Student leaders announced plans Sunday to overhaul the Colonial Army, including a name change and more opportunities to cheer from the sidelines.
The organization rebranded itself with the moniker “George’s Army” and plans to offer students perks, like scheduled talks with basketball teams’ coaches and opportunities to travel to away games and attend Smith Center events. Student leaders said they hope the changes will remedy the group’s declining participation and wavering basketball game attendance.
“We thought we needed to hit reset on this org,” junior George Glass, the president of George’s Army, said. “It hasn’t been doing great the past three or four years, so let’s put a brand new coat of paint on it. Let’s restart over the summer and then come back for this new season.”
Members of George’s Army can sit down with men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian and women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti in “chalk talk” sessions this semester to learn more about the team’s strategies and players, Glass said.
He said group members will be provided bus transportation to a select number of away games and can attend events in the Smith Center in spaces previously unavailable to students, like a pizza party in the Colonials Club. Glass said members of the student organization are also working to secure restaurant discounts on game days.
George’s Army will also receive a refurbished logo, but Glass called the name change the “cherry on top.” He said members of the group’s executive board wanted to center the organization around one figure and chose the University’s mascot, George.
Glass said the organization did not consider the recent push for the University to ditch the Colonials nickname as a reason to rename the group.
“We just really looked at it from a perspective of outreach to students,” Glass said. “We thought the name, regardless of the politics around it, was dull and that we could do much better.”
On average, men’s basketball’s home attendance has decreased by about 250 people per season since the 2014-15 season, with the 2018-19 season reaching 2,382 people per home game – its lowest average turnout since the 2010-11 season.
The women’s team has attracted fluctuating numbers of people to the Smith Center, peaking at a decade-high 1,064 fans per home game during the Colonials’ 2015-16 campaign before declining to 765 people per home game last season. The average home game attendance was on the rise for the 2018-19 season, reaching 984 fans.
Glass said the lackluster 2018-19 campaigns from the men’s and women’s basketball programs also prompted the changes. He said the organization needed to conjure new ways to excite fans even when the two teams were losing.
“We felt that by offering other stuff for people to come and get excited about beside the game, that would be able to engage the fanbase over a longer period of time,” he said.
The men’s team finished the year 9–24 and 6–11 at the Smith Center. The women’s squad ended its season 10–20 with six wins and nine losses on its home court.
Junior ShanTorrian Underwood, an executive board member, said members of George’s Army will reach out to the GW community about both sporting and organization events through email, flyers and posters around campus.
“Just really finding ways that students will know about the events, that means going into student spaces and just letting them know,” Underwood said.
Senior executive board member Charlotte Gaynor said a lack of communication between prospective members and the former executive boards prevented her from joining the Colonial Army her freshman year. She said members of the rebranded organization want to foster an environment where people feel part of a larger community.
“They just don’t have to come to the basketball games or any sports games just as themselves, but they can come with other students from GW and be part of the student section,” Gaynor said.
Gaynor added that members of the organization are looking to expand their support to teams outside of the two basketball programs in the future.
“We also have people who are a part of George’s Army who are on different sports teams, and so I think by having those people here, it gives us even more of a push to be more inclusive of all the sports and going to other events,” she said.
Gaynor, who rowed in high school, said she has experienced the uplifting power that a strong fanbase can hold and wants George’s Army to support GW’s athletes in the same way.
“It’s so nice just knowing that you have fans and people there to support you,” Gaynor said. “And it’s when you’re in a moment and you are just like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t think I can do this anymore,’ and then you just hear someone cheering you on, you’re like, ‘No, I can do it. I’ve got this. I know there are people here rooting for me.’”