"'Big time,' big money, big problems"

UB Athletics seems determined to fill seats at games Ð at any cost

With barely recognizable opponents like Wheeling Jesuit and Montana State, it’s no surprise students aren’t turning out in droves to watch UB’s basketball team compete – even though the Bulls have been winning.

Because the excitement factor doesn’t seem sufficient, UB Athletics is upping its own game and offering financial incentives to students, but it won’t work.

UB is raffling off not only GoPros and Beats headphones, but also “tuition for the fall 2015 semester” in its latest attempt to lure students to athletic events – particularly those broadcast by ESPN.

It sounds a little like bribery, but even more so, this promotion reeks of desperation.

Athletic director Danny White appears determined – even desperate – to revamp UB Athletics’ image, to make the program a true “big time” competitor.

And to achieve that, UB needs to keep up with fellow Division-I schools like Ohio State and Duke, whose games are regularly broadcast on ESPN and feature shots of stands packed with screaming fans having the time of their lives.

Although UB’s basketball team is doing well this season, boasting a 13-6 record, students just aren’t flocking to the games.

That’s a problem, and Athletics is right to address it, but there are simpler – and cheaper – solutions than a master plan involving free tuition and expensive tech devices.

If students don’t want to come to the games, then UB shouldn’t be offering up thousands of dollars to change their minds. Instead, the athletics department should be improving the quality of the games to attract bigger crowds.

Students should come to events because they want to watch the game and cheer on their team, not because they might win a camera or a scholarship.

The basketball team is winning games, which is a great first step. Promoting exciting match-ups with fun gimmicks like blacking out the arena is smart as well.

But as The Spectrum has suggested time and time again, there’s a tried and true method to elevating the energy levels at a game and increasing attendance – alcohol. Many universities already sell alcohol at games, and UB needs to join their ranks.

Athletics is promoting a late night tailgate – with heated tents – for UB basketball’s match-up against Kent State, so there’s clearly an understanding that students want to drink.

Now, they should take it a step further.

Improving the game atmosphere, and developing attractions that will consistently draw students to games – rather than one-time events like blacking out the stands – is more straightforward, less costly and less desperate than high-stakes raffles.

Students should show up to games because they want to snag free T-shirts, not free cameras. Promotion is critical, but the Athletics Department should promote its hardworking athletes, not its expensive prizes.

After all, the real competition isn’t in the stands. It’s on the field and on the court.

And though encouraging students to attend basketball games is important, it’s not worth the thousands of dollars that could be more wisely spent elsewhere.

The priority should be supporting all of the school’s athletes – like baseball and tennis players who don’t have indoor facilities on campus.

Making it onto TV is great, but winning games is even better.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com