Fans need a place to call home

Philip Consuegra

I was looking around the Wachovia Center this past Saturday afternoon about six or seven minutes into the game, and I noticed something more frightening than the loss our Wildcats took. At the highly touted game between Syracuse and Villanova, a game that was sold out, an event that attracted the largest crowd for a basketball game in the history of Pennsylvania, a home game for Villanova, it wasn’t the home team with the majority of fans in attendance.

Instead, what I saw was more like a neutral site, if anything. The percentage of Syracuse fans to Villanova fans was, at best, 60-40. The Orange outcheered, outmanned and intimidated the Wildcat fans.

I’m going to be quite frank with the Athletics Department here. Really, really frank. So frank it’s going to make them uncomfortable.

To make my claim nice and short, what I saw at the Wachovia Center this weekend was one of the most disgusting sights I have ever seen in my life, and I’m not talking about the game. I can handle a loss from a team like Syracuse.

I’m sure the bigwigs over at the Pavilion were licking their chops when they saw that the game was sold out. I’m sure they’ll have a celebration because they sold out the Wachovia Center. I’m sure they know exactly what to do with all that gate money, and they’ve probably already spent it in their minds.

And why shouldn’t they? They’ve already sold out the student body. They’ve sold out the Villanova fans. But more importantly, they’ve sold out the very spirit of Villanova.

We come to Villanova because we appreciate the smaller community, a place where you’re not a number. Tours to prospective students are given each day, proclaiming how close-knit we are, how our small but passionate community is the best in the country.

But what do we show to the rest of the nation? What do people see on national TV when they tune in to a game like Saturday’s at the Wachovia Center, when Villanova fans are outnumbered during a home game? Do we show them how proud we are of our campus and our students? Or do we show, in reality, how much we just want the money?

I’m sure I’m not the only student who thinks the Wachovia Center is a despicable place to watch college basketball. College basketball, outside of the tournament, wasn’t meant to be played in places like the Wachovia Center. It’s a fleecing of college life to play in a place like that. I’m sure I’m not the only student who has witnessed the ushers at the arena be completely rude and inconsiderate to the student section. I’m sure I’m not the only student who hates to pay money, in addition to the money we already pay in tuition, to get down to a home basketball game that is played 30 minutes away.

But the bigwigs over in Athletics don’t sit in the student section. They don’t see how students can’t sit with their friends without being dishonest. More and more, I’m beginning to think that they just don’t care about it. Why should they? As long as they’re seeing dollar signs, it’s not a big deal. After all, the bottom line is the only one that counts.

They’ve made excuses. They’ve said that big time teams won’t play us unless we play in the Wachovia Center.

Well, fans, I don’t believe that for a minute.

Kansas plays in an arena that holds 16,000. They have an enrollment of 20,000 students. We have an arena that holds 6500. We have an enrollment of 6600. For the size of our school, our arena seats a sufficient amount of fans. Call me crazy, but with a good team, people will play us in the Pavilion.

So what do we do to fix this little problem of ours? Besides a huge attitude change over in the Athletics Office, we need one of a few things. First, if we must play in the Wachovia Center, the student sections should be General Admission, first come, first served. If you get to the arena an hour and a half before the game, you should be able to: 1) sit with your friends and 2) sit close to the court. A friend of mine was kicked out of the student section and forced to sit in the upper deck, the only Villanova fan in a sea of orange shirts.

Second, I hate to say it, but we need a new arena. Badly. The Pavilion has bad acoustics, and it’s not a good place to watch basketball. If we play in the Pavilion, the students need to sit around the court, not behind a basket. Watch Duke. Watch Michigan. Watch Maryland. I could keep going, but my point is that they all have the students sitting around the court, making all these venues tough to play in. They all put their students, the life force of any university, first.

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski once said of the students at Duke home games, “In truth, the students are a part of our team. They are our sixth man.” I’m sure if you asked Villanova Coach Jay Wright or any of the players on the Wildcats team, they’d say the same about us. They’d tell you how much they get lifted by our enthusiasm and passion for Villanova basketball. They’ve said they don’t like playing the Wachovia Center, but we all know how well Athletics listens.

I’ve tried to accept the Wachovia Center as a necessary evil. I’ve tried to accept that the ushers are “just doing their jobs” when they’re impolite and rude to students. I’ve sat idly by, understanding that we don’t want to go to the Wachovia Center, and they don’t want us there either.

But enough is enough. When we get outcheered and intimidated by our visiting fans, it’s too much to take. It’s high time the bigwigs at the Pavilion take a long look at what we value as a community and as a school. It’s high time they listen to the pulse of the campus. It’s high time they realize that a home game should be exactly that: a home game.

Until then we’ll still be outnumbered in what we call “our house.”