Wildside student section helps channel school spirit

Sammy Levitt

A new student group is working to promote school spirit on campus and within the Evanston community this fall.

Northwestern Wildside was created after several NU students and groups contacted the athletic department last year, expressing interest in encouraging student attendance and excitement for NU athletics.

“It just made sense to us to bring these people together and to have an opportunity to get the whole campus involved,” said Beth Cunningham, associate director of sales and marketing for the NU Athletic Department. “We wanted to create a group that could cover the whole campus and have the greatest opportunity to make an impact on the school.”

After the concept of the Wildside was introduced, Cunningham and the athletic department brought in Weinberg senior Brian DeConinck last spring, along with a few of his fellow classmates, to take the reins in forming this cohesive student fan group.

An avid fan of NU athletics, DeConinck explained that the “Wildside” has been the name of NU’s student section for decades, but few students have realized it.

“Our personal goal is to make NU athletics the most popular topic of conversation on campus,” said DeConinck, who added there has been no real way for students to connect to the athletic department. “We want to enhance fan experience at games and truly create a line of communication between students and these athletic programs.”

One of the Wildside’s primary responsibilities will be to create meeting spots on campus before home football and men’s basketball games. For the football game against Central Michigan University, the group organized tailgating areas for students on both North and South campuses.

Cunningham said the goals of the Wildside will be dictated by the students leading the organization, and the effort will truly be driven by the NU community.

“We want students to understand the power of school spirit and rallying around one thing together,” Cunningham said. “We feel as if packed sporting events and a great stadium atmosphere is a big part of the college experience, and we want students to be able to engage in this part of our community.”

During New Student Week, the Wildside’s executive board, along with members from the NU athletic department, taught new students the school’s fight song and a few basics of being an NU fan.

On Thursday, the group organized a T-shirt swap at the Rock, where students could exchange ashirt from another college with a purple shirt that read “All We Do Is Win.” An NU student, as part of a T-shirt design contest held in August, submitted the design to the Wildside.

“We didn’t really publicize the T-shirt swap as well as we could have, but that’s something that will change next year,” said DeConinck, who explained it was the simplicity of the shirt that led to its selection as the official design. “We were able to give out hundreds of more shirts on game day, and it was great to see people in purple.”

DeConinck, showing off his purple pride in an NU T-shirt, said he is tremendously excited by what he sees both on the field and in the stands. He said it is the Wildside’s responsibility to channel this energy in the right direction.

“It’s clear that there is an energy on campus that is building all on its own,” he said. “NU students are waking up to the fact that we have these great teams and fellow students who are doing extraordinary things.”

Communication and Weinberg sophomore Suzanne Hutt said she appreciated the Wildside’s promotion for the Central Michigan game.

“It was the first time that I felt that much hype before one of our football games, so I think so far they are doing a really good job,” Hutt said. “Everyone seems to love the shirts.”

A roaring section of fans keeps spirits high, and in turn that may actually help the team, Cunningham said.

“Students can literally impact the outcomes of games,” she said, “and we’re looking forward to students making it a routine to come out and take ownership over their athletic teams.”

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