The Michigan Wolverines have the largest stadium by capacity in the country, so it would make sense that they average the most fans in college football year in and year out.
After a 2-4 start to the season, the fans and student body have been calling for the firing of athletic director Dave Brandon, as well as head coach Brady Hoke. What will the fan support be like on Saturday for Under the Lights III, when Michigan hosts Penn State?
Michigan’s football games have drawn at least 100,000 fans for 225 consecutive games, a streak that started in 1975. What this season has told us is that streaks under Brady Hoke were meant to end, as Michigan started out 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1967 and lost three games before October for the first time in their 135 seasons of fielding a football team.
The attendance, for Michigan’s standards, has been uninspiring this season and the maize and blue are in danger of losing the attendance crown to their rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Through four home games this season, the Big House is averaging 104,112 fans per game, which would be the team’s lowest average since 1984. That same year, Michigan’s NCAA record streak of consecutive games without being shutout started, only to end this year against Notre Dame. Michigan has, however, had a strong road presence at both the Notre Dame and Rutgers games, but both resulted in losses.
Michigan’s first two night games against Notre Dame were magical. The lights surrounding the stadium were installed in 2010 and the football team had their first ever home night game the following year. Three touchdowns were scored in the final 1:41 of the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines erased a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Fighting Irish by a 35-31 score.
Two years later, Michigan defeated Notre Dame again, this time in a more anti-climactic contest. The game against Penn State will be U-M’s first home night game in conference play.
Brandon and Hoke have been harshly criticized for their handling of the football program both on and off the field. Brandon brought his business-ventured attitude to Ann Arbor and is widely thought to prioritizing making money over winning. Hoke continues to feel heat from the handling of quarterback Shane Morris after the sophomore was left in the game after suffering a concussion. To add onto the humiliation of U-M’s football program, a failed Coca-Cola promotion reeked of desperation in attempt to fill the stadium against Minnesota.
The 30-14 loss to the Golden Gophers followed a weather-delayed disaster against Utah.
The Michigan brand used to stand for excellence in the world of college football, but it’s quickly become a laughing stock. On Saturday, the chants to “Fire Brandon” and “Fire Brady” will echo throughout the night, only to be presumably drowned out by the Michigan band, which finally seems like a significant part of game day when convenient.
If Michigan loses to Penn State, their hopes of being bowl-eligible will be all but over. Not that the bowl games mean anything, as Michigan has only won one bowl game in the last decade. The fans of Michigan football are frustrated and they get a chance of showing that Saturday, whether they attend the game or not.
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