Skywriting 'episode' adds to Michigan-MSU

When Michigan State fans saw "Go Blue" written in the sky above Spartan Stadium before last Saturday's game against Youngstown State, they presumed it was the work of Michigan fans with too much discretionary income.

I loved the response from Scott Westerman, the executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, who gave Michigan State the green light to respond. That is, he encouraged them to donate their green (money) to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance. More than $27,000 had been donated as of Thursday, according to MLive.com.

Well, we find out today that the skywriting didn't stem from some deep-pocketed Michigan fans. It was paid for by Michigan's athletic department. From MLive.com:

Suzanne Asbury-Oliver, who runs Oregon Aero SkyDancer skywriting with her husband Steve, said the Wolverines' athletic department hired her business to put Michigan slogans into the air above Ann Arbor then East Lansing on Saturday. ... Asbury-Oliver, who has been skywriting with her husband for 33 years, said it was the fourth time Michigan athletics has hired her business, but it was the first time U-M asked her to skywrite over East Lansing.

Michigan disputes that claim, as an athletic department official said that Oregon Aero SkyDancer had been directed to write messages in certain areas but not in specific targeted locations.

From the Detroit Free Press:

He said there were messages over Jackson and the Detroit area Saturday, in addition to Ann Arbor and East Lansing. "We hired the skywriters to canvas southeast Michigan with slogans and numbers prior to our game last Saturday," he said. "That's all we did. We didn't target locations."

Hmmm, who do you believe? Asbury-Oliver told MLive.com that she dealt with someone from Michigan's athletic department but declined to reveal who or how much she was paid. She said she had been instructed by that person "not to say how much it cost if I got questions about it."

Michigan certainly has ramped up its branding efforts under athletic director Dave Brandon, and has had similar pro-Michigan messages written in the sky above the Big House. That the "Go Blue" message just happened to appear above the stadium of Michigan's rival seems like more than just a coincidence, but who knows.

To Michigan's credit, it apologized to Michigan State's athletic department about the message, leading to this gem of a response from MSU athletic director Mark Hollis to the Free Press.

"There's no apology necessary," Hollis said today. "This is another whimsical episode in a great rivalry."

Whimsical episode! Love it.

Anyone else excited for Nov. 2?