Molly Gannon: Make space for a basketball celebration

Perhaps the most disappointing part of last week for me came when I read about the plans for George Mason and Georgetown universities’ preseason basketball celebrations in The Hatchet (“Area schools beef up baskteball events, Oct. 5 p.1). The story reported that as both of those schools expand their season-opening events, GW administrators had no plans to introduce and promote our men’s and women’s teams for their 2006-2007 seasons.

The hold-up appeared to be budget-related. Even with last year’s 26-1 record-setting men’s regular season, administrators do not want to pay for an expensive Colonials Invasion this year. Not only have the players and fans earned a major celebration, but such an event would also make up for its cost by providing publicity for the school. The University must recognize the success of our basketball program by making some sort of major celebration a budget priority.

An event such as Colonials Invasion should be seen less as a budget burden and more as an investment in the future of GW basketball. It seems as if our team attracts more fans from within the school than it does from the city itself. A large-scale, well-publicized event to mark the beginning of the season could change that.

In this regard, we should take a lesson from Georgetown’s extravagant celebration, which will attract many people from outside that university’s community. Even if an event is brought back, one relying on posters around campus and mass e-mails to Colonial Mail accounts just doesn’t cut it. GW could hold a street fair around the Smith Center, hosting vendors from around the city to attract fans from all over D.C. I envision something like a Saturday block party, which could raise revenue and drum up spirit for the Colonials’ first practice of the season.

The University has cut budgets across the board, but GW’s spending in one area requires a reevaluation. GW athletic teams, especially basketball, have experienced increased success over the past few years, and administrators should prioritize these teams accordingly. It is surprising that successful administrators would fail to capitalize on such an opportunity.

In a city gripped by basketball fever last season, there is no shortage of events for hungry spectators. While we may not get the chance to battle other college clubs on the court, there is plenty of opportunity for off-court competition. Last year, GW held its own in these areas through the success of the men’s team. Getting rid of an important spirit event, however, will make us fall behind our competitors in the quest for the D.C. area’s attention.

Thanks, in part, to the recent success of the basketball program, the University is heading toward changes to ticket sales for students. If the University is leaning in the direction of charging students for entrance to home games, it would be smart to give them a major event as an incentive to purchase tickets during the season. Students will be less likely to pay for tickets, something they once received for free, if they aren’t provided some perks for their allegiance to the program.

It is understandable that University officials must consider the entire student body when appropriating funds each year. Since funds may be needed in other departments, a huge spectacle such as Colonials Invasion may indeed be too hard a hit to the wallet. It seems a bit ridiculous, however, that the University would provide such extravagant funding to the Colonial Cabinet, whose sole purpose is to attend to students who have already decided to attend GW. JCrew shorts, North Face backpacks and other costly accoutrements probably don’t help keep students who have already registered for classes at GW; using some of that money toward a major spirit event would help the school much more.

When it comes down to it, there should be a spot in the budget for a major season-opening event. Whatever form it takes, it must be targeted at the D.C. community, and it must help us stake a claim as one of the premier basketball programs in the area. Having a winning team is good for a school, but backing that team up with strong programming is even better.

-The writer, a senior majoring in American studies and minoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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