Welcome back Anteaters. A new school year is upon us, marked by the final days of summer and all of the Welcome Week festivities. The new year brings a fresh start. The past is the past as all ’Eaters are presented a clean slate.
No fresh start is more evident than the one made by the student spirit group. For the past two years the group was named ’Eater Nation, but this year the student section at UCI Athletic events will be known as “Antourage.” The announcement was made during last year’s Reggaefest. Although ’Eater Nation will be retained, it will refer to the Irvine community as a whole, while Antourage will solely refer to the students at athletic events.
This name change marks the third in the past four years. Formally known as CIA (Completely Insane Anteaters), the student spirit group made the name change to ’Eater Nation in the fall of 2008, amidst unclear direction and miscommunication between the CIA leaders and Sports Marketing. Now, the students will be wearing gold Antourage T-shirts.
For the student body at UC Irvine, let’s make sure Antourage is a force to be reckoned with. Let Antourage be the catalyst for thunderous noise that shakes the walls of the Bren Events Center and Crawford Court. Let Antourage’s chants, cheers and screams be heard miles away from Anteater Stadium and Cicerone Field. The Antourage should cause opposing teams to get out of rhythm due to the chaos coming from the student section. Let Antourage create the energy that allows all UCI athletes to dig deep inside themselves to find their second wind and pull out a victory when the game is on the line. A strong cheering section could make the difference between an average and elite athletic program. Let’s be that difference!
All of this is possible, but UCI Athletics needs the help of each and every student. Every seat at every home venue must be filled in order to motivate our ’Eaters.
If history has taught us anything, it is that when UCI athletes have the full support of their fan base they can go on and do great things.
During the 2007-2008 academic year, men’s basketball had an unbelievable home season, finishing 12-1. A major contributor to this outstanding home record was the fan support, as the Bren Events Center averaged about 1,800 fans per home game. That was the same season that the ’Eaters were seeded fifth in the Big West Tournament and were one win shy of making it to the Big Dance, also known as March Madness.
During the 2008-2009 season, the Anteaters compiled a pedestrian home record of 6-7. But the one victory that stood out was on Feb. 18 against the Cal State Northridge Matadors. The Bren decided to have a blackout, as every fan in attendance wore their black ’Eater Nation shirt. The atmosphere was amazing that night, as 3,450 spectators filled the Bren. The Anteaters would go on to blast the Matadors 73-51.
A couple of weeks later, the same Matador team that got hosed by the ’Eaters would go on to win the Big West Tournament and give John Calipari, Tyreke Evans and the second seeded Memphis Tigers the scare of their lives in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Two years ago, men’s volleyball Head Coach John Speraw and company won the national title in Provo, Utah. One of the main reasons was due to the fact that ’Eater Nation traveled with the team. The Anteaters won a nail-biter in the championship match against the USC Trojans. In the fifth and final set, tension ran high between both teams, but the ’Eaters were able to rely on half of the 3,014 fans that packed BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse.
Last year, the men’s volleyball team lost nine five-set matches. And sure, some of the blame can be placed on the fact that the Anteaters had inconsistent play at the setter position or in their inability to serve the ball inbounds. But some losses could have gone the ’Eaters’ way if they had the support of their fans. One of those five-set matches lost by the Anteaters was to BYU. Although 1,003 fans packed the Bren Events Center, the Cougars played a virtual home game. Many of the people that attended the game wore BYU apparel and chanted for the Cougars.
As an avid UCI Athletic supporter, I want to see the Anteaters beat up on any and all opponents that walk on to our UCI campus. But this is not possible without the support of students and staff.
I implore fans to show some school spirit this year and attend all of the home games that can fit into a busy college student’s schedule. Besides the fact that all regular season games are free for students, student support will pay dividends — UCI victories. Don’t disappoint me, Antourage.