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Gonzaga Has a Student Attendance Issue

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You can hear a pin drop in The Kennel.

There was a time when the Gonzaga Bulldogs were good, but no one knew about it. There was a time that every single game was broadcast locally, and the only way Gonzaga ended up on ESPN was due to the quality of their opponent.

I was there for the first time ESPN ever broadcast from The Kennel, on Feb. 16, 2002, against the Pepperdine Waves. To get into that game, I waited in line for over 12 hours to secure a seat, and I cannot emphasize this enough, for a game against Pepperdine.

As a student at GU from 2001-2005, I attended every single game I could. I loved it. The old Kennel lent itself to that sort of insanity. With everyone jumping up and down on those creaky bleachers it always seemed like the “arena” was one step away from turning into a disaster of national news proportions.

As Gonzaga built its national reputation in real-time, ESPN started showing up more often to Spokane. The broadcasts would always drop a mention to how hard it was to play there, how the student section is one of the best, and how it all contributed to one of the best atmospheres in college basketball.

Now, I’m not so sure.

This isn’t an OK Boomer moment. This isn’t Clint Eastwood telling kids to get off his lawn. This is a general level of confusion as to why Gonzaga, a school that has seen a 20% increase in enrollment since I attended, can’t visibly get enough students into most of their home games. Now, on local and national broadcasts, you can hear the silence coming from the students and the rest of the fans. It is deafening, and frankly, rather embarrassing.

We need a change in how we think of ourselves at this moment. So let’s shelve this idea that Gonzaga has one of the best student sections out there. Let’s shelve this idea that Gonzaga has one of the best home environments out there. It does, only if the opponent merits it. If it is your standard run of the mill mid-150 ranked school—there is no claim to fame we can make.

What makes the MAC so fearing is the construction of it, in which, the school, doing an overwhelming amount of justice towards the students, ignored the boosters and put the kids directly on the court. Take a look around college, not every school has this advantage. But this home court advantage only exists if people are there to take up the offer.

That isn’t to say as a student you HAVE to go to every single game. However, the new normal should not be the school selling all of those student-allotted tickets to the general public on the day of. That attitude, which appears to be rather pervasive through the students, of general apathy towards mediocre opponents needs to shift, or else the magic of the home game gets lost.

It is understandable, after all, to skip a game here and there. If you are a current senior at Gonzaga, the worst season you have experienced is the 2018 Sweet 16 run. Rough life. Often times, there are more important things to do than watch Gonzaga mash some overwhelmed opponent by 40 points. The hardest time to appreciate something is while it is happening. For many current students, this is a visible issue on gamedays.

I am sure there are a whole host of other reasons that contribute to the lack of students as well. When I attended Gonzaga, the internet was used for researching papers, downloading things off of Napster, and Counterstrike LAN parties in your dorm. Now, technology has the entire world at our fingertips. There is just so much we can do, at any given moment, that competes with the time and energy it takes to attend a basketball game.

(Finally, it is important to acknowledge that this week is the week before finals. However, yesterday’s game was not an aberration. It is the new normal over the past couple of years).

You hear rumblings from the older guard about how the current students don’t appreciate what is happening. They aren’t fully right, I don’t think, but they also aren’t completely wrong either. As an alum, knowing how downright impossible it is to actually attend a game in Spokane, it pains me to see that opportunity go wasted by so many individuals. The idea that “well it is just another garbage opponent, who cares” attitude doesn’t really hold a lot of weight in my mind. During my time at Gonzaga, the premier home game opponent was UW. That was it. Gonzaga had to travel to play every single other good team. The only options were to watch Gonzaga play crappy teams. We did it, and we had a hell of a time cheering them on, because that is what fans do.

What makes this all so frustrating, as an alum, is no matter how much I would kill to watch a game in Spokane again, it is a pipe dream for me. First, I don’t live in Spokane. Second, even if I lived in Spokane, I would have to pay $250 to be in the running to purchase tickets. The one true opportunity you have to enjoy Gonzaga basketball to its fullest is as a student. After graduation, unless you pay a lot of money, travel, etc, you will never see the Gonzaga Bulldogs in person again. And when you do, you will notice it in your credit card statement.

I don’t know what any of this is other than a plea of sorts, probably falling on deaf ears but so be it. If you are a student, go to every game you can. You have no idea what you are witnessing now, and you have no idea how much you will miss it in the future.