Photo / Niner Nation Gold

Niner Nation Gold (NNG), one of the largest student groups on campus, will throw a pizza party to celebrate the new basketball season on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center (SAC).

NNG is an athletic spirit group that supports all of the teams on campus, whether it is volleyball or soccer, but basketball remains the major attraction, according to Marie Davis, president of NNG. The annual event is a way to reward students who have recently signed up, since the beginning of the year is when most new students sign up.

During the “pre-pizza party,” members will be able to mingle with the athletic director and the men’s and women’s basketball coaches. “The coaches will answer questions and let the group know if there are any big games they really want our support at,” said Davis. This year some players will also be showing up to speak or just to hang out with members.

In addition to meeting and becoming familiar with certain members of the basketball teams, the pizza party will also be a great opportunity for members to meet and hang out with the rest of NNG, said Davis. This will also be the time when members pick up their t-shirt that comes free with signing up, which costs $20 and can be done online.

Once the food is finished, NGG members will be let into Basketball Madness before anyone else in order to get the best seats. Basketball Madness is an annual event in which fans get to meet the teams and there is a Slam Dunk contest in Halton Arena.

This year’s event also includes the unveiling of a new look for Norm the Niner and the designs for an official fan t-shirt for the 2011-2012 season. Fans will vote for their favorite shirt and the winning design will be available around the home opener on Nov. 11, 2011.

While excitement builds around the basketball season, some members of NNG have been looking a little further ahead. A few students who are involved in NNG have been working on some preliminary plans with the Student Ticketing Committee to figure out how student tickets and seating for the 2013 football season will work.

“We want to get people excited who will stick around and build some tradition,” said Davis. “We are trying to create traditions now that will carry over to when football starts.”

The basketball season gives them an opportunity to do just that, said Davis. NNG is working on putting together a big basketball kickoff in front of Halton Arena sometime around the home opener that will give students and members more of a tailgate feel.

“There will be outdoor games and activities and organizations for people who are excited for the basketball season,” she said. “It will also get them to enjoy the time spent waiting outside for tickets and start building that culture outdoors that can be a fun environment for everyone”

Another goal of NNG is to try to build up support for the sports that don’t get as much attention from the entire student body. The coaches of these teams are always appreciative of these efforts, said Davis. Last year, when members camped out all night before a women’s basketball game, they were woken by head coach Karen Aston, who brought them coffee and donuts.

The NNG has also worked this year to promote the teams that haven’t been seeing the turnout they would like to. They have handed out free t-shirts at the entrance of a volleyball game and even threw an ice cream social before a women’s soccer game.

Attending these games does more than bolster support for those who need it most. The NNG takes advantage of the loyalty point system that effects what seats a student gets when he or she picks up basketball tickets.

When a student attends any event, they are rewarded one loyalty point. The more points a student has, the better their seats are for the basketball games they attend in the future. When someone signs up for NNG, they receive eight points. “NNG members always have a step up for getting the best seats for the biggest games in Halton Arena,” said Davis.