Pep band personifies CMU spirit through the power of music
The 6th Man Band brings school spirit to CMU basketball
Though McGuirk Arena was just halfway filled when Central Michigan University's women's basketball team battled Vanderbilt University Nov. 14, there was no lack of noise and school spirit.
Cheering on the team from beginning to end was the 6th Man Band, CMU basketball's pep band, members stayed on their feet and filled the partially-vacant arena with fight songs and cheering.
The pep band has grown in recent years both in size and involvement, comprising about 70 members on its official roster and an average of 20-to-35 members playing at each game. Its goal is to bring excitement to CMU basketball games and to support the team, no matter the score or the size of the crowd.
The group's name refers to acting as the "sixth teammate" on the court.
Livonia senior Brendan Wilk serves as the current student director of the 6th Man Band, in addition to acting as the drum major of the CMU Marching Band.
“Our focus is just bringing the energy to McGuirk Arena,” Wilk said. “When the team is fired up from us, sometimes they play better. The work is all on them, but I like to think having that better vibe, getting the electricity really going, has a more positive impact on everybody in the arena.
“Even when we have less people, there still are attendees, so you have to perform as if you’re performing for as many people as McGuirk holds."
Even when students aren't there to support the basketball teams, the 6th Man Band still “brings the hype,” said Owosso sophomore Kyle Wendling, now in his second year with the pep band.
“A lot of people don’t really go to women’s basketball games, especially during the week,” Wendling said. “It’s disappointing, but we still bring the hype. The energy is always 100 percent from us, no matter if it’s men’s or women’s basketball.”
The band’s presence in the game goes further than just playing music. Wilk said the band enjoys messing with opposing teams through cheers.
The band will usually count down with the shot clock during the game, and sometimes for the opposing team, they will start their countdown early to throw them off.
“There was a women’s game (a few weeks ago) where we got (the other team) five times," Wilk said. "They get flustered because we’re counting down three when they actually have like six more seconds, and then they’ll just shoot the ball up and air ball it. It’s hilarious, it cracks me and the band up. That’s a legal way we actually affect the game, but it’s all in good spirit.”
The enthusiastic presence of the 6th Man Band is well-known in the CMU athletic community. CMU wrestling head coach Tom Borrelli showed up to a band rehearsal recently to show his respect and to ask if the wrestling team could have a pep band of its own.
Members of the pep band appeared at the CMU wrestling meet against Michigan State University on Nov. 17, at Borrelli’s request, to encourage more energy at meets. Wilk said the band hopes to perform at more wrestling matches in the future.
Women's basketball head coach Sue Guevara said the band's name is appropriate, as the enthusiasm, creativity and energy they bring to games is a huge component to the team's success.
The basketball teams and the band interact with each other regularly off court. Before the beginning of each basketball season, the two groups will often hold a pizza party to promote interaction and communication, which shows when the band and team play off of each other on the court.
"(6th Man Band is) very invested in (the women's) program and the men's program," Guevara said. "The band is always very into it, because they know our players."
The Nov. 14 game against Vanderbilt ended with a 91-75 victory for CMU, which Guevara is happy to attribute to the spirit that came from the 6th Man Band.
"I think our band contributes to every victory," Guevara said. "When (players) get running, and they can feel the energy there and they can hear everybody, you can feel that."