Michigan State attendance woes: Are Spartans following U-M’s path?


Oct 4, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio walks the sidelines during the 2nd half of a game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: MSU won 27-22. Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt Michigan State football fans remember U-M’s Michael Hart voicing the now-infamous “Little Brother” comment.

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It was precisely November 3, 2007 when the Wolverines staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Spartans 28-24.

The win was the sixth straight for Michigan over its in-state rival and Hart, still Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, was thrilled to talk about it.

Dantonio miffed

“I was just laughing,” Hart, now Western Michigan’s running backs coach, said. “I thought it was funny. They got excited. It’s good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball and you let him get the lead. Then you come back and take it from him.”

The comments somehow reverberated into the Michigan State locker room.  Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio was obviously miffed.

 “You don’t have to disrespect people. If they want to make a mockery of it, so be it.” Dantonio added, “Their time will come.”

Little Brother 

The tables have actually turned as Michigan State has now won five of the last six games.

But “Little Brother’s” time has come again too.

Over the past few seasons Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has chastised Wolverine students about arriving late at games.  He even changed the student ticket policy from reserved seats to general admission, something that might, among other things, get Brandon fired.

Despite switching back to the original policy Michigan students didn’t forget.

Brandon in trouble

Not only did they they cut their season-ticket purchase this season by about one-third, they held an anti-Brandon rally on campus earlier this week and might even boycott Saturday’s night game with Penn State.

MSU’s Coach Dantonio and athletic director Mark Hollis and have also voiced their displeasure, but instead with Michigan State’s student participation. Here it is, Brandon about to get tossed out of town, and the Spartan brass appearing to follow the same, shaky path.

Kind of like “Little Brother” following “Big Brother.”

Cold, rainy night

Dantonio and Hollis were extremely disappointed that students headed for the exits well before the conclusion of MSU’s 27-22 win over Nebraska (Oct. 4).

But the opening kickoff didn’t begin until 8:15 pm and when the final whistle blew some four hours later the 40-degree temperatures were made even worse by a bothersome rain.

Hollis claimed attendance in the student section was an “embarrassment,” and like Brandon at Michigan, didn’t like the idea of empty seats being shown on television.

 “I appreciate the fans that did stay, and the fans that left, that’s just not right,” Dantonio said on his post-game radio show.


 “There’s a lot of things to do out there after 11 o’clock, I guess,” Dantonio added. “So we didn’t have them there at the end of the game. You know, at the end of the game, we needed them there. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking why.”

Sounds like changes are coming. Hollis and his staff better consult the students before he winds up under the bus or out of a job.

Hollis added that this year might be the end of  first-come, first-served student tickets. In Ann Arbor seniors get the best seats. In East Lansing, students keeping tickets over several seasons might get the best seats. 

If student attendance is that important, the Big Ten should reconsider scheduling conference games in October at night, just to rake in additional television dollars.

Students should speak out

Seems like Hollis, Dantonio and Brandon all spent time in the fairy tale land of entitlement. Do students really “owe” the football team the possibility of catching the flu on a cold and wet evening.

Maybe Michigan State students will follow Michigan’s lead and at least let the MSU athletic department know exactly how they feel.

Catherine Meza , while commenting on a National Public Radio article, couldn’t have said it better: “Students are adults and in charge of their own time. I got used to that idea when college students would leave my class early. I learned to leverage their grade anxiety to include vital information at the very, very end, and to, try to be as interesting and engaging as possible so as not to insult their intelligence. They will stay when there is good reason to stay.”

Michigan State’s next home game is scheduled for October 25th against Michigan.

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