By Kiona Dyches, Johnny Oliver, Alec Posner
Otto’s Army fulfills a long-running legacy of supporting Syracuse’s sports teams.
If you look at the Syracuse University student section during a basketball game, you may notice a rhyme and reason to their actions. That’s because each of the chants and hand signals has a legacy to uphold and often has a special meaning.
“It’s important to have traditions passed down because that is what we are founded on,” said Otto’s Army public relations officer Austin Freer. “Without classic cheers or traditions, what would we be here to do?”
“These cheers make memories.”
Some traditions have been passed down for years, and some ideas were born merely a few weeks ago. The work that goes on behind the scenes is not always visible.
Since 2006, Otto’s Army has been recognized as the official student section of Syracuse University, with a designated area at most Carrier Dome games. While every student is a member of Otto’s Army upon setting foot on campus, the organization boasts about 30 active members along with an executive board of 14 students.
Freer said it’s his passion for sports that drives him to be an active member of Otto’s Army, but the work comes with a bonus.
“It really gave me a segue into meeting more people,” Freer said. “Being more active on campus, and enjoying what I love.”
Freer’s job comes with its share of work. Otto’s Army is in charge of organizing bus trips for students to away games for both football and basketball. Freer said at first the trips aren’t very fun because the buses always leave early in the morning, but they’re worth it at the end of the day. “It’s really exciting when you get closer (to the game) because everybody is getting their energy up,” Freer said.
Back in the Dome, the main purpose of Otto’s’ Army is to bring positive game day attitude to the games. That purpose is achieved in many ways, including the use of hand signals to spread cheers through the crowd. For example, “DaJuan Coleman is the biggest man on the court so we flex for him, and Frank Howard’s social media handles all have something to do with Jesus so we pray to him,” Freer said. During player introductions, the student section uses hand signals to describe the players. Each signal is strategically assigned. “We look at each individual person on our starting lineup, and it’s all about who they are personality wise,” Freer said.
The growth of the organization has earned members the opportunity to engage with the SU community as well as SU Athletics. Last season, members of Otto’s Army teamed up with the Syracuse athletics department to create the “Dress Like Coach Boeheim” promotion that fans participated in during Syracuse’s January 2016 game against Notre Dame.
Although good promotions help get the fans involved, the more success a team has, the more likely it is that fans will come out to cheer them on. Freer thinks that the Final Four run last season will lead to a strong showing from the fans attendance-wise this year.
“Coming off such a big end of the season last year is really helping our numbers for turnouts for games this year,” Freer said.
For advertising sophomore Audra Linsner, being in Otto’s Army is much more than wearing orange and being loud.
“My favorite part is how it really brings the community all together.” Linsner said. “Being a student at SU is really cool because you get to see all the local fans at games who are really into it and equally as excited as the student section.”