Shame on you, USF students.
What I?m about to scold you for is nothing I haven?t been guilty of in the past. It is embarrassing to admit, but I am, and have been, in the process of changing my ways.
Student attendance at USF athletic events in the four years I have been here has been absolutely pitiful.
From a campus-life standpoint, USF has always been considered a commuter school. Tampa is not a city that revolves around a university (i.e. Tallahassee and Gainesville), so USF is not the hub of activity in this town. There are a wide variety of things to entertain us in Tampa, and I do understand how we choose to spend our free time can be tough.
But the excuses must stop.
Last year, the men?s basketball team averaged slightly more than 5,000 people at the Sun Dome, which holds 10,411 fans. There are two ways to look at that figure ? was it half full or half empty?
Either way, it stinks.
And a quick look around the Sun Dome reveals only about half of the people in attendance are students. The rest are alumni, families and basketball fans who live in the area. The student section?
To see what a real student section looks like, one only needs to tune in to a Duke or North Carolina game. We have two wackos (and I use that term in a complimentary way) who paint their entire bodies green and gold, and a smattering of fraternity and sorority members comprising our student section, which should be the loudest and wildest group in attendance.
Anyone who knows anything about sports is aware of how much of an edge a home court advantage provides a team. And equally as important is how much of a boost the visiting team gets when there is a lack of crowd noise. Teams that play Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium know not only are they going against the Blue Devils, they?re also battling the fans.
With more than 35,000 students attending USF, it seems inconceivable to me the Bulls? home attendance was as poor as it was. That means, on average, roughly one-seventh of the student population attended home games. And if you figure in the number of people in the Tampa community who attended, there were actually less students at the games than that. Where was everyone else? How, with this many people at USF, can we only half-fill the Sun Dome for games?
When I pose these questions to students, I get answers like, ?I don?t have time.? Or ?I have to work.? Or ?Well, we went out to Ybor that night.? Or ?I didn?t know there was a game.? Or, my personal favorite, ?I was studying.? C?mon, who are you kidding? The majority of athletic events on campus last no more than two hours. Most games start by 7 p.m., so they are done by 9 p.m. Who goes to Ybor before that? If you didn?t know there was a game that night, then pick up The Oracle and get informed about campus activities. As long as I am the sports editor, I guarantee there will always be notification of all events in my section. And the studying alibi ? I won?t even justify that with a response.
The excuses must stop.
I use basketball as an example because it has always been the most high-profile sport at USF. But if you haven?t been attending volleyball matches, you?ve missed Conference USA Player of the Year Michelle Collier smash balls down opponent?s throats. If you didn?t get to any women?s soccer matches last year, you missed Siri Nordby?s dazzling footwork, which often resulted in opponents picking themselves up off the ground or shaking their heads in frustration and amazement. Didn?t see any baseball games last year? Then you missed Myron Leslie, who led a Bulls team that reached the NCAA Regionals in hitting, routinely making difficult plays at third base look elementary. And by now, everyone should be aware of what the football team did at Pittsburgh this past weekend.
Do I expect the environment at the Sun Dome to transform into the Cameron Indoor Stadium overnight? Of course not. But school spirit and building traditions has to start somewhere. When Duke opened its doors for business, the university didn?t come equipped with a built-in cheering section. Take some personal accountability. Make it a point to attend some games this year, no matter what sport it is. Better yet, tell some of your friends and take them with you. All games are free for students, and there is not a requirement that you even have to be a sports fan to attend. And if you?re studying (insert hearty laugh here), take a break for an hour or two and walk to a game. But get out and support the athletes who represent your school.
Brandon Wright is a senior majoring in mass communications and The Oracle sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org