Posted February 13, 2014
By KELLY BRODY
It was the final seconds of the Duke-Miami basketball game and the Hurricanes were down by almost 20 points. What was once a packed Bank United Center was now almost empty, with hoards of UM fans, ones who remained after the team fell severely behind early on, leaving the arena while their home team was still playing.
This was not the first time students have left a Miami men’s basketball game early due to poor performance by the team. Charles Young and Emery Shiffraw, both freshman, stated how they went to “three games and they were all forgettable.”
“I left early because I knew that we were going to lose,” Young said.
Many students feel as though leaving a game early is justified.
“It’s not as bad to leave if we’re losing badly or winning by a lot because you know how things are going to end,” Lamont Fox, freshman, explained.
Yet in a sport like basketball, anything can happen. In a split second, the game can change, but evidence has proved that Miami fans do not have the spirit, faith or willpower to stick around and see if a miracle can happen.
“We’re just not a sports school in terms of fan-base,” Shiffraw commented.
Both Young and Shiffraw lamented how the e-mails the Athletic Department sends to get students to attend the games “are not enough.”
Sophomore Daniel Younger interjected, “They don’t try to make people want to go to the games. They should have things at the Rock or something to pump people up. My friends at other schools, they know all these basketball cheers. We should do that. Maybe people will be more hyped about the games that way.”
At the beginning of the school year, there was, in fact, an event on the Rock specifically meant to “pump people up.” At the pep rally, students learned cheers and traditions to support a sports team, but it wasn’t for basketball. Rather, it was the Hurricanes football team.
“Basketball fans are not as enthusiastic because we’re seen as a football school,” Fox stated.
The football games garner such huge support due to the tailgating tradition, large arena and as Young put it, “there’s actually a chance of us winning. The football team is just better.”
Basketball, unlike football, struggles to get students through the doors. Brandon Myles– assistant director of marketing for Hurricanes Athletics, shared how the Loyola home game on Dec. 30, while it was a win, only had 23 students in attendance. The last two home games, both losses, showed numbers of 1,705 and 1,672, respectively. Monica Mengotti, the Athletic Operations coordinator, noted how last year’s winning season positively affected attendance at games.
“The FSU game was a record in student attendance,” she stated. “And I think that leaving games early just might be a college student thing.”
“Other schools have these huge fan-bases for their basketball teams and stay whether it’s a win or loss,” he said.
Simply turn on the TV to a basketball game for a “basketball school” such as UNC, Duke, or Kentucky and you’ll see the student section packed with screaming fans, faces painted in school colors and students truly cheering on the home team. Both Myles and Mengotti note how a lively, loyal fan-base seems to be a catalyst in a winning team.
“Fan attendance and support is 100 percent connected to the team’s success,” said Myles. “As a former college athlete, to hear fellow schoolmates cheering you on gives home court advantage. The fans are really key to success on the court.”
This can be a hard pill to swallow for cranky Hurricanes fans who don’t want to see their team lose. The ACC championship season last year put faith in the hearts of the fans, but also greater disappointment when the team doesn’t live up to the standard it displayed last season.
“We lost a lot of the top guys from last year, it’s not the same as last year. We really need the support of the students, we need to have them 100 percent bought into the basketball program,” said Myles.
Mengotti stressed how essential the fans are to the basketball players themselves.
“They feed off the fans, its a big factor in their performance,” she said.
A basketball game without fans in the stands is like a rock star performing to an empty stadium. The players really benefit from having fans cheering them on, despite the quality of their playing.
Fox, who has gone to only three basketball games, said that all three were losses for the Hurricanes. But, he says he will continue to go to the games.
“We still have a good team,” he said. “Just some bad luck.”