Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Matt Charboneau look ahead to Saturday's showdown between the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Detroit News
Ann Arbor – Night games are not the norm at Michigan Stadium, and because this night game features Michigan facing in-state rival Michigan State, more law enforcement agencies will be involved to handle traffic flow and rowdiness.
Michigan hasn’t hosted a night game since the Penn State game in 2014, and while athletic department and police departments have a blueprint from which to work, the Michigan-Michigan State game, which will be aired on ABC at 7:30 p.m. – the first time in the series the two are playing at night – promises more vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“Every year we review our safety and security plan and each game we also look to see if we need to make any adjustments,” Diane Brown, spokesperson for the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security, said this week. “Some of the things we consider: Who is the opponent? What kind of rivalry is it? What is kickoff time? What is the weather? What are the season records so far? What's the road construction?
“One of the differences this week, there are many fans who have divided households, so there are a lot more, should I say, co-mingled groups coming, or vehicles coming. It does tend to – we’ve seen in the past from Michigan State – it has increased the vehicle traffic before the game. Given this is a night game, there’s more hours for people to come from various areas around the state, so our key focus needs to be on the traffic and trying to maintain traffic flow.”
The Michigan and Michigan State athletic directors in the past have expressed concern about holding this game at night because of the potential for increased alcohol consumption because of a longer time to tailgate. Brown said the three night games at Michigan Stadium did not yield “significantly different” numbers of alcohol-related arrests.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel and Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, however, felt a need to send a letter on Thursday to both fan bases encouraging good behavior.
“With the kick-off in prime time, both schools will share the national spotlight,” the letter reads. “After the game, each facet will be dissected and analyzed by man. Let’s make sure the analysis is all about the game. Our two universities can show that civility and respect can be a hallmark of not only college sports but what we need to strive for in our society.
“We share a steadfast commitment to represent our schools with class and dignity as participants, students and members of our respective communities. This weekend will be a time of togetherness, celebration and competition.”
Brown would not divulge the actual number of law enforcement officials who will work the game but said a number of agencies will be involved. Lest anyone forget, the city of Ann Arbor requires security, as well. Officers from the UM Police and Ann Arbor Police departments, Washtenaw County Sherriff’s department, and the Michigan State Police will work the game, along with individuals from the FBI and Homeland Security.
“Unfortunately in these days, we are on a pretty heightened state of alert all the time,” Brown said. “There are many incidents happening across the country and universities, so our officers are very diligently preparing and aware.
“We continue to share messages with fans if they see something suspicious, say something. We would rather people report that they see something that’s out of the ordinary and we’d rather respond and it was nothing or something not dangerous than not have people not tell us.”