Ten years ago a Drexel Athletics staff member named Sean Joyce had a dream. Although people continuously told him his idea had no chance and that many had failed to accomplish the same feat many times before, Joyce did not back down.
Despite many drawbacks, an extremely small group of members and faulty first attempts at naming the club, the group of students was eventually named the DAC Pack, a play on the name of the athletic center that the Drexel basketball teams call home.
Fast-forward 10 years to the present day, and this group of students, which is much larger than the 15 that originated the club at its beginning, is a staple of athletic spirit on the Drexel campus. On any given day, a student can walk around campus and find a few small groups of students wearing “Year of the Dragon” DAC Pack T-shirts while handing out free tickets to the next home game.
Students with a valid Drexel student ID can gain admission to any Drexel athletic event for free, and in most cases, even receive a free DAC Pack shirt, eventually flooding the gym in a sea of screaming yellow-clad fans.
In a recent column by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Dick Jerardi, titled “When Fans Get Nasty,” Jerardi listed of a number of interesting facts and opinions, some good and some controversial.
One statement he did make — and this is of particular importance to Drexel — is as follows:
“In this city, [the best fan section] has to be Drexel. Others have more participants. None is as enthusiastic as the DAC Pack. It is loud and creative, with fun being the operative word. And the DAC Pack has a really good team to watch.”
Now that is saying something in a city known for the Big 5, not the City 6 — Drexel is only included in the latter, with the Big 5 made up of Temple University, Villanova University, La Salle University, St. Joseph’s University and the University of Pennsylvania.
The Drexel men’s basketball team has been having a large amount of success this season, and one could say that the DAC Pack is reaping the benefits as well, but hey, this is college basketball, and everyone just wants to have fun.
Seeing an opportunity to gain some national exposure, Joyce, the DAC Pack’s faculty adviser, was able to send in an application to a contest that could earn the student organization — and the University — just that.
“It’s called the Naismith Student Section of the Year Award, and they had this website you can go on, enter your email address and then just vote for Drexel,” DAC Pack President Anthony D’Angelo said. “You can do it once a day through your email address, and we just kind of started a little campaign, getting the word out there with social media and otherwise just getting people to vote for the DAC Pack, and people took to it.”
Joyce added that the entire idea started when this competition sent them an application. Drexel and hundreds of other schools sent in their applications, and a panel of eight judges picked the top 80 schools for the competition — Drexel being one of them.
With the competition going on for more than a few weeks now, Drexel is still alive. In fact, they are more than alive, as they have cracked the Sweet 16 of the competition, reaching as high as No. 10 at some points in the voting.
Drexel is also the only mid-major school left in a competition that is filled with Division I heavyweights.
There is a date in the minds of everyone even remotely involved with the DAC Pack, and that is Feb. 25. That is the date when the Naismith panel releases the schools that have made it to the final eight. Once that happens, students and their votes matter no longer. The winner will be chosen by the panel out of the final eight.
The other 15 schools that make up the Sweet 16 are the University of Kansas, Purdue University, Gonzaga University, San Diego State University, Utah State University, Indiana University, Duke University, Syracuse University, West Virginia University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Illinois, the University of California, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Colorado and the University of Arizona.
“It’s pretty cool to see Drexel up there. Whether it’s with Arizona State or Indiana or North Carolina or Gonzaga, it’s pretty cool to see the school’s name up there,” Joyce said. “It also just helps to go along with the season the men’s team is having, which makes it even more fun.”
Joyce also mentioned that the students are getting really hyped up and into this whole competition, and of course, D’Angelo is no exception.
“It’s a tremendous honor to get a little recognition for the work we do — to get people out to games to create the type of fun atmosphere we think that Drexel athletics is all about. … It’d be great to have the rest of the country know about us,” D’Angelo said. “We’ve already been labeled the best student section in Philly by a number of sources, and that means a lot, too, since Philadelphia basketball is huge among the NCAA. But to get on a national level would be that much better.
“Plus, Naismith just sounds really cool since they do all of the college basketball awards — it just makes it seem really official.”
As the DAC Pack and Joyce prepare for the long haul that is the Naismith competition, here’s a word of advice for the Drexel basketball faithful out there.
Even if you are not a die-hard fan like D’Angelo and the rest of his crew, that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy this Dragon mania that is sweeping the campus. So you came to Drexel and accepted the fact that sports aren’t a very big part of the culture — well guess what: You have a chance to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Joyce and the DAC Pack are running with.
Oh yeah, and the basketball team is pretty good too.
The men are currently one of the hottest teams in the nation, as they are on a 14-game win streak and have won 20 of their last 21 games. At 22-5 overall and 14-2 in the conference, the Colonial Athletic Association’s first-place Dragons are prepping for their ESPN BracketBusters game against the Cleveland State University Vikings Feb. 18. They will finish up the season against James Madison University at home Feb. 22 and then on the road against Old Dominion University Feb. 25.
In the words of the great Dick Vitale, “This is awesome, baby!”