When the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on hiatus for a year, I felt enthusiasm for Boston College athletics hit rock bottom. Combine this with lukewarm performances in some of the major sports last year and you end up with a student body that stays for an hour, then dives in after mumbling its way through “For Boston.” Let’s not pretend that this is a problem caused by students alone. I mean, sure, a lot of us don’t know the fight song, but is that our fault? Or does the school not try to teach it to anyone, beyond a one-time crash course at the start of the first year? There are administrative actions that could be done to reinvigorate the population of the University.
Boston University, another university whose attendance at sporting events has been affected by COVID-19, has introduced a policy that anyone who attends eight home hockey games get a free hockey jersey. This kind of practice would encourage BC students to show up for games even when our record is not stellar.
One of the most visible problems for BC Athletics is fans leaving games early. In our opener against Rutgers, even though the game could have gone either way until the last minute, it looked like only half of the student section was there when time ran out. Last year, Florida State defeated British Columbia 26–3 midway through the third quarter, so throngs of students left the stadium to attend to another obligation everyone apparently had at three o’clock on a Saturday. But soon after, the defense cracked the code and shut down FSU while the offense activated and scored three touchdowns to get the game in three runs. Even though BC still lost the game, it was nonetheless an exciting ending that most people chose not to see.
But who wants to stay up for three and a half hours in the sun, rain or cold, especially when everything starts to get repetitive and BC starts losing? After the eighth or so “Go, BC!” Put points on the board! it starts to become more of a chore. So what is the solution ? I think BC should start giving small collectibles to the end games, such as game cards, posters or small commercial items. That would make watching the entire football game uncomfortably close to Maine worth it.
For sports other than football, most people don’t show up to games to begin with. A few times last year, British Columbia set up a wheel of merchandise in front of Mac to encourage people to attend hockey and basketball games. If these were installed during games instead, maybe more people would go watch the game rather than just grab a free hat. Another step in the right direction last year was the special Sickos shirt gift at a basketball game. The problems, however, were that there were only 200 shirts, most people who received the shirts didn’t stay to watch the game, and that only happened once – against the University of Albany and during finals week. If BC did this stuff more often, with more shirts, and found a system to incentivize people to stay at the game (by giving them away at halftime or something similar), then attendance might increase for exciting and non-exciting matches.
Perhaps most tragic is the shockingly low percentage of the student body that attended a women’s track match. The problem here is threefold: games often take place at a less than optimal time, some students feel that women’s sports are inherently less exciting to watch than men’s sports, and the school does poorly in enticing people to attend games. matches. . Last year, British Columbia hosted No. 5 ranked North Carolina State in women’s basketball and an impressive crowd attended the game, as attending the game was the only way to get tickets for the men’s basketball game against Duke. If the school adopted this practice more widely, attendance at major women’s sports games would likely increase even more. For example, British Columbia could offer free Beanpot tickets to people attending a major women’s hockey game.
BC recently introduced a system (conveniently hidden behind a menu on the BC Athletics app), where you can earn points which can be redeemed for BC merchandise by attending home games and keeping up to date with the Eagles. By arriving early and attending the whole game, bonus points are earned. It would be a big step in the right direction – if only the app worked, made sense, and people knew it was a thing. A simple step to enhance this idea would be to promote each game on social media and tell people how many points they can earn and how. A more complicated step would be to completely rework the BC Athletics app. In my experience, it is not user friendly and does not show up to date rating information.
There is also an issue with how rewards are priced. If you show up to a game half an hour early and stay the whole time, you earn 300, 400, or 500 points (less popular games earn you more points). This means that if you were to attend all home football, volleyball, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and softball games in fall, you would only earn around 38,000 points, which is a long way off. of the 75,000 points needed to earn a match-worn football shirt. That’s too much to expect from any fan, not only because it involves attending nearly 100 home games while still managing to keep up with their ratings, but also because many of those games happen during the break and a handful of overlaps. A cost overhaul is needed, as this system will not encourage anyone to attend home games if the rewards are unobtainable.
Although BC’s sports culture is improving dramatically with some school changes, there are ways students can make a big difference. For some students, the justification for their absence is that the team will not perform well and that the public will not be animated. This is a nefarious and self-fulfilling prophecy: the more people with this mindset, the fewer people present, resulting in less active crowds, which diminishes the advantage of the British Columbia field and makes the team worse. For others, the decision not to attend games stems from a general disinterest in the game or sport. In each case, the problem can be solved if those who attend the games begin to change the minds of those who do not attend.
When it comes to sporting events, what you put in is what you get. We cannot expect everything to magically improve around us. The only way to start seeing change is for more people to start going to more games, sticking around for the whole game, and being enthusiastic crowd members.