OK, maybe the headline is a tad drastic but if you’re reading this I guess it worked. As we all know, attendance for Georgetown’s games at the Verizon Center has been really bad. Not just bad, but really bad. Last night was perhaps the crowing achievement of attendance horror, as just 3,996 people showed up to witness Georgetown’s thrashing of MEAC foe Coppin State. This figure is down from last season’s low of 4,062 against Maryland Eastern-Shore.
Despite the efforts of Athletics Marketing guru Chris Grosse (shudder to think where we’d be without him), fans and students aren’t showing up and it’s translating into a lackluster, stale environment that pervades every inch of that arena and influences the level of intensity on the court. I mean, how is anyone supposed to get fired up to play in front of this?
Partial sellout at Verizon Center. pic.twitter.com/cweezfzQVa— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) November 30, 2016
Winning helps. Yes, I get that. Why would anyone want to see a mediocre Hoyas team play a bunch of low to mid-majors? But that’s not really the point of college basketball fandom, ESPECIALLY if you are a current student, and I think this is where the Georgetown Administration and/or Athletics Department needs to focus its efforts. Put bluntly, Georgetown students have a duty to attend games. It’s not really a cute and fun option or something else to do when you have nothing better to do when you aren’t snapchatting. It is what you do on nights when the Hoyas play. When I was a student we boarded buses to take us to freakin’ Landover, Maryland to watch the Hoyas play, and win or lose (granted there wasn’t much losing during the Iverson era), it was really fun hanging out with fellow students on the bus rides and in the student section. This is where a lot of the friendships I still have today were formed.
But enough about me and the way things were in the past, the issue is what can we as Hoyas fans do moving forward. The primary focus shouldn’t be on providing buses to the games (certainly that helps) or giving away awesome bobbleheads (those are really great tho) or even upgrading the music played at Verizon. That stuff is secondary to the biggest issue: getting the students that are on campus assimilated to Georgetown basketball as a culture.
How do you do that? It has to come from the top.
First, as much as I love receiving President DeGioia’s emails about fundraising efforts, emails from him on gamedays to the student body reminding them about Georgetown’s basketball culture and the importance of attending games wouldn’t hurt. I mean heck, the school just spent like a billion dollars on The Thompson Center, right? An email doesn’t cost anything. If DeGioia won’t do it, get John Thompson III to do it. He doesn’t want to? Make him do it. Start breaking down the wall that exists between the basketball program and the student body.
Next, creative incentives for the students to attend games. Real incentives that require perfect attendance at games. Give away a bunch of free stuff. Good stuff, real stuff. Those with perfect attendance should be given $200 gift certificates at one of a few stores in Georgetown of their choosing that the school can work with (I’m sure the Nike store would participate, for example). All students with perfect attendance can enter raffles to get free books for a semester, free “munch money” cards (or whatever it is the current students use to swipe for food/meal plans) for an entire semester, stuff like this. Can’t make it to every game? That’s fine, the school should pay for a promo with a local pizza delivery joint for $3 pizzas with proof of attendance at the most recent Hoyas game. Create reasons for students to actually want to go to the games, which is especially important when the team’s play isn’t doing the trick.
But above all, the students need to remember that the players on the team are their classmates. As much as they appreciated it when one of their buddies at school was there for them at one of their extracurricular activity events, show up for the team. These guys are giving their all for the school, and the lack of support they are receiving from their classmates in return is both embarrassing and frankly, disheartening.
A lot was made of UNC coach Roy Williams’ comments today about the UNC fans not providing the same home court atmosphere that Indiana does. The article smartly points out that one of the problems at UNC is that the students are not in the middle of the floor but rather behind that baskets just as they are at Verizon Center, where they are buried off-camera. Getting the students to show up at all is Georgetown’s first problem, but it also might be time to re-think the configuration for students and fans at the Verizon Center for Hoyas games. When I was a student it was awesome to appear on the jumbotron during the game, kids love that stuff. What better incentive to provide to students than the chance to get on national TV? Would it be such an imposition on season ticket holders that aren’t showing up anyway to move back say three rows and provide those first three rows (or however many rows the best optics are for TV) on each side for students? This isn’t difficult, and my guess is that any Hoyas fan in those first few rows wouldn’t have a problem with it if it spices up the atmosphere for each game. The ticket office and the Hoya Hoop Club working together could probably figure out a solution to this issue in an hour.
Running this damn blog for nearly a decade has afforded me the opportunity to get to know a lot of the decision-makers at the school and in the alumni groups that support the program. I am confident that these individuals can fix the issues that have taken away Verizon Center as a home court advantage for the Hoyas. It’s not going to be an overnight thing, but they need to get together and start having meaningful discussions. There are real solutions out there, and it’s time to #MakeVerizonGreatAgain.