It was a typical Tuesday morning. I was walking to class, thinking how hungry I already was for lunch, when I noticed a congregation of people with coffee cups and sprinkle donuts. On any other day, I probably would’ve kept my head down as I avoided whatever organization happened to be tabling. However, it was feeling like a pre-lunch donut kind of day and I made a beeline for the crowd.
“Free donuts and coffee! Come out to the home game this Saturday!”
Home game? It took me about 30 seconds to correlate the free breakfast with this weekend’s football game. As a PR major I can definitely respect the marketing strategy, but what really rubbed me the wrong way was the fact that 10-12 student athletes were out there having to campaign for college students to attend a home football game. The 2017 season has been a tough one for the 49er football team, but that’s still no excuse.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s tough. I was a high school cheerleader for a football team with a 38-game losing streak and had no choice but to be on the sidelines each Friday, cheering only for the other team’s missed field goals.
This is only the fifth season UNC Charlotte’s football team has been established, and as a super senior, I’ve been here through the ups and downs of all five of them. Since the inaugural game in 2013, I’ve witnessed student support for the football program dwindle with the wavering number of wins. In efforts to lure students into the stands (and keep them there), our administration has attempted almost everything. Yet we’re still hitting the bottom of the list.
It goes without saying that tailgates are a surefire way to attract even the least involved students to football games. After working out some kinks, our student tailgate was moved from a parking lot across campus to the grassy field down the hill from the stadium. The commute went from 15 minutes to two, but students still can’t seem to find their way into the stands. The majority of the ones who do, end up leaving after a win is out of sight or when their buzz wears off, whichever comes first.
Then someone came along who wasn’t interested in giving ungrateful students what they want. The alleged threat was that students requesting tickets for football games would need to have them scanned at the stadium, otherwise forfeiting their right to tickets for the remainder of the season. Now they don’t call us smart college students for nothing. Anyone worried about losing tickets would just go in one side of the stadium, scan their ticket, and out the other. After all, it was only a small detour in the route to get to the bar across the street.
Even after establishing Norm’s Tavern, an in-stadium beer garden (yes, beer at a college football game), students still aren’t pleased. Alcohol was seemingly the last of the obstacles to be crossed off the list, but it hasn’t made a huge difference.
Bottom line: our school spirit sucks and we have ourselves to blame for it. Of course, it’s not only up to the students. Recruiting, coaching and plenty of other factors make up a winning formula. But empty stands don’t motivate players, and they sure don’t build a fan base that could eventually end up like the SEC schools we skip UNCC games to visit.
We’re all guilty of it, especially me, but as I round the corner to the end of my last semester, I want to look forward to coming back for a Homecoming game that I can be proud of. Like it or not, we all chose to attend this university and if we’re writing off our own football team and making jokes of ourselves, we’re contributing to the same thing we’re complaining about.
Huge things are underway for the university and the city of Charlotte, so we need to make things happen for our sports teams. Get your ticket and get excited for this Saturday’s game.