In an effort to raise awareness for the upcoming basketball seasons, Marist Athletics hosted their version of Midnight Madness on Wednesday, Oct. 29. The inaugural event, Marist Madness, gave fans an opportunity to meet both the men’s and women’s basketballs teams as well as have an opportunity to take part in multiple contests for various prizes. The highlight of the night was when Marist senior Matthew Kark drained a half-court shot for $10,000.
Typically, Midnight Madness is a pep rally that happens at many schools throughout the nation. The idea is to generate excitement for the basketball programs in order to attract more fans to the games. A crowded and loud student section has the ability to motivate the home team as well as to frustrate the visiting the team.
However, McCann Arena rarely sells out basketball games (usually one or two games per year). With home games over Thanksgiving and Christmas break, the student section can be somewhat empty at times. That leaves only a handful of eligible games for students on campus to attend. With clubs, homework, and jobs, the toughest part of increasing attendance is motivating students to come to the games.
Both Brian Giorgis and Maker, the head coaches of the women and men’s basketball teams, stressed the importance of having a home-court advantage.
“You make a difference in our program. This is what we need at every game,” said Giorgis while speaking to the crowd. “We need people who take pride in our school and who take pride in our program.”
Attendance at Marist
Both the women and men’s basketball teams play at McCann Arena. Although McCann Arena is said to be one of the toughest places to play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), there is a huge disparity in attendance numbers between the women and men’s teams.
The Marist women’s basketball team is one of the most successful teams at the college, winning the last nine MAAC championships and nine straight trips to the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament. Because of this consistent success, women’s games are well attended throughout the season.
According to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Basketball Attendance numbers, Marist averaged 1,934 fans over the course of the season. Considering McCann Arena has a capacity of 3,200, 1,934 attendants was the highest average attendance in the MAAC conference for women’s basketball.
Senior point guard Natalie Gomez credits the team’s success to their home-court advantage.
“You guys are the reason why play so well at home. Along with the band, this is a loud place to play and it makes us play better. We are so excited to play for our home fans this season,” said Gomez in a speech at Marist Madness.
Despite the women’s dominance the past ten years, the men’s team has had nothing to cheer about recently. The team has not had a winning season since the 2007-2008 season and the program has had a new head coach every year since 2012. The lack of wins can been seen in the attendance records.
According to the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Attendance numbers, Marist averaged 1,344 fans, which was 590 less people than women’s games. This is quite surprising because most Division I schools with basketball programs rely more on their men’s teams to generate attendance as opposed to the women’s team.
Coach Maker made it a point of emphasis to cheer on his team at McCann Arena.
“We need our student body at the games. We need you to cheer for our team and wear red. I’m so excited for you to watch this team play this year. It’s going to be very exciting,” said Maker.
Will students attend the games?
Marist is unique in the fact that they do not charge admission for students at games. For example, the Harvard men’s basketball team plays at Lavietes Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts. The arena seats 2,195 people, which is close to 1,000 less seats than McCann Arena. However, students at Harvard have to pay $10 for a ticket every game.
Despite free admission, Marist still struggles to fill up the student section at McCann Arena. With the exception of games against ranked teams or games with promotional incentives such as “Pack the House,” fans do not always make the extra effort to support the Red Foxes.
Senior Rick Schneider rarely attends basketball games because of the lack of television coverage as well as the competition they play.
“I wish Marist played better competition that you normally see on television. If they played teams in bigger conferences or had more games on ESPN, I think I would be more apt to come to games,” said Schneider. “I like to watch basketball, but I just never saw anything that would draw me to their games.”
Schneider is not the only one that does not attend basketball games. The quality of play also tends to be a problem for some people
“For the most part, I rarely attend a basketball game because the level of play in my opinion, is not very high. I know that Marist plays in the MAAC Conference and there’s nothing they can do about it, but I’d rather watch an ACC or Big Ten team play on television than attend Marist games. The quality of play for teams like Duke and Michigan is much more entertaining to watch” said Matteo Fochetta, a senior at Marist.
One way that Marist has tried to increase student attendance at games is the Booster Club. The Booster Club is an organization run by students that attend almost every Marist sporting event. Members of the club organize cheers to scream and encourage students to show their school spirit. The club rewards students who attend the game because if they swipe in with their identification cards, there is a possibility of receiving priority points that will go towards housing.
“I joined the Booster Club because it was an easy and fun to way to get involved with the Marist Community. If I can get priority points for watching a basketball game, I’ll do that any day of the week,” said Colin Hanrahan, a Marist senior.
The most obvious way to attract more fans is to win basketball games. It also helps to have a star player that fans will come to see.
“If the Marist men can achieve some of the success that the women have had over the years, I would consider going to more basketball games,” said Fochetta. “It would also be cool to have a potential NBA player on the team like when Rik Smitts played for Marist. That would be fun to watch.”
For more information on both the men and women’s basketball teams, visit goredfoxes.com.