Thank you, non-alum "Friends of the University"

Submitted by JeepinBen on December 22nd, 2013 at 11:07 AM

After watching a December basketball game paint Brooklyn Maize, I was inspired to pass along a thank you. 

It’s well known that Michigan has the largest living alumni base of any university. There are many of us who are proud alums and who never have to “justify” our fanhood. Being a Michigan fan came easy to me. The son of two alums (and native Michiganders) I was almost pre-destined to head to Ann Arbor after I graduated high school, despite having grown up outside Chicago. I was lucky and worked hard and managed to go to Michigan and graduate in 2009. There are many who aren’t as lucky as I was. To those of you who are fans of Michigan despite not having a degree: Thank you. You may have been questioned, demeaned even for supporting College Football’s most winning program.

Some may call you “Walmart Wolverine” in a derogatory manner because you choose to support Michigan. But guess what – Michigan doesn’t succeed without the support of everyone: Students, Alumni, Faculty, and (as Fielding Yost called them) “Friends of the University”. It’s true. Michigan Stadium doesn’t get built without non-alumni fans.

From page 190 of Soderstrom’s The Big House* “No one: no student, no alumnus, and no friend of the university would be “giving" anything to the athletic department. Rather, the athletic department would sell a bond at a given amount of interest and pay back all the money over time… it had always been a Michigan athletic tradition that no attempt would be made to secure funds from the state, like the school in East Lansing had done for its new stadium.” Yost needed investors to build the Big House, and it turns out that the first bond letter had provided a “disappointing alumni response” (Page 318) 

After bonds were extended to anyone who wished to buy them, not just alumni, “by early 1927, the whole initial issue, 2000 bonds, was sold.” Yost actually angered some alumni (and students, who felt that their seats were terrible even then) by making sure that there were new seating blocks in Michigan Stadium that were specifically NOT for alumni. Yost’s appeal was as such: “’This is a State University – not a privately endowed institution. Ownership of this institution is vested not in our students, faculty, and alumni – but in the people whose taxes make it possible’ Yost would never tire of making this point” (Page 194). I’ll take Yost's point one step further – It’s not just the taxes or the tuition, but ANY support of Michigan makes you a “real” fan. Maybe you can’t afford tuition and thus aren’t an alum. Maybe you don’t live in Michigan and don’t pay Michigan state taxes. Maybe you can’t afford season tickets (which are no longer $2.50 per game like they were in the 1920s), maybe all you do is own some apparel and visit MGoBlog – both of which provide support to Michigan no matter how small. The next time someone asks you if you went to Michigan, just remember that it was fans like you (not just alums!) who gave us the greatest football stadium in the world. And remember that there can be a little inferiority complex around East Lansing, after all they needed money from the state to build their stadium.


*As an aside if you need a stocking stuffer or just a great read on Michigan’s history, I couldn’t recommend Soderstrom’s book more. Click through the MGoLink to Amazon and order it!  



December 23rd, 2013 at 9:28 AM ^

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Every University program has some fans that were not Alumni, even Eastern Michigan.  College sports would not be where they are today without that group of fans and I think it is bullshit that people have to denigriate the fans that follow a certain team even though they aren't alumni or students. 


December 22nd, 2013 at 11:42 AM ^

Thanks for the appreciation.   I did not attend the University of Michigan, but I do bleed Maize and Blue all the way!  I take alot of shit becasue I have lived in Ohio my whole life, but nothing will shake my allegiance to Michigan.  Ive been going to football games since 1996 and have been a season ticket holder since 2009.  Go Blue!!


December 22nd, 2013 at 12:11 PM ^

It was great to see Brooklyn so pro-Michigan yesterday. I was at the WVU game last year and this one was even better. Awesome to see so many Michigan fans show up to the game

Louie C

December 22nd, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

Well said my friend. When people asked me why am I a fan despite not going thee, tell them "I don't know, because it's called the University of Michigan, and I am a born and raised Michiganian." Sports aside, as a major advocate of higher learning, I love the fact that as much as other states like to pile on us, we have a world class university that not only has a rich tradition in sports, but academics as well. Not many states can make that claim.


December 22nd, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

I have been a fan of the Wolverines since I was small child, thanks to my awesome Dad.  My fandom was never called into question until about 4 years ago, the first time I was ever called a Walmart Wolverine.  I chose to enlist after high school, and am 15 years into my military career.  I was stunned.  Never had I felt so sick about something so, in reality, trivial.

I try very hard to represent the Michgan fanbase with class whenever wearing Michigan clothes, which is pretty much 50% of the time (the other 50% being metal t-shirts)  It is a lot like trying to represent our country with dignity and honor while in uniform.  That is level of dedication I have given to being a fan of the Wolverines.  I grew up in Ohio, damn it.  My fandom was forged in fire. 

Things like this post are warming to the heart.  Thanks for sharing it.

Either way, looking into online classes through Flint to finish my BAS before my military retirement...gonna need to get a good job...


December 22nd, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

to notify everyone you see wearing a "MSU 2014 Rose Bowl Game" t-shirt that they are a Sav-A-Lot Spartan

The Walmart Wolverine thing is so annoying. Guys like you have been fans for years and years catching flak for not attending the university. As if everyone in a MSU basketball jersey has a PhD from the school.


December 22nd, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

The status of non-alum fans aside, Michigan is practically a private institution at this point by necessity. If ownership of the University were vested in tax payers, Michigan would be in a lot of trouble.

Also, the reason MSU fans feel a need to ask if Michigan fans went to Michigan is because we keep belittling their education, something that's super hypocritical if you went to GVSU (for example). 


December 22nd, 2013 at 1:08 PM ^

MSU. Inclusion of the word "fan" really shades the the entire discussion as well. Some of the "we" actually attended Michigan, some 500,000 in fact. The balance of the "we" really doesn't need to do anything beyond sitting back and snickering, while pointing, and making jokes about couches.


December 22nd, 2013 at 1:21 PM ^

Those two schools are much closer than you realize


SAT's - push

                        Reading                   Math                Writing

                             25% 75%                 25% 75%         25% 75%

Grand Valley       480 615                 510 620            460 590

Michigan State   430 580                 540 680            460 580

(this just reinforces "can't read, can't write")

ACT's - MSU has the edge

                         Composite               English                Math

                           25% 75%                25% 75%          25% 75%

Grand Valley      21 26                       21 27                  20 26

Michigan St        23 28                       22 29                  23 28

GPA - Tossup

GVSU - High School GPA (mid 50%): 3.3 - 3.8

MSU - High school GPA: 3.4-3.9

Admission rate MSU - 71% GVSU - 82%

At my kid's high school MSU gives verbal admission decisions on the spot with no application.


December 25th, 2013 at 12:23 AM ^

GVSU has similar admission criteria to MSU... if they were a research university with higher than master's level programs, they might be ranked close to each other. 

Not to make light of your valid point, it was just a poor choice for an example... GVSU is one of the elite non-doctoral universities in the country. Michigan Tech actually has better stats for undergrads than MSU and UM-Dearborn is almost at par with them, too. They're not a poop school or anything, and we shouldn't act like they are, but they're hardly head and shoulders above some of the other public schools in the state.

Considering the special hatred their fans reserve for UM satellite kids, this is especially funny.

M Fanfare

December 22nd, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

I've always said that I don't care whether a fan is a fellow alum or not, all I care is that they represent the program the right way. Alums do have a different connection to the University since we spent several very formative years on campus, but that alone doesn't qualify someone as a great fan. I've been next to people in the stadium who never went to Michigan and were relentlessly supportive of the team through thick and thin, and I've sat next to alums who bitched so often that they were practically rooting for Michigan to fail. I'd much rather the stadium be filled with the former than the latter.


December 22nd, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

But is wasn't in life's cards for me.  I've been asked before what my connection to the Wolverines is.  I have family that attended both UM and MSU.  I tell them I've just rooted for them as long as I can remember.  I also inform them that even if I wanted to, I could not stop loving what I consider my team.  It's a part of me and I take great pride in all of the University of Michigan's accomplishments.  I will admit to being a poor loser.  But I cheer for my team until the last second expires from the clock.  I love Fielding Yost's statement about loyalty.  Go Blue!


December 22nd, 2013 at 2:05 PM ^

Thanks for this JeepinBen.  The WalMart Wolverine thing makes my blood boil, especially because it could techinically apply to my parents, neither of whom attended MIchigan, or even graduated college, but who worked their asses off to send me to this great university.  Who's to say they can't wear Maize and Blue and cheer on the Wolverines?  

Also, it is incredibly hypocritical of Spartan fans to complain about Michigan Arrogance and then lord over Michigan fans who, for whatever reason, didn't attend.  



December 22nd, 2013 at 7:42 PM ^

Thank you JeepinBen. I was never fortunate enough to go to the University of Michigan, but my family has been Michigan fans for a very long time. I will bleed maize and blue until the day I die, even though I may be considered a Walmart Wolverine by some.

It takes all kinds, that's for sure.


December 22nd, 2013 at 8:13 PM ^

and very well said. I attended NMU, as my name implies, and loved it up there. Having said that I have been and always will be a Michigan fan for as long as I am on this Earth. I cheered for them against the Wildcats when they came up and played Northern in Hockey, much to the dismay of many of my friends. Michigan is just a part of who I am, from my first game in AA as a 7 year old watching Harbaugh, the Wolverines have and always will be my team!


December 22nd, 2013 at 8:15 PM ^

JeepinBen my Father went to Ann Arbor High and I bleed Maize and Blue and do all I can to support the University attending Michigan athletic events.  It is very nice to know you thought of myself and others like me.

GO BLUE for life.


December 22nd, 2013 at 8:56 PM ^

I appreciate this. I've been a Michigan fan for almost 40 years. While I had the test scores to get in, I was a disinterested student and had no real interest in college so I joined the navy instead. I have a degree now, just not from UM. I remember my dad rooting for both schools, but I really started to lean U-m during the Anthony Carter years. Also, I remember my cousin, a MSU student, wearing a shirt that said "Michigan State is the university of Michigan". Between that and the "M Go Blow" bumper stickers I realized I didn't want to be a fan of MSU.


December 23rd, 2013 at 7:03 PM ^

What did you do in the Navy? My daughter was also a disinterested student, and we didn't have the financial wherewithal for her to go to Michigan. She joined the Navy about a year ago, and has finished A School as an FC. We're glad to have her home until she heads to Dahlgren, VA in February for C School. She'll be there the next year as an ACNT student. I'm glad for her joining the Navy, and who knows, the college tuition assistance may allow her to eventually go to Michigan!


December 26th, 2013 at 6:26 PM ^

I was a machinist's mate, nuclear field. Spent the first couple years just going to school, which is funny because a lack of desire to go to school led to joining the Navy. I really enjoyed the Navy and would have stayed in until retirement if I hadn't torn up my knee a couple times. They told me I couldn't serve on a ship again and gave me a medical discharge.


December 22nd, 2013 at 10:34 PM ^

I am fortunate enough to have graduated from Michigan. All of my life I have been surrounded by those who never attended the university but were and ARE lifelong fans. I am BLESSED by their presence and loyalty. They bleed BLUE just as much as I do.I will never hold my degree above their loyalty, rather it is I who thank them for being as true or truer to this Michigan of OURS than many who have graduated from her. I don't know who coined the term Wal-Mart wolverine but I only know WOLVERINES! I have been a season ticket holder since 1976 and of the 50 people tailgate with on a regular basis only 2 of us are graduates. Including my wife. Thank God for this Michigan FAMILY! We are ALL RELATED and we all BLEED BLUE! GO BLUE! !!

Jews for Beezus

December 23rd, 2013 at 8:16 AM ^

I took a tour of Ford's Rouge River assembly plant last week.  As I looked down on the assembly floor, there were tons of Michigan shirts and hats.  Made me feel good about Michigan the state and Michigan the University.


December 23rd, 2013 at 8:45 AM ^

I never went to UM, but my dad went to grad school there, my mom worked in the hospital there as a nurse, and I was born there.  However we moved away from AA very early in my life and we remained in the Northeast for the majority of my life so going that far away to school was never a real consideration.  Nonetheless I grew up watching UM sports because of my parents and have never felt like I had to justify it.  UM sports and football even more so was as much a part of the culutre of my childhood as Christmas.  Everyone in my family has worn UM gear and cheered for them for as long as I can remember.


December 23rd, 2013 at 10:02 AM ^

...the non-alums getting some validation. I co-sign JB's recommendation to purchase and read "The Big House". Not only is it a great history of Yost's efforts to gain approval for and build his visionary stadium, it truly shows that it's Michigan Tradition to take into account the multiple constituencies of town (extended to the state of Michigan in Yost's time and beyond in our own) and gown (students, administration, faculty, alumni). In addition, it demonstrates Yost's commitment to intercollegiate and recreational athletics as a major basis of academic life. That commitment has blossomed into the current broad emphasis on supporting non-revenue sports at the highest levels. 


December 23rd, 2013 at 12:37 PM ^

Thank you for posting this. I've been a fan ever since I was little kid.

Made even stronger when I was eleven years old and spent four days in the U of M hospital. They really took care of me and considering why I was there, I needed it. 

Go Blue!


December 23rd, 2013 at 1:52 PM ^

Especially for a non-Alum.

I think if you're asking someone why they're a fan, when you should be believing that your team is the best, you're asking a stupid question.  I'm sorry stupid people do ask stupid questions.

No need to go into my story, but birth certificate, tons of ticket stubs dating back to barely able to walk, crashing on campus in college and the games I go to every year say enough.


If I hadn't left the state for my job(economy sucked), I probably would have gotten my masters from UM but life didn't play out that way and I roll without regrets.

Okay, I regret not rushing the court in Atlanta and punching out the ref that called Trey Burke for that foul on that textbook perfect block.  I'll still never forget that weekend though.


December 23rd, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

I never ended up attending Michigan, but I can remember exactly when I became a fan:

I had a buddy in the sixth grade back in the late seventies, and I used to go over to his house often.  He and his family were huge Notre Dame fans, and I remember them talking all kinds of shit about how ND was going to detroy Michigan all that game week.  Since I was just a kid and had no allegience to any university, I considered jumping on the ND bandwagon.  But then I thought "Wait a minute... I'm not Irish, I'm not Catholic, I don't live in Indiana, and that blue team represents my beloved state of Michigan.  Screw Notre Dame!"  I've been a lifelong Michigan fan ever since.

And I refuse to spend one cent at Walmart.


December 23rd, 2013 at 3:45 PM ^

By that logic, you're not allowed to care about college sports until after high school, and somebody who doesn't go to college isn't allowed to root for anybody.

I didn't go to Michigan, but my mother was getting a master's degree in the School of Public Health in the '80s when I was becoming old enough to care about sports in a meaningful way and one of the ways that my parents ensured that we'd have good family time together even though she was working full-time in Detroit and going to school in Ann Arbor was to do football Saturdays together.

I didn't earn my Michigan fandom in Walmart. I earned it in Michigan Stadium watching Anthony Carter, Steve Smith, Butch Woolfolk, Mike Mallory, Jim Harbaugh & co.


December 23rd, 2013 at 5:41 PM ^

For most of us "Walmart Wolverines," the love of Michigan began in childhood. Mine began at the age of 3. Despite growing up in an OSU dominated house, I loved Bo, the colors, the tradition, the Victors, the Helmets... and more importantly what it meant to be a Michigan Wolverine.

By the time it came time to go to college, I had been a Michigan fan for 15 years. However, I was living in Ohio at the time (and not by choice). It was either go to Michigan for $32,000 a year or Ohio University for $12,000. We were not in a financial position to spend $120,000 for an education (and even though I was accepted to OSU, I could not stomach the idea of being a Buckeye).

27 years after becoming a Michigan fan, I do not have a Michigan degree. But the Michigan flag hangs proudly in my classroom. My wife knows that Saturdays in the fall are Football days and that when the Michigan game is on the calendar not to plan anything else. Bo's speechs echo in the halls of the locker rooms where I coach.  My daughters (1&3) know the Victors and love Maize and Blue everything (the youngest picks out the Yellow and Blue blocks and legos when playing). They will grow up learning about a great university that stands for excellence and integrity in all things.

And if an Alum wants me to give all that up because I didn't have a small fortune to attend school there... You can tell them to that they can go to Columbus.

Tried and true to the Maize and Blue.



December 23rd, 2013 at 5:58 PM ^

My grandparents both went to Michigan and so did many of my aunts, uncles and cousins. I have so many relatives that have season tickets and give money to the university, but a lot of them never went to school at Michigan. I never understood why it was such a big deal. I was born into a Michigan family. It doesn't matter that I never went there.