Support Staggers for UA Olympic Sports
For two weeks every four years, the entire world gathers to compete in sports that are rarely spoken of any other time. NBC’s primetime coverage averaged over 30 million viewers every night. Shortly after the closing ceremonies, we immerse ourselves in major league pennant races and the start of football season, leaving the swimmers and gymnasts to train in anonymity for four long years
All of the Razorback fans that I have met will take pride in anything Arkansas. Most of us would approve of hot dog eating as an NCAA sponsored sport if we thought we could beat Alabama. Arkansas was the only Division I program to rank in the top 25 nationally in home attendance for football, men’s basketball and baseball.
If we love swimming and we love the Razorbacks, why would 90 percent of us have an incredibly difficult time naming a single member of the Razorback swimming team? As a junior last season, Chelsea Franklin was named an All-American for the second straight year. The last Razorback football player to be named an All-American in back to back seasons was Shawn Andrews in 2002 and 2003.
When the Razorback baseball team made its run through Omaha, Twitter was abuzz with constant support for the team. However, it might have been easier to find a needle in a haystack than it was to find a tweet about the gymnastics team when they made it into the Super Six.
When football recruits attended the basketball game against Michigan, Bud Walton sold out. The gymnastics team celebrated the 10th anniversary of the program in front of a record crowd of 5,537. This is nothing to turn your nose up at, but the meet was the night before the game against Michigan. Obviously, there were many more people in town that could have celebrated a record breaking win over LSU.
I am starting to feel a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black. If I’m being completely honest, that is the only gymnastics meet I attended last year. I’m not really sure why. It’s obviously not because I don’t like the sports. I just spent two weeks on the couch watching gymnastics, swimming and volleyball for hours on end. Whatever the reason, this is a problem that can and should be fixed.
All fans claim to want a successful athletic department, but we only want to attend the games of two or three programs. Some people may think it does not matter if they go, because, as students, we don’t have to pay for most sporting events. Therefore, the program gets no monetary benefit, but it is no secret that a supportive crowd elevates the level of competition of most athletes.
“One of the reasons we were so successful this year was our fans and how they supported us,” Robert Pulliza, head coach of the Razorback volleyball team, said. “When Barnhill Arena is rocking, it becomes a very special place for us to play and a very difficult place for our opponent.”
Many of the Razorback athletic programs return multiple starters and are looking to have even better seasons this year than last.
“With the group of players we have left, which is the majority of our roster, we’re going to spend the offseason talking about our mentality and how to overcome that, and to make sure we leave that in the past,” head soccer coach Erin Aubrey said.
I think that we, as fans, should try to do the same thing. We need to overcome the mentality that the “big three” are the only sports that matter. With the growth of the university there are more students on campus now than there ever have been. There is no reason that we shouldn’t be breaking attendance records during all of the sports seasons.
Haley Markle is the assistant sports editor for The Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every Monday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.