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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Inside the Game with…

He’s majoring in exercise biology and economics, minoring in management and technology. He’s at the CoHo cash registers taking your ticket slips. But most importantly, he’s at almost all UC Davis sporting event.

His name is Akshar Gopal and his official title is “marketing and promotions intern,” but he’s best known as the “Aggie Pack guy.”

Akshar has been leading loyal Aggie fans in cheers since his sophomore year and he doesn’t plan on stopping. Somehow he manages his double major/minor combo, his CoHo job and about 12-15 hours of Aggie Pack duties every week. This week he found a free hour to sit down with Aggie sports writer Kimberly Carr to chat about his life at the helm of UC Davis’ student sports section.

Last year was the first time you took the microphone from [former Aggie Pack MC] Adam Darbonne and led the Aggie Pack in cheers. What were you feeling right then?
Well, there’s a back-story to how I got involved with the Aggie Pack. I met Adam and Tommy [former Aggie Pack leaders] before I came to college. I didn’t do much with the Aggie Pack my freshman year because I was still getting settled in. But I did this sort of thing in high school and I’ve always loved sports so I wanted to get more involved. I started volunteering my sophomore year and they were looking for a replacement for Tommy because he was graduating in the winter, so Adam asked me to try out at the game. I was so scared when Adam handed me the microphone, but it was okay. There were some kinks, but I kept volunteering, and when they needed someone for basketball that’s when I really started emceeing.

Adam Darbonne was such a beloved goofball. Were you nervous to fill those shoes?
I was so nervous! Everybody loved Adam and he left some very big shoes to fill and it was tough. The very first game I did by myself there were people asking if the guy with the backwards hat was coming back. He really left a good impression.

So how can people get more involved in the Aggie Pack?
Well, we have our website aggiepack.com and you can get in touch with me and other people through that. There’s also our Facebook page. You start by volunteering and if you like it you can apply to be an intern and you start marketing the games. It’s all volunteer, but there are perks! I have tons of free shirts and all kinds of gear now. We’re a team — I lead the games, but there are a bunch of us that put this all together.

How many hours a week do you work for the Aggie Pack?
It varies a lot. Anywhere between 5-30 hours. I think it averages to 12-15 a week, though.

So between work and the Aggie Pack, do you even have time for class? How do you make it all work?
I just have to prioritize. It does make me work a lot harder, though, because I really have to study when I can.

What’s more annoying? When people come to games for tube socks or when they stand in line for shirts and then leave?
It’s hard when people stand in line for hours, get a shirt and leave. I really wish they would stay and cheer for our teams. At least the crowd gets loud for tube socks!

Speaking of loud, how does your voice hold up after football games?
Umm… it doesn’t (laughs). One morning after a game I woke up and tried to say “hi” to a roommate and nothing came out. I just have to drink a lot of hot chocolate. It’s hard working at the CoHo after games because people can barely hear me. I try really hard to be loud enough!

What is your favorite memory as the Aggie Pack guy so far?
The men’s basketball game against Stanford [on Nov. 18]. I love basketball and I love the crowd atmosphere. There were so many people there and the crowd was feeling it. It was so much fun running all over the stadium. It was so cool — it felt awesome to be leading all those people in cheers and stuff.

So what are your plans for the future of the Aggie Pack?
We’re just trying to get more people to games. We’re working with ASUCD to start something like Thursday activities in the Quad where teams come out and play a game of dodgeball with students, or something like that. If we can personalize the teams and athletes, we can get more fans out to cheer, and that’s our main goal. We want as many fans as we can get at every sport. I love all sports so I can go to a water polo game or a tennis match and find them interesting. Some sports, like football, are definitely easier to cheer for, but I’d love to get more people to every game — even the sports that aren’t as mainstream.

So you will leave UC Davis with a couple of degrees and as one of the world’s most fearless public speakers. What are your plans post-Davis?
I want to get an MBA. I want to go into business and marketing. My dream would be to work marketing for a professional sports team.

KIM CARR can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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