Bleeding Red and Blue

Three years ago, the prOWLers had 17 members. Today, FAU’s official spirit group has more than 100.

“It began with a bunch of boys and girls who wanted to start something new,” says junior Laurel Kelly, who was one of those 17 members when she was a freshman. “I feel like I’m a part of something, and I think now more people have pride in being Owls.”

And that pride exists, even though the football team only has one win this season. Despite five losses and the season being half-over, the pride of the FAU community isn’t slowing down.

Student Alumni Association (SAA) and prOWLers Adviser Paul Metcalf has been at FAU for four years, and has witnessed the progression in student involvement.

“When I first started at FAU, we had a bonfire in the back of the Student Union with a turnout of around 40 people,” Metcalf says. “This year, our bonfire had upwards of 1,000.”

Metcalf attributed much of this year’s increase in student spirit to last year’s win in the New Orleans Bowl, as well as the Republican Primary Debates held at FAU’s Boca campus in January.

“These were major events that were catalysts,” he says. “But I also think it was a critical mass of students who are excited about what FAU has to offer.”

Senior and defensive end Mike Hancock agrees with Metcalf that the New Orleans Bowl Championship brought in more fans, and has also seen the rise in game attendance over the years.

“When I started, the games averaged around 6,000 to 7,000,” says Hancock, who been on the team since 2004. “It’s definitely an advantage to be at home and have the fans behind you, cheering you on. It’s amazing.”

Even going into last week’s game against Troy University with a 1-4 record, many followers haven’t wavered in their support for the Owls. Alum Ross Devonport – who was at the game decked out in a blue mask and matching cape that read “El Buho Loco” – says that he has been an avid supporter of FAU since the football program started in 2001.

“Our turnout is growing, and this is the most fun I’ve had at a game in a long time,” Devonport says. “It’s about the big picture as FAU grows as a university. This is the most students I’ve ever seen at a game.”

Last year, Lockhart Stadium – the Owls’ home field – had an average of nearly 17,000 attendees per home game. So far this year, that average was met in one game: FAU’s 30-17 loss to Troy last week. Before that, nearly 15,000 people watched FAU defeat the University of Alabama-Birmingham 49-34 – FAU’s first home game and only win this season.

Along with strong spirit coming from current students and alumni alike, there is also support from faculty. Math professor Fred Hoffman came out to the pep rally in the FAU Arena last week to support the football team – something he encourages his peers to do.

“It’s important for faculty to be a part of these things,” Hoffman says. “I want to support FAU football [because] I think we have the best coach in the country.”

Besides Hoffman, the pep rally had fans who hadn’t even attended the university. Jim Sloviak, who has been a member of the Owl Club – FAU’s booster club – since its creation seven years ago, says that he’s happy to see the support for university athletics continue to grow.

“To get this many people out here on a Monday night is great,” Sloviak says of the roughly 1,200 attendees. “We’re building [and] we’re increasing steadily.”

Sloviak also says that, despite a losing football season so far, fans shouldn’t stop coming out to support the team.

“Yes, we will have our down years and our up years,” he says. “But that’s part of building tradition.”

Another part of that tradition is what pep rally organizer and Student Government Chief Justice Mike Burdman is continuing to create. Burdman, a senior, says that pep rallies and bonfires are a big part of transitioning from a commuter school to a traditional university.

“[SG] is doing it to promote school spirit,” Burdman says. “Since football started, they have been doing pep rallies and bonfires. We wanted a way to get more people excited about the game.”

Even with the attendance at the games increasing, FAU Chief of Staff Randy Goin, Jr. says he was surprised with the turnout of the pep rally being so high.

“I think this is the most people we’ve ever had in the Arena,” Goin says. “I don’t think we’ve even had that many people in the arena for a basketball game.”

Alongside the progression in fans, it’s also dedication like junior Laurel Kelly’s that keeps supporters coming back for more.

“We’re still going to do excellent,” Kelly says. “We’ve lost a couple of games, but there is always next time.”