The Cameron Crazies. The Izzone. The Grateful Red.
All three student sections from Duke, Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively, are known for being some of the most boisterous and passionate fans in the nation. Is there a new name to add to the list? Something to the tune of Ryken’s Rowdies, perhaps?
Of course, it’s a bit ridiculous to compare Wheaton’s newest student section to those of large D1 schools with tens of thousands of students enrolled. Yet, for Wheaton, it is encouraging to have the option of borrowing from these past models of success. In order to understand the concept of Ryken’s Rowdies, though, the roots must be traced back to the man behind this whole idea: Rusty Lindsey.
Lindsey, Wheaton Athletics’ communications assistant, has been mulling over the idea of Ryken’s Rowdies since last school year. After seeing occasionally sparse student crowds at some Thunder sporting events, the Rowdies became something of his brainchild, modeled after his passion for Thunder athletics, going back over six years ago. As a Wheaton student, Lindsey attended every game he could and cheered until his voice became hoarse. Like many students, his Thunder enthusiasm knew no end.
“It was a passion of mine when I was a student to encourage people to be at games since it just made it a lot more fun,” said Lindsey.
After graduating in 2011, Lindsey took over numerous responsibilities for Wheaton’s Athletics office, including assistant baseball coach and athletic communications assistant. The more he continued to be around the Thunder sports atmosphere, the more he began to hear old tales of a legendary on-campus group called the Crusader Crazies.
Up until 2000, Wheaton College’s mascot was the Crusader. During this time, especially when the school’s basketball and soccer teams were dominant, the students formed a fanatical student section called the Crusader Crazies who showed up in droves to attend Wheaton’s sporting events. Lindsey explained that this atmosphere was the driving inspiration for this year’s inception of the Rowdies.
This atmosphere, paired with the shift of “game day promotions” to the athletics communications office’s domain, gave Lindsey the opportunity to rebirth the energy of the student section that was discontinued in 2000.
“I talked to President Ryken about it and then farmed it through a few different people to see if it was a good idea and get a feel for if it was something Wheaton students could get behind,” Lindsey explained. “The response was overwhelmingly positive.”
The idea to use the name of Wheaton’s president, an unabashed sport fan, in the title was a natural choice. Attend any sporting event over the course of the school year and, odds are, President Ryken will either be there, have been there or will be on his way to the event.
“As a lifelong fan of Wheaton College sports, I’m excited about anything that shows real school spirit and supports our student-athletes,” explained Ryken. “Putting my name and face on a t-shirt wouldn’t be the first thing I would come up with, but I hope it catches on. Maybe the alliteration will help.”
After gaining the president’s approval, Lindsey and his assistants designed orange t-shirts with a blue Ryken’s Rowdies logo. The shirts are $10 and all proceeds will be applied to giveaways for this year’s sporting events. However, there’s a catch: a student must be wearing a shirt to win the giveaway. This way, the shirts serve a dual purpose. Not only do they spread school spirit and give students entrance to the exclusive Ryken’s Rowdies “club,” those who wear the shirts have an opportunity to win prizes at on-campus games and meets like volleyball, soccer, football, wrestling and basketball.
“When our sports teams are great, our fans are great,” explained Lindsey. “When we’re okay or not great, that’s when you see attendance drop off.”
Lindsey’s dream is for Thunder fans to support the idea and show up in seas of orange during these events regardless of the team’s record — reviving an old tradition he describes as “culture cultivation.” Plus, potential future innovations may include clothing diversity with jackets, hats, long sleeve shirts, towels or even bro tanks.
“Hopefully with this freshman group, they’ll see how it works and it will become the norm,” said Lindsey.
Presidential support, an alliterated name and enthused leadership? Check, check and check. All that’s left now is recruiting a mass of rowdy Wheaties ready to cheer.