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Posted on Sat, Sep 7, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Michigan students enjoy extended pre-game parties before Notre Dame night game

By Ben Freed


Students party at a "SIG" satellite house on Hill Street Saturday before the Michigan-Notre Dame football game. Fraternities have been moving more parties from their official houses to houses where groups of members live.

Ben Freed |


The football game between Michigan and Notre Dame might not kick off until 8 p.m., but the pre-games were in full swing by mid-afternoon.

The sights and sounds — and yes, smells — of the student tailgating parties bombarded the senses throughout the neighborhoods bordering campus.

“We’ve been going strong since 12:30 p.m.,” junior Connor Toohey said at the Sigma Chi house, next door to the Michigan Union. “We figured that was not too early and not too late for the big game today.”


An attendee at a party on Hill Street takes a swig of clear liquor at a pre-game party on Saturday.

Ben Freed |

Toohey said that on a normal game day at least 1,000 people come though the Sigma Chi house, but that today’s party would likely be even bigger.

“It’s an open party and people just come in, have a good time, and then roll out,” he said.

“We like everyone to have a good time, especially on game day. They’re some of our biggest social events of the year, definitely the biggest of the fall semester.”

The parties come at a cost. Toohey said his fraternity spends upwards of $1,200 per tailgate to keep its guests happy.

Libations on offer at typical parties near the University of Michigan campus include cans of Keystone or Natty Ice — not the most high-quality beer — and hard alcohol is frequently served from plastic handles directly into the mouths of waiting students.

“It’s definitely a wilder scene than I remember,” Marc Fischer, who graduated from U-M in 1985, said while standing on the street outside a house on East University Avenue.

“We’d have pre-games, but nothing like this. It wasn’t big open parties, it was more inside the fraternity houses and other houses, not nearly as much out in the open.”

Alcohol and Other Drugs Program coordinator at U-M Mary Jo Desprez told earlier this week that the parties are more “in our face” than previously. She attributed much of the change to social media.


Police shut down a party on Hill Street Saturday afternoon. Police said most parties are shut down due to noise complaints.

Ben Freed |

“The ability for those images to go viral and create a perception is worrisome because then it makes it seem more normal, that that is what you do,” she said.

Mary Beth Seiler, director of Greek Life at U-M, has been at the university since 1979 and said that while she has seen some changes, the party scene has always been around.

“It seems to me that what went on probably years ago was more unregulated than it is today, and a lot of that has to do with national policies,” she said.

“But really, it’s not just a Greek thing, or a student thing, it’s an Ann Arbor thing. There are parents and alumni at these student tailgates as well, and they’re having their own tailgates too. It’s just part of the local culture.”

Seiler said there have been improvements in the Greek system, such as the presence of “Sober Monitors” at fraternity functions and increased training for members of organizations on what to do in case of alcohol poisoning or other issues.

However, she also said that the increased scrutiny on fraternities has led some to try to mitigate liability simply by moving the venue of the party.

“The increased concern of the national organizations on risk management has caused a lot of the fraternity tailgates to move to what we call ‘satellite’ houses,” she said.

“These are unofficial houses where you have groups of members living together but they’re not the official fraternity house.”

The Ann Arbor Police Department was out in force Saturday, giving a semblance of regulation to the revelry. The police shut down at least two parties, but said official numbers of citations and house parties broken up would likely not be available until Sunday.


A Michigan student uses a sledgehammer to smash a car painted Notre Dame colors after donating to a charity at the Kappa Sigma house.

Ben Freed |

The Kappa Sigma fraternity, on the corner of Hill Street and Oakland Avenue, didn’t bother moving to a ‘satellite house,’ and added a philanthropic element to its pre-Notre Dame tailgate.

“A brother's parents were looking to scrap a car, so we took it off their hands, painted it up green and gold, and now we’re charging to take whacks at it,” chapter president Andreas Gikas said.

“We have no idea how much money we’re going to raise from it, but the Kappa Sigma chapter at the University of Vermont did this and raised $800, so we figure we can do better than that.”

All proceeds from the car smashing will go to Kappa Sigma’s national philanthropic initiative, the Military Heroes Campaign. Gikas said that including the high-visibility philanthropy has also been good for numbers.

“On a normal tailgate we might have three to four hundred people come through,” he said. “Today we’ll probably have over a thousand. It’s crazy.”

It remains to be seen when (and if) the students will make their way to the stadium for the day’s main event. Most students at the parties said they planned to make it sometime after 6 p.m. but before kickoff. Other fans who put a premium on sitting close to the field have been waiting “in line” since last night.


Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

I've had a few adult beverages in my life. I also worked in residential roofing for 28 years. In my experience alcohol and roof sitting/walking are a bad mix.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

Darwin has an answer for that.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

The university and the Greek system wink at excessive drinking. The "rules" are a liability shield, nothing more. should investigate those rules and expose the truth. For example, at an "official" party, you supposedly are only drinking beer you bought, from your cubbyhole. Hogwash, frat buys the beer, everyone consumes it. Oh, and it's in cans, not kegs, so if there is a problem it's harder to prove who bought the beer thanks to the state's keg registration policies.