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Posted on Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

Near-capacity crowd packs Crisler Center to watch Michigan vs. Louisville national championship

By Kyle Austin

The game was being played on the television screens, instead of the hardwood below it.

But other than that, not much was different.

An announced crowd of 11,583 crammed into the Crisler Center for the University of Michigan's official watch party for Monday’s national championship game between Michigan and Louisville.

And with a student section, band and cheerleaders on hand, it was easy to forget sometimes the game was being played 700 miles away in Atlanta.

“It’s great,” Northville resident Chris Hilton said. “It’s almost like a regular game day.”


Michigan sophomores Yasmin Omrani and Siobhan Aldridge cheers during a promotional video before the game against Louisville on Monday, April 8.

Daniel Brenner I

By tipoff, only a few empty seats remained in the upper corners of the 12,693-capacity arena. The doors opened at 7:30 p.m., but many waited in line for hours. An arena usher said by an hour before the doors opened, the line stretched around the arena towards the football stadium.

By 8 p.m., the line for the main door went around the football stadium nearly to Main Street. Inside the arena, nearly the entire lower bowl was filled. In the middle of the court sat the regional championship trophy Michigan won in Arlington, Texas last Sunday.

At 9:20 p.m., the lights were turned out for player introductions, and the arena was illuminated only by the light from the screen and from the light-up glasses handed out to fans. Huge cheers went up for player introductions, notably for Trey Burke and Mitch McGary.

But the loudest cheer went up when the televisions showed Chris Webber, the former Wolverine who made a surprise appearance at the game. Webber has been disassociated with the university for nearly 10 years after his role in the Ed Martin recruitment scandal that resulted in the Final Four banners in Crisler being taken down.

The event attracted students, adults and families. Near the top of the lower bowl, John and Briita Hall of Ann Arbor found their seats by an hour before game time.

The two regularly attend women’s basketball games, but decided to make the trip to Crisler to soak in the atmosphere of Monday’s game. And the fact that John has had seven hip surgeries and walks with a cane wasn’t about to stop him from making the trip.

“I was determined to make it,” he said.

A longtime area resident who went to school at Michigan, Hall also was in town when Michigan won the 1989 national title.

“I just remember much of the same type of atmosphere,” Hall said.

On Saturday, the arena hosted the the 41st annual Dance for Mother Earth Powwow, making it unavailable for game viewing. The only university viewing party was held in the Michigan Union, for students only.

But within minutes of Michigan’s win that night over Syracuse, athletic director Dave Brandon announced via his Twitter feed that Crisler would be open for national title game viewing.

The word got out quickly.

“I’m shocked,” Hilton said. “I didn’t think there would be a big turnout.”


Michigan sophomore Tom Idzkowski takes a moment after a watch party at Crisler Arena where the Wolverines lost to Louisville on Monday, April 8.

Daniel Brenner |

The crowd stayed loud and boisterous for most of a tight game. But when Louisville pulled away in the final minutes, the crowd stood in an eerie silence. As Louisville's Peyton Siva made a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left, fans walked up the aisles en masse toward the exits.

Those students crowded the streets around the arena, making a peaceful exit.

Across campus, fans simply passed through the Diag, after flooding it after Saturday night's win over Syracuse.

“All they do in Kentucky is run horses in circles!” a disappointed fan said on her way to South University Avenue.

As one U-M fan walked by, he bent down on his knees and kissed the “M” in the middle of the Diag.

The crowd wasn’t nearly as large as Saturday’s, nor did it last anywhere near as long. After a loud rendition of "The Victors", the loudest faction of the crowd ran off, calling for a “riot” and claiming it was going to “take” South University Avenue. Everybody else gradually filtered out thereafter. South University stayed relatively docile following the loss, while fires were being lit in the streets of student neighborhoods.

"It was sort of a bummer, man," a U-M student said after the crowd dissipated. intern Kody Klein contributed to this story

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.



Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

From the (potential) thrill of victory to the agony of defeat in pictures

Tom Joad

Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 3:58 a.m.

Whose bright idea was it to bring the Fab Five to the game...those guys jinxed them