For the past thirteen years, the University of Michigan’s student-athletes have worked to prove that they are leaders outside their respective sports by hosting Mock Rock, a student-athlete variety show. Each year, the show raises money for a few causes selected by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. This year’s event, seeking to be even more successful than last year’s record breaking performance (which raised more than $90,000 for The Family and Hope Fund at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County, and Student Athletes Leading Social Change) set its fundraising goal at $100,000. In order to achieve this goal, Mock Rock’s organizers added a new wrinkle to the show. For the first year ever, VIPs, among whom were Michigan’s Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, and former NCAA Champion and 2012 Olympic hurdler, Jeff Porter, were offered a special red carpet entrance and interviewed by Filmic, an on-campus student film group prior to the event in order to generate interest. Adding to the excitement of the event was former Wolverine basketball star and current ESPN analyst, Jalen Rose. Rose joined an impressive list of former Michigan students, including ESPN analyst Dana Jacobsen, collegiate and professional football player Dhani Jones, and former Heisman winner and Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard, who have served as the event’s emcee. Rose’s excitement for the event was palpable, but seemed to stem less from the fact that he would be adding his name to an illustrious list and more from his organization’s involvement with Mock Rock for the first time in the event’s history. The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy gives students an education aimed at high-performance schooling, which helps these students acquire the skills necessary to not only earn a college degree, but excel as leaders at their respective institutions. Rose conceded that he would never attend his school, which requires its students to attend classes from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. two-hundred-eleven days a year, but has nothing but the utmost respect for the students who are dedicated enough to do so.
Despite Jalen Rose’s star power, he was far from the only big name to be involved in the event. In addition to a brief appearance by fellow Fab Five member, Jimmy King, gold medalist and two-time Olympian Betsy Armstrong, Jeff Porter, consistently doing his impression of the dreaded “Russian Judge” by giving the lowest scores of all the judges, and Kaitlin Huff, a 10-year-old and lifetime patient of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital made up the show’s panel of judges. The panel blended the celebrity of the University of Michigan’s alumni base and a reminder of the ultimate goal of the event. The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has been a beneficiary of Mock Rock for the past several years. Huff’s work as a judge was not the only reminder of the serious reasons behind the event, though. The first team of student athletes to perform was the University’s Wrestling Team, a tribute to Jeff Reese, a former Wolverine whose passing while training for a meet in 1999 sparked the very first Mock. The Wrestling Team’s performance was preceded by a chant of “Jeff Reese, R.I.P.” led by Jalen Rose. This sobering reminder, however, stopped none of the females in the crowd from yelping with delight as soon as the lights came on to the reveal the Wrestling Team had all removed their shirts. The women were not the only ones impressed, as Jalen was apparently too distracted to remember to cut to the judges for their comments after the skit.
As in other years, a couple teams’ performances could best be described as poorly executed, like the Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams’ dance featuring a coat that would make Macklemore jealous, but caused the student to be labeled a “pimp” by Jeff Porter, or confusing, such as the Football team’s Samoan battle dance than left Kaitlin to stare blankly at the stage before admitting she did not “know what happened out there.” Of course, other teams managed to put together truly impressive skits, first and foremost among them the Men’s Rowing Team. Their Lion King skit featured elaborate costumes and a well choreographed dance routine that drew cheers, a standing ovation, a perfect score from the judges, and disproved the claim made in the Marching Band’s skit that “at Michigan, everyone can be the best.” The only downside for the group came when Jalen cited the impressive routine as evidence for his claim that “that’s the group that doesn’t go to class.” Unsurprisingly, the team’s skit was named the best in all of Mock Rock, much to the dismay of the Hockey Team, whose dance, featuring six poor souls in brightly colored spandex pants and fishnet shirts, drew calls for tens from the crowd, but sixes and sevens from the judges. Were it not for the judges docking the Gymnastics Teams points because of the fact that jumping, flipping, and performing “is their sport,” in the words of Porter, they might have had a more legitimate chance for the top spot with their Super Mario themed performance that played to their strengths well.
All in all, Mock Rock was again a success, with the only boos being in response to a mention of Ohio State and Jalen’s assertion that the Men’s Swimming and Diving team was not allowed to sport Speedos during their routine. The team decided to push their limits, though, as they danced in small groups to several songs, including Dirty Pop and Hit Me Baby (One More Time), in increasingly skimpy outfits, stopping only when one member dressed in a Britney Spears-style schoolgirl outfit. Despite what the audience thought, though, the student-athletes involved in organizing the show will only consider the event successful if they are able to provide the level of financial support that they are hoping to provide for students of Jalen Rose’s Leadership Academy and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. For those interested in helping these students achieve their goals, donations are still being accepted here.