ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Rahul Mirchandani crafted a carefully worded email to his professors for his Monday classes at the University of Michigan. Late Sunday night, he pressed send, and informed them of his impending absence.
“The national championship game is tomorrow, and I’m not going to be able to make it to class, because I am going to be outside of Crisler Center for the whole day,” Mirchandani, a freshman, carefully recited. “And then I wrote, ‘Go Blue!’ And I hope that my school spirit counts for something, and that my grade will still reflect that.”
Mirchandani waited with his friends for the doors for the Crisler Center to open for a viewing party Monday night. He, like many others began the day with hopes of watching the Wolverines win their national championship in basketball since 1989.
Instead, a day that began with excitement on campus and in Ann Arbor ended with dejection following the Wolverines’ 79-62 loss to Villanova on Monday in the national championship game.
Still, some fans found optimism after the loss.
“We’re not really a basketball school, and Villanova definitely is,” Reeya Desai, a sophomore computer science major — and a die-hard college basketball fan — said, clutching a yellow foam finger as she exited the Crisler Center with her friends. “Obviously, it would have been good to win, but no one expected us to go to the championship. No one expected us to go to the Final Four. This run was a very emotional journey, but it was very good. Very unexpected.”
Big Monday plans
In the South University district of Ann Arbor, Chloe Matovina, along with her roommates Kelly Schwab, Margaret D’Antonio, Allison Ward and Sanjana Belani, and friends Ashley Dean, Joelle Grider and Schwab’s boyfriend Jordan Schebil, thought they had things planned well Saturday. The Michigan seniors went to the neighborhood bars to watch the Wolverines play Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four. They headed that way around 1:30 p.m. for a game scheduled to tip-off some 4½ later.
“Saturday was terrible,” said Matovina.
They returned Monday to South University with a plan to watch the national title game. They got the last table available on the patio of Good Time Charley’s, thanks to a mile-long, mad dash by Schwab, Matovina and D’Antonio after Grider tipped them off at 9:30 a.m. that a line was already forming for a bar that wouldn’t open its doors until noon.
“I had to stop,” D’Antonio said. “I felt like I was having an asthma attack. Me and Chloe were going to puke but Kelly kept running. It was heroic. She got us that spot.”
Schwab made it there first.
“My lungs were on fire,” Schwab said. “[Grider] texted me and said there was 20 people in line, so I ran out of the apartment. We sprinted from the apartment.”
They got their table at 12:30 p.m. and the group rotated shifts manning the table. Each had classes and other responsibilities on campus. Ward, however, lucked out. She got the day off because of the national championship game. Her environmental law professor, Sally Churchill, is vice president and secretary of the university as well as a liaison to the Board of Regents. Churchill was in San Antonio.
At Scorekeepers on Maynard Street, a line of students began forming at 11 a.m. in hopes of finding a table, a seat and a cold beverage for the 9:20 p.m. tipoff.
Charles Taylor, a 24-year-old graduate student and a teaching apprentice in a tissue engineering class at Michigan, stood in line outside the popular bar as he talked about an email he received from a student who has had perfect attendance in the class. In her email, she told Taylor that she was ill and unable to make it to the class.
Taylor didn’t blink at the absence. Instead, he figured she was probably in line at one of the bars and restaurants on South University, waiting for a table or a spot at the bar to watch the national championship game.
Taylor had his own plans for Monday night. If Michigan won, he planned to ransack a couch and burn it somewhere in Ann Arbor.
“If Michigan wins tonight, no joke, best way to go out,” Taylor said. “Best way to leave. The best memory.”
Instead, he headed back to his apartment in Ann Arbor to play Fortnite, an interactive video game.
“An all-nighter,” Taylor said.
Back to reality
Back at the Crisler Center, Sophia Jaskoski became the third generation of her family to watch Michigan play for a national championship. Her grandfather, Walter Debler, was an engineering professor at Michigan from the 1950s until 1995. Her mother, Renate Debler, was a student at Michigan when the Wolverines won the 1989 championship.
My mom told me to go to this event,” Jaskoski, a freshman, said. “She told me, ‘my college years seem like so long ago, but you will never forget this, because I never forgot this, the moment and the feeling of the national championship. You are a part of something so much bigger than yourself, and I want you to be a part of this.’ ”
It wasn’t the same outcome. But Jaskoski wasn’t going to miss classes Tuesday morning.
Mirchandani didn’t hear back from any of his professors about playing hooky Monday. But he knew his academic obligations for Tuesday.
“I am certainly going back to class,” Mirchandani said. “Now, I’m excited to get back to hitting the books!”
Kevin Goheen and Tolly Taylor contributed to this report.