For Oakland fans, Oral Roberts University is not a polarizing force. There's no love 'em or hate 'em discussion. You just hate 'em. Since OU began playing Division I basketball, ORU has more or less always been in contention for the conference title. They've handed the Golden Grizzlies a number of heartbreaking tournament losses, not to mention many during the regular season. Golden Grizzlies versus Golden Eagles may just qualify as basketball's most unlikely rivalry game because of the distance and differences between the two institutions. Despite the odd circumstances of their relationship, this match-up that happens twice a year every season continues to mean something in Summit League play. And it also means a lot to the fans.
While this rivalry may exist in the minds of Oakland fans more than those of Oral Roberts, there is no doubting the importance of the series to the league. ORU has been a dominant program, representing The Summit League in three straight NCAA Tournaments during the latter part of the past decade. They bring in big-time opponents to their areana, the Mabee Center, and they pull upsets just as often. While they are located in a city with another solid basketball program (Tulsa), they still draw the best attendance numbers in the conference. And as we find out a little later in this post, student support may rank in the top part of the league as well. Oakland, on the other hand, has been hot lately but has yet to achieve the kind of long-term success that ORU has sustained. While OU is one or two more NCAA Tournament bids away from getting to that point, ORU still sets the bar in this nation-spanning league. No amount of OU Juice changes that fact.
In our series on student sections in The Summit League, I have been most excited to learn more about the one at Oral Roberts due to their success and rivalry with Oakland. Kyle Krajenka, who serves as an Athletics Marketing Intern and Athletic Experience Director at ORU, was kind enough to field our questions to learn more about what makes the enemy tick.
Name of the student section?
There is no name currently. We were formerly known as the Mabee Maniacs, but I'm leading us through a transition year.
Describe the history of your section? How long has it existed in its current state?
It's been a rocky road the last 4 years. Again, it's all changing this upcoming year.
Does your student section require/recommend a certain shirt (or shirt color) be worn?
It does not. My priority right now is to get the students involved. We get about 400 students per game and we just want them to want to participate. I'm working on a system right now that will encourage students to wear blue as the athletic department really wants to push "True Blue ORU."
How are tickets allocated for students in the student section?
No tickets. Just scan in with your school ID. There has never been a problem in recent years with students not being allowed to enter games.
Where are you located at in the arena, and what is your favorite part about such placement?
We are located to the right of the visitors' bench. My favorite part is being so close to the opposing team, and we are visible on TV.
What are the two to three biggest games for your student section each year?
Tulsa (when we play them at home), IUPUI, and Oakland.
What struggles does your student section face every year?
The student section has a bad reputation. People think one must "go crazy" in order to participate. With Summit League basketball it's unrealistic to expect people are going to be going crazy when we're blowing out Centenary, IPFW, etc. I think a fantastic start would be to have people in the stands all wearing the same color. We have the attendance...now let's unify.
Describe your most original chant, or a memory of a particular experience in the student section.
There are no chants out of the ordinary, but the best memory so far is the last-second winning lay-up to beat Missouri last season. The student section from front to back was on their feet going crazy. It was quite a sight to see (from the scorers table where I work).
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?
No. I wish we did, but again, it's unrealistic at this point.
Why do you ultimately choose to be a part of the student section at your school?
I love that ORU has an opportunity to play D-I sports. I see basketball as great exposure. Just look at what basketball has done for Xavier, Butler, George Mason, Davidson, and others.
- Much appreciation goes to Kyle for taking the time to dutifully answer these questions. We wish ORU's students the best as they transition to a new name and brand for their student section. Hopefully they'll bring it hard in the upcoming season.