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Utah State’s HURD looking to recapture the ‘Spectrum magic’

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The very mention of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at Utah State and the fans who defend it can send a shiver up the spine of the many unfortunate college basketball players unlucky enough to find themselves there.

The Spectrum, as it is more commonly known, is frequently featured as one of the best arenas in college basketball. Publications like Thrillist, Fansided, Bleacher Report, The Travel Channel and Scout.com have all placed the Spectrum in high honor as one of the toughest and loudest places to play college basketball.

"The Spectrum and its atmosphere is one of the most recognizable parts of Utah State athletics and it has been for years," said Blake Lyman, athletics and campus recreation vice president for the Utah State University Student Association. "We're loud. We're proud. We're raucous. We're annoying. We get into people's heads."

The Spectrum may not be the biggest or most intimidating arena when empty. It seats only 10,270. That said, this place is downright terrifying when filled with screaming students.

"It's smaller than a lot of other places," Lyman said. "But it echoes somehow. Something just works in here. When you've got a lead going, when you hit two big threes in a row, the place erupts, the lid comes off and it's just loud."

A big reason the Spectrum has its reputation is the HURD, which is the student section at Utah State. While most universities have students sections these days, the Aggies take it up a notch in getting into the heads of opposing players.

"I've seen players get straight up frustrated and blame it on the students. I remember there was an Idaho State guy who came here last November, and he would just get mad. We were cheering against him all night," Lyman said. "He blew up on his teammates and his coach, and he pointed at us and just got mad."

What's more, members of the HURD take time before the game to do some homework on their opponents. Opposing players may want to be careful what they post on social media before heading to Logan.

"We try to get to know them a little bit. We try to look at their social media accounts and things like that," said Taylor Smellie, a sophomore studying finance and economics at Utah State and a proud member of the HURD. "Then we just try to be creative. We try to talk as much as we can, and every opportunity we get we let them have it."

Of course, the HURD isn't trying to go completely overboard against opposing players.

"We don't want to be mean. We just want to affect the game. We want to be loud and get into people's heads a little bit," Lyman said.

The impact of the HURD is hard to deny.

"A Nevada player had some words after the game a couple of weeks ago when we beat them," Lyman said. "He said, 'The fans. They annoy me. They're loud. I don't want to talk about them.' I think that was Marcus Marshall."

If that was Marshall, who is the Mountain West Conference’s leading scorer with a 20.1 points per game average, he really did have a frustrating night after scoring just two points on 1-for-12 shooting. Nevada would lose 74-57 despite being the leading team in the conference at the time.

Speaking of the Mountain West, Utah State has had a difficult couple of seasons since leaving the Big West and WAC conferences that it dominated for so many years. While the student section still had plenty of screaming students in the most recent home game against Wyoming, there were also plenty of empty chairs around the arena.

Lyman and members of the HURD are trying to change that.

"We used to fill this place with 4,000 students every night, and we'd be loaded in here 50 minutes before tipoff. It was full most every game. But things change. We're in a tougher conference now. It's tough." Lyman said. "But we can bring that magic back."

So, Lyman and members of the HURD came up with an idea based around the colors of the seats at the Spectrum.

"The seats here were built back in the ’70s to model the leaves in Logan Canyon changing in the fall," Lyman said. "I love them because they're kitschy. They're kinda gross, ugly ’70s style. I think they're just part of Utah State. So, we said let's just do a big T-shirt giveaway. We got 2,500 T-shirts and put them out on all the chairs in all the different colors of the seats. And that went over huge. We had a student sellout. We packed the building. It was super fun, and that Spectrum magic was there."

While there was indeed a part of the old Spectrum magic present in the Aggies' 81-74 win over Wyoming, it was also clear from the odd-colored seats visible and empty around the arena that it wasn't quite at full strength.