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Best Student Sections

The top five, including the crowing of our No. 1

Posted: Wednesday February 22, 2006 12:17PM; Updated: Friday March 3, 2006 5:52PM
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Other than a cappella singing groups, there is nothing as unique to the college experience as student sections. And while post-grads shudder at the thought of sitting through a rendition of "Blue Moon" by the Whiffenpoofs or the Beelzebubs, memories of days spent bouncing in the student section cause pangs of nostalgia deep within their core.

Are Ashley Judd sightings in the  eRUPPtion Zone enough to vault Kentucky to the top?
Are Ashley Judd sightings in the eRUPPtion Zone enough to vault Kentucky to the top?
Photo by AP
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On college campuses, football may be king but basketball student sections rule. With space limited, Darwin's Survival of the Fittest theorem dictates that only those who can survive in a tent on pizza without showering evolve into unique species identifiable by their distinct color, language and movements. Yesterday we counted down from 10 to six; today we give you the top five. Did your school's student section survive the cut or was it overtaken by a more powerful beast?

5. Florida

Our house: With a capacity of 12,000, the O-Dome is like a pro facility, but the arena feels like an old-time gym. The student section, the Rowdy Reptiles, fills a sideline of the lower bowl. Students nearly touch the court, a disheartening thought for the visiting team subjected to a 40 minutes of harassment.

Signs of madness: If you're an opposing player, you don't want to foul out at the O-Dome because the fans are brutal. Instead of playing the usual "Hit The Road Jack" over the PA, the fans chant, "left, right, left, right" until the player takes a seat on the bench. A recent poster read "UK -- Undrafted Kids" -- poking fun at Kentucky's lack of pro stars in recent seasons.

Dress for success: Did you forget your orange-and-blue afro? Then don't bother trying to become a Rowdy Reptile. Puffy hair wigs are as common as any orange-and-blue T-shirt. The school gives out free T-shirts at many games, and students always show up decked out in Gators gear. There's also the pack of fans dressed like Batman, Superman and other comic book heroes.

The ticket: Seats are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, but students must register online for anything in the arena. Fans that attend at least 10 games are given Rowdy Reptile status for the following season. It guarantees an earlier registration time, but they must arrive early if they want to sit in the Rowdy Reptile section. Students who register for a game and don't show up are automatically banned for the next contest.

Overtime: There's no doubting the decibel level at the O-Dome. When the fans are on, you'd be hard-pressed to find a louder arena in college basketball. But fans can't rush the court, something they desperately wanted to do after the Gators ended an eight-game losing streak to Kentucky last year. Coach Billy Donovan and AD Jeremy Foley have spoken out against court-storming and there's plenty of security to ensure that it doesn't happen. Several Florida players have said publicly they'd like fans to celebrate a big win on the court.

- Andrew Abramson

4. Michigan State

Our house: What began as a few hundred students sitting in a corner of the Breslin Center developed into the largest student section in college basketball. Three-fourths of the lower bowl -- including the area behind either basket - is taken up by almost 1,500 Izzone members, named for Spartans coach Tom Izzo. Last season, another section was added, spanning half of the upper bowl bleachers. Opposing players get verbally abused by 4,000 students throughout the game. 

Signs of madness: This season, students get dry-erase poster boards before games so they can write their own one-liners. Notables: "My Grandma Has the Hots for Shannon Brown," "Remember the Comb-over" (against Gene Keady-less Purdue), and "Chuck Norris + Vin Diesel = Tom Izzo (Minus the Beard)". As opposing players are introduced, the students hold up newspapers and yell, "Who cares?" If an opposing player commits a foul, everyone points at him and chants, "You! You! You!" When one fouls out, the crowd holds a monotone until he sits down, at which point it yells, "See ya!"

Dress for success: The white Izzone T-shirt is a must. (Slogan on the back: Always Imitated. Never Duplicated.)  There have been Superfans (pillow under the shirt, hula skirt, sunglasses, fake mustache), the Spartan Pope (What Would Jud Do?) and the Green Man Group (painted green from head to toe).

The ticket: New Izzone members must enter a lottery. Ticket holders who want a shot at lower-bowl seats must attend a camp out in September. More than 1,000 attend. Tents pepper the IM field, and students pass the time with homework, barbecues, football games and visits from the team. Returning lower-bowl members who have completed the camp out and missed two games or fewer the previous season are given first priority. A lower bowl Izzone seat is the ultimate currency at MSU.

Overtime: Just before tipoff, everyone inflates a paper bag and pops it when MSU scores its first basket. In the first half, when the shot clock reaches 10 for the opponent, everyone starts counting down from seven. In the second half, they start counting down from 10 when the clock reads seven. Works all the time.

- Tom Keller

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