Dec. 11, 2012
By Morgan Bailey, U-M Public & Media Relations
With the University of Michigan men's basketball team's 67-39 home victory over the Binghamton Bearcats on Tuesday night (Dec. 11), the Wolverines are now 22-1 over the past two seasons while playing at Crisler. In addition to having a talented and deep roster, Michigan can attribute a lot of this success at Crisler Center to the loudly energetic Maize Rage, the U-M student section present at every home game.
Founded in the mid-1990s, the Maize Rage is a student-run organization on campus that is open to all students who have purchased season tickets. Since its humble beginnings more than a decade ago, the Maize Rage has continued to grow in both number and spirit.
"We started with about five students total," Maize Rage vice president Sasha Shaffer reflected. "We are now up to over 2,500 students. We create a loud atmosphere, and for a lot of visiting teams, they don't experience that much noise anywhere but here, so it makes it harder for them to play."
Colin Fitzner, a mechanical engineering graduate student, has similar memories of the Maize Rage's earlier years. "My freshman year, in order to get more people to come they gave the students free pizza," Fitzner laughed. "There weren't enough students there to eat all of the pizza, so everyone got their own box. Now, for big games we get here two hours early; we make our plans around basketball games. It's a lot more fun now."
What stood out most about Fitzner, however, was the unusual outfit he was proudly showing off in the front row of the student section. Dressed head-to-toe in maize and blue, a grey mask on his face and long claws on his hands, Fitzner sported a costume that was the perfect Michigan choice. "I am the comic book character Wolverine!" Fitzner remarked. "My mom actually bought this costume for me. I told her I wanted a costume that was a little funny, goofy and yellow. This was the perfect choice."
In addition to Fitzner's Wolverine costume, other characters such as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch could be found in the Maize Rage Tuesday night, along with Santa hats and maize and blue overalls.
"The Maize Rage has been great," senior guard Matt Vogrich commented. "We won all but one game at home last year, and so far this year we are undefeated as well. We're just trying to protect Crisler, and we really appreciate how loud and supportive they have been."
The one loss that came for the Wolverines last season was against Purdue on Feb. 25. "As you can see, that loss to Purdue last year was over break when the Maize Rage was not here," senior 'super fan' Jarrett McFeters pointed out. "That shows how effective we are. Every game this year, everyone is going to be here."
With the fall semester winding down, the Michigan students are beginning exams this week but not letting that keep them from cheering on their beloved Wolverines. One student in the middle of the sea of maize held up a sign that read, "Basketball over studying!"
"That really says it all," Shaffer commented. "We would all rather be here than studying."
"It helps that we have a really good team this year," McFeters added. "These guys have been phenomenal this year. We want to bring the energy every night and get this place rocking."
Senior/junior Jordan Morgan also spoke about the homecourt advantage that the Maize Rage creates at Crisler Center. "It's like having a sixth man on the court," Morgan remarked. "It's great having so much support, especially in the big games. Being loud and intimidating, it's a huge advantage for us. When we have everyone in the arena standing up and yelling, it makes a big difference."
With meetings every week, in addition to attending all of the home games and a few of the away games, the Maize Rage also participates in social gatherings together.
"Honestly, it has brought us all together and made us friends," remarked Shaffer on what the Maize Rage means to her. "There is no one else on campus that I am closer to than the people sitting around me right now."
"We are more like a group of friends that likes to go to sporting events, rather than a sports group that are friends," McFeters added.
As Vogrich mentioned, an important team goal for the Wolverines is to "protect Crisler" by staying undefeated at home. Michigan is off to a good start, beginning the 2012-13 season with a perfect 7-0 home record.
The Wolverines and the Maize Rage will next return to Crisler on Dec. 20 against Eastern Michigan. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
For more information on the Maize Rage, visit MaizeRage.org.