The women’s basketball team took the court in Neal Fieldhouse on Saturday for the NCAC Championship. Even with a championship on the line, the stands were nearly empty. This was not the first time students failed to support a team in a big game at DePauw.
The entire week leading up to the women’s game, I was in a panic trying to find a press pass because it can be difficult to get signal when large crowds are in the building. As I entered the fieldhouse, though, it was obvious that I did not need a press pass. The stands behind the basket were completely empty, and the main stands were not much better. There could not have been more than 20 students there at tip-off.
The women’s basketball team is not the only program that lacks attendance at its games. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find a single athletic program at DePauw that is satisfied with the attendance at their home games. Senior guard Lex Gaumer believes bigger crowds make games more exciting.
“The more the crowd gets into the game, the more we do,” Gaumer said. “It gets our adrenaline pumping and makes every basket that much more special and important.”
We do a great job as a student body of attending two sporting events a year: The Monon Bell Classic and the men’s basketball game against Wabash College. Don’t get me wrong; the attendance at those games is awesome. You will not find better numbers at many division three schools in the entire country. But why do we stop there? I hear so many people talk about how much fun they have at those games, but do not show up to another game all year.
Gaumer is also the NCAC chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). DePauw SAAC has tried to increase attendance at sporting events under her leadership, but many of the attempts have been unsuccessful.
“We allow each team two to three games that we determine as Tiger Cup Games,” Gaumer said. “These games are games that the team hopes to have high attendance at, and if teams go to the game they are given points based on how many team members show up.”
This is a great idea, but that only covers student athletes across campus. If numbers are going to increase, the whole student body needs to rally around the teams.
Arguably the most common excuse for not attending sporting events on campus is people not knowing anyone on the team. Turn on ESPN on a Saturday during football or basketball season. The majority of the sold out student sections in those games have never spoken to a player on the team. What is the difference between those students and us?
Above the stands in Neal Fieldhouse reads a banner that says “Gold Zone.” If this is supposed to be the name of our so-called student section, then we need to actually have a student section at more than two games a year. SAAC can do their best to increase student attendance, but it really comes down to the students. We should not have smaller attendance numbers than Greencastle High School.