Bright lights. Screaming fans. Stadiums filled to the brim. This is part of the college experience, especially when you’re an ASU Sun Devil. However, with the unprecedented shift from live sporting events to streaming games on personal devices, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has regressed college sports and its fans.
But that's not the case for Arizona State University students.
At the start of the pandemic, many things were left up in the air, especially for students and athletes who weren’t sure when sporting events would return. Nevertheless, the 942 Crew, an ASU student section group that strives to increase student attendance at ASU athletic events, has learned how to adapt and thrive during this uncertain time.
Junior Committee Chair Catherine Antuna from 942 Crew said that even though ASU students can’t physically attend games, the 942 Crew continues to promote Sun Devil spirit through their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Prior to COVID-19, Antuna, who is head of game experience within the organization, explained that to promote ASU school spirit the 942 Crew would make themed posters and innovate ways to create a welcoming environment for ASU students and athletes at sporting events. Currently, students have the opportunity to post game-day selfies while sporting their ASU gear and holding up a piece of paper with words of encouragement to support Sun Devil student-athletes and teams.
“Even though we’re not (physically) there we still have that pride,” Antuna said. “We’re still proud to be Sun Devils and we’re not afraid to show it.”
Additionally, Antuna explained that the 942 Crew is continuing to run their social media accounts, which collectively have over 15,000 followers, as if they are still attending games in person. The group consistently live tweets ASU games, posts game-day graphics, engages with other Pac-12 schools’ Twitter accounts, and highlights athletic performances from both ASU and competitor sports’ teams.
“We’re still running everything like we’re in person, we’re just not there unfortunately,” said Antuna, a sophomore studying sports business at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
COVID-19 led to an opportunity for innovation: recreating the 942 Crew’s infamous “Curtain of Distraction,” which involves students popping out to do funny skits and humorous actions to distract opposing basketball team players during free-throw attempts, in a remote fashion. Antuna explained that this quirky innovation is now known as the “static curtain.”
Since members of the 942 Crew and ASU students aren’t able to physically attend games, the organization created non-moving skits made out of pipe stick figures that are dressed up and placed behind the curtain. The curtain is opened at the start of the second half of each game by a facilities manager and whoever is broadcasting gives the curtain some air time and acknowledgement.
The 942 Crew has also partnered with other groups on new events to encourage students to continue to have school spirit and to not heavily rely on digital interactions — such as on-campus watch parties during fall football season encouraging students to come together and support the ASU football team ... in a COVID-19-appropriate manner, of course. These watch parties were made successful through a partnership between Educational Outreach and Student Services, the Sun Devil Fitness Center, the Programming and Activities Board, 942 Crew, ASU Greek Representation, the Student Alumni Association and the ASU Residence Hall Association.
Partnerships through the 942 Crew and the Black African Coalition at ASU have encouraged students to be involved in campus activities while celebrating important observances such as Black History Month. A “COVID-19-friendly scavenger hunt” was put in the works, open to all ASU students on every campus as a way to keep the community bond alive through these nonsociable times.
“It was a way for us to engage with not only our exec members, but with the general student population at ASU in partnership with the coalition for Black History Month,” Antuna said.
Through social media, the 942 Crew posted riddles to where the location of the scavenger hunt was on each campus. Once students found the location, they had three options of participation: fill out a Google form with a picture of themselves, make a poster or letter to support an ASU sports team, or post a picture on Instagram with the hashtags #BlackJoy or #BHMSunDevilPride.
According to Antuna, the event had a great turnout — students from all four campuses participated, and the posters, letters and pictures were used for four different ASU sports games that were held during Black History Month.
Antuna expressed how the 942 Crew has always tried to bring the ASU sports community together and that it’s not going to go away during the pandemic. She said that students are always welcome to join the organization and are encouraged to join now during the pandemic to not only stimulate the general ASU student community, but to support ASU sports teams and maintain positivity until the day the pandemic ends and games are back on.
“Me, personally, I’m going to be so happy I might cry,” Antuna said. “Once we have the opportunity to go back in person it’s going to be so surreal and we’re not going to take it for granted.
“We had so much fun pre-COVID, so knowing that after the tough year, year-and-a-half that we’ve had, being able to go back — we’ll have so much built up after having nothing to do we’re going to give it our all. It’s going to be better than ever.”
Top photo: (clockwise from top left) computer science major Alexis Bacon, supply chain management and business analytics major Jonathan Li, business entrepreneurship and financial planning major Alexandre Shappell, sports business major Catherine Antuna, digital culture major Julianne Wilde, sports business and data analytics major Ashley Osborne and architectural studies major Duha Hasan show their Sun Devil spirit watching games from home. Photos courtesy of students
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