Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Bleeding Blue, Gray: Tracing Georgetown School Spirit Through the Ages

Hopeful students, eager alumni and fervent sports fans come to Georgetown University from all over the country, hoping to glimpse the remains of the university’s athletic golden age in the ’80s, an era characterized by the men’s basketball’s three consecutive Big East tournament wins.

Amid this 2023-24 academic year’s basketball season and approaching the seasons of other prominent teams such as lacrosse, the atmosphere of athletics is at its peak this winter on the Hilltop. Generations later, this peak of Georgetown basketball — with its crown jewel of a 1984 national championship win — still serves as the foundation of school spirit.

The Evolving Georgetown Spirit

Simone Guite (CAS ’26), the spirit liaison for Georgetown’s Pep Band, said she feels Hoya sports glory once acted as a major draw to the university for incoming students. 

“They probably did have this image of the ’80s in this ‘golden era,’” Guite said. “Personally, when I was looking at Georgetown, a lot of my family members were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I was such a big fan of Georgetown basketball in the ’80s.’ I think that kind of carried down to the students as well.” 

Guite said students applying to Georgetown today may not feel the same allure of Georgetown athletics amid a gradual decline in basketball glory, with the men’s team having made the NCAA tournament only once in the last eight years. 

“Georgetown now attracts a different type of student,” Guite said “At Georgetown, everyone prioritizes school a lot and internships. So I think that always comes before participating in school spirit. I have a feeling that in other schools maybe that isn’t the case — people prioritize school spirit over schoolwork sometimes.”

Regularly near the top of academic rankings for its international affairs and government programs, Georgetown attracts high-achieving students: In the Niche 2024 program rankings, Georgetown earned the top spot for political science. 

Guite said that she finds feelings associated with a strong sports spirit culture hard to notice on campus.

“My experience, especially last year, is that pride in Georgetown was not so much on the sports programs, but more so on academics, clubs and other areas that Georgetown thrives in,” Guite said.

“Nobody commits to Georgetown in order to go watch a football or basketball game in the way they might commit to Alabama because of the school spirit culture there,” Guite added.

Alex Henn (CAS ’24), the president of the Pep Band, said Georgetown tends to lure students because of its academic offerings over its sports culture. 

“I don’t know that sports are one of the things that you think when you hear Georgetown,” Henn said. “Instead, you think about the government and our political science programs, and you think about the prestige and being in DC. I don’t know that sports are necessarily on the top of that list just because we have all these other things that we’re also really proud of the school for.”

The contrast between the consecutive wins of the NCAA tournament in the early 1980s and the lack thereof in the 2010s has further perpetuated a lack of involvement in sports spirit and culture, according to students such as Harrison McCarty (SFS ’26).

McCarty, an in-game officer for the Georgetown student spirit organization Hoya Blue, said the success of the team determines student interest in participating in school spirit. 

“It’s hard to have a strong athletics program and strong athletics culture if there’s not one strong cornerstone of it, especially since basketball the past few years has been a little rough,” McCarty said. “It’s been hard to maintain student involvement because, at the end of the day, students only want to go to games if we’re going to win.”

Bill Auth/The Hoya | Although sports may not be the main draw for some students applying to Georgetown today, many Hoyas look back fondly on the peak of Georgetown basketball in the 1980s.

Abby Kozo (SFS ’27), a freshman on the softball team, said this decline in sports culture is discouraging Georgetown athletes’ performance and contributing to a lack of attraction to sports, which is rooted in any lack of success.

“When you go to an elite school like Georgetown, it’s easy to just be like, ‘who cares if the sports aren’t good?’” Kozo said. “Because you’re here and so as an athlete, that’s what they’ll tell you. They’re like, ‘Yeah, you should care but you’re never going to be ranked super highly, especially in a sport like softball, so just make sure you study and keep your grades up.’”

“But I think we should have those motivators to want to win and want to aim for a Big East Championship too,” Kozo said. 

A New Chapter

Students within organizations such as Hoya Blue and Pep Band display pride within Georgetown Athletics, regardless of team statistics. However, this passion is difficult to instill in the broader student community, according to McCarty.

McCarty said the first step toward the revitalization of Georgetown’s school spirit is a shift in the culture among students. 

“At the end of the day, no matter how much or how hard Hoya Blue works, or how hard athletics works, it comes down to students deciding to care,” McCarty said. “Hoya Blue can make signs and host tailgates for events all that we want. But at the end of the day, if nobody’s showing up, it’s not going to do anything to change the culture. So I think what we really need is for students to care and to show up.”

“They say all the time how important it is for students and fans to show up and make noise because a home-field advantage is so real, but if we’re not showing up, it’s not a home-field advantage,” McCarty said.

McCarty also said a strong sports culture plays an important role in attracting recruits and enhancing the prestige of Georgetown athletics. McCarty said it can determine the future potential of the athletic program. 

“It’s hard for smaller schools like Georgetown to keep up with the big names, but I don’t think that it’s something that we can’t do,” McCarty said.“We just have to kind of change how we approach it and our strategy. And I think that first starts with rebuilding a culture because recruits want to come to schools with good cultures.”

Many Georgetown students and sports fans said they feel as though the hiring of the former Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley in March 2023 has begun to change the school spirit dynamic.

The new hire sparked hope for the revival of Georgetown men’s basketball after a streak of unsuccessful conferences and Patrick Ewing’s 2023 departure from his six years as the head coach of the program.

Kozo said a new coach, especially one as reputable as Ed Cooley, is likely to enhance the number and strength of the recruit pool, thereby promoting the team’s future success.

“With the new coach — just the sheer recruits he gets — they’re just better, more competitive and higher-ranked recruits,” Kozo said. “More people will choose to go here to be that underdog school and kind of work their way back up.”

Henn said the news of a new coach reestablished an atmosphere of interest in athletics in Georgetown’s community because the new potential for success piqued student intrigue. 

“It was something that became part of the small talk. So beyond just weather or midterms — because we’re always in midterm season — it became Ed Cooley,” Henn said.

Lana Aguon (CAS ’24), the vice-president of Georgetown’s Pep Band, said although limitations in venue funding may restrict overall involvement in athletics teams, it is still possible to foster a vibrant sports culture.

“Other D1 schools are much larger and have significantly more funding in their athletics programs than ours, allowing other schools to create a large sports culture,” Aguon said.

“However, even without the funds, I do think it’s possible to create sports spirit,” Aguon added. “I think that Georgetown is starting to do that, especially with Coach Cooley meeting and connecting with students on campus outside of games.”

Aguon said recent successes for Georgetown Athletics could also be contributing to the revival of the sports culture at Georgetown. She said teams — other than the basketball team — have particularly excelled in recent competitions.

“Georgetown’s sports reputation is growing more respect,” Aguon said. “We have a phenomenal soccer program, with our men’s team being one of the best in the nation, and several of our teams have all brought home Big East championships in recent years.”

Many Georgetown teams have had successful efforts in gameplay, from the women’s soccer team’s recent Big East tournament championship win to a series of nine consecutive game wins in the last men’s lacrosse season.

Justin Greenzaid (MSB ’27), a student manager for the men’s lacrosse team, said he thinks student support through spirit positively impacts team performance.

“The lacrosse team is consistently a top team in the nation, and the students seem to show out to games pretty well, especially as the season progresses,” Greenzaid wrote to The Hoya. “Student engagement definitely helps the success of players on the team like any sports team would.” 

“Whenever more fans show up to games, it creates a much more energetic environment that translates to the team’s play on the field,” Greenzaid wrote. 

Onward and Upward

Although a booming sports culture may not necessarily align with Georgetown’s current athletic environment, Greenzaid said opportunities to participate in it are there if students make an effort.

“I think the reputation of Georgetown’s student section is a little underestimated, and until you actually go to some of the games, you may not really know how fun they can be,” Greenzaid said. 

Lee Reed, Georgetown’s director of intercollegiate athletics, said many teams have strong potential for future success, even if some sports tend to attract more viewership than others. 

“We are fortunate to have both programs with exceptional histories as well as teams that are just in their infancy on our campus,” Reed wrote to The Hoya.

“With 30 varsity programs and more than 700 student athletes, we are much more than just our past successes,” Reed wrote.

Henn said a more robust sports culture at Georgetown would not only positively impact the performance of players, but foster a special sense of community not found through any other activities.

“Being able to watch sports and say that you go to school is like such a special thing,” Henn said. “It’s like you have such a connection to it. I think the sense of community — whether it’s sports or even just general, like having pride in the school — it really brings people together in a way that you don’t really always get outside of a school setting.”

Kozo said the experience of a good sports culture enhances pride in the community and in Georgetown as an institution. 

“It’s not to say that there isn’t school spirit, but that it’s just a missed factor that people overlook,” Kozo said.  “So I don’t think that people choose the school because they want that huge ‘rah-rah’ school spirit. But once they get here, they learn that there actually are a lot of sports events that we can go to and there’s a lot of school pride things, in general.”

“A lot of people showed up for homecoming, just to wear the shirt and to be proud that you go to the school,” Kozo added. 

Henn said pushing for involvement in Georgetown athletics helps to fulfill the highly desired cliché college experience, allowing students to create memories they will cherish for years after leaving the Hilltop.

“It makes you really feel like you’re part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” Henn said. “There’s something to be said for the unification it can bring where we all go to this school and we’re all involved in different classes and clubs, but when one of our teams wins, we have this baseline pride in our school. It brings everyone together in a way that extends beyond all these little divisions.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *