Ross Romano: Colonials Invasion should be about hoops, not hoopla

Imagine this newspaper’s headline six months from now: Hanson to headline Spring Fling. While this might seem unlikely now, something like it may be closer to reality than you think. Thanks to the unnecessary expenditure of signing rapper Fabolous to perform at this year’s return of Colonials Invasion, along with other useless expenses associated with the event, other facets of student life will suffer.

For whatever reason, GW seems to be the only school in the nation that can’t grasp the concept of Midnight Madness. Started in 1970 at Maryland, Midnight Madness is the tradition of holding a college basketball team’s first official practice at midnight of the first allowed day, turning it into a spectator event for an excited and anticipatory student body. Typically, both the men’s and women’s teams put on a performance consisting of their best dribble moves, fancy passes, and – of course – dunks. When it comes down to it, this is what every college hoops fan really wants to see.

Our school, on the other hand, sees the celebration not as a preseason pep rally for the basketball teams during their first practice, but rather an opportunity to mesh a concert with gratuitous prize giveaways and free food. GW’s way, as you may have guessed, costs quite a bit more money, as evidenced by this newspaper’s reporting last year. This is why last year’s invasion was cancelled due to budgetary cuts on Student and Academic Support Services programs. Rather than take that as a hint and decide that basketball, cheerleaders, the dance team and a few smoke machines is better than nothing at all, the administration chose to abolish the program altogether last year and temporarily replace it with the ill-conceived Spirits of the Night (anything to give away some free hot dogs).

Not everyone at GW misses the idea of a season kick-off event. Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz told The Hatchet in 2004 that Colonials Invasion “is really to let the younger kids get an idea of who the players are and what this whole thing is all about.” Somewhere along the way this message has been lost. Perhaps the solution is that the athletic department, who has little to do with the program now, should take control of it. Kvancz is not a proponent of the current format, telling The Hatchet in 2006 that the event is “an entertainment piece.not a basketball thing.” Why can’t it be a basketball thing? Isn’t that what people want? And wouldn’t it be cheaper?

My point is not to pass judgment on the choice of entertainer or the efforts of the Student Association and administration to boost school spirit. The fact is that by making this event more extravagant than ever, we are sure to be headed towards the same budgetary concerns as usual due to poor planning. Few students who are uninterested in sports are not going to attend merely because they want to see Fabolous perform a few songs and no student is going to give a greater level of support to the squads based on how many prizes he or she won at basketball-related events. For nearly the price of a J Street lunch, we could have an equally exciting event featuring the players, coaches, cheerleaders and dancers. Once they start holding out for a pay raise, then the University can revisit this assessment.

I wouldn’t bring up the egregiousness of this overspending if there weren’t other needs on campus. Here’s one: let’s allocate some of that money to provide student transportation to baseball games, which are played in Alexandria, Va., and are almost entirely inaccessible to any student without a car. Or how about using it to ante up for some of the badly needed renovations to Smith Center, rather than banking on the generosity of private donors? Another possibility is spending it to fund student organizations, such as mock trial and all the club sports teams. Without question all of the campus’ student groups could be more than adequately funded, and the overall sense of satisfaction at the school heightened, for less than the amount being spent on the currently planned Colonials Invasion. At times it makes one wonder if there even is a budget outlined, or if the administration just spends and spends like a kid with a handful of quarters at an arcade.

So, students, you have been given fair warning. Although the decision to reinstate Colonials Invasion was a good and sincere gesture, the choice to hire an expensive entertainer was a poor one, which will have to be compensated for down the line.

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