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There is a sense of madness inherent in every crowd at college basketball games. Fan enthusiasm can be intense whether it’s during the month March or not. Thousands of fans, including students, fill arenas on campuses across the country to cheer on their favorite college team. There is also an increased fervor when arch-rival hits the court.
There’s the Kennel Crew, the Dawg Pack, and the Kennel Red. At Duke University, opponents hear it from the Cameron Crazies. In Michigan, college basketball fans appreciate the competitiveness between two of the state’s biggest cross-state rivals. A battle between the Spartans and Wolverines is intense no matter what the sport.
Michigan and Michigan State play each other once each season in basketball. The two schools split the pair of regular season games between Ann Arbor and East Lansing. The noisy enthusiasm bellowing from each student section makes focusing a true challenge. So, which student section is rowdier, the Maize Rage or the Izzone at Michigan State University?
The Maize Rage
First, let’s give you an overview of each of the two student sections, each one worthy of staking a claim as one of the rowdiest in the nation. As student section notoriety goes, reserved student seating at the Crisler Arena is relatively new. However, none deserves more credit for creating a home court advantage.
The Maize Rage Michigan student section was born in the mid-1990s during a less-than-competitive stretch for the Wolverine basketball program. The students took it upon themselves to make playing an average talent Michigan team a challenge; at least, on their home court at least.
Over the next 20 years, it became one of the most formidable student sections in college basketball. They boast of more than 2,000 actual members and fill every seat in the student section for every Wolverine home game. The section looks like a sea of golden maize. When the Michigan State University Spartans come calling, the bar of rapid enthusiasm is raised.
Noise inside the Crisler Arena can reach a deafening level, but the volume seems to grow all the louder when their bitter rivals take to the court. Unmistakably gleaming with students in their golden maize Michigan colors, the Maize Rage plays their part at every Michigan Wolverine home basketball game.
While the Izzone had its beginnings at about the same time as the Maize Rage, it is actually a student section that morphed from one legendary head coach to his successor. The Izzone has its roots planted in the beloved Jud Heathcote, the Spartan’s head basketball coach before Tom Izzo took over in 1996.
Heathcote formed a group known as the Spartan Spirits. Early nicknames for the student section in East Lansing were appropriately tabbed Jud’s Jungle. The rowdy student crowd exuded a zoo like atmosphere in support of their school.
During the 1996 season, there were only an estimated couple hundred true members of the Izzone. However, back-to-back conference titles and an NCAA championship in 2000, turned Spartan basketball into a campus craze.
Izzone membership now exceeds an estimated 4,000 students and alumni. The operations of one of the country’s most impressive student sections, is coordinated by the Student Alumni Foundation. Izzone members orchestrate mind-numbing cheers and jeers that ignite their own players and torment the opposition.
So, Who is Rowdiest?
Of course, Michigan faithful and Michigan State supporters will each have their own opinion about which student section is rowdier. Truth be told, each one can create such a chaotic, noisy atmosphere that opponents become befuddled into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Maize Rage cheers work voraciously to distract the attention of every opponent’s foul shot. Izzone students work diligently to disrupt the orderly offensive pursuits each time a competitor touches the basketball.
While both create a formidable home court advantage, the Izzone actually challenges its students to be proactive. The Izzone is divided into two sections, the lower and upper bowls. Students prefer the lower bowl and its proximity to court side.
However, must meet a few rigid requirements to earn their way into the lower bowl. Aspiring lower bowl students must attend a September Izzone Camp to even get a chance at seats in this section. There are also sportsmanship rules and students can only miss two games from the previous season to be eligible.
While there are requirements to be part of the Maize Rage, there is a sort of right-of-passage to gain access to the Izzone. None of the visiting basketball teams to the Crisler Arena or the Breslin Center get out of town without appreciating the fanatical support these students have for their basketball teams.
One way to get your own feel for how impressive these two rival students’ sections are, is to put on your favorite Michigan apparel from LivnFresh and attend a game. If you’re lucky enough to see both Big Ten regular season games, one at each venue, you’ll also appreciate how much more intensity this rivalry brings to every game.