The Editorial Staff
The Women’s Soccer team played host last Thursday to one of the most prominent athletic universities in the country. In a match against Florida State, the team was defeated in overwhelming fashion, losing to the nationally ranked Seminoles 6-0. With such a distinguished name on the schedule, the game was certainly an event to circle on the calendar.
And for most students, they did, as the attendance reached 2,065. This was the second largest attendance for the women’s program, with the highest attendance being a match against UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007.
While the high number is a welcoming site for an athletics department that typically hovers around the 500, the game highlighted a problem at UNC-Greensboro. And it certainly was more than the inability of the Spartans on the field to penetrate the Florida State defense.
The fact that it took a program with the recognition of FSU to have students come out to watch a UNCG athletic contest is a troubling sign.
There is no question larger schools such as Florida State and UNC-Chapel Hill will draw fans in. And of course, since the game was a Thursday evening affair, this nulled the effect of the suitcase-campus identity of UNCG, as most games are played over the weekend. However, it should not take a nationally ranked program to persuade students to watch their peers in athletic events.
And though UNCG will certainly never reach the athletic prominence of Chapel Hill or Duke, or even of Appalachian State or Davidson, there are a number of athletic teams that provide a competitive and enjoyable experience for students.
For example, the volleyball team is currently in second place in the Southern Conference standings with a record of 10-5. However, in matches against Norfolk State and Alabama State, the attendance for both games were respectively 294 and 374. This is a talented and winning program, yet it is a shame that the team has struggled bringing in more students to watch their games that take place on campus.
Now the blame does go both ways in the lack of athletic pride on campus. Of course, it is on the students to actually have pride in their sports. And typically, on a walk around UNCG’s campus, this is not seen. There’s the baby blue of Tar Heels basketball and baseball hats featuring the Blue Devils logo. There are jackets sporting the emblem of the Mountaineers.
Fans are passionate about their teams, and if they have engrained themselves with the athletics of other universities prior, that is understandable. But, on campus, those students are in the minority, since the passionate sports fan on this campus is not as prevalent as, say, in Durham or Boone. Sports take a backseat to the arts, music, business and literature on campus. However, if you are looking for something to do on a weekend, there are always games going on at campus.
This editorial staff feels the larger issue with lack of school spirit on campus is due to the Athletics Department. And the sports problem with the department is not actually a sports problem but a promotional one.
While the volleyball team has been the standout for the semester, team success goes in waves through classes. Sometimes programs get the talented recruits; other times, they do not. Just because, say both soccer teams have been average this year, does not mean they will never improve.
No, the real problem here is the culture with which the program tries to lure students to games. While the stereotype of the poor college student continues to be overplayed, the department has for each game beaten this cliche as badly as the women’s basketball team has been beaten in recent seasons.
The free t-shirts and cups are nice, but fans don’t connect with items; fans want to connect with the athletes. Instead of spotlighting all the free things the first 100 fans can receive, focus more on your athletes and teams. Perhaps a meet-and-greet before a game, or perhaps facilitating a time when a team can have a sit-down interview in the cafeteria with students would be better ways for fans to connect with their sports.
Fans like their teams, even if they are not winning, as seen by the passionate Chicago Cub fans who have not welcomed a World Series trophy since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. If you really want to see the blue and gold of Spartan apparel on College Ave, it is time for this campus’ teams to welcome their student body, rather than being so distant toward them.