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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Fan the Fire debuts the Blue Zone on Saturday

The Blue Zone has already started to influence student pride and fan attendance at games.

The Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC) unveiled the newly designated student cheering section this Saturday as part of the Fan the Fire event featuring the men’s basketball team's game against Williams College. Students swarmed the stands for the game to celebrate the inaugural day of the new section, appropriately dubbed the “Blue Zone.”

Co-leaders of Fan the Fire and members of SAAC, juniors Dom Granato and Sarah Mahoney, brought the idea of the student section from its infancy to reality over the course of the 2014 fall semester. They took a student poll  to determine the name of the new section -- a  vote that was held throughout January and early February -- with the winning name finally released on the Fan the Fire Facebook page this past Friday afternoon. Blue Zone was the clear leader, winning by a large margin over other options.

The naming coincided with the Fan the Fire event dedicated to raising awareness for Autism.During warm-ups, the players wore shirts sporting the Autism Speaks logo. Several tables were set up throughout the gym in search of donations as well. Fan the Fire gave out water bottles and Frisbees throughout the game and sponsored a t-shirt giveaway at halftime. Mary Kate Patton, a first-year forward for the field hockey team, was all smiles after catching one high up in the stands.

“I am so excited to finally have a Fan the Fire shirt to wear to the games," Patton said. "I love going to all the sports games, especially for Fan the Fire.”

Fan the Fire plans several events throughout the year to increase student attendance at games. Its events typically involve music, food and Fan the Fire merchandise giveaways -- part of creating a fun atmosphere for students. Its goal is to bring in students across campus in support of Tufts athletic teams -- a move that has not gone unnoticed among other colleges in the area.

“A bunch of other schools around the NESCAC during the SAAC meetings are all jealous of the Fan the Fire events," Granato said.  "[They] want to know how we do it so they can incorporate it into their systems too."

In addition to events throughout the semester, Fan the Fire has been at the forefront of developing several other university-wide initiatives as well. One such initiative includes the introduction of brother-sister teams to the University’s athletic programs this past fall. The men’s basketball “sister team” is the women’s lacrosse team -- a team that definitely made their presence known at the Fan the Fire event this past Saturday.

“We absolutely love [the new brother-sister program]," junior lacrosse player Jaymi Cohen said. "We're only required to go to two of their games, but we've made it to almost every one because we want to go. We make signs that say "TU Women’s Lax hearts TU Men’s BBall" and they definitely love the support. They have texted us [that] they appreciate it and will return the favor at our games in the spring."

The new Blue Zone student section is representative of the culture of support for Tufts athletes that has surged in recent years due to the efforts of Fan the Fire. Despite a heartbreaking loss on the day for the Jumbos, the men’s basketball team undoubtedly appreciated the addition of the Blue Zone section filled with students cheering throughout the highs and lows of the game. In the last five minutes of the game, the large crowd was brought to their feet as the Jumbos nearly completed an improbable comeback.

“The [men's basketball team] really appreciates people getting to the game and showing us support, especially with a school like Tufts where everyone has a lot of work," senior guard Adam Zakaria said. "It really gets us pumped up."

After a successful inauguration, the Blue Zone will be back in action for the men's basketball team's game this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. against Fitchburg State.