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Over 20 years ago, Alumni Hall was ranked in Sports Illustrated as one of the toughest places to play in the Northeast, noting that the nearly 3,000 fans packed into the Hall were some of the most vocal and loyal fans. Now, over 20 years later two sophomores are trying to bring that dream back to Fairfield, on the eve of the largest basketball season in Fairfield history.

Frank Aquino ‘13 and Andrew McMahon ‘13, the co-presidents of Stags in the Stands, Fairfield University’s booster club for all sports, have high hopes for this year. They have now taken the club to new heights after their successful event earlier this year called Red Sea Madness. It garnered the attendance of over 1,000 students on a Friday night. Aquino and McMahon are looking to have the crowd play an important role both in Alumni Hall and at Harbor Yard throughout the season, just like it did many years ago.

However, it has not been nor will be an easy road for the two sophomores to get cheering and school spirit back at games.

“There were games last year where we would be the only ones standing up and cheering,” McMahon said. “One game in particular I can recall, I was standing up trying to rally the crowd and one girl told me to shut up. I was shocked. I’ve never seen a fan get mad at a fellow fan for cheering before.”

Aquino and McMahon, both graduates of Fairfield Preparatory High School, were used to cheering and having school spirit. They hoped that they could bring “The Bomb Squad” (Fairfield Prep’s cheering section) to athletic events at Fairfield University.

McMahon recounted his first Fairfield sporting experience at a soccer game, “I saw a large number of students sitting there looking depressed and we wanted to do something to change that. We are used to being in a crowd of the loudest and most supportive fans of all Connecticut high school sports, while at Prep.” Sometimes while around campus on a Friday night Fairfield Students can hear the Prep “Bomb Squad” as they cheer on their team.

After the depressing start to Fairfield, fandom the duo decided they would begin their own club in the fashion of “The Bomb Squad.” They went to meet with athletics with the idea of calling the group “The Herd.” They had never heard of “Stags in the Stands,” a club that was started in 2007 by FUSA president Hutch Williams ’08, yet had become defunct after he graduated.

“We were hesitant at first because we wanted to create our own name and were afraid of being attached to something that had died out,” Aquino explained. He said that after the meeting they decided to join “Stags in the Stands” and became the only two members. A year later the club has reached 230 members and is continuing to grow.

“Last year it was tough going to the games and not having the support. Especially as a freshman trying to tell upperclassmen that they should be cheering and going to games. Most upperclassmen spirit died out after there was no leadership after their freshman year,” Aquino lamented.

But Aquino and McMahon have big plans for this year and began meeting with athletics.

“This summer we started working on plans to get more fans excited and more members,” said Aquino. “Two ideas that came out of this were the stags reward system and Red Sea Madness.” They looked at emulating bigger schools programs such as midnight madness, “yet put a Fairfield twist on it.”

“We were really happy with the turn out and think with another year of planning it can only get better,” Aquino told The Mirror of the Red Sea Madness event. “We think it was a great way to start the season and bring some excitement around the teams.”

McMahon interjected, “We never expected those numbers for our first attempt at this event.”

Their expectations seem reasonable for the most part. “While we understand we are not going to get 1,000 kids at every game, if every student makes the attempt to head over to a game we could come very near that number, especially for big games,” Aquino said, then mentioned a lofty goal.

Said Aquino, “After speaking with Coach Cooley, we want to sell out the last game of the year against our rival Siena, which most likely will be on ESPN.”

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