By Cody Soto
When fans and spectators sit down to watch a Baylor basketball game at the Ferrell Center, they will notice a lot of energy comes from behind the basket. Originally a club, the Baylor Bear Pit looks to create a unique fan experience for each spectator that walks through the doors of the stadium.
The tides have turned since the original installation of the former club, and after a Student Senate bill proposed to disband the Bear Pit in 2012, a number of changes have occurred.
In its original format, members were required to pay an initial fee and purchase a black and yellow striped jersey to wear to each game. Since it is no longer a club, none of those regulations exist.
The Bear Pit has developed its brand over the past few years and took a step forward this year with the installation of new bleachers at the front of the student section. Last year, the Bear Pit had its own bleachers courtside, creating a disjointed atmosphere within the student section.
“Whenever we had the section separated, the people on the ground were going crazy, but the other people in the stands were just sitting there with their hands in their laps,” Belton senior Emily Waits said.
With the reconstruction of the student section along with the hashtag #BUnited as their season-long motto, Bear Pit leadership members want students to understand that the Bear Pit is the student body, Chico, Calif. senior Matt Strickland said.
“The entire goal we’ve been pushing is to be together,” he said. “We’re a fan of the way the new student section is now, and it’s helping them realize that it’s not a separation. It’s a community between all of the students.”
The Bear Pit works closely with Baylor Athletics and the marketing department in order to provide fans with an optimal experience at the Ferrell Center.
The leadership team has invested its time to be involved with many promotions that happen throughout the season. The whiteout game against Iowa State on Jan. 14 was a product of the collaboration between marketing and the student organization.
“It’s really important that we work together and communicate closely,” Great Falls, Va., senior Andrew Miner said. “The whiteout game was something that leadership wanted to see come to life. Originally we wanted to do it for the Texas A&M game, but we learned that they were going to produce T-shirts for the Iowa State game, so we held out.”
The unity of the leadership team has grown to be an essential part of the Bear Pit’s success. Waits said one of the biggest goals of the Bear Pit is to create fans that will keep coming back.
“We want to establish a committed fan base rather than just the wild, crazy fans. We want people who love their team and the game,” Waits said. “Especially with promotions, we don’t just people to come for that. That’s been a big goal for us.”
A good home court advantage is important in basketball, especially in Big 12 conference play. With a top 25 matchup likely to happen every week, the Bears have been able to rally behind a large crowd and come away with an impressive home record in the past two years.
The yelling and chanting does not go unnoticed. Baylor basketball head coaches Scott Drew and Kim Mulkey have mentioned how thankful they are of the crowd during their respective post-game press conference, and the players have taken notice as well.
“When we played Texas A&M, after the game the men’s basketball players came over to the student section and gave us high fives. We got so excited that they recognized that we did a good job,” Strickland said. “By them doing that, that inspires fans to continue to do the same thing. The players like what we’re doing.”
However, it isn’t always easy to get students to the game when things aren’t going so well for Baylor basketball. During the Bears’ downward slide in conference play last season, the Bear Pit had to dig deep in order to bring students to games.
“Last year when the men went on a losing streak, no one wanted to show up,” Waits said. “We can’t do anything about that, but it’s about making sure we put our best foot forward. It’s all about how we portray ourselves. We needed to get across to the students that the Ferrell Center is a fun, exciting place even when we’re not doing so well. We can still be energetic. ”
Ultimately, the vision of the Bear Pit leadership isn’t focused on this season. It’s the seasons that have yet to be started that are on their minds when making their decisions. The reconstruction of the Bear Pit has allowed Baylor to move forward as one of the top stadiums to watch a basketball game.
“We see a process and an emphasis on promoting basketball within the Bear Pit,” Miner said. “Internally, we needed to have the manpower to do that and think on a bigger picture. I didn’t want to think about things to happen in my time at Baylor, but for a years after we graduate.”
Now, when students scan their IDs at the entrance of the Ferrell Center, the ticket indicates where they belong: the Bear Pit.
“This section is all for students, and we want everybody to get to the Ferrell Center to experience the atmosphere and support the Bears,” Miner said. “Both programs are doing fantastic under Coach Scott Drew and Kim Mulkey, so we have to get the word out.”