When the opposing team steps on the field in Five Star Stadium or on the court in Hawkins Arena, they are greeted by the most rabid student section in the entire Southern Conference, the Mercer Maniacs.
”We are the student spirit group. We are not an exclusive group anyone who likes to cheer on the athletes is a Mercer Maniac. We just try and create a good environment for the students as well as the athletes,” said Thomas Norton, president of the Mercer Maniacs.
Mercer led the SoCon last year in football attendance with an average attendance of 10,000 while reaching 98 percent capacity for the stadium.
Norton has played sports his entire life and has never been on this side of the action.
“For an athlete there is not a better feeling than having a home crowd cheer you on. There is nothing like being in the front row of college athletic event cheering your team on,” Norton said.
Being a maniac is not without its perks as those who help out consistently–whether that be through setting up for tailgates or working at the events–get the chance to earn awesome prizes.
For freshman coming in it’s an opportunity to join a group of students who love cheering on the Mercer sports teams. Nothing is exclusive which is something that Norton wants to get away from.
“People had the misconception last year that we were an exclusive group or that you had to be a Maniac to be in the front row. That’s not the case. We want everyone to come out and support the teams. Everyone is a Mercer Maniac.”
Last season, football broke the record with 12,277 people in attendance at the first SoCon game. Men’s basketball shattered its record with over 4,000 in attendance during a game last January against the Citadel. While women’s basketball had an average attendance of 898. The goal for this season though seems to be to get more involved in those other sports.
“I want to figure out a way to get people out to the other games like soccer and women’s basketball. I want to try and increase the hype for these sports. I attended every women’s basketball game last year and I would really like to see more people coming out, supporting them,” Norton said.
Norton hopes to change or at least attempt to change the culture around Mercer sports this season.
“It’s a cultural thing. I want to start moving the culture towards supporting all of the athletes. I am not saying that people should come to every single game for every sport because that’s hard to do. I am however trying to gear the maniacs more towards other sports not just football and basketball, Norton said.
Norton took over this season as president after Blaze Jeffery graduated in May. Norton hopes to build on what Blaze did in his year as president. One of the ideas that Jeffery tossed around was the idea of having groups for each sport, and Norton is still looking into making that idea a reality.
“I have spoken with Blaze and I believe that is a really good idea. I recognize that there are people in the organization that know soccer better than I do. They know how to go about supporting that sport where as I know basketball. I want to put people in the right positions to get all the teams support,” Norton said.
Last year, the Maniacs did trips for men’s basketball for two away games and the conference tournament. This year there is talks of doing more trips like that as well as a football game if it garners enough student interest.
“We have not finalized any trips yet but I would expect us to be doing the SoCon tournament again and possibly some other games for the different sports. I want to do a football trip and we had one scheduled for last year but because it was such short notice we just didn’t have the student interest needed to take the trip,” Norton said.
Traveling has become a favorite among some of the maniac members.
“ There is nothing quite like supporting your school in a hostile environment, and the Maniacs travel better than any school I know,” said longtime Maniac Brady Brettin.
For more information on the Maniacs, visit their social media profiles.