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Commentary: Let the student section hold up signs

BY IAN MARTIN | FEBRUARY 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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At every men’s basketball game, there are maybe 100 people in the student section.

Typically, two friends and I occupy the front row in the corner, with three other people always behind us.

On the other side is the kid in the Kernels’ baseball jersey, along with an assortment of people deciding to use at least one of their season tickets for the year.

Yet, no matter how many people are at a game, there is one thing you’ll never see: fan-made signs.

Currently, holding up a homemade banner or sign is illegal in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Not even a small sign. Not even during time-outs.

This is just another reason students don’t want to go to Iowa basketball games.

I, like a few faithful others, pine for the Hawks Nest to one day become a legitimate basketball student section. Having sat in more vocal groups, such as the Hoya Blue at Georgetown and the ’Hoo Crew at the University of Virginia, it just makes me curious what could be done to enhance the student section tucked in the south corner of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

While a successful team is probably the best way to attract new students to the Nest, letting those who are there now have signs could enhance the experience.

Tim McLaughlin, the president of the Hawks Nest, who supports signs in the student section, said “from a fan’s perspective, it’s discouraging because you want to show your support, and it’s a popular way to do that.”

That’s right. It’s one more thing preventing kids from attending basketball games.

One reason I was told the rule is in place is that the signs may interfere with other patrons. But even if there are people behind the student section — and at most games there are not — many wouldn’t hoist signs during play, just during pregame and time-outs.

This is not the policy at some Big Ten schools; several have embraced signs in their sections.

At Indiana, the Crimson Crazies use “Famous Faces” to support their team — large heads of either players, coaches, or celebrities to excite the crowd. They’re humorous, creative, and held up only when play stops.

At Minnesota, signs are allowed the entire game, although there is a size restriction.

Both of these ideas work. There is no obstruction, and it doesn’t interfere with the game. It just gives students something to do during time-outs.

Scott Arey, an assistant athletics director at Northwestern University, having signs in the student section is positive.

“[Having signs] typically led to humorous results,” he said. “In general, it think it adds a little bit of value to our student fans experience.”

Another concern is that signs may be vulgar or inappropriate. While subjective, if something is too vulgar, security can simply tell students to put their signs down.

This could even be a clause in the new rule about offensive signs and how signs should not attack the opposing team or any one player.

It may seem like nitpicking, but signs could help the student experience in our current abomination of a section.

Some schools even supply their sections with signs or set up tables with the materials for signs, while we’re preventing people from being clever and supporting the team.


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