Four horse-masked men in speedos caught the attention of fans, students and professionals alike Nov. 14 in the CFSB Center at the men’s basketball game against the University of Houston.
While warmly received by some and hesitantly received by others, the prevalent feeling of the events was one of curiosity.
As many stories do, it all began with a girl. At least that’s how it all began according to Ray Hall, senior from Jackson, Tenn.
Last semester, Hall met a Murray State soccer player during intramural soccer who invited him to watch a game. Hall and his friend, Hal Abel, junior from Belleville, Ill., were two of few to attend a game over Easter weekend last semester. This began their career as Murray State super fans.
“We made signs and ever since then we’ve gone to all the soccer games and just been really loud and obnoxious,” Hall said. “We kept bringing more and more people and from there, the athletic department saw us and thought we would be good to start leading the student section.”
Amy Pulpaneck, director of Athletic Marketing and Promotions, spotted the men for their enthusiasm and saw the potential in them to excite other students.
“We’re trying to do a bunch of new things to reach out to students this year and get them excited about coming to athletic events,” Pulpaneck said. “We reached out to this particular group of guys because they had kind of brought it upon themselves to be loud and crazy and cheer for our soccer team, which carried into volleyball season. We hoped they would help get others excited and spread the word about games.”
The horse masks were purchased by Racer Athletics as a tool to create excitement in the student section, just like the big heads at every basketball game and other promotional items. The speedo idea, however, came straight from the horse’s mouth, unbeknownst to Pulpaneck prior to the game
“We love the energy and excitement that they bring,” Pulpaneck said. “The best part about these guys is that it’s student driven and student led. When a student group is organic, it’s always going to be a lot better than if Athletic Marketing sits here and tells them what to do and when to do it. We hope more students grow to join them and come up with fun things to do during the games. When the students are there having fun, our teams play better.”
Both the speedo-clad masked men and Pulpaneck hope the student section grows to mirror that of larger collegiate athletics and gain attention within the conference, if not nationally.
The horse masks were provided by athletics, but where did the speedo idea come from, and why did four young men, three of which have no swimming background, own them?
“We wore them for a Halloween costume, and then we wear them to distract the other team, mainly,” Hall said.
As with any controversial event, rumors flew during and after the game. According to the men, an off-duty police officer approached them and kindly told them to be careful not to “expose genitalia.”
Murray State Public Safety and Emergency Management Officer Lt. Jeffery Gentry reiterated that was the only concern.
“We didn’t have a problem with them doing that,” Gentry said. “What we were trying to do is make sure, as we always do, to make sure our students are doing the right thing and make sure the speedo doesn’t come off. Be careful, make sure the speedo stays on. Other than that, nobody had an issue with them doing it.”
A miscommunication between a police officer and Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, caused another police officer to approach them and asked them to stop.
Two of the men met with Robertson this week to make sure they weren’t out of line.
“I was really impressed actually,” Robertson said. “Two of the student leaders actually came to see me just to say, ‘Are there any issues?’ So I think they’ve done it all in a very appropriate manner. Just trying to have fun and generate school spirit, which I think can make the games more enjoyable.”
Robertson, who was at the game, said that he saw some activity going on but was more focused on the game than the student section. No complaints from anyone have come to light since the Houston game.
“It’s just an idea to get students pumped up to come out to the game and just have fun,” said one of the masked men, A.J. Glaser, senior from Louisville, Ky. “Rather than just sitting there yelling ‘Murray State’ once or twice in the game. Our goal was to just get students more excited for the game so more would come out.”
So a common goal has aligned for all parties involved, and these three men, with the help of their fourth accomplice, Jacob Williams, junior from Lebanon, Tenn., plan to continue and even further improve their shenanigans at later, bigger games.
“Full student body participation,” Abel said. “Could you imagine having 10,000 plus students at a basketball game, screaming? In speedos it would be even better.”
Also, Hall would like to say hi to his mother.
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor