USD Men's Basketball 2003-2004 West Coast Conference


THE THUNDER ROLLS The UCSB Gaucho Locos take every game beyond Thunderdome BY JON COOPER

T here'san obvious reason the University of California-Santa Barbara's home arena is called "The Thunderdome." For visiting teams,it's right in front ofthem...and right behind fact, it's all around them. It isUCSB'sboisterous fan base, better known as "The Gaucho Locos." Since their inception in 1998-when they were known as "The Gauchoholics," a name changed to the present one in 1999-the Gaucho Locos, clad in their traditional gold t-shirts, armed with their famous top-10 lists and stationed within a couple of feet of the court, have made visiting the picturesque Santa Barbara campus a nightmare for opposing teams. "The Gaucho Locos were formed basically to give ahome-court advantage by getting extremely close to the court, making it really tough for road teams," said junior Adam Pinson, president of the Gaucho Locos. "Just calling a play is extremely tough for them. "[ESPN announcer] Barry Tompkins once said being in the Thunderdome

11 1 think the Thunderdcme ranks right up there with camercn indoor stadium at cuke as one cf the great college basketball arenas in the ccuntr4. we love doing games from the Thunderdcme." ESPN program manager Tom Odjakjian

for that. So on our top-10 list we had, 'If you steal a sign from us, you'll spend jail time in Santa Barbara."' While the group suffered a financial setback early this year when it was victimized by budget cuts in the UCSB athletic department, its web– site (, which has been up since October 2002, is as popular as ever, having received more than 110,000 hits. The Locos also have afriend in ESPN, which was so impressed with the atmosphere during aJanuary 2001 game, its first visit to the campus in over four years, thatthe network has made it a point to schedule avisit to UCSB every year since. "I think the Thunderdome ranks right up there with Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke as one of the great college basketball arenas in the country," said ESPN program manager Tom Odjakjian. "We love doing games from the Thunderdome." They may be the only visitors who enjoy the Thunderdome. ■

was like a 8-52 firing its engines for takeoff," he added. "It gets really loud, and it's pretty tough for any team to quiet us down." The Thunderdome holds only 6,000 spectators, but the Locos make the most ofwhatthey've got. Last season, UCSB was 10-2 at home and 8-1 in the Big West Conference on their way to the school's first regular– season Big West championship. Included in that impressive home ledger was a 69-53 thrashing of Pac-10 member USC. "There were aton of us out there," Pinson recalled. "At the half, they were leading by like three points, but that's aPac-10 team that is usually beating mid-majors. Just the overall spirit of the Gaucho Locos made it tough for them to play, and we ended up winning the game." The Locos' methods are as spontaneous as they are energetic . "We'll have organized cheers throughout the whole game," Pinson explained. "But the thing about the Locos is that it's all kind of improv. It's a lot of fun. "We have asmall rivalry against Cal-Poly and we'll bring out tractor signs and chant, 'Start the Tractor,"' he continued. "A guy from Cal-Poly once stole one of the tractor signs and he actually ended up going to jail

Jon Cooper is a freelance sportswriter living in Atlanta and a regular contributor to College Hoops Illustrated.


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