This past weekend, I traveled down to Richmond, Va. with 16 members of the Colonial Army to support the George Washington men's basketball team. They were playing their biggest game of the season to date - their first this year against a nationally ranked opponent. They were challenging the Atlantic 10 leader, the University of Richmond, ranked No. 23/24 (AP, ESPN/USA Today). Even though we lost by four points, it was a great game in which the team really excelled and showed that it can compete with the best.
When we returned to campus around 11:30 p.m., everyone was pretty bummed about the loss. But then, head coach Karl Hobbs jumped on our bus to thank us for making the trip down and showing our support. Hearing the coach speak to us personally, and thank us after what I could only imagine was a tough trip back home for him, was pretty amazing. But that wasn't even the best part. As the players were getting off the bus, several walked over and gave us high-fives and fist-bumps for coming out and supporting them. It was a really unique experience, not because I got to interact with them, but because they were sincere. They didn't just take us for granted. They really enjoyed the fan support. And I know for a fact that they wanted all of us to show up for the rest of the home games and keep on cheering for them.
The point of my little anecdote here is not to make the basketball team sound all sappy and sentimental. The coaching staff really does appreciate our support. Just the other day, Coach Hobbs went around the dorms on campus, hoping to draw more student support for the last few games. The players also appreciate us. We may not realize it if we don't see them every day, but it's true. I live with many of the student-athletes in FSK Hall and sometimes the players even recognize me from seeing me in the stands at the games. While it's really cool that they acknowledge me, I think it also says something about our school spirit.
Let's take a look at the numbers. In the first conference home game of the season against Xavier, there were 3,002 fans in attendance. Two home games later against Saint Louis, there were 1,782 fans in attendance. And just last week against the UMass, there were only 1,646 fans in attendance. You get the point. Although last night saw an increase with attendance at 1,797 against La Salle, the attendance has been down this semester. Why?
Usually I hear students say "the team is terrible" or "the team doesn't do anything for me," but both of these defenses are unfair attitudes. Anyone who follows the team should know the team has improved drastically from the previous two years. Currently, the team is 15-11 and 5-8 in the A-10, good enough for ninth place and a spot in the conference tournament. Imagine how good our team would be with even more fan support.
The thing is, we've had so many close losses at home. And while I'm not saying these losses can be solely attributed to the lack of fan support, having a strong student section and strong fan support can be a huge momentum shifter in these games. Any college basketball fan knows the importance of fan support, and the way they can get into the heads of opposing teams. Just being there, showing support for your team and being as loud as you can will make a difference in close games. That is the whole point of home-court advantage. As fans, it is our job to make the opposing team feel as though it's in hostile territory, not a neutral site.
Let's try to keep the following in mind for the rest of this season: Over the next two weeks, the men have two crucial, must-win home games that will be important for not only clinching a spot in the A-10 tournament, but for possibly getting to host one more home game during the tournament itself. Fans are a significant part of college basketball. You can't complain about how bad your team is if you don't come out and do your part. It's a two-way street. Just like Tony Taylor dishes out assists during the games, the fans need to give an "assist" to the team. They have been playing their hearts out all season; now it's time to show them our support during this final stretch, so we can finish the season strong.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.