The crowd was electric as a sea of blue packed into the bleachers on the home side of the College’s Lions Stadium, with students hopeful that the football team would bring home a win in its season opener game last Friday.
But while a win wasn’t in store for the team, it was an overwhelming display of school spirit that made its debut.
Igniting the fall season with an explosion of school pride, the College’s “Blue Out” was an obvious success in lifting morale for Lions football with approximately 1,400 cheering in the stands, according to Tim Asher, director of student affairs.
The “Blue Out” encouraged attendees of the opening football game to sit together in the crowd with blue attire, face paint and accessories in order to stand united as one school.
But despite the poor showing on the field, the outstanding performance by the students of the College proved to be the best spirit showing in years, according to several students.
“In my three years at TCNJ, it was nice to finally see everyone together for an event other than Homecoming, and I would love to see this support happen more often,” junior finance major Michael D’Agostino said.
The event was coordinated by the athletic program in partnership with student affairs, dining services and sports information, according to David Muha, associate vice president for communications, marketing and brand management.
“I thought it was a great idea that was executed well,” D’Agostino said. “I think it succeeded in uniting the school.”
Muha was also pleased with the freshmen attendance at the game — a turnout that was able to mark their first college football game in style. He said the new students were a major factor in making it a memorable event on campus.
“The turnout for the football opener was the best we have had in many years,” Muha said. “The concept for the ‘Blue Out’ was a great one because it made the evening at the stadium more than just a football game — it was an exciting college experience. The ‘Blue Out’ was a great way to pull everyone together to support our team and have a great time.”
The feeling of unity at the College, however, seems to be a new concept to several of the veteran students such as D’Agostino, who finds himself typically yearning for more showings of the school pride that was on hand Friday night.
“I’m actually quite disappointed with the support our student body usually shows,” D’Agostino said. “Very few students show up to the sporting events at TCNJ, resulting in an extremely underwhelming environment for the players.”
But Friday was a step in the right direction, he said.
Muha thinks “there’s plenty of school spirit here,” but he understands that students are often busy and can’t always show it.
The blue crowd in the stands wasn’t just a show of spirit with the colors of the school, however. The color blue has been found to be commonly associated with confidence, according to the College’s website. Therefore, the school has found a way to double the meaning of the color in order to unite the students and promote confidence in the athletic program.
Katie Yorke, a junior diplomacy major, hopes that supporting the athletic program can become a permanent staple at the College.
“I wouldn’t say we’re not a proud school. I think we just have a lack of student involvement with TCNJ athletics,” Yorke said, missing the large attendance at sporting events that she often found prevalent at her high school, Pearl River high school in New York.
But feeling similar to D’Agostino, Yorke would like the spirited start to the year to find its way back soon.
“It would be great to see more events like “Blue Out,” Yorke said. “It would be cool to branch outside of football. I know there are other sports teams that are equally as good or better that definitely deserve some support, too.”
With crowd attendance noticeably dwindling during home games at the College, several students mentioned that having more events like “Blue Out” would help bring people to games, following the similar model of large Division I schools like Penn State, who have annual “white and blue outs” at games.
Yorke even suggested that the athletic department take student participation to another level by offering busing for big away games in support of the College’s different varsity teams.
“With busing to big away games, we would be able to bring a piece of TCNJ wherever the teams travel to make them feel more at home,” Yorke said.
She also suggested making the event annual, while also finding ways to incorporate it into this year’s Homecoming — noting that the success of the “Blue Out” should be a sign for its continuation.
“I think it would be cool to incorporate ‘Blue Out’ into Homecoming every year in order to unify the student body more,” Yorke said. “It would offset the separation of each of the school’s organizations at the Homecoming tailgate. Wearing blue would be the unifying factor of the day to remind us all that no matter what groups we’re in, we’re all Lions at heart.”