Athletes Talk School Spirit

By Rashaun Graves, Emily Deschamps, and Dustin Niles

Guest Writers & Layout & Design Editor

It’s Saturday night in Northpointe, and Dondre Rhoden of the men’s basketball team walks into the elevator, turns to me and asks, “What is there to do around here? I mean this campus is just dead.”

It’s Rhoden’s second year at Fairleigh Dickinson University and he has yet to find a social rhythm outside of his team. Rhoden is not alone.

Athletes’ schedules are so jam-packed that if they’re not in class they are practicing for a game. They don’t get paid while they attend school, so they have little money to go out.

On Feb. 4, the men’s basketball played NEC rival Wagner at home in a game that had major playoff implications. The game was welladvertised, and the school gave out wigs to students that got to the game early. The Rothman Center teemed with fans. So school spirit is possible, but what does it take?

During the baseball team’s first homestand, they scored their first two wins against Lafayette and NJIT. During the second game on Saturday, the stands were almost empty save for a few spectators wearing NJIT jackets. FDU’s offense exploded and blew them away, winning 14-7. But unlike basketball, the baseball team’s first homestand was not advertised and, even though they won, attendance was low.

Baseball coaches Gary Puccio and Justin McKay have a predictable view on school spirit.

“I really believe it comes down to when teams are winning, people show up,” Coach Puccio said. “When teams aren’t doing as good … everybody supports a winner, that’s what it boils down to.”

Puccio doesn’t believe specific support from the school is a big factor.

“It’s like every other school,” said Coach Puccio. “They only can do so much in their budgets … we understand that. But, you know, we’re gonna take care of it out of our own budget, that’s all.”

Weather and facilities also plays a big part in whether people show up. The baseball team got new grandstands in the past couple years, which made the field more conducive to crowds. Coach McKay said weather also plays a big role, and nice weather helps the baseball team get bigger crowds than most sports.

“We do really well with attendance once the weather gets warm, so this was a down for us, normal for other programs,” said Coach McKay. “We do really well for attendance. I would say for the conference, we and Bryant have the most. And Bryant can drink there, so…but we’d love more though! If you wanna push more people, we’d love more!”

While the campus culture relies heavily on athletes and the events surrounding them, the Metropolitan campus is filled with commuters who have no incentive to come back to campus after hours. The juggle among school, work and having fun may seem impossible for many students at FDU. The fact that FDU is a dry campus leaves little incentive for any commuter to come. Sororities and fraternities have their own thing going for them, but students definitely don’t hear about any raging parties going on in Teaneck. For any student looking for a party school, FDU isn’t the place for you.

“Everybody at FDU complains about how nothing fun ever happens on campus but no one really ever does anything to change that. It’s a cycle of nothingness,” said senior Brandon Connly.

After several interviews with student athletes, it seems like everyone felt safe in their own bubble. Students here at FDU are comfortable with their “cliques” and aren’t that concerned with integrating and making FDU one big family.

“Yeah, I don’t go out much,” said Shaquille Williams of the men’s track and field team. “But if I do anything, it’s with my team. They’re just the people I see all the time.”

Joe Flack from the men’s baseball team had similar views.

“I live in a house with my team,” Flack said. “We do a lot together. I wouldn’t say it is on purpose, but I can’t say it’s accidental either.”

Freshman Frank Ferrara from the men’s track team seemed quite open to the idea of meeting new people and integrating FDU.

“Totally!” Ferrara said. “I love the idea but I don’t know how to change it. I can’t just walk up to anybody and talk to them and I feel like I should be able to do that. I can tell everyone has their own set of friends and they only do what each other do. I think that’s why certain games are empty and others are full. Nobody goes to a game by themselves, or maybe they do?”

Junior Basketball player Earl Potts Jr. shared his thoughts on attendance at the Stratis Arena for basketball games.

“It’s disappointing at times,” Potts Jr. said. “I wish more people came out to our games. I love when the crowd gets rowdy! I kind of feed off that energy everyone gives me. They don’t come out unless there’s a prize or something. We’re a good team and I wish we had more support from the student body. It’s a lot of parents and alumni at our games and my team and I are grateful for their attendance. But the students see us everyday, we’re in class with them. What’s wrong with coming to a few home games?”

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