When a fan watches a Texas Tech basketball game, the presence of the student section, Raider Riot, is difficult not to notice.
Michael Di-Benedetto, Raider Riot co-founder, said Raider Riot is the second-largest student section in the country. Every student is considered a part of Raider Riot when they are sitting in the student section.
“Raider Riot wraps up the rowdiness that West Texas has to provide,” Di-Benedetto, a senior marketing major from Rockwall, said.
Dylan Winn, Raider Riot president, said Raider Riot strives to get students connected to the basketball game. They fill the seats as much as possible and lead unifying chants during the games.
“If you have a bunch of students yelling and doing their own thing, it’s not as cohesive,” Winn, a senior journalism major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said. “We want the student section to be more cohesive, and we want to unite the entire student body.”
The student section will have between 700 and 1000 seats available at each game this basketball season due to COVID-19 restrictions, Winn said.
His concern for this basketball season is students assuming they will not be able to get tickets to the games and not even try to attend, Winn said. While there are fewer people allowed to attend, Winn likes to remind students that Tech has the most seats available in the Big 12.
The reduced number of students allowed at games will impact the atmosphere of the game by making the arena quieter than usual, Winn said.
“This is when four to one, Coach Beard’s motto, about mentality over physicality comes into play,” Winn said. “Every student has to bring four times the energy that we used to because there are about four other students that you are cheering for.”
A rowdy crowd can get in the other team’s head and impact the game, Di-Benedetto said. The Tech student section helps contribute to a Red Raider home-court advantage.
The student section that can be the most creative will have the most successful home-court advantage this year with the limited attendance policy, Di-Benedetto said.
“When it comes to the Big 12, any team can beat any team,” Di-Benedetto said. “That’s why it is so important to have a home-court advantage.”
Carlos Botto, Raider Riot fan engagement co-chair, said his goal this basketball season is to make the United Supermarkets Arena the most intimidating arena in the country for an opponent to play in, despite having fewer fans.
Botto, a senior marketing major from Colorado Springs, Colorado, is looking forward to making fewer people in attendance seem like the full number of people are at the game, he said. Raider Riot will consistently be standing during the games and creating as much noise as possible.
“It’s kind of like last year, we want to keep the same energy and pace, regardless of how the team is playing,” Botto said.
Raider Riot is looking into offering new ways for students to be included in the Tech basketball experience, Winn said. One way they plan to accomplish this is by having free outdoor watch parties for students who are unable to get tickets.
To ensure the smaller student section is just as energetic as previous years, Raider Riot will be hosting an ESPN inspired pregame show an hour before the game starts, Winn said.
“That way, we can get the students hyped up, get them ready to go into the game and get them ready to cheer their hearts out,” Winn said. “We hope it entices people to get to the USA and cheer for their basketball team in-person.”
Since other Big 12 schools do not have as many people allowed to attend the games, there is no reason Raider Riot cannot be the best student section this year, Di-Benedetto said.
“We have four or five times the number of students other schools are allowing,” Di-Benedetto said. “We’re set up for success.”
Students interested in being a part of Raider Riot only need to attend a basketball game, Di-Benedetto said. For more information on Raider Riot, students can go to https://discord.com/invite/WPmPJ6V.