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Michigan regents shoot down plan for Big House fireworks

By Jerry Hinnen | Staff Writer

Michigan Stadium is 'not Disney World,' one regent says. (USATSI)
Michigan Stadium is 'not Disney World,' one regent says. (USATSI)

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The battle over how far is too far when it comes to jazzing up -- or dumbing down -- the Michigan Stadium experience has seen its biggest skirmish yet.

In an unusual move, Michigan's Board of Regents voted Thursday to reject an athletics department proposal to shoot fireworks off during and following the Wolverines' home games vs. Miami (Ohio) and Penn State. After 20 minutes of discussion, the Miami fireworks were rejected by a 4-3 vote, the Penn State display 5-2.

Per the Detroit News, regent Mark Bernstein was particularly vocal in his dislike of the proposal.

"We are not Comerica Park, Disney World or a circus, " Bernstein said, clarifying that he meant no offense to fellow regent Denise Ilitch -- daughter of Comerica Park owner Mike Ilitch.

"I love Michigan football for what it is ... and for what it is not," Bernstein said. "It remains and should be an experience, a place that resists the excesses of our culture. intentionally simple. The fireworks should be on the field, not above it."

According to the Detroit Free-Press, the discussion and rejection of the proposal was the first such debate of a request from the athletic department -- which are usually rubber-stamped -- since 2007. But amid the specter of declining student ticket sales and other issues, the efforts of athletic director Dave Brandon to maximize Michigan athletics' revenue streams have come under increasing scrutiny, with a highly critical essay written by Michigan-based author John U. Bacon widely read among the Wolverine faithful.

Until Thursday, though, Brandon's efforts had gone seemingly unopposed by his bosses on the Board of Regents and president's office. If that tide turns on Brandon as decisively as it has amongst many -- if, it must be pointed out, not all -- of Michigan's fans, things could get very interesting in Ann Arbor.

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