'Under the Lights' success requires fans to be safe, respectful
University leaders on Tuesday encouraged fans to be safe and exhibit good sportsmanship this weekend when U-M hosts Notre Dame in the first home night game in the 132-year history of Michigan football.
During a press conference in the Junge Family Champions Center they also detailed a list of activities that will take place on campus leading up to and during the game, including a celebration honoring College Football Hall of Famer Desmond Howard, the taping of ESPN Game Day and a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Athletic Director David Brandon, Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper and Department of Public Safety Chief Greg O'Dell urged fans to be conscious about safety before, during and after the event, and to remember that a nationwide audience will be watching the historic "Under the Lights" game on television.
"We are very, very focused on making sure this is a positive event," Brandon said.
Harper invoked the slogan and title from the successful 4-year-old "Stay in the Blue" program to encourage students who plan to drink before the game to do so responsibly. "Stay in the Blue" reminds students to avoid drinking beyond safe limits as measured by a breathalyzer. A blood alcohol content of .06 percent or lower is considered safe.
Harper said the longer students have to celebrate before a game, the longer they have to drink, creating the potential for them to become a danger to themselves or to others.
"If it's not safe, it's not fun and changes the whole experience for our students," Harper said.
To provide alternatives to partying, various events and activities are offered throughout the weekend. There also will be hundreds of "Under the Lights" community ambassadors working on game day who will be trained to assist the public.
The other campaign Student Affairs is reminding students of is "Expect Respect." The program that launched in 2006 calls on students to create a welcoming community, which includes being respectful of rival team fans.
"We're hoping we'll have great fan behavior and we'll be bored as cops," O'Dell said. "We hope for outstanding cooperation from the fans."
O'Dell noted that extra security is in effect this football season, so fans are encouraged to come early. Stadium gates for "Under the Lights" will open two hours before the game. To curb prolonged tailgating, parking lots will not be open Saturday before noon, he said.
Leaders also reminded fans about general safety since the game is likely to be over between 11:30 p.m. and midnight. This includes making a plan ahead of time for how to get home and to use the following risk reduction techniques:
• Be aware of surroundings at all times. For example, don't wear earphones or talk on the phone when walking.
• Walk with a trusted friend whenever possible.
• Reduce vulnerability by monitoring alcohol intake.
Brandon took the opportunity to remind fans that the future of the night games rides on the success of this trial event.
"If this goes well, I would like to do one night game a year," he said. "We have to make this a great experience if we want to do it again."