Sports Sermon: Basketball attendance a fluid concept

October 11, 2012

The Hilltop faces a bit of a dilemma every year when basketball season rolls around. While the Hoyas are a national powerhouse in an athletic sense, so too is Georgetown University in an academic sense. That’s reflected in the student body – a studious and intense group of future financiers and lobbyists.

When times on the hardwood are joyous, take 2010’s win over Duke with President Barack Obama in attendance as an example, we don’t really think about that dichotomy. But on a random Monday night where we find ourselves losing to the likes of woeful South Florida with a half-full student section, that reality becomes all too real.

Of course, perhaps our student body’s composition isn’t the answer. Maybe it’s not a reflection of how rigorous the school is; after all, Duke packs Cameron Indoor Stadium to the brim for every home game despite a comparable academic ranking to Georgetown’s. Instead, it could simply be a result of a poor out-of-conference schedule.

“You can love Georgetown with all your heart, but is it really worth leaving to trek out to the Verizon Center to watch IUPUI’s best rumble with our Hoyas?” said Hoya Blue member Bruce Thomas (SFS ’13) of last year’s schedule.

Thomas, though acknowledging the weak scheduling last season, really hit home with one of the main issues: getting to the Verizon Center. Freshman year, it’s an adventure, and everyone’s motivated to go. By sophomore and junior years, though, we tend to discover cable. If it’s easier to just watch an expected 50-point blowout of IUPUI, conventional wisdom says trekking to Chinatown is only necessary for the diehard fans.

But that’s not too much of a problem this season. For all the underwhelming games on last year’s slate, including a fairly dry Big East schedule that didn’t include a matchup against Syracuse, this year has plenty of headlines. The expected blowouts against teams like American and Towson remain, but they’re joined by vaunted matchups with Tennessee, Syracuse, and Louisville.

Still, it takes a little something extra to pack the Phonebooth before the Big East grind starts in January. Great preseason expectations could help that from the get-go, but as with last year, not too much is expected of the Hoyas. While they bring back do-everything forward Otto Porter and his talented sophomore classmates, the Hoyas face the same inexperience that haunted them heading into last season.

Those hopeless expectations were quickly put to rest with Henry Sims and Jason Clark’s emergence early on in the season. But that came after the deadline for season tickets. Even if those students on the fence purchased tickets, it’s a stretch to say they would have improved attendance during that uninspiring early-season schedule. Another Hoya Blue member, Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14), sees the similarities to last year and thinks it could be another troubling start.

“Once again, we won’t be ranked. Once again, we lost our top guys. So there’s plenty of evidence that indicates this year will be similar to the past couple of years,” Ramadan said.

But as with last season, Ramadan realizes some significant early-season matchups could change that course of thinking in a hurry. “Hopefully having such a good non-conference schedule, first ever College GameDay appearance, and multiple weekend night games are enough to heighten interest,” he said.

This year, as with every year on the Hilltop, the general trends will remain. Tomorrow’s Midnight Madness will be packed with freshmen eager to catch their first glimpse of this year’s team. But you’re likely to find just a small sample of sophomores and juniors, perhaps jaded from the repetitiveness of their first couple of experiences. I’ll be attending my fourth and final version of the event this season – it’s been an incredible celebration of the program every year. But unfortunately, I’m the exception rather than the norm.

Nevertheless, all it takes is a few wins to really wet students’ whistles. An opening win against Florida on an aircraft carrier or success at the Legends Classic a couple of weeks later would go a long way. Hoyas can get hyped for events like Midnight Madness, but ultimately, they expect success. If they see it early on, the Verizon Center shouldn’t have any attendance problems this year. Thomas, for one, is certainly optimistic.

“This year, with an improved schedule, I expect larger crowds, hopefully Mr. Fresh can get the party started right during Midnight Madness so we can keep Dougie-ing through March and beyond.”

Kevin Joseph
Kevin Joseph is a Contributor Editor and former Sports Editor for the The Georgetown Voice.

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