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Michigan Nike apparel a hit on opening night

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reached the stage and marveled at the hundreds of upbeat Michigan fans crowding the festival setting off State Street on Sunday awaiting the official beginning of the Nike Era at midnight on Aug. 1.

The M Den, the official merchandise retailer for Michigan, orchestrated the four-hour “Welcome Rally” that drew those prepared to shop and those who just wanted a peek at the new Michigan Nike apparel and accessories and to be part of the event. The doors opened at 11:59 p.m.

But in the hours before, the Michigan Marching Band performed, as did the Michigan dance team, there was a disc jockey and many fans received pins handed out by M Den employees. The clear favorite featured just the head of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh in mid-yell and a pin representing his famous khakis.

A number of Michigan celebrities spoke to the crowd including Harbaugh, athletic director Warde Manuel, Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, LaMarr Woodley, Fab Five member Jimmy King, and several members of the current team, including freshman Rashan Gary. Former Wolverines Jamie Morris and Marcus Ray arrived earlier and signed autographs.

Harbaugh, who pushed through the crowd like a rock star, got on stage and identified himself.

“This is Coach Harbaugh here,” he told the crowd, drawing cheers. “I’ve lived 52 years, a lot of those years in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I’ve never seen anything like this. This is big time.

“This looks like what it should be when we win a championship.”

Some fans waited for hours to be among the first into the store to buy the coveted new Michigan Nike gear.

Dominic Carter of Columbus, Ohio, was the first.

He arrived at 8:20 a.m. and planted himself by the door of the M Den. He planned to make the three-hour return drive after making his purchases.

“I bleed this, I bleed maize and blue,” said Carter, who was then asked why he wanted to be the first in line. “I wanted to come down here and be with my people. I’m from Columbus, Ohio, and the hate is for real down there.”

He was joined in line by his friends Duncan Moore of Grand Blanc, Dustin McKay of South Bend, Indiana, and Alan Lopez, also from South Bend.

Michigan husband-and-wife students Dylan and Amy Keys said they were waiting in line to be part of the spectacle.

“It’s the event,” Amy said.

“It’s to come out and to enjoy the experience and the atmosphere and really take in Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan,” Dylan said.

At 11:59 p.m. the store opened and was flooded by Michigan fans who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new Nike apparel. In-store sales were moving briskly.

The store’s website also started selling items at midnight and also was flooded, but there were a number of complaints regarding server problems. M Den officials had said they would be prepared for online sales and early Monday said they were working on the problems.

The M Den and Victors Collection on State Street, which both opened at 11:59 p.m., will be open until normal closing at 10 p.m. Monday, and the other M Den locations will open Monday to sell the new Nike merchandise.

Still unavailable to Michigan fans are the new Nike Jordan “Jumpman” jersey, which will be officially unveiled on Tuesday, and the new Jordan Trainer 1 shoe. Both will be available for purchase Aug. 6 exclusively at the M Den.

Other retail outlets will begin selling Michigan Nike apparel on Tuesday, and the jersey and Jordan shoe will be available Aug. 8.

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

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