The Fred DeLay Gymnasium filled with fog and thundered with cheers as strobe lights flashed and music blared while Buster, Union’s mascot, rode a roaring Harley Davidson motorcycle into Bulldog Madness Oct. 24.
Bulldog Madness is an event during which the student body and the Jackson community visit campus to meet the men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as help to stir enthusiasm and excitement for athletics, campus spirit and the upcoming season.
The event has become an annual favorite.
This year’s Madness featured a preview of the 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball teams as they begin preparing for their upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II and Gulf South Conference schedules.
Union is in the third year of a three-year Division II membership process and is on schedule to become a full participatory member in 2014-15.
Team introductions and scrimmages began at 8 p.m. followed by a scrimmage between faculty and staff and students.
The faculty and staff team included Ben Bredow, residence director of the male quads; Paul Jackson, professor of Biblical Studies, Theology and Missions; Tony Meek, director of dining services; Blake Pennington, director of Wellness Services; and Micah Watson, associate professor of Political Science.
Those on the student team were senior Zach Buck, sophomore Titus Wade, junior Will Tucker, sophomore Joseph Smith, junior Will Duncan, freshman Caleb Dahl, senior Jared Haney and junior Dalton DeLuca.
Faculty and staff won the game 20-17.
Student-athletes then competed against each other in a 3-point shooting contest.
Kelsey Risner, junior physical therapy major, won the overall 3-point contest by scoring a staggering 21 points.
Stephen Hauss senior business management major, won the opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for full spring tuition but missed.
“I was overwhelmed by the moment,” Hauss said. “I stepped up, buckled under pressure and missed pretty badly both [shots]. I was that close to a life-changing experience, yet so far.”
Katie Woodruff, associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator, said she has been working for Union for 11 years and has had a part in planning the event every year.
“Roughly 300 to 400 people and students come every year,” Woodruff said. “This is the first year that the coaches have not organized the event [and], as a result, it has been in the works for about three weeks. In the future, there will be more time spent in the planning now that someone in athletic administration will be spearheading the event.”
First Lady Lanese Dockery said she enjoyed seeing all the enthusiasm and school spirit students had at the event and loves being a Bulldog.
“I just love the interaction with the students. It keeps us all excited about being at Union,” Lanese Dockery said. “I also love how the faculty and staff, the [sports] teams and the students are all coming together in camaraderie.”
Woodruff said she and the rest of the Department of Athletics would like to see more student participation at sporting events in the future.
“We encourage students to come and cheer and interact with the games and not just be spectators,” Woodruff said. “If there are students out there that would be willing to help create school spirit and noise during games, we welcome you.”
The student section is referred to as the “Fred Fanatics,” a moniker that comes from the name of the gym: the Fred DeLay Gymnasium.
Woodruff said she hopes the experience students have at sporting events will carry over into university life as a whole and will give students shared experiences that transcend the groups with which people identify themselves with so that they become one united student body.
“As our institution completes this move to NCAA Division II, the level of competition has been taken to a whole [new] level, and we need our student body, faculty and staff there to support our student-athletes,” Woodruff said. “It isn’t about student-athletes and students; it is about all of us.”
The Department of Athletics has already set a date for next year’s Bulldog Madness, which will be Oct. 23, 2014.