Zahlmann: Moby Madness starts and ends with community

Luke Zahlmann

Beginning in the football season, fans and students alike began to leave games at halftime. It’s an unwelcome trend that has now hit the hardwood at a heightened degree.

Normally dubbed as “Moby Madness,” the Ram faithful has been anything but hectic in the season to date. Men’s and women’s basketball alike are suffering a fate that is a product of students’ disinterest in supporting their fellow scholars in athletics.

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Junior Prentiss Nixon attempts to fire up the crowd against Winthrop. The Rams defeated the Eagles 80-76 on Nov 14. (Joshua Contreras | Collegian)

A men’s basketball team that recorded two court-storming wins last season, both of which the stands were full to see, have now fallen under the dim atmosphere that accompanies them in Colorado State’s home arena.

The student section of basketball games is a virtual wasteland most nights, with less than half of the allotted seats being used. Alumni have still made their way to the arena despite the lack of success from the men’s program and have shown their support in the face of adversity; but their attendance can only fill one portion of the attendance.

According to the university’s student enrollment statistics on their official website, the CSU family stands at over 31,000 total students for the current semester. On the other hand, Moby Arena’s listed capacity is 8,745, just over a fourth of the population of Rams.

The two numbers indicate that filling the mere student section on either side should come as a breeze for the athletics department. Unfortunately, on most nights, the media practically outnumbers the student population, despite the presence of the student-led Ram Ruckus that promotes attendance at games and even supplies rewards for those that appear at multiple games.

At the helm of the women’s program is coach Ryun Williams, a very proactive and outgoing coach that shares his enthusiasm for the team on and off the court. Whether it be through social media challenges or joining the fans in the stands of a football game to sing “Sweet Caroline,” Williams is on board.

Alongside Williams, CSU volleyball coach Tom Hilbert has made his presence felt as well, attracting yet another top-15 finish in attendance for the year. Hilbert, though not as much of a presence on social media, makes his impact with the fans and reaching out, attracting an abundance of season ticket holders.

Despite the high attendance in the Division I volleyball world, Hilbert was unable to draw a strong student section either, signaling that the problem may lie deeper than the coach’s activity.

A large knock on men’s coach Larry Eustachy is his lack of interaction with fans, leaving them hanging and feeling unwanted. Still, the attendance drawn by his team is no less disappointing than the other major sports that take place in the arena.

The official social media accounts for all three sports have activity before, during and after each game, making their presence felt in the community. The reaching out process through what is now the lifeline of college students has not been lacking in productivity either, eliminating another reason for the lack of fans at events.

The true reason for the lack of fans, for better or for worse, is the lack of interest in athletics among the student population. A university built around areas like business, engineering and liberal arts, the sports interest is not a part of many students’ lives. The athletic department can do many things, but forcing students to enter the arena happens to not be possible.

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Promotions give a temporary boost to attendance, with the assurance of an item being given out to the first allotted number of students. Unfortunately, that too fails in the long run as many of the students depart the arena early or fail to show up at future games when the giveaways are no longer present.

The solution for the problem is a greater sense of community with the athletes who take the court. New promotions that place students alongside players can improve attendance and interest in the athletic programs that CSU has to offer.

Events such as honoring the various programs and extracurricular groups across campus on the court and letting them feel a part of the program can go a long way towards filling the stands. The more connected students feel with the players themselves, the more they will encompass the motivation to root for their fellow students.

The football program has involved alumni and fans through game day events and promotions and the results have been a record in attendance. On a smaller scale, the Rams’ programs on the court can take the same approach, letting their fans and past Rams feel a part of the team. Every game does not need an event, but a constant stream of support from fans comes from a constant feeling of unity with the teams.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.