Key to home court advantage: student involvement

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    by SCOTT BELL

    College sports are about crowds.

    What would a football, basketball or volleyball game be without some rowdies in the stands creating a controlled melee? Eventually, the games wouldn’t be played anymore.

    Fans with basketballs on their heads, shirtless guys with letters painted on their chests and crowds chanting in unison are just as much a part of sporting events as the players and coaches themselves.

    Recently, there’s been a little debate on campus about student and alumni seating in the Marriott Center for men’s basketball games. A few letters have been sent in to The Daily Universe, and some fans have sounded off on radio talk shows.

    Let’s settle the debate once and for all. We’ll start by examining the evidence, then we’ll come to a conclusion.

    A letter was published in The Daily Universe’s Reader’s Forum a couple weeks back basically saying BYU was the only major university in the country that did not allow its students to sit behind the baskets. The authors of the letter said students should sit courtside behind the baskets because the alumni who sit there never cheer.

    Soon after, another letter was published in the Reader’s Forum on this subject. A reader wrote back and said the alumni have always stood behind the team and deserve the privileges they receive. The writer’s basic point was students should respect the alumni, and the seating is fine.

    For the last piece of evidence, I overheard a fan call in to the KSL post-game show after the Colorado State game. The caller was a BYU alumnus who watched the game from the student section. When he tried to stand, students told him to sit down. He finished his call by saying students should stay home if they didn’t want to participate in the game.

    Alright, I stated that as diplomatically as possible so as to prevent a lawsuit. Now, to the decision.

    I don’t know if BYU is really the only university in the nation without students sitting behind the backboards at games. But I agree it is at least one of the few, and it’s a shame.

    Duke’s Cameron Indoor is proof enough. The place is considered one of the best five arenas in the country despite the fact it only sits about 6,000 people. Duke students ring the court, and their antics are notorious. Imagine Cameron Indoor with Duke alumni lining the court, politely sitting on their hands. Not quite the same image, huh?

    Or how about The Pit at New Mexico. It’s an insanely intense place to play. Just ask Utah. I still remember in BYU’s glory days how tough it was to visit The Pit. Students behind the baskets would hold up life-size posters of scantily-clad women as BYU players shot free throws. Not that I’d encourage that, but you bet those fans influenced the games.

    As for the second letter, respect isn’t the issue. Cougar Club members and original donors to the Marriott Center do deserve and get respect. Their contributions help BYU sports survive financially. But I think an entire side of the arena furnished with seats instead of benches is sufficient respect. The seats behind the baskets could respectfully be given to the students without hurting any alumni feelings.

    Supporting the team is a different matter. At last Saturday’s Tulsa game, the alumni seating looked like some psychedelic Chinese checkers board. There were a bunch of multi-colored spots dotting the orange background. Maybe half of the lower concourse was full, while the upper concourse was barren.

    Regarding the caller, what was he doing in the student section anyway? Even if he was there (maybe he was confused), I honestly don’t know where he was sitting. The students in the lower concourse stood the entire game. Their chants got in the head of Colorado State’s Matt Barnett, similar to games against Wyoming and New Mexico when the students got on Gregg Sawyer and Royce Olney.

    BYU students should be sitting behind the baskets. Students would have more of an impact there than people who stand only when mini-balls are tossed at them and cheer loudest after the halftime show.

    Coach Steve Cleveland has gone to great lengths to say how much the program needs student support. He’s done as much as he can to get students back to the games. Well, those in charge of Marriott Center seating should put students behind the baskets in addition to their current seats if they really care about students showing up.

    Marriott Center crowds have been better this year, but they could improve. Why not unleash the students, and see what happens.

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