After completing the transition to Division I, the University of South Dakota is attempting to create a Division I sized crowd and atmosphere at athletic events.
“We want to give students the power to have more fun,” Assistant Director of Student Life Lindsay Sparks said.
Sparks said in order to help persuade students to attend games and keep them their, student life plans on creating different activities during and after athletic events, including tailgating, food after the games and giveaways. In addition, there has been discussion with the Spirit Team about creating new stunts and dances to keep students entertained.
“We want it to feel big time, have lots of energy and be loud,” Sparks said.
Junior Sarah Springman, captain of the cheer squad, said a main focus of the cheer squad is to create a Division I atmosphere with fans.
“We want to create a fan base, create a backing now,” Springman said. “The cheer squad is doing all we can do.”
Their efforts include learning harder, faster dances and more difficult stunts. One move, Prep Tower, has two girls in a half stunt, with another girl on top.
“They cheer every time we do it,” Springman said.
Sparks said the problem with students not attending games, or leaving in the middle, is not a new one, and student attendance at athletic events has been decreasing over the past several years.
“We’ve asked students why they’re leaving, and they said it is because their friends are leaving,” Sparks said. “We need to find that one friend, that nucleus.”
First-year Sydney Hayes has noticed other students leaving games midway through.
“It was fun and energizing the first half, and then everyone sat down or left,” Hayes said. “Some people just got bored with the game, and others went to party and were complaining how they just wanted to drink.”
Sparks said there are a variety of reasons why students leave.
“It depends on why they come. Some students come for the band,” Sparks said. “We are working on catching that reason and capitalizing on it.”
Neal Bendesky, coordinator for athletic marketing and promotions, said a goal for the athletic department is educating students about rival teams in order to draw more students to games.
“A big key to finding team success is student participation,” Bendesky said. “We want people recognizing that we are a tough place to play.”
Bendesky said the athletic department is looking for ways to be representative of the student body by incorporating music, video and cheers into the game day experience.
“We are looking at starting a social media campaign,” Bendesky said.
A new campaign, “Can We Count on You?” is planned to be launched at the beginning of the fall 2013 semester. In addition, posters for all three fall sports will be given to students on move-in day for educating students on game dates.
For the fall 2013 semester, the Coyote Crazies campaign will be adapted so instead of a large giveaway of shirts at the first game, the giveaway will be spread out over three football games.