In an alternate realty somewhere, Oakland University doesn't exist as we know it today. Woody Varner never led the Rochester-based school through a transition to end its affiliation with Michigan State University. Instead, the university goes on as MSU-Oakland (MSUO), forever in the shadow of its parent institution. Its name is the laughing stock of the state, and the basketball program is never taken seriously as a result, even when its winning. In this world, all students at the Oakland campus can sympathize with IUPUI.
Perhaps its because of our history as an extension of a larger state school that I refuse to make fun of IUPUI for its name. The school from Indianapolis has been and likely will forever be defined by its very unique combination of letters. When Albany and Buffalo got sick of being known as SUNY-"insert city here," they started going by names like The University At "City." Unfortuantely, IUPUI doesn't even have that option as it would be confused with the already existing University of Indianapolis. Nope, they've had to embrace the four letters that come from Big Ten schools while attempting to make the last letter resonate in a city that is already crazy for another mid-major. In a sense, they have it rough in Indy.
Fortunately, IUPUI still has a lot going for itself. People remember the name, perhaps more than any other team in The Summit League. Their coach is a likeable guy who is known nationally for his charity work. They've got a guy by the name of George Hill playing a major role for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. Although they hit a bump in the road with recent NCAA rules violations, it's hardly a scarlet letter for the program. In fact, the Jaguars should continue to be competitive in the conference, as always, despite penalties. It is also expected that the school will continue to pack The Jungle, where the basketball team plays its home games. A major part of the gym they call home is the Red Zone, IUPUI's student section. Michael Hadley plays a leading role in creating a crazy atmosphere for home games, and he also spends time outside of the gym writing about IUPUI basketball, among other things. This summer, he took some time away from the World Cup to answer a few of our questions about all things Red Zone.
Name of the student section: The Red Zone
How long has The Red Zone existed in its current state?
Since 2006. I came to IUPUI in fall of 2008.
Does your student section require/recommend a certain shirt (or shirt color) be worn?
Usually a red shirt or the shirt we have for the section, but really we just want as many people as possible to be there so there's not a required shirt.
How are tickets allocated for students in the student section?
They are handed out at the door, first come first serve. For games at Conseco Fieldhouse, we'll get a bunch of tickets given to the Red Zone's leader, Jesse, and he'll hand them out (there are still some available at the door). We've never been TRULY packed in the Red Zone, so it has never been a problem.
Where are you located at in the arena, and what is your favorite part about such placement?
We are on the side opposite of the opponent's bench. Sometimes I wish we were behind their bench but that would turn into a brawl mainly because we almost get into said brawls and we're 60+ feet away.
What are the two to three biggest games for your student section each year?
Oral Roberts, always. Then whoever is at the top of the Summit. And usually a big name out of conference team, such as UMass or Ohio.
What struggles does your student section face every year?
Attendance, for sure. Then if we do get a decent number of people out, getting them to participate in the chants that we do.
Describe your most original chant, or a memory of a particular experience in the student section.
You're gonna hate me, but the Oakland game last year. We had a white out, we were as packed as we had ever been, the whole nine yards. I was tweeting updates every media timeout, and I realized we were up 6, then 8, then 10, then 12, and every mediatime out the lead kept growing. Finally, we had won by 24. They played T.I.'s "Whatchu Know About Dat", the song I'd play before and after I pitched in high school, and I just got goosebumps. It was one of the coolest nights of my life.
Do the students at your school have any unique rituals performed before big games? Or do you have a specific experience to share if it is not something customarily done?
I'm actually ridiculously OCD and superstitious, though I think they technically overlap. Other students do what typical college students do, of which I do not partake. I, however, always park in the same parking lot even though it's a little further than where everyone else parks, walk the same route, always stepping over things/onto new types of concrete, into buildings and new rooms with my right foot first. And I won't say a word to anyone from the time I leave my car until I walk into The Natatorium of which The Jungle is attached. I think this year we're going to start a student get-together and walk-to-The-Jungle ritual, though it's still up in the air.
Why do you ultimately choose to be a part of the student section at your school?
Being a former athlete and superfan at my high school, I've seen and experienced firsthand the power of the "Home _________ Advantage". When the opposing team is more worried about the noise, chants, etc of the students, they focus less on the task at hand. Which, especially since I've been at IUPUI, is more than enough for our guys to strike. I go to every home soccer and basketball game and away games as much as possible. There's nothing that makes me happier than seeing my teams win.
- Michael is the man. Be sure to check out his website if you are looking for an IUPUI perspective. It is first-class.