Sports

MU Mob Packs the MAC During MAC Madness

pack-the-macBasketball games are won and lost on the hardwood floor between the players but there is more that goes on behind-the-scenes than most people would think. The coaches and athletes prepare both physically and mentally for the game ahead while they endure tough practices in hopes to win. However, the crowd and loyal fans also prepare and brace themselves for the game.

To show thanks to those fans who do pack the University's Multi-purpose Activity Center and bring an undeniable factor to the event, Monmouth Athletics hosted their annual free MAC Madness pep-rally on Friday, Oct. 25. The pep-rally is to honor the upcoming basketball season for the men's and women's teams and ready the fans for one of their favorite sports.

The event was well attended with nearly 400 fans in the stands, but it grew rather obvious who was part of the well known fan group called the Monmouth Mob. At nearly every home basketball game for the past two years, the Monmouth Mob has been able to not only intimidate the opposing team, but really feed energy into their hometown Hawks.

At Mac Madness, both squads were asked how much of a factor fan attendance and fan participation is. As expected, each player rose their hand when asked if they feed off of the cheers and chants of their fellow students.

"I think it is a huge factor," said Joseph Irace, an MU basketball season ticket holder of the fans' presence. "You can at times actually see the players feeding off the crowd and vice-versa. I can remember the Sacred Heart game and the LIU game last season where the players stormed the crowd instead of the other way around after big Monmouth wins."

This upcoming season's rally cry for the Mob has been decreed "Pack the MAC," a slogan coined by Eddy Occhipinti, Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing, Advertising and Promotions.

Along with a new rally cry, both basketball teams will be entering a new league called the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

"It's a great building block for future support of the basketball programs. To be able to enter a new league with a great support base will greatly help our teams moving forward, and hopefully open the door for more fans in the future," Occhipinti continued. "The louder and more crowded it is, the tougher the building is to play in," he continued."

The ultimate goal for the Monmouth Mob is to get larger, stronger, and more united. Last year, when Villanova visited West Long Branch, the MAC reset the attendance record to 3,898. Despite the Hawks losing the contest to the Wildcats, it just goes to show what environment can be built with the right participation.

"I think it should grow. There seem to be a core following of Mob members but there is no reason why there shouldn't be many, many more students at the games," Irace said.

For the past two seasons, the Monmouth Mob has been known to be in-your-face, loud, and disruptive. Ron Ratner, Associate Commissioner for the Northeast Conference and beat writer for the conference, tweeted last season that the MAC and its student section could be dangerous if they continued to come out and be loud.

It is very common for members of the crazed student section to taunt opposing players, berate officials, and still continue to yell and cheer for the Hawks. Don't be surprised if you thought you've heard howls of "Get off the court!" from the student section if you listen close enough. Chances are that your ears didn't exactly deceive you.

The motive is to get opposing players to acknowledge the hoots and hollers and retaliate. Retaliation could consist of looking into the eyes of the aggressors or certain hand gestures such as a discrete middle finger or a slap down to try and silence the students. If done, you're only asking for more attention.

"In my mind, it's just not enough to show your face at the game. You have to show your pride. Getting up and cheering with us is meaningful in many ways, but it's also means a lot to the team and they appreciate our support," Raymon Bogan said of the Mob's antics. Bogan, a junior at the University, is in charge of the Monmouth Mob's social networking pages.

Irace also commented on the Mob's warfare as he said, "I've seen the eye rolling and head shaking from the players as well as the comments from opposing fans about how loud our Mob is!"

Despite the brash chants from the fan section, the MAC has still managed to stay a fan-friendly environment for young children and adults just looking to watch a good basketball game.

The pep band and spirit squad do a great job of getting everybody involved, including young kids and parents. It's not uncommon to see younger kids in the fan section having a little fun of their own. They cheer for their beloved Hawks and shower opposing players with childhood humor.

Even though fan sections are usually known for being specifically for students, the Monmouth Mob allows young kids, alum, and adults into the section and urges them to get involved so that the Mob grows.

One way the Monmouth Mob can grow is through active participation at the events. "I'd like to see the Mob develop specific cheers for certain points of the game, example, opposing starting lineups, certain media timeouts, etc," Occhipinti said.

As MUs basketball programs move forward to the MAAC, it's safe to say that the MAC is a building with untapped potential. With more crowd involvement and attendance, The MAC could become a marquee arena that could attract recruits and provide a true home-court advantage.

Now, it's up to the student body to show some school spirit and 'Pack the MAC' to supports MU's Cagers.

PHOTO COURTESY of Jim Reme