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Posted on Sun, Aug 14, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

Michigan football fans wait in long lines for their favorite Wolverines' autographs

By Rich Rezler


David Pickelhaupt of Marysville was one of many fans who lined up Sunday for an autograph from Michigan football coach Brady Hoke.

Melanie Maxwell |

After a nearly seven-hour vigil, the Hooper family has itself a tale to tell.

The Marion, Ohio, residents received the first autographs signed by first-year Michigan football coach Brady Hoke at his first Fan Day.

An estimated 25,000 Michigan supporters converged on Michigan Stadium on Sunday for a chance to get autographs and photos with their favorite Wolverines, take their first look at the enormous new high-definition scoreboards that played spring practice highlights on a loop and run pass patterns on the playing surface.


Getting there early, it turns out, was a necessity. Ushers were forced to close down long lines before some fans reached players, who were separated by position groups around the stadium concourse and signed autographs from 2 to 3:30 p.m., using concession stands as greeting stations.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon apologized to fans on Twitter, writing "I know some were unhappy they didn't get a particular autograph. I'm sorry. Turnout was huge & certain lines were ridiculously long."

Bart Hooper and his family didn't have a problem. They arrived at 7:30 a.m. and set up camp against a wrought iron fence on the east side of the stadium, securing the lone two feet of tunnel overhang that sheltered them from the morning rain.

The tunnel entrance was specifically for fans seeking Hoke's autograph, and that's the one 13-year-old Mallory Hooper wanted. She held down that spot with her parents, uncle Vince Reed and cousin Karington Reed until the gates opened at 1 p.m. From there, they made their way through a makeshift turnstile and waited for Hoke to take his position under a blue tent on the stadium turf.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Mitchell Hooper -- the biggest Michigan fan of the bunch -- had a different plan. He was on a quest for a Denard Robinson autograph, so he left his family in the Hoke line and headed for the north side of the stadium.

Mitchell kept a humorous Twitter timeline of his wait, including this entry: “Been standing in line since 8 o’clock, still got another 3 hours, and it’s raining, and (I don’t know) if this line goes to Denard. Ohh I’ll be so salty.”

Everything ended well. The final update included a photograph of Mitchell and Robinson together, wearing matching No. 16 jerseys and wide smiles.


A Michigan football player hands back a signed football to a fan on Sunday at Michigan Stadium.

Melanie Maxwell |

Fans lined up hundreds deep for every group, but none was longer than the quarterback station positioned outside of section 38. That line weaved out the stadium gates, down Keech Avenue and deep into the parking lot near Crisler Arena.

At the end of that line was Stuart Riley of Brighton with five young boys -- Aidan Riley, 9, Sheldon Riley, 8, Carson Taylor, 8, Zach Taylor, 11, and Everett Conely, 9 -- equally determined to receive Robinson’s signature.

"We got a look at him as we walked by, but then we followed the line all the way here," Stuart Riley said.

After about 20 minutes, an usher informed Riley and those that had gathered behind him that they were unlikely to get through Robinson's line before the autograph session ended.

He and the five boys darted off to find the shortest line remaining, which was the offensive linemen. At 3:10 p.m., they were told again they wouldn't make it to the front of the line.

When the session was closed, Riley said some of the crowd "started getting a little unruly," shouting at ushers and players. That's when the boys noticed that gregarious redshirt junior lineman Taylor Lewan had stepped aside and was continuing to sign. All five boys got Lewan's autograph.

"Here we were, zero autographs and we'd been there for an hour and a half. I thought it was fine, part of life, but I think a lot of people were bummed," Riley said. "It certainly was not the players' doing. You have to cut it off at some point, or they'd be signing until 3 a.m.

"Taylor Lewan, you could tell how bad he felt, so he made a point to come to the railing and signed 20 more autographs. My kids were thrilled. He's like their hero now."

Rich Rezler is a sports producer for Contact him at or 734-623-2553.



Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 1:28 a.m.

Meanwhile, at another school in a state to the south of Michigan, autographs were provided on team memorabilia or in the form of tatoos upon request.

Ohio's biggest Michigan Fan

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

My wife and I and our two boys of 3 and 1 made the hour and a half drive from our home in OH to attend fan day. Most importantly to let our boys who are named Maizen and Hailon a chance to see where their names come from and go out on the field. We arrived at the stadium around 11:30 waited in the line right out side of the gate by section 38 Where Denard would be. We were prob about 100 or so ppl back from the front. When the gates opened we say person after person cut in line. By 2 oclock we somehow were magically about 300 ppl from the front. By 3:00 we had moved I would say about 40 ft. Staff watched as person after person cut in Denards line and did nothing about it. I then just decided we would try again next year and went into the stadium to let the boys play on the field. They loved it. around 3:30 we headed up the south stairs out and i was able to walk right up and get all of the LB's autographs and then proceeded to look for an open Bathroom. I grabbed the family Restrooms handle locked and heard a voice behind me say "Is that locked?" I turned around and said "yeah" and to my amazement it was Mike Martin. I told him about the ridiculously absurd way the lines were being organized on the north end and he told me he had been hearing about it all day. I asked if he could sign my Football for the boys and of course he obliged and said "I'm not a bad guy" I told him of course not and thanked him. All and all it was a good day. I really do think the staff was overwhelmed and was clueless I was told at one point the one tunnel was entrance only and walked in the staffer on the inside told me I couldnt come through then when walking out was told again that it was entrance only. I said "you guys need to get on the same page, you told me to go that way, he told me to go this way now I'm stuck here because one of you guys are wrong. Go talk to him" and was finally allowed to pass. Overall it was all right

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 11:36 p.m.

"My wife and I and our two boys of 3 and 1 made the hour and a half drive from our home in OH to attend fan day. Most importantly to let our boys who are named Maizen and Hailon a chance to see where their names come from and go out on the field." This is a joke, right? Going to a fan day for your one- and three-year olds? Maizen? Hailon? Seriously? Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

And we wonder what is wrong with college athletics? It is so overrated and so commercialized now that it really is losing its charm. Why on earth would anyone endure this on one of the few summer Saturdays of the year?

Ohio's biggest Michigan Fan

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

Umm yesterday was Sunday and for most spending a Sunday afternoon in the Big House is better than staying home.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

I was not there, so I didn't experience the lines or "disappointment" expressed by many. But let's not forget that the autograph signers are 18-23 year olds, some just three months out of high school. With the advent of the Hoke era, all of these gentlemen are learning a new playbook (for the new coaches, they are learning the players), working their way through two a days, preparing for fall classes, and adjusting or readjusting to the hectic fall schedule which awaits them. They cannot, and should not, be expected to sign autographs well into the evening hours. Could efficiency in the staging of such an event be improved? Yes, but there's a learning curve involved in that. Can abuse of the system by requesting mutiple signings be eliminated? Yes. Instead of just griping, how about submitting your ideas for improvement in writing to the Athletic Department? With the current athletic administration, I believe next year's (or even this year's basketball team's) fan day will show massive improvement. TiM!

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

Regarding the lines, and the kids that left heart-broken, perhaps a NEW motto is appropriate; 'Those that stay will be disappointed.' ......just sayin'. I don't happen to be a 'respector of persons', so I 've never understood this whole 'autograph thing' anyway...but I do feel VERY badly, for the young kids. Why don't; they have one line for each player and you'd have, what?, 120 lines, at once.

Rich Rezler

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

From Dave Brandon's Twitter feed, minutes ago: &quot;We are already meeting &amp; planning to change (what) is currently called &quot;Fan Day 2012.&quot; We will strive to create a 'wow' experience!&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>!/DaveBrandonAD

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

I have long thought that attracted a disproportionate number of nattering nabobs of negativism relative to their number in the community at large. The comments on this article proves it. 1) Those football player could have been there until 7PM and the lines would still have been there. They were huge. 2) When I arrived at 2PM the lines were so long that I knew immediately that I'd never get to the players by 330PM, so I never got in any line. Yet I still saw people getting into line as later as 3PM when I left. They have no one but themselves to blame for their lack of common sense. 3) So after walking around the stadium, and getting some great pics of the player (esp. D-Rob) w/o being in line, I sent down on the field. Lots of fun being had down there by thousands of people. A really neat perspective that I never get from my seats. First time I had been on the field since construction of the press box and luxury suites. Those structures must make the field incredibly intimidating for visitors. 4) Got my picture taken with some REALLY cute cheerleaders. Might not have been D-Rob, but it was fun!! Bottom line: lighten up people, and get a life. It would have taken some real effort NOT to have fun at the Big House yesterday, but it sure appears that some people went out of their way to make that effort. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Not disagreeing with you. Just making suggestions for improvements for next year.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

If people were arriving HOURS before the start of the event, it is a sign that the event could have gone on for HOURS without everyone being satisfied with the results. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

I don't think it's too much to ask for some organization. When more than half of the autograph seekers are turned away (including those who got there at noon, which should have been early enough for an event starting at two), they should admit to needing a better system. Something like handing out wrist bands would be an easy fix.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

And what does Mrs. Murrow's Ghost think of the cheerleader pictures?


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

I had a blast at this, but only because it's Michigan and I'd be happy just sitting in the stadium. Going on the field was amazing. They really screwed up the lines, I could see all kinds of players not signing anything and sitting around because they couldn't get all four lines through in one. Basic common sense and organization was lacking throughout the stadium. It was crazy how many people were there working who did not know what was going on or just lacked a plan of how to get people through lines.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

Back in 2007 my two sons got up early, drove to Meijer and bought 2 footballs (cheaper) and drove to fan days. Lines were long for the coach, Mike Hart, and qbs, but they got a few autographs. In line for the defensive lineman, time ran out. My oldest had lived across the hall from Terrace Taylor (who was rarely there as he lived in an off campus apartment). He yelled out Terrance's name, and Terrance brought the entire line over. As they were signing the footballs, Terrance asked my youngest &quot;are you his brother&quot;? My youngest said &quot;yes, this may be the only time I am happy to say that&quot;. Terrance exploded in laughter. Great memory for my boys.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 4:42 a.m.

That's what you get for advertising it like mad and holding the signing day on a Sunday. How utterly absurd. Put it on a weekday and shut the hell up about it. The true fans will be there and the ebay kings will get out.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

A few years back I believe it was held on a weekday, and the problems were minimized


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 3:55 a.m.

My son and I went to the fan appreciation day today. First we went to the &quot;garage&quot; sale that they had. Waited in that line to pay for items purchased. Then we went to stand in another line waiting for the gates to open. We stood for hrs in line and it was raining. But that didn't detour us to leave. We are Michigan fans and endure all types of weather. When the gates finally opened there was a mad dash to get in yet another line to wait for over an hour. Unfortunately there wasn't any type of order and people were cutting in line at the start of the stairs that led up to the concessions at gate 38. Also people were going to the top of the hill in the grassy area and line jumped there also. So the ones who were waiting and waiting in line got turned away. This has happened to me and my son for the past 3 yrs. I'm so very disappointed in the way that the event was &quot;set&quot; up. There was no order at all. If that's the way they continue to plan events I won't be attending any again. I grew up being a &quot;Michigan&quot; fan but am so disenhearted by the way things were done. My daughter is a Michigan State fan and has gone to their fan appreciation day and she says there was order to it by the way they set it up. She was able to get every players autograph. Hmmmmm maybe Michigan should learn from this.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

I saw lines forming well before 1:00 (we went to lunch and then came back, forget that). So let's face it, if you weren't in line by then, you weren't getting autographs from any of last year's starters or the coaches. So, my kids and I walked around the stadium. To our surprise, we were able to get autographs from many of the key players (Including Rawls. Yeah, just walking around). Oh, include photos with David Brandon (Took the time to say hello). Also, from the kicker, Wile. And many others. My point is that sure, you could wait in line trying to get that once in a lifetime autograph (better make it in early), or you could get autographs from the other student athelete, have a good time on the field and in the stadium. All-in-all, this was a great event and I'll definitely do it again. My advice, just don't expect to get Denard's autograph showing up at 1:30 for a 2:00 event, that's a once in a lifetime thing. Seek other players, enjoy the access and remember to take it all in because none of the players or coaches have to do this sort of thing. Go Blue, DMoney


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 1:47 a.m.

Just so we're all straight about this. The University and Athletic Dept. have spent the last eight months hyping Brady Hoke, deservedly so, and there is an electric buzz about this &quot;new&quot; team the likes of which haven't been felt in years, and Dave Brandon didn't expect a large turnout? Maybe this is a case where DB should have been reading some headlines and visiting the various fan forums.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 1:02 a.m.

I understand there were a lot of people, but it seems that the UofM staff didn't quite do enough to ensure more people left with autographs or Michigan garb. They manage to get 110,000 people in and out of that same stadium on game days with ease...yet today was a mess. It's a shame, there are a lot of disappointed kids out there tonight...


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 6:18 a.m.

I guarantee you the lines at the onsite MDen or any place there with a cash register moved just fine. If all the folks who bought something from them that day but couldn't get it signed by a single player went directly back to the MDen and returned it, the line would probably have rivaled Hoke's.

1st Down

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

To people complaining: Have you ever seen sands in an hourglass...or a bunch of fluid in a funnel...? It takes time to push that many people through a small space... no doubt the turnout was much greater than anticipated and id bet that next year, they have a better and more efficient system worked out


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

Yes, but when you have a football program over 100 years old and toot your own horn about the academic standards, then I'd expect the administration of an event like this to be &quot;smarter&quot; than they were. This was not the first time holding a crowded, popular event. Have a cut-off. If each fan spends 10 seconds with a signer, and you only have 2 hours, then lines should not exceed... Come on Michigan.... do the math. Don't do the fans....


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

I wonder why in previous years they allowed two hours for signing and this year it was cut back to an hour and a half. If you have to camp out the night before or get there at 8:00 am for a 3:00 event, that rules out all but the most rabid fans.

1st Down

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

Does the gentleman in the photo with Coach Hoke have a WWII vets hat on? it looks that way...quite impressive! The new scoreboards are also impressive...I cant wait to get back to AA to see a game and have that experience of live replays and things on those boards.


Sun, Aug 14, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

It was a joke. They let people keep coming and coming and they KNEW most of them were not going to get anywhere near an autograph in the measly 1.5 hour window. But in true Athletic Dept style, they let us all wait there for hours, continuing to sell merchandise (get that autograph!) and expensive refreshments. At 3:30 the fans were left holding the bag, so to speak, often with $100 worth of merchandise they expected to get signed. They came around and cut off the lines at a certain point and if they had any decency, the people who &quot;made the cut&quot; should have been allowed to get through. I was 20 people away from getting to the running backs and they just disappeared at 3:30 with people standing there in line yet, looking shell-shocked, disgusted, and even some little ones were crying. I moved about 100 ft in 2.5 hrs. Great fan day. They really take us for granted. I'm certain, as the reader above suggests, that the people with the full team signed helmets will be out on eBay in no time. Sickening, cruel, disorganized mess for lots of real fans... especially the little ones. No fault of the players, but Brandon should be a lot more than sorry. What did he expect?


Sun, Aug 14, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

There were a lot more fans turned away than the article suggests. My nephew waited with us in one line for an hour and then tried to find a shorter line on the defensive side. They had, however, taken those three lines and consolidated them into one, so he waited again but then ended up without any autographs. It was a life lesson in disappointment, I suppose.


Mon, Aug 15, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

It really bugged me they put 4 lines into 1, all I wanted was any autograph for my daughter and there was no way it was going to happen. Seemed like a trivial fix too....


Sun, Aug 14, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

They need to enforce the lines and the item limits. There were definitely guys who could best be described as eBay dudes doing the chat and cut/chat and pass trick to exploit the system.