Come tonight, but come back again

Chris Gates

We all know what to expect from the Kent State-Akron game: spirited play combined with an intense atmosphere that almost always has Mid-American Conference East Championship implications. But the aura leaves as quickly as it comes.

By now, anyone involved with Kent State University likely knows the history of the program. The media and the athletic department have beaten it in to us since we arrived for the fall semester.

“Nine straight seasons of 20-wins or more.”

We see the banners in the M.A.C. Center, the posters in the hallways and the billboards around town conveying the message. But why does this not seem to sink in with the student body and residents of Kent?

At 14-4 (3-1 in MAC) on the season, the Flashes will likely continue the streak and remain among the nation’s most successful programs. However, attendance totals this season, and in years past, reflects that of a mediocre team trying to establish a winning tradition.

There are only eight teams in the nation that can lay claim to Kent State’s streak of 20-win seasons. Those schools are Gonzaga, Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, Creighton, Florida, Kansas and Arizona. All have winning traditions with loads of fan support.

Of those schools, all but Syracuse has played for at least 90 percent capacity this year. Syracuse’s numbers are skewed being that they play in the 50,000 seat Carrier Dome, which is also home to the football team.

Also, only two teams, Duke and Gonzaga, operate with attendance totals less than 10,000. However, both schools fill their arenas to 100 percent capacity every game.

Then take a look at Kent State and the support for the men’s basketball team. The Flashes have played for an average of 3,042 fans this year over 10 home games. That’s barely 48 percent in the M.A.C. Center, which holds up to 6,237 at capacity.

Now granted, the city of Kent is not nearly as big as many of the other towns on the 20-win list. However, over 22,000 students attend Kent’s main campus. Along with that, the 2000 census recorded the population of the city of Kent at 27,906. That makes a total of nearly 50,000 people in the area.

Tonight, those in attendance will likely be part of a sell-out crowd for the first time this season. The student sections will be filled, as well as the chairbacks and bleachers surrounding the sidelines.

Many of the Akron faithful will travel the short distance to Kent State as well. The last two seasons, Akron managed to even bring its own student section.

But where are the faithful the rest of the time?

I have to believe very few students know the lyrics to the Kent State fight song and alma mater. It is never too late for trends to change.

Kent State men’s basketball has helped put our school on the map. Over the streak of 20-win seasons, the men have won both the MAC East and the MAC Tournament four times. Not to mention the 2002 Cinderella run to the Elite Eight.

On Wednesday, don’t make it your first and last time to a basketball game this year. Realize that, with continued support, you can create the same atmosphere for every game, as well as help keep the tradition alive.

“We’re all together, let’s go forward, K.S.U. Go Kent!”

Chris Gates is a sports reporter and member of the “Q-Saders” student fan group. Chris can be reached at [email protected].