GW athletics’ student fan group wiped away its $25 fee Wednesday to help spark interest in a basketball program that finished in the cellar of the Atlantic 10 in attendance last year.
The Colonial Army, which gives students priority seating in the Smith Center, got a jolt of funding from the Department of Athletics and Recreation to allow it to drop its fee and bring in new members. Colonial Army co-president Ian Mellul said 250 new members signed up within the first two hours of the announcement – which he said would help turn around a relatively disinterested fan base.
“We’ve been suffering. Our culture is very unique to that there is not much spirit, and I think this is our idea of addressing the spirit idea at GW,” “Just by interest, we’re looking at overnight an army of several thousand as opposed to a several hundred.”
Members who sign up will receive the same perks as given to paying members in previous years, which also include t-shirts, bracelets, key chains and priority seating at GW basketball games. Those that have already paid dues will be given the opportunity to receive a refund, or have their fee donated to GW athletics’ fundraising drive, the Buff and Blue Fund.
The announcement comes on the verge of the men’s basketball team’s home opener against Radford this Friday. Last year, GW averaged 2,554 spectators per game – ahead only of No. 15 Fordham.
In the eyes of spirit leaders, making it easier to join will make people more likely to attend games, with the goal of getting “every student in the Smith Center at least once,” Mellul said.
Partnering with the athletic department, GW’s premier student fan group will receive financial support from Athletic Director Patrick Nero and company. The athletic department’s financial sponsorship covers the costs of all the merchandise usually given out only to those that paid the enrollment fee.
“We couldn’t be happier with Patrick Nero, our athletic director,” Mellul said. “He is the most engaged administrator on campus that cares the most about students. His input is honest, he’s got our back.”
Mellul said Nero hatched the idea and then approached Colonial Army leaders about making it happen.
Talks of needing to raise student spirit levels started at last year’s Raise High summit, hosted by Nero and Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller, but the plan was not put into place until last week.
“Do I think this will 100 percent address the spirit problem at GW? No,” Mellul said.”But it’s the biggest step the University has made since the Colonial Army was started. This is the best move we’re making.”
Mellul did not know yet how much money the athletics department would put in to cover the organization’s costs. Nero did not immediately return a request for comment.