The unsung heroes of March Madness.
It’s that time of year again! Perhaps the most anticipated season in sports, March Madness is upon us. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last two weeks obsessing over your brackets, entering leagues, and trashing talking your friends in the spirit of (sort of) friendly competition.
Who am I you ask? I’m Morgan Karas, junior advertising major at Temple University and I’ve made a temporary home at Tag Strategies this spring as an account services intern. When I’m not busy with the Tag team, I serve as the marketing coordinator for the Cherry Crusade, the ultimate fans of everything Temple Athletics. My position requires me to be innovative, passionate, and relentless as my team and I try to cut through the clutter that is the thousands of student sections trying to stand out. Student sections are a key component of college sports. In basketball, we can oftentimes be considered the sixth man; we can make or break a team when they play in our arena. We’re intense, ruthless, and wild – it’s a beautiful thing.
Below are the top 5 fan bases in college basketball according to Bleacher Report. Sit back while I impart my own thoughts as to why the “brands” of these student sections are so remarkable and noteworthy.
5. University of Wisconsin – Grateful Red
This student section was uniquely named after the legendary rock group in 2002 and is certainly a reckoning force whenever teams visit the Kohl Center. Their section is comprised of 2,100 rowdy fans and stretches from behind the basket to the roof, making it extremely difficult for their opponents when they go to the line on their side of the arena. The sheer volume and intensity is enough to shake up a team’s confidence and hype up the crowd. The Grateful Red have quite a record under their belt considering the Badgers are 59-10 over the last four seasons at home.
4. University of Florida – Rowdy Reptiles
These insane Gator fans certainly liven up their 12,000-seat arena, which is on the smaller side for such a powerhouse of a program. Sporting the school’s colors, orange and blue, these students use synchronization and coordination to throw the other team off their game. The coolest part about this fan base? They have their own app. I know! I’m jealous, too. Students can use this app to check-in at games and earn loyalty points, which can lead to prizes such as game day gear and non-alcoholic beverages. If having your own app doesn’t make your student section special, I don’t know what does.
3. Michigan State – the Izzone
This student section is appropriately named after long time coach Tom Izzo. The massive 4,000 student zone equates to nearly 30% of the arena’s capacity, making them an undeniable factor in any game at the Breslin Center. Being a member of the Izzone is such a privilege that they’ve even set up a caste system of sorts with all lower bowl seats going to upperclassmen and the most dedicated fans in terms of past game attendance. The fact that the Izzone is almost always completely filled and there are still students that aren’t able to get in, demonstrates the student’s extreme level of dedication and passion for their Spartans. Creating an overwhelming home advantage for your team, like the Izzone, is key to being a successful and significant student section.
2. Duke University – Cameron Crazies
A countdown of the best student sections just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Cameron Crazies. Perhaps the most well-known student section in college basketball, the Crazies are made up of only 1,200 diehard fans. However, their coordination with all things jumping, clapping, and chanting is unparalleled. If your team is new to playing at the Cameron Indoor Stadium, best of luck! A team outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference hasn’t won at Cameron since 2000. It’s extremely difficult to get 1,000 crazy students to be in sync nearly 100% of the time, but that is the Crazies’ specialty.
1. San Diego State – the Show
Rounding off our countdown is the Show. Interesting name, right? This student section has earned that title and an accompanying reputation for making the atmosphere in the Viejas Arena electric every time their Aztecs take to the court. Believe it or not, the Show was the first student section to ever make big head cutouts. If you’ve seen a college basketball game recently, more than likely you’ve seen big heads in every single student section. The Show’s trendsetting style certainly earns them the title of best student section. They went out on a limb to try something different and it paid off. If you want to stand out as a student section, you have to think outside of the realm of normality and tradition. The same struggle that brands have to cut through the clutter of sameness is one that student sections face and that the Show has overcome. New and successful ideas simply don’t go unnoticed in college basketball.
While Bleacher Report may not consider us to be one of the best student sections, I have to give a shout out to my very own crazy sports family: the Cherry Crusade! Win or lose, we are always in the stands supporting our Owls. There is nothing more exhilarating than jumping around at the end of a long game shouting our signature chant, “I believe that we have won!” We’ve even been known to overpower the voices of ESPN announcers, requiring that they wait until we’re finished with our victory cheer before they continue commentating.
I’ve found that it’s rare to have a completely new idea when it comes to student sections. There is almost always another school that has already done the same thing or at least a similar variation. If you want to get noticed in the world of college basketball, you have two options: think of a completely original idea (which is rare), or do what another group has done and do it better.
Next time you’re watching a game and enjoying the magic of March Madness, pay attention to not only the teams but the student sections as well. We work hard to make a statement, make a difference, and most importantly, make some noise. This is certainly the most wonderful time of the year for those of us beaming with school pride year round. We spend months and years perfecting our craft to create an unforgettable and unique college basketball experience every single game.