Central Michigan Basketball Fans Create Their Own Paper Chase, but Some Take Issue with Their Tissue

updated 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The sixth man in basketball is often considered the savior, the spark plug capable of coming off the bench and resurrecting a slumping team. But at Central Michigan University the sixth man isn't 6'8", has never worn high-top sneakers and, in fact, isn't even a player. At Central Michigan the sixth man is toilet paper.

You read it right. After the Chippewas score their first home basket, as many as 6,000 screaming fans stage a whiteout. They yank out rolls of TP and let loose with a blinding blizzard of paper. "It gets our team fired up," says CMU's leading scorer, senior forward Dan Majerle, 22. "It looks like a big snowstorm when it hits. You have to duck so you don't get hit. And you can't see anything." Maybe not, but TP tossing has made CMU privy to the secret of success. The once-flagging Chippewas were 22-8 last season, with a 13-0 home record.

Opposing teams, naturally, are flushed with anger. This season the Mid-American Conference has adopted what's informally known as the "Central Michigan Rule." Previously play resumed as soon as the floor was cleared off. Now there's an additional five-minute delay, designed to dampen fan enthusiasm. The conference is threatening CMU with technical fouls if the revelry continues, and gatekeepers will attempt to confiscate the stuff. But CMU students haven't stopped toiling at their paperwork. "The place goes crazy," says senior Andy Royce, a diehard TP chucker. "There are still thousands of people waving toilet paper before the game, and some even have two rolls. This is what college basketball is supposed to be!"

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