AUBURN – Neville Arena, home of the Auburn Tigers, has become one of the most intimidating places to play in all of college basketball.

“The intensity – this will be as good as anything you see,” said ESPN’s Rece Davis. “I’m not going to sit here and be disingenuous. I love Allen Fieldhouse. That’s my favorite place. But on that tier of rising stars, rising relatively young arenas and student sections and fan bases, I would say this is one of the ones that is rising quickly and provides us a fantastic environment.”

A contributing factor to Auburn’s home success is its student section, known as “The Jungle.” Around 1,200 passionate students fill the lowest level of seating for each home game and make visiting teams aware of their presence.

Organizing a group of 1,200 college kids does not just happen, it takes a lot of planning behind the scenes. A group made up of 15 Auburn students, known as “The Jungle Staff,” is responsible for a lot of that planning as well as the setup and cleanup before and after each game.

The staff meets weekly to discuss everything from merchandise distribution to crowd control methods to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible. Time commitment by the staff members varies based on how much is going on that week, but this group is always working to ensure that gamedays are enjoyable for Auburn students.

This involves folding and placing t-shirts, rally towels and shakers on seats as well as distributing any promotional items for that specific game. When the game is over, the staff members collect the shakers so they can be used again for the next game.

The “king” of The Jungle is its president Grayson Harbin, a junior from Athens majoring in biomedical sciences and pre-pharmacy. Harbin served as secretary last year.

“I have always had a passion for Auburn sports,” Harbin said. “I grew up as an Auburn fan in a house full of Alabama fans so I kind of had a deeper connection to Auburn than a lot of people. I was just really drawn to Auburn sports and when I found out about the opportunity (to join the staff), I was like, ‘screw it, why not?’” 

Harbin had prior experience leading a student section before his time at Auburn began.

“I led my student section in high school,” Harbin said. “That kind of prompted my reasoning to be where I’m at now.”

Harbin talked about how rewarding it has been to serve as The Jungle’s president and what his favorite parts of holding the position have been.

“Probably just seeing how much of an impact we’ve made not only at men’s basketball but at the other sports we handle as well,” Harbin said. “We’ve broken attendance records at both women’s basketball and volleyball this year.”

Serving alongside Harbin is vice president Margo Lewis, a junior from Prattville majoring in public relations. 

“I decided to apply for the Jungle Leadership Team because I wanted to get involved in the Athletics Department,” Lewis said. “Attending athletic events was such a core part of my student experience that I wanted to see how I could make it even better and gain a deeper knowledge of how it all worked.”

Lewis has been an Auburn fan all of her life. She has developed a passion for the Tigers felt by many others.

“My passion for Auburn Athletics comes from my passion for connecting people through sports,” she said. “Although Auburn has students from many different walks of life on their campus, we can all be united when we cheer on the Tigers. Auburn has also given so much to me, my best childhood memories come from attending Auburn games with my family, so being able to give back to campus even in the smallest way means so much.”

Lewis talked about how despite having the opportunity to be a part of many great moments, one sticks out in her mind.

“My favorite thing about being on the Jungle Leadership Team is just seeing our hard work come to life on Gameday,” Lewis said. “After months of planning, it’s so rewarding to see all of the elements of the student gameday experience play out. It’s really awesome when students are particularly excited about a certain giveaway or theme.”

Connor Greenberg, a senior from Sarasota, Fla., majoring in marketing, serves as the treasurer of the organization. Auburn basketball means a lot to Greenburg. It is what led him to apply to Auburn in the first place.

“Auburn basketball was the reason I ended up coming to Auburn,” Greenburg said. “Having played in the Final Four and having been introduced to that program, it was kind of the reason I applied to Auburn and the reason I came here.”

Greenburg, a lifelong fan of the Virginia Cavaliers, was rooting against Auburn when the two teams met in the 2019 Final Four, but that did not keep Greenburg from developing an instant connection to the Tigers.

A specific moment that sticks out in Greenburg’s mind came courtesy of Auburn fan-favorite Lior Berman.

“The Lior Berman dunk against Tennessee at the end of last year was the loudest I’ve ever heard The Jungle,” Greenburg said. “That got us rolling.”

Wells Perrigin, a senior from Gordo majoring in law and justice, serves as the organization’s director of special events. 

“The recognition we get from national media and how much they respect what we do,” Perrigin said on his favorite part of being on staff with The Jungle. “Not just us, but the whole Jungle, how good our home crowd is.”

Perrigin’s favorite memory of being a part of the organization comes from Auburn’s game against Kentucky in 2022, the first time that a massive amount of Auburn students camped out before a game.

“Even though that was kind of a crap show with the camping out, just that experience and then beating Kentucky is something I’ll never forget,” Perrigin said. 

The Jungle is a valuable part of Auburn’s home success. It would not be in a position to make as much of a difference without this hardworking group of leaders.

“The Jungle is The Jungle,” Auburn forward Johni Broome said. “I think it’s the best home court advantage in the country.”

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