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Posted on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

5 things I learned while serving as a U-M 'ambassador' during the Notre Dame night game

By Kellie Woodhouse

In a sea of maize and blue Saturday night, I was a speck of orange.

No, it's not because I'm a fan of the Netherlands soccer team.

I was volunteering as an ambassador, serving as an extra set of eyes and ears for the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Police Department as 115,000 fans filtered into Michigan Stadium Saturday night and thousands more tailgated in the yards and bars downtown.

The game, which ended with Michigan beating Notre Dame 41 to 30, was the second night game in Big House history and the last time, for now, that the Wolverines will battle the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor.

U-M and city officials knew from the start that the energy —as well as the potential for confusion and disorder— would be high and asked people to volunteer for two hour shifts Saturday to keep watch over downtown and help visitors with questions.

"Your visibility will be a great deterrent in itself, the fact that people see you're out and about," Ann Arbor Police Department officer Tom Hickey said during my 90-minute ambassador training Saturday. As it turns out, 72 people were ejected from the stadium on Saturday, out of a record-breaking crowd of 115,109.

About 100 people heeded the call to volunteer, and I was one of them. Here's what I learned during my 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. shift:


From left to right: Amy Colton, Sue Cooper and me, Kellie Woodhouse. The three of us patrolled Main Street from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

1) People who volunteer as ambassadors are a rare but very kind breed.

Volunteers didn't get paid, we didn't get entry into the game after our shifts were over... heck, we didn't even get to keep our obnoxiously bright orange T-shirts. We did, however, have to attend a 90-minute training, check in at the Michigan Union before heading over to our patrol area and head back to the union to return our shirts.

So going into this experience, I was curious to see what motivated people to come out and volunteer— because I was pretty sure it wasn't the chance to win an Apple gift card or a pair of tickets to the Akron game this weekend.

What I learned was pretty cool. A good amount of volunteers was from U-M's Greek Life community, but the majority were probably local citizens over the age of 50. Most of the latter group volunteered because they care about Ann Arbor and like new experiences.

Becky Davis was in my Saturday noon training session. She's from Chelsea and works at a local truck stop as a coffee hostess. One of her frequent customers told her about the volunteer opportunity, so she signed up. She said it was the perfect opportunity to put her people skills to work. "Talking to people, that's what I do," she told me.

What's almost unbelievable is that Becky hasn't attended a football game since the 1970s, but she volunteered anyway. I hope she wins a pair Akron tickets.

2) Please don't shoot the messenger.

No purses allowed in the stadium. No exceptions.

Let me repeat, no purses. Part of our job was to let people know they couldn't bring restricted items, including bags and purses, into the stadium. I thought most people knew that already. Boy was I wrong.

This part of the job definitely did not help me win any popularity contests. Many people with purses had already walked a long distance from their car to the stadium, so they weren't happy about trekking all the way back to their vehicles and missing kickoff.

One guy took a woman's purse and shoved it far down his pants. I think he was able to successfully sneak it in, but I don't know why that woman would ever want to touch her purse again.

As my group told people, as kindly as possible, that they'd have to chuck their purses, we received some colorful responses.

One guy spat a profanity at me when we told his mom that her overflowing handbag wouldn't be allowed in the stadium. Befuddled by the rule, he told me: "Well, women and purses, they go hand in hand."

He headed back to his car and about 15 minutes later he passed me again as he shot me a very withering stare.

3) Come on guys, plan your ticket purchases ahead of time.

It didn't take me long to get over the stare because the drunk people standing outside the stadium were ridiculous, and mostly entertaining. Well into the second quarter there were dozens of people still sticking their hand up, with one or two fingers pointed to the air to indicate they were looking for tickets.

Really? The game is halfway over and you still think you're going to get a ticket?

I did see a pair of men sell their tickets for $150 apiece, which was surprising because on Friday the cheapest tickets on StubHub were in the $190 range.

Aside from 'What's an ambassador?,' the most common question I received —usually from tailgaters with glassy eyes— was 'Do you have a ticket?'

After asking us what the orange shirts stood for, a pair of men clad in Michigan gear and tailgating on Main Street directly across from the stadium told us about the perils of haggling for last minute tickets. One guy offered them two tickets for $150, but they tried to barter him down to $100. Big mistake, because less than a minute later the tickets were sold to someone else and the opportunity was gone, never to reveal itself again.

When his companion asked if we were getting paid, the failed barterer did offer this: "You couldn't pay someone enough money to do this. They have to do it out of the goodness of their hearts."

After dealing with a few more inebriated people and bucking angry women with purses from the stadium, I have to say I disagree. A paycheck would not have been unwelcome.


The scene at the start of my 7 p.m. shift Saturday. To the far right are my two ambassador partners, wearing orange.

Kellie Woodhouse |

4) Football Saturdays are always evolving, which really means becoming louder and boozier.

I was really lucky to be paired with two women from Michigan —one from right here in Ann Arbor and the other from Farmington Hills and whose daughter lives in Tree City. They knew a lot of history about Ann Arbor and the atmosphere around Football Saturdays and they were kind enough to share it with me.

When Amy Colton was a kid, she used to sell CocaCola to fans inside Michigan Stadium. The going rate for a cup? Seventy-five cents. She lived near Bo Schembechler and recounted a story of how the coach lifted the spirits of her son on his 16th birthday.

Both Amy and our other partner Sue Cooper explained to me how tailgating had morphed since their college days. Back then, there were no large flatscreen TVs or plush couches in the yards, and the music wasn't nearly as loud. Drinking, they said, has become much more public— for better or worse.

Also, they told me that fans used to be able to get into the stadium for free after halftime. That's a practice I'm sure many in Ann Arbor would be happy to see reinstated.

5) Binoculars are allowed in the stadium.

I feel compelled to end this column in an apology. In the midst of telling people their purses, water bottles and zippered cushions couldn't go into the stadium, we led one fan astray.

As he was barreling toward the entrance, my group stopped a man with binoculars around his neck and told him the field glasses were prohibited. In reality, binocular cases are prohibited and not binoculars themselves.

What makes this worse is the guy was very nice about it, much nicer than most of the ladies who had to return their purses to their cars. He ran off to hand the binoculars off to his wife.

It took my group of three less than a minute to realize our advice was wrong, but when we looked for the man he had disappeared into the sea of maize and blue.

So, to this man let me say I'm sorry. I hope you realized we were wrong. If not, and you end up reading this, I'll buy you a beer.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


60's Dude

Wed, Sep 11, 2013 : 11:09 a.m.

Kellie, good article. Men are from Mars, women from Venus. You would have to understand that it was more important for those "glassy eyed" first beer at 7 am guys to snag two at $100 than get into the game. Games last 3 hours... Good stories are forever!! Secondly, studies indicate the positive impact volunteering has on our psyche, to say nothing about being a "special person" in an obnoxious, but set apart, shirt for two hours to prove it. Enjoy!!!


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Lest I lose sight of what's important, Kellie, Thank You for volunteering!!! I've volunteered a few times and know how good it feels afterward.(I still think that you and the other volunteers should have been allowed to keep your t-shirts. Sheeeeesh. Stingy!!!!)


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 4:04 a.m.

Hundreds of unpaid "volunteers" also work 4-8 hour shifts inside the stadium. Primarily working for a cut of concession proceeds for community organizations. As for "drinking becoming much more public", in the 70's fans brought their own beer coolers into the stadium. I don't recall as many drunks then either as they probably did not feel compelled to load up before entering the gates.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 1:06 a.m.

So you're the woman who told me I couldn't bring in my binoculars!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

Great Story Kellie, Thanks to all of those who volunteer to help make it a safe and fun experience for all..... The University should be very grateful for all of the individuals that help and unselfishly give of their time. It is ashame that certain individuals feel the need to be loud and obnoxious and have issues following the rules.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Dave Brandon is one smart, cheap, DUDE.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

Wow. After everything you guys put up with, they wouldn't even let you keep your t-shirts?!?! How do you spell STINGY?!?!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

Kellie and all volunteers -- thank you!

harry b

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

6) The university of Michigan made over $5,000,000 dollars in ticket sales on Saturday. How about next time you volunteer at a homeless shelter or childrens hospital and let U of M actually employ some people to "patrol" the streets.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Fun read Kellie! Great job and thanks for serving our fair city. And to the naysayers ...volunteers at any event are the invisible backbone that make everything look organized. To discount what their contribution provides because you don't think the cause is worthy is short sighted at best and petty to be realistic. As much as this trans-planted Buckeye hates to admit it, the U of M is the reason that A2 is as cool as it is. Without them there would be no top shelf restaurants, no quaint little shops, and no events that bring National recognition for our beautiful city. So to say that the U of M doesn't warrant our time and effort is in my book hypocritical. Can they afford to pay...of course they can. Did they need they didn't. Why...because we all love our city and most of us love our neighbors. Thanks again Kellie!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

Point taken. And well said. Thank you.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Drinking has become more public? Way back when I was a student (1979-84) I never went over to places such as the golf course or Pioneer parking lot, where a lot of the "adults from out of town" tailgating has always gone on. However, when it came to the areas where the students were, like up and down State St. or in the neighborhood between Hill and Hoover, the drinking couldn't have been any more public. Kegs on porches and lawns filled with students guzzling beer from the standard 16 oz disposable cups was the norm. Heck, for the OSU game my freshman year, my roommate and I made no attempt to hide the fact that we were carrying a 12 pack of beer into the game in a backpack. Back then, the only rule about bringing your own refreshments into the stadium was "No glass containers". (Empty glass bottles are potentially dangers; empty aluminum cans, not so much.)


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 4:01 a.m.

Tradition, even before I started going to games was to pass the empty bottle up. By the end of the game the stadium had it's original halo.

Matt Evett

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

Kellie, Thank you for your efforts, and those of your colleagues. My daughter and I had a great time at the game, and its people like you who make it all possible.

harry b

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Thanks for encouraging non paid volunteers when U of M with their over $5 million dollars in just ticket sales could actually employ these people. How about I go to your work and volunteer to do your job for free. Why don't you encourage these people to volunteer where they are needed. Ronald McDonald House, homeless shelters, free health clinics.......

Tim Hornton

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

No, it is the student athletes and people getting paid big money to put these games on that you should thank. Volunteers benefit nobody but only make AA more crowded on a Sat. I will now allow you to reflect on my wise words and you should apologize to Kellie for making her think she is somehow important on game day.

Geoff Larcom

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

This is a fun window into the incredibly remarkable and sophisticated social event that is a U-M football game, let alone one vs. Notre Dame, and at night as well. The scope that this has grown into is since say, 1968, is just stunning. Years from now, I would guess, anthropologists will study and summarize our Saturday football rituals.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.

@smokeblwr that would be far too succinct for a PhD to publish. Most likely it would be the same idea, but 250 pages long, with a 10 page bibliography.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

I hope their findings arent simply: 1) Wake Up 2) Get Drunk 3) Goto game 4) Puke 5) Leave game 6) Get drunk again

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

I was out there and Kellie is correct — it was a sea of people with one or two fingers pointed to the air in search of extra tickets. I got a kick out of the guy from South Bend dressed as "Moon" from the Flint Tropics. He was out there pacing around for a long time with one finger pointed to the air. He told me he had been tailgating since 9 a.m. and "Michigan's been good to us."


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

What Ricebrnr is referring to is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Something the Apocalypse Preppers might want to consider before spending $$$s on hardened bunkers with a year's supply of hoarded food and water. Likewise, I salute Ms. Woodhouse's apparently selfless contribution to community safety and convenience. Those who may have gotten angry at the "bad news" she and other volunteers conveyed might well have tried to enter the stadium with forbidden items and would have been even more inconvenienced and angry when turned away. Lastly, we might better appreciate what's going on with these night games at Michigan Stadium if we put it in historical context. Michigan Stadium and its creator (Fielding Yost) are the modern version of the idea originally brought to fruition by the Roman Emperor Vespasian. The Flavian Amphitheater (aka, the Colosseum of Rome, completed 80AD) was the original version of this modern stadium, the largest in North America. For better or worse, Michigan Stadium and team contests like Michigan vs Notre Dame will probably be with us for a long, long time. The human drive to witness and be part of grand spectacle lasted for hundreds of years in the Colosseum of Rome. Notice that cities compete to host a single NFL Super Bowl game, while U of M is in a position to host yearly "super bowls" of college football. That's using the Power of Spectacle on a scale that even P.T. Barnum would appreciate.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

Volunteering to do this was/is great. The U should have made it easier on you though. Returning the tee shirt is a bit stupid, but maybe they didn't want official tees out in the wild. Who knows?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

They should give volunteers a commemorative shirt (like the official UTL II shirts) when they return their volunteer shirts!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

I thought it was a bit cheesy that the volunteers had to give back their shirts, but your explanation makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Great column, Kellie. Was interesting to hear the insider's perspective. I remember adjusting to the purse thing -- now I don't bring anything except chapstick! Not even my phone since it never works during the game anyway.


Wed, Sep 11, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

That's what you get with a stadium dug into the ground. I'm sure there will be a tech breakthrough soon to fix it, but if you're below ground the signal won't be very strong. Until then I'd be glad to trade seats. My seats in row 84 come with pretty good cell reception.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Yeah, the cell phone situation is just frustrating.

Eduard Copely

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Orange Shirt = Please hit me.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

Go ahead...make my day.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

What a troll! Do you think people really appreciate the kind of cynical, ill-thought out comments you post. Back into your hole!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Does the Ambassador appointment confer Diplomatic Immunity? If so, for how long and does it apply to burning couches?

Great Lakes Lady

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Inside the stadium student volunteers (I presume) were passing out plastic bracelets that lit up. It was very nice for the half time show when the lights dimmed, to see the blue lights inside the stadium. Just before I entered my section, I was able to get the last bracelet....they seemed to have run out quickly. A woman in her 40s, wearing a few of the plastic bracelets, ran up to the student and said that one of her bracelets didn't work. The student replied that they were out of bracelets. The woman asked the student if she could have the bracelet the student was wearing. How rude! People lose all sense of decorum when cheap little freebies are passed out. The student said no,....turned, and walked away.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3 p.m.

We were there about an hour before kick-off, and missed out on the bracelets too. But while buying snacks, I asked the concession worker where we could get the bracelets, and he offered to give us his! When we went out for snacks again later in the night, we made a point to go back to his stand. (The volunteers for each stand get a cut of the proceeds for their respective organization.)


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

How many of those were on Ebay today? Ridiculous how fast they ran out (over an hour before the game) and that they let people take more than one.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

Dang. That sounds like fun. I love watching people. Thanks for the story.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

That was perhaps one of the best things about the experience. It was an excuse to watch people and really observe the atmosphere outside the stadium during games.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

Kellie - thank you for volunteering! It was incredibly kind of you. To those snarking about why people aren't paid, you miss the point of volunteers and volunteering. People aren't paid to give blood to the Red Cross, people aren't paid to do readings in their places of worship, people aren't paid as volunteers in hospitals. They do it out of joy in their hearts and the desire to give back to their communities. And honestly, volunteers tend to be more friendly and hospitable to those they are helping than those who might have been paid for a couple of hours of "work". So thank you Kellie, and thank you to all of those who volunteered. I had a noticable number of people inside and out of the stadium say "welcome to Ann Arbor" and "welcome to the Big House". You made a great experience even better.

harry b

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

Yes people are paid to give blood. Go to Ypsi. Yes Priests and Reverend are paid to read from the bible. How about the volunteer somewhere where volunteers are really needed. There is no reason, U of M with there million and million of dollars made off these unpaid kids to play football can't dole out $8/per hour for volunteer. I think they are pretty foolish to do this. How about the go volunteer to do gardening at Bill Gates estate. He would really appreciate it.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Good to hear, and thanks!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

What a shame these "volunteers" hadn't instead donated their time to an actual charity that could have really used the help...


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

What a shame that you can't say anything more positive than this!! And YES, I DID vote you down.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

The 36 down votes (and counting) on this comment have reinforced my belief in humanity.

Susan Cooper

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

For the record, Ypsidoodle, I have also volunteered with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, my church, homeless shelters, food pantries, and many other organizations. I enjoy making a positive contribution to the community and meeting like-minded people.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Who says they don't do that too? And who are you to judge, anyway? What a ridiculous, unnecessary comment.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

No one is stopping you. Get out there and volunteer for whatever charity you deem worthwhile. Here is one that must be more significant to society than U of M: "Secure Our Dream", founded by "Joe the Plumber". What does it do? Good question. "Joe told the Toledo Blade the purpose of his charity was "for all sorts of charities and causes for fellow Americans." Now, there's a good use for your time.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

Thanks for sharing, Kellie! What were the other common things you did to assist fans? (Besides informing them of the purse rule.)

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Hmm... We gave people directions. Ambassadors were also asked to help direct people to the lost and found, ask people not to drink openly on city or UM property and keep an eye out for rowdy folks or incidents where we'd need to call police.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

Oh, I try to tell myself not to read the comments... Kellie, thank you for volunteering. Thank you to everyone else who volunteered out of a simple desire to help Michigan football fans, and guests in our town through the experience. The volunteered of their own accord to try to do something beneficial. THANK YOU.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

Yeah, I have to give another shout out to my fellow volunteers. Everyone worked hard. Amy was wearing a pedometer that read we had walked about 4.5 miles by the end of our shift.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Thanks for a fun read. And just so you know, I, and dozens of other liars, were that man with the binoculars.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

Kellie, it looks like you were just a few games too early in telling someone that binoculars are not allowed. Unless nobody that makes those decisions at UM actually read this.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Pro tip: there are many nice binocular flasks out there!

Eduard Copely

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Dumb story, an ill trained staff of volunteers spreading further misinformation and folly. Stop the tom-foolery!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Mr. Copely, you are the living embodiment of a troll. Opinions, you know, are like armpits--everybody has a couple, and most stink. Best not to share.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

I, for one, really enjoyed the story! I think they should have at least let you keep the t-shirt! Did you at least get free parking or did you have to pay $50 for a spot?

Paula Gardner

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

'Dumb story?' Sounds like you're confusing the story with the volunteer effort. The story is not dumb. I'll let you all debate the rest of it.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I was thinking about joining the Peace Corps but now I'll probably just be a volunteer to tell people that drinking in public is illegal, even on football Saturdays. I wonder if you got sentenced to community service for say drinking in public if you could satisfy that by being an "amdassador"? It'd be worth a try.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

It's OK. After two years on the job I've developed some very thick skin.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Leave it to an Ann Arborite to criticize another person's personal account of their volunteering expericence.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

What did you/they expect for nothing?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

It is great people volunteer to do this, but if you look at the big picture: UM is making millions of dollars off these games and creating a major mess in our community by doing so. They can't spare a few thousand dollars a game to pay people to take care of their drunk and unruly guests?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

Or perhaps the local businesses raking in the millions at our expense would like to contribute.

Eduard Copely

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Bleeding people dry.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

It seems the only ones whining about not getting paid are the volunteers themselves.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

OOPS! I put that in wrong! The volunteers are the only ones not whining! My sincere apologies to those who gave their time to make this a great event.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

Well, who else would want to be getting paid?

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

I'm not whining- promise! I enjoyed the experience. But who doesn't enjoy a paycheck, eh?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 10:50 a.m.

Yep all those people that used to be paid for doing that job sure would like to be paid too... In any case if you want to do this again AND get in to the stadium join the CERT team. New session is starting soon.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 10:25 a.m.

Nice story, but it's not the end of the rivalry, next year is. Last home game with them. There is no reason that Ambassadors aren't paid except that Dave Brandon didn't have to...

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 10:59 a.m.

Yes, it's the last local installment of the rivalry. Sorry that wasn't clear in the column. Should be now.