The 2005 UCSB men’s soccer program has shown the nation just what home field advantage really means. It means over 2,000 screaming fans spearheaded by a sea of yellow-clad students known as the Gaucho Locos.

Opposing coaches, players, commentators and parents have all commented on the intimidating crowd that flocks to Harder Stadium for Saturday night soccer games. Thousands of fans and hundreds of students in yellow Gaucho Loco T-shirts have turned filled the formerly tranquil Harder Stadium into one of the best and most intense soccer crowds in the nation.

“They have certainly changed the atmosphere of our games,” men’s soccer Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The fans that come out to our games are probably the most knowledgeable and energetic that we’ve ever played in [front of].”

Vom Steeg can remember back to when UCSB was not a competitive team and attendance was in the low triple digits. He can remember that only three or four Locos would show up to games, and that they were still enough to rile up the opposing players. Now that Locos are pouring into the stands like never before, Harder Stadium is home to some of the rowdiest crowds in the nation.

“My wife will come home and tell me that she had to cover our son’s ears,” Vom Steeg said. “But all things considered, I love it and the players love it. Our players want to please the crowd and send the fans home happy.”

Gaucho Locos copresidents Coby Vink, a fourth-year political science and economics double major, and Jennifer McConville, a fourth-year communication major, have taken on the responsibility of attracting fans to the games.

“Our goal is to get as many students to come to the games as we can,” Vink said. “We want them to see just how exciting these games can be.”

Although this is the first year they have supported soccer, the Locos are going all-out in their efforts. On top of getting to watch one of the top soccer programs in the nation, fans have the opportunity to win prizes at the games. For example, this Saturday there will be a costume contest with the winner receiving a gift certificate to Vons worth $50.

In addition to the prizes won at games, Gaucho Loco membership offers other incentives – discounts at Isla Vista eateries such as Sam’s To Go and Giovanni’s, along with free French fries at McDonald’s and free bowling at Zodo’s. Even with the fringe benefits of Loco membership, Vink insists that the best part of being a Gaucho Loco is going to the games.

“I think the most exciting part is to be a part of the crowd,” Vink said. “You get into that group mentality and it’s just so much fun.”

Those in the crowd have probably already seen fourth-year psychology major Mike Lipka. Starting some of the cheers and dashing around in his “El Gaucho” outfit, Lipka is a regular fixture at most UCSB athletic events.

“There is so much camaraderie,” Lipka said. “Everyone is just hoping for the same things to happen. When you put on a yellow shirt, that’s who you are – you are a Gaucho Loco.”

Gone are the days of the Fantom of the ‘Dome, who has moved to Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, but when basketball season resumes this November, the Gaucho Locos will be holding a contest to find the next face of the Locos. Auditions for the contest, dubbed “Gaucho Idol,” will start Nov. 9.

With hopes of bringing thunder back to the ‘Dome, and making Harder Stadium the best soccer crowd in the nation, the Gaucho Locos invite you to come out and cheer for your Gauchos.