Colonial Army changes policy to encourage attendance at women’s basketball games

Last season, students lined G Street, waiting to take advantage of the Colonial Army’s early entrance policy for men’s basketball games. For the last two games this coming season, the line might be smaller.

Beginning in November, the Colonial Army will implement the “women’s basketball initiative.” The policy will require its members attend at least four women’s basketball games in order to gain early entrance into the final two home men’s basketball games, said Colonial Army co-president sophomore JuDonn DeShields. While the final men’s basketball game will again be broadcast by ESPN with Atlantic 10 newcomer Charlotte as the opponent, the other game’s opponent has not been released.

The Colonial Army sold 552 memberships between 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the second day students could join the club. The remaining 248 memberships were sold Tuesday during a presale to returning members, said Frank Dale, co-president of the Colonial Army, who also writes for The Hatchet but does not cover basketball. The athletic department is expected to make a decision about making available 200 additional memberships soon.

The Colonial Army, which was founded by GW alumnus Sean Rose before the 2003-2004 season, is a registered student spirit group centered on the men’s and women’s basketball program. Members that pay $15 are allowed to enter the Smith Center 10 minutes before other students. Other benefits include discounted trips to away games, tailgates before home games and a road trip to the A-10 championship in Cincinnati. The group also organizes Colonials Invasion. The Harlem Globetrotters are slated to perform at Colonial Invasion, though they have not signed a contract.

The mechanics of implementing the initiative are complex, with the Colonial Army using GWorld swipe, to register attendance at the games. During the next business day, the GWorld office will provide a printout of all students that swiped their card, a list that has to be hand-combed by Colonial Army leaders.

The intention of the policy, DeShields said, is to boost the attendance of women’s games. According to the athletics department, the average attendance of women’s home games last year sat at 954 while the men’s average attendance was 3,757. The Smith Center holds approximately 5,000 people.

“I’m glad to be a part of the Colonial Army, but I think making me go to games that I wouldn’t otherwise go to is a bit ridiculous,” said freshman Candice Michalowicz. “I understand the point of it, but sporting events are meant to be enjoyable. Being forced to go to a game is not.”

Nicole Macchione, coordinator of the GW spirit program, said the policy is in place to encourage attendance but said she believed the Colonial Army will police it heavily.

“I just feel like our goal is not to be sitting by the door making sure you didn’t come in and sneak out,” Macchione said. “If you got up to come to the game, the chances are you’ll stay. Maybe not for the whole game, maybe until halftime. But you are getting people out to the game.”

The issue caused consternation among members of the organization. DeShields said many members were upset with the policy that was perceived as unclear and sudden by members and leaders.

DeShields said that on Aug. 17, Colonial Army members were notified via e-mail of several changes to the structure of membership policies, including the women’s basketball initiative.

The e-mail was signed by DeShields and Dale, but DeShields said neither DeShields nor Dale was involved with the drafting of the letter. DeShields claimed that Rose, the immediate past president of the organization and GW graduate, authored the letter.

Rose had no comment regarding the allegations.

DeShields said the publication and implementation of the policy was done prematurely and without permission of the current leadership. The group received several letters from fans that were not happy with the policy and the purported ambiguous nature of the letter.

“It was not finalized, it was taking form that ‘alright we need to get people to get to more women’s games’ and it would involve attendance,” Dale said. “It was something talked about but not agreed upon.”

Rose said the policy was already in place before the summer.

“It was pretty much finalized and Frank was out of contact over the summer at camp,” Rose said in a phone interview Tuesday. “So we’ve been working on this stuff all summer and had a big presence at (Colonial Inauguration). We wanted to keep people informed with plenty of notice.”

-Joanna Shapes contributed to this report.

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