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Mark Garno: Dancing to a true blue beat
Mark Garno
Mark Garno points to the eagle on his hat, indicating who's boss on the court. - photo by Scott Bryant

If you live in Statesboro long enough, you are likely to get drawn into the True Blue spirit that dwells at Georgia Southern.  This interest in our town’s fountain of knowledge could lead you down a path toward a degree, or you may simply find yourself enjoying a performance at the PAC.  But no matter what charms you, most of us can agree that the true spirit of blue shines brightest at any GSU sporting event.  One person who can attest to such a statement is a man by the name of Mark Garno, though he is most famously known as “The Dancing Guy.”

For the last few years, Garno and his wife, Melissa, have enjoyed courtside seats at GSU’s home basketball games. At first glance, the game serves as a nice outing for the couple, but the catch is, Garno can’t seem to sit still when a certain song comes over the loudspeakers.  It all started about seven years ago when Hanner Fieldhouse opened up their courtside seats.

“I’ve always been a hyper guy, and even at 66 years old, I love a good chance to get my energy out,” he said.  “The first game we attended was really close.  I’m sitting there for three quarters and I’m wired up.  All of a sudden, this song comes on called ‘Turn Down For What?’ There is room next to my chair, so I get up and I start dancing.  At the time, the student section was right behind our seats, so the kids are laughing and clapping, and they are starting to dance, too,” he said.

It was during this game that a tradition was born.  Now, every time that same song infiltrates the gym at Hanner Fieldhouse, Garno appears with moves and choreography from the music video of the song.  And consequently, the crowd goes wild.  He has become a bit of a sensation since his first debut.  Everyone either wants their pictures taken with The Dancing Guy, or they want to learn his moves.

“The main reason I do it is to get the crowds pumped up and going.  One of my dreams is to pack the gym out with a bunch of fans yelling and screaming for the GSU basketball team,” he said.

What better way to put that dream in motion than by setting the bar with a legendary dance performance?

It seems that for the majority of his life, Garno has been the one to set the example.  Before he became the dancing guy, he was studying at the University of Albany State for a career as a drug and addiction counselor.  It was a line of work that had taken root in his path due to his own personal bouts with alcoholism.  Shortly after obtaining a degree in psychology, Garno flew from New York to Georgia for a job interview.  Deciding that 72-degree weather was more hospitable than the snowstorm he had left behind, Garno took a job at Willingway as the residential program manager.

Instead of letting his addiction consume him, Garno uses his own road to recovery as a guiding light for others who are on similar paths.  Last November, he celebrated his 37th sobriety anniversary. 

And while it cannot be confirmed, it is worth a bet that he commemorated the special milestone by tuning into GSU basketball stats and pouring his energy over one of his favorite teams.  After all, The Dancing Guy may leave the court for things like golf or Las Vegas, but his True Blue spirit is what makes the game – and its players – a timeless staple of GSU history.