The University of Michigan’s football stadium — the Big House — has a seating capacity of 109,901, making it the largest such stadium in the country.
But what’s up with that extra 1? Wouldn’t 109,900 seats just make more sense?
Turns out the extra seat was installed during a 1956 renovation… or was it? It’s possible that seat doesn’t even exist. A 1964 article from Sports Illustrated has former coach Fritz Crisler only added to the legend of the “extra seat”:
Crisler is obviously proud that the University of Michigan has the largest college-owned stadium in the U.S. He would not concede that it is his personal monument, although that is what many people consider it to be. One question that all Crisler’s guests ask him is, “How did you arrive at a seating capacity of 101,001? Was it pure coincidence? Was there a reason for the additional seat?”
Crisler smiles at the question. “Let us put it this way. It makes a great conversation piece at cocktail parties.”
That extra seat had no significance of any kind? It was not any special seat in any special spot?
“It has its spot,” said Crisler. “And I am the only man who knows where that spot is.”
Michael Florek of The Michigan Daily wanted to get to the bottom of the legend: Did the extra seat really exist or was it just someone’s idea of a joke?
So he did the research.
He spoke to people who might have some insight into the answer. At one point, he even spoke to Crisler’s granddaughter:
“The seat is real. I would love to sit in it some time. None of us kids have ever been able to sit in it.”
So she didn’t know where it is?
“I can’t factually say it’s an actual seat. … Maybe U of M could be accountable for the actual fact, I don’t know. Maybe someone could find out.”
I was trying to find out. She was supposed to be the to tell me.
We were in a similar situation, believers with no proof.
A reader of this site — and a Michigan alum — suggests there’s a religious parallel here:
… people are so determined to believe that the extra seat exists that they are resorting to football transcendentalism to explain it. Maybe the seat doesn’t physically exist but it is real in the minds of the fans! Crisler’s seat is that warm glow in your heart when you watch a game with your friends, etc.
In short I think it’s a microcosm of religion. Some people want to believe in the myth so badly that they will embrace any explanation that supports its existence.
As you read the article, it becomes clear that the evidence against the seat’s existence grows stronger and stronger… yet, people continue to believe it’s there. They go with their gut despite the evidence.