By Mary Kate Lau, Digital Communications Intern
Rock Chalk Jayhawk.
All are icons of the incomparable environment created around college basketball’s phenomenal fan-bases. All born from programs deep in dominating tradition; dynasties with fan reputations as die-hard as you can get. But there are some new kids on the block from a school emerging as a hoops contender with some game begging to get noticed.
The 942 Crew, a name inspired by the number of seats in the student section at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena, is in its second official year and already seeing palpable results.
“Last year, we came in for the first game and there were maybe fifty kids at the opening game for basketball season and just going from that to the opening game this year, where we had like 1300 students,” Amanda Feinstein a member of the 942 Crew executive board said. “The atmosphere is definitely different.”
It’s not that the Sun Devil basketball fans were nonexistent before 2012. There were always students identified by the athletic department at ASU as especially zealous and they decided to bring some method to that madness.
“I think the major thing the 942 Crew has done is it brought some organization to the passion that was already there,” Associate Athletic Director Bill Kennedy said. “Bringing them together as a collective group, they’re able to do things on a grander scale, share ideas, use their numbers to market and get people at games. That passion for the basketball team is what they bring to the game and drives the energy in the rest of the building.”
While everyone in the student section is a member of the 942 Crew, the executive board, made up of about forty students, puts a great deal of effort into being so outrageous.
“There’s no president, vice president in this, we’re all leaders, we all make the decisions together,” Lindsey Campbell, a member of the board said.
“It’s kind of cool to have a group that loves sports as much as you do,” Patrick Carlson, another member added. “It’s hard to find on a campus as big as 70,000 students. It really brings people together for a common goal and that is wanting ASU to win.”
The group’s meetings look to accomplish a few things. First, to brainstorm ways to get fans to games and excited about basketball and other oft-neglected sports. That includes coming up with the theme night or even something simple as getting a group together to go to volleyball or soccer (an event they may or may not have gotten too rowdy at to the disgruntlement of the officials). They also research the other team on social media for possible ammunition during the friendly competition.
The biggest brainchild of the Crew’s executive board meetings was a tradition to call their own. What could they make unique to Arizona State that wasn’t simply a modification of another school’s custom?
They found that in the Curtain of Distraction. The idea is to have something wacky appear from behind a curtain just to the left of the opponent’s view right at a moment when he needs perfect concentration: a free throw attempt.
The goal is not unique, but the execution is exclusive. Nowhere else but Tempe will one see a hot dog eating contest appear out of thin air, a feat not easily accomplished.
“In a matter of a few seconds we had to get the curtain, a tray of hot dogs and two people behind it and go,” Kennedy said.
And so far, it’s been effective.
“Our opponents are shooting 61% in the second half when shooting into the student section, who knows if that’s caused by us, but we’d like to take credit for it,” Kennedy added.
Opponents benches have been seen pointing and snickering when things like a New Year’s baby appear.
During this year’s matchup against Marquette, Miley Cyrus and her famed wrecking ball popped out during the first free throws in the second half. The shooter at the line had to step off the line and gather himself before going for his second attempt.
They look to keep their calling card curtain fresh and unique, like getting the theater department involved. They promise surprises well through spring, but they are staying tight-lipped about exactly how. As Kennedy puts it:
“Well it wouldn’t be distracting if we told you ahead of time.”