To mark the beginning of winter athletics at SF State, Gator fans and athletes gathered at The Swamp (main gymnasium) to celebrate the first Gator Madness last Friday from 9 p.m. to midnight.
The athletic department hosted the kick-off rally, which consisted of team scrimmages, fan relays and even a half-court shot competition worth spring semester tuition (which neither of the two selected won), to segue into the basketball and wrestling seasons. But for the athletic staff, the night was a chance to spark fan excitement in Gator athletics.
“This is an attempt to attract interest and create school spirit,” SF State interim athletic director Bill Nepfel said. “We have a great product to promote.”
Nepfel noted that, during his five years with the SF State athletic department, fan interest has been a consistent issue. The campus is known as a commuter school; at the end of the day, most students return to their off-campus homes and don’t come back for game day. So Nepfel and the department turned their focus to the students that live on campus with a late-night rally.
“Everyone complains that we’re a commuter school, and that we don’t have a football team. But we have a good basketball team, all the teams are good,” said Student Life Activities Board, Gator Spirit Chair Christin Ornells. “People are passionate about the 49ers and Giants, we think people should be passionate about their own school.”
About a hundred students showed up to The Swamp to see the winter teams make their debut, but also got a little taste of other organizations on campus. Brothers of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, both from San Jose State and SF State, performed a step routine, and the SF State cheer club — between big leaps and flips — introduced a new rally cheer: the chomp.
The Gator spirit, according to senior SF State wrestler Conrad Snell, is limited to inter-team support. SF State athletes are more likely to attend other teams’ games, and other students make up a small portion of the fan base Snell said. But he thinks Gator Madness will bring a new class of fans to the stands.
“Hopefully this gets us fans that are students that want to see Gator wrestling and athletics,” he said.
But for some students in attendance, like sophomore Tyler Vilfer, Gator Madness generated little hubbub. Though the event provided a nice slice of Gator athletics, Vilfer won’t be scheduling a trip to The Swamp or Cox Stadium to watch a game anytime soon.
“I’ll go out to watch ice hockey — I have friends on the team and they play where the (San Francisco) Bulls play,” he said. “I wouldn’t go out to watch a (SF State) basketball game.”