Crab walking our way into history

Greyhounds attract national attention as Loyola breaks a world record live on The Today Show

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos by Peter Howard

The Quad was still dark—and cold—when students started getting in line.

They knew only 500 crab walkers would get through the turnstiles, and they didn’t want to miss the chance to compete that morning.

They wanted to break a Guinness World Record.

They hoped to be on The Today Show.

They were determined to make history.

So well before 5 a.m. on Thursday, March 30, hundreds of Greyhounds were lined up, shivering, laughing together, and cheering.

Across and around the Quad, Loyola faculty, staff, administrators, and student volunteers were making sure everything was in place, from the human participants to the Loyola flag and bullhorn that would signal the start of the event. The video crews from The Today Show had arrived the day before—along with weatherman Al Roker. Loyola employees had been meeting and planning for weeks.

That morning the eyes of the nation would be turned to a vibrant campus at the corner of Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane, on the north side of Baltimore. This was Loyola’s chance to shine. Everyone was determined to make sure the event, and the broadcast, went off smoothly.

But there were so many unknowns.

Would the weather cooperate? Would the crab walkers have enough space to attempt to break the record? How many would fall—or be disqualified, because they let their posteriors touch the ground? The record to beat was 376, set by Northeastern University in 2016. At Loyola 500 would attempt—but if more than 10 percent of those attempting to crab walk for two minutes failed, the record would be lost, according to Guinness World Record official rules.

Coffee was flowing, adrenaline was pumping, fingers were crossed.

Before the record could even be attempted, witnesses and stewards needed to be in place—matched to monitor crab walkers and ensure that the record was achieved.

Meanwhile, many of those who were waiting in line in the darkness may have been wondering, just how did a school of 4,000 undergraduate students land a coveted appearance on The Today Show?

How It Happened

Loyola senior Bob Trosset had interned for NBC last summer, traveling to the Olympics in Rio as part of his internship. When he heard that Al Roker would be visiting five college campuses for his 2017 Rokerthon, Trosset approached Loyola’s office of marketing and communications (MarComm).

Would MarComm help him create a video to pitch to The Today Show to entice Roker to campus? Of course. But chances of succeeding seemed slim. More than 80 videos were submitted,
many from larger, bigger-name institutions.

But something in Loyola’s video caught The Today Show’s eye. And on March 29, Al Roker’s plane touched down at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, where he was greeted by a group of students, Iggy the Greyhound, and Trosset, who was wearing a crab costume.

More than 700 members of the Loyola community had pre-registered online to crab walk for an event only 500 people could participate in.

This was really happening.

Why It Matters

Attracting this level of attention to the University is an extraordinary win. An appearance on The Today Show places Loyola University Maryland’s campus and community in front of millions of viewers around the nation.

“We could never pay for this kind of publicity. A media appearance like this one on The Today Show offers Loyola the chance to step into the national spotlight and elevate our institutional brand,” said Sharon Higgins, assistant vice president for marketing and communications. “After we introduce—or reintroduce—people to our Jesuit, liberal arts university in Baltimore, we hope we pique their interest in learning more about the extraordinary education and experience Loyola offers to its students.”

An appearance on national television also offers an opportunity for alumni to rally around their alma mater and to celebrate their connection to Loyola and to Baltimore.

“This was a unique and powerful opportunity for Loyola to gain national attention that will help enrollment, advancement, and faculty/employee hiring goals, and further support the initiatives of our new strategic plan, The Ignatian Compass: Guiding Loyola University Maryland to Ever Greater Excellence,” said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J. “A single event like this one can be key to helping us build a culture of engagement within our campus community, our Baltimore community, and our alumni community.”

By selecting Loyola’s submission, The Today Show also chose Baltimore’s Jesuit, Catholic university, the only private institution in the group of five schools Roker visited during Rokerthon 2017. But, of course, with that level of attention on the Evergreen campus, Loyola University Maryland wanted to look its best—and make sure its crab walkers set the new world record.

The Outcome

As the sun rose behind Alumni Memorial Chapel, the crab walkers were positioned on the Quad, trying to stay warm as they waited for the chance to compete.

Al Roker arrived on the Quad walking with two live greyhounds. Student singers, cheerleaders, ukulele players, athletes, dance team members, and others joined Roker in shots as he gave his weather forecasts for the day live from Evergreen. The campus was abuzz as students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and members of the Baltimore community waved signs and foam fingers and cheered.

When Al Roker announced it was time for the crab walking to begin, Fr. Linnane waved a Loyola flag, and the group of 500 participants started moving back and forth on their hands and feet in lines across the Quad.

As the crowd counted down the final 30 seconds with the giant stopwatch that had been projected on the side of the DeChiaro College Center, the Quad exploded in excitement.

Even before the Guinness representative confirmed it, the members of the Loyola family gathered around the Quad already knew: Loyola University Maryland had set a new world record. A grand total of 494 Greyhounds successfully crab walked for a solid two minutes—and made history.

The crab walkers were all smiles.

Then, as if the level of excitement on campus weren’t already high enough, Al Roker and Fr. Linnane announced that two students whose names had been drawn at random live on camera were receiving $5,000 scholarships—one from PurePoint Financial and one from Loyola.

As the NBC crew broke down the set and cleared their equipment, and as faculty and students headed off to classes on the chilly spring morning, Greg Roy, an employee in facilities, pushed a rolling trash container across the Quad. Roy, who won the AMDG Community Award last fall, was picking up the last of the debris from the festivities.

“We know we have a beautiful campus,” he said with pride. “Today everyone in the nation got to see it.”

Meet some of the many people who participated in the day at Greyhounds of Rokerthon.

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