Magazine Feature / People

Alum works to build DU school spirit

Damien Goddard

Alum Damien Goddard, center, has a mission to increase DU school spirit.

Damien Goddard may be part rebel, but he’s all Pioneer.

The University of Denver graduate, blogger and DU hockey uber-fan doesn’t always toe the school line, but his devotion to the hockey program, the fans, and ultimately to DU school spirit is unquestionable.

Goddard, 45, graduated with a business management degree in 1988 and works in his family’s Houston business producing patented plastic widgets for industrial application. But in his spare time, the lifelong bachelor pores over Pioneer hockey-related news stories hunting up tidbits from sources around the country for his popular blog, LetsGoDU and promotes activities that are aimed at pumping up fans and students. He’s a regular at games, a force behind the creation of the new unofficial Denver Boone mascot, and organizer of parties and events for students and alumni.

“The blog’s entire mission, and it’s always been the mission, is school spirit,” Goddard says. “The blog is about hockey, but its theme is school spirit. If you look at the blog any day, you’re just as likely to see shots of the mascot or the band or students cheering or alumni having a good time as you are a hockey player. So people read the blog for the first time and they think it’s a hockey blog, but it’s really about school spirit.”

The blog he’s describing is no secret to hockey fans. Even fans from some of DU’s rivals post comments on the site. It got its start in 2005 and quickly went from 30 hits a day to 1,000 visitors daily during the season. It’s a mixture of articles written by Goddard and Gene Lake (BA political science ’78), sprinkled with links to stories others have written in newspapers and websites around the country. Goddard leans heavily on DU’s student paper, The Clarion, for contributions and has built a strong relationship with editors there.

“We go way out of our way to highlight The Clarion, to promote their writers and bring the alumni readers back to the Clarion,” Goddard says. “It’s about building the University community.”

The fellowship of alumni and students was spotlighted two years ago when Goddard says he was contacted by one of his support network, Richard Kuerston (BSBA management ’02), during a resurgence in interest in DU’s old mascot, Boone.

“He wrote me an e-mail and said, ‘Why don’t you just build the damn thing?’” Goddard recalls, laughing.

Dozens of donors raised $6,500 and a team worked with a Canadian mascot company to build their vision of the scruffy Pioneer via e-mails and text messages. The result was a strapping character with a chiseled chin and bright smile. His “skin” tone is specifically non-specific with other tweaks to emphasize that he’s a mascot, not an image of a person. The idea was to create something everyone at DU could rally around, he says. To cap off the process, Goddard and friends paid for a DU student, Scott Fuson, to go to mascot camp to learn the ropes.

The University, for its part, while not returning Boone as its mascot, has allowed the mascot to roam the stands, pose for photos and entertain the crowd.

“I still have people who come up to me and say, ‘I can’t believe you got away with it,’” Goddard says. “But you have to know we did this for the DU community; we really wanted to help.”

Goddard’s efforts to build school spirit, and sometimes test the limits of the administration’s patience, goes back to his college years, a time he refers to as “the best five years of my life.” It started in 1986 when, disappointed by lagging student attendance at games in the old arena, he created what came to be known as the “Bleacher Creatures.” With promotions and cheers and signs he says he helped build student attendance from about 50 sitting in the student balcony per game to 500.

He laughs now about an early miscue.

“We wanted to get all the students to hold up different colored paper sheets to spell out DU in the stands,” he recalls. “It completely failed because there weren’t enough students at the game, so we had all this colored paper and they held them up and the players were looking up at us and it didn’t look like anything. And then the students took the paper and made paper airplanes and threw them out on the ice and they had to delay the game about 10 minutes. It was a disaster.”

Undaunted, he tried again, the next time numbering the paper sheets for a late-game raffle. Students held onto the pages, and the stunt worked. Good hearted administrators and athletic department officials suffered along with his failures, but never stopped him from trying, he says.

Longtime friend and fellow alum Tom Douglis (BA history ’86) has known Goddard since he served as sports editor of The Clarion. He supports the blog and pitches in as needed, sharing Goddard’s vision for a livelier brand of University camaraderie. The pair teamed up in 2004 to produce a series of school spirit recommendations for DU in a paper titled “Creating Emotional Bonds.”

“We want someone who walks into Magness Arena to be marinated in DU tradition and have their senses impacted by all of the things that are special to the Pioneer community,” Douglis says. “Sports bring people onto campus, and our display of school spirit shows them what DU is all about, and that creates this emotional bond, and it makes for more enthusiastic alumni, students and fans.”

“And that’s not just for hockey,” Goddard says. “It’s basketball, gymnastics, everything that creates that college atmosphere on campus: cheerleaders, bands, mascots, students, fellow alums. The whole night should be a showcase for DU and the students … Schools that have high school spirit have very high alumni support, like Notre Dame, and we’ve always felt that DU can and should have that kind of school spirit.”

Goddard’s next big spirit event is Oct. 23, from 4-6 p.m. in the parking lot at Spanky’s Roadhouse, 1800 E. Evans Ave., with the pep band, an appearance by Boone, grilling, a poster contest. By midweek, more than 200 people had already indicated their intent to attend on the official Facebook page.

 

2 Comments

  1. Good Job Damien, I applaud your spirit but think the article misses the point. Why do you take this kind of crap from the school? When you wanted to bring Boone back they simply said no and the entire DU community rolled over to let them stomp them again. As an Alum I have told Coombe to his face he is screwing the place up and I will have nothing to do with DU until they remove their head from the bird’s butt.
    Keep up the spirit, it is what kept me supporting DU Hockey for over 20 years but there is a limit to how much crap one can tolerate.
    All the best.

    Tom White DU’76

  2. It’s no secret that a larget majority of people in the DU community wanted to see Boone returned officially. However, universities are rarely democracies these days. Chancellor Coombe was facing (and still faces) some uphill diversity issues with DU’s elite reputaton, some members of his faculty and some minority students that would have made returning Boone to official status a win-lose situation. Coombe was likely looking for a win-win (and perhaps to be a quasi-advocate for the oppressed.)

    As it turns out, the school has all but phased-out the reviled bird mascot anyway, and the unofficial Boone is the only mascot you see on campus these days, even enjoying a somewhat subversive, underground cache he might not have enjoyed were he ever made official. This means the majority of Boone supporters still get to enjoy him, while those opposed to his return also got something of a win when Coombe decided Boone would not return officially. The net result is a basic win-win for Boone fans and minorities.

    DU’s downside in all this is that the school is likely losing out on some lost disgruntled alumni and fan donations and lost Boone-related merchandising revenue that they ceded to the public domain, as well as the negative press that the school received when they made the decision not to return Boone to official status. I would imagine that Chancellor Coombe weighed all these potential negatives, and likely determined them to be ‘worth it’ versus the diversity challenge he would have had on his hands had he returned Boone officially, especially with the faculty. After all, DU has spent millions on improving diversity in recent years and Coombe has made diversity improvement a fairly central plank in his Chancellorship.

    It’s also important to remember that it was Chancellor Ritchie and his team that got rid of Boone in 1999 and gave us the bird mascot in the first place. While the school has benefitted hugely from Ritchie’s energy, donations and connections, Ritchie would probably would not even gone as far as Coombe did…

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