By Breck Norment

Go to a Colonels’ basketball game and you can’t help but see it: dozens of Eastern students, covered head-to-toe in war paint, screaming at the top of their lungs in support of their beloved team.To some, this image conjures thoughts of fanatical devotion, or college craziness.

But beginning this year, the sight may be associated with a new word: philanthropy.

The Colonel Spirit Challenge is underway for all registered student organizations across campus.

The Spirit Challenge is an effort by several school departments to get people out to support the men and women’s basketball teams, said Alban Holyoke, the student government association chief of staff.

The winner will be decided by a points system, Holyoke said.

Organizations will receive points for their attendance record, but will also be subjectively judged on their outfits and presence in the crowd, Holyoke said.

The points are compiled at the end of the basketball season.

Students discussed their strategies for winning the grand prize.

“You’ve got to be a force to be reckoned with,” said 21-year-old Sigma Nu member Alex Combs, a political science and philosophy major from Eaton, Ohio.

Heckling the other team is great because presence is more important than appearance, Combs added.

In the past, students have worn maroon wigs and other bizarre hairstyles, painted their bodies maroon and spray painted their hair, Holyoke said.

“For a football game last season, I painted half my body maroon; that’s within the rules,” Holyoke added.

He said students should use good judgment with their attire, though.

While nudity is definitely too far, partial nudity is OK, he said.

“Partial nudity is acceptable as long as it’s tasteful,” Holyoke said.

Holyoke said students should root for the Colonels while being respectful of the other team.

Anything that supports Eastern without degrading the other team is sought after, he said.

When asked how they prepare for the big games, students joked about their approach.

“Personally, I watch the Rocky 4 montage, do 10 pushups and drink a protein shake,” Combs said.

Combs also said he planned to win the grand prize by preventing other organizations from hearing about the competition or getting to the games.

One student, a 26-year-old Sigma Nu from Richmond, requested he be referred to as Thomas “Showtime” Johnson.

Johnson, a communication studies major, said his pre-game ritual involves a shower, food and getting pumped up by listening to his iPod.

SGA encourages student organizations to come out in large numbers, Holyoke said.

“I get as many people as I can by recruiting,” Johnson said.

Still, others who registered for the Spirit Challenge said the competition isn’t the only reason to pack into McBrayer Arena.

“I come because I like to watch the games,” said 18-year-old Kristin English, a nursing major from Cincinnati. “With recruiting coming up, we want to get our name out and show that we do things together.”

The Spirit Challenge will award a total of $2,950 to be divided among the winning student organizations, Holyoke said.

Student organizations registered on campus are eligible to compete and may sign up during select games at the desk located behind the student section on the west side of the basketball gym, Holyoke said.

The first-place winner receives $1,000, but up to 11 organizations could win a prize, Holyoke said.

The second-place winner receives $500, third receives $400, fourth receives $350 and up to seven organizations receive fifth-place winnings of $100, Holyoke said.

“This money isn’t the only reason to come to a Colonels basketball game,” said David Fifer, the student body president. “We’re just trying to sweeten the deal a little bit.”

SGA, Student Affairs, the President’s Office and the Athletics department fund the Spirit Challenge.

Holyoke said the money is going to good use because it is being given back to students while encouraging them to support the team at the same time, Holyoke said.

There are only specific games that count towards the Colonel’s Spirit Challenge, and that schedule can be found on the SGA Web site at http://www.sga.eku.edu/colonel.html.