A student section or student cheering section is a group of student fans that supports its school's athletic teams at sporting events; they are known for being one of the most visible and vocal sections of a sports crowd as well as for their occasionally raucous behavior. They are most often associated with NCAA basketball and football games, but can be found in several sports in both college and high school. A student section is an important part of a school's fanbase and a significant contributor to home advantage.
A student section can vary in size from dozens to thousands of people, and comprises current students, the school's marching band or pep band, and in some cases, recent alumni. The students often arrive and fill their designated section in the stadium before the rest of the fans, sometimes hours before the beginning of the game, and will usually remain standing throughout. Before, during, and after the game, the section performs a number of different group actions, including chants, songs, gestures, dances, and the use of props. Some of these actions are passed down over generations, while others are completely spontaneous. The purpose is twofold: to energize the home team and crowd and to frustrate the visiting team.
As media exposure of college athletics has grown, some schools' students have come under fire for inappropriate behavior, including starting profane chants; harassment of visiting teams and fans; and throwing objects.
Several student sections have become an integral part of the game experience, and as such have earned nicknames for themselves. One of the most well-known examples is Duke University's Cameron Crazies, who synchronize their actions and make player-specific taunts outlined on distributed "cheer sheets." The Show at San Diego State University was the first to ever use Big Heads as free throw distractions, which can be seen at sporting events around the world. Other named student sections include the Izzone, the Oakland Zoo, and The Bench.
Football student sections are similar to those in basketball, but can be considerably larger, sometimes consisting of several thousand people. They are often situated in one or both endzones to allow the crowd noise to distract the opposing team's offense while in the red zone or backed up against their own endzone. Many football programs directly involve the student section as a part of the gameday experience, where they are integrated into the team's pregame and postgame.
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