What Goes On Inside the Izzone

On December 29, 2011, in The Spartan Life, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
One of the questions I’m asked most often during the basketball season is, “How can I get a seat in the Izzone?”

At it’s best, the Izzone is the most powerful, most effective and most feared student spirit section in the NCAA. During every home game when students are on campus, the lower bowl is ringed with white shirted fanatics who stand during the entire game. There are the pre-game rituals, things that happen when the two teams are introudced. There’s the popping of the paper bags when the first Spartan basket is scored.

And there is the noise. Whenever our opponents have the ball, the noise at courtside is deafening. It’s literally impossible to hear yourself think. Visiting players have said that it takes every bit of their mental toughness and concentration NOT to be influenced by the Izzone. The Coach has said, time and again, that the Izzone is the 6th Man on the team. They can be game changers. And they are part of the legend and lore that is MSU Men’s Basketball.

Once a year, a select few who have never had the opportunity to have the Izzone experience are allowed to don the white shirts and participate in the magic. During December break, MSUAA and our Student Alumni Foundation sponsor an Izzone Reunion event. First crack goes to former members of the Izzone. But if there are extra seats, some lucky alumni get the opportunity to participate.

The experience begins with a huge dinner event in the Breslin Center Auxiliary Gym. This year, 1,300 people got to pick up their Izzone shirts, enjoy a superb meal, have their pictures taken with Sparty, and had the chance to see MSU’s Basketball trophies up-close and personal. At 6PM the program begins. The outstanding MSU Spartan Alumni Band fires up the troops. MSUAA’s Tim Bograkos interviews four returning basketball stars about great moments from their MSU careers. President Simon addresses the crowd, thanking them for returning for for carrying the Spartan Spirit to all corners of the globe.

And then comes the Coach.

Nobody is busier than Tom Izzo on game day. But this is an appearance he never misses. The Coach is a man steeped in tradition and deeply appreciative of the support Spartan fans have given to the Men’s and Women’s basketball programs over the years. Even under the tremendous pre-game pressure, The Coach takes his time to reinforce the importance supporters play in every aspect of the student athletic experience. He challenges the returning alumni to out shout and out perform the current Student Izzone section. “Show them how it’s done,” he says. There is the requisite standing ovation as he leaves the stage. These people understand the impact that this one man has had on the institution and in their individual memories.

Then it’s upstairs to the court. The white shirts surround the playing floor. The Alumni Band stands in for the Spartan Brass. The teams enter and it’s game on.

Close your eyes. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere. If you empty your mind of the fact that these are alumni, some who graduated many years ago, you can’t tell the difference. The band is just as tight and just as loud as the Spartan Brass. And the Izzone is unstoppable. Everyone stands throughout the game. And the pressure never subsides.

This year’s contest against a surprising Indiana team had a special significance. The Coach always puts his players in harms way early, this time against Duke and #1 UNC. But the rubber meets the road when the Big Ten season starts.

The game was exciting, the energy level in the arena was extraordinarily high, and just as it happens during the time the students are on campus, the power of the Izzone is stunning. It’s early, but the team shows signs of another possible fun to the Final Four. It usually takes time for the Spartans to gel. It’s happening at the starting gate in 2011 and the fan’s smell it.

And the Izzone is a factor.

Want a chance to put your own Izzone shirt on and check this Spartan experience off of your bucket list? Keep and eye on alumni.msu.edu details about next year’s Izzone Reunion. And get ready to make noise!

 

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