Basketball student section to have new name
Move ends five year stint of “Garnet Army”
Students, if you were ever at a basketball game and thought of a clever name for the student section that you think is better than the “Garnet Army”, now is the time to make your voice heard.
Eric Nichols, South Carolina’s director of marketing for the university’s athletic department, and head men’s basketball coach Frank Martin have decided that it is time to go in a different direction and are therefore ending the five-year run of the Garnet Army.
Instead, students will get to decide what both the men’s and women’s student sections will be known as, starting during the 2013-14 basketball season.
Students who have an idea for a name can send their suggestions to email@example.com. They can either submit a name that can be used for both men’s and women’s basketball or submit a name that is specific to one or the other.
Nichols and company will compile all of the suggestions, weed out the “obvious plays on words that we can’t use” and then trim the list down to the top three or four suggestions, at which point the students will vote on their favorite.
There will be a revealing of the new student section name, or names, before the start of the season.
The move comes after a lackluster performance from the student section over the last few years. Four straight losing seasons and a 53-71 record over that time span has resulted in a relative decline of students attending basketball games. In a matter of three years, the amount of
student tickets that were scanned at the games dropped by over 7,500. There was a nearly 2,000 ticket rise during Martin’s first season from the season before, but Nichols also said that there were factions of students who still wanted to go in a different direction.
Martin tried his best to get students to come to games last season, going as far as to buy the students hot dogs if they came out to watch the Gamecocks play, which resulted in the rise in attendance.
But both Nichols and Martin hope that the name change will spark a change of culture that they say is needed.
“We’re always wanting to provide what the students want,” Nichols said. “I know coach [Martin] wants the whole program to go a different direction and change cultures and this is just a natural time and natural piece of the puzzle that we’re looking to change.”
Martin knows that in order to turn the basketball program around, the student body must get behind the team first.
In January of 2010, South Carolina knocked off No. 1 Kentucky at the Colonial Life Arena to pick up the program’s first win over a top-ranked team. In that game, students wearing the Garnet Army T-shirts rushed the court and celebrated with the team. That was the last big moment for the Garnet Army, as that season marked the first of the four straight losing seasons.
In 2012, Kentucky returned to Colonial Life Arena as the No. 1 team. This time it was a vastly different result, as the Wildcats crushed the Gamecocks by 34 points and there were almost as many Wildcat fans in the student section as there were Gamecock fans.
Those two moments illustrate the decline that has taken place, and Martin is trying to bring back the type of home-court advantage that is able to knock off a No. 1 team.
“If you go across the history of college basketball, including here, you’ll find out that the best home-court advantages in the history of college basketball usually have the best student sections,” Martin said. “It never changes; that’s consistent.”
Martin said he wants the new student section to come in and “create their niche” while representing the university and helping the team to get back to winning games.
While there were a smaller number of students in the stands during Martin’s first season, he was impressed with the ones that did show up.
“The ones that came were great,” Martin said. “They were loyal, they came early, stayed late. We just have to reeducate our students what it’s like to be a basketball student fan.”
The second-year coach said he wants students in their seat an hour before the game starts so that when the opposing team comes out for their pre-game rituals, they know they are going to have to deal with the students all day.
If this happens, Martin said that the students will “get players’ minds off the game and worrying about what a great student section this place has.”
The garnet and black camouflage T-shirts became a staple of the Garnet Army throughout its tenure. Nichols said there could be another T-shirt to represent the new name, but it could be something like a hat or a “bighead”, a large cutout of a coach or players head that is a popular tradition in many college basketball arenas.
Whatever is decided, Nichols said the new tradition will be unique and students will have the first choice as to what will represent the student section. The marketing department has been in contact with South Carolina student body president Chase Mizzell to form a “student athletics council” to help Nichols and company with the decisions.
When the entire process is complete, Martin and Nichols hope that a student section tradition will begin that will stay constant and establish a reputation throughout college basketball.
Martin came from a Kansas State team that boasted the largest student section in the Big-12 with 6,000 seats and had a daunting home-court reputation.
How long does Martin think it will take South Carolina to match that?
“Next game we play,” Martin said. “That’s all it takes is for everyone to jump on board. Everyone says, ‘well let’s wait and see if we’re good’. Why? If you’re going to invest yourself in being a real fan, then you’re going to cry when we celebrate or cry when we don’t do well. It’s the investment of your emotions into the journey of winning games and being good that makes it special. And that’s what we need.”
“We’re trying to grow as a team and we want our students to grow with us.”