BUILDING BENGAL PRIDE: ISU making big push to increase school spirit
POCATELLO — The start of the fall semester at Idaho State University is when Bengal pride is the strongest, showcased by the hundreds of people who attended the annual Welcome Back Orange and Black celebration on Monday at the Old Town Pavilion, says ISU spokesman Stuart Summers.
But as ISU embarks on a new semester with a new administration led by President Kevin Satterlee, school officials and community leaders are hopeful that several changes will catapult a revived sense of school spirit well into the academic year.
In addition to hosting one of the biggest events of the year on Monday, ISU recently announced an immersive tailgate experience for ISU home football games, a partnership with Pocatello Regional Transit (PRT) to “Bengal-ize” all bus stops on campus and some of the busiest streets throughout the Pocatello campus are now adorned in orange and black banners as a reminder to all that you’re now in Bengal country.
“This community has had a really renewed interest in ISU,” Summers said. “This is truly a community that wants to see the university succeed. As part of that we want the Bengal brand to extend well beyond our physical campus.”
Part of the new Bengal brand includes the Alumni and Fan Tailgate experience. Hosted directly on the Idaho Central Credit Union Practice field at the Papenberg Sports Complex during every ISU home football game, the Alumni and Fan Tailgate will be loaded with fun and exciting pregame activities, several unique food trucks, locally brewed beverages, live music and a chance to see ISU football players as they make their way into Holt Arena for the game-day Bengal Walk.
“We will have several food trucks parked right out front of the entrance to the practice field, including Thai Zap, The Melt, Rib Kage and Thanks-A-Brunch,” said Ryan Sargent, the associate director of alumni relations at ISU. “We will also have a tent with free sarsaparilla from Portneuf Valley Brewing and PVB will also be down at the alumni tent offering beer and wine.”
The Alumni and Fan Tailgate experience will be hosted in addition to Bengal-Fest on the North side of Holt Arena, the ISU Football Alumni Team, better known as the F.A.T. Club, tailgate at their clubhouse on the East side and the Bengal Athletic Booster private tailgates in the Northwest section of the parking lot.
“We want you to experience all of this,” Sargent said. “We really want to provide the best pregame experience for our fans and this is just one more opportunity to interact with and get to know these players and coaches.”
Some of the games and activities include cornhole, volleyball, soccer and various inflatables. Reinvigorating the tailgate experience at ISU is part of an overall mission to change the culture that surrounds ISU football, Sargent said.
“We want to create a culture that is based not purely on wins and losses,” Sargent said. “The best part of college football is getting together with friends and former classmates for this celebratory experience. We want to bring some excitement to our fans in Pocatello.”
Another aspect of the new Bengal brand includes changes to all 10 of the PRT bus stops located throughout the ISU Pocatello campus. Summers said each of the bus stops will soon feature an orange wrap with a Bengal head.
“ISU wants these bus shelters to pop and that is of great importance of us,” said PRT Director, Skyler Beebe. “We want to be participating in the school spirit at ISU. We tried to do things like this in the past, but with this new administration they seem very supportive of this school spirit endeavor.”
Even the Welcome Back Orange and Black event saw an increased number of vendors wanting to show their ISU pride and participate in the event, according to Stephanie Palagi, the executive director of Old Town Pocatello Inc. and the Historic Old Town Pocatello Foundation. Palagi plays an instrumental role in making Welcome Back Orange and Black a successful event each year.
“Change for the most part is usually really good and I think the community is embracing the opportunity to create a stronger bond with the university,” Palagi said about the many changes ISU plans to introduce. “We had businesses that called today asking us to squeeze them in after they watched President Satterlee’s address to faculty last week. And I think there is this level of excitement with the different leadership style that is very community oriented.”
Both the Mayor of Pocatello, Brian Blad, and the Mayor of Chubbuck, Kevin England said they have had multiple conversations with Satterlee since he assumed the presidency.
England said that he thinks it’s time the community acknowledges the diamond that ISU is to this community, adding that in ways the area has not fully bought into the idea of being a college town.
“But president Satterlee has been fantastic,” England said. “He has started a community outreach program like I have never seen before. He has some great ideas to revitalize the Bengal spirit. My attitude is let’s start as if this is a new day and show people that ISU belongs to us.”
Blad said, “ISU is a major part of our community and with a new president this year he has been heavily involved in reaching out to this community. My hope is that the community reaches back.”
While the school spirit was on display in full force during the Welcome Back celebration, Palagi is hopeful that enthusiasm remains on display well into the future.
“We are a university town and we should be celebrating that every day,” Palagi said, “not just during Welcome Back Orange and Black.”