A hurting Hurd? How USU students stack up
Some think they make the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum the best home-court in the Mountain West Conference, even ranking them among the top-five best student sections in the nation. Others believe they’re merely fair-weather fans who have lost their once-proud swagger.
The USU Hurd is a major reason the Aggies have lost just 16 home games in their last 90, and they’ve earned a reputation for being ruthless, passionate and most of all, unforgiving.
“We’re on teams the whole game,” said Hurd president Dallin Laird. “Even if the student section isn’t full, that’s fine — the people that are there bring it.”
Perhaps best known for their “I believe” cheer before games, Aggie fans have made a habit of getting into visiting teams’ heads.
“The best student section in the Mountain West no longer belongs to San Diego State, or New Mexico or Colorado State or UNLV or any of the old guard,” wrote SDSU basketball beat writer Mark Zeigler following the overtime showdown between the Aztecs and Aggies in January. “It’s Utah State, no contest.”
However, beneath the praise and the fearsome reputation, there are murmurs of a growing problem among the Aggie faithful.
“Personally, if I was a player on an opposing team and heard all these great things, I would be disappointed visiting the Spectrum,” said junior Jay LaBosky. “The student section has fallen off a bit in my opinion. There are less people attending the games, which is sad to see.”
Sophomore Taylor Condie agrees. She described the scene in the Spectrum some nights as “pitiful” and said students only show up for the big games.
“It happens too often,” Condie said. “We have just been ranked No. 5 in the nation, and I honestly don’t think we deserve that because we are only our best for the big televised games.”
Stadium Journey, a publication which reviews professional and college sports stadiums, recently placed the Spectrum in the same conversation as Rupp Arena and the Carrier Dome, ranking USU No. 5 on a list of all 351 Division I basketball programs.
“I saw that article and I think we were overrated to be honest,” LaBosky said. “I think people in the media just remember how great our crowds can be, and they only see our best crowds each year, not when we play a poor opponent in the middle of the week.”
Laird is still confident in the Hurd’s ability to impact a game.
“To me, the Hurd hasn’t lost a step in anything,” Laird said. “There’s a lot of support throughout the year for all athletic events, which is how it should be.”
Laird said comparing the current student section on a regular night to the 2009 game against Nevada — considered by many to be the Spectrum’s highest point — is unfair, and this year’s games against SDSU and BYU proved the Hurd can still pack a punch.
“The Aztecs game was an intense game against a top-10 team,” Laird said. “It was the first white-out ever in the Spectrum. We got all 10,000 people to stand up to do the ‘I believe’ chant, and that really added a lot to the atmosphere.”
Laird said extra tickets had to be requested for the road game against BYU in November.
“When we have a quality opponent come into the Spectrum, the Hurd has a great turnout like San Diego State,” Labosky said. “However, back a few years ago, the crowd was a lot more consistent.”
Karson Kalian, who served as Hurd president as a junior in 2011, said it’s obviously easier for students to attend games when the team is playing well and that success is key to a great atmosphere in any program.
“When we noticed that the team started losing, the craziness started to drop,” Kalian said. “Attendance started to drop.”
Coming off of a 18-14 season, its first in the Mountain West, USU is facing a massive recruiting challenge next season after losing five seniors and having four more players transfer elsewhere.
“Next year will definitely be interesting,” Condie said. “I really hope the coaches are recruiting players who are not only good, but tough.”
Condie said hardcore fans will understand the team is rebuilding and still support the team like they always do.
“A lot hinges on next year,” Kalian said. “If the team loses, we’re going to get worse recruits. New Mexico, UNLV and SDSU have athleticism that we don’t have.”
Despite the task ahead of the program, many Aggie fans still expect an exciting season.
“The Hurd just needs to be as supportive as we can be,” Condie said. “We just need to love and support the team better than we ever have. We need to pack the Spectrum every game. When we fill the Spectrum, we are amazing.”
Laird looks forward to the challenge next season holds.
“It’s about experiencing the event,” Laird said. “Winning or losing, we’re going to be there.”
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