Sammy the Slug gives away a pizza to hungry fans and the Santa Cruz Warriors "UCSC Night". Photo by Daniel Green.
Sammy the Slug gives away a pizza to hungry fans and the Santa Cruz Warriors “UCSC Night”. Photo by Daniel Green.

With several different UC Santa Cruz clubs taking part in the Warriors’ timeout and halftime performances, last Friday’s Warriors blowout loss showcased the blooming relationship between campus and Santa Cruz’s newest team. Fans were treated to Acquire A Capella singing the national anthem, a musical chairs contests between UCSC’s NCAA basketball players, Sammy the Slug break dancing and a choreographed dance by the UCSC cheer squad. About 70 UCSC community members also took part in a pre-game party at Surf City Billiards.

“We wanted to recognize UCSC as an integral part of the community,” said Warriors public and community relations manager Matt de Nesnera.

Both regional programs manager Allison Garcia and UCSC athletic director Linda Spradley are attempting to foster a strong relationship between the Warriors and campus to capitalize on the buzz the team has created in their inaugural season. Garcia, who helped organize “UCSC Night” at the Santa Cruz Warriors, viewed the outing as a way to reach out to UCSC’s staff, students and alumni.

“Alumni, students and faculty are all a part of a larger community here,” Garcia said. “We all have to have this Banana Slug Pride. It’s something bigger than just our student experience.”

Garcia said UCSC is different from other campuses in the UC system as many of its alumni move away from Santa Cruz when they graduate. In the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Area, Garcia noted the campus has some 10,000 alumni living and working in the region, roughly an eighth of the campus’ 88,000 alumni overall.

“If you compare Santa Cruz to Berkeley, they have 80 percent of its alumni staying in the region. We have less than 20 percent stay.” Garcia said. “We’re really trying to put on events like this to strengthen the connection of the alumni, students and faculty.”

Spradley said UCSC’s relationship with the Warriors can be beneficial for UCSC athletics in particular, but noted that time and budgetary constraints have kept her department from seeking out a greater relationship so far.

“We want to hold clinics with the team and to learn from them,” Spradley said. “They have tons of expertise in a variety of places that we could learn from. We will develop a relationship when we get a chance.”

The Santa Cruz Warriors’ working relationship with UCSC stems from last November when the team began practicing at College Eight’s West Field House gym as downtown’s Kaiser Permanente Arena awaited finishing. In turn, the Warriors have returned the favor by allowing UCSC basketball a chance to practice in the approximately 2,400 seat arena they call home.

“UCSC has always stepped up whenever we needed help,” said Warriors public and community relations manager Matt de Nesnera.

Spradley hopes to one day see a UCSC basketball game in the arena.

Current UCSC cheerleading captain Allison Grove said that UCSC athletics and the university could also benefit from using the arena.

“I feel that our athletes that use the West Field House do not get the actual experience of being a collegiate athlete when they play at home because it only allows for minimal fans and spectators to come out to the games,” Grove said. “I think that the university can bond with the city of Santa Cruz more that way, actually.”

Many of the UCSC students, alumni and faculty, including Grove, were turned into fans as the night’s events wore on.

“Although that was my first Warriors game, I do plan to attend more games before their season ends,” Grove said.