On Saturday, Oct. 16, teams consisting of Oakland University students gathered to play football as a crowd of students and alumni cheered them on.
While football may not come to mind as a campus tradition at Oakland University, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has made it one. This year marked the 25th annual Mud Bowl for the group.
Each year, pledges, active members and alumni congregate in an open space in Pontiac. The field is torn up by sport utility vehicles and hosed down by the Pontiac Fire Department in order to create the dirty setting.
Mud Bowl itself is an SAE practice that started right in the state of Michigan.
The University of Michigan chapter of SAE turned the grassy area of its house into a mud pit in the 1930s and fought it out with a rival fraternity, making it a yearly custom.
SAE Vice President Mike Diedrich said the chapter wanted to model their legacy after Michigan’s, where the event has grown into a tournament and homecoming fixture.
“It’s a huge event there, so we decided to do it here,” Diedrich said. “It’s how we wanted to start our chapter.”
OU’s chapter of SAE began as Sigma Alpha Sigma, a local fraternity, according to Center for Student Activities Director Jean Ann Miller.
Diedrich, a junior majoring in public administration, said he hopes the event and Greek life in general at the school will grow, though he knows it will never be as big as the U of M Mud Bowl.
This year, the men of SAE face off against Theta Chi, though Diedrich said the Mud Bowl game has involved the Sigma Pi fraternity in years past.
This year’s event served as a milestone in many ways.
In addition to the anniversary, it marked the first time playing at a new venue and the first-ever alcohol-free Mud Bowl.
“Alcohol played no part in Mud Bowl this year,” said Andy Molczyk, Theta Chi Rush Chair. “It’s about the people playing in the game: (Alcohol) doesn’t make the game.”
One of the reasons for this was the change in location.
After playing on a private property for the last 24 years, it was held at a public park this year.
“Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Theta Chi both did a great job of ensuring that the event was safe and alcohol-free,” Miller said.
SAE came out victorious with a 14-7 win over Sigma Pi this year, buoyed by support from the Greek and other campus community members.
Alumni also played a large part in this year’s event, as 40-50 came to either participate or observe. Lon Bone, a founding member of OU SAE, helped secure the new location for the event. According to Diedrich, the goal of the event is to create unity and a friendly atmosphere.
Four sororities also participated in a separate game of full-contact football in order to foster more Greek unity. Molczyk said the unity goes “out the window” for the game, though.
“It’s a 25-year tradition, so roots run deep,” said Molczyk, who has been involved with Theta Chi for four years. “I love the rivalry because it reminds me of a real college football game and all its hype.”