a
tour reaching a devoted, national audience.
Alumni groups, which Michigan has all over
the globe, serve as built-in fan bases, boosting
In November, the men's basketball team
took part in the NIT Season Tip-Off at New
York's Madison Square Garden. And while
an NCAA spokesperson said projected atten-
dance figures aren't taken into consideration
when the event's selection committee is
deciding which teams to invite, event orga-
nizers are surely aware that including the
maize and blue can lead to increased hype.
"I would say that 80 to 90 percent of the
fans in attendance (in New York) were Michi-
gan fans," said LSA junior Andrew Dorbian,
who said seeing the Wolverines play in his
home state was "enticing."
Kinesiology junior Dylan Sherwyn, who
attended the NIT Season Tip-Off, said he
believes a combination of sustained athletic
to the willingness of fans to travel.
"Everywhere you go, you can typically find
someone who has a connection to Michigan,"
RUNNING ON SPIRIT
The Maize Rage, the student cheering sec-
tion for the men's basketball team, doesn't
shy away from chances to travel either. Atan
away game against Michigan State in 2010,
the student fan section burst through the
doors of the Breslin Center while chanting
"It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine."'
For Maize Rage president Kevin Starkey,
a Kinesiology senior, who has also been to
Wolverine games at Penn State, Northwest-
ern and Purdue, his position is a job moti-
vated and compensated solely in spirit.
"The Maize Rage is a very close group, and
we enjoy the games as a social event as well
as an experience where we get to cheer for
our favorite team," Starkey said, estimating
he spends between 10 and 12 hours per week
on Maize Rage-related activities. "The board
spends so much time organizing because we
are striving towards becoming the best stu-
dent section in the nation."
At the Frozen Apple Faceoff after Thanks-
giving in New York, a glance at the crowd
would reveal that Cornell hockey fans out-
numbered Michigan hockey fans. But, Cor-
nell is approximately three times closer to
Madison Square Garden than the University
The immense hype that surrounds major
events is too much for many students to
resist. If Michigan loses, as it did in Tampa
on New Year's Day, the students leave with
memories and a souvenir. But the chance to
see a win is what makes these trips so poi-
"It was a lot of emotions," Wick said of the
Sugar Bowl celebration in New Orleans. "I
may have started to cry."
Though there was a different result at this
year's bowl game, the sentiment remained
"It was definitely worth it," Swaroop said
of her trip to Tampa. "It feels good to support
your team even when they're not playing in
the Big House."