A history of Utah State University’s most famous sporting venue
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 14:01
Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series detailing the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum
Standing on the north edge of campus, its common outside appearance masks its tortuous inner chambers. Seating 10,270, what once was quiet erupts on game day in what has been called the West’s premier home-court advantage by ESPN, a top-five college basketball fan base honorable mention by Bleacher Report and is frequently named by visiting players as the most hostile arena they have played in.
As the commercial states, the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum is the most interesting place on the USU campus.
“When the Spectrum is at its best, it’s as fine of home-court advantage as there is anywhere in the country,” said head coach Stew Morrill. “The acoustics, the creativity of the students, the students getting the regular fan into the game, all of that is fabulous and as good as it gets.”
It boasts a .921 winning percentage under head coach Stew Morrill, and is only silent during free throws and by student decision.
The Spectrum opened for basketball play on Dec. 1, 1970 with an Aggie victory against Ohio State, and has seen 1,491 victories since. Morrill credits the stadium’s structure for aiding the crowd’s effectiveness.
“It was built with the seats very close together, as people can attest to, so that puts the crowd right on top of the game and the opponent,” Morrill said. “If they ever need to replace it, they need to build another one just like it.”
One of the keys to the success of the Spectrum has been the creativity of what ESPN announcers have described as “one of the smartest student sections in the entire nation.”
“I think it’s grown into a place that is an experience every single time you go there,” said Tyler Olsen, former ASUSU vice president of athletics and creator of the game day shirts. “You can know nothing about basketball and walk away feeling like you had an experience unlike most other venues.”
“It’s a special place,” Morrill said. “People all over the country have copied our students because it goes viral and it’s on YouTube. I’ve had college coaches tell me that it’s on an even par with Duke’s crowd.”
The history and evolution of some of the more popular cheers and traditions that have since gained national attention is rich and deep, beginning with some of the key unifying components.
Game day Shirts
When Olsen, a former Aggie football player, was elected to his post in 2004, one of his first problems was no one having enough school spirit to learn the fight song.
“It’s hard to believe now,” Olsen said of the school spirit. “I want this experience for everyone that goes to Utah State. You go to the rest of the schools in the state, you don’t get that. I went to LSU and we played at that stadium down there with 80,000 people wearing yellow and I said, ‘Why can we not be this way?’”
After the fight song took hold, Olsen’s next task was to get all fans wearing blue. Using about 200,000 blue Tootie Fruities as bribes, Olsen gave them out to any fan around the arena wearing blue.
“Like Pavlov’s dog theory, it worked,” he said.
However, due to the high price of Aggie apparell, many students couldn’t afford a game day shirt. Olsen and some friends designed a cheaper version they could sell on the side and despite some controversy with competing sellers, the game day shirts were born and have been sold by the bookstore since 2005.
“The first ones looked really ugly,” he said. “I wasn’t looking to make a profit, I was just trying to build the spirit.”
With a goal of unifying the student body and creating a “sixth man,” Olsen said although his advisors were initially worried about a surplus, sales shot up and the shirts quickly became a success.
Matt Sonnenberg arrived at Utah State the year after Olsen graduated and continued building the traditions. His first effort in building unity came in 2007 with his friend Kraig Williams via the parody newsletter known as The Refraction.
“We were chatting one night, thinking of how we could ramp things up, of how could we get people more rowdy,” he said. “I stayed up through the whole night that night, making up what ended up being the template.”