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Michigan vs. MSU: Has the rivalry gone too far?

Students discuss if the longtime rivalry is still fun and games, or if it's become too violent.

November 3, 2022
<p>A Michigan fan holds a flag painted blue and yellow that says "Spartans Will. LOSE". Spartans lost 29-7 to the Wolverines on Oct. 29, 2022.</p>

A Michigan fan holds a flag painted blue and yellow that says "Spartans Will. LOSE". Spartans lost 29-7 to the Wolverines on Oct. 29, 2022.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Since 1945, the University of Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State University Spartans have uninterruptedly faced each other in college football every year.

However, this long-standing rivalry has evolved from more than just a preference for maize and blue or green and white merch.

For students like intercultural communications junior Mya Gregory, the rivalry fosters an irreplaceable culture of unity and friendly competition within MSU.

“My dad went to school at Michigan State, and a lot of my extended family did, so I have been a Spartan my whole life,” Gregory said. “I remember being little, there was always that feud at elementary school between Michigan and Michigan State. Athletically, I think it brings people together and creates a community … it’s such a big aspect of our college.” 

Gregory said students can thrive on the competition and school spirit. 

Similarly, digital storytelling sophomore Benjamin Platte said that he was intrigued by the college football culture showcased across both universities. 

“I think it’s pretty interesting,” Platte said. “Going into university, I knew that there was a rivalry, however I didn’t really know how big it was. Some of the games in previous years, where Michigan has gone against Michigan State at home games, they’ve gotten pretty chaotic from what I’ve heard.”

Platte, who is relatively uninvolved in sports, also said that although the rivalry hasn’t turned his Michigan friends against him, it’s fed into the nature of their relationships.

“It’s just something we sort of talk about or more of a conversation starter rather than a rivalry between friends,” Platte said. “I guess they don’t really take it to heart.”

According to business sophomore Mateo Muro-Doughtery, elitism might be a contributing factor to recent surges in rivalry-induced chaos.

“I feel like just because of Michigan as a university, they look down on us because of their ranking as an institution,” Muro-Doughtery said. “I mean, it's a very nice school, but it's not like MSU is a bad school. But they have that whole thing about, ‘go green, go white, can’t read, can’t write,’ which is like, come on guys.”

Gregory recounted an experience of harassment she witnessed last year at the rivalry home game.

“Walking around campus ... people were brutal,” Gregory said. “They scream at each other. A Michigan fan came into our student section, and people were throwing stuff at him, booing him out. I get, originally all fun and games, but you can take it a step too far.”

Gregory added that, after the fight that occurred between the universities’ football athletes this past weekend, the rivalry took a violent turn away from something meant to bring people together.

“It makes me worried, if I’m being quite honest,” Gregory said. “If fans see their athletes doing this type of behavior, how are (they) not going to emulate that behavior?”

The recent altercation at the Big House tunnel was not the first time football has sparked extreme reactions from athletes and fans. Following MSU’s win over Michigan last year, there were reports of students burning couches and cars to celebrate.

“I know that (the couch burnings) happen, but I haven’t been to one in person,” Platte said. “I think it’s gone too far, at least with this recent case. While healthy rivalries are good and promote competitiveness, I think provoking fights between people is taking it a little too far, and unresponsible and kind of inappropriate.”

As long as the rivalry remains in light hearted and good fun, Muro-Doughtery said, he doesn’t see an issue.

“It adds to the charm of college sports,” Muro-Doughtery. “Like that’s what college sports are about. You don’t see the same level of passion in pro sports, and that’s what makes college so fun … It’s fun to give each other crap.”

However, Gregory said the rivalry continues to run deep and should be addressed more.

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“I mean, when there’s games that have nothing to do (with) Michigan, we’re shouting things about Michigan,” she said. “There’s a time and place for it … I understand that it creates a sense of community and school spirit, but … I wouldn't put it past drunken, hot headed college students to pick a fight with just a random person on the street who's wearing a Michigan (shirt), as sad as it sounds. If we're being told that this behavior is okay, what's stopping us?”

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