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By DANNY P. SMITH
The men's basketball program expects the Dawg Pound to rock.
In looking to find ways to increase student attendance and participation for games at Humphrey Coliseum, a name change of the student section has taken place.
Instead of Rick's Rowdies, the area of the arena where the students lend their support will be known as the Dawg Pound moving forward.
The process began when Mississippi State media relations director Gregg Ellis and Student Association President Rhett Hobart got together and began coming up with ideas of how to generate support among the students.
The main point that kept coming back was changing the name.
For various reasons, the numbers within the Rick's Rowdies organization and the participation had declined.
"Rhett and I talked and instead of having an organization within the student body, why don't we just rename the student section," Ellis said. "We just found out that we could move the students back to one unit instead of having them split at both ends of the arena."
A meeting was arranged between Ellis, Hobart, other student association leaders, some organization presidents, the Dean of Students and the Assistant Dean of Students.
The focus of the gathering was to get everyone on the same page and do what was best for Bulldog basketball.
"We all want basketball to succeed and want the atmosphere back to where it used to be," Ellis said.
Ellis said the most important thing was to make sure the students took ownership of the section and the Dawg Pound was born.
MSU men's basketball coach Rick Stansbury was very supportive of the change even though the group with his name attached and had been a part of the program ever since his tenure began 13 years ago would be no more.
Ellis and Hobart approached Stansbury with the name of the Dawg Pound and the coach "didn't hesitate and totally agreed" about starting over and giving the students ownership so they can be more vested in it.
Stansbury has met with Hobart and the Dawg Pound members already the past few weeks to coordinate student involvement, support and participation.
"Rick understands that as fans and a student body, we have to provide the atmosphere at the Hump that makes it a hard place to play," Hobart said. "That's what we're committed to as a student body. We want to make the Hump one of the hardest atmospheres to play in the conference. In doing that, we make it a real home-court advantage for our team.
"It all goes hand-in-hand. This is a way to kick off the whole new era of the Dawg Pound and sharing with Coach Stansbury's commitment to make it successful."
Stansbury said the only name that's really important is Mississippi State and it's all about the students.
"Without the students, there would be no Mississippi State," Stansbury said. "If we don't have the students in there cheering for us, we can't be as successful. Whatever success we've had, our fans and students are a huge part of that. We can't do without it and it starts with our students."
Dawg Pound organizers were sensitive to the leaders of Rick's Rowdies to make sure they were a part of the transition.
"There were no egos here and the bottom line was to support men's basketball," Ellis said.
In conjunction with the new name, student Drew Harrison, who wants to be known as the hype man, will be in charge of the student section as far as getting it going and coming up with cheers.
The goal is to have an intimidating student setting like Duke and Utah State but more organized. There will be a game script of when and what the students will cheer.
The Bulldogs know how important the fans are during the course of the game.
"We can't do without our fans," MSU guard Bryan Bryant said. "The fans cheer us up when we are down and they get in the game when we're up too. It's a momentum shift and the Hump is a tough place to play when the fans are packed in there. We've got a lot of fans and we're glad to have everybody."
MSU has one more exhibition game Friday against Pikeville before opening the season against Eastern Kentucky on Monday.
Hobart said the excitement for what the Bulldogs will bring to the court this season is building.
"We feel like we have a great team coming up this year so we're excited about the change we'll make at the Hump," Hobart said.