COLUMN: WMU v CMU does not belong at Ford Field
Central Michigan versus Western Michigan is a rivalry that dates back to 1907. As someone who was born and raised in Kalamazoo County, I fully understand the magnitude of the heated rivalry between the two schools.
I view every football game in Kelly/Shorts and Waldo Stadium as a chance to hopefully gain bragging rights in my family. Nothing makes me feel more alive than walking into Kalamazoo and being called every dirty name in the book simply because I wear maroon and gold.
In 2020, former athletic director Michael Alford penned a deal with the Detroit Sports Commission to hold an Oct. 17 game at Ford Field in Detroit instead of holding the game in Mount Pleasant. It was marketed as a way to help aid the university in recruiting, reach and exposure in the desirable Detroit market. On paper it may have made sense. About 150,000 CMU alumni live in Metro Detroit.
That game was eventually scrapped due to COVID-19. The 2020 clash was played at Kelly/Shorts with no fans.
Athletic Director Amy Folan spoke with The Detroit News last week about this year's face-off. She said there are no current plans to host Western at a neutral site game in the near future.
Here's the bottom line: Keep rivalry games at the schools.
I don’t care that you were offering free tickets and shuttles to the game.
I don’t care that 150,000 alumni live in Metro Detroit.
I want to keep this game here or in Kalamazoo. I want to go to these games where they should be played – at home.
According to The Detroit News story there’s a reason why Western has always been unwilling to sacrifice its home-field advantage in this series. The school would not only lose about $275,000 at the gate, but the negative financial impact to city of Kalamazoo was going to be even larger.
Western considers its students and community in these decisions. Central apparently did not.
Alford's decision to move the game came with no heads up or input to the city of Mount Pleasant. Hotels, restaurants, bars and countless local businesses felt not only blindsided, but also crippled – set to lose tens of thousands of dollars from this decision.
Why? So CMU could sell its home-field advantage to the highest bidder.
I’m not entirely surprised by that decision, but it was a huge disappointment. CMU’s enrollment has been on a constant decline since I started attending school here with no plausible end in sight.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
But maybe – just maybe – consider keeping the game here and sell people on the Mount Pleasant community instead?
In 2015, I toured both Western and Central. Besides its campus, Western also pitched Kalamazoo to me. CMU did not pitch its backyard like Western did. I know Mount Pleasant isn’t the most exciting town, but it was the right town for me. It is the right city for all of CMU’s current students too.
But, for whatever reason, its not good enough to stop administration from ripping away our home-field advantage.
When prospective students ask me what CMU is like, I tell them that the Mount Pleasant community is amazing, but I tell them to go somewhere else.
At the end of the day we the students need to be your top priority. It doesn't feel that way. We are choosing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be here.
We are becoming restless and lost amid a pandemic. We are the people that you are failing to feed in dining halls across campus. Who knows how much better this community would be if you viewed us the students the same way you viewed dollar signs.
We are your future alumni. We are the beneficiaries of these once in a lifetime experiences.
We are the ones who will continue to support this university no matter where we live in the future.
We are the ones who will continue to support Mount Pleasant businesses when we grow old and come back for this game.
I love this town and this campus. I became the man I am today because of Mount Pleasant. I don’t love that this administration doesn’t fully understand or fully appreciate the impact of this rivalry on our university culture and our traditions. Why would they be so eager to give that away?
This is our campus, our team and our community.
This rivalry is Kalamazoo against Mount Pleasant, not Kalamazoo against the fattest checkbook.