I often like to attend a Rice men’s basketball game, but it appears I am in the minority, especially compared to the Rice students. I have been to many Rice games over the years, and WITHOUT exaggeration, I typically cannot count more than 50 to 100 students in the stands. With an undergraduate of population of around 4,000, I don’t need my calculator to tell me the attendance figure hovers around 1 percent. So, it begs the question, why even have a team? I understand the age-old arguments (which to my knowledge cannot be statistically proven) that sports teams help boost applications and alumni donations, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t the team be FOR the students first and foremost? And, if the students have no interest in attending, what really is the point?
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love nothing more than to see Tudor Fieldhouse full (which typically only happens when opponents are the likes of the University of Houston or Texas A&M University, as their students and alums fill the place, not ours). Unfortunately, on a typical game day, it looks like there are more kids watching intramural football outside the gym than the basketball within.
If the university subsidizes men’s basketball (which it does), and students obviously don’t care about the game (which they don’t), I see two logical options: (1) Get rid of the program or (2) Get more butts in the seats. I much prefer the second option, but that is only going to happen if the student body is somehow motivated, persuaded, or cajoled to come out and support THEIR team through the proactive efforts of the administration, teachers, and the athletic dept. On a somewhat related note, why not give away the thousands of unused tickets at each game to various schools and organizations around Houston — at least the attendees will buy concessions and merchandise, and the players can then experience an unusual situation — what a true home court advantage “sounds” like with a full house.
The men’s basketball players and coaches make great efforts to do their best and win every game. If the students don’t make the effort to come out and support THEIR team, and the university makes no effort to improve the situation, I’ll still come watch, knowing I will always have the option between the peace and quiet of the Fondren Library or Tudor Fieldhouse.
Mark Davis graduated from Rice in 1989 with an MBA.