During Redbird football’s home opener September 7, the stands of Hancock Stadium transformed into a sea of red, filled to the brim with cheering fans. The Big Red Marching Machine fired up the crowd with their performance of the fight song.
The Redbirds started off strong, scoring two touchdowns within the game’s first five minutes. Following each touchdown by the Redbirds in their 42-14 victory over Morehead State, the crowd became more electric.
Red Alert crew members were at the helm of it all, leading the chants and directly contributing to the contagious energy felt across the stadium. The interns of Red Alert handed out free merchandise and spread the word about Red Alert to many of the new students in attendance.
“Red Alert is our student section for all of the games,” said Steven Panicko, one of the Red Alert chant leaders. “It’s where we have the chant leaders and the organizers that work together to get the home crowd fired up.”
Once a registered student organization, Red Alert has been a part of Illinois State Athletics since the 2014–2015 school year. Originating in 2006, Red Alert succeeds similar iterations such as the Redbird Rooters that introduced the Victory Bell in 1964. Currently, Red Alert has around 2,500 student pass-holders. The spirit behind Red Alert is to be the best student section in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Panicko, a senior history major, has been a part of Red Alert since his freshman year at Illinois State. “Red Alert has honestly been the highlight of my college experience,” said Panicko. “The opportunity to have a leadership role in the student section has been an absolute dream come true for me.”
“Red Alert is a great way to get involved with the student body and do fun things around campus,” said intern Zach Kietzmann, a sophomore double majoring in mass media and marketing. As part of his internship, Kietzmann promotes Red Alert through its social media accounts.
Red Alert offers many activities and promotions to the student body, ranging from giveaways to reward programs. Through the Illinois State Athletics mobile app, there is a rewards program for Red Alert students to earn points. As students attend games, they can check in through the app, build points, and redeem those points for prizes throughout the year. Additionally, Red Alert hosts giveaways throughout the year for items ranging from T-shirts to food.
“The internship with Red Alert is a great learning experience,” said intern Tanner Saddler, a senior marketing major. “We work to think of creative ways to sell Red Alert passes and get students involved in the games.”
Starting this fall, Red Alert offers a four-year membership pass for $100. “The new pass is a great deal, especially for the freshmen,” said Panicko. “You can get into any sporting event for all four years, and as a bonus, you get a free T-shirt each year.”
While the hype is currently around Redbird football, the members of Red Alert are already looking to the basketball season.
“There’s something about the atmosphere at Redbird Arena,” said Panicko. “The crowd energy for their games is unmatched, and we really want even more people to come out this year.”
“There’s a lot of buzz around football, but I think that we can get even more interest in the basketball season,” said Saddler. “I’m being hopeful here, but maybe we can even make the NCAA tournament in March.”
As a chant leader, Panicko has seen how the support from the home crowd helps the Redbird teams. “Our teams really benefit from us chanting and getting in the heads of the opposing team,” said Panicko. “They love to see us come together and cheer them on as one big Redbird family.”