As 2019 comes to a close, I want to highlight the best student sections around the country.
There were three requirements to be recognized, and all of the following student sections have them in common.
Requirement One: In-game Impact.
All of these student sections are excellent in-game and make an impact on the court/field. They are loud, energetic and unified. At the end of the day, in-game energy and unity is the primary responsibility of a student section.
Requirement Two: Student Leadership.
Each of these student sections have an organized student leadership structure. They are run and operated by student leaders.
Requirement Three: Brand Affinity.
Each of these student sections have a strong brand affinity among students. They are an independent brand from athletics and have their own edge and voice on campus.
As far as who is the best student section in the country? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but all of these make compelling cases.
While there are other great student sections not mentioned, here are my 2019 Biggest Fan Student Section Awards. Who doesn’t like a little competition for some bragging rights?
Top Social Media Followers
School: University of Arizona
Student Section: Zona Zoo
Reason: They lead all student sections in the number of followers on both platforms, with 76K on Twitter and 24K on Instagram. That’s some powerful social presence.
Best Twitter Content
School: Michigan State University
Student Section: The Izzone
Reason: Look at their pinned tweet, who wouldn’t want to be part of THAT? They have a great balanced twitter presence. Little bit of everything... trash talk, memes, game info, athlete spotlight, student section content, in-game impact, gif use, heckling, alumni spotlight.
Best Instagram Content
School: Grand Canyon University
Student Section: GCU Havocs
Reason: I’m slightly biased because I went to GCU. I also helped start and build the Havocs. But a student section Instagram should represent the culture. If a student goes to the student section Instagram account, they will ask themselves, “Do I see myself in those photos?” “Can I see myself participating in that?” Their account is not a bunch of athletics marketing graphics, but real photos of real students participating in the student section. That’s great marketing.
Top Social Media Troll
School: San Diego State University**
Student Section: The Show
Reason: Look at their bio… “You won't like us. We don't care.” Then look at their tweets. The Show has a unique student section voice that has an edge to it. If you try and start a Twitter battle with them, I’d proceed with caution.
Best Shirt Tradition
Student Section: The Oakland Zoo
Best Pre-Game Rituals
School: Grand Canyon University
Student Section: GCU Havocs
Reason: Again, I’m slightly biased. But you don’t get dubbed “The Biggest Party in College Basketball” without some rowdy pre-game shenanigans. Whether it’s “The Purple Pre-Game Party”, the “Sway” or the “Point” the pre-game atmosphere at GCU is chaotic and overwhelming. It sets the energy for the whole game. Just watch this video if you need convincing.
Best Conference Tournament Presence
Student Section: Maize Rage
Reason: They consistently organize a group of students to travel to the conference tournament and last year they had more demand than tickets available. They called out the other Big 10 student sections last year regarding their lack of attendance.
Loudest Student Section Arena
Student Section: The Paint Crew
Reason: One big bowl, a metal roof, and thousands of screaming students. Whether a non-conference sleeper or the game vs Indiana, expect your ears to be ringing after you leave Mackey Arena. Listen here.
Best Mid Major
Student Section: The Kennel Club
Reason: Best Mid-Major period. Best Mid-Major basketball program. Oh wait, best basketball team in the country (#1 right now). Kennel Club has a strong tradition, rich history and some crazy students. You can find them consistently showing up 1200 strong every game, making the 6000 seat McCarthey Athletic Center one of the toughest places to play.
Best Traditional Chants
School: Utah State
Student Section: The Hurd
Reason: “Winning Team, Losing Team” and “I believe”... Although The Show at SDSU might have something to say about that... Either way, Navy originally started it but both the Hurd and the Show made it a staple in college basketball.
Steepest Student Section
School: University of Indiana
Student Section: The Crimson Guard
Reason: Assembly hall is steep. And there are a lot of students standing and yelling all the way to the top. This video shows how you are pretty much staring straight down.
In-game Leadership Award
School: West Virginia
Student Section: Mountaineer Maniacs
Reason: The student leaders are responsible for leading the chants in-game and have a great working relationship with spirit programs. The stadium looks beautiful.
Best Student Section Initiation
School: Texas A&M Student Section: 12th man (Aggie Yell Leaders)
Reason: The Midnight Yell is a heck of a way to invite students into the tradition of the school and empower them to make a difference at games. They set a record this year with 36,000+ students at one football game.
Best Student Section Rivalry
Schools: Xavier & Cincinnati
Student Sections: X-Treme Fans & UC Rally Cats
Xavier Twitter: @XU_Xtreme_Fans
UC Twitter: @UCRallyCats
Reason: Remember the 2011 Crosstown Shootout? I hope a brawl never occurs again but that shows the emotion between these two schools. These student sections feel the responsibility of the rivalry too. Example: UC trolls Xavier, then Xavier replies and trolls UC. Classic.
Smelliest Student Section
School: University of Minnesota
Student Section: The Barnyard
Reason: A bunch of animals in a barn does not smell good.
Best Tenting Tradition
Student Section: Cameron Crazies
Reason: Often viewed as the gold standard of student sections, K-ville Nation and the Cameron Crazies have mastered the tenting process. The Duke Line Monitors do an excellent job facilitating and innovating the tenting and entrance process. I hope I can sleep in Krzyzewskiville one day. They’re also loud and take up a whole side of Cameron Indoor.
Consistent Growth & Influence Award
School: University of Florida
Student Section: Rowdy Reptiles
Reason: The Rowdy Reptiles have had consistent growth over the last few years. Not only have they grown, but they have a large voice on campus and in athletics. It’s great to see a school and athletic department listen to their students. Check out their Instagram for some great memes.
Multi-Sport Dominance Award
School: THE Ohio State University
Student section: Block-O
Reason: A rich tradition since 1938, you can find Block-O at every home football game wearing body paint, yelling loud and performing the occasional card stunt. Not only does Block-O show up for football and basketball, they show up in numbers to volleyball, gymnastics and other olympic sports. You can read about all 11 sports they support here.
Best Color Out
School: Penn State
Student section: Nittanyville
Reason: On top of being selected as the Taco Bell Live Mas Student Section of the Year, they know how to do a White Out well…. Like really well. The intro vs Michigan this year gives me the chills.
Who to look for in 2020:
Look out for the student sections at current D2 schools Dixie State** and Tarleton State** as they get ready to transition to Division 1.
**Schools are Biggest Fan Consulting Clients
I hope you enjoyed reading about the best student sections of 2019 and the Biggest Fan Student Section Awards.
As good as these student sections are, even they have challenges. It’s hard to innovate and build momentum consistently every year. That is why it is so important to continue to train and develop student leaders.
If you’re one of these schools and want to continue to take your student section to the next level, consider applying to send your student leaders to the 2020 Biggest Fan Mastermind. This event is invite only where we teach and discuss high level strategies for your student section. Apply on our home page.
If you’d like to elevate your student section to the next level or work to be a top student section in the country, schedule a strategy session with us to see how we can help get you there.
To student section greatness in 2020,