The newly branded George’s Army is kicking off basketball season in the bleachers with more than just a new name.
George’s Army President George Glass said the organization is leaving the Colonial Army name in the past in hopes of revamping the student fan section and increasing participation in games. Now on game days, Glass said George’s Army members can enjoy perks like a 20 percent discount at GW Deli and free merchandise.
He said members of George’s Army are also working to incentivize students to attend more games by charging them a yearly $10 fee to officially join the organization. Previously, Glass said anyone could join the organization, and nearly 1,000 students signed up but “only two of them actually cared about anything.”
“We actually tried to make it more exclusive so that people could engage and feel that they have stakes in being in the org and have stakes in being involved with the athletics department and the basketball teams,” he said.
Glass said non-dues-paying members can still stand with George’s Army during games and cheer in the student section, but they won’t have access to the same benefits as registered members.
Students involved with the group will also receive a free t-shirt and invitations to exclusive events like the basketball season kick-off held last week at the Smith Center Champions Club. Glass said about 40 students attended the event, which featured pizza and speeches from people in the athletics department like Kate Southall, the director of marketing, strategy and fan engagement.
“I wanted to make an organization that could have something available for people regardless of how well the team was doing,” Glass said. “You can come in and still have a pizza party, you can still come in to the Smith Center and feel involved and invested regardless of how well the team is doing.”
Glass said the organization’s rebrand also gave members an opportunity to create more executive board positions beyond the president and vice president. This year, Glass said George’s Army has filled positions like freshman representatives, a game-day promotions director, a photographer and a social media manager.
“It wasn’t very organized, it didn’t really mean anything at all to actually be a member of the Colonial Army, and as the team’s performances dropped, so did interest in the Colonial Army,” Glass said. “…I thought you know, why not change, rebrand, restructure, reintroduce ourselves to campus and then start fresh and new?”
Glass said he wants to grow the organization to at least 100 dues-paying members by the end of the academic year. George’s Army currently tallies 60 members, and Glass said “that’s only going to increase as the year goes by.”
In addition to advertising members’ new perks, Glass said George’s Army members will set up a table in the student entrance of the Smith Center to recruit more students. Interested students can hear about the organization or pay the $10 membership fee on the spot, he said.
George’s Army Vice President Laurel Braaten said the name change will ensure George’s Army is “inclusive” to those who want to be part of a school spirit organization, pointing to the ongoing Colonials moniker controversy.
“It is not a political organization in that sense,” she said. “It’s just we love basketball, and I think that George’s Army is a name which encompasses that without any of the other things that could be going with ‘Colonials’ or name changes that could be going on in the future.”
Braaten added that the e-board aims to continue increasing participation throughout the year. She said athletes and coaches like men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian have expressed appreciation for the group, and she wants the group to continue making an impact on the teams.
“It is also just a great community to be a part of,” Braaten said. “More than anything, I just want more students to feel comfortable coming to these events and want to have these events, and hopefully in the long run, raise some GW pride.”
Stephanie Cheung and Rika Kaneshige contributed reporting.