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Posted on Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

Some fans upset after being asked to leave Michigan Stadium, others understand

By Pete Cunningham

Thunder echoed down Main Street and winds whipped rain from east to west across downtown Ann Arbor when a Michigan football fan sprinted to a restaurant overhang to hide from the weather.

Recently evacuated from Michigan Stadium after the Wolverines' weather-shortened 34-10 win over Western Michigan, the fan -- who asked not to be identified -- was soaked from head to toe and none-to-pleased to have been kicked out into the elements.

He was especially upset that he wasn't allowed into the stadium bowl to retrieve his rain coat. He was in the concourse when the stands were cleared after a second severe weather delay.


These Michigan fans seem to be enjoying the rain on Saturday. Others weren't happy to be evacuated later.

Melanie Maxwell |

"It's a terrible downpour right now and they're kicking us out, what's that about," said Sean Walton, from Dayton, Ohio. "We have no shelter, no transportation."

Others praised the athletic department's decision, saying it was made with safety in mind. Terry Price of Grand Rapids, attending her first Michigan game with her husband and four friends, was happy with her day.

"We had a great experience in terms of it being our first time coming, they dominated," said Price "Missing only 20 minutes of this game is worth it for safety because they did well and now we can be safe."

Fans said the communication was confusing. While some event staff was aggressively ushering people from the concourse and telling them to leave the stadium immediately, others were telling people it was alright to stay.

Three event staff members asked if people were being forced to leave the stadium gave three different answers. Fan Josh Pomeroy couldn't get a straight answer as to whether the game had even been called.

"I asked a security guard and he said unconfirmed but confirmed, so whatever that means," said Pomeroy. "They're just looking out for our safety

"I think there needs to be some work done on an evacuation plan," said Keith Patrick, from Cincinnati, Ohio. "Hopefully there's never a more serious incident in how they evacuate because the plan right now, I don't think would work."

Dave Dehan, who came from the Chicago area, was simply disappointed not to see an entire game.

"I guess with the lightning, it's good for our safety," Dehan said. "But I'm kind of disappointed that I didn't get to see a whole game."

Contact Pete Cunningham at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

I wonder if the game would have been called and ended "as is" if Michigan was losing 20-17? I doubt it although there is no way to know for sure since that wasn't the circumstance.

Sports Girl

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

No, and I don't believe WMU would have let the score stand, either. The WMU AD and coach both agreed that Michigan had the game in hand. If they felt as though they could win the game, then they would have either waited it out or rescheduled.


Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

Here's my point: There should be a predetermined mechanism (and corresponding person held responsible) for the decision. This situation has happened at your school, my school and that other school in South Bend. Fortunately, in all three cases the games were pretty much decided and nobody got hurt. However, picture this scenario. Team A leads by 7 points. Team B scores at TD and now trails by one just as lightening strikes near the stadium. Both teams are ordered to their locker rooms. Now chaos insues. Team A argues (based on precedent at tOSU, UM and ND) that the game should end. Team B argues that the storm will eventually pass and they deserve the opportunity to (at least) have a chance for PAT or 2-pt conversion. The TV execs side with Team A and are pressing for a quick ending so they can move to another game. Meanwhile Team B is on the phone with the Big 10 commish (who is in a distant city) trying to force a continuation. At what point do the refs simply take control and make the call? On one level, simply following baseball is the way to go. The head of the refs makes the call without influence from either team. However, an important difference exists. Baseball games rarely proceed up to the point of truly severe weather. The baseball games generally stop at the first drops of rain and well before that point. By contrast FB is a foul weather sport. At what point is the home team responsible for the welfare of the fans? If the home team's head of security views their is a risk to teams or fans, can he/she stop the game without the refs approval? Who is the head of security? The AD? The police? The school president? The NCAA has some homework to do.

Sports Girl

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 6:05 a.m.

They have the option of completing the game on an alternative date. The scores stand, and on the new date they play from where the clock was stopped. I am saying this because I doubt neither team would concede the win...


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

I'm curious? How is the decision to end a FB game made? Who's in charge? This article says "the teams" agree to end the game. Who represents "the team?' The head coach? The ADs? The team captains? A random poll taken of fans sitting at the end of each row? What is the role of the officials? Give the size of FB's rule book, there must be something in there about this situation. Another article on this game said the Big Ten has a more formal mechanism established if this had been a conference game. If that is the case, what's the mechanism? The point was also made that if this had been a conference game there would have been a higher chance that the game would have been continued. Is that safe? If Blue and Sparty were tied, would 100,000+ fans have been put at risk merely to claim a victory? It seems this is a case where the slow, tedious sport of baseball has it right. The home plate umpire make the call. Case closed. The game is complete and entered after a specified number of innings (depending on who's winning). I'd be interested in someone that knows how this decision is made.

Sports Girl

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.


Sports Girl

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

According to NCAA guidelines, each conference has its own set of guidelines for handling situations such as this. In the event that it is a non-conference game, the ADs from both schools must come to an agreement with the coaches to either 1)finish the game on an alternative date 2) decide to let the game stand as final with a winner declares 3) one team can forfeit 4) end in a tie. The referees are the ones who initially must determine that the game can no longer be played, and then it is up to the trams to decide what to do. Obviously, these were the steps taken, and choice two was selected.

Long Time No See

Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

Wow... I completely agree with "The OSU" I feel dirty. I do think it was stated that the ADs and the head coaches met and agreed upon this. My impression is that under Big10 rules, that group of people may not have had the authority to make the decision on their own, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the same decision would not have been made anyway.

Long Time No See

Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

I was there, and I think I left about five minutes before the "mandatory" evacuation (maybe about 20min before the game was called). I was basically just waiting for the stairs to clear, since standing for 45min on the steps was much less appealing that staying at my seat. I was already soaked, so it really didn't matter to me if I got any wetter. Why did section nine move so much more slowly than neighboring sections? It was much slower than other gates on the way in, and excruciatingly slow on the way out. People were standing for more than ten minutes, not progressing at all, while other sections nearby had a steady flow. My personal opinion is that the first delay was a bad move - the danger had already passed and it would have been safer to keep playing. I think the second delay (that turned into a cancellation) was too early. Yes, lightening was seen nearby, but they were sending people out into that weather - it was simply done to shift legal liability, not out of concern for the fans. The real danger came from the weather that moved through after the game was called. The game should have been completed with no weather delays, and all of the fans would have been able to leave, prior to the actual danger, in the normal fashion with no unwarranted exposure to danger. Others seem to be commending the decision-making of the officials and athletic department. I strongly disagree. I think the decisions were poorly timed and based on legal liability as opposed to actual concern for fans' safety.


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

I firmly believe after the second deluge, it was absolutely right to evacuate the stadium. Given what was going on with the weather (a series of oncoming storm cells, the game was not going to be continued for quite some time. And the following storm cells were worse. My wife and I decided to go home and watch the rest of the game, regardless of if or when the game was going to continue. We were just tired of being soaked to the skin by that point. The AD's and coaches made the right decision. But in general, once the storm is there, there's NO WAY to evacuate that stadium quickly. There are a lot of fans at risk if there was bad lightning (the players can get off the field relatively fast). The first storm, they made an announcement that it would be there in 20 minutes. Even if everyone started to leave, there's no way to get all the fans out. As it was, it started coming down hard a lot sooner than that. Not sure what the solution is - maybe better assessment of dangerous weather before it gets there?


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

As someone who sat (in the upper deck at the 'Shoe) through tOSU's unfinishished game against USC, I think I have some perspective on this matter. Both school's should be commended for the WISDOM to end the game. Frankly, neither fans or players are rational at moments such as Saturday's game. FB is traditionally played regardless of weather. That's fine. Some fans (including myself) believe, "If they can play in it (the weather), I can sit through it." However, risking injury or death to participants or fans is irresponsible. However, WMU needs to be commended for the COURAGE to end the game. Like tOSU, WMU could have pushed for the game to be only delayed and continued later. While players and officials can retreat to the safety of a locker room, fans are left exposed to the elements. At some point, someone has to be the "adult in the room" and acknowledge that there ARE more important matters in this world than football -- public safety being one. Like, tOSU, WMU stood tall and took the loss. Given that they were the visitors, this speaks even more. They were looking out for the interests of Blue's fans.

Long Time No See

Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

When it comes to life/death decisions, they aren't "Blue's fans"... they're just people.


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Um. From the AP: "Both schools agreed to cancel the game with 1:27 left in the third during a second weather delay, which included evacuating Michigan Stadium that had 110,056 fans in it before the inclement weather moved into the area. 'We really thought about the safety of the fans and the safety of the players,' Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. 'If this was a close game that was into the fourth quarter, I think we would've waited it out'." Two things here: Both schools agreed to canceled, which is what I wanted to know or else it doesn't seem fair to WMU given that, however unthinkable, teams CAN come back from 24-pt deficits. Just ask 2010 champs Auburn who did it against Alabama last year and TCU who bridged a 23-pt deficit starting in the 3rd against Baylor on Friday night before their defense screwed up AGAIN, (which I know sounds familiar to us Wolverines, right?). And yeah, ND was down, if I'm correct, 16 the first time and then 10 the second time. So, there was opportunity for ND to come back (especially since they started Crist when they should have been starting the guy who won them games last year, Rees, and they finally switched to him and he was leading them back). I suspect that if it had been Michigan down to some team 16 or 10 pts, some of us would have been wanting the game to play all the way out, even if on Sunday instead. I really don't blame ND, especially since they must know that by this time next week they will be 0-2 with another promising season derailed by overhype and wishful thinking, as always. Not saying Michigan was wrong or that they should have kept everyone there, but I also can see why USF and ND did something different and, apparently, so can Dave Brandon.


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

As an usher for the past two seasons, I can tell you that we have certainly been trained on these situations. Though we were initially given word to evacuate the bowl, as is proper protocol with a lightning strike in a huge, superconductive metal bowl, we were not informed to evacuate the concourse until the last possible moment. You have to understand that, though we are told certain policy by the AD, it's a judgement call on our part: morally, do we feel okay sending people into rain and lightning? I know I didn't want to do that, and I don't blame the fans for not wanting to. I sent people to Gate 4, exacly as I was trained to do. But it's also a double-edged sword: do I want to be responsible for sending people into the elements as a veritable lightning rod, I myself, wouldn't want to go into?

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

"a huge, superconductive metal bowl,' Is there some hard evidence that the Stadium is prone to lightening strikes?


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Strangely enough, this same weather system was in Indiana where Notre Dame was playing. Their game against South Florida was delayed twice also. However, this game didn't end. Was it because Notre Dame was losing? And, officials were trying to preserve the game so Notre Dame could find time to win? Wasn't this the same state where five people were killed at a State Fair due to stormy weather? And that event wasn't canceled due to the weather? Being at the game, I'm glad the decision was made to protect the players and the fans. It's just a game, and should be a life or death situation. Couldn't fan shelter, didn't have transportation. Really? How'd you get to the game from Ohio? Did you drive your vehicle to your seat?

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

Not to mention folks were encouraged to "park and ride" so some folks had cars miles away.

Pete Cunningham

Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

Mr. Walton was referring to the fact that he did not have shelter in the intermediate to wait out the storm or a way of getting to his car from the stadium without braving the elements. He, like most fans, didn't have stadium-side parking.


Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

Better safe than sorry. Good call to end this game under the circumstances.

Rob MI

Sun, Sep 4, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

While I applaud and agree with the decision to evacuate the bowl (for the second time(?) yesterday--it was never really clear if the first suspension also included an evacuation that many didn't seem to heed), the manner in which it was done could not have been more chaotic or disorganized than what I witnessed. Were it not for the fact that many had already crossed through the gates when the game calling was decided and the weather approaching appeared to be far worse than what was already experienced, it would have been many times worse. I witnessed exactly what the article notes--some ushers were aggressively forcing people to leave (section 17 or 18) while many others like those in my section (16) and many others weren't doing anything (aggressive or otherwise) until at least five or ten minutes later. The few announcements made into the bowl were not also simultaneously broadcast into the concourse, making me wonder if the PA system of the stadium even has this capability. Law enforcement, from my perspective, was neutral here--not part of the problem, but also not part of the solution, indicating to me they were probably just as uninformed as everyone else. As someone who is personally responsible for building evacuation coordination during fires or natural disasters at another publicly-accessible building on campus, I can appreciate and understand the incredible logistics that need to be in place and followed appropriately to get over 110,000 people out of danger as quickly as possible. Yesterday's events show me that anything that might be in place is clearly both piecemeal and poorly known among authorized stadium personnel and law enforcement (campus, local, state, or other). The Athletic Department owes it to its fans to have something in place. The new rules in place for this season keep practically anything dangerous from coming in. Now they must step up to the plate and deliver a plan which safely gets people out when--not if--that need arises.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

"to get over 110,000 people out of danger as quickly as possible." was it not dangerous outside the bowl? I wasn't there but there is no science to predict where lightening will strike or that it was more likely to strike in the bowl verses on the corner of Main and Stadium.