Florida State is a football school. I know that. My friends know that. Jon Snow knows that. But that shouldn’t stop us from being a basketball school too.
With apologies to our many, many, many other extremely successful athletic teams on campus, realistically, the only collegiate sports that garner more than a passing glance of attention from the media are football and basketball. And while our football team is consistently one of the most prominent, successful and nationally ranked programs in the country, our basketball team languishes in the shadows. Why is that?
There are numerous plausible explanations: coaching, recruiting and tradition just to name a few. So where does a basketball school begin? I would suggest with atmosphere. Picture an October Saturday at Doak. The stands full of tomahawk chopping, chanting, cheering, delirious frenzy. Some of the proudest and rowdiest fandom in all of football.
Now picture our basketball team on the road at Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse or Louisville. These teams are the stuff of legendary rivalries and traditions. When you turn on games featuring these teams the excitement and passion from the crowd is immediately evident. When we travel to Durham, the Cameron Crazies do everything but jump through the TV screen themselves. The Duke fans are on the court screaming, cheering and jumping up and down for the games full 40 minutes in an infectious and wild fervor. When Duke visits Tallahassee, almost none of that is represented. At least, not on the TV screen. The Tucker Center can get quite rowdy, but unless you were there, you probably wouldn’t know. That’s partly because our student section is located way off the court, mostly behind the basket and in the upper decks of the stadium. This placement makes almost no sense whatsoever.
Almost every prominent college basketball team has their students as close to the court as possible, due to them being the rowdiest and loudest people in the arena. An extremely simple change would be to move them to right on one of the sidelines and leave the other open for the general public. Our arena is huge and we rarely if ever sell out games, so this would not be a burden on the average paying fan whatsoever. In addition, we should also switch the fan and band sections, providing an intimidating presence right behind the basket. Foul shot intimidation tactics are a staple of college basketball tradition. Just look at Arizona State, where Michael Phelps once came out from behind the basket dancing in a Speedo. While we might not always have a spare Olympian on hand, Average Joe’s in Speedos or Boris Bojanovsky cutouts or Seminole voodoo rituals could all do the trick.
We have a very creative student body. This year’s Bacon Boys illustrated this well. Just imagine what kind of chaos loyal fans like them could do if offered the resources to make a trip to Tallahassee a truly fearful one. Unfortunately, our completely illogical student positioning makes this impossible. Without good seating, there is little incentive for our students to go crazy during games, and with it, our home court advantage declines significantly. If our university truly cares about developing an environment for a winning team to develop in, fostering an infectious atmosphere is an extremely simple and effective way to start. Not only will it create a hostile and intimidating environment to play in, but it will do wonders to boosting our national exposure and pedigree. With more recognition comes more merchandise sold, more conversation on ESPN, and more talented recruits watching our games. Building a winning culture is not a one step process, but changing the seating setup would really get the ball rolling.
By CHASE SPINELLI / Contributing Writer