Last year when many Mountaineer fans thought the Louisville game was all but over, Jeremy Hatcher held out hope that West Virginia University would pull out the win against the Big East rival.
That optimism and his promotion of positive fan behaviorand possibly his bold gameday outfithave made this Mountaineer Maniacs executive director one of the most recognizable WVU fans in the stands.
And, he was right: The Mountaineers pulled out a thrilling triple overtime win.
At any given home game, look for the guy with theflying WVson his face and the crazy outfit in the sea of gold T-shirts on the 50-yard line behindBig Cat(an honorary Maniac) and the Maniacs sign.
I started wearing the blue-and-gold garb because you see a lot of people get crazy for big games like Maryland and night games, but I wanted to do something all the time,said Hatcher, a senior environmental protection major from Ripley.A lot of students will get all dressed up for a game and go to party, but thats not what you go to the game for. You go to the game to cheer on the team, and its been real fun.
One of my friends and I dress up crazy for each game,he said.My garb usually involves blue-and-gold soccer socks and blue-and-gold Nike shoes. For big games, we wear coats and ties. I wear a bandana and an old trucker hat from88 as kind of a good luck thing�€~flying WVson my faceI just want to be somebody that stands out and gets the positive attention on student sportsmanship.
Hatchers colorful outfits often catch the attention of camera crews at sporting events.
Give or take a few, Ive been on about every basketball game on national television,Hatcher said.
His other gameday rituals include getting to the gates about 30 minutes before they open, buying a program and reading The Dominion Post sports section.My favorite cheer would have to be the first down cheer because thats a tradition that was started here, and the other crowd has picked up on it and has started doing it, too. I stay and sing �€~Country Roadsevery game, even at the Pitt game when it was below zero.
Hang out with Hatcher for awhileor any member of the Maniacs, WVU s premiere student group for Mountaineer athleticsand its easy to see why the organization is the largest on campus. The groups enthusiasm is contagious.
Being raised in West Virginia, West Virginia footballWest Virginia sports is all there is,said Hatcher, who drives a silver Chevy Tracker with aWVU Maniaclicense plate and decorates his Morgantown apartment in gold and blue, WVU sports posters and game schedules.
My first memory of Morgantown was when I came to a game here,he recalled.It was 4-H Day and they took us to the ag school. We sat in the upper deck, and I think we were playing Providence.
Another Mountaineer game he vividly remembers was one where he met a WVU celebrity.
My mom and sister were really good friends with Ashley Hardesty (WVU President David Hardestys daughter),he added.We got (basketball) tickets down on the floor, and we got to go down and meet President Hardesty. At the time, we didnt understand who he was. It was big for a sixth grader to go down there.
Of all his favoritegames, though, last years Louisville matchup tops them all.
We were down, we were out, we were kicked, and then we came back,he said.A lot of people left the stadium and gave up, but the team didnt. That would only be rivaled by the Sugar Bowl because we were facing adversity with Georgia being in their home stadium and (Sago) miners up here. While I was giving updates to my folks at home, they were giving me updates on the miners.
Hatcher said he loves the camaraderie of West Virginia fans, and thats what attracted him to WVU .
That school spirit is one of the main reasons students join the Maniacs. Students support the Mountaineers at home and away games and organize watch parties and other events.
When I first joined my freshman year, it was beginning to get big, but it wasnt as big as it is now,Hatcher said.Were at about 3,800 this year. Thats the most weve ever had. Last year, it was about 3,500 or 3,600.
On home game days, the student section at Milan Puskar Stadium is filled to capacity.
Were getting bigger crowds at away games,he said,and last year, we had a very large attendance at some of the baseball games,
Hatcher has made it to every sporting event on campus at least once and every home football game during his four years at WVU .
On average, about 100 Maniacs participate in bus trips to away football games.
The atmosphere on the buswell, it gets pretty crazy,he said.We start chanting cheers. The atmosphere is pretty intense before the game. A lot of alumni will be there, and they love to see the Maniacs.
And, yes, he will be riding the Maniac bus to Thursdays game at Louisville.
Hatcher said good sportsmanship will play a key role.
It has definitely changed on our away trips,Hatcher said.Its improving. Usually, I dont see a lot of problems with studentsWhat we do is if we hear a bad chant that starts behind us, well start one of our own, and we have enough people around us to drown them out.
We try to keep a good, clean atmosphere,he added.We keep it positive and fun. For the Marshall game, eight of us did Mountaineers Recycle. We asked them (Marshall fans) if they wanted a free gold bag to go with their green shirts.
Hatcher said the Maniacs are encouraging fans to get to the stadium early for thePride of West VirginiaMountaineer Marching Bands pregame show, and the group recently implemented a new program, where students receive points and discounts from local businesses for attending athletic events.