The Subject was Roses
It was a Hollywood story of struggle and redemption. A tale for the ages, worthy of an Oscar. The unheralded rising above the crowd through faith, tenacity and sheer determination. That MSU is often underestimated had become a cliché. For people who listen to pundits or subscribe to so-called conventional wisdom, Spartans have flown below the radar, doing what we do best, quietly and positively changing the world.
But now our world was changed. After a quarter century, we were headed to The Rose Bowl. Each year, MSUAA makes contingency plans for at least 6 different bowl games. We have tour websites ready to go for each and the coiled power of the University Advancement Team standing at the ready, straining to be unleashed.
We had The Plan. Now it was time to execute. Within 30 minutes of our victory in Indy, the tour website was up and running. They sold out in less than 12 hours. As the days went by, we began to estimate that there could be 75,000 Spartans descending upon the LA area. Our job: to create the most memorable Spartan Experience in a quarter century.
From the beginning, it was a true team effort. The Alumni/Donor Relations team walked in lock step with our Spartan Experience team, pulling together the thousands of small details that surround this maelstrom of activity. Our Engagement Team worked closely with Los Angeles Area Spartans, spinning up club events, interfacing with the Rose Bowl’s support systems and helping to create billboards that would let LA know that MSU was in the house.
Conlin Athletic Tours, our long time travel partner, filled eight hotels. More than a dozen charter aircraft departed from both Lansing and Detroit. And as the big day approached, Southern California was inundated with Green and White.
So much for the bowl paradigm that “Spartans don’t travel well.”
You literally couldn’t go a block without hearing someone yell, “Go Green!” Instant friendships were cemented. Impromptu and unexpected reunions happened on street corners and in hotel lobbies. There were dozens of small gatherings, some planned, some unplanned: the largest pep rally in MSU history at the “LA Live” plaza by the Staples Center; New Year’s Eve at the Dolby Ballroom, eating Wolfgang Puck cuisine in the venue where the Academy Awards are celebrated; the largest tailgate party in MSU history in the shadow of the stadium on a perfect California morning; and the emotional moment at game time, when 55,000 Spartan voices sang the fight song, so loudly and clearly, that the venerable Spartan Marching Band could hardly be heard.
These are just a few of the moments that so mixed to create an almost surreal confluence of Spartan Spirit.
Winning the football game was icing on the cake, an affirmation of the work ethic and pursuit of excellence that Coach Dantonio and his kids distilled into just two words: Chase It!
But President Simon’s words also echoed through our minds and hearts that week. At every turn, she reminded us that the secret to MSU’s magic lies in the inclusiveness of our culture, our thirst for lifelong learning, our desire to apply our knowledge to address the world’s biggest challenges, and an expectation of high performance that permeates every corner of our great university.
The Rose Bowl experience was a reflection of greatness that defines Michigan State University. It’s a belief system, rooted in the best Midwestern values and enriched by a diverse populace that represents every cultural corner of the world.
And it raises the bar for each of us who aspire to be the best that Spartans can be.
W. Scott Westerman, III, ’78
Executive Director, MSU Alumni Association