Hype Squad brings school spirit to Texas sports

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Members of Texas Athletics’ new in-game interactive group, the Hype Squad, cheer on the football team at Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Texas Athletics

On Texas gamedays, Lexie Dolan and a group of 24 other boisterous, spirited students charge through a packed Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium and onto the field. Clad in matching burnt orange shorts and white T-shirts, they lead 100,000 people in cheering on the football team. But Dolan isn’t a member of Cheer or Pom. Instead, she pumps up the crowd as part of “Hook Em’s posse” — the Hype Squad.

The Hype Squad is Texas Athletics’ new in-game interactive group. Eight members of Texas Mascots started the group, which was once called Hoop Squad, during last year’s basketball season. By leading chants, promotions and fan contests, the squad seeks to improve school spirit and crowd interaction at UT’s major sporting events, such as baseball, volleyball, soccer and football.

“We are an extension of your biggest Texas fan,” Dolan said. “We’ve been working to enhance the gameday experience, in general, for all sports. The first thing is getting people more engaged.”

Dolan, Hype Squad captain and physical sports and culture junior, said that since the group is still so new, they’re able to experiment and decide what the squad will become. She said their main goal is always to engage the crowd.

“Before, the game was your entertainment,” Dolan said. “As entertaining as that may be, it helps a lot to have emcees at basketball games and the Hype Squad to execute, whether it’s a promotion or contest, something for people to see. It just helps having that extension of personality brought onto the court from the student section.”

Charles Branch, a marketing coordinator for Texas Athletics, said the squad is the first of its kind in the country and is already inspiring similar programs at other schools such as Florida State.

“It’s something that’s starting to spread,” Branch said. “They’re able to go out and make that personal touch with the fan, something that was lacking before.”

Dillon Larberg, advertising junior and captain of Texas Mascots, said when they aren’t dressed as Hook Em, all mascots support Longhorn teams as part of the Hype Squad. While Hype Squad includes non-mascot students, the two organizations are closely linked.

At practices, the team rehearses dances, makes signs with phrases such as “Make Noise” and learns improv techniques to help them interact with the crowd better.

“It’s also growing based on sport, like at soccer we play the drums and lead chants, which isn’t something you can do at football,” Larberg said. “We’re learning what each different atmosphere is, based on the sport.”

While previous experience as a mascot or performer is not required to join Hype Squad, Dolan said members must have big personalities.

“You have to not be afraid to look stupid in front of everybody,” Dolan said. “We’re just there to have fun. If people see you having fun, then they’re going to have just as much.”

Members of the Hype Squad work on a volunteer basis, but Larberg said the job comes with perks such as being on the field with the team.

“On game day, it’s just excitement,” Larberg said. “We’re all UT’s biggest fans, so the opportunity to be able to be on the court or be on the field and get to be a part of that whole process with band or with cheer is really cool.”

Over the course of the semester, Dolan said she’s seen Hype Squad “blow up.” Now, the team is so big they’ve had to turn many applicants away. Despite having nearly a season under her belt, Dolan said she still gets nervous before performing in front of massive gameday crowds.

“When I first started, I didn’t like being in front of a crowd like that,” Dolan said. “I’m still not a huge one on dancing in front of everybody, but it’s really helped me grow as a person, find out what I’m passionate about and put that positive energy toward an awesome school and great
athletic program.”