Havocs student section attracting national attention

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

That GCU’s Havocs are not only incredibly loud and intensely zany but also enormously generous would hardly surprise Lopes fans who know that Havocs, after all, have heart.

But the fact that all this purple passion is also the talk of the national student-section community — a model for colleges attempting to create a section that is Havocs-cool — is a relatively new phenomenon and a testament to the hard work of Havoc leaders and the strong support of Grand Canyon University.

“We have a ridiculous amount of success and it’s completely tied to GCU putting so much time and effort into the experience,” said senior Steve Hunsaker, Havocs president. “I truly believe that we get the best support of any student section in the country.”

It’s a team effort with involvement from departments including athletics, spirit, admissions, marketing, game operations, event services and of course, the Havocs, Hunsaker said.

Earlier this month, Brandon Kaiser, the former Havocs student president who was hired to the new post of GCU Havocs coordinator, was given another honor: He was named president of the National Collegiate Student Section Association (NCSSA).

“It’s a cool opportunity and I was there in the right place at the right time,” Kaiser said humbly.

But it likely had as much to do with the overwhelming achievement of what the New York Times described as “one of college basketball’s rowdiest environments” in just the University's third year of Division I athletics.

Kaiser, who recently returned from the 2016 NCSSA convention along with four Havocs leaders, also attended the event in 2015 and brought back tools that proved essential to the student section’s growth: ideas for marketing, branding, establishing an identity and use of social media.

If you saw the Havocs mentioned in tweets, Instagram and Snapchat posts, on T-shirts, giant posters and emails, it’s no coincidence.

The rapid growth of the Havocs — more than 1,000 new students signed up in 2015 — was in part due to effective use of new tools by the multi-department team, Kaiser said.

What is the Havocs brand?

“Our brand is a student-led, student-run student section that is dedicated to creating one of the wildest experiences in basketball and all sports,” Hunsaker said.

Junior Karsten Kem, vice president/game day coordinator, senior Abbie Ploeser, marketing director, and senior Taylor Eggleston, game entertainment/resident life liaison, were delighted to be the subject of so many inquiries during the convention.

“I was blown away by the amount of knowledge the other student sections had about our game day experience,” Hunsaker said. “People admired how we get so much participation, from how we start chants  to students showing up and standing the whole time.”

“People were excited to know more about Havocs with Heart, the student section outreach arm,” said Kem.

This past school year, the Havocs focused some of their exceptional energy into five outreach projects for nonprofit groups. They participated in activities to help the disadvantaged and invited members of the charities to a basketball game, where the groups' missions were shared with up to 7,000 captive fans at GCU Arena and thousands more on television broadcasts.

This year, look for the Havocs to also click into overdrive for GCU’s Division I soccer games in the University’s new, state-of-the-art stadium well before Midnight Madness on Oct. 7, the traditional kickoff to the Lopes basketball season.

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]

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