Many can agree that college sports are pivotal to the college experience. Many pieces come together to create that special game-day energy.
The Mighty Sound of the South is an organization at the forefront of the spirit section.
“I think the [The Mighty Sound of the South] is absolutely vital to boosting, but also creating school spirit,” Director of Athletic Bands William Plenk said. “The fact it’s a group of students that come from the university that they’re representing, it’s kind of a really nice way to show collaboration and participation within the university. It gives each school, including ours, a unique identity.”
The Mighty Sound of the South is one of few bands around the country that represents their university with an original fight song, “Go Tigers Go.”
“You’re never going to hear that song anywhere else other than at the University of Memphis,” Plenk said.
With almost 200 members, the band puts in dozens of hours of preparation for the sports season. Before the fall semester even starts, the band is on campus putting in full days of rehearsal for the football season.
On game days, the band is there long before the crowd, spending hours rehearsing before game day activities.
“It’s a lot of work and hours and takes a lot of energy from everybody to get that together. Then, of course, there’s a lot of planning that happens around all that,” Plenk said.
All the pre-season planning and work that goes into the Mighty Sound of the South’s performances pays off when the band performs an exciting show that gets the crowd cheering for the team.
“We’re there to support the [team]. That’s what we exist to do,” Plenk said. “It’s a fan experience that we’re trying to create. We do our best to choose music that is going to resonate with different groups of people.”
Some members of the band feel connected with the University of Memphis community and teams because they’re at so many games throughout the year.
“I think our biggest connection is actually with the women’s basketball team,” senior clarinet player Mellodee Hooker said. “They wave at the crowd, and they always turn to wave at us individually. The coach, whenever she sees us band kids, she pats us on the back and is like, ‘Thank you so much.’ It really means a lot that she recognizes that we’re there for them, we cheer them on, and we heckle for them.”
Alongside the Mighty Sound of the South is another section that works incredibly hard to increase morale and school spirit: the student section.
The student section is organized by the Blue Crew, a University of Memphis student group made up of some of the most passionate fans on campus. They are responsible for coordinating spirit programs and getting students excited to come to a Tigers game.
“We’re the loudest and the proudest Tiger fans on campus,” Blue Crew director Kayla Price said. “What we like to do is be the student aspect portion of the sporting events, from men’s and women’s basketball to football. We try to also highlight other sports as well, and kind of make sure everyone is feeling the love, that student section presence, as much as possible.”
The Blue Crew ensures students can have fun and support their sports teams with events like the student tailgate, t-shirt giveaways, Weeks of Welcome and Homecoming activities in the fall, and offer plenty of gameday services – like the student shuttles and Chick-fil-A catering. The Blue Crew’s goal with all of their events and services is to bring the Tiger spirit to the students and fans and give them that sense of comradery.
“Without the student section, we saw that with Covid, the players just didn’t get to see that [comradery] as much and didn’t get to feel that energy,” Price said. “So, giving them that energy and then feeding off of us and vice versa is just a whole student experience.”
For over a year, attendance at sporting events was limited to a certain number of people. Fans would socially distance themselves in the bleachers and wear masks to ensure everyone’s safety.
“It was social-distanced, and it was still the same experience, but it felt a little different,” Price said. “We still wanted to make sure that we were still having virtual events and in-person events as much as we could, so that way, we could still feel that presence, and the players felt it, and the students felt it too.”
Blue Crew takes on a lot of responsibility for getting students to games and keeping them engaged, but there’s someone behind the scenes that works with them to ensure sporting events run smoothly and are well advertised.
Josh Moore, Director of Marketing and Gameday Presentation, is responsible for the marketing of sporting events and ensures that there are fun promotions for fans.
“Trying to get people to games is my main thing. Any of the promotions, any of the marketing, that’s what I’m doing. Trying to make it fun,” Moore said. “Once you get into the arena or fieldhouse or wherever you are, the Liberty Bowl, make sure they have fun when people get there. I work a lot with students. I work with Blue Crew, I’m kind of their athletic liaison.”
Working alongside Blue Crew, Moore and his team can ensure that the student experience is as best it can be.
“We’re looking to change a couple of different things for the student experience moving forward. [We are] working with Blue Crew about women’s basketball, baseball, softball – really working with a lot of different things with them, and they help us really drive student attendance,” Moore said.
Moore and the Blue Crew are two of many pivotal players in game day presentations. Their work ensures that games run smoothly for fans and the University of Memphis Tiger athletes feel the energy from all sides of their arenas.
“I think this city and this school have a unique feeling to it, where I feel like people from Memphis and University of Memphis alumni love their school almost more than I’ve seen at a lot of other places,” Moore said. “So that school pride is what we’re trying to drive to make students really passionate about Memphis and passionate about U of M basketball, U of M women’s basketball, not just the two big sports, but across the board.”
The Mighty Sound of the South brings dynamic performances to every game, rallying behind fans to cheer on the Tigers.
The Blue Crew cheers on U of M sports teams as much as possible. For the men’s basketball team, Blue Crew organized a Memphis Madness Watch Party.