Who would have thought that hardly over one month ago, a single University of Connecticut Huskies fan eating a spoon of hot sauce would become an internet sensation throughout Husky Nation? Definitely not Bryan Jackson ‘12 (CLAS), who tweeted on the night of Jan. 5, as he watched the men’s basketball team enter half time down 18 points, that he’d drink hot sauce if the Huskies came back to win against Marquette.
“I woke up the next morning and saw that all these people had done it,” said Jackson. “This is kind of crazy,” he said he thought to himself.
Two days later, Jackson once again posted a video of himself downing hot sauce in hopes to make this a trend. Game after game, UConn fans began to do the same after victories, uniting Husky Nation in these times of separation.
A few games after this trend began to soar, the ball was passed to the three men who run the Husky Ticket Project, a non-profit organization formed by Kevin Solomon ‘14 (BUS), Jeremy Longobardi ’12 (BUS) and Kevin Kortsep ‘12 (BUS). Their goal is to fill the stands of Gampel Pavilion and Rentschler Field with Connecticut’s children so that they can make memories and support the teams in the same way he and his colleagues did.
“I figured, what if we make this something like the ALS ice bucket challenge?” Solomon pondered when waking up one Tuesday morning after another UConn victory to see his Twitter timeline filled with countless videos of people drinking hot sauce. “If we can get people to donate $5 for each shot that they take, and we make this last the whole season, maybe we can raise $5,000,” he said.
For the Husky Ticket Project, $5,000 would have been an immense sum of money to raise given that since their start in April 2018, they had raised a total of $20,000.
Within five minutes of posting their tweet, the donations began to trickle in. And eventually, they began to pour in. Within two weeks they had raised a sum of $60,000, tripling their organization’s total income in a fraction of the time that they had been a functioning non-profit. Below, a donor recorded a video of himself downing the hot sauce before donating.
The original mastermind in this project didn’t just step back and watch, but involved himself more. Jackson began to make deals with the Husky Ticket Project donors saying if they raised a certain amount of money he would take a shot of different types of hot sauce, while continuing to increase the Scoville units, the unit of measurement used to determine the spiciness of chili peppers.
“It was a perfect storm,” Solomon said. “We were experiencing less than successful in terms of UConn standard seasons,” he said, referencing both the men’s basketball and football seasons in the past few years. “Fast forward to this year, we’re in a pandemic…the cool thing about this whole thing is we were able to distract people from politics, from a pandemic, from all of the social injustices going on in the world.”
Just one Husky fan was able to kick-start a unifying trend among UConn’s fans during these trying times. It built synergy and compassion, and maybe one could say it is because of these good vibes that the UConn men’s basketball team has risen to be ranked in the top 25 men’s collegiate basketball teams in the nation.