It’s not every day that a small Catholic university in the Pacific Northwest is featured on Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN).
And, even though that school was the University of Portland, and not, unfortunately, Seattle University, the fact that the University of Portland has been recognized for school spirit bodes well for Seattle U’s potential as a rising sports superstar.
“Mad Grads” can be found at various sporting events for Seattle U. The Mad Grads are a group of rowdy alumni that can often be found at men and women’s basketball games.
Just this year, the men’s and women’s soccer teams have both taken Washington Athletic Conference (WAC) championships. And, it’s not just the number of wins that is on the rise – this fall, school spirit has increased dramatically, and people are noticing the flaming Redhawk red that’s been popping up across campus. The women’s volleyball team had one of the best seasons in terms of fan attendance and school spirit, and the Redhawk Rewards system, which rewards students based on game attendance, has taken off this fall.
According to Brynne Davis, Marketing and Promotions Manager for Seattle U Athletics, 1,190 students have used the Redhawk Rewards system this year. This is nearly double the 667 participants from last year. Both Davis and Bill Hogan, Director of Athletics, believe that the system has been a major success.
“The Redhawk Rewards are double or triple what they were last year,” said Hogan. “A lot of it has to do with winning—our teams have been winning more.”
The successful records of the men’s and women’s soccer teams has definitely had a lot to do with increased game attendance and school spirit. But, according to Hogan, it’s not just winning teams that have been bringing people to the games.
“The game that we lost to New Mexico state, volleyball had some of the best school spirit in the past seventeen years,” Hogan said. “It was Redzone, and the swim team, and the number of students. It was pretty special.”
Such spirit oriented groups, including the swim team—whose members wear body paint and lead cheers at volleyball, basketball, and other games—have both had a major influence on school spirit and Redhawk pride. The swim team could not be reached for comment, but Redzone shared some of their plans for the upcoming year, as well as their ideas on what has worked as far as increasing school spirit.
“Athletics has been working on giving people incentives for showing up to games,” said Javier Carregha, Vice President of Membership at Redzone. “For example, we just got backpacks to give out at basketball games. That’s worked well. We’ve also been putting on more events like Midnight Madness. That was a huge deal, to promote women’s basketball and
Midnight Madness, a free event for students and Seattle U basketball fans, was hosted on Oct. 18 to introduce the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The event was highly attended by students, who filled the entire North Court bleachers at the Connolly Center.
Hogan mentioned that it’s not just attendance that is important to the athletics department, but also the quality of the fans who show up for games. It’s the fan spirit that has been bursting at every game this year that makes games fun and exciting for both athletes and attendees.
“Anybody who gets a good section of support cheering for you during the games improves your ability,” Hogan said of the correlation between fans and team success. He also acknowledged that the correlation works the other way, with success as a team influencing the number of students who come to sporting events.
Redzone has high hopes for further improving school spirit during basketball season.
“One of our goals is to break the attendance record [for men’s basketball], which I think is around 800,” Carregha said. He is optimistic about the chances of breaking the record this year, adding: “The class of 2017 has been really big on showing up to games.”
As Seattle U spirit increases, so do the school’s chances of gaining publicity as a top school in the Northwest. Hogan acknowledged that the success of the University of Portland’s soccer team, for which they are well known, comes from a number of factors. Winning championships, recruiting the best coaches and players, and school spirit all have a lot to do with this success. So far, Seattle U is on the right track.
Alaina may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alaina Bever is a sophomore mechanical engineering major interested in bioengineering. This is her second quarter as a staff writer for The Spectator. In her free time, Alaina enjoys running, baking and writing.