Scrapped in 2020 by pandemic, CMU has no immediate plans to bring WMU game to Detroit

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The state's second-biggest college rivalry appears to be staying on campus for the foreseeable future.

Central Michigan and Western Michigan were scheduled to play their first off-campus football game against each other in 2020, at Ford Field in Detroit, but that was scrapped because of the pandemic. There now appears to be no immediate plans to reschedule a game in Detroit.

Central Michigan's Levar Gumms.

"We're really trying to focus on trying to get people to come to Mount Pleasant," Central Michigan athletic director Amy Folan told The Detroit News recently, while not completely shutting the door down the road.

"Everything is something we're going to look at."

Then-Central Michigan athletic director Michael Alford set up the Ford Field game for 2020, using the Chippewas' home game in the series, in conjunction with the Detroit Sports Commission.

The decision drew critics, particularly from students — even though the school had planned for shuttle buses and free tickets — as well as alums and Mount Pleasant businesses, the latter who often see the rivalry football game as a big impact on annual ledgers.

Alford and university president Robert Davies said the Ford Field game would help Central Michigan in recruiting, and expand the school's reach and exposure. About 150,000 CMU alums reside in Metro Detroit.

Western Michigan hosts this year's game, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3. Western Michigan administrators made no secret their desire is to keep the game on the two campuses. Central Michigan had proposed holding two- or four-year series in downtown Detroit, but Western Michigan balked.

Representatives for the Lions had tried since early in the century to host the CMU-WMU game. WMU was never overly interested.

"We love Detroit, but the gate for CMU-WMU in Kalamazoo is about $275,000, and the financial impact for the city of Kalamazoo as a whole is well beyond that," Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard said.

But Alford, who became AD in 2018, was much more receptive.

"I see a lot more upsides than any negatives," Davies said in early 2020, when the game was announced, just weeks for the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the sports world.

WMU won the game in 2020, 52-44, in Mount Pleasant, where there were no fans because of the pandemic.

The CMU-WMU game dates to 1907, played for "The Victory Cannon."

Ford Field, aside from the Lions, hosts the Mid-American Conference championship game, the Quick Lane Bowl, and high school state finals.

We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984