Justin Chapman | Echo
Every year around this time in the semester, the Taylor student body packs Odle Arena dressed up in outrageous costumes, from ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt to "Where's Waldo," to support their men's basketball team. However, this game is like no other; this is Silent Night.
This year's Silent Night is the 21st time the event has occurred. This event is now one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tradition Taylor owns. In fact, Silent Night has been featured for the last seven years on the sports news media station ESPN since it went viral in 2010.
Silent Night is well attended every year, and students highly anticipate this beloved game. The impact of this event goes well beyond the students, though.
"Silent Night is so big now that we do not need to promote it very hard," said Sports Information Director Seth Mikel. "Media outlets typically approach us with requests for the event, and we do our best to accommodate those requests. We do still reach out to certain outlets each year to make sure the game is on their calendar and to make plans for how we get footage to them."
Silent Night receives coverage on a yearly basis at this point. From CBS, to Bleacher Report, to ESPN, Silent Night is something people outside of Taylor know about. ESPN filmed a feature video on Silent Night in 2015, and the video now has over 65,000 views.
Silent Night occurs the last Friday of the fall semester each year. Students have spent countless hours studying already and need some way to get all their energy out. This is a harmless way to blow off some steam and have a fun time doing it.
"What Taylor is able to utilize - the Silent Night event and experience - to maybe (be) as a demonstration as to what community life and student life is about at Taylor," said Director of Media Relations Jim Garringer.
Being the small institution Taylor is, it naturally does not get much of a national spotlight. This tradition gives Taylor the chance to show what life is like at the university. From this quick glance the world gets, it is easy to see how the university possesses a quirky, yet tight-knit, community.
A reason Silent Night is unique is because of the size of Taylor University. Illinois University has done a similar event to Silent Night to honor John Groce ('94), who was Illinois' men's basketball head coach. However, it still did not receive as much coverage as Taylor's Silent Night.
As ironic as this sounds, President Lowell Haines has never been to a Silent Night game. The tradition was not born yet when Haines was a student and faculty member at Taylor. Haines became president last year, however, on the night of Silent Night, he was in Pennsylvania for his doctorate work.
The uniqueness of this event is hard to overstate. Many people in the United States do not realize what happens on a tiny college campus in the middle of the cornfields.
"When you get to know Taylor, then you realize this is one of many really, really great events," Haines said. "Everything from Melon and Gourd, to MyGen or Airband, all that stuff you don't find at a lot of Christian campuses or a lot (of) college campuses, period."
According to Mikel, this game not only brings the Taylor community together, but there have even been stories of people coming from all across the country to check an item off their bucket list. Since tickets have never been sold in advance or online, it is hard to provide any hard data on how many people come and where they come from.
Head coach Josh Andrews believes Silent Night sells itself. Most of the Taylor basketball recruits know about the game, and it gives them a glimpse of the community Taylor prides itself on.
"There's a lot of pressure on our guys; it's not an easy deal," Andrews said. "You gotta get to 10 points. Sometimes with the way we started the game the past four years, you start wondering as a coach 'Man, we may not get there by halftime.' Everybody's tense and it's quiet and the whole deal, so there's some pressure there; it's fun pressure, though."
According to Andrews, the fact Taylor is known for this cherished tradition can be a pull in receiving new recruits. As a result, Taylor can use this as a selling point, not only for the basketball program, but for the university as a whole.
The Taylor roster holds two 10th-point veterans with junior guard Evan Crowe and senior forward Keaton Hendricks.
The past two years, Crowe ended the silence with a three-point swoosh to send the crowd into chaos. With two Silent Nights down and two more to go, Crowe could match assistant coach Casey Coons' ('12) record of hitting the 10th point for four years in a row.
"We have a lot of good scorers, but offense is always moving, and if I happen to be open then I'm going to shoot the shot," Crowe said. "Whatever is best for us."
One of Crowe's favorite parts of the night is when the team is warming up inside Odle Arena and seeing all of the students pour into the gym whenever the doors are opened.
In this year's Silent Night game, Taylor will square off against Great Lakes Christian. The No. 12-ranked Trojans enter the game with an 8-3 record and a perfect 20-0 record on Silent Night games.
Taylor will sport the same five starters they did last year, which include Crowe, sophomore guard Mason Degenkolb, senior guard Tim Fleming, junior forward Jake Heggeland and senior forward Keaton Hendricks.
Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. tonight, and for the first time ever, only students with a ticket will be allowed to enter the game. Tip off is set for 6 p.m.
"Photographs provided by Jared Davenport and TU Sports Information Department"
"Graphic illustrated by Eric Andrews"