Published: March 13, 2013

On a typical Thursday night during the 2012-13 Colorado basketball season, the energy at the Coors Events Center was electric.

The student section was a sea of black and gold, and a loud one at that. Music from the band was interspersed with a constant stream of cheers, ranging from the traditional fight song to a rendition of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during an opponent’s free throw shot: “You’re not gonna make it, anymoooore...”

Perhaps most importantly, not one student was sitting.

Game day momentum

It’s no secret that the C-Unit has skyrocketed in momentum and personality since CU’s move into the Pac-12 Conference in 2011 — and since CU basketball’s rise to prominence under head coach Tad Boyle.

“Coach Boyle has instilled a new culture here at CU,” said Max Nathanson, sophomore and co-leader of the wildly popular “Roller Coaster” cheer. “That has translated into a successful team, an energized student body and an enthusiasm for games.”

Since Boyle took the helm as Colorado’s men’s basketball head coach in 2010, the team has recorded three straight 20-win seasons, a school record for consecutive years. The Buffs are 44-7 at home during that time.

And whether the C-Unit’s members realize it or not, their dedication has played a role in each of those victories.

“To have an atmosphere like this and make this a tough place to play is awesome,” said sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie after the Buffs’ Dec. 5 home win over Colorado State, a game with a school record attendance of 11,708. “I know the crowd gets us hyped and into the game even more so.”

Characters courtside

The atmosphere wasn’t always so energetic at the CEC. Three years ago, when senior mechanical engineering major Nick Shearon was a freshman, the Coors Events Center was empty by comparison. CU basketball players weren’t household names for most around campus, and tickets often went for $5 apiece on game days.

Under the enthusiastic leadership of Shearon and friends senior sociology major Tim Fahy and junior management major Courtney Benejam, among others, the CEC has become home to a rapidly growing student section nicknamed the “C-Unit.”

The C-Unit has also been recognized for its spirit on the national stage, becoming one of the final eight nominees last season and one of sixteen this season for the Naismith Student Section of the Year Award.

But there’s more that goes into creating the perfect student section than memorizing the fight song.

They also attribute the growth of the section to the group’s willingness to show their spirit in costume. Shearon, better known as “Buff Man,” is clad every home game in a gold, head-to-toe fiberglass suit and shining helmet.

He is far from alone in his extravagance. Fahy and Benejam are the iconic personas of “Iron Man,” sporting a silver suit, and CU-themed superhero “Buff Girl,” decked in black bodysuit, gold belt and jeweled black mask.

Other characters of the crowd include Michelle Fay, a.k.a. “Wonder Buff,” Sean Espinoza, a.k.a. the “Bat Buff,” and Max Nathanson and Griffin Bohm, leaders of the wildly popular “Roller Coaster” cheer.

Shearon, Fahy and the other C-Unit leaders meet weekly to plan for upcoming games, create and teach new cheers, and decide which faces to put on the giant cardboard heads that wave throughout the student section to distract opponents.

At first, the “big heads” were mostly of Tad Boyle and the members of his team, but now they have expanded to include super-fan twins Betty Fitzgerald Hoover and Peggy Fitzgerald Coppom (both CU class of ’46), Oprah Winfrey, and any amusing Internet or TV characters the students can muster up.

“We just kind of look on the Internet and see what’s hilarious and what’s random,” Benejam said of the “big head” selection process. “I think we have Queen Elizabeth, we have Zoidberg, we have a cat ... It makes our players laugh and it makes [the opponents] miss.”

I am a subscriber to the power of the student body in a basketball game, and the home court advantage is one of the most important and special elements of college sports overall,” said Nathanson.

The C-Unit will be in Las Vegas Wednesday to cheer on their Buffs at the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament. In the meantime, like the C-Unit’s page on Facebook or follow @CUnitBuffs on Twitter for more updates from CU’s most devoted fans.