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NDUS Home  |  News  |  Campus Happenings


'Freshmen Run' to debut at Fighting Hawks Football opener

Posted on 8/29/2018

Originally published at UND Today:

The play of the night just might happen minutes before the actual kick off Thursday.

That's when a mob of UND freshmen are expected to burst onto the Alerus Center turf in a mass show of support for their Fighting Hawks football team. The "Freshmen Run," as it's being dubbed, is an idea of the UND Game Day Experience Committee, which for the past two years, has been working to improve the fan environment, in and out of the Alerus Center, on game days.

The Freshmen Run also is something that UND head football coach Kyle "Bubba" Schweigert has seen work very well at other institutions, including his former coaching stop, Southern Illinois University, where he served six seasons as defensive coordinator.

"I think it's fun," Schweigert said. "It will be many of those students' first experience and first game here at UND. They'd be crazy not to take advantage of it. Who wouldn't want to run across the field minutes before the game? It will be a cool experience for our students, who we know will be great supporters of ours for years to come."

Schweigert made the initial play call over a week ago when he urged hundreds of incoming freshmen, who showed up for the annual class photo and pep rally at Memorial Stadium, to rush the field before the Fighting Hawks' first tilt of the season against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils, set for 6:30 p.m., Thursday at the Alerus Center.

Word of the opportunity has been making its way around campus this week, as anticipation for the start of the new season intensifies.

Alex Kroke, an assistant marketing manager for North Dakota Athletics, and others have been a big part of spreading the news about the Freshmen Run.

"It should be a really fun fan experience for students as well as something different that we have not done before," he said. "It's something we're hoping can develop into a tradition here at UND going forward."

Rushing the field

Kroke and crew have been handing out special wrist bands to students who've expressed interest in taking part in the Freshmen Run.

Those students will be asked to enter the stadium on game night through Alerus Center Door No. 2 (Student Entrance).

By 6 p.m., students should proceed to the northwest corner of the Alerus Center to show their wristbands They then will be led down to field level and assembled for the inaugural run. Just like the football team and led by the UND Cheer Team, the freshmen runners will shoot onto the field through a large inflatable Fighting Hawks football helmet. They'll rush the field, hyping other fans along the way, before they're ushered off to the student seating area.

How many freshmen are expected to be part of the first run?

"That's a tough one," Kroke laughed. "We've handed out a bunch of wristbands we could get 50 or not very many or we could have 500 or a thousand - it's one of those things where we really don't have any idea."

The main goal is to use this year as a trial run.

"We want to get a good plan in place that we can repeat year after year," he said. "Once it's a tradition, it should grow over time."

Good game

The Freshmen Run is one of a number of new ideas that will be featured this football season, thanks to the Game Day Experience Committee, North Dakota Athletics, and Alerus management.

Kroke said other features include five new high quality videos, produced by Twin Cities-based SureCAN Productions, which will be shown throughout game days, appearances by the famed Nickel Trophy, tailgating enhancements and a new Kid Zone area.

Also this season, around the Potato Bowl/Homecoming, fans will be introduced to UND's new Fighting Hawks mascot. Stay tuned.

Schweigert says the whole experience is not only fun for fans, his coaches and players also love basking in the support from the moment they step off the bus for the "Hawk Walk" through the rows of tailgating fans.

"It really helps our program when we get out to the tailgating area and there's a great atmosphere there," he said. "To engage with the fans is really important as we continue to build our program with more and more support every day.

"And then when you get into the Alerus Center - that noisy home crowd really gives you energy we sure appreciate the people who put in the time and effort to create that positive home field atmosphere."

-David Dodds


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