Many words have been and will continue to be written here about the Grizz Gang. As Oakland's official student section, it is the organization that supports and cheers on the basketball teams every year, (hopefully) through the good seasons and the bad. It was a place I revered more than any other during my time at Oakland, where my friends and I would come together to have a good time and cheer the Golden Grizzlies to victory. During my senior season, we had some of the best times of my four years in Rochester, occasionally painting our faces, making signs, and getting our non-basketball friends to come check it out in an attempt to win them over with the atmosphere.
Just as often, however, I enjoyed the games over breaks when bodies in the student section were hard to come by, and the game could be enjoyed for the game from a seat in section E2. That's the basketball nerd in me. Games like this might be a thing of the past in the near future as the Grizz Gang continues to grow and reach more students across the grounds of Oakland U who may be more inclined to make trips to the O'Rena during wintry breaks from school. One thing is for sure, they will have a dedicated group of individuals leading them every night. One of those individuals, Danny Malendowski, will be serving as a Grizz Gang leader this season in what will be his senior year, attempting to help bridge the gap between the seminal leaders of years past and those of the near future. Due to his current position and loyalty to the program, I knew Danny would be a great person to wrap up our Student Section Chronicles with in featuring the Grizz Gang.
Name of the student section: Grizz Gang
Describe the history of your student section. How long has it existed in its current state?
Well, although my knowledge of Grizz Gang lore is far from being the best, I would say it has existed in its current state for about 5 or so years. Like all organizations, we have evolved and hopefully improved over time. We are just trying to keep everything moving forward.
Does your student section require/recommend a certain shirt (or shirt color) be worn?
We have a number of shirts that could be considered Grizz Gang shirts from our various events. However, we do have a main shirt that people associate with the Grizz Gang (left), though I must say my favorite is the student designed one (right).
How are tickets allocated for students in the student section?
We do not have tickets. Like many small schools students get in free, but we do have an allocated section which holds 250ish. We overflowed by a lot last year versus Oral Roberts and hope to do that more frequently in the future.
Where are you located at in the arena, and what is your favorite part about such placement?
We are right behind the visitor bench, which is awesome because it makes you feel like you are being heard by the opposition. We kind of make that whole corner ours with the band and the over flow. It is a cool visual effect.
What are the two to three biggest games for your student section each year?
Well, whenever we play Michigan or MSU those are big, but they are normally at the Palace. Without a doubt the Oral Roberts game is the biggest. The NDSU and IUPUI games have been phenomenal games, but unfortunately they have often been during winter breaks, so there has been lower student attendance.
What struggles does your student section face every year?
Well we have been growing significantly every year, so this year's crew is just trying not to screw things up. Obviously you always want as much attendance and recognition as possible. As long as we are always moving in a positive direction that is good. We just need to sustain this following in years where we aren't necessarily one of the favorites in the Summit League.
Describe your most original chant, or a memory of a particular experience in the student section?
I will never forget how electric the Oral Roberts game was this year, and Johnathon Jone's game-winning shot. I thought the 'O' was going to explode! I can't think of an incredibly original chant but I would categorize us as a somewhat mean student section. Kevin Ford and Dominique Morrison were by far our least favorite players last year and we are getting better at doing research before the game on the players. Historically, Grizz Gang's least favorite player is Robert Jarvis (former Oral Roberts point guard). We referred to him as "Midget Mac" after the dude from "I Love New York." Honestly Google him. He looks just like him.
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?
Every year before the Oral Roberts game we have Guard the Grizz where we get together - in the single digit temperatures - the night before the Saturday game by the Grizzly statue the adorns the front of the O'Rena. We have an eagle pinata that we destroy, and it is always fun chilling late into the night before the game the next day. It is good to get everyone's energy up.
Why do you ultimately choose to be a part of the student section at your school?
I have always loved basketball, and I think to be a part of OU basketball at this point in time is really special. We are growing in support and notoriety. We are ultimately all in a student section to be with our friends and enjoy this awesome game in a group atmosphere which cannot be replicated. I love being a part of this!
Over the past three weeks we have attempted to shine a light on student sections across The Summit League. While we were unable to interview representatives from all of the schools (if anyone from Southern Utah is reading, please get in touch!), we hope that the preceding posts offered as comprehensive a look at these entities that can be found on the net. After reading through all of the pieces, it's fairly clear that all the schools in this conference face similar struggles: lack of student attendance, subpar student participation, and little to no long-term stability. Even though life isn't always peachy in Summit League student sections, they still offer many dedicated fans the chance to support their basketball teams while having a good time in the process. These common traits tie us all together, because even when we're heckling the other team's players and coaches, we're all fighting the same fight in the end, one hoarse voice at a time.