Taming the Big House
In 2010, fans can't even bring bottled water into the stadium. But in the 1950s, Don Horning remembers, people would haul in coolers and drink throughout the whole game--beer, mostly. "There were so many empty seats before Bo came, people not only brought in coolers, they put them on the bench beside them," says the retired phys ed teacher.
"We'd carry in small coolers with booze, beer, whatever we could get our hands on to drink," concurs one former partier, an Ann Arbor native who was underage at the time and asked that his name not be used. Michigan was "losing with some regularity," he says, so the games were boring--but "there was plenty of space in the south end zone to run around, play catch, tease girls, and just generally have a wonderful fall Saturday afternoon."
Bo's winning ways, and then-AD Don Canham's savvy marketing, refilled the stadium in the 1970s, and congestion and tougher enforcement combined to tamp down the party scene. Though fans still occasionally try to smuggle in booze, "the punishment is severe," says Horning, who works the M-Den tent at the stadium on game days. "We've seen people at Gate 2 with alcohol, and they end up not letting them in, period. Their tickets are worthless."