By Ashley Dunkak
ANN ARBOR (CBS DETROIT) – One of the most venerable college football programs in the country suffered an almost unimaginable indignity Monday.
Two days after another loss dropped the Wolverines to 2-2 on the season, stores on the school’s campus were giving away pairs of tickets to Saturday’s Michigan-Minnesota game with the purchase of two Coca-Cola products.
Until tickets ran out, customers who spent $3 on two beverages received two free tickets to a Big Ten matchup at the Big House.
Devin Schott, a student manager of the U-go’s in the basement of the Michigan Union, said that location of the store started carrying the promotion because another location was doing so.
“I was in the back office doing some other stuff, and I just had call after call after call, like, ‘Hey, do you still have them?’ ‘Are they student section tickets?’ ‘Can I still get them?’” Schott said Monday night, less than an hour after the supply of tickets had run out. “Even still. We haven’t had them for a while and people are still asking.
“I guess they’re technically $1.50 per ticket, so that’s why students want them, but I was even shocked that even students really wanted them just because of how our football record’s been,” Schott added.
Junior Mark McBride was another Michigan student less than stunned by the promotion.
“If you saw the Utah and Notre Dame games, it’s kind of how we’re playing right now,” McBride said. “It’s pretty pathetic.”
The Wolverines have only defeated Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio) this season, and the team’s turnover margin is the worst in the nation. Michigan did not even reach the red zone against Notre Dame or Utah. The team finished last season with a record of 7-6.
Despite the team’s recent struggles, junior William Xiao trekked 15 minutes to the union Monday to see whether rumors of the ticket giveaway promotion were true.
“I’m actually shocked it was real,” Xiao said. “I thought it was just a joke on the Internet.
“I was pretty unhappy because I got student tickets this year, but I thought some friends might want to come because they didn’t get tickets this year,” Xiao continued, “so I was a little unhappy for spending $40 when you can get it for the price of $3.”
Senior Pat McTighe, who was working at U-go’s, was also taken aback by the promotion.
“It just seems too easy, too cheap for Michigan football,” McTighe said. “It really sucks. It definitely doesn’t look good, but hopefully this gets people to recognize, at least people running the show, that they need to do better.”
Monday’s promotion was spearheaded by Coca-Cola, which had purchased a number of tickets. The company’s apparent valuation of those tickets did not sit well with the university, which issued a statement that the promotion was the result of a “miscommunication.”
Regardless of whether Michigan approved the promotion, the execution of it seemed to represent a resounding indictment of the program.
“It definitely doesn’t reflect well on the program and how well we’re doing – for sure,” Schott said. “It’s honestly kind of embarrassing that that can even happen. It’s definitely not a positive outlook.”
The worth Coca-Cola apparently assigned to Michigan football, however, does not seem to differ much from how some of the school’s students perceive the program. Four of six students interviewed for this article talked about lessening interest in attending football games.
Schott said she did not know anyone who went to the Michigan-Utah game even though all those people had purchased season tickets. McBride, a junior from Rochester Hills, said he bought season tickets his first two years at Michigan – but not this season. Junior Sam Mancina and sophomore Liad Lehavy had similar testimonies; they bought tickets in previous years – but not this year. Mancina said that when student season tickets went on sale last season, only about half his friends bought them.
Mancina and Lehavy both said they grew up watching Michigan football and wanting to be the students in that student section at the Big House. Both said the reality has been disappointing.
Their descriptions of overall campus sentiment toward the football program were accordingly gloomy.
“I think it’s just kind of hopelessness,” Mancina said. “I’ve been a Lions fan my whole life, so I’m pretty used to it, but I think that a lot of people are expressing apathy. They’re just like, ‘I don’t care anymore,’ because I think it almost hurts too much to just think about how bad we are, so we’re just like, we don’t care, we’re giving up, and I think everyone expects that Coach Hoke and the athletic director will be fired and that we’ll have a fresh beginning next year.
“I think people are just already moving on,” Mancina continued, “which is kind of depressing, but I don’t blame them.”
Lehavy, who grew up in Ann Arbor, said nonchalance about the team’s struggles has been startling.
“I didn’t really sense that anybody was that upset over this loss,” Lehavy said. “People were upset because they got rained on, but I think they were more upset about that than the actual game. Michigan football isn’t disappointing anyone or improving anyone’s happiness at this point. I feel like everyone’s just pretty neutral and just accepted the place we’re in as a football program right now.
“I’ve grown up in Ann Arbor most of my life, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lehavy added. “I never thought I would see anything like it, Michigan football just [becoming] such a smaller part of life than it has been all these years, years past. It’s very bizarre. Very bizarre.”
Predictably, much of the ire about the state of the program has been directed toward Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and athletic director David Brandon. The Internet, of course, is abuzz with rage toward both men. Hoke’s Wikipedia page was recently altered to list him as the team’s former head coach rather than as the current one. Mancina said he saw someone on Twitter talking about starting a petition to get Brandon fired.
“I don’t know how real it is,” Mancina said, “but I know the hatred is there – I mean not the hatred, but just the dislike, displeasure.”
In his weekly press conference Monday, Hoke disagreed with the assertion that Michigan football has descended into a state of crisis, but without question, the program long recognized as one of the greatest ever has at the very least hit a notable rough stretch.
“Michigan football is the butt end of all of our jokes on campus,” McBride said, “which is kind of sad to see, but it’s what it is.”