Lack of Madness no help to AU
Going into my third year at AU as a student-athlete, I have noticed a distinct difference between a real Div. I university and our Div. 1 university.
At most schools, like University of Maryland at College Park, fans (students, alumni and locals) flock to Midnight Madness in mid-October to cheer on their basketball team during its first practice of the season. This event, held at 12:01 a.m., pleases fans and attracts advertisers for the season and is more of a promotional pep-rally for the program than a practice.
During my freshman year at AU, without an athletic director, I was one of many that attended the highly energized and entertaining Midnight Madness. That event misled me to believe that AU was a fun athletic college whose events would be comparable to that of large universities.
Last year, under direction of former Athletic Director Tom George, AU had an event called "Bender Madness" to replace Midnight Madness. This lifeless event featured snow cones and games that would usually be enjoyed at a 10-year-old's birthday party, and lacked any presence of an athletic team.
After last year's failure, I thought AU would go back to the original, fan-happy madness, but instead, again without any leadership, the event was cancelled altogether.
This pattern of the Athletics Department not supporting or successfully promoting AU teams (that have put up 13 Patriot League titles and numerous NCAA Tournament berths over the past two years) can be best explained by our Homecoming celebration.
It is hard to feel enthusiastic about Homecoming when the main event is soccer and not the traditional football game. Every year we suffer through images on television of schools like Ohio State and University of Michigan having huge parades followed by a football game attended by thousands within the stadium and thousands more partying in the parking lot.
If we try to compare these images of fun schools to our University it only makes us more depressed as fans, knowing that we have good teams that can compete with these huge schools, but just no way to express it. I'm sorry - a parade with golf carts, a barbecue that students have to pay $10 to attend, and a soccer game being the only events in Homecoming are not geared toward students or alumni.
AU was successful in getting a record number of more than 850 alumni to come to Homecoming this year, but I wonder how many of them are turned off from coming back again. In another sense, the current AU student is being discouraged from coming back for their Homecoming or even contributing money in the future due to the lack of planning of these events that are supposed to foster school spirit and fun.
This attitude of not putting much effort toward making AU a fun athletic university has affected students attitudes toward supporting sports programs (creating low attendance for home games), and the student-athletes of very successful programs like field hockey, cross-country and tennis. These athletes get depressed because the only attendance they receive is from parents and other athletes.
These events are only a result of paradox between a Div. I college with a small student body, and an athletic department that has such high goals in academic and athletic performance but has not had an athletic director for the beginning of two of the past three years.
The lack of leadership in the Athletics Department has led to poorly planned events without any emphasis on fun or school pride, leading students to not care for any sports other than Men's Basketball and robbing them of any probable school spirit.