Host with the most: GCU aims to wow national TV

The Havocs bring GCU Arena to life every game but will be especially primed for the national broadcast of Saturday's men's basketball game.

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

Helen Bleach provided a preview for TV viewers watching a basketball game at GCU Arena for the first time.

“It’s the best game day experience they will ever see,” said Bleach, Vice President of University Events. “They are going to have a great time watching our students, fans and our basketball team.”

GCU Arena will host an ESPN national broadcast of a men's basketball game for the first time when Grand Canyon plays Tarleton at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU.

While men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew previously said it will “shine the national spotlight” on his successful program, he didn’t fail to mention fans and those students called Havocs who bring such jump to the venue.

Passion is on full display among the Havocs.

“It’s going to be what we always do, but amped up because everyone is so excited,” Bleach said. “We are going to try to do some fun things to showcase our students.”

The Havocs have planned a special evening led by students, fully amplified by students.

“Everyone got a little taste at March Madness,” Havocs vice president Cole Baker said of last year’s NCAA tournament appearance, when Havocs drew raves for their enthusiasm in a visiting role. “Now we are at GCU Arena, the craziest in the nation, and we get to show it on a national scale. We can show what we are about.”

Much of it is, of course, unbridled enthusiasm from the ups and downs of an intense basketball game. But there is also planning by a student team of 15 Havocs leaders and staff from several departments.

The Purple Pre-game Party kicks it off with some heart-pounding sounds and sights as students hop to electronic dance music.

“The music is huge. From our Havocs intro to the Purple Pre-game, it’s all coordinated and precise,” Baker said of the multiple hours of work each week that go into it. “We look for music that matches our style.”

That style is fast and united as an entire student section acts as one organism of energy to the beats spun by student DJ Dillan Martinez.

Baker, a junior, describes it to friends from his home state of Washington as a venue everyone must experience once in their life, even if they don’t like basketball.

Some special treats for the game will include the return of an ElectroLope light show, in which fans’ cellphone lights are coordinated with a song.

Special free T-shirts will be issued to 3,000 fans with a neon design and lightning bolt, matching the neon theme of the evening that will give a bright backdrop for the telecast.

“Students go crazy for this neon theme,” Baker said. “Everything will be a full go.”

New game activities will include a highly visual display with hundreds of streamers in the student section and other in-game entertainment during timeouts when ESPN doesn’t cut away to a commercial.

GCU cheerleaders lead the excitement inside GCU Arena.

The entire Spirit Program joins the Havocs in creating the environment, including GCU Dance and Cheer teams, the Thundering Heard Pep Band and mascot Thunder.

The game comes at an interesting time. Many members of GCU’s Dance and Cheer teams departed earlier this week for national championship competitions in Florida. Both teams have won national titles.

But some members of each team stay in Phoenix to perform their magic here.

“The national championship in Orlando does call for some of our most skilled cheerleaders, but for us even our first-year team members were handpicked from across the country for their top-notch crowd-leading abilities,” said Keegan Hubbard, Cheer coach. “No matter the circumstance, the GCU cheerleaders will be there, shoulder to shoulder with our Havocs, helping GCU throw the biggest party in college basketball.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


Related content:

GCU Today: GCU Dance brings home 3rd national Game Day title

GCU Today: GCU Cheer team captures 1st national championship


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