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Campus Life

Fan cutouts maintain an important presence in the stands during the pandemic

Miami athletics placed 2D versions of some alumni and other key supporters in the stands for basketball and hockey games, as well as volleyball matches.

The Miami basketball team huddles in front of a crowd of 2D cutout fans
There were plenty of fans in the stands this academic year, but many of these fans were 2D cutouts because of the pandemic.
Campus Life

Fan cutouts maintain an important presence in the stands during the pandemic

#There were plenty of fans in the stands this academic year, but many of these fans were 2D cutouts because of the pandemic.()

By Margo Kissell, university news and communications

Fans have been in the stands this academic year as Miami University basketball players hustled down the court in Millett Hall and hockey players glided across the rink in Goggin Ice Center.  

Fan cutouts in the stands

Fan cutouts include President Gregory Crawford (lower center), Miami Ambassador Renate Crawford (left), their two dogs, Ivy and Newton, and plenty of other dogs (all photos by Scott Kissell). 

But look closer — much closer — and you’ll see how these fans are different in the era of COVID-19.  

Miami athletics placed 2D versions of some alumni and other key supporters in the stands for basketball and hockey games, as well as volleyball matches. Alumni and other fans of the athletics program were invited to participate, too, by putting themselves or others in the stands.  

There’s Wally Szczerbiak (Miami ’99) sitting near the late legendary coach Charlie Coles (Miami ’65). Szczerbiak — who played 10 seasons in the NBA — played for Coles when Miami reached the Sweet 16 during the 1999 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Coles, who retired in 2012 after 16 seasons at Miami, died in 2013 at age 71.  

“Charlie would choose no other place to be than in Millett Hall watching the RedHawks,” said Craig Bennett MS ’00, senior director of Miami’s Student Success Center, who appreciated hearing athletics placed his father-in-law in the crowd.  

Welcome to Millett during the pandemic  

Coach's family in the crowd

The family of Miami men's basketball Head Coach Jack Owens take in the action at Millett Hall.

The Mid-American Conference's policy this basketball season limited attendance and required guests of student-athletes and coaches to wear masks and be socially distanced from others, said Lindsay Sparks, assistant athletic director and chief athletic marketing and communications officer.  

But to play it extra safe, they came up with the idea for the fan cutouts.  

Sparks pointed out that for an ESPNU men’s basketball game, they were intentional in placing Coles and Szczerbiak behind the Miami bench.

They also placed in that area some other Miami standouts, including Wayne Embry ’58, Randy Ayers ’78 MEd ’81, Ron Harper ’86 and Damon Frierson ‘99 (now assistant to Miami men’s basketball Head Coach Jack Owens.)  

Players also could spot cutouts of President Gregory Crawford along with Miami Ambassador Renate Crawford and their two golden retrievers, Ivy and Newton. In all, there are 10 dogs in the audience.  

Even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders makes an appearance in his familiar bundled-up-with-mittens pose that went viral. (That was Sparks’ personal contribution.)  

Miami volleyball Coach Carolyn Condit got a kick out of seeing that someone placed a cutout of her yelling for her team, which is now heading toward the MAC tournament. “The photo of me has to be 15 years old, and I don't remember ever wearing that color jacket to a volleyball match,” she quipped.

Her favorite cutouts are of Miami employees who have been “genuine fans of not just the sport but of the student-athletes who compete hard and give a full commitment to representing Miami while still shining in the classroom.”

She said the cutouts brought humor into a tough situation for the student-athletes who “could no longer feel the energy and hear the loud cheers at introductions or after an exciting play.”

Staying engaged and showing support

Peyton Scott's game-winning shot

Peyton Scott, a sophomore guard, made this game- winning shot that landed on SportsCenter's highlight reel on ESPN.

Peyton Scott, a sophomore guard for the women’s basketball team, has enjoyed seeing her family, including dog Rosie, among the cutouts.  

“I thought the fan cutouts were a neat way of getting our loved ones to the games without them physically being at the games,” Scott said.  

For her, it was special seeing her support system in the seats.  

“With the impact COVID had on our season and not being able to have our loved ones at as many games as we would have liked, I am grateful to Miami for still finding a way to get them there,” she said.  

About 100 of the cutouts were purchased, said D'Angelo Solomon, associate athletic director for revenue generation. This was not done as a fundraiser; the $30 fee was absorbed in the cost of creating the corrugated plastic cutouts.  

“The fan cutout is a fun way to stay engaged and continue to show support for the RedHawks,” Solomon said. “During a time in which capacity in venues has been minimized, fan cutout ‘attendance’ has had a positive impact on the programs, student-athletes and coaches.”

Solomon said Miami staff transported the cutouts back and forth between Millett and Goggin, and Sparks noted Swoop’s Kids Club members each received one, “so there are quite a few kids in the crowd.” 

Returning to a sense of normalcy

This spring, Miami announced it plans to hold in-person classes and operations in the fall. Student-athletes and coaches are looking forward to having more real fans back in the stands cheering their teams to victory.  

Scott said she looks forward to “getting back to a sense of normalcy” after these challenging times. While she has enjoyed the cutouts, she really missed seeing — and hearing — the fans.  

Volleyball Coach Carolyn Condit as a fan cutout

Volleyball Coach Carolyn Condit, left, in the teal jacket, is captured in a fan cutout yelling for her team.

“It was different playing basketball at the level we do in a quiet arena,” she said. “The sport is filled with passion, emotions and excitement from all aspects and to not be able to share that with our fans was heartbreaking.”  

Scott added, “Our fans and the support they show us mean a lot. To be able to share those games and moments with them is something we are all looking forward to doing again, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Coach Condit echoed that sentiment.

She said having real fans back in the stands will mean having "hundreds — sometimes thousands — of more people who truly enjoy supporting Miami volleyball and basketball, football, ice hockey and other fine sports playing for Love & Honor and who strive constantly to Graduate as Champions."

It will mean having the Miami Pep Bands back, she said. More family members and friends will be able to attend, and revenue can be generated with ticket purchases.

"It means concessions open, and the aroma of popcorn and hot dogs add to the event. We all enjoy competing for others and with others," said Condit, extending an invitation to new fans to discover women's power volleyball in Millett.

"The athleticism, teamwork and explosive nature of the game makes a match exciting to watch," she said.