Writer’s Note: Everything in this article was written before the UConn men’s basketball team’s home game against the Xavier Musketeers and as late as the home contest against the Butler Bulldogs.
If you have ever seen me at a UConn basketball game, I am either highly energetic or calm and collected. When going as a fan, I stand in a rowdy student section crumpling newspapers during the starting lineups and wave their arms during free throws among other things. Especially at Gampel Pavilion, it creates a loud and hostile environment road teams cannot handle.
I love being next to my friends for these games, but I cannot be the only one yelling while everyone else is silent. I enjoy screaming and shouting, but my voice will be gone if I do it during every single play. There needs to be ways to keep the fans engaged even when the game becomes a blowout, so how can the student section be improved?
Writer’s Note II: I am suggesting improvements primarily for men’s basketball games, but most that I provide can also be applied to women’s basketball games.
Make free throw shooters more intimidated
How can this be done when students already wave their arms and signs in the air hoping for wraps? Most times, the free-throw shooter will be locked in on making the shot, which goes in often — as of January 25, the opponent shoots 74% during men’s games and 71% in women’s games. In order to catch them off guard, one to five people up front should jump around, shuffle their feet and wave their arms as though they were noodles. This could cause more free throws to be missed because the player’s eyes are not on the ball.
Provide breakfast/lunch/dinner to the students before the gates open
This has been happening before several games, but it does not occur at every single one. I know this is more of a pregame suggestion, but if you feed the people before going through security, then they do not have to spend money on concessions at the game.
I would start by giving each student in line a menu so they can choose what they want, but some options, all free of charge with a valid student ID, could include pizza, sandwiches, hot dogs, something from Bear’s Smokehouse, salads and burgers. By eating early, students would not miss any of the action and can exert all their energy and attention on the court.
The band should lead some, but not all, chants during the games.
I have always respected the music department at UConn as I did four years of choir in high school and a year in college. With all due respect to the university’s esteemed marching band however, they should not be the ones leading every chant during the game. It would not be fair if they led no chants at all, but the students in the section should create and start some appropriate chants that everyone else likes.
The best approach to making this happen is to have eight students with megaphones and a whiteboard standing in the front of the section. What these students would do is write the chants on the whiteboard, present the whiteboard to those students up front so that they are ready to lead the chant and then yell into the microphone to get the chant started.
On that note, put some section leaders in the upper bowl
Not everyone in the section is going to hear these section “captains” because their voices can only carry over a certain distance. To solve this important issue and make sure everyone is on the same page regarding what to say, there should be some people with megaphones and white boards evenly spread out along the upper deck (Gampel Pavilion) or seats further back (XL Center). These leaders would help continue to spread the phrases the people up front are chanting.
Get the students moving during the game
One of the biggest issues with the student section now is that there are some people who stand in place the entire time while doing nothing or sit down as the game is happening. There is no perfect way to approach this, but to help combat this problem and keep the students engaged, the leaders and people in the front row should move around with a lot of energy as though the team went on a hot stretch. By feeling physically active and more involved in the game, students will feel more inclined to participate in every single event that is happening and have a minor influence on the final score.
Dan Hurley’s Raffle Lottery: A giveaway
The women’s team already has a giveaway after every game called “Geno’s Giveaways,” and I think it would be really cool if the men’s team had one too. Imagine Head Coach Dan Hurley high fiving every student after a big win at Gampel Pavilion and on the way down the line, he stops and pulls a prize from his back pocket. That prize is subsequently tossed to a fan in the student section, and they leave for their dorm or off-campus house with another piece of memorabilia from the game.
These are only a small handful of original changes that could work to improve the student’s gameday experience. Whether these ideas are actually implemented or not is still up for debate because these are only suggestions. I considered the idea of a student’s-only game at Gampel Pavilion, but I wanted to focus on the quality of the student section and not quality.
I am not going to be at the university forever, and I believe that these suggestions are going to make the student section experience that much better. During my senior year and beyond, I want to say that I was proud to be in a lively student section.