The topic of IU's student section (or lack thereof) has dominated the discussion on this blog for most of the summer. I have given my opinion at times, but I've decided to make a blog post to get all the discussion on one post. Student Sections of the Big 10 is getting really excited, I am sure of it.
I want to start with some background information before I begin. Four years ago, students were charged an Athletics Fee. This fee was controversial to say the least - students were complaining to the University and to IUSA, the student government on campus. The IUSA administration in at the time made it a priority to get rid of the student athletic fee, which was $50 or something inconsequential compared to the high cost of attending college.
In the quest to eliminate the athletic fee, I have been told by a good source that the IUSA were told that if the fee were eliminated, student seating would be reduced. I do not know this to be the 100 percent truth, but the story makes sense as once the student athletic fee was eliminated, the south end zone became alumni seating, likely to make up for lost revenue.
Was the IUSA correct in fighting for a reduced fee? That's for you to decide.
The current student seating at Assembly Hall is as follows: the north end zone behind the basket (about 40% of the seats are taken up by the band), the first few sections of east side of AH, the last few rows of all the east section and most of the balcony seating. I hope everyone is on the same page here - I'm assuming you are if you care about this issue.
There is no official student section like the Izzone or Cameron Crazies, but the Department of Athletics is quick to point out, and correctly so, that IU has more student seats than anyone in the Big 10 and one of the highest totals in the nation (perhaps No. 2 behind Syracuse). There is a movement to establish an official student section, but there has been no improvements in the eyes of those students trying to change the current seating.
I suppose my message to everyone who continues to demand a student section around the court is this: it's never going to happen at AH, so stop complaining. I believe changes can be made to the current system that will appease many people calling for change. I would like to outline these and give my reasons why an "Izzone-esque" student section will not happen at IU for a long time.
I want to pause here before going on and saying I wish there would be student seating around the court as I believe it would be good for students and would build stronger bonds for the future. However, this cannot happen at the time being.
The main argument given by those who want the student section is that it helps win games. I myself said the same in a column I wrote as a sophomore. I figured someone would dig that up and eventually one of our blog readers did. In the column, I argued against a lot of changes Greenspan was trying. I was wrong about taking away the end zone seats - I was not aware of the IUSA situation. IU has had pretty good success at Assembly Hall over the years without a student section - the place gets really loud. I met a person this year who is pretty good friends with a certain former Duke player from the metro Indy area who said that AH was the loudest place he ever played - and remember, this player played his home games at Cameron Indoor.
For my job at the IDS this year, I was able to travel to all the away games besides Iowa and Penn State. People on this board have been impressed with the Grateful Red, the Orange Crush or the Izzone, but really I did not come away too amazed by these student sections. Assembly Hall has been the loudest arena I've been in, with the Barn at MN a close second.
I don't believe student sections help win games as much as some people claim. I use the Izzone and the Cameron Crazies as my examples. I argue that those teams are so good at home because they have Hall of Fame coaches who recruit great players. Izzo or Coach K can coach my team anyday. Student sections and fans have everything to do with the atmosphere in the arena, but I bet those two teams would have won a lot of home games over the past few years playing in an empty arena.
Another argument put forth is that other Big Ten schools have student sections. This may be true, but very few Big Ten schools have the basketball tradition IU does. IU basketball is the lifeblood of the athletic department and the most visible entity on campus. So many people want to come to games, and some have the big bucks to help fund the athletic department by paying top dollar for close seats.
I understand how bad a lot of the seats are in Assembly Hall. When IU played UNC my freshman year I sat in the corner of one of the last rows of the "cave" (the seats under the balcony overhang). My friends and I could not see the scoreboard (this was before the new ones were added), so we had to keep asking for the exact score and time remaining in the game. It is frustrating at times, but at least students can attend every game.
It all comes down to money. IU depends on basketball since the football team generates so little money compared to other schools. I don't think people realize how big of a handicap having such poor attendance at football games is the athletic department. That is the main reason a student section (and by that I mean students sitting around the court) will not happen.
The best thing that can happen is for some change in the current system of student seating. There are some simple things that would make students feel more appreciated. Making a student t-shirt like "Crean's Crew" (that is a horrible suggest for the record) or something would give some continuity to the students. There are also ways to change the allocation of seating. Be it by class, points or first come first served - there has to be a way that more people can be pleased with the student seating at Assembly Hall. Hopefully the new AD and IUSA officials will come up with some changes for the future.
As always, your comments are appreciated and welcomed. Let the debate begin.
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