The 32nd Annual Big Red Freakout is being held this weekend. Thirty-two consecutive years of the same tradition with the same purpose is relatively rare at the ‘Tute, so I had to find out how the event got started and what it was like the first time around.
Big Red Freakout was the brain child of then Dean of Students Carl Westerdahl and Grand Marshal Mark Feinstein. They thought it would be great to “get the fans psyched for one game and to pay them back for their support during the season.” [The Polytechnic, Feb. 15, 1978]. Apparently RPI was known as having the best fans in the ECAC. For the first Big Red Freakout, fans were invited to wear red, make banners for a banner contest and stay for ice skating after the game. They were also encouraged to make lots of noise. The visiting team (University of New Hampshire) and commentators complained about the volume of the fans during the game. The referees threatened a penalty against the Engineers because the pep band et al were so loud. By the way, the pep band reintroduced Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer [click for music by the RPI Pep Band] to the Freakout crowd that night. It’s hard to believe this tune was ever unfamiliar to hockey fans! Almost 5,000 people attended the game — the largest crowd for a non-tournament game in the ECAC up to that date. The RPI fans were rewarded with an exciting game — the Engineers won in overtime 6-5.