By Tyler Bui | Assistant News Editor
Baylor’s Bear Pit, the student section for both men and women’s basketball games, is a place for students to show their support with costumes, face paint and spirit.
Headed by the Bear Pit Leadership Team, the Bear Pit leads basketball fans in chants, cheers and is in charge of creating the overall atmosphere and experience for fans at basketball games.
Santa Maria, Calif., sophomore Lauren Engel, social media chair for the Bear Pit Leadership Team, said the Bear Pit is a great way to unite the student body through the love of basketball.
“I think it’s a really great way for students to be a part of something — to come and cheer at the basketball games and not just sit in random seats. [For them] to be part of the Bear Pit, it’s just a big group of students who have the same want for the team to win,” Engel said.
Engel said the Bear Pit brings a sense of student leadership to campus that unites Baylor through spirit and tradition.
“We deliver a good atmosphere where students can show their Baylor spirit in a good, healthy way,” Engel said. “Baylor is such a spirited school in general, and I feel like that’s why a lot of people choose to come to Baylor, because you are part of something bigger. I think it’s important to have different organizations on campus that can carry out that sense of Baylor tradition.”
Currently, there are 18 members on the Bear Pit Leadership Team. San Angelo senior Cheyenne Elliott is the team’s president. Looking back on the Bear Pit’s history, Elliott said that the organization has grown significantly in past years.
“About ten years ago, it used to be that you bought a $50 jersey and that made you a part of the Bear Pit,” Elliott said. “You got snacks, you got courtside seats, but it was only for men’s games. It was about six years ago that we transitioned to both men’s and women’s games. We are there for both of the games, we travel sometimes to games like UT and TCU, the closer ones that are our bigger rivals.
Today, the leadership team works to expand their outreach to students and find new ways to connect the Baylor community together even outside of basketball games.
“Outside of game day, we do a lot of event planning. We’re a part of homecoming,” Elliott said. “We’re trying to set up for the future and expand the Bear Pit. We have gotten a lot of feedback from faculty members saying, ‘Hey, we want you guys to be more integrated into student life.’ We would love to hear from students about what they want to see at basketball games or what they expect to see from us on social media or on campus.”
Frisco junior Mark Liles is the marketing coordinator for the Bear Pit Leadership Team. When asked about his experience with the organization, Liles said he has looked up to the Bear Pit since he was a kid and couldn’t wait to join once he was at Baylor.
“My dad went to Baylor and I grew up in North Dallas, so I’ve been going to Baylor games my whole life,” Liles said. “I remember going to games at age 5 or 6 and I remember seeing the students wearing the black and yellow shirts, cool hats and sitting in the front row in these costumes and I remember being like, ‘This is awesome.’ Being a huge basketball fan growing up and knowing I have always wanted to come to Baylor, I thought what better way to transition from me being a fan to getting to do what I idolized.”
Westport, Conn., junior Griffin Drum, game day chair and vice president of the Bear Pit Leadership Team, said that the Bear Pit and the Bear Pit Leadership Team not only represents students but Baylor fans as a whole.
“I can’t really imagine the games without the Bear Pit because I think it would be less fun for students to go to games,” Drum said. “We have people who reach out to us on social media who aren’t students and talk about the stuff we do and recommend chants for us to do. If the Bear Pit wasn’t there and we weren’t leading the chants and setting up the student section, it would be harder for the fans even outside of the students to get into [the games.]”
Elliott said Baylor’s sense of community is unique, and the Bear Pit helps to unite the community through the shared love of Baylor sports.
“There’s a sense of tradition and spirit that someone has to maintain to make people get chills during that Good Old Baylor Line and it’s going to happen some point in your Baylor career,” Elliott said. “Even Kim Mulkey will say stuff about how the Bear Pit brings to life all the energy that the adults really want to put forward. When we say the Bear Pit is for everyone and 2,000 students show up to support the basketball team, it’s not just for the sake of sports—it’s because we are Baylor. There’s something different about our community.”