Protocols of The Wave (Contribute to HTTV)

Submitted by Seth on June 16th, 2014 at 10:19 PM

Former Daily writer Michael Florek contributed a great piece on the start of The Wave at Michigan. I have some extra space in that article to add a sidebar, and thought to collect some Wave Protocols--you know, the rules of the Wave and the different types of waves that roll around the Big House. Since every stadium does the wave I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the special things about ours.

Please add and correct me:

Protocols (to get us started):

  • The wave is initiated in the student section.
  • Students at the bottom of the section turn around and wave, and when all the students are waving, they turn in the direction the wave shall go (it always begins counter-clockwise).
  • The students in the front rows then initiate it.
  • The cheerleaders do not take part.

Wave types:

  • Normal wave
  • Speed wave (students wave their arms up to prep the stadium as the last wave is about to arrive)
  • Super-slow wave (students wave their arms down to prep the stadium as the last wave is arriving)
  • Reverse wave (students will point back the way the wave is coming from
  • Double wave (students will poitn both ways)



June 16th, 2014 at 11:29 PM ^

Here is the story: (I posted this in a previous thread)

The Wave started at Michigan in 1983.  The cheerleaders brought it back from a road game at Washington early in the season.  They announced the intent to do it at for the first time at Michigan stadium during a pep rally the nignt before the Big 10 opener.  They called it "Maize in Motion".
Despite the best efforts of the cheerleaders, it took forever to get the first successful wave going.  It kept fizzling out in the old-alumni section. 
When it finally took off, the crowd went bezerk.  It was so loud that our own team could not hear the playcall and had to take a time out (imagine that).  Bo was furious.  He slammed down his headset and stormed out to the middle of the field waving his hands for the crowd to be quiet.
Smartasses that we were, we responded with a quiet wave, with everyone whispering shhhhhhhhhh! as the wave went around the stadium.  It didn't take too long for everyone to get the hang of it, and it morphed into fast waves, slow waves, backwards waves, and concentric waves.
After the game, Bo announced to the press that if the crowd could not behave itself, he would have the stadium cleared out and the game played in front of empty bleachers.  Typicall Bo.



June 17th, 2014 at 5:39 PM ^

Yes, concurrent is a better description.  Two waves going in the opposite direction at the same time.  We learned to do it that first day.  The tricky part was to learn to stand right back up after your wave had gone through but the other wave was coming at you from the other direction. 


June 18th, 2014 at 12:14 AM ^

I think the first time was the '83 Indiana game. We've become so accustomed to the wave that it's impossible to describe what it felt like for 100,000 people to do it without knowing what it was and all of them doing it for the first time. To a 10 year old it was like Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the humans used that Simon synthesizer thing to communicate with the mothership.


June 17th, 2014 at 12:31 PM ^

Too many times during the Richrod (and Hoke) years, the students would try to start the wave when Michigan was on defense and barely up at all. It completely took the crowd out of the game and several times the other team scored on that drive. IIRC this happened during the 2012 Northwestern game where Kenny Demens got the OT tackle for the win.


June 16th, 2014 at 10:35 PM ^

It absolutely has to be slow wave before fast wave.  That allows for the biggest contrast and in my hey-day ('06-07), was when the wave was best and done this way.

Normal speed

Normal speed



Opposite direction


That's the proper order and it's important that slow is before fast because often a if you do fast after regular, it will slow down eventually and be no different than a normal wave.  The slow wave is obvious, takes time and the pace isn't messed up which allows for the really fun contrast of slow to fast.


June 17th, 2014 at 12:54 AM ^

Fast before slow ensures the wave reaches it's zenith at concentric. Going into slow before fast lessens the pace and interest wanes quickly.

While mid2000s crews switched slow before fast the late 90s students went fast first. I just prefer the look of a slowdown after the speed cycle.

Rochester Blue

June 17th, 2014 at 12:19 PM ^

Agree 100% . . .

Including the 2 times around at normal speed. 

And slow has to be before fast.

The other points below I agree with:

    - Must be late in the 3rd quarter or early 4th

              of a game with at least a substantial

              lead (maybe 17 points).

  -  Should be when the opposition has the ball.

              The noise of the wave can definitely be

              additive to the general noise making,

              and will not distract our offense.

In about 2002 or 2003, my cousin (a Purdue grad) came with my nephew.  The wave was particularly well done, in the order mentioned above, and he came away very impressed.  His wife tells me every once in a while, that he still tells friends/neighbors/co-workers about our wave.  He was very disappointed when he came around 2008 or 2009, and there was NO wave.  I hope the Students get this to work this year again.

Although it seems a relatively minor thing, it is one part of the gameday tradition that should not be replaced by rawk music or lasershows.  The band, the wave, the 4th down stop chants and others like Let's Go Blue, Offense Like a Truck, and Defense Like a Rock, "key" plays, passing co-eds around, Hail to the Victors are all obvious parts of the college gameday experience that we should embrace.


June 17th, 2014 at 6:03 AM ^

I guess I never paid that much attention so I learned something tonight.

But hey-in MY day we didn't do the wave....we passed up coeds and drank beer from the pony kegs we were allowed to bring in.

Oh....and games almost always started at 1:00pm, cheerleaders did push-ups for every point we scored and we almost always won.


June 17th, 2014 at 9:41 AM ^

kept screwing everything up.  They didn't start in section 31, they tried it in the 2nd quarter, they messed up the order, they tried starting it from the middle of the section instead of the first few rows...


June 17th, 2014 at 1:01 AM ^

I think the Hoover Street Rag article sums it up very well.

It is pretty important to me that the wave not be done unless it is a comfortable lead.  Also, I like very late Q3, maybe Q4 even.  This highlights the fact that it is *not* an attempt to make noise or affect play -- it is for the entertainment of the crowd.

One of the big reasons to not do it when M has the ball is that a big play will often kill the wave.

Side note: the Michigan Marching Band does not do the wave.  The band should not be bood for not doing the wave.  That is reserved for old alumni not doing the wave.

With pratice, it should become second nature, much like the scene in "When Harry Met Sally" where Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby have a conversation while they appropriately join the wave without interrupting their talk.

Also, the wave should stop for any injury.


June 17th, 2014 at 10:14 AM ^

What is meant by concentric waves? I assume it means the rows from 1-50 go at a different rhythm and pace than the ones from 51-100. Is that true? Has it ever happened? It seems as difficult as it is original. "Exceptionally".