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Gonzaga student section mostly follows call for costume change

Gonzaga students cheer on the Zags during  a  men’s college basketball game against BYU in January 2016 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga students cheer on the Zags during a men’s college basketball game against BYU in January 2016 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

After Brigham Young put a wrinkle in Gonzaga’s nearly perfect regular season record last year, it’s not a wonder that Saturday’s rematch inside the Kennel could have stirred up some vengeful emotions.

In previous seasons, some Gonzaga students have expressed their spite with costumes that tend to mock the Mormon faith. But this season, students called for a change in tradition.

Earlier in the week, Gonzaga students sparked a discussion with university administrators about respecting the BYU team and roughly 26,000 Spokane residents who identify with the Mormon faith.

In an article published by the student-run Gonzaga Bulletin, Gonzaga students reopened a discussion of abandoning the old traditions of dressing in costumes that would mock the Mormon faith. The costumes usually consisted of white-collared shirts, ties and bicycle helmets, recreating the attire often worn by Mormon missionaries.

On Saturday, only one fan in the student section dressed in a white-collared shirt and black tie, but he didn’t wear a helmet. The fan was hidden in the back of the student section amongst a crowd that featured a handful of creative costumes, including a unicorn, a couple of popes and bananas.

Although the university has had the conversation in recent years, it’s the first time Gonzaga has made a serious attempt at eliminating the costumes.

This year’s efforts come in the first season of freshman backup guard Jesse Wade, who committed to Gonzaga before leaving for a two-year LDS mission in Lyon, France.

Wade said Saturday after the game that if he had seen a few bicycle helmets in the crowd, it wouldn’t have bothered him.

“I’ve never had a problem with it. I thought it was funny,” Wade said.

Gonzaga officials told The Spokesman-Review earlier in the week that the discussion to boycott the missionary attire wasn’t initiated because of any one player on the team. But Colleen Vandenboom, the assistant dean of Student Involvement and Leadership, expressed such concerns to the Gonzaga Bulletin.

Athletic Director Mike Roth said Wade’s presence on the team shouldn’t have made a difference in the discussion.

“Why should Jesse’s involvement with the team change anything? Maybe it made some students more aware, but at the same time, does that really change anything in that regard? It shouldn’t,” Roth said. “We’re proud of our students and how they presented themselves tonight, but we’re proud of our students every night.”

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