Among a conference full of intimidating atmospheres for visiting basketball teams, players and students agree that Michigan’s Crisler Center is sorely lacking. In an online petition scheduled to be published later today, several student leaders have a proposed fix: “Expand the Maize Rage.”
Currently, Michigan students are only allocated a limited amount of seats in the lower bowl of Crisler Center. A vast majority of the student section (dubbed the “Maize Rage”) is located in the upper bowl of the arena, isolated and far from the action. Subsequently, the Michigan men’s basketball team is unable to fully harness the energy of the students during crucial moments of games. The upcoming petition created by leaders of the Maize Rage urges the Michigan Athletic Department to expand the number of seats allocated to the student section within the lower bowl.
A draft of the petition obtained by WCBN Sports raises two demands for administrators in the Athletic Department. First, it writes that “the Maize Rage needs to be expanded to allow more students into the lower bowl,” although it does not mention specific areas where the student section should expand to or how many students should be added to the lower bowl. Second, the petition asks that student leaders of Maize Rage “get a seat at the table when it comes to making this decision.” The petition claims that these requests, along with a modified student ticketing strategy, will “make the Crisler Center one of the toughest environments to play in the whole country.”
This petition will be published on Change.org, an online platform for organizations to host petitions and raise awareness about specific issues. It is unclear how long the petition will be available or how many signatures it aims to receive.
This movement has been championed by student leaders within Maize Rage, particularly Spencer Wood, the President of the organization, and Zachery Linfield, the “Superfan” elected by student ticket holders.
Five minutes prior to tip-off for the February 12 game vs Ohio State, the Maize Rage section is packed, while the rest of the lower bowl has many open seats. Michigan men’s basketball beat writer Alejandro Zúñiga posted this on his Twitter account while advocating to expand the Maize Rage. Photo from Alejandro Zúñiga / 247 Sports
“The expansion of the Maize Rage is something that has been sought for years by the students here at the University of Michigan,” Wood wrote in an email to WCBN Sports. “As we continue our path as one of the best Men’s and Women’s Basketball programs annually in the NCAA, it is important that we give them a proper home-court advantage, especially in a conference as tough as the B1G.”
For most games during the 2021-2022 season, the athletic department allotted 2,800 seats to Michigan students, although this is significantly less for matches scheduled over breaks in the academic calendar. This student section comprises approximately 22% of the Crisler Center’s total billed capacity of 12,707 seats.
Currently, Maize Rage is provided seats in the first eight rows of the bleachers on the west side of the arena. This stretches from section 118 to section 128, although a handful of seats in section 124 (directly behind the opponent bench) are reserved for guests of the visiting university. This location is almost certainly deliberate -- televisions cameras are located opposite the student section on the east side of the stadium, allowing gameplay footage to contain an energetic backdrop of maize.
However, beyond the camera’s narrow gaze, the bottom bowl is quieter and more empty during many games. These sections are sold to the general public, often being purchased by alumni, university donors, and Ann Arbor community members. Unlike the Maize Rage, these sections rarely fill up entirely and these fans are more reluctant to participate in loud cheers. Although not always visible when watching from home, it is apparent to Maize Rage leaders that these fans inhibit the energy of Crisler.
The petition gripes that “the sections across from the Maize Rage are eerily quiet and rarely rise to their feet to urge on the team. At times during the 2022 season, fans have booed the Maize Rage due to the students requesting their part in cheering and getting out of their seats.”
Other venues in the Big Ten allocate seats close to the hardwood exclusively to students. “The Izzone” (student section at Michigan State) takes up nearly the entire lower bowl, while the “Orange Krush” (student section at Illinois) takes up 3/4th of the lower bowl. Other schools, including Wisconsin, Maryland, and Purdue, have their students arranged behind both baskets.
Hunter Dickinson (left) guards Qudus Wahab (right) during the January 18 game vs Maryland. In the background, the Maize Rage section is packed in and on their feet, while the general admission seats are half empty. Dickinson has been a vocal proponent of expanding the Maize Rage throughout his sophomore season. Photo from Bethany Furness / WCBN Sports
Although Maize Rage organizes pep rallies for the team and leads the crowd in cheers during games, it is not directly affiliated with the Athletic Department. Rather, it is registered as a “voluntary student organization” with the University of Michigan’s Center for Campus Involvement, a designation that provides limited benefits and resources from the university but without direct sponsorship. Since the Athletic Department manages the seating arrangements at Crisler, any changes can’t be implemented by Maize Rage alone and will need the assistance and approval of the university.
The Athletic Department has yet to make a public statement on the matter, although players on the team have embraced the “expand the Maize Rage” mantra on social media. Back in February following a 57-68 loss at home to Ohio State, star center Hunter Dickinson retweeted a complaint that Michigan fans are too quiet originally posted by a fan. Additionally, sophomore guard (and son of the head coach) Jace Howard tweeted “#ExpandTheMaizeRage” late last night. At the time of this article’s publication, the tweet has received over 1,100 likes and over 100 retweets, including from Dickinson and freshman guard Ian Burns.
In a quote included within the petition, Howard said “I know that if we expand the Maize Rage in the lower bowl at Crisler that it will not only bring more energy, but it will also give us players an advantage over our opponents with an increase in noise and energy that we will have behind us during games.”
Wood completely agrees with this sentiment. “We seek only to give our team a true competitive home advantage … [a]t the end of the day, this would be in the benefit of all, notably our students, athletic department, Wolverine fans from all over, coaches, and even the athletes themselves who have come out directly to ask for and support expansion. This is the greatest university in the world, and it is time we make strides to give it the best atmosphere in the world to match.”
Update: The Maize Rage petition has been posted and can be found at this link.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Marc-Grégor Campredon's name. It has been corrected.