Michigan shouldn’t really top ‘muck’ list

By Kevin Spitz

Looking around campus it’s hard to miss the hatred flowing through the veins of Illinois’ 40,000-plus students. The colors maize and blue bring shudders from us. Our most primal instinct comes out – mucking. And by looking around this campus it is easy to see that Michigan is definitely a SILM – School I’d like to Muck.

Of course I am referring to the shirts that say “Muck Fichigan” on them. Whether we are actually playing Michigan or not, people wear the “Muck Fichigan” shirts to sporting events. So I naturally assumed that when I asked people on the Illinois campus who they’d like to muck more than any other school in the nation, Fichigan would be their answer.

Illinois and Michigan both were founding members of the Big Ten Conference in 1896, so there has been a conference rivalry between the two schools for a long time. But the rivalry hit a new level during the 1980 football season.

That year Illinois quarterback Dave Wilson was investigated for being ineligible. In addition, at the conclusion of the ’79 season, Illinois fired head football coach Gary Moeller, a former assistant of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.

As was written in our very own Daily Illini on Oct. 25, 1980, “Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler has openly criticized Illinois’ involvement in the Dave Wilson eligibility case. In addition, Schembechler is still incensed about the firing of ex-Illini coach Gary Moeller last November.”

The bad blood and rivalry between Michigan and Illinois continued through the ’80s and extended to basketball. Not many fans can forget what Michigan did to Illinois in the 1989 Final Four. But since then, the rivalry has faded.

Yes, in the early 1990s Illinois had some decent football teams, but it is hard to remain rivals with Michigan when you have four victories, two ties, and 38 losses in your last 44 meetings against a school.

It’s funny because the rivalry is perpetuated by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. For those students who did not complete their order on time, the Michigan ticket was pulled from their student season ticket package. See, the Michigan game is considered a “premium game.” While tickets to regular games cost $42 per ticket for a fan in either the east stands or west stands, tickets cost $50 against premium opponents such as Michigan.

But is there actually a rivalry there? I asked four sports writers from the Michigan Daily, the university’s student newspaper, whom they felt their top five rivals were. Not once did Illinois come up.

Scott Bell, managing sports editor said: “I look at rivalries with Michigan as sort of a three-tier system. The top tier is obviously Ohio State. It’s a mutual rivalry and each school dislikes the other greatly. Then there’s the second tier, where I would put Notre Dame and Michigan State. Then there’s the third tier, which consists of pretty much the rest of the Big Ten. These are schools that hate Michigan, but teams that Michigan doesn’t necessarily circle on its calendar each week.”

So if any rivalry exists it is only one sided. To me it has always seemed like a big brother-little brother relationship. Illinois is always pulling on Michigan’s sleeve trying to get it to play, but Michigan just doesn’t want to.

Illini Pride executive Cody Bornsheuer said: “Michigan is an elite in the Big Ten and nationwide. It’s striving to be them rather than disliking them or what they’re about.”

Aha! A statement that confirms my big brother-little brother hypothesis!

But not even that seemed to be the case. I talked to five students in Illini Pride and asked them to rank their top-five rivals. Though I expected Michigan to be listed number one or two by each of them, it did not crack the top three once. Some people did not even have them on the list at all.

I asked Aaron Dubnow of Illini Pride why the rivalry between Illinois and Michigan has declined, and he said: “I think because they’re not our top rival. They’re a school we want to beat, but we’re not their biggest rival, so they’re not our biggest rival. They’re a school we hate, but they haven’t done as much to us. They certainly haven’t caused as much hatred to us as Indiana.”

Maybe “Muck Fichigan” shirts are just a fashion statement at Illinois? I don’t know. But when asked what school they want to muck more than any other, Illinois fans said Muck Indiana! Indiana – talk about a SILM.

Kevin Spitz is a senior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected]