Student section moves to home side

The UNA student section cheers on the Lions during a homecoming game against Western Oregon Oct. 4, 2014. UNA Athletics and Student Government Association agreed to move the student section to the home side in 2016.

UNA students will have a different view for home football games next season, and many believe it is for the better.

The Student Government Association and UNA Athletics composed a plan this year to move the student section close to the north end zone on the home side, as opposed to the away side, said SGA President Nick Lang.

“I feel like the students possibly feel disconnected being on the away side,” Lang said. “Letting students sit on the home side will help them feel a better connection to their school because they are sitting on a full side of purple.”

In the Oct. 22 issue of The Flor-Ala, senior Jennifer Sewell suggested moving the student section to the home stands would be the only thing she would change about UNA’s gameday experience.

“I think it would be cool if students could sit on the home side and cheer with the other UNA fans,” Sewell said. “I love the venue, and that would make it more enjoyable.”

With ongoing construction in the spirit quad area, student tailgating will move to its original location on Spirit Hill, said UNA Athletics Director Mark Linder.

In addition to moving students on the home side, the plan also involves having students run through the inflated helmet before the team does. Students who wish to do so can touch Pride Rock, run through the helmet and flock to Section A through a gate.

“We’ve been kicking (the idea) around for maybe a year or two now,” Linder said. “I met with Nick (Lang) and (SGA President-elect) Sarah (Green) about two weeks ago, and they were excited about it.”

Green said letting students touch Pride Rock and run through the helmet should generate an unforgettable experience.

“That’s just going to bring a whole new element to our football games,” she said. “I can’t wait to run through (the helmet). I touched Pride Rock one time, and it was just the most empowering moment of my life.”

Lang said he wants touching Pride Rock to become prestigious.

“It needs to be a tradition that when football season comes around, as students, we’re going to pack out the stadium for the athletes and show the athletes appreciation for their hard work and touch Pride Rock,” he said.

Linder said he hopes implementing the new ideas will raise attendance for the home games following homecoming, as there is usually a large drop-off in attendance in the final home games.

“It seems like there is always a lag in our fourth home game attendance by our students,” Linder said. “Maybe the students that come feel disengaged because they’re on the other side and the homecoming activities are toward the west side. We want to take that excuse off the table.”

Lang said he is grateful to Linder and President Kenneth Kitts for allowing the move to the home side to happen, but encourages students to hold their end of the deal.

“I just want to stress to students the importance of sitting over there,” he said. “This is going to be like a trial run. If students don’t come to the games and sit on the home side, then of course Mr. Linder and President Kitts will be like, ‘Well, the students didn’t really care about sitting on the home side if they aren’t coming.’”