Last Valentine’s Day, Georgetown and Syracuse met in the latest battle in their ongoing men’s basketball feud. It was another instant classic, with the Hoyas fighting back from a 16-point deficit before ultimately succumbing in overtime. The comeback was particularly impressive because the Hoyas were on the road, forced to contend with an orange-clad mob surrounding them on all sides, inside the nation’s largest on-campus arena.
Whenever ESPN’s cameras panned the crowd, it looked like a living Tropicana ad, wave after wave of orange filling the Carrier Dome’s more than 30,000 seats. Only when the cameras made their way to the upper reaches of the dome did the monotony end. Packed in amongst the orange swarm was a speck of gray, which upon closer inspection was revealed to be a jumping, cheering pack of isolated Georgetown students who seemingly got lost on the way to the Verizon Center.
“It’s a hostile experience,” Hoya Blue Events Officer Matthew La Magna (SFS ’11) said of invading the Carrier Dome. “It’s always interesting. You see 30,000 people in orange and we’re 100 people in gray, and that just fuels you and makes you want to cheer louder and makes you want to scream and shout more.”
There are Hoyas, there are Hoya fans, and then there is Hoya Blue. La Magna and his companions belong to the last. They are the die-hards who bear the standard for all Georgetown fans—passionate enough to weather verbal attacks, thrown concessions, and a holiday in enemy territory just to support their team.
The common perception of Hoya Blue is that its members are the basketball superfans—the face-painted, wig-wearing, chant-starting cheerleaders always in the front row of the Verizon Center. But while men’s basketball is Hoya Blue’s showpiece, the club serves a much more important role as the backbone to Georgetown’s 26 other varsity teams.
“A lot of people just see Hoya Blue as people who go to basketball games and paint their faces, and that’s not what we really are,” La Magna said. “That’s certainly a part of it, but I think we have an all-encompassing approach towards all Georgetown events, towards making sure athletics is an integral part of someone’s on-campus experience.”
That mentality is written into the group’s constitution, with mandates that Hoya Blue hold at least one event for each on-campus sport every year. Sometimes that means getting creative in order to entice students to more niche sports, like when the club held a swim party in Yates, complete with pizza and pool volleyball, to draw fans to a preceding swim meet.
In terms of e-mail addresses on a listserv, Hoya Blue may be one of the largest groups on campus, but in terms of active members, the club and its events are run by a much more intimate group. Events like the swim party are planned out in a Reiss classroom on Tuesday nights, where these die-hards brainstorm plans to convince the rest of the student body to join in their fanaticism.
“Membership is an interesting, kind of philosophical thing that we discuss,” Hoya Blue Communications Officer Kasper Statz (COL ’10) said. “We can talk about people who volunteer their time on a regular basis, that’s around 30 to 40 people; talk about people that are on our e-mail listserv, that’s about 5,000 people.”
“You talk about people who go to games—I think that’s the more important number. Because I’m not as much concerned of people necessarily associating with us at all times. I want all games to have at least a minimum level of fun and excitement from the Georgetown body.”
Hoya Blue is the essential support system for Georgetown athletics. While basketball could survive without their fanatic support, many other teams rely on Hoya Blue to be their promotional arm, bringing in fans to celebrate Senior Days and major matches that might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s no wonder that Hoya Blue has a weekly meeting with GU athletic department’s marketing director.
“We definitely have a very strong relationship [with the athletic department],” Hoya Blue President Anna Selling (MSB ’10) said. “They need us for things, and we need them for things. There’s a lot we work with them on, like Hoya Rewards. We constantly meet with them about ways to have students more excited and going out to games.”
Of course, the teams count on Hoya Blue to be there for them. And when crowds aren’t up to standard, it is the fan group that’s first to be held accountable.
“They’ve been great, but to be honest, they’ve faltered off a bit,” men’s soccer head coach Brian Wiese said after Wednesday’s loss to American. “I’d say they’re one of the best groups of fans in the country…I don’t know if they’re studying, but for whatever reason the past couple games I haven’t really heard any singing. We need them. For whatever the reason, when they’re singing and stuff, it really gets us going.”
In the end, the students in Hoya Blue aren’t really superfans; they cannot always be there for their teams. But Georgetown’s school spirit leaders wouldn’t devote themselves as fully as they do without understanding the value of their fandom. They know they are doing more than just cheering on athletic competition; they are creating camaraderie that is hard to find anywhere else on campus.