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Bear Pit evidence of basketball's high student support

Nov. 12, 2010

Daniel Cernero | Lariat Photo Editor
Bear Pit members wave their hands as Midwestern State attempts a free throw in a Nov. 4 exhibition game. The Bears play Grambling State today at 8:30 p.m at the Ferrell Center.

By Tyler Alley

The Bear Pit is packed and on its feet. The cheers are loud and the fans are excited for some Baylor men's basketball. But this is not a conference game; it is an exhibition game.

"We were completely packed," said Corinth junior and Bear Pit President Kattie Kerr. "It's the biggest attendance we've had at an exhibition game ever. Even the home bench, which is never filled up, was packed and rowdy."

With the team coming off a 24-win season with a visit to the Elite Eight, the only thing higher than the expectations might be the excitement level. Never in Baylor basketball's history has the Bear Pit, the student-organized cheering section distinguished with its gold-and-black-striped jerseys, seen such a high preseason ranked team take the floor.

"I am so pumped," said Ben Friedman, public relations official for Bear Pit. "I wouldn't say I'm more pumped then I've ever been, but I definitely am really excited. I'm really excited that everyone else is excited. I cannot wait to see how well this team does. The team's going to be amazing."

The attendance for the game against Midwestern State was 5,510, 270 people more than last year's exhibition game. While football remains top dog for now, there is clear evidence that basketball is on the rise in Baylor Nation.

The Bear Pit is seeing an increase in membership over last year as well. The group of Baylor's biggest basketball fans had about 1,200 active members by the end of last season; at the season opener this year, there were around 780 members.

"At Late Night at the SLC we had 250 members sign up," Kerr said. "I printed 500 more signup sheets and we've gone through all of those, so I have had to print 500 more."

Not only has the home crowd gotten bigger, but members of the Bear Pit and Baylor basketball fans in general traveled in numbers to away games last season and even at games in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. With members of the Bear Pit getting time on television during those big games, it is definitely drawing attention for fans wanting to join.

"During the UT game last year, people were saying the loudest people in the stadium are the 300 Baylor students at the top of the stadium in Austin," Friedman said. "I think the people who did travel to New Orleans and Houston saw a large Baylor presence there and decided they wanted to be a part of that."

Friedman and Kerr also said they get several e-mails each day asking about the Bear Pit. It appears not only the expectations for Baylor basketball gone up, but also expectations for the fans to show up.

"If we don't sell out against UT and A&M, I'll be disappointed," Friedman said. "I honestly expect those two games should sell out. I sincerely hope that against teams like Colorado and Nebraska, who are leaving the Big 12, people show up."

The March 5 matchup between the Bears and the Longhorns will host ESPN's College GameDay, which will draw a raucous crowd, Drew hopes.

"What a tremendous privilege, honor and compliment to 'Baylor Nation' and everyone in Central Texas. Baylor's campus and the Ferrell Center will be rocking come March 5," Drew said.

Drew has also said he wants to turn the Ferrell Center into the "unofficial Bear Pit." The Baylor Bookstore is selling replica Bear Pit jerseys for nonmembers to wear.

Those interested in joining the Bear Pit should look on the Bear Pit's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Membership costs $20 for new members and $10 for returning members.

Fans have an opportunity to see the Bears play Grambling State today at 8:30 p.m.