By Mary Kate Lau, Digital Communications Intern
In Dante Alighieri's 14th century epic poem, The Divine Comedy, this phrase greets Dante and other visitors as they enter the fiery gates of Hell.
In 2013, it hangs from the front of the student section at Sun Devil Stadium to warn Arizona State foes that the 12,000-plus behind that banner, known collectively as the Inferno, are not going to make it easy on them.
It was 1987 when Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh put his hands on his hips in protest as the dominant ASU crowd at the Rose Bowl was so loud, play had to be stopped.
In 1996, the PA announcer had to tell the crowd to settle down and let USC run a play or else the team would be charged a timeout after Trojan quarterback Brad Otten gave the officials an ear-full about the crowd noise.
From that Rose Bowl season, crowds dwindled, but in the past two years, a rebirth has happened in the southeast end of the stadium.
Fans arrive early, they’re loud, they’re passionate, they’re worthy of a motto so ominous.
There has been a 73% increase in student season ticket sales. 7,321 students bought them for the 2010-11 school year. This year 12,679 bought them. That’s the largest football student section in the Pac-12.
The top five games with the highest recorded student section attendance of all time happened this season and last.
And its not just football that is experiencing highs in attendance. Volleyball had its highest attendance since 2003 Tuesday night, with nearly 2,500 fans witnessing their sweep of Arizona.
Last year the men’s basketball student section was at 101% capacity for the spring semester.
“Certainly our teams have been playing better so a lot of the kudos goes to them for creating a fun and exciting product,” Associate Athletic Director Bill Kennedy said. “The second thing is here at Sun Devil Athletics we've really put an emphasis on making a better student in-game experience.”
Kennedy said the overall goal is to make attending any athletics event a memorable part of the college experience, one that will make students want to come back to games as alumni.
A big part of that is the branding of the Inferno, much like “The Swamp” in Florida or the “Zona Zoo” at that school down south (famously infiltrated by a flat-topped, shirtless Sun Devil at last year’s territorial cup, for what it’s worth).
“They can be a part of something,” Kennedy said. “They can be a collective entity that influences the game.”
Kennedy adds a driving force in this branding emphasis has come at the hands of the student government, which provided 5,000 Inferno shirts for the blackout game. More will come this week with the new Inferno logo, featuring a shield with a pitchfork and flames, lining the steps of the student section. The shield will be put next to the Dante quote hanging in Sun Devil Stadium as well.
That quote was also a brainchild of Student Government.
“We were brainstorming ideas on what additional features could be added to the stadium that resonates with the aggressive confident culture of ASU athletics in conjunction with the swagger of the student section that rivals something of the notable sports programs around the country,” Franz Ferguson, president of Undergraduate Student Government at the Polytechnic campus said.
“The quote had the perfect blend of grit, intimidation and simplicity that just made sense. When the quote was mentioned there was just an overwhelming feeling of excitement.”
An hour before game time two Saturdays ago against Wisconsin, most seats in the stadium were still empty, with the exception of the student section that was almost packed. A swarm of black shirts was dancing to the stadium music, jumping up and down holding their signs, ready to go.
But waiting an hour is nothing compared to the 47 hours some students have spent waiting in line to get seats in the coveted front rows.
“Just being in the first couple rows is such a different experience,” Chris Carlson, one of those students said. “Everyone gets together, you build camaraderie, you get hyped up for the game.”
That camaraderie and hype will no doubt be a factor this Saturday as the men of Troy are in town. Let’s see if we can get some whining out of the Trojans for old time’s sake.