For all of the USC basketball team’s success in recent years, the Galen Center and its crowd is still far from being considered one of college basketball’s best home-court advantages. A group of students, with the help of new Trojan basketball coach Kevin O’Neill and the USC athletic department, is trying to change that this season.
The Trojan Fever Fanatics, a new group founded by USC junior Eric Ronan, have made its mission to improve student attendance at home basketball games and create a unique game atmosphere.
“Coach has been extremely involved,” said Ronan, the co-executive director of the Fanatics and a junior majoring in public relations. “He said he would do anything in his power to promote the group and support it so that we get more people at basketball games and have a better experience.”
The Fanatics held their first informational meeting Tuesday evening, with a special appearance by O’Neill.
O’Neill told the gathered students that he is committed to helping improve the atmosphere at home basketball games.
“If you let me know, I’ll be there to help you,” O’Neill said. “If you need me to go speak at rallies, I can do that. I will really do whatever.”
O’Neill also discussed his expectations for this year’s team and the selling points for USC basketball.
“I think our team is gonna be better than what people expect,” O’Neill said. “Our team is gonna work harder than every team in the county. To me, if you’re watching guys playing hard, that’s fun to watch.”
About 40 students attended the meeting, and most were enthusiastic about the potential of both the group and the team under O’Neill.
“I’m definitely excited because I feel like he’s a very personal coach,” said Madison Ainley, a junior majoring in film production. “He’s hands-on not only with his players but also with the student section, like he wants to be a part of it.”
O’Neill realizes that a large factor in students’ willingness to attend basketball games is the success of the team on the court.
“The more we win, the easier it is for students to get interested,” O’Neill said.
Michael Serna, a sophomore majoring in business administration, put it more bluntly.
“If USC basketball doesn’t win, there’s not gonna be fans that want to go to the game,” Serna said.
One of the more immediate goals for the Fanatics is to have a consistently full student section, especially for conference games.
“Right now, we can definitely improve our attendance and this year. I think if the student section is full for all Pac-10 basketball games, that’s the biggest goal,” said David Kern, the co-executive director of the Fanatics and a sophomore majoring in business administration.
“[Last year] we could have 200 [student] fans for one game and 1,200 for the next,” Associate Athletic Director Craig Kelley added. “Our goal is to get that 1,200 for every game.”
Kelley was already encouraged by the turnout at the meeting.
“We tried this five years ago and the turnout wasn’t anything like this,” Kelley told the students.
The Fanatics will be made up of a group of about 20 members, whose responsibilities include leading chants at the games and coming up with new USC basketball traditions.
“Ultimately, the sky’s the limit,” Kern said. “Growing up around Duke, the Cameron Crazies, if we could ever become something like that, it would be amazing. It’s just gonna come down to the creativity of the group and the people in it.”