Southern Connecticut State University has a commuter culture. Meaning: during the nights and weekends, a good percentage of the student body goes home. Getting students to consistently attend sporting events on campus isn’t a new problem.
“People who go here don’t stay here,” senior Chris Harris said.
Harris played four years for Owls men’s basketball. The senior, who commutes from Brooklyn, N.Y., reflected on a game during the 2010-2011 season and the difference that the crowd made.
It was current coach Michael Donnelly’s first year with the team, and the Owls had begun the season 2-0 going into their home opener.
“A lot of people came to that Le Moyne game and it was like over 1000 people in the Field House,” Harris said. “Both balconies were full, the bottom was full. We won that game by like 20. Mind you, Le Moyne had just come off. the year before that, beating Syracuse. I feel like the crowd had a lot to do with it. The crowd almost on top of you, on the court cheering you on, it just makes you want to play harder. You play for them.”
Kelsey Ciarleglio, a sophomore psychology major, lives on campus but seldom attends games. According to Ciarleglio, students aren’t well informed about the site and time of most games.
“I think if they just did more to get me to go and just tell me when they were then I would go,” she said, saying that volleyball in particular is one sport she would gladly go see. “Everyone falls in love with volleyball. It’s an exciting game to watch. I just feel like they need to be able to get people there and then they’ll be able to keep them there.”
Ciarleglio suggested that the teams could use more fliers around campus, including on tables in the student center, where many groups place their fliers.
“I just feel like the whole sports department doesn’t do anything to get you to go to their games. That’s what I hate most, one of the bigger things I hate about Southern itself.”
Michael Kobylanski, associate director of athletics/communications for Southern, spoke about what the athletic department is doing to address lack of consistent attendance.
“In terms of working more on campus, we have a weekly flier in the student center and also on the T.V. station. We also try to promote through our social media venues and when we have the manpower available we’ll try to distribute information via fliers on campus on well,” Kobylanski said. “Those are a few of the steps that we’ve tried to take to address that problem. Again, is it translating into sellouts every single night? No. But, I would say that where we are now versus where we were several years ago, we’re certainly well ahead at this point in time.”
The athletic department set up a website several years ago: Southernctowls.com, which has team records, rosters and current schedules listed, along with game stories. Kobylanski said that they’ve made an effort to display the schedules “front and center” on the homepage to assure that students know when home games are.
Harris suggested putting up posters for the team in the student center, or in the hallways at Engleman, which are for the most part empty.
“The people in charge, I personally feel like, they might care about athletics but they don’t feel like having a strong athletic atmosphere helps the school,” Harris said. “And I think it does.”
Harris said that he believes the blame isn’t solely on the athletic department.
“It’s on everybody. It’s the media, it’s the players, it’s the staff, the athletic staff. If the players want people there, they’ve got to broadcast it,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t want to do the work they just want things given to them and things like this, to make things better you just have to work. So, everybody has a little bit of accountability in this.”