Logan • In his first game down in front at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Bill Sproat doesn’t remember who Utah State played or how many points were scored.
What he remembers was a feeling, a contagious spirit that drove more than 4,000 students absolutely wild. They filled the arena with their shouts, and the ground trembled under them.
“There was magic; it would get into your soul,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘Whoa, these guys are at church on Sunday, but man, they’re letting the devil out tonight.’ I got right along with it, too.”
It was only later that year, back in 2010, that “Wild Bill” Sproat — who donned comical costumes that made free-throw shooters cross-eyed — would become one of the most colorful characters in the ensemble of The Hurd, the Aggies’ student section. Collectively, the students at Utah State are feared and respected for their fervor, and it has a lot to do with perhaps the most well-known pregame chant in basketball:
“I. I BELIEVE. I BELIEVE THAT. I BELIEVE THAT WE. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.”
The chant is something of an issue as Utah State prepares for Saturday night’s game against No. 7 San Diego State. There’s pride at stake for the student section to show the Aztecs — who also claim the chant as their own — which school does it better.
A beef exists between The Hurd and The Show — the SDSU student section — over “I Believe,” one that could intensify as both have been lumped together in the Mountain West.
Utah State’s cheer goes back to the fall of 2009, when a group of students led by then-junior Matt Sonnenberg wanted to come up with a pregame cheer as effective as the school’s postgame “Winning team, losing team” chant.
Drawing from the internet for ideas, they came across a video of the University of Buffalo students doing a chant of “I Believe That We Have Won.” Although the roots of that chant have since been traced back to Navy in 2003, Sonnenberg said the Aggies independently came up with the idea to alter it for a rousing kick-starter for home games.
“We figured teams that came in were surprised to come to small-town Utah and get that reception,” he said. “It was our way of saying, ‘You thought we meant business just by being showing up, well now we’re going to be pretty freaking loud.’ ”
It didn’t take right away, of course. The first attempt at “I Believe” maybe had 30 students or so involved. After that, even after word got around, the chant was often competing with the pep band or the arena announcer for volume.
But as “I Believe” caught on, more people started to buy in. It didn’t hurt that Utah State went 34-1 at home over the first two seasons of the chant.
It’s not just at SDSU that it has taken hold — high schools everywhere have taken up the mantra.
“I think it’s one of those chants that’s positive,” says Scott Ficklin, another student who helped pioneer the chant. “Believing your team will win is what being a fan is about.”
Although several dedicated fans have screenshots in store from SDSU message boards showing that the Aztecs can’t claim to have originated it, The Show doesn’t contest that Utah State was first. They just believe they do it better. Among their claims, says SDSU senior Thomas Sholan, is that they’ve had alums such as Marshall Faulk come back to do it with the students.
“Utah State does it great,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a little rivalry. We’re excited about the prospect of it, especially if we played them in the conference tournament.”
No. 7 San Diego St. at Utah St.
O Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan
Tipoff • Saturday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 1280 AM
Records • USU (12-6, 2-4); SDSU (17-1, 5-0)
Series history • USU leads 3-0,
Last meeting • Nov. 24, 1998: USU 63, SDSU 60
About the Aggies • Utah State is seeking consistency on offense after scoring fewer than 60 points in three of its last four games. … The Aggies have yet to win a road game in Mountain West play, but they are also 2-0 at the Spectrum in conference and are 10-1 at home thus far. … Since returning from a suspension, senior center Jarred Shaw has averaged 16.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
About the Aztecs • San Diego State is the No. 1 shooting defense in the country, allowing opponents to make only 34.5 percent of field goal attempts. … Xavier Thames averages a team-leading 16.9 points per game, but his scoring has jumped to 19.3 points per game in conference play. … The Aztecs have shot under 40 percent eight times this year but have gone 7-1 in those games.