Texas Tech Men’s Basketball will take the court Tuesday, Nov. 5, backed by Raider Riot, an organization that has become synonymous with men’s basketball at Tech. Just a few years ago, Raider Riot wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind; it all started with a few friends who loved basketball.
“My freshman year was (head coach Chris) Beard’s first year,” Wes Law, a senior advertising major from Lubbock and a founding member of Raider Riot, said. “We were excited, but we aren’t super knowledgeable about what coach Beard is going to do, me and my friends. So we were just like, ‘You know what, we like basketball, and we like Texas Tech so let’s go crazy at basketball games, just for the fun of it, just to be funny and get on the big screen.”
Everything changed however, when they did a skit impersonating ESPN commentators, Law said. They were featured on SportsCenter, and got contacted by Tech Athletics shortly following.
Raider Riot has been continuing to grow, but this year it has seen its largest surge of new members. There are an estimated 1200 members, Justin Moore, a senior finance major from Spring and founder of Raider Riot, said.
“It’s fun seeing how big it got,” Law said “It’s not just a group of 12 people going crazy, and everyone thinking they are weird. It’s become a cultural aspect of the university. Which is super cool to me.”
The growth of Raider Riot may seem shocking from an outside perspective, but Law said he isn’t surprised because it has progressed naturally, and is now coming to fruition.
“A lot of people outside, their outside perspective is they don’t know anything about anything yet, and the next season there’s Raider Riot,” he said. “So to everyone else it’s a huge shift, just a massive 90 degree turn, but with us, we’ve been invested in this for a while. And it’s not like we went in with the intent to make this happen, we were kind of just doing it. And this is what came from it.”
As Raider Riot has grown, it has coordinated with coach Beard and the team for in-game shenanigans, Moore said.
Raider Riot wants to work with the players to do what the players want to see, he said. In previous seasons they have had player situation specific antics, like Matt Mooney hitting a three, or a dunk.
One of their other goals is to fill the stadium. With 15 sections reserved for student seating according to Tech Athletics, thousands of students have the chance to attend games. The enormous success of Tech’s basketball team, capped by their first NCAA Championship appearance just seven short months ago pulled Tech fans to the United Supermarkets Arena, selling out the stadium several times last season.
“Freshman year, we are all just getting to the games early to make sure we have a front row seats,” Law said. “Now we have 1,000 people behind us helping us out with themes and ideas and out of home events. So that’s the growth and experience we’ve had.”
Coach Beard has also worked with Raider Riot personally, offering support when he can. Moore wore a matching suit with Beard for a home game last season, he said. After the game, Beard approached him for a picture, and later gave Moore a Texas Tech suit pin, the same one he wears.
“Coach Beard is the most wonderful person on the planet, and he is willing to give us anything we want,” Max Quiroz, a senior finance major from Frisco and founding member of Raider Riot, said. “The athletics department is very helpful in spreading our name and doing what they can. That guy is just amazing. Always a smile and such positivity.”
Coach Beard has been extremely on board with Raider Riot. Beard’s genuineness is one thing that sets him apart and makes him a joy to work with, Law said.
“He’s not just our coach, he’s a fan of the school,” Law said. “He’s not just seeing it as a group that can help him win, he’s seeing it as an organization, as fans going crazy for a school he enjoys, a school he adores. And you can see that when he talks to us. He’s so willing to help us. Beard is very authentic in his love for the idea of what we do.”
What began as a group of freshmen doing something silly because they love basketball has turned into a phenomenon at Tech. Raider Riot was not built in a season, and now that it is gaining momentum, it’s founding members are facing their time at Tech is drawing to a close.
“It’s sad, but I hope it doesn’t end with us,” Law said. “We’ve done a lot of work to make sure it keeps going so we can look back and see the ideas other people have when were gone.
It’s sad that I’m planting a tree that I’m not going to be able to sit under the shade of.”
Raider Riot is having to reevaluate how to handle this year, Law said as they have more members than ever before. In previous years, the leaders would meet once per week. Now, there are three committees; the Riot committee, the Hype committee, and the Raider committee.
The Riot committee handles in game shenanigans, including chants, skits, opposition research and costuming, Moore said. The Hype committee tackles out of game business, like social media accounts, public relations and media involvement. The Raider committee works within the organization, handling member relations and coordinating emails, surveys and meetings.
With the season looming, those outside Raider Riot may start to wonder about what is in store for the season.
“Everything on a much more grand scale,” Law said. “It’s still the same Raider Riot, it’s still the same crazy stuff. Everyone understands what’s going on when they go to games. But I think we have a lot more coordination, we have a lot more resources at our disposal.”
With hundreds of members and thousands of eyes on Raider Riot, it is surprising to think about it’s humble origins of a few friends with a love for the game. The Tech men’s team has also seen a dramatic change in the last few years. We are now a basketball school, Moore said.
“I’m more than happy to be a part of something like this,” Quiroz said. “It’s really great to see it grow, and I know that some of my fellow founders did a lot of work, and their skills brought it to fruition, where it is now, especially Wes and Justin.”