Fans are the lifeblood of any college program. Players, coaches, and administration come and go throughout the years of a program. Certain fans, however, seem to be so deeply rooted in team history that they are inseparable from the team itself. With our series Fandom we get to know some of the biggest fans following the teams we cover. This month, Curtis Williams.
Perched midway down section 101 at the Jack Stephens Center sits the Trojan’s most visible fan. Not everyone knows his name, but wait for a good song to come on and Curtis Williams will take to the aisle and start dancing. The crowd tends to erupt the second he makes his way to the jumbotron and for a few moments, until the timeout is over, Curtis is larger than life.
“It is not about me. It is about the fans and getting them into it,” Williams tells us. “Any particular song comes on and I feel it I will just get up and dance.”
Those of you with a bit of history going to Trojan games realize that Curtis’ current dancing is nothing compared to his previous roles entertaining fans.
Curtis graduated from UALR in 1988. The Little Rock native started following the Trojans in the mid 80’s and has been a fan ever since. One game in 1992, however, would transform him to more than just a fan.
“The dance team at the time invited me out onto the court and the band was playing, and I started to dance a little bit. All of a sudden the fans at Barton Coliseum went nuts. I remember listening to the post game show on the radio and Ray Tucker saying something to the effect of ‘I don’t know who this guy is, but give him a paycheck, he got the crowd going.” And so that is how it started,” Williams tells us. “I then asked if I could volunteer as a mascot. I became the official mascot, even though I was no longer a student. I was the mascot from 92-94.”
Curtis was a fixture during the Trojan games, even managing to letter at UALR for his role as a mascot despite not being a student at the time. Finally with coaching changes the administration asked him to hand over the mascot role to an active student.
“The assistant athletic director at the time pulled me aside and said they wanted a student to do the role. It was when Wimp Sanderson came along, and they wanted to change it up,” Williams says. “I told them no problem. I always thought the students are supposed to be the mascots, but at the time when I started no one wanted to be a mascot.”
Even though the mascot role ended, Curtis’ role in getting the crowd into the game never ceased. He would often do his part to get the crowd into the game through dancing, often going on the court to dance.
“The dancing is always with a particular song or two. At first it was the Mambo #5, then it became Shout. I danced to that (Mambo #5) at the Verizon center six years, Then I danced to Shout for the first year and a half here (Jack Stephens Center).”
Curtis was a constant fixture at the end of the second half, just when the team needed him. The move to the Jack Stephens Center brought an energy to the crowd unlike any period in Trojan history before.
“Here this is the real actual home. Not to take anything away from the other locations. This is where the students actually get involved. It encourages the team. They become the first line of defense when the students get involved with the team. It encourages the fans to do the same thing, they help each other out.”
Dancing, at least on the court, came to a sudden end a few years into the move to the Stephens Center. An accident involving an official led to calls from the conference to stop fan participation on the court during games.
I brushed unintentionally against a referee during a timeout,” Williams says. “The Sunbelt folks didn’t like that and made some calls to put an end to it. It was no big deal to me, really.”
You can still occasionally catch Curtis, when the mood hits, get up and dance in the aisles. During the past game against Texas State Curtis even came down to the stands near the student section and lifted the crowd as they entered their final stretch before clinching a Sun Belt Conference championship.
“I got a passion for my hometown team. This is our team and this is our city,” Curtis says. “We support each other in good times and in bad. We are here for them, and we are here to back you up. We just do our best to support them.”
The fan support over the course of the year is something Curtis says is inspiring to see. The change in administration has played a key role in that. Curtis says he is proud of the work first year athletic director Chasse Conque has done to involve the fans, and especially the students.
“I think Chasse has done a great job. Not just basketball but all sports are doing great,” Williams says. “The student involvement has been tremendous and it starts with the students and the maroon mob. Those guys are great and they get involved in every event. It gives the players an advantage and it makes them do their best. I see nothing but positive changes here.”
The crowd involvement is amplified by the men’s basketball success. The team has already won their Sun Belt championship, and could set a season record for most wins against Arkansas State. For long time fans this has been a dream come true.
“This is just amazing to me to be honest with you. Who would have thought at the start of the season that it would turn out like this. I kept watching them when on the road and I was like wait a second. A team that is that good on the road and at home is worth getting out and seeing,” Williams says. “What I like about the team this year is that they stay focused. They don’t look back, don’t look beyond. Coach Beard has done a great job, he and the staff. ”
Curtis says one of his favorite game experiences is not actually the dancing, but the calm moments before the game.
“My favorite part is coming in about an hour before the game,” Williams says. “I get my stat sheet ready and listen to the band warm up. Watch the team go through pre-game routines. The whole experience is great.”
Trojans play their final home game of the season tomorrow night against Arkansas State. The game looks to be a sell out and the first time the Jack Stephens center has seen 5,000 plus fans three games in a row. With any luck Curtis will send them into a frenzy before the end of the game to close another chapter on Trojan home court history.