A Broken Crutch Part 2: Where is the love?
This is Part Two of a three-part series about student apathy toward SU athletics.
Bryan Barley’s game winning catch in the PSAC East title game between Shipensburg University and Bloomsburg University that vaulted SU to the title sent off a thunderous boom that reverberated from Reisner Hall to Kriner Hall.
The tidal wave of 6,000 fans painting the sky in a harmonious blast of cheers barreled through campus, reverberating at David See Field at the Robb Sports Complex.
The echoes fade into the valley, as the labored breathing of Kylee Bricker became increasingly louder.
She huffed as a California University attacker tried to get by her, grunting as their bodies smacked against each other outside the box. Chatter between the two teams filled the air as the 100 parents and family in attendance looked on — quiet; awaiting a momentous shift in the game.
For Bricker that day and in that game, she will not be able to play in front of 6,000 fans filling the air with jubilation; she has to settle for the 100 supporters who are scattered across the bleachers at David See Field.
“I think a lot of people don’t give soccer a chance,” Bricker said. “They come to a game, and they don’t take time to learn about the sport or the players.”
Bricker may be on to something here, but her assumption that students do not give soccer a chance is the shallow end of a deeper, murkier cesspool — students at SU do not give any sport a chance.
Field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball have struggled to find a niche in the growing SU community. While upward of 4,800 fans fill the stands at Seth Grove Stadium on game day, the niche sports at SU struggle to put 100 in their bleachers.
That’s right— 100. With upward of 8,000 students attending SU this fall, how can only 100 people be attending these games?
In a combined 18 years of collected data by The Slate Sports Department, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball have combined to bring in 18,954 people to their games.
Breaking those numbers down, the SU community has borne witness to:
• A field hockey team that has a combined regular season record of 93-14 including multiple National Playoff berths
• A men’s soccer team that won the PSAC title in 2010
• A women’s soccer team that made the PSAC playoffs in 2010
• A volleyball team that made the national playoffs this year.
And that is not mentioning a swimming team who earns multiple PSAC cuts each year and a cross-country team that is a perennial PSAC champion.
In 2010, the football team in the midst of a 5-6 season drew in 14,940 fans
How can this be possible?
According to 2012 Longstreth/NHFCA Field Hockey Player of the Year, Bre White, students at SU do not know or do not understand the niche sports on campus.
“I feel like people on campus don’t know when we play,” White said. “Maybe it’s because they don’t understand the sport. We try to advertise as much as we can.”
In a survey conducted by The Slate Sports Department, White’s views are reiterated by SU’s campus. Sixty-three percent of students did not attend any field hockey games this year with more than 50 percent citing their reasoning being that they did not understand the sport or they did not know when it played.
SU soccer player Molly Sanders believes that promotion is vital in order to have more students care about the games.
“Talking about our games in class and reaching out to different groups of people helped people come out,” Sanders said.
But this campus has so much else going on.
The general apathy that students have toward SU’s athletic programs is caused by a variety of reasons. Homework, prior commitments and general lack of knowledge all play a part in attendance — or lack thereof — at games.
“You get caught up in your world,” SU President William Ruud said. “If it’s finals week are you thinking about a final or an athletic event?”
Ruud also said that in order for people to come out to these games, there has to be a shift that says going to athletic events is the thing to do.
That rests in the student’s hands. With attendance staggering around the 100-fan mark in field hockey and soccer, and an eye boggling 75 — and declining — in volleyball, there had been little to get excited about at these contests.
This trend has finally seen a ray of hope, and maybe a shift in the paradigm of SU athletics — enter The Red Sea.