When I walk into USM’s Warren G. Hill Gymnasium on game day in Gorham, I am immediately struck by the the aura of competitive Division III basketball.
The two teams go through the motions of warm-ups, while their adrenaline is fueled by the latest hip-hop hits, all on a glistening floor with the proud Husky logo blanketing its center.
Clock coordinators, official scorers and media relations people line the scorer’s table. Public address announcer Greg Jordan and play-by-play and color men Bruce Glasier and Collin Henry take their perch in the press box, and the many parents and regulars spread out in the bleachers. Sounds like a great atmosphere, right? There is only one thing missing: students.
Over my four years at this university it has become apparent to me that its students have forgotten what school spirit is. According to USM Sports Information, over the last six seasons attendance at USM men’s and women’s basketball games has been nearly cut in half, going from 616 people per home game in the 2005-2006 season down to 346 in 2010-2011.
Men’s/Women’s Basketball Attendance Totals per home game:
*Figures provided by USM Sports Information
It is a notion that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. But before I go any further, I don’t want to knock all students. The student-athletes at USM seem to be some of the only ones helping maintain a fan-base that is rapidly appearing to be off-kilter. There are the same familiar faces of students that show up every game, but that isn’t enough.
It seems as though a good majority of students at USM are here only for that piece of paper you receive after graduating, and want nothing to do with the college experience that comes along with attending this institution. This experience includes things like meeting new people, having fun and supporting your school. It appears to me that the latter has fallen at the wayside.
What do we have to complain about, anyway? Some of our athletics programs are annually some of the best in New England and even in the country. During the last seven seasons, the women’s basketball team has compiled a record of 158-28, has won or shared six Little East Conference titles, has taken six trips to the NCAA Tournament. At the tournament the team has advanced to the second round four times, the Sweet 16 three times, the Elite Eight twice, the Final Four twice and the national championship once.
It isn’t only in basketball that we’re encountering this drought of scholar support, either. USM baseball has won two DIII National Championships and is in the running to win the LEC Championship every year. Yet, the beautiful USM Baseball Stadium is hardly ever filled. Our hockey teams are always competitive, yet I don’t see USM Ice Arena filled with rambunctious learners. It can’t be the quality of our Olympic-size rink, can it?
And what about the men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams who boast a combined 18 LEC Championships in the last ten years? Can we get a student section down there?
So until USM sports win a slew of national championships, I suspect that the customary sight of empty seats between clumps of people in the bleachers will stay constant, unless a sudden reclamation of school spirit emerges, that is, and students get excited about packing every seat in the house. Is that too much to ask?