Storming the Arena: GCU’s Havocs bring the crazy to front rows at games

December 13, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau

The job description was intriguing, to say the least:

“Must be willing to paint your body, hair and face and be crazy, chant and yell.” 

Emily Stephens and Justin Macari figured that would be sufficient to grab the attention of suitable candidates, and they needed all that they could get. When Stephens, director of spirit programs and game operations at Grand Canyon University, had called a meeting at the end of the 2012-13 school year for the formation of a special student section for men’s basketball, only three people showed up.

Painting yourself isn't required in order to be in the Havocs, but it is highly recommended. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Painting yourself isn’t required in order to be in the Havocs, but it is highly recommended. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Fortunately, one-third was Macari, now a senior in business management at GCU.

“Justin and I met over the summer about a core group responsible for rallying the students,” says Stephens, who has been with the University for six years in a variety of spirit-related capacities.

The decision was made to call all of GCU Arena’s student sections the Monsoon but to create an elite unit within that group. After some brainstorming, they decided on the name of the Havocs — the “most destructive part of the Monsoon,” as Stephens says — and printed flyers in September with specifics.

The end result: about 180 Havocs, who occupy the first three rows of the student sections after making their own special entrance to the Martin Garrix song “Animals” exactly nine minutes before game time.

As the saying goes, if they’re too loud, then you’re too old.

“They all know what’s expected of them,” Macari says of the Havocs. “We have people who will paint their entire body, if we need them to — and at halftime, even.”

Don’t let the name fool you: The Havocs are crazy, but they’re also organized. They have officers in Macari (president) and sophomore Brandon Kaiser and freshman Trevor Knotts (vice presidents). In fact, one of Knotts’ responsibilities is to deliver body paint to GCU’s residence halls and apartments for ease of Havoc pregame preparation.

It’s a far cry from last season, when student support in the Arena lacked consistent numbers and volume.

“All we did was heckle,” Kaiser says, “because we couldn’t get much noise.”

Although the Havocs’ leaders expect to have 40 students in attendance at Saturday’s nonconference game at Northern Arizona University, an organized push is under way for maximum turnout for the Western Athletic Conference part of the schedule, which starts in January. The first WAC game with classes back in session will be Thursday, Jan. 23, against Idaho.

“We’re not a joke,” Macari says. “This is like building a business.”

Knotts says that, in time, there will be the expectation at GCU that all students will stand and yell for the entire game.

“We want to make it a privilege to be in the student section,” he says.

So far, so good, according to Stephens.

“The biggest difference has been having these three guys run it,” she says. “To be in the Havocs, you’ve got to want to be there. You’re not offered anything. There are no incentives other than being in the front rows, getting on TV and free paint.”

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or

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