AU Blue Crew, Are you still in?
Jamie Sheasley | 4/4/14 6:35pm
Let’s get one thing straight: American University is not bad at sports.
We’re a D1 school that has won sixty-seven Patriot League championships.
Thus, we must ask ourselves as a school—why are our athletic events, and the low attendance of them, running jokes for the student body? Why do incoming freshmen giggle at our Fight Song before forgetting the words? The American culture is drenched in the love and adoration of sports; why, then, isn’t American University?
A satirical news source at AU, The Beagle—a pun-ny spin on The Eagle—ran a story in its second weekly edition titled “AU Men’s Basketball Draws Record Attendance.” In the story, a total of five people came to support the team; this was supposedly a cause for celebration. Though The Beagle is purely a comedic publication, the reason this article resonated with so many students at AU is because it is a heavily exaggerated satire mirroring what has become an unfortunate reality at American.
Yes, most of AU’s sporting events—especially men’s basketball—obviously draw crowds of more than five people. Yet when evaluating the “school spirit” of other universities around the country (for example: larger, sports-oriented colleges like Penn State and Virginia Tech) our support for our athletics programs is comparatively low.
“The attitude of AU students towards school sports is fairly unenthusiastic compared to other schools,” Olivia Carini, AU Blue Crew Leadership Council (AU BCLC) Residence Hall Marketing and Promotions Assistant, said. “We do have a couple people that are regular fans who come to every game. However, that number is very low compared to schools that have a constant fanbase in which hundreds of people always attend.”
There could be a variety of factors for this: the most obvious would be that we simply don’t have the population that huge state schools have.
Yet many students would argue that it goes beyond that—and the real reason is that we are too occupied with academics and activism to care about our teams’ games. After all, we’re a top academic school in Washington, D.C. It is not that we aren’t invested in our teams; we’re just more invested in our grades and advocacies.
Even the players on the floor see the evidence first hand.
“I feel like the atmosphere at AU is extremely academic driven,” freshman basketball player Kade Kager said. “So a lot of students are extremely focused on studies versus going to support their school’s athletic teams.”
“With students engaged in a variety of issues both on and beyond the campus, the focus and
engagement that would otherwise be directed towards sports teams gets diluted,” RHA President and Athletic Engagement committee member, Reiter Boldt said. “As we have seen through our basketball team’s strong season, AU students do get involved with sports, however usually only jumping on the bandwagon when things are going exceptionally well.”
This is true; with this current basketball season underway and both our men’s and women’s teams in second place in the Patriot League, the average game attendance shot up. But it didn’t last.
Thus, the real question is: how do we keep that up all year long? Is it possible? According to Robert Sherman, the Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing and Corporate Partnerships at AU the student involvement is good, is very important to us and is something we seek to continually improve.”
So, how do we improve?
“There’s no substitute for winning,” said Sherman. “But it goes both ways—great student support absolutely helps our teams win. It’s important to cultivate excitement among student leaders and to have those people make their enthusiasm infectious.”
Meg Carter, a freshman who, like many other incoming students, would love to see a boost in school spirit in her new university, agrees that morale is contagious.
“In my high school, we had one leader who would facilitate the chants and cheers and would pep up the rest of the student section,” she said. “I think AU could definitely benefit from that kind of positive encouragement.”
We can find these leaders in the Blue Crew, a team of students dedicated to increasing school spirit and attendance at sporting events.
“It is an important part of our student marketing effort and is an important method for communications for us,” Sherman said. “We make suggestions and ask the Blue Crew to be involved in our marketing and promotions efforts.”
Ben Zenker, the Chairman of the AU BCLC, said that he primarily works to “come up with new and creative ways to harness this passion, drive, and spirit that AU students have and bring it into the bleachers and stands, so they can transfer their energy to drive our athletes to continued success.”
While they do an excellent job utilizing social media, designing incentives, and creating fun events, for morale to truly improve, we need more than simply the Blue Crew.
“I believe that a concerted effort to link athletics to other student organizations and interests would help to get students more engaged,” said Boldt. “Be it having speakers during halftime or following games to partnering with student organizations for tailgating events, athletic events partnered with other groups and organizations that represent the varied interests of the student population will serve to get people to come out and support our sports teams.”
And of course, the student leaders and organizations on campus can only start the movement. Ultimately, it is up to the individual students to revitalize the spirit of AU. According to Carini it only takes one person…to affect the larger AU community.
So get out there to a game or two. Bring your friends. Make signs. Cheer for your athletes. Be proud to be a part of our diverse, passionate, intellectual institution full of talented students.
Or, as Sherman puts it, “Be proud to be an Eagle.”