New Castle News

February 1, 2014

Oakland's Zookeeper: Neshannock High graduate leading the cheers for Pitt’s zany student section.

Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — From the Lancer Lunatics to the Oakland Zoo, Jordan Shoup has seen it all.

The 2010 Neshannock High graduate and current University of Pittsburgh student has led both schools’ student sections.

“I’ve tried some things out that we did in high school,” said Shoup, the current president of the Oakland Zoo student section. “I know how to lead people and start cheers. There’s more management here.”


Pitt’s student section received the moniker the “Oakland Zoo” in 2001 when co-founders Matt Cohen and Zach Hale determined the student section was too calm, rounding up a handful of their friends for a battle with Seton Hall, according to the group’s Wikipedia page.

Cohen, Hale and Co. began wearing gold T-shirts and acting “crazy” while rooting on the Panthers’ men’s and women’s basketball teams at their home games in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. They are situated across from the team benches at the Petersen Events Center.

The group continued to grow each year in number and in reputation and now has more than 2,000 students on its ledgers.

USA Today ranked the Petersen Events Center as the No. 2 atmosphere for college basketball in the country last March with the student section leading the way.


Shoup, a daughter of Jan and Doug Shoup of Neshannock Township, assumed leadership duties of the Zoo from Joe Lassi this year.

“The previous leaders see who has been to all the games and have the most loyalty,” she said. “They pick from those people based on who they feel is worthy.”

Shoup’s duties as president of the Zoo don’t begin and end with a basketball game.

The senior exercise science major has helped organize a 3-on-3 basketball fundraiser that’s played on the floor at the Petersen Events Center. All proceeds from the event go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.

Shoup and the rest of the student section’s hierarchy serve as liaisons between the university and its student sections.

“If we want towels or if we want T-shirts, we go through the marketing department,” she said. “We help design the T-shirts. It’s actually a lot of work. I don’t know if a lot of people know that.”


The anticipation for Monday’s showdown with perennial national powerhouse and new Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke soared as tipoff crept closer and closer.

Students began lining up outside “The Pete” early Sunday morning and eventually were allowed inside to wait for the 7 p.m. tipoff.

“The first people were in line around 9:30 Sunday morning,” Shoup said. “I got there around 3. By then, I’d say there were a solid 200 people lined up and were there all night. We had mattresses and TVs. We watched the Grammys together. Some people had video game consoles and someone had a grill. They cooked hot dogs outside. It was a lot of fun.”

Panthers coach Jamie Dixon arrived during the roughly 34-hour wait with donuts and chatted with the Pitt fans.

“Coach brought donuts in the morning and we had pizza for everyone at noon,” Shoup said. “Only the first 15 people knew he was coming, because marketing had told us. For most of the people, it was a surprise. He talked with us and asked ‘Are you guys at least studying?’ He hung around for a little bit, but he had a shootaround, so he had to leave.

“He’s so grateful for us being there. He knows what a big impact we have. He’s very appreciative of us.”

The sleepover wasn’t planned, Shoup said.

“We camped out last year for Syracuse, so we anticipated some people might line up for the Duke game,” she said. “The Syracuse game was on a weekend last year, so we didn’t know how many would line up early because of class.

“We definitely didn’t plan it. We just let things happen and once we saw so many people were there, we called to see if we could get a security guard. They let us in early, so people wouldn’t have to wait in line outside. They were very cool about it.”

Shoup noted many of the students still made it to class Monday.

“People were leaving to go to class and coming back,” she said. “As long as a group member was there, they were able to get their spot back. It really wasn’t a problem. I’m pretty sure most people still went to class. I didn’t hear of anyone getting into trouble.”


Shoup said more than 200 students spent the night at the Petersen Events Center and were a part of a record crowd of 12,944.

“I personally don’t have to wait,” she said. “I already have my seat, but I still did it, because I knew it’d be worth it. The experience is 100 percent worth it. I keep saying this ‘You’ll never have that experience of sleeping in the Petersen Events Center again.’ No one gets to say they did that.”

Shoup and Co. in the Oakland Zoo lived up to their reputation against Duke.

“It was absolutely insane,” she said. “It wasn’t the loudest that I’ve ever seen, but everyone was so excited about it being Duke. We couldn’t believe they were in the Petersen Events Center. Definitely getting ACC teams like UNC and Duke into The Pete is just an unreal experience.

“There were people running up and down doing warm-ups mocking them. There were some of great signs. I saw some creative signs that I’ve never seen before. Of course, they got to have fun mocking Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski). He’s an amazing coach and we’ve never seen him before. It was so exciting.”


Shoup and Co. are expecting another huge turnout for the Panthers’ Feb. 12 battle with former Big East and current ACC rival Syracuse at the Petersen Events Center.

“It’s funny,” Shoup said. “We all kept saying ‘We won’t get to do this again, but, Syracuse is in three weeks, so we’ll be doing it again.’ It’ll be bigger. They’ll probably be a top-five team and The Zoo is 9-0 against top-five teams.”

The Orange handed the Panthers their first ACC loss on Jan. 18 at the Carrier Dome.

“We have a history with them,” Shoup said. “I honestly think the rivalry we’ve established with Syracuse will make that a crazier game.”