Go to a men’s basketball game at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich., and you can’t help but notice one thing: the Izzone.
The Izzone, the name given to the Michigan State student section, is one of the loudest, most energetic student sections in the nation, and the students who fill it try to help their team as best they can by making as much noise as possible at the appropriate times.
Their presence is unmistakable, from the long lines of students braving the cold to get tickets up to two hours and 30 minutes before the game to the ring of white surrounding the court in the lower bowl, the Izzone is everywhere at Spartan basketball games.
Not only are they there, but they also are deafeningly loud and actively engaged in every moment of the game, regardless of the score. What’s more, most of the students even know the school’s fight song and sing along with the band several times throughout the game.
In fact, at one point during the second half Sunday, the Izzone continued the song when the band stopped as play resumed, finishing the song a capella — much like Wisconsin football fans do with “Sweet Caroline” or “Build Me Up Buttercup” — before transitioning to an intimidating roar without missing a beat.
Even the student’s routine during pregame introductions impressed. Each student held a newspaper in front of his or her face as UW players were announced and followed with a chant of “Who cares?” after each was announced.
For the MSU players, they put down the papers and swayed from side to side accompanied by a similar roar to the one employed during defensive possessions.
In combination with the rest of the fans in attendance, the Izzone gets as loud as, if not louder than, any student section in the Big Ten, including the Grateful Red at Wisconsin.
Part of their success stems from location, of course.
Rather than sitting on three levels behind one end of the court like Wisconsin students, the Izzone circles the court in the lower bowl with 1,400 students while 1,800 others circle the top rows of the upper bowl. Between the two sections, the students create an atmosphere unlike any other.
What makes the Izzone even more impressive is the incredible coordination with which they seem to do everything. Nearly every student wears the white Izzone T-shirts, creating a smaller version of the “whiteouts” often employed by various schools.
Also, what seems like an obvious thing is something worth mentioning; the section is all students. Go to a Wisconsin game, and you’ll find several adults sitting in the “student section,” especially in either of the upper levels of the Kohl Center.
At the Breslin Center, the student section does not appear to have the same problem.
So how does Michigan State create such an impressive student section?
They use an incentive-laden seniority-based process to keep students from selling tickets or sitting in front of the television for less exciting nonconference matchups.
As a result of the system, students show up to games early and often, filling the Izzone well before tipoff for most games.
New members to the Izzone are given tickets in the upper bowl, but if they arrive to the game more than one hour and 45 minutes before tipoff, they have the chance to win a spot in the lower bowl for that game.
Additionally, in order to earn tickets in the lower bowl, students must participate in a 24-hour campout at the end of September, in addition to having good attendance in prior years and purchasing admissions to the games.
If a student misses three or more games in a season, his or her eligibility for coveted lower bowl tickets may be in jeopardy. Conversely, students who attend games regularly and arrive early increase their chances of moving from the upper bowl to the lower bowl.
With such a system, those fans who purchase tickets solely for the intention of resale or to attend the big, late season games are penalized and forced to sit in the upper bowl.
Although the Grateful Red has traditionally ranked as strong as or better than the Izzone, the current system employed by the UW Athletic Department is far inferior to that of Michigan State, and it shows during the most important moments of games.
While the fans aren’t necessarily to blame (or credit) for Wisconsin’s record this season, switching to an attendance-based system may improve the quality of the student section at the Kohl Center.
Of course, moving the student section to circle the court wouldn’t hurt either.
Jordan is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. Think the Grateful Red is better than the Izzone? Jordan can be contacted at [email protected]