Tate Walden

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — As the Winthrop University men’s basketball team prepares to play for the Big South Conference championship (March 8), one group that will be in attendance to lend its support is the school’s pep band.

The Screamin’ Eagles Pep Band is a constant presence at men’s and women’s basketball games, delivering energy, school spirit and crowd engagement to the 6,100-seat Winthrop Coliseum.

“We’re trying to elevate the gameday atmosphere,” Dr. Douglas Presley, director of the pep band, told the Johnsonian earlier this year.

“At home, one of the ways that we create a home–court advantage is by cheering the team on,” said Presley.

One way the band tries to create energy is by playing classic hits, such as Demi Lovato’s “Confident” or “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.

“The role of the pep band is to bring in school spirit and crowd enjoyment,” said Zac Shields, a sophomore who plays drums.

In addition, members of the band interact with the crowd by delivering cheers and taunts to the opposing team when they aren’t performing.

Often band members can be heard yelling “50 percent is still failure,” while the visiting team is shooting free throws, which is one of the many taunts used to create a hostile environment.

“I love the chants that the band comes up with, because I personally think it encourages the crowd, more specifically the student section, to interact during the game and it’s a lot of fun,” said Brialyn Joyce, a sophomore member of the Winthrop Spirit Squad.

Students can often be seen often singing along to the music from the pep band, while the Spirit Squad performs its choreography.

“The band gives a (lively) feel to the arena,” said Bernard King, a sophomore business administration major who often attends games. “When the band starts playing it gets the crowd hyped and they play a lot of familiar songs so it’s really great for the environment.”

While members of the band are paid a stipend of $25 per game, it’s still a substantial time commitment to attend and perform at the games.

For example, members must attend at least three band rehearsals, which last two hours, where students learn the songs for the games.

Antonio Smalls, a sophomore music education major and pep band member, said members also have to arrive at least an hour before each game to set up.

However, for many pep band members, the time commitment is worth the effort.

“In recent years, the pep band has kind of become the poster child for all of the cheering that goes on at the games,” Alexander Dudek, a graduate assistant with the pep band, told the Johnsonian. “I think that it’s had a pretty large effect on the basketball culture here.”

* Editor’s note: Matthew Shealy, who is a member of the Winthrop pep band, contributed to this report.