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A timeline of Rivalry Week vandalism and rioting

October 18, 2018

 For as long as the rivalry has been around, things have often gotten rowdy when MSU and U-M meet.

Whether it’s vandalism or rioting, one thing is certain: Each campus is on higher guard than usual during rivalry week.

The Spartan Marching Band has guarded the Sparty statue as “Sparty Watch” for decades, in hopes of avoiding vandalism from years past. Most years’ Sparty Watches include festivities to keep the Sparty Watchers entertained. 

“The event is about pride in our school and, obviously, honoring the rivalry that we have with Michigan, which is always a great thing on the football field,” Spartan Marching Band director David Thornton said. “It’s just about two great institutions and the tradition of those schools playing football. Obviously we look forward to hosting the Michigan Marching Band and seeing them perform every year as well. There’s a lot of things that are wrapped up into that besides just protecting the statue, which is also part of the tradition.”

Last year, football coach Mark Dantonio stopped by with pizza to speak to the band, and various a cappella groups performed.

While vandalism is typically a part of every rivalry week, Thorton said it is something he hopes does not happen.

“Hopefully nothing will take place on either end. In the spirit of good sportsmanship I hope that nothing negative happens, but that’s not always the case,” he said.

In a similar fashion, members of U-M’s Theta Xi fraternity chapter have guarded the U-M Diag from MSU students since 1999, though this year a few vandals managed to deface the campus landmark, painting the block “M” green and adding an “SU” in the same green spray paint.

Both university’s rocks have also become targets. MSU’s Rock on Farm Lane was tagged this year on Oct. 16 with maize and blue, and U-M’s rock was most recently vandalized in 2014 before the rivalry game.

This history of vandalism is of interest to MSUPD, who responds to these issues when they arise during rivalry week.

“If (people) see something suspicious, contact us,” MSUPD Capt. Doug Monette said. “We have officers working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.They also will also be vigilant. One of the best things people can do is communicate.”

While vandalism does occur after rivalry games, MSU fans have been known to gather in Cedar Village after any particularly exciting games. Sometimes the gatherings end in riots.

Fans gathered after MSU football’s upset win over U-M in 2017, but no couches were burned, unlike the gathering following the infamous “trouble with the snap” win in 2015. This riot included couch burning, as well as assorted bagel throwing.

Here’s an incomplete timeline of when and how the rivalry got a little criminal in recent years.


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