Classes aren’t the only thing headed to Zoom for Rutgers students this year. With the return of Big Ten football, the Riot Squad, the official student section for Scarlet Knights Athletics, has set up a new and socially distanced way for fans to support the University, according to Aaron Breitman of On the Banks.
“Enjoy the game virtually. We plan to have Zoom meetings while watching the game to talk, react and enjoy the game together,” said club President Parth Patel. In normal circumstances, in order to be a part of the Squad, a student has to join the organized club and attend meetings. Due to the lack of students on campus, the Squad is opening up to anyone that wants to cheer.
“We are trying to open things up so more people can get involved and get more feedback from students at Rutgers. It is about all of us together,” Patel said. “We do want to continue to do things with everyone. We want to open up Zoom watch parties with non-members to give people a chance to still join our club. We don’t want to exclude anyone.”
The Squad is taking this as an opportunity to reach out to potential new members. Last year, the Squad attended a Rutgers men’s basketball practice and shot around with the team. As a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), activities like that have been put on hold, but the Squad hopes to stay involved in other ways.
Gabriel Vinogradov, the club’s social media manager, spoke about their hopes for a Zoom call with men’s head basketball coach Steve Pikiell or head football coach Greg Schiano. Activities like this are what the Squad is hoping will increase new membership. The club gives students opportunities to show their support at sporting events and meet other students with a passion for all things Knights.
“Active membership includes people who are consistently going to games and talking about Rutgers sports. Coming to our watch parties and meetings. People that are more engaged than the average Rutgers student,” Patel said.
The club hopes to expand its perks and create identification cards to give members access to the two first rows for any athletic event in the Rutgers Athletic Center. The Squad plans on using social media to reach out and recruit new members. Last season, social media was a large part of their day-to-day activities. They utilize their platforms to reach out to recruits and wish them well at Rutgers.
“Wishing a recruit, who Rutgers is targeting good luck before a game can go a long way coming from the official student section. It means something. Getting active members to participate in that has potential too,” said club treasurer Ryan O’Connor. O’Connor has utilized another club called the Chop Crew to reach out and support recruits.
Last year, the Squad traveled to support true freshman center Cliff Omoruyi, a top 50 national recruit who signed with the Knights last spring. Its trip to Kean for the Union County men’s basketball title game is something the club hopes to continue doing after COVID-19. In the meantime, it hopes to support Rutgers athletics in any way it can.
“We have been active in communication with the athletic department about their plans for spreading a positive message about Rutgers sports,” Vinogradov said. The Riot Squad plans on hosting Zoom events where students and alumni can cheer on their Knights safely and responsibly.