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Any collegiate athlete will say that fan support is important to the culture of collegiate athletics at any level.
For Dylan Gruse (senior, geology) and Travis Spagnolo (senior, safety science), president and vice president of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Hawks Nest, respectively, building a healthy culture goes beyond the football field or basketball court.
The idea for the Hawks Nest started in Gruse’s freshman year when he attended an IUP basketball game.
“I noticed there wasn’t a lot of student attendance,” Gruse said, “and if there were students there, they were sitting all over and weren’t really cheering during the game.”
“Coming from a high school that had a lot of spirit, I was kind of disappointed.”
As a response, Gruse created the Crimson Crazies Twitter account, and that is where he partnered with Spagnolo.
Enter the IUP Hawks Nest.
“We decided to change the culture at athletic events,” Gruse said.
That change would stem from the events of the IUPatty’s weekend festivities in March 2014, which left “negative energy” around the campus, Spagnolo said.
“We thought it would be a great way to harness that negative energy from what happened at IUPatty’s and the way people view the students,” Spagnolo said.
“We want to bring positive energy and image for the students here at IUP.”
Spagnolo cited the love-hate relationship the students and the surrounding community have throughout the year as another reason why the Hawks Nest became reality.
“There is definitely a fragile gap between the IUP community and the Indiana community, and we want to bridge that gap,” he said.
The Hawks Nest’s popularity has grown over the months. The movement started during the men’s basketball season.
Gruse and Spagnolo heavily promoted the Silent Night men’s basketball game against Gannon University Feb. 15 through Twitter using #PacktheKCAC.
The response was resounding. Fans came out in droves to the game and shattered an attendance record at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
“If Dylan and I didn’t put the effort on social media like we did,” Spagnolo said, “none of that would’ve ever happened.”
And now, their focus has turned to the Crimson Hawks football team and getting the IUP student body to pack Miller Stadium every Saturday.
To hype the upcoming season, Gruse and Spagnolo, under the guidance of Co-op adviser Timothy Sharbaugh, sold t-shirts outside of the Hadley Union Building.
“Sales couldn’t have gone any better,” Gruse said.
“It seems a lot of people, especially incoming freshman, are interested in what we are doing.”
Even student athletes are noticing the campaign of the Hawks Nest, which raises support for and posts updates on IUP teams via the Twitter account @IUPHawksNest.
Crimson Hawks football player Alex Berdahl (senior, criminology) offered his assistance to Gruse and Spagnolo.
“He mentioned that he loved what we were doing and offered his help,” Spagnolo said. “I think all the football and basketball players in general are on board with this.”
However, both Gruse and Spagnolo were quick to say that the Hawks Nest is about much more than athletics.
“We want people to be as proud to go here as we are,” Gruse said.
“The IUPatty’s incident reflected really poorly on IUP students, and we want to show people we are proud to go here.”
Both agreed that through athletics events, the IUP student community can bridge the gap with the Indiana residents and show their IUP pride.
Being seniors, Gruse and Spagnolo have chosen other members for the Hawks Nest to carry on what they started.
And what they started is gaining momentum.