Meghanne Downes | Monday, September 15, 2003
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Rivalries are common in college football, but this weekend’s rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan in Ann Arbor was not contained to the field as fans from both sides threw barbs before, during and after the game.
Ann Arbor police officer Sgt. Andrew Zazula said police responded to several fights Friday night between Notre Dame and Michigan fans on Michigan’s campus. He was unaware of any arrests.
At several tailgates prior to the game, fans from both sides exchanged comments, and it wasn’t uncommon for Notre Dame fans to pass Michigan tailgates and hear unsolicited derogatory comments.
Several students said Michigan fans would approach them in line or while they were walking and make obscene comments or gestures.
“I enjoy going to the game and having the competition, but I think the line was crossed in many areas and that takes away from the fun of going,” Walsh sophomore Patty Rose said. “Friendly banter is fine but when there are older men yelling profanity at you it’s uncalled for.”
At one golf course tailgate, a stuffed dummy bedecked with Notre Dame gear was lynched from a tree. A Michigan dorm also hosted a “Leprechaun Roast.”
Michigan T-shirt hawkers countered Notre Dame fans who wore either The Shirt or one that read “Ann Arbor is a whore…We are here to score” with “Rudy Sucks … The Irish Swallow” and others that contained obscenities.
A law enforcement officer, who directed traffic outside Michigan Stadium, made negative comments about Notre Dame throughout the day, saying “Go home Irish” and singled Irish fans out in the crowd over a bullhorn.
The questionable fan behavior carried over into “The Big House” where the Michigan student section began cheering with “F— the Irish” several minutes before kickoff.
Though several students found the stadium personnel to be accommodating and helpful, the Michigan fans, outside of the student section, argued with and taunted the Irish.
Several band members said they were warned prior to the game to avoid confrontation with Michigan fans who attempted to take part of their uniforms.
Kenneth Dye, director of University bands, said he expects problems at certain away games, but generally the band has been well received. He said the general audience, stadium personnel and Michigan’s band were helpful; however, he did encounter rowdy fans.
“There were some fans who sat right behind the band and they said all kinds of things,” Dye said. “The favorite thing was that they would substitute ‘Fighting Irish’ with a bad word.”
Irish cheerleader Mike Riess said he expected the taunting that he and other Notre Dame cheerleaders experienced.
“We got some rude comments. They were up there with what we experienced at USC,” Riess said. “We kind of expected stuff like that to happen.”