Washington’s student section, nicknamed The Dawg Pack, cheers during the second half of the Huskies’ 78-75 win over Arizona on Feb. 3 in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Washington’s student section, nicknamed The Dawg Pack, cheers during the second half of the Huskies’ 78-75 win over Arizona on Feb. 3 in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Dawg Pack has more to cheer at UW basketball games

The Huskies’ student fan section’s resurgence coincides with that of the team.

SEATTLE — Zoe Gano isn’t most people because her job doesn’t involve peace or quiet.

When she’s not in her office, Gano usually sits at the scorer’s table during a Washington Huskies basketball game, planted right in front of The Dawg Pack. Hundreds of screaming college students is the sound of progress to her.

As the Huskies (17-8, 7-5 Pac-12) continue to win games in coach Mike Hopkins’ first season, UW’s student section has returned to its boisterous ways.

“It’s really fun for me to sit in front of The Dawg Pack and barely hear anything on my headset,” said Gano, who is UW’s assistant director for marketing and game day experience. “I know they are doing their job and it has been really fun to watch them have fun.”

Both UW’s basketball team and The Dawg Pack have gone through peaks and valleys over the last decade.

From 2008 through 2012, the Huskies were averaging 25 wins a season and reached the NCAA Tournament three times over a four-year stretch. Those years were so strong, it made getting a ticket inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion a challenge.

The second half of that 10-year period wasn’t so exciting for players or fans. UW averaged less than 16 victories in that stretch, that culminated with last year’s 9-22 season when interest in Huskies hoops reached a low.

Nathan Santo Domingo along with his friends, Heber Garcia and Kevin Rini, all grew up in the Seattle-Tacoma area as die-hard UW fans and remember The Dawg Pack in its prime. It was tough for them to see how the atmosphere had changed at basketball games.

“Last year was a big letdown especially when (Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray) went to the draft,” said Santo Domingo, a senior atmospheric science major from Sumner. “It was deflating for The Dawg Pack. It sucks when you’re not a winning team.

“It was hard to get people to sacrifice that time and come down and give their all for 40 minutes when you know you might not win.”

Garcia, who was born in Seattle and raised in Des Moines, said he watched old video clips of what The Dawg Pack was like in the hopes of finding inspiration.

That’s when the trio also stumbled upon the old “Dawg Pack Dirt” Facebook page. The page was created so students could find the best information about an opposing player or coach and use it against them during a game.

“We just went off on that and said, ‘Hey, if anyone is interested, come to this,’ ” said Garcia, a senior social welfare major. “We had little meetings … So that’s when we decided to open it up with Twitter.”

Yes. There’s a Twitter account. Actually, there’s two Twitter accounts. There’s the @dawgpackdirt account and then there’s the more well-known @UWDawgPack handle.

Garcia said both accounts are student-run and both groups interact with the goal of making The Dawg Pack one of the most formidable student sections in college basketball.

It appears to be working. Gano said there were 2,000 students who came in December to UW’s home game against against Gonzaga.

“This year, even with the five Pac-12 games, our average attendance is up by almost 400 students a game from last year,” Gano said. “It’s indescribable. But when The Dawg Pack is loud and at their best, there’s not a more fun arena.”

Rini, a senior international studies major, said The Dawg Pack has made strides compared to earlier in the year.

He said The Dawg Pack only had around six members when UW played Seattle on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Rini attributes the rise in students to UW’s win over then-No. 2 Kansas in early December in Kansas City, Missouri.

Whether it was the win over the Jayhawks or the team’s success under Hopkins, it’s all been a bit surreal for Rini and his friends.

“Every year we’ve missed the tournament and every year we’ve had some real tragic bad luck and everything goes wrong,” Rini said. “Senior year, I figured, we’d have a good time watching games. Now there’s been (NCAA Tournament) talk and it’s been amazing.”

Being a part of The Dawg Pack goes beyond being a UW student who likes to harass opposing coaches and players.

Joining the group means standing outside Alaska Airlines Arena for hours during a Pacific Northwest winter waiting to enter the building.

That time is spent by coming up with creative chants and signs.

“The athletics department has been awesome,” Santo Domingo said. “They’ve given us a ton of sign-making stuff at a lot of the games this year.”

Those efforts have been spearheaded by Gano, a Bellevue native and UW alumna.

Gano joined The Dawg Pack as a freshman, which at the time, was rare.

“Back then, it was super hard to get Dawg Pack tickets as a freshman,” she said. “Me and my roommate woke up at 4 a.m. and we were getting on the site to get tickets and we were some of the only freshmen to be in The Dawg Pack that year.”

Gano was a member of The Dawg Pack until her junior year when she took an internship within the athletics department.

The internship led to Gano getting her current job.

As a whole, she is responsible for making sure fans who attend any UW sporting event have fun. During basketball games, she’s the one organizing the pregame music, the band and cheerleaders, the videoboards and the public address announcer.

Plus, she also helps The Dawg Pack with whatever they need as well.

“I think its really exciting to see that happening again,” she said. “You can see they’re bonding and having fun. We have not seen students hours before a game for years now.

“They’re amazing and I cannot say enough things about what they are doing.”

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