Gene Pool brings back the spirit of the game
By Adam R. Smith
Imagine trying to shoot a free throw while facing over 3,000 excited students who are doing everything in their power to distract you.
Photo provided by Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics
The Gene Pool, only in its 2nd year of existence, was created to bring some life back into Mackey Arena.
This is the unfortunate task facing all Purdue University's men's basketball opponents. A sea of gold engulfs the south side of Mackey Arena during men's basketball games, but this sea is never calm. The wild, boisterous and sometimes deafening crowd that gathers to cheer on the Boilermakers each home game is called the "Gene Pool," named after the Boilermaker's six-time National Coach-of-the-Year Gene Keady, who's been in charge for the past 24 years.
Last year, the Gene Pool, created in 2002, became Purdue's largest student-run organization, with around 1,300 members. For many years, students had been disappointed in the seating assignments given to season ticket holders. The seats were not very close to the court, and the student section was spread over several sections. Now, the Gene Pool is a 3,200-seat section at the south end of Keady Court that surrounds the Boiler Brass pep band and extends all the way to the ceiling. Those sitting closest to the action are the members of the Gene Pool.
"You can be a freshman in the Gene Pool and have better seats than a senior who is not in the Gene Pool," said Joel Rasmus, director of promotions and advertising. The price for regular student season tickets is $96 for the 12 home games, or $8 per game. For $12 more per season, students can elect to join the Gene Pool. For that extra fee, students get a long-sleeved gold Gene Pool t-shirt and priority seating, as well as several other benefits.
The evening before each game, a newsletter is sent out to each member of the Gene Pool. The letter highlights what has happened during the week and also informs the members as to what cheers the Gene Pool will use during the next game. The letter also contains a scouting report with information about the opponents' key players.
In addition to receiving the newsletter, members are the first fans admitted into Mackey Arena before each home game. One of the coaches comes out and greets the Gene Pool and gives the students a scouting report on the evening's game. "They'll take turns coming out and telling the crowd, "OK, this is who we're facing, and this is what we need to do to win,'" Rasmus said. "It's been referred to as 'Basketball 101' by many of the members because they really learn a lot about college basketball from the scouting report."
Coach Keady has made it a point to get the students to feel like they are the "sixth man" on the team. He has made the claim that a rowdy, loud student section can help the team win as many as six or seven games in a year. Whatever the reason, the Gene Pool seems to be doing a good job of being rowdy.
"It was the best student section I saw all year," said assistant coach Cuonzo Martin about the Gene Pool during the 2002-2003 season. "We need the students, especially freshmen, to come to the arena and be loud."