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Return of Blue Crew program looks to encourage student involvement

Fans+cheer+on+the+Ithaca+College+football+team+at+the+2023+Cortaca+Jug.+The+Blue+Crew+program+will+look+to+encourage+student+attendance+through+a+points+system+that+allows+students+to+earns+prizes+for+attending+different+sporting+events.
Emma Kersting
Fans cheer on the Ithaca College football team at the 2023 Cortaca Jug. The Blue Crew program will look to encourage student attendance through a points system that allows students to earns prizes for attending different sporting events.

Ithaca College Athletics announced the return of the Blue Crew student rewards program on Jan. 31. This program brings together Ithaca College students, giving them an incentive to attend sporting events in return for points toward special prizes. 

Working with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Ithaca College Athletics is rebuilding the Blue Crew program, which shut down with the onset of COVID-19. Associate Athletics Director Tyler Heisey said he is proud of the Blue Crew initiative and wants it to continue to grow. 

Because of wavering attendance in certain sports, the Blue Crew program developed a point system with different point values assigned to different sports.

“We looked at the attendance of the sports, and typically what they have, and we split it into three tiers,” Heisey said. “We tried to divide it up among the teams in a way to be equitable — equity is really important to us.”  

 Attendance at a golf, crew or tennis event will earn 50 points. Attendance at a baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey, swimming and diving, track and field, lacrosse, volleyball or gymnastics event will earn 30 points. Attendance at a football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball game will earn 20 points, as indicated by Ithaca College Athletics.

 Junior women’s tennis player Taylor Crain said she appreciates the point system — notably tennis being a 50-point sport — as a way to acknowledge the disparity in attendance for the game of tennis in comparison to some of the other sports on campus.

 “There is a motivation and opportunity to go and watch the sport, they would have never even thought of watching before, learn something new and get more involved in the bomber community,” Crain said.

Tim Mirabito, associate professor in the Departments of Journalism and Sports Media, is the Roy H. Park School of Communications representative on the Faculty Athletic Advisory Committee. Mirabito said he values the attention in working toward creating an equity system. 

“Some of our best teams haven’t always been able to garner the attention they deserve and the point system will help spread some of the wealth and encourage students to see these athletes who are doing awesome things,” Mirabito said via email. 

One way Heisey and SAAC are working to expand the initiative is with the expansion of “Bomber Bash.” 

Students will also have the chance to attend Blue Crew Bashes. Similar to a “Bomber Bash,” these special contests will consist of fun promotional activities that are still being workshopped and the opportunity to earn double points. The first Bomber Bash took place Feb. 16 during the men’s basketball game against Bard and will continue across various sports for the duration of the spring season. 

Senior outfielder Colin Shashaty, SAAC member and outfielder on the baseball team, said the Blue Crew and Blue Crew Bashes are an opportunity to create a sense of camaraderie across sports and across the campus community.

“I think the question from here is how do we have and continue to build a good culture where the support from players and coaches expand to that of the full student body because that’s really what the Blue Crew is about,” Shashaty said.

Shashaty said that having full student body support creates a sense of motivation for him and the team. 

“If we can make that environment pretty exciting and just bring a lot of enthusiasm into the crowd it definitely gets me going a little,” Shashaty said. “When it’s cold and miserable and there’s not a lot of people there, it’s tough to get yourself going sometimes, especially when it’s like a mid-April game and it’s 35 degrees out and it’s the middle of the season. I think that’s a big portion of what the Blue Crew is trying to do is get fans to all the games.”

Andrew Geschickter, senior guard for the men’s basketball team, said he has felt an increased fan presence on the court since the re-implementation of the Blue Crew on Feb. 3.

“These last few games, it’s really been apparent that there’s been some extra effort and pride in Ithaca athletics,” Geschickter said. “I think these last three games have been some of the most fun games that I’ve had in my career, even outside of college, to be on the court in front of a crowd.”

Senior athletic training major Sophia Testani said she is excited about the return of the program and is looking forward to what it has to offer.

“Since I started my clinical experiences, I have been on the sidelines for a lot of games working with football in the fall, have men’s lacrosse this semester and have been to a lot of basketball games as a fan throughout my time here,” Testani said. “This program is absolutely worthwhile.”

Testani said she sees real value in this program and its potential ability to engage the community.

“I would love to win some prizes just for cheering my friends on,” Testani said.

However, not everybody was aware that the Blue Crew had returned, even some within the athletics community.

“I did not know The Blue Crew was returning, but happy to see it’s back,” Javi Mejia, women’s soccer assistant coach, said via email. “It sounds like a wonderful concept and any time you can bring together student-athletes and their campus peers, it’s a good thing.”

As a coach, Mejia has seen the impact that a crowd can have on the players and their confidence.

“Fan presence is a huge motivator for our players as the environment created by a strong fan presence cannot be understated,” Mejia said. “Fans have more influence and power contributing to the success of all athletic programs than they may realize; it can be more important than strategy, tactics, or individual skill at times.” 

While many athletes echo Mejia’s belief, Crain noted the uniqueness of tennis when it comes to fan engagement.

“There is a level of fan etiquette in tennis that is understood if you attend and different players react differently,” Crain said. “Overall, I think the Blue Crew is a great idea and it would be cool to see its impact on tennis, since we normally don’t get that attention, but at the same time, it probably wouldn’t affect my team in a gigantic way.”

Shashaty and SAAC see this semester as only the beginning of a much larger project growing the connection between sport and the Ithaca community.

“The biggest thing for this program is creating the foundation now so when this next fall comes there’s a lot more excitement to build off of from the spring,” Shashaty said. “If we can bring the community together through a sporting event consistently, it is going to be an exciting time to be an Ithaca Bomber.”

Mirabito said he sees this program as a great way to continue to provide opportunities for students and sports. 

“The Blue Crew program is a good idea for campus engagement,” Mirabito said.Athletics benefits from more student involvement and students benefit from more programming.”

With Blue Crew events set to continue for the rest of the spring semester, Heisey said the goal is to strengthen a foundation of togetherness between students and athletes.

“This initiative is all about fun and strengthening that community on campus with the Blue Crew and these bashes,” Heisey said. “We’re bringing together local community partners, students on campus and student-athletes. It is a win for everyone.”

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