In the world of the University of Richmond men's and women's basketball, mayhem ensues long before March Madness rolls around.
The third-annual Spider Mayhem, an event hosted by the Richmond Rowdies, is a pep rally for the Richmond community to come together to support the men's and women's basketball teams before they begin their seasons.
This year's Spider Mayhem will take place at the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness at 9 p.m. on Oct. 29. Senior president of the Rowdies, Ryan Erickson-Kulas, said that the event should last for about 90 minutes, so there will still be plenty of time to celebrate Halloween weekend.
"Our first year was very successful, and last year we had an increase in attendance, so we're hoping for an even bigger turnout this year," he said. "This is an important event to get people excited for the men's and women's teams, since both teams are projected to do well this season."
Sophomore Andrew Sawch, vice president of Spider Mayhem for the Rowdies, said that Spider Mayhem is an event similar to events larger schools do for their basketball programs.
"Most big schools have something called Midnight Madness, which is a giant pep rally to kick off their official start to NCAA-sanctioned practices," he said. "But we think that Spider Mayhem is a better event because it is more inclusive for not only the fans but also the team."
The men's team finished last season with a trip to the NCAA Tournament and an Associated Press Top-25 Poll ranking of No. 24. The team opened practice last weekend. The Spiders are returning 14 of 16 players from the team that tied a school record for wins with a 26-9 record, including a 13-3 mark in the Atlantic 10. Richmond appeared in the A-10 championship game and was a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The women's team also had a strong 2009-2010 season. The team enters a new season after finishing with its second-straight 20-win season and second consecutive post-season appearance, both National Women's Invitational Tournament bids. The Spiders made it to the second round of the WNIT before falling to Syracuse University.
"We want to get the hype up early for both teams, to encourage students and fans to come out to their home games," Erickson-Kulas said.
Sawch said that the event was not limited to students and the teams.
"Everyone in the Spider community is encouraged and welcome to come to the event," he said. "And that's what I think the best part of the event is. It's incredibly accessible to everyone and it allows people to have great face time with the team in a fun setting."
Sawch said that the planning of Spider Mayhem began in the summer by reserving a DJ and securing a partnership with Papa John's Pizza, along with technical logistics such as a projector, lighting and sound system.
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"As the year started, it became more of a logistical aspect with how all of the Rowdies would be able to contribute and to be able to fill the necessary roles so that the event runs smoothly," he said.
Sawch said that the Rowdies acted like a bridge between the student body and the athletic department in terms of advertising and communication.
"Since we don't have direct access to the basketball teams, we need them [athletic department] to help delegate what we want and what they want," he said.
Sophomore Kelsey Dochelli, a member of the Rowdies executive board, said that Jana Ross, the Rowdies adviser and assistant director of athletics/marketing & fan development, has been a huge help in the planning and execution of Spider Mayhem.
"Jana has definitely been an integral part of our planning process, especially in securing raffle prizes and giveaways," Dochelli said.
Ross said that she and Kevin Dwan, director of marketing & sales, serve as advisers to the Rowdies and that they allow the students to do most of the planning.
"We usually meet with the Rowdies periodically to help with scripting the event and with the logistical side of things," Ross said.
She said that Spider Mayhem was a fun event to start off the season and with the anticipation of both teams performing well this season, many members of the campus community were ready to see the teams in action.
Some of the door prizes available for all of those who attend Spider Mayhem include Richmond Rowdies shot glasses and Livestrong-like Spider basketball wristbands. Other incentives for early arrival at the event include entry to raffle opportunities, such as participating in the dribbling contest with the women's team, the dunk contest with the men's team and one of the most highly anticipated prizes, a chance to win free tuition.
Erickson-Kulas said that prizes range from gift certificates to t-shirts, but the best prize is the potential of free tuition.
"If one lucky student completes a lay-up, a free throw, a three-point shot and a half-court shot in a certain time limit, that student wins free tuition for one academic year," he said.
Erickson-Kulas, Dochelli and Sawch all agreed that though this would be a short but fun event, it was important for the campus community to come out and get excited for the season.
Sawch said, "It is important for the players to know that the students support the teams as they gear up toward their first games."
Dochelli echoed Sawch and also added that the event planners hope to show people that the students are spirited about athletics.
"Our school spirit really has been challenged a lot this year," she said. "But we just want to show people that while we are a small school, we have just as much school spirit and pride."
Contact staff writer Amelia Vogler at email@example.com
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