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ASU Football: New student section comes with benefits, challenges

The recent renovations to Sun Devil Stadium have moved The Inferno to behind both the south and north end zones. We take a look at how students are adjusting to the changes.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Electric. Loud. Raucous.

Those superlatives only begin to describe the atmosphere at Sun Devil Stadium in the moments leading up to kickoff before ASU's September 26 showdown with USC. Zane Gonzalez teed the ball up, Lil John's "Turn Down for What" blared over the PA, and a full ASU student section rattled their car keys as Gonzalez booted the ball through the back of the end zone.

For student leaders and athletic department administrators, this is the scene that was envisioned when the idea of a "Double Inferno" was first presented last fall. About 13,000 fans, split in half so there is an equal amount of noise cascading down on the field at all times.

What could go wrong?

For starters, it is much easier to tell when fans have left early when a game gets out of hand (as it did when the Trojans took a 35-0 lead into halftime). There is no masking poor attendance like you sometimes were able to when The Inferno was located along the far sideline and in the lower corner of the stadium.

The problem of students departing their seats early was exasperated after the game when running back Kalen Ballage took to Facebook to call out "fair-weather" fans.

"People have to do what all of the diehards do," says Inferno executive Patrick Carlson. "That includes cheering all the time and staying for the entire game regardless of score."

At its best, the new Double Inferno closely resembles student sections like ones you might see at Penn State or Virginia Tech. But at its worst (like last weekend's Colorado game, when many students were out of town for fall break) you'll have one of the end zone's looking similar to Illinois' often-ridiculed student section.

Associate athletic director Bill Kennedy, who oversees the student section from an administration standpoint, has taken steps to remedy the problem.

"The ticket distribution is staggered now. We fill up the sections behind the south goal post first, then the sections behind the goal post in the north. Finally, the corners in the south and north are filled after that," Kennedy said."

An equal amount of students in each end zone is not only visually pleasing, but makes it easier to coordinate chants and cheers.

"Getting both sections in sync with each other has been difficult at times, but it gets better and better with each game," says Kennedy. "The 'Go Devils' chant between the North and South Inferno sections has been outstanding."

Inferno member Aaron Shapiro thinks the new arrangement gives Arizona State a competitive advantage as well.

"I like that no matter which way the opposition is going, it is going to be super loud, " he said.

The new student section coincides with a change in Camp Fargo, the weekly encampment held outside of Wells Fargo Arena by Sun Devil students looking to obtain prime tickets for each football game. Instead of arriving on the Sunday prior to gameday, as kids had been doing last season, lining up is now not permitted until the Thursday night before the game. The change seems to be appreciated by everyone involved.

"Limiting camping to two days really takes the pressure off of students," says Kennedy. "With three home games in a row (in September) we would have had students camping out for 18 of 21 days under the old system. We do not want their life consumed by the need to camp out like that."

With the switch to end zone seating, some think there is less incentive to camp out with the incentive of seats on the 20-yard line now unobtainable. Shapiro vehemently disagrees with that, however.

"Camping out is not just about the tickets," he says. "It is another platform to meet new people and make new friends."

Carlson provides a different perspective on the new seats and thinks that Camp Fargo is a practice that cannot end.

"Personally, I grew up watching the game from the south end zone anyway, so I am completely fine with the view. It is worth it to camp out because Camp Fargo is one of the more unique experiences in all of college sports," Carlson said. "It is now a tradition that shouldn't be stopped."

Arizona State players and coaches have shown that they appreciate the effort from the fanatic students, with D.J. Foster and Jordan Simone (among others) stopping by camp to say thank you. And save for Ballage's Facebook message following the USC game, their thoughts on the new Double Inferno have all been positive.

With the next home game coming in the form of a Thursday night, nationally-televised meeting with Oregon. It is safe to say that the atmosphere for that one will give plenty of people chills. Whenever you are rolling out a new project like this new student section, games like that are crucial for developing and reinforcing a positive reputation.

Needless to say, the Double Inferno will be ready.