When I was a freshman, my orientation leader was determined that every student in his orientation group would know TU’s fight song. Like, to the point where he distributed sheets of paper with the fight song printed on them and insisted we commit the words to memory. One time he tried to convince us to start singing in a spontaneous burst of fervent school spirit as we were waiting for an event to begin (it wasn’t very effective).
While I was vaguely embarrassed at the time by my OL’s antics, I have to admit that he may have been onto something. TU students don’t seem to be particularly familiar with the words of our fight song (maybe just the part where we yell “gold, blue, and red?” Or the “Go TU” at the end?). Only people who stay to the end of basketball games know the words to the alma mater.
This might not seem like a big deal, especially at a small school that isn’t necessarily known for its school spirit or attendance at athletic events — but it is.
In contrast, my brother goes to the University of Oklahoma, a school that’s known both for its athletics and for its spirited traditions, as many state schools are. A 2012 article in OU’s student paper, the OU Daily, outlined some of the sports traditions that every incoming OU student should know: cheers and chants, the practice of singing “Sweet Caroline” when a football game is essentially won and throwing crumpled newspapers at opposing basketball teams during player introduction.
Despite only being a freshman, my brother already knows all of OU’s chants, traditions and fight song by heart and is visibly proud of that. I’ve gotten similar impressions from friends of mine who attend schools like the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri Columbia.
They exude a sense of school pride I rarely see in TU students — and that’s a shame, because there’s a lot to be proud of here.
Granted, these are all large state schools with lengthy athletic traditions, but TU is also a DI school with a long and rich history. Improving school spirit is a hefty task — one that TU’s administration and student organizations have puzzled over recently.
We can take one of the first steps toward bolstering school spirit by making it a priority to teach the fight song, alma mater, sports traditions and chants during orientation week.
Orientation week is intended to instill TU pride in incoming freshman, so it seems fitting to incorporate songs that are vital parts of TU history into the program. OLs have the perfect amount of enthusiasm and pep for such a task (and it will be way less awkward when everyone’s running around singing these chants and songs during orientation week than it was for me when my OL tried to singlehandedly enforce them).
By teaching songs, chants and athletic traditions during orientation week, we can continue boosting TU pride and give students a reason to actually be excited to participate in sports games. As it is now, the chants used by the crowd at TU sports games are sparse and disorganized. Being at a game isn’t particularly fun because of this — there’s a lack of opportunities to participate in the way that OU or Mizzou fans do.
Orientation week offers a great opportunity to brainstorm some new chants or cheers over the summer and begin teaching them to new students in the fall. We can also take this as an opportunity to more strongly enforce some of the traditions currently listed on the TU athletics website (for example, waving red hurricane flags at football games, which I didn’t even realize was supposed to be a tradition).
Once incoming freshman have taken all these traditions to heart, we can continue fostering school spirit by implementing an athletic ambassador program. These ambassadors would mingle with the crowd at sports games and contribute to the work that TU’s Spirit Squad and marching band already do quite well — getting the crowd hyped up, starting chants and cheers, boldly singing the fight song and showing out in their brightest, boldest, wackiest TU game day attire.
I’m sure we could find willing candidates to take on the athletic ambassador challenge, particularly if TU offers the position as an internship or academic credit opportunity for marketing or advertising students.
The article from the OU Daily about traditions concludes that “The most important thing to remember is participation. Participating in the traditions make all the difference.” This participation is what TU is lacking — a tricky problem to solve, but not an impossible one.
By teaching TU traditions and songs at orientation week and maintaining that school spirit with in-crowd athletic ambassadors, we can gradually cultivate a student body that is familiar with TU traditions, full of school pride and willing to actively and passionately participate in sporting events.