Building the House of Howl

In 1997, my contract with Arkansas State expired. I had a degree, the university had my tuition. I moved forward on finding my fortune and glory while A-State continued with their own agenda. It would be more than a decade before I’d truly renew my relationship with the university that not only provided me scholarly credits, but profoundly shaped me as a person.

According to to A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, that ten-year divorce was unacceptable.

“A relationship with your university should be life long,” Dr. Damphousse explained, “And it should be reciprocated.”

It’s not enough to send a periodical alumni letter every quarter or so. The relationship starts as a student, when you’re creating memories so unique that nothing in your life moving forward can ever duplicate it. Dr. Damphousse understood that a vital string binding us to that special emotion is tied to athletics. In 2021, he and Athletic Director Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Tom Bowen launched an initiative to supply graduates with two season tickets to upcoming basketball and football games.

“Here, we say that you are a Red Wolf for life,” said Dr. Damphousse. “You know, your time as a student-fan is limited. So we’re looking at ways to make that time more meaningful.”

Dubbing the student section The House of Howl is one way Arkansas State is making the student-fan experience more meaningful.

Early in the year, Coach Butch Jones formed a student group to rename the student section. The result? The “House of Howl,” a moniker that is not just alliteratively pleasing, but provides a real-time testing ground for additional methods to enhance the student-fan experience. Starting a tradition of the football team singing to the students after home victories is one such experiment.

The Howl Towels are another.

“We wanted to have something special for the students to commemorate our hosting the #15 ranked team in the nation,” said Dr. Damphousse. “So the Office of the Chancellor printed Howl Towels for the House of Howl.”

When word of the Howl Towels went public, Dr. Damphousse soon had several non-students asking where the towels can be purchased.

The Howl Towel was meant for students, but it has found a wider audience

“We printed a thousand Howl Towels, and we’re selling them, with the proceeds from to cover the costs of the students’ towels,” said Dr. Damphousse. The Howl Towels will be provided to students for free upon entry to Thursday night’s game against Coastal Carolina, and will be available for non-students for $5 at The Team Shop.

Why is it important for not just the university, but for fans and alumni as well to support the House of Howl? Dr. Damphousse offered a simple vision.

“The House of Howl is home to our future,” he said. “Student-fans today support the program in the years to come. That is why we’ve reached out to the athletic department to collaborate on ways to really invite students into the culture.

“After all,” he added with a laugh, “athletics without a strong fan base is called ‘intramurals.'”

PHOTO CREDIT: Mine, but also Office of the Chancellor