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How does Grand Canyon get so many students to go to games? I went to Phoenix to find out

Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.

People forget this, but Phoenix is huge. It's the fifth biggest city in America, after all. Phoenix residents have all sorts of entertainment options, from golf courses to nightclubs, restaurants, live music, and all the other trappings of a major US city.

Last Friday, over 5,200 of those residents decided to spend their Friday evening watching the Grand Canyon University baseball team play Nevada. In the first inning, I struggled to find a single empty seat, while standing-room sections were packed all throughout the stadium. There were plenty of families, sure, but also hundreds of GCU undergrads, munching on churros and massive nacho plates. It looked like a AA baseball game.

The next day, Grand Canyon hosted New Mexico State in men's basketball. Dozens of students camped out in tents for days before the game, even though their tickets were free, just to make sure they got good seats. By tipoff, the arena was over the listed capacity, with more than 7,000 fans, including thousands of students, screaming and dancing and generally causing Havoc (hence the student section name). The student section remained completely packed and engaged, even though New Mexico State mostly dominated the game.

Trying to type on press row, that arena wasn't loud for a Mid-Major. It was LOUD loud. Rock concert loud. Louder than almost any other arena experience I've had in my career.

Schools across the country visit Grand Canyon to try to figure out how they can capture some of this magic for themselves. Based on my trip here, I think that might be tough to do. Administrators and students were clear with me....they believe the GCU fan experience, the core of the Havoc...comes from culture.

A culture that in many ways, is tied to the unique journey of the school.

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