Students are ‘True Blue’ for Bulls
“We just wanted to combat apathy for sports at UB, to show people that this is something fun you really can get involved in.”
As the UB Bulls complete their remarkable transformation from a bottom-ranked Division I-A football team to bowl-bound MAC champions, UB’s undergraduate population also is rising through the ranks in school spirit.
Membership in True Blue, the official fan club for UB Athletics, has been swelling to records numbers this past semester, alongside the Bulls’ fortunes on the playing field. Officially established through the undergraduate Student Association (SA) during the fall 2007 semester, the club has grown in just one year from an initial membership of 20 dedicated fans to more than 2,800 students—many of whom sit in the stands and board buses to cheer on their team at home and on the road.
“Right now, according to SA, we’re renowned as the largest SA club and the fasting growing SA club,” says Andrew Conroy, president of True Blue. “The end of fall semester last year we only had about 50 to 100 active members.”
“For Detroit,” he adds, “we had three full buses.” That’s about 150 UB fans, he estimates.
Conroy, a senior computer engineering major who’s never missed a home game since enrolling in UB, says student turnout in UB Stadium also has been unprecedented, compared to a few years ago.
“I’ve seen [the Bulls] when they’re at their worst,” he says, “and now I’ve seen them when they’ve been at their best. There isn’t just a handful of students scattered across the bleachers now; there’s three whole sections full of students—plus everyone who isn’t in the student section sitting elsewhere.”
Although he’s currently president of True Blue, Conroy says the club actually was founded last year by two other UB super-fans: Paul Hutching, campus awareness coordinator for UB Athletics, and Jeseph Meyers, who both were seniors when they met Conroy during a UB Bulls football game in 2007. Soon the trio started inviting more and more friends to games, and everything “just snowballed.”
“We came up with the idea for True Blue when we noticed a lack of school spirit and student support around our athletic events,” says Hutchings. “It originally started out as a way to get friends together before games and promote a social event for meeting new people interested in the same sport.”
Things started to get organized when the group approached SA for assistance in putting a bus trip together for a game last year at Penn State, he adds, noting that subsequent trips to away games include Kent State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and, of course, Detroit.
“Whenever you see a college sport on TV, you always see a raucous student section, giving their team a home court advantage,” says Meyers, noting that True Blue members are renowned for their loud cheers, colorful face-painting, bright blue wigs and penchant for banging on a cow bell to celebrate scores or rile up the crowd. “We just wanted to combat apathy for sports at UB,” he adds, “to show people that this is something fun you really can get involved in.”
And involvement continues to rise. In fact, Conroy says that for the past few weeks, people formerly uninterested in UB athletics have been asking for information on how to join True Blue, which is sponsoring a trip to the International Bowl on Jan. 3 in Toronto.
“We’ve gotten a lot of people to join in the last month or so, being that the football team’s doing well…but the bulk of the people joined at the beginning of the year,” he adds. “I think that since as a school our teams are doing well, students are realizing they went to be a part of that spirit—they want to come out and be a part of the people who are in a group cheering on UB—to be in the student section having fun, just like everyone else.”
Conroy also notes that True Blue hosts “watch parties” for those who can’t spare time for a trip out of town, where students get together to view games on television. So far, he says the club has hosted at least three such gatherings at Dave & Buster’s, a popular sports bar, restaurant and entertainment complex in Eastern Hills Mall in Williamsville.
True Blue also supports UB’s other Division I sports teams, he notes, including wrestling, volleyball, swimming and diving, basketball, softball and baseball. Club membership comes in two forms. Casual membership, which is free, means students are eligible for opportunities to reserve tickets in the special “True Blue” student section at games, free giveaways for signing up and membership on an email list about True Blue and UB events. Dedicated members, who contribute a $10 fee, also are eligible for reserved spots in the True Blue section, 25 percent off the basic student price for all True Blue road trips and enrollment in the Loyalty Point Tracking System, through which participants are eligible for free gifts by attending various athletic events. Only full-time UB students are eligible for membership.
To learn more about True Blue, click here.