Hi, I’m second-year sports editor Jack Dorfman. In this column, I’ll take a timeout from discussing specific UC San Diego coaches and student-athletes and instead tackle topics related to sports more broadly, whether at UCSD or within professional leagues.
UC San Diego started classes in the final week of September. Games started in late August and through September. While this helps players get acclimated to the grind of the season — most of which will occur during the academic year — it is less than ideal to have games start before students are back on campus because you miss out on a lot of your fan base.
But now that the first full week of class is over, students are back on campus, and they’re also back in their seats at RIMAC Arena, RIMAC Field, and Canyonview Aquatic Center.
Students have embraced their fall sports early on this season, which gives me hope that they’ll keep showing up throughout the fall and for the winter and spring sports as well. Part of the reason fans are showing up is that it’s the beginning of the year, and sporting events are fun places to go out and meet people while connecting to the campus in a slightly more intimate way.
But in my limited time at UCSD, I’ve seen that early-season attendance usually tapers off, even when the playoffs pick up and the team needs all the extra motivation they can get from the crowd.
Why aren’t students continuing to show up after the first few weeks? Are classes too hard? That doesn’t stop students at other University of California schools and at other prestigious institutions across the country from packing student sections full of people ready to let off some steam. Are students going to other events that keep their nights busy? No offense to the student body, but probably not at UCSD.
So what’s the reason? Are students simply not interested in Triton sports? And is that due to a lack of awareness or a bad fan experience or even a lack of winning?
Probably neither. For every game where students show up in droves to RIMAC for Spirit Nights or home openers, free T-shirts are flung into the crowd and the Jumbotron shows fired-up fans dancing across the arena. The school is doing a good job of giving people a reason to go to the game, and so are the players. UCSD’s teams are winning more now than they have in a long time.
How do we convince students that these games and their fandoms are worth the time and energy though? Maybe going Division I across the board can help with this, but there still seems to be a cultural cloud hovering over sports on campus that keeps people from showing up.
Hopefully, a few students read this column, go to a game, and have an awesome time watching the Tritons win an overtime thriller at RIMAC Field. Or maybe they’ll head over to the pool and watch water polo continue their meteoric rise into the upper echelon of NCAA Division-I competition.
No matter what game students see, they’ll get a good experience, brought to them by a large group of student-athletes, coaches, cheerleaders, band members, and more, who all want to see fans in the seats and smiles on their faces.