OGDEN — Fans attending Weber State basketball games this season may have noticed a change in the environment at the Dee Events Center.
For years, the student section has been on the sideline opposite the Weber State bench in a section positioned behind floor seats — close, but somewhat separated from the action.
Now, it’s on the opposite baseline, right on top of the opposing team’s bench where students can get up close and personal with visiting teams.
The section is called the “Destruction Zone” after the name for a group of wild cats — a destruction.
Night after night, students crack jokes, yell and chant in an attempt to distract players and coaches during games, often telling the opposing coach to “get off the floor” or offering pizza and cupcakes to players at the end of the bench.
Occasionally, a player or two will let out a smile or even laugh at what they heard from the raucous group. It’s still a rather small group, but becoming increasingly more fun and effective.
"We know they can hear us, but when they acknowledge you, even if it’s just a look ... We have a lot of fun with the guys at the end of the bench,” sophomore Nate Arrington said.
“They were telling me that last year when they came and this year when they came, it was completely different,” Richardson said. “They were interacting with them the whole time. They were all talking trash to the bench and talking to their coach.”
Wildcat head coach Randy Rahe says he mostly tunes out the crowd during games, but says the change adds to the home-court advantage.
“I think the more access the students have to the opposing team, the better off the atmosphere is,” Rahe said. “We want to keep that going and keep it growing. We’d like to get that student section even bigger.
“It’s a big advantage to us when they come out and get a little creative on some of the stuff they say. They get under their skin a little bit. We like it a lot.”
The shift came after a few years of collaboration between the athletics department and student body representatives, along with logistical issues such as accommodating season-ticket holders who moved their seats out of the section.
In the inaugural season of the change, WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee is pleased with the Destruction Zone’s direction and hopes the new environment will draw more students.
“I think it’s gone well. There’s a group of students who have picked it up and lead it out,” Bovee said. “To see them pick that up and own it, that’s where it’s going to grow in popularity — if it’s their deal. If we try to force feed it to them, it’s our deal.
“We always want it to be theirs to own and to have fun with. We’re doing our part to support it.”
Arrington is one of five cats in the destruction who have taken it upon themselves to grow the Destruction Zone.
Some of the members, including Arrington, made the recent trips to Pocatello and Cedar City for road games against Idaho State and Southern Utah, thanks to tickets provided by the athletic department.
“We’re trying to get it back to how it used to be,” Arrington said. “When we came to games as a kid in junior high or high school, the student section was pretty good. Then we got here, and we were like, ‘Where is everybody?’ That was our hope — get it going and provide a classic college atmosphere at Weber State.”