A Buffs fan tries to pump up the crowd during a game against Charleston Southern in Folsom Field.
A Buffs fan tries to pump up the crowd during a game against Charleston Southern in Folsom Field. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

Whether there's any actual scientific evidence behind it, many sports enthusiasts — students and alumni alike — believe "the fan factor" can help their team win on the home field or court, particularly in an especially tight game.

University of Colorado students are encouraged to demonstrate their school spirit and loyalty to CU teams by showing up and parking themselves in "the C-Unit" seats in the game's stands, according to Rachel Ripken, the CU Athletic Department's community outreach manager.

There, they can cheer loudly for the home team and wear "outrageous costumes" with Buffaloes themes, Ripken said.

Bobby Rukavina leads a team of handlers as they practice running with Ralphie on Folsom Field
Bobby Rukavina leads a team of handlers as they practice running with Ralphie on Folsom Field (Colorado Daily file photo)

CU officials advise that joining the C-Unit is easy and relatively cheap. All students have to do is go find something black or gold to wear and show up to games. Fans wanting to go all out can hit up such C-Unit Facebook pages as Facebook.com/CUnitBuffs for CU basketball or Facebook.com/Folsomfrenzy for CU football or follow official Twitter sites such as @CUnitFootball and @CUnitHoops.

University officials have cautioned in the past, however, that getting too spirited can cost CU.


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Excited spectators have rushed the field in years past, causing CU to face at least $75,000 in fines under a Pac-12 Conference rule. The first offense for rushing the field in the first minute after a game ends is $25,000, the second is $50,000 and the third is 100,000.

Once you've worn out your banana costume and black-and-gold Mardi Gras beads, you may find yourself craving more. Perhaps you're ready to become a "Ralphie Handler" — one of the lucky souls who accompany CU's live 1,200-pound buffalo mascot as she runs in front of a screaming audience of CU fans, leading the football team onto the field on game day.

Members of the C-Unit celebrate the first basket by the Buffs during a game in Boulder.
Members of the C-Unit celebrate the first basket by the Buffs during a game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Tryouts are held each spring and consist of a series of timed runs to determine the would-be handler's speed. A handler must be a full-time student and have at least one fall semester remaining prior to graduation. Handlers have to be good time managers too, as they spend hours each week on strength and conditioning, training, events, appearances and practice.

Information about the Ralphie Handler program can be found at CUBuffs.com/ralphie. The program's Twitter feed is @CUBuffsRalphie.

Other options range from trying out, next spring, for CU's cheer team or dance team, both of which are part of the University of Colorado Spirit Program.

CU says on its CUBuffs.com/spirit website that "the Spirit Program is an integral part to the Athletic Department and works tirelessly to support all of CU's athletic teams. You will see the Spirit Squad at all home Football, Volleyball and Basketball games. The squad also travels to support the Buffs at away football games and the Pac-12 basketball tournaments.

The cheer team is split into a co-ed squad with 20 members and an all-female team with 28 members, and the next tryouts will be next spring. Its Twitter site is @CUBuffsCheer.

The CU Dance Team can be seen the on the sidelines during halftime of athletic events and at appearances in the community. According to the Spirit Program's website, "They attend the UDA College National Championships in Orlando, Fla. and compete in both the jazz and pom divisions. They placed an impressive top five in both divisions in 2014 and have multiple top 10 finishes in past years."

The Twitter site for the dance team is @CUBuffsDance.

If you;re feeling ambitions, try out the next time there's an opening to be Chip, the costumed CU mascot.

The University of Colorado dance team gets the crowd pumped up during the University of Colorado Stampede on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
The University of Colorado dance team gets the crowd pumped up during the University of Colorado Stampede on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

Chip represents CU at numerous university, community and charity events throughout the year, and not just at games. He has had multiple top finishes at past years' annual Mascot National Championship, with back-to-back wins of that competition in 2009 and 2010.

Chip's Twitter site is @ChipTheBuffalo.

Even after graduating, fans can keep up their school spirit days by finding fellow Buffs at alumni chapters around the world, including New York City, Beijing, Saudi Arabia and dozens of others.

Graduates can check out the alumni opportunities, events and other information and news at colorado.edu/alumni/connect/chapters-clubs.

John Fryar: twitter.com/jfryartc