For the first time in a long time McCann was packed to the brim with enthusiastic and eager attendees. Crowds of students, faculty members, and Hudson Valley locals gathered onto the rolling hills of the arena parking lot hours before the event was set to take place. The turnout was so immense some people feared school officials would turn them away because there would be no room for them in the tightly packed gym. Although to many outsiders this might have looked like a normal occurrence for a school with Division I sports teams, for the vast majority of attendees this was not a typical night. Bernie Sanders was set to grace a small stage on Marist’s campus before facing off with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, and everybody who’s anybody showed up to the campus patiently waiting to witness history as it was about to unfold.
Fast forward seven months later to the exact same gym and the difference cannot be more striking. The gym, other than hosting the odd political event, is home to many of the sports teams that play at Marist. The problem is that the crowds these games attract are incredibly small compared to the blockbuster rally. Matthew Terwilliger, a business major and avid sports fan explains the lack of crowd support in stark detail. “Attendance at the basketball games among students usually only 50 people, and that number generally cuts by 20 or 25 at halftime on Tuesdays and Saturdays as people get ready to go out.” He continues “I usually recognize a decent amount of people in the student section but not too many. Probably between 5 and 10 depending on the game.” Michael Hines, a sports communications major, held a similar sentiment, and argued that students would rather see two of the best teams in the country compete than watch Marist play a school at a similar level. “For pretty much all sports no one has a vested interest other than the athletes. If they [Marist] have teams that can compete with the best in the country in bigger spectator sports like basketball and football then it’ll have a bigger presence on campus with students.”
Amanda Bradley, a varsity volleyball player and senior at the school argues that a majority of the students attending these games are student athletes themselves. “At volleyball games, for example, the baseball, softball, lacrosse, crew, and basketball teams will come watch and cheer us on, but there really isn’t any other students that come.” She added “if you ask a random student anything about a teams record or standing they wouldn’t know.” However, despite these grim prospects she and fellow teammate Lexi Millington are hopeful that this will change in the coming seasons. “President Yellen is very supportive of our teams and tries to come to all the games,” Millington said. “He seems to be more involved with athletics so hopefully some stuff will change.”
It could be argued that it’s not so much a matter of school spirit but more so the ceiling that is created with the athletics program. If Marist had more games with better teams, more students would be inclined to show up. In sports, often times its not just the fact the team itself is playing, but also who they play. Marketing can seem to go a long way in boosting numbers, and even if these numbers never come close to Bernie Sanders levels, it can definitely help out in getting students out into the stadiums and into McCann to cheer on their respective teams.