Jonathan Donkers (left), Brandon Rivera (right).
In front of an audience of roughly 30 students in the Hall of Fame room of the Chiles Center last Thursday, ASUP President Brandon Rivera and Junior Senator Jonathan Donkers gave a presentation about their plans to rebrand “Purple Pride” and to revitalize the student section at men’s basketball games.
Most students know Rivera as their ASUP president, but he also works as a marketing intern in the Pilots Athletic Department.
“I’m wearing my marketing hat,” Rivera said. “This is a project Jonathan and I did because we are pretty passionate about basketball.”
The goal of the project is to establish an organization focused on creating a game day experience that is both dynamic and engaging for the student body. It will be led by an executive board — consisting of a President, Vice President, Director of Communications, Graphic Designer and Program Director. Students who are interested in leadership positions within the organization should contact Rivera or Donkers, and will be encouraged to apply and interview. The process will be expedited so that leaders can work and plan over the summer. Each member of the board would have an annual stipend of $3,000, according to Donkers.
According to Rivera, the membership fee for the organization will be around $25. The Athletics Department would initially support stipends and funding for the events.
“As the program starts getting its feet,” said Rivera, “The funding would come from the fee that new students would pay to be apart of it.”
In the planning process, which took around four months, Rivera and Donkers sought out success stories from student sections at other college across the country while developing their own proposal specifically for UP. The plan is expected to follow the model of Gonzaga’s “Kennel Club,” the “Gael Force” at Saint Mary’s, “Los Locos” at University of San Francisco, “The Red Scare” at Dayton University and “The Havocs” at Grand Canyon University.
Rivera and Donkers say the organization will not be called Purple Pride moving forward, as they plan to rebrand the student section concept on The Bluff. Rivera says some students have suggested constructing a boat in the student section and calling the organization, “The Pirates”.
Pilot Marketing and Promotions Manager Jon Brooks suggested ‘The Nautics,’ a name that many students in attendance reacted positively to. ‘Purple Plague’ was also mentioned.
“We’re not set on the name or the theme of our student section yet,” Rivera said.
But they do know what the group would be there to do: UP’s organization would host pregame socials, theme nights, athlete meet-and-greets and establish a social media presence similar to those of other institutions with successful student section organizations.
In addition to the external research they conducted, Rivera and Donkers have also sought the suggestions and feedback of Pilot fans on campus. With the exception of Schoenfeldt and Fields Hall (due to a scheduling conflict), the pair attended Hall Council meetings at every dorm.
Most on-campus students echoed the sentiments gathered from the external research, according to Rivera and Donkers’ presentation.
The pair also gathered information from off-campus students, who suggested the instatement of ‘Midnight Madness’— an annual, fan-friendly event put on by many schools across the country where the first official basketball practice is open to the public. Also proposed was a game day tent near the Chiles Center for pregame festivities, more support for the dance team and the sale of beer in Chiles.
Men’s Basketball Team Manager and senior Collin Haahr says he thinks Rivera and Donkers’ goals are realistic. Coming off a tumultuous season for the Pilots — a year in which a 14-game losing streak and 11-22 record diminished the excitement surrounding Terry Porter’s first season as head coach — Haahr believes the changes could have a big impact on the team culture, and the relationship between athletes and students.
“As long as you get the kids showing up, you can get this done in a year, you know?” Haahr said. “The whole winning aspect of it might be a little different, obviously. Because that has got to come from recruiting and sustained success on the court. But we can win in the student section tomorrow if we really want to.”
Although this student organization would technically exist separately from the Athletic Department, Brooks made it clear that Athletics would support the student initiative.
“This is up to you guys,” Brooks said, “If you want it, I guarantee we’re gonna support it.”