It’s the bottom of the ninth inning, the bases are loaded and the game is tied. Or maybe there are five seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the kicker is coming out to give his team the lead. Or perhaps the point guard has the ball in his hands with the final buzzer on the verge of sounding.
At the end of a close contest, when an athlete is running on fumes, any edge can make the slightest of difference between winning and losing. If the home team has the privilege of playing in front of a raucous crowd that shakes the stadium, it might be the advantage that provides a victory.
The support of fans doesn’t always come to mind before practice, skill and athleticism in the hierarchy of winning attributes for an athletic team, but in a hard fought battle where both teams are evenly matched, a rocking home field advantage could make a huge impact.
Lipscomb senior T.J. Ojehomon saw a distinct lack of fan support, especially from students, when he started attending athletic events on campus. Being a former athlete himself, he knew that peers cheering you on while competing can have a crucial impact. Ojehomon also knew that even though his playing days were over, he wanted to make an impact on Lipscomb athletics somehow. Thus, Stampede, Lipscomb’s student fan organization, was born.
“My sophomore year I got the opportunity to produce a video in order to promote Running of the Bison,” Ojehomon said. “Then that led to another opportunity to do on-court entertainment, being the guy that gets people involved during media timeouts.
“That allowed me to see the athletics department here at Lipscomb. It got me excited and helped me see some of the problems we had. One thing I knew we were really pushing was fan attendance, getting students to the games. I know a lot of other universities where there are official student fan organizations that keep attendance up. When I saw that opportunity, I said, ‘Well, we don’t have one, so let me start one.’”
Ojehomon and his cohorts lather themselves with paint, suit up in ridiculous outfits and yell until their voices are hoarse at both home and away Bison games, with the goal of providing Lipscomb with a true Division 1 home court experience – no matter what the sport is.
Ojehmon can be seen belting out his trademark taunts and cheers everywhere from Allen Arena to Draper Diamond to the Huston-Marsh-Griffith Tennis Center.
“The main goal is to get butts in seats.” Ojehomon said. “It’s to increase fan attendance, more particularly at home games, and to create that bigger atmosphere, that bigger energy for the athletics teams here. Hopefully, it leads to more success, which gives our university more notoriety.”
Ojehomon combined his familiarity with the inner workings of athletic events and the skills he has learned at Lipscomb as an organizational communication major to create what he has deemed the three most important steps in getting fans in the seats. His first step in the three step process is making sure he is present at the games that he is asking students to attend.
“If you want to see more students at the games, you’ve got to be a guy that shows up at the games.” Ojehomon said.
Steps two and three are just as simple and effective: recruit freshmen and give away free items. His idea is that freshmen are the most outgoing and energetic students on campus, so why not tap into that well of excitement? And, of course, the appeal of free stuff never ceases.
“Freshmen are the most energetic part of any university.” Ojehomon said. “They are willing to do everything. They want to see how they can get involved. They are huge on pride, and they’re excited to be in college. The strategy is you go and get the freshmen, get them excited and energized and looking forward to going to athletic events.
“Then they pass it on to the next group of freshmen. So, when they are juniors, they are leaders with what we do here for sports. Hopefully you continue to see that cycle. Then you also have free stuff – free t-shirts, free food, more incentives to get students motivated.”
Ojehomon’s ultimate goal in building Lipscomb’s fan base is to help the school get national notoriety. The process is a long one, and the goal is ambitious, but Stampede believes it has the passion to succeed.
Ojehomon has a theory. The theory is that more fan support, especially from peers, for the Bison teams can turn into more wins.
Those wins, in turn, will give way to higher seeds in the Atlantic Sun tournaments. Having a higher seed in the conference tournaments gives Lipscomb a better chance at winning and advancing to national tournaments.
And if Lipscomb has athletic teams in NCAA tournaments, then Ojehomon believes that more people will notice Lipscomb the school, not just Lipscomb the sports team. And it all starts with increased fan support.
“It’s a pride thing.” Ojehomon said. “When you help establish that pride and that excitement for the school that’s going to be your alma mater, that’s huge for you.”