Duke has the “Cameron Crazies,” College Park has “Garyland” and the University of Kansas has “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk.” What does GW have? Everything but adequate student support, said sophomore Stephen Deacon, the student in charge of basketball promotions for Student and Academic Support Services.
“At the bigger state schools, those kids pay $250 to $300 for their ticket plans and that’s not even assuring seats,” Deacon said. “We’re within 10 feet of the players for free and it couldn’t be any better than that. We’re the luckiest people in the entire world to be able to watch Omar Williams come down the court and throw down a dunk over an NBA lottery pick, and watch Pops rise up from eight feet back and dunk.”
Indeed, students can attend any home sporting event for free and yet many said they believe the level of school spirit on campus is low.
“I grew up on Syracuse sports teams where the whole city rallies around the Orangemen,” senior Matt Melnicoff said. “But here there’s not really an area of the city that is full of GW supporters.”
Of course, most student attention to sports at GW is focused on the basketball teams. And many students said support for those teams is based on how they happen to be playing at a particular time. This is a sign of poor fan support, sophomore David Konkel said.
“School spirit here sucks. We get no fans at games and the minute we start playing badly people start booing,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Melnicoff agreed, saying many students simply find it unfashionable to show school spirit at games.
“I feel like showing school spirit at GW is considered tacky,” Melnicoff said. “You would never see people camping out for tickets here. I feel like people think of (showing school spirit) as a high school thing that they’ve outgrown.”
Not everyone buys into the sentiment that GW’s school spirit is low. Many students seem to agree that there is a constituency of students that know all the words and gestures to the GW Fight Song and are willing to cheer for the school’s teams no matter what.
“I think there is a good portion of students who like to watch the teams play,” senior Avinash Francis said. “It’s still fun even though (the men) are mediocre.”
The women, meanwhile, average 855 fans per game in spite of 11 20-win seasons over the past 14 years, a fact that many students say is disappointing.
“The women have been really good and nationally ranked for a decade and people still don’t come out and support them. It’s ridiculous,” Melincoff said.
Whatever support the teams have, some students said fans spend too much time inappropriately heckling other teams.
“I think we should concentrate on our team’s efforts more,” senior Yoshi Ishizuka said, “and not focus so much on how much we hate the other teams.”
Negative chants aimed at opposing teams and players are common at basketball games. Often it gets personal, Melnicoff said.
“I feel like we spend more time yelling at other teams than supporting our own,” Melnicoff said. “Heckling is one thing and that will always be a part of the game but our fans go beyond that a lot of times.”
Like the basketball teams, most students said other sports do not receive the attention that they deserve.
“I’ve been to a few soccer games over the years but they really don’t get enough support, especially considering their recent success,” senior Vivek Bellore said. “Then again it’s not really convenient to get on the shuttle and go all the way to Mount Vernon to see them play.”
Bellore is among a seemingly limited number of students who even know where the soccer teams play. When asked, few students knew that both the soccer and softball teams play at the Mount Vernon Campus. Fewer still knew the baseball team plays at Barcroft Park, in Arlington.
Students’ suggestions to improve school spirit were mixed. Most say the teams need to consistently perform better and form true rivalries with other schools. Comments mostly focused on the basketball teams.
“It’s not an overnight process, the core of any real school support will start with a consistently good team,” Melnicoff said. “I think we also need some real intense rivals. If (the men) played Georgetown we would see immediate results. It’d be a sellout every time.”