Our View: Offer support for Kent State athletics

KS Editors

Summary: While NCAA March Madness is one of the most exciting sporting spectacles of the year, ignoring our school’s athletics program isn’t fair.

Over the last month, millions of people have watched the NCAA men’s basketball national tournament, or March Madness. Last Saturday’s Kentucky-Notre Dame Elite Eight game was not just a phenomenal contest but also the most-watched college basketball game of all-time. On perhaps the nation’s biggest stage for the night, both teams played out a potential modern classic, and once again, the winningest team in history got away with a narrow win, this one 68-66 over the Irish.

But there is something missing from this picture: While a lot of us Kent State students tuned into the Kentucky-Notre Dame matchup to see if our brackets would be busted, we likely ignored how our athletic programs were representing our own university.

While we were on break, our gymnastics program — which hosted the Mid-American Conference tournament at the M.A.C. Center — won the conference. One of our wrestlers, junior Ian Miller, placed fifth at the NCAA National Tournament and may have placed even higher if not for a controversial scoring mistake. The men’s basketball team made it to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament and dropped a one-point heartbreaker on Saturday night to Northern Arizona in overtime. Track and field is getting its outdoor seasons started. Baseball and softball seem to be bringing competitive teams to the conference mix, although it’s still too early to tell for sure. 

All of this happened during spring break alone, but we haven’t been ignoring athletics just because most of us were out of town for spring break. We’ve been doing it all year. This is represented by our decreasing attendance ratings, particularly in football, where the average attendance ratings have dropped 20 percent since 2013. When the athletic department announced they’d be hiring a consultant to reexamine its budget, there was early local speculation that Kent State would be cutting its football program to save money. Field hockey made the NCAA tournament, and there were a mere 246 in attendance for their home win over Ohio University to clinch the MAC title and spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Athletics can embody a university on a national level, and as Kent State is clearly making strides to find a new identity, maybe we should help the cause. Duke University, for example, is well known for its basketball program. The University of Alabama is known for football. We aren’t saying to ignore other things happening in the world of sports, but there’s a lot happening on our own playing fields. We urge you to give the Flashes a vote of confidence, especially if you’re going to root for other teams you’ve never cared about so your bracket is a winner.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of The Kent Stater editorial board.