Monday, November 19, 2007
OU Spirit Squad fires up studentsBy Dawn Pauli, staff writer
Two of Oakland University’s most spirited students are doing whatever it takes to get their classmates pumped up for Golden Grizzlies sports.
The pair are leading the OU Spirit Squad, a new effort aimed at generating school spirit and support for Golden Grizzlies athletes. As interns in the athletics department, Anthony Gallina, a senior marketing major, and Ben Fielder, a musical theatre major, are in charge of recruiting students for the student section – called the Grizz Gang – at games.
On game day, the pair go door-to-door through the residence halls, distributing game schedules and inviting classmates to the game. They man a table in the Oakland Center, send e-mails and put up posters.
At the game, they serve as official greeters, distribute promotional materials and, of course, lead cheers and get the crowd fired up. They are also the official t-shirt launchers.
”We need a student section that knows how to be a student section,” said Tracy Huth, director of Athletics. “They’ve got them loud and having fun. We just needed some leadership and these guys have offered their time. They’re committed to it. They’re doing a lot of great stuff. It’s been very, very successful.”
Both Gallina and Fielder were members of the Pep Band, but left the band to head up the Spirit Squad. “We want to help create those student-athletic traditions. The Pep Band can only do so much,” said Gallina. “We’re the link between students and athletics.”
With support from OU Student Congress, the OU Spirit Squad recently printed 500 Grizz Gang t-shirts. Students wearing the t-shirts get free admission to basketball games. Basketball is the only sport that charges student admission; all other sports are free. A limited number of t-shirts are still available, students can get one by attending tonight’s Men’s basketball game against Duquesne at 7 p.m. at the O’rena.
In addition, doors will be open one half-hour early tonight at 5:30 p.m. for students to purchase a $10 ticket for a doubleheader basketball game on December 22 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, when Oakland takes on Oregon and Michigan State challenges Texas. The seats are in the lower bowl, and students are limited to one ticket per person.
Last year, Huth was contemplating how he could get more students involved in Golden Grizzlies games. On a road trip he visited UCLA, which had an organized group leading the student section.
“I knew that was something I’d like to bring to Oakland,” he said. “Anthony had been helping out in the Athletics Marketing Department and wanted to know what he could do. He wanted to expand from the Pep Band. I told him what I was tossing around, and he said he was thinking something similar. He brought Ben in, and it formulated from that. They said, ‘We know how we’d like to build this. We want to be a part of this and can do a good job.’”
As a marketing major, Gallina’s senior thesis is exploring why more students don’t attend OU athletics events. He knows one of the challenges is because so many students live off campus. When classes are finished and students go home, it’s hard to lure them back. To give students a reason to stay on campus, the Spirit Squad is planning more activities, such as indoor tailgate parties before games.
The OU Spirit Squad is already meeting its goals. In 2006, about 1,500 students attended Midnite Madnezz, the official start of the NCAA basketball season. This year, Fielder said approximately 2,700 students attended.
The November 5 men’s basketball exhibition game against Windsor attracted one of the largest number of students ever, said Huth. “We had a heck of a turnout. We’re looking forward to some good things. Anthony and Ben are doing an unbelievable job, I’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”
Gallina and Fielder believe communication is the key to attracting more students to the games. “Some students don’t realize we have Division I athletics. In December the men’s basketball team is playing Oregon, who is ranked 15th in the nation,” said Fielder. “We hope to see lots of students come and support the men and women’s basketball teams this Tuesday and Wednesday. The women are playing a very big game against Auburn on Wednesday.”
Upcoming OU Spirit Squad events will be listed on the Web site. A bus trip to Indiana is being planned for Saturday, January 19, to cheer on both the men’s and women’s basketball teams when the Golden Grizzlies play a double header at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).
For more information about the OU Spirit Squad or Grizz Gang, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.