Kathy Preston Ehrlich supported the University of Washington, the most well-liked football team in Seattle, while she was growing up in Edmonds.
It wasn’t until Ehrlich, now sixty, was a teenager that the Seahawks showed up. She remarked, “This was a Husky town.”
Ehrlich had anticipated attending UW at the time. Eventually, so did her brothers. But in the end, she decided to enroll in the University of Michigan, the same institution her father and numerous prior family generations had attended.
Over the years, the Huskies and Wolverines have faced off at the Rose Bowl numerous times, and her decision has resulted in more than a few house-divided contests. However, for the 10,760 Michigan alumni from the Seattle area who are suddenly cut off from their home region’s rooting interests, the stakes—and, in some cases, the ambivalence—have never been higher as the teams get ready to meet Monday in Houston with a national championship on the line.
“Those are my top two teams,” Ehrlich declared. I’ve never had a worse nightmare.
Ehrlich will undoubtedly support the Wolverines. At the Ship Canal site of Old Stove Brewing Co., where the local branch of the school’s alumni association hosts weekly game watches, the president of the University of Michigan Club of Seattle will watch the national championship game alongside a large number of Michigan fans. (A group of Wolverines will also be present at JJ Mahoney’s Irish Pub in Redmond.)
On January 1, around 300 supporters of Michigan flocked to the North Queen Anne location of Old Stove Brewing, which was co-founded by Chris Moore, a native of Vicksburg, Michigan, to witness Michigan’s victory over Alabama in the Rose Bowl.
Ehrlich, though, still has a “soft spot” for the Huskies. She might not have been distraught if Michigan lost, even if there were “people crawling out of the woodwork, coming at me,” for the first time in her memory. The enormous Michigan flag she has flying in her window has not exactly been well received by her Edmonds neighbors.
Nevertheless, Michael Roberto—a graduate of both universities and Ehrlich’s former team president—says there isn’t much hostility between the fan bases. Almost no one has objected to his wearing Michigan clothing around town all week; one Dawg supporter and fellow QFC customer, for example, only expressed Roberto’s excitement for the game. Ultimately, the last of the four Rose Bowl games between the two colleges occurred over thirty years ago.
Roberto remarked, “I don’t think most people today have a memory of that history.” “I don’t think there’s much of a rivalry here.”
These days, Roberto sees fewer people with dual degrees from Michigan and Washington because tech businesses like Amazon and Microsoft frequently hire engineers and workers right out of school. Roberto holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan and a PhD in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington. However, the region’s pool of young Michigan alumni has increased dramatically as a result of the hiring of these professionals during the previous few decades. Although the alumni association’s local chapter is the oldest club outside of Michigan (it even awarded a trophy to the best high school football team in Seattle for many years), it was only recently elevated to the status of “tier one” club, joining more established Wolverine hubs like those in Chicago and New York.
One of those young Michigan grads who moved back to the area is Kyle Tenenbaum. The lifelong Columbia City native and ardent Wolverines supporter quickly made UW his second favorite team. He and his spouse, Lauren Violette, have been to five UW games this season.
Tenenbaum remarked, “I’ve been excited to support both teams throughout the season.” And now that we’ve reached the finish line, I’m thinking, ‘Oh no.'”
Violette, though, recognized a chance. The UW PhD candidate in epidemiology acknowledges that she isn’t a big fan of college football. She is competitive, though. Given that the couple would soon be welcoming their first child, Violette made the decision to stake a larger claim in the contest: she would get to pick the child’s name should UW prevail. If Tenenbaum prevails, Michigan does.
The winner will have to select from a selection of six names; the couple is unsure of the baby’s gender at this time. Violette declared, “Kyle is not allowed to go rogue and pick Jim Harbaugh or something.”
The Michigan coach, who oversaw the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers of the Seattle Seahawks, may not be the most well-known figure in Seattle. However, Roberto stated that placing a bid on a coach-signed football will contribute to funding a scholarship program that aids Washington high school students attending Michigan.
Ehrlich gave Husky supporters yet another consolation that only a seasoned Wolverine could provide.
She mentioned the program’s overall winnings and remarked, “We might be the winningest football team in the nation, but we’re also the losingest bowl-game team in the nation.”
And regardless of the outcome, on October 5, when the Huskies visit the Wolverines at Husky Stadium for their first-ever Big Ten game, the loser will get a chance to exact some revenge. Ehrlich and a few others hurried to get everything ready for the club’s “sailgate” on that day after the date was revealed. Being conference rivals, she expects to have to schedule extra activities for the games between the two institutions.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Ehrlich, the club’s new president, said.
The Wolverines and Huskies supporter is aware that she will simply need to adjust.