Max Runyon visited his brother at college a few years ago and a ticket to a basketball game came with the trip. With that inspiration, Runyon found himself waiting outside Koch Arena in the bitter cold for a Wichita State game on Dec. 7.
Just like the fans he witnessed at his brother’s school, Duke.
Runyon watched a game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, paying close attention to the famous (or infamous) Cameron Crazies with Logan, his brother. Max Runyon is the president and founder of Marshallville, the nascent student group that lines up outside of Koch Arena before games. He organized the group over the summer as an attempt to duplicate the spirit he witnessed at Duke and other schools.
“I went to games as a freshman and I didn't seem as impressed at some of the Wichita State traditions,” he said. “I thought we could up our game. We’re trying to get WSU students more involved.”
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Runyon, and his fellow Marshallville regulars, want to see more students camp out before games and create more of a rush to get the good seats in the student section. He said between 200-300 students lined up before the midnight game against Western Kentucky in early November. Before most games, around 30 or 40 show up.
“We want to make it more a frenzy,” Runyon said. “Get more of a collectiveness before the games and during the games. Make it more of a student atmosphere.”
That desire extends to game performance. Outside of a chant after made free throws and the “left, right, left, right” chant when an opposing player fouls out, the student section at Koch Arena isn’t known for its routines. Runyon and vice president Sam Belsan are considering passing out cheat sheets with suggestions for chants and cheers.
“We would like to use that time in line to get chants going,” Belsan said. “There are a lot of facts about the other teams out there, like pre-game breakdowns by ESPN. We would like to see more unity among the cheers.”
Belsan, a freshman from Wichita, met with Runyon, a sophomore from Derby, in the early fall and expected to join a group already running at full strength.
“I thought it was going to be set in stone with hundreds of people and all I would have to do was show up for meetings, hand out some flyers and like the Facebook page,” he said. “I was way off.”
Instead, Runyon needed his help. Belsan organized his class schedule around games and took over the graphics for the Facebook page that announce each game and celebrate victories.
“Now I'm the vice president of the group and I love it,” he said.
Wichita State’s athletic department designated an area in between the arena and Cessna Stadium where the Marshallville banner is planted.
“They have to create the tradition,” WSU athletic director Eric Sexton said. “We’re providing the ability for them to have a rally point and begin to develop their tradition.”
Coach Gregg Marshall visited before a recent game to answer questions and sign basketballs. Before the Oral Roberts game on Dec. 7, manager of player development Devon Smith and players Darius Carter and Ria’n Holland brought the chilly students hot cocoa.
“They were standing out there hours before the game,” Holland said. “I was shocked, for them to be out there that early.”
Eagles delayed — North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton said, via his Twitter account, that his team was stuck in the airport Saturday and would not arrive in Wichita until two hours before Sunday's game.
Moton later tweeted his appreciation for messages from WSU fans.