The sixth man on a five-player team

The Barnyard, the official student group section at Williams Arena, plays a big role in team success.

Members of the Barnyard, the official student group section of Williams Arena, Paul Dunfee, left, Luke Meyer, Woody Hanson, and Becca Picha.

Steve Maturen

Members of the Barnyard, the official student group section of Williams Arena, Paul Dunfee, left, Luke Meyer, Woody Hanson, and Becca Picha.

With the Gopher menâÄôs basketball team on the verge of possibly reaching the NCAA tournament, much of their success can be attributed to their sixth man âÄî the fans of the Barnyard. Since 1928, Williams Arena has been known as the âÄúThe Barn,âÄù and 76 years later, the Barnyard group was born. Still fairly young, the Barnyard is the official student group section at the Barn, comprising of about 2,500 students . According to the group, anyone who purchases student season tickets is automatically considered a Barnyard member, but the seven-member board conducts the majority of event planning. The Barnyard is unique, because it is made up of hardcore Gopher fans who organize their events in order to support coach Tubby Smith and the menâÄôs basketball team. In addition to arriving at home basketball games two hours in advance to set up the Gopher Gazette, the BarnyardâÄôs publication, they also host face-painting and sign-making activities, Barnyard Marketing and Promotions Chair Woody Hanson said. Annually, the group helps with the Tubby Tip-off right before the start of the season and takes one road trip during the season. This year, the Barnyard was able to raise $11,000 to put toward a trip to Evanston, Ill., when the Gophers played the Northwestern University Wildcats. Although the team lost that game, itâÄôs the home games that make the group so special âÄî the team has a 15-2 record this season when they play at the Barn . âÄúThe BarnyardâÄôs the sixth man, thereâÄôs no doubt about it,âÄù Hanson said. âÄú[The team] played incredible all year at home. ThereâÄôs only one common denominator there âÄî the fans are everything.âÄù Sophomore Chad Patel is experiencing his first year involved with the group as the website chairman and said he became involved with the group because it looked like fun. He said he wants people to recognize that âÄúMinnesota fans are being as loud and having as much fun as anyone else in the nation.âÄù Amanda Hoehn works in the athletics department and serves as the liaison between the group and the department to make sure the fans represent the team in a positive way. âÄúWe like to make sure we are involved with everything that they are planning and doing during the season so that it doesnâÄôt go against us, or it doesnâÄôt put a poor light on our team at all,âÄù Hoehn said. âÄúWe fully appreciate everything that they do for us.âÄù The menâÄôs basketball team is playing host to rival Wisconsin on Wednesday evening, and the Barnyard is anxiously waiting to cheer the Gophers to a victory.