Mudbowl, Past and Present

Submitted by k.o.k.Law on October 21st, 2016 at 7:36 AM

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As one might surmise from my avatar, I have personal experience with the Mudbowl.

This year’s event, 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the corner of Washtenaw and South University, is run by, The Michigan Mud Bowl Club.


The 501(c)(3) nonprofit is a voluntary U-M student organization comprised of former SAE members and non-Greek students alike.”

(from Mlive story here  link fixed)


Over $46,000 of the $50,000 goal for Mott fundraising has already been raised.


From this morning’s email update: Due to inclement weather (and exam schedules) today, the tough call was made to push the 83rd Annual Michigan Mudbowl Play-in Tournament Final 4 out a day... ohhhhh the drama!

Not to fear, however, we will keep you abreast of the action tomorrow and make sure to announce the valiant victors, who will face off against the host Michigan Mudbowl Club Team Saturday 10/22 at 10:30AM.


Follow the Mudbowl:


Get Dirty, Help Kids! #Mud4Mott

Facebook -
Twitter- @MichiganMudbowl


As for back in the day, as I preface most of my UM stories “Remember, the drinking age was 18.”

The Sunday before the Mudbowl, the pledges would dig up the entire playing surface, in effect plowing it with shovels, metal rakes, et al, to make it more receptive to the vast quantities of liquid to follow.

The year I played was the last year before the city figured out there was a meter cheater in use, and retroactively hit SAE with a $500 water bill.

Hoses were hooked up immediately upon completion of the bowl plowing, and run continuously from the Sunday evening before until early the morning of the game.

The movie Jaws was out that year, and one of the brothers fashioned a gigantic black piece of plywood into a dorsal fin shape, and plunked it down in the middle of the, lake.

The picture made the front page of the Ann Arbor News, above the fold.

It was unseasonably warm the Friday before the game, so we had a game in the flooded field that afternoon.







The bowl gets deeper, and wider, as you get away from the Washtenaw end towards the apartment buildings in that far end zone.

There is a drain in that corner of what would be the endzone, in the corner by the SAE house and the apartment building.

It was necessary to pull the plug to drain the water to make the field playable. A suitable inebriated brother would volunteer to dive around, Saturday morning, still in the dark until he could pull up the plug and the water would have time to, mostly, drain by kickoff.

As the host and owners of the real estate, SAE made the rules.

We always played the Phi Delts, from across the street.

However, the real crowd attraction was the halftime soccer game between the sororities chosen by, the brothers of SAE.







Considerations of comity prevailed, and our next door neighbor Thetas somehow always were selected.

The other sororities competed for our attentions in their efforts to win the honor of participating.

The Kappas actually obtained permission from their national HQ to host a keg party for us. At the conclusion of said party, a usable amount of beverage remained, so we hauled the keg back to the SAE house in order not to have any of the contents wasted.

We thought we were clever in buying our own T-shirts. In subsequent years, the brothers were smart enough to hold up the local Budweiser distributorship, getting them to pay for shirts for all four teams, and, buy beer for the house, among other things.

When Budweiser finally balked at the price, Miller stepped in.

The year after I played, the game was referred by two former SAEs. Who gave us five downs in our last possession, and we still lost.

Of course, every SAE wanted to play. We fielded two touch football teams in the IM league, and had several scholarship athletes, and about 30 members.

The house met and decided who would play, and how many quarters.

I was a blocking back, and split that position with the house president, being allotted two quarters each.

As I was working my way through school partly by hustling football tickets, he agreed to let me play the first half, and he the second, so that I could clean up and get to the Big House to sell the rest of my tickets.

Some years ago, apparently the sororities prohibited participation as too dangerous. Liability and lawyers and no insurance, whatever.

So no more halftime games for the girls.

And, no more beer sponsors.

Carl Grapentine even announced the Mudbowl result during the game.

Ahhh, the good old days.

Truth be told, making it a charity fundraising event is a cosmic improvement, and this year’s event is the best ever.

John U. Bacon mentions the Mudbowl in, I think Fourth and Long, and that every UM player he ever talked to wished he could have played in it.

It was fun.



October 21st, 2016 at 7:48 AM ^

I lived in the apartment building right next to the mud bowl one year.  I was in the marching band and ran home for a quick lunch before the game and managed to catch a couple minutes of the mudbowl.  This was the only time I've seen it, but it looked like so much fun.  I'm happy to see that it is still a thing.  The Mott tie-in is outstanding.

rob f

October 21st, 2016 at 8:43 AM ^

Bob Ufer mentioning the Mud Bowl in his broadcasts a few times over the years, and the one Mud Bowl I did attend (late 70's), Ufer was there. Apparently his attendance was known in advance, as I recall chants of "Ufer! Ufer! Ufer!" just prior to Mud Bowl kickoff and Ufer's arrival.

Block M

October 21st, 2016 at 9:47 AM ^

Never had the pleasure of playing in the actual Mud Bowl, but played in the qualifying tournament that took place at Burns Park a couple years. Was definitely physical, but a lot of fun and everyone participating knew what they were signing up for.

As a kid every time we would pass the corner of South U/Washtenaw my Dad would explain the tradition of the Mud Bowl from his days there, and was something I looked forward to when I was there. Happy to hear it lives on.

SC Wolverine

October 21st, 2016 at 1:51 PM ^

I played in three Mud Bowls, going 1-1-1.  My senior year (1981), we Phi Delts had a touchdown lead late in the game.  On fourth and long an egregious pass interference call was made against me that gave the dreaded SAE's a first down and good position, allowing them to cash in and tie the game.  One of the worst injustices I have ever suffered!

It is a shame that current SAE's have chosen power over tradition by refusing to play the Phi Delts and instead turning a classic revivalry into a PR machine.*  Of course, the game was started by a Phi Delt who challenged the SAE's, so the Mud Bowl hardly belongs to SAE.  Their physical possession of the field has allowed the SAE's to claim what does not actually belong to them.  PDT needs to win the game and then stake their claim anew.

*I do realize that money is raised for a good cause.


October 21st, 2016 at 2:43 PM ^

The active Phis are in the semifinals, so hopefully in addition to raising the most money for Mott Children's Hospital, we can make it back to the mud and beat down the mud bowl club.

I want the game to go back to the PDT v. SAE matchup like when brother E. Reed Low first challenged the house across the street to the game, but I think the logistics at this point with SAE losing their charter to nationals makes that situation a little difficult. 

You should be damn proud of your record, even with the SAE refs screwing you with the pass interference call. 



October 21st, 2016 at 2:02 PM ^

My brother was a Phi Delt in the late 50s. Phi Delta Theta had a lot of ex-scholarship football players on those mud bowl teams. I am pretty sure my brother told me that Ufer was a Phi Delt alum...


October 22nd, 2016 at 7:30 AM ^

an SAE.


And now... the winner is... Pi Kapp! Their relentless offense proved just a bit too much for the passion-fueled Phi Delt team who were definitely on a mission to get back in the MUD!

Because we're sooooo close reaching the $50K goal, we'll keep the CrowdRise campaigns for all the Teams open through game day... Please, keep sharing and giving, giving and sharing!

Rick Sanchez

October 22nd, 2016 at 7:56 AM ^

As I recall, the shark was properly repelled by a brother wielding a 5-iron. (You'd probably use a hybrid today).

Edit: I have a on my hard drive picture but can't embed!  Curse my newbie status!


October 22nd, 2016 at 11:53 AM ^

In the 1879 KAT was the first womens fraternity at the UM. Ten years later a number of members deactivated and formed a local sorority Collegiate Sorosis. While they were long gone by the time I pledged Theta, they were an active house for many years. 

When the SAE's decided to have two sororities play in the mud as the halftime entertainment, someone had the brilliant idea to not just invite Thetas, but to have them play their historic rivals Collegiate Sorosis. 

By the time I played in the Mudbowl Collegiate Sorosis was long gone, and the female teams were always Theta and whichever house had done the best job of schmoozing the SAE's the previous spring.

It was a blast to have been able to participate in the Mudbowl and such a shame that Panhell would have banned sororities from participating. 


July 11th, 2017 at 10:00 AM ^

As a Michigan fan who has never attended UM or lived in AA (yeah I'm that guy) I consider the Mud Bowl the greatest football season tradition that I've been fortunate enough to witness thanks to a friend who was an SAE.


July 11th, 2017 at 8:22 PM ^

Never really cared about the SAEs or the mud bowl, but raising money for charitable
purposes is a good thing. One of many great things that fraternities and sororities do
which goes generally unnoticed.