A flourishing athletic environment fosters campus culture and unites the community. Unfortunately, Rice’s lack of appreciation for university-wide athletics is evidenced by the low attendance at games, which strains relations with student athletes. Although promotions from Rice Athletics have certainly made strides towards improving attendance at games, marketing campaigns can only go so far, and they may not be sustainable (see p. 9). Improvements to Rice’s athletic environment should be driven by the student body as well as the faculty to encourage support for our athletic programs and build a stronger relationship between athletes and the rest of the undergraduate community.
Rice Athletics has taken clear steps to address Rice students’ apathy towards our athletic programs. Major promotional campaigns, incentives to win merchandise by attending games and Rice Rally’s approval as a blanket tax organization exemplify the focus on getting students to sporting events. However, despite the good intentions of Rice Athletics, these efforts have not been enough to significantly boost attendance across the majority of sports.
Rice students’ highest priorities are often their coursework and their residential college, so it is necessary for Rice Athletics to work within these current frameworks to target the greatest number of students. Even just a fundamental level of support from the university’s own faculty and staff would present a unified and supportive front and do wonders for the campus atmosphere. At the colleges, residential associates could organize group outings to games. Continuous reinforcement beyond the pep rally during Orientation Week is crucial to creating a dedicated community of fans and spectators.
To improve attendance in games and interest in athletics overall, students must be personally invested within the games. Why do intramural sports have such high turnout? Students attend because the players are their friends, and they are aware of the time commitment and stress of participating in these games. Many Rice students who are not athletes simply do not interact often with those who are. Students who are unaware of the stress athletes face and physical sacrifices they endure speculate whether athletes deserve their space at Rice. In turn, athletes become marginalized, alienated from the rest of the student body and often move off-campus to live with other athletes. Every single student at Rice deserves to be here, and athletes deserve just as much, if not more, respect for the work they do. It is necessary to encourage better relationships between athletes and non-athletes, beginning with O-Week but continuing beyond, to ensure that both groups understand and can empathize with each other.
Obviously, balancing a Rice workload and training throughout the year is a noteworthy task. We can’t ask more of athletes — but we can ask more of students. Even if it means attending just a portion of a game, or making more of an effort to accommodate athletes during O-Week. Action on behalf of the student body and a few innovative changes can make a serious contribution to our campus culture.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.