What separates college basketball from the NBA? No, not the lockout.
The distinguishing factor between college hoops and the pros is the collegiate atmosphere created by the students and the traditions that are passed on year after year at respective colleges and universities. The goal: Give the team an advantage by creating a hostile environment for opponents and ultimately, help the team win. The beauty of it: It is not limited to the “big” schools. Small schools like Taylor University in Indiana and John Brown University in Arkansas hold some of the country’s best basketball traditions (Google them if you don’t believe me).
If you think a good crowd can’t give a team an advantage, think back recently to last year’s homecoming game. The UC Irvine men’s basketball team was able to upset the first-place Long Beach State 49ers after a record 4,070 people filed into the Bren. For those that attended last year, you know what I’m talking about. It was one of the most bizarre scenes I have ever seen at UCI — and by bizarre, I mean amazing.
The atmosphere was beyond incredible. With our band in full effect and a sea of yellow “Antourage” shirts, students were sporting fake afros and yelling their heads off. It was a remarkable display of school spirit and school pride — something I had never seen at this school. I finally felt like a college student.
If this year’s team plans to be successful, they will need some outside help, and this help is not going to come off their bench. There is a certain aura a wild fan section does to a team, and it all begins with us students.
We need to start a tradition of winning at the Bren Events Center. This is our house, and we must protect it. We need to make visiting schools know they are about to enter a hostile environment. I want other school’s teams to cringe at the sight of UC Irvine on their schedule. Whenever UCI is mentioned, I want people to say “that’s a tough place to play.” We can be the sixth-man that changes the outcome of games and entirely change the culture of this school.
As Coach Russell Turner acknowledged in an interview, “A vocal home-court environment is a key to our success. Our best performances last season were in front of our best crowds. Interaction with the players and fans is a big part of college basketball.”
It is a big part of UC Irvine that is missing.
What’s it going to take? Free admission? Free shirts? Free prizes? There are an estimated 26,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 seats in the Bren. That means less than 20 percent of students would have to go to games to fill up the Bren. So, maybe that is a long shot, but how about 1,000 students? That’s .03 percent of the undergraduate student body. Five hundred students? That’s less than .02 percent. OK, you get the picture.
What this school needs is a collective group of students willing to be bold enough to start a new tradition. Students are the ones that come before the traditions. It’s not the traditions that come before the students.
In the midst of student tuition hikes and budget cuts, we should unite as a collective student body and create a tradition that 20 years from now we can look back and say, “We started that.” As students, if we are willing to show support and pride for our school, it makes it easier for people to listen and support us as students. And hey, what better way to let out your anger then yelling obscenities at opposing players and helping your team win?