Slideshow: Canyon Crazies Leader Sees Big Things Ahead
LAS VEGAS — If Jared Bearden has his way, the electric atmosphere inside GCU Arena for the Nov. 5 men’s basketball exhibition game against Arizona State University will be the rule and not the exception.
Bearden, a junior, is the president of the Canyon Crazies student fan group, and he says he’s just getting warmed up.
“This can go way beyond being a club,” Bearden said Friday at a tailgate party before GCU’s game against the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “This can be what we stand for. It should be more than just games.
“A fanatic’s life is awesome. You buy into something bigger than yourself.”
Based on numbers alone, Bearden has reason to be upbeat. Last year, GCU took two student buses on a turnaround trip to the Antelopes’ game in Las Vegas. This year, there were four buses, transporting about 200 students.
The students, though given seats high in the upper level of the Thomas & Mack Center, made themselves heard throughout the game — and especially in the first half, when GCU outplayed the host team, trailing by only a point at halftime. UNLV rallied to win, 83-66.
Bearden said a breakthrough in school spirit came last March, when the Antelope women’s basketball team played in the NCAA Division II West Regional in Pomona, Calif. Many student, faculty and staff fans made the trip, outnumbering supporters of the host school, Cal Poly Pomona.
“The California trip was huge,” Bearden said. “People saw that there was something to this. Even those who aren’t basketball fans.”
Dan Ballenger, now a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Life, has been a ringleader of the Canyon Crazies for more than a year and sees the progress. The goal, he said, is to fill the student sections on the west side of the Arena with fans who are loud and proud — but never rude and crude.
“I want us to be unique for being creative and original but never insulting,” Ballenger said.
Examples this year include breaking out purple umbrellas for the playing of “Purple Rain” over the Arena’s PA system, along with an oversize yellow football official’s flag that is thrown in the air to dispute questionable calls.
Ballenger said he’d love to have something quirky catch on the way it has at Utah State University, where someone dressed in an alligator suit stands behind the opponent’s basket during free throws, drawing laughs even from players.
Perhaps it will be the two guys dressed from head to toe in purple Spandex. Although no one knows who they are, they’ve become semi-regulars at GCU games.
Bearden said fans in this part of the country can be slow to throw in with a team.
“I come from North Carolina, and West Coast fans are a little behind as far as being diehards,” he said. “We want to replicate the atmosphere we had at the ASU game.
“The campus itself is in a unique position. We’re about to take off. But we need to keep our values from years back, no matter how big we get.”
Eventually, Bearden said, the Canyon Crazies could branch out into philanthropic endeavors, as student cheering sections have done elsewhere. For example, the Orange Krush, who support the athletic teams at the University of Illinois, regularly donate to local charities and in 2005 gave $50,000 to the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research.
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].