As the final buzzer sounded in Loyola’s 68-61 victory over Illinois State, Gentile Arena fans gave the Ramblers a standing ovation. The game further separated Loyola from the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and marked the first time Gentile Arena has sold out since 2003.
The 4,963 people who showed up for the last home game of the year was a dramatic increase from the previous high of 3,592 earlier in the season against Missouri State University.
Loyola having its best season in 33 years played a large part in increased attendance, but another key factor is the growth of The Pack, Loyola’s official student section. The Pack is led by Marty Breslin, a junior double-majoring in finance and sport management, who also interns in the athletics department.
“We thought this year The Pack’s main objective would be to get people to the game,” Breslin said. “But, we realized like half way through the year that people were going to come [and] we were going to get all of these students there and now it was about keeping them engaged and making them as loud as possible.”
With steady growing attendance, Breslin said The Pack was able to shift its focus from drawing fans into the stadium to making more noise and energy during the game. One of the ways it went about this was the creation of the “Rambler Rules,” which are five “rules” for students to follow to keep them engaged all game while also creating a rowdy environment for the visiting team. The rules include being as loud as possible, not sitting down during the game and yelling “You let the whole team down,” whenever an opponent misses a free throw.
The combination of the Ramblers’ success and the increased energy at the games has created a buzz around campus; this year has been special and students are taking notice.
Marisa Dickens, a sophomore dance and film major, said she’s attended a few games this season.
“There has been a lot more participation in the game,” Dickens said. “I performed a dance piece at halftime of one of the games and there were a lot of fans which was cool.”
One way Loyola and The Pack have been able to build up student attendance and involvement is by creating unique opportunities for student participation within the game such as launching fake burritos for a Chipotle gift card, displaying unique talents such as the dance Dickens performed and shooting baskets in hopes of winning free books for a semester.
Students are aware of the impact this season is having on Loyola as a whole.
“It says that we have a lot of diverse different groups that can perform well and are a good representation of Loyola, not just in academics but athletics as well,” sophomore accounting major Paul Zougras said.
Breslin said he’s excited about the future of The Pack. He’s set for early graduation next fall, so he won’t be as involved next season. However, he remains optimistic The Pack is in good hands and will continue to grow.
“Considering where we are setting the bar, I am so excited for where we can go from here,” Breslin said. “We didn’t know what we were going to end up with. We knew we were going to have a good team, people were going to show up, but we didn’t know that they’re going to show up in this many numbers and with this passion.”