By: Steve Boltri – Staff Writer
When I hear the words “home field advantage,” what comes to mind is a deafeningly loud stadium, jam-packed with fans sporting their home team’s colors, holding signs, and doing everything in their power to make the lives of the away team and their fans as miserable as possible. Unfortunately, there has been no such thing as “home field advantage” for the Dayton women’s basketball team this season.
According to the NCAA, the Flyers’ average attendance for home games during the 2015-2016 season was 2,890 fans— the 39th most of any Division I school in the country and the highest in the Atlantic 10. This season, the average attendance through nine games has dropped just slightly to about 2,695 fans, but that number is still higher than it was for the 2014-15 season.
These numbers, however, fail to tell the whole story. Excluding a December game against Toledo that drew over 9,000 fans— most of which were children from Dayton elementary schools— the average attendance for this season is about 1,906 fans.
So what’s to blame for this drop off in attendance?
It’s not the Dayton community.
Although there is no way to know specific figures of student versus public attendance, a simple glance at the Red Scare during a women’s game reveals a gross lack of student support.
Support of a few thousand non-student fans may seem small in comparison to the support of a sold-out UD Arena for men’s games. But in comparison to the rest of women’s college basketball, the Flyers do quite well.
“The community support for basketball…this is unique, this is special. Not a lot of places have this,” head coach Shauna Green lauded the fans in a pre-season interview with Flyer News. “I just coached at Northwestern, which is Big 10 and [in] Chicago. But you have so many professional teams that people don’t care as much about women’s basketball. So here people care, and that is really special.”
We love that the Dayton community comes out to support the team on a regular basis. However, at the collegiate level, it’s generally not the community members that bring noise and spirit to the crowd. It’s us students…that is, if we actually show up.
In an interview with Flyer News, Claire Fischer, president of Red Scare, the student-run organization that is in charge of UD’s student section, said “It’s hard to tell exactly how many students show up because sometimes they’re scattered around the arena, but not including the 22 board members of Red Scare who are required to show up to the games, we usually have about 10 to 15 students in the student section.”
The Flyers have won 14 of their last 16 games and lead the A-10 with an overall record of 17-8 and an impressive conference record of 11-2.
Jillian Malone, one of the vice presidents of Red Scare, said, “They’re [the basketball team] delivering the product; we [the students] just need to deliver the audience.”
You’re probably saying to yourself, “It’s hard to be a student and a dedicated fan.” You’re right, it is hard. The other vice president of Red Scare, Jack Huffman, was quick to point out this conflict.
He told Flyer News, “Especially with weekday games, a big part of the problem is combatting students’ busy schedules. The majority of UD students are incredibly involved [in extracurricular activities]…school and other organizations are a priority to them, so that’s a big challenge that we face.”
Even though it’s hard, we find the time for men’s basketball, for soccer, and for other sports, so why not do it for women’s basketball too?
Malone commented, “I think transportation is the big issue. We see the same problem with football games, because they’re off campus. And women’s basketball is even worse because it’s cold out and people don’t want to walk there.”
“The shuttle buses are a great way to get to the stadium,” Fischer added. “But they only run from G-lot outside of Marycrest, which is a far walk, especially for people who live on the ‘dark side’.”
These are valid points…but wait! You don’t care about the cold or walking to the buses for men’s basketball, and you don’t care about leaving campus for football, so what’s the issue with women’s basketball? Have you even given it a chance?
Huffman told Flyer News, “As a board we have a great time at those games and we enjoy them. We understand that those games can be, and are, a lot of fun. So our goal is to get a sampling of people there for them to realize, ‘Hey this was actually a really good time! We should come back next week.’ And once we get people saying that, they tell their friends and they tell their friends and we’re able to exponentially grow from there.”
If I still haven’t convinced you to at least give the women’s games a try, maybe this can. Red Scare has some amazing incentives for us to show up and cheer from the student section! We’ve been missing out on great giveaways all season! For example, on Feb. 8, Red Scare gave away a free Spotify Premium membership to the first 15 students to sit in the student section!
On Wednesday, before the game against Duquesne, there is an interesting-looking PATH eligible event at UD Arena entitled “Sports and Me: How Working in Sports Has Shaped Personal Values and Understanding People.” The event is at 5:30 p.m. followed by the game at 7:00 p.m. Not to mention at the game itself, in partnership with UD Miracle, a young Flyers fan battling cancer will be honored during a timeout.
Dayton plays against St. Louis a week later on Feb. 22, also at 7:00 p.m., and Red Scare’s promotion for this game is “Student Organization Competition.” The organization who brings the most people (members and non-members included) to the game will receive $500 for their organization. Organizations must sign up by Feb. 21 by emailing email@example.com.
So what do you say we give women’s basketball a shot? The players obviously put in their effort, and Red Scare certainly works hard. Now it’s our turn. Whether you’re a student, faculty member, alumni, or community member, I encourage you all to give your Flyers the support they deserve.
Photo Courtesy of Christian Cubacub – Multimedia Editor