Cause Without Applause

Just like many other students at Colgate, I participate in a lot of extra-curricular activities. One of them is tour guiding. I love talking about Colgate, so why not tell prospective students about my experiences here? On every tour, I make sure to brag about Colgate’s Division-I sports, how we went to the Division I-AA championship in 2003, played UNH on ESPN2 last winter, our girls basketball team went to “the dance” in 2003, our championship girls lacrosse team, and so on. If you haven’t noticed yet, Colgate dominates the Patriot League, with all of our teams either at the top of the league, or in the top few.

Regardless of those facts, it seems like students at Colgate don’t really care, or at least that’s the message they give. For a school with 2,800 students, the attendance at sports games is atrocious. Out of the 326 teams in Division-I basketball, only Nichols State, and St. Francis (NY), had a worse average attendance than Colgate in 2006 (NCAA). We averaged only 522 people per home game last year. That includes everyone, not just students, and I know for a fact that the great majority of that attendance is made up of locals. At football games, it’s even worse. Many of the fraternities and sororities set up tailgates and hang out before the game, but yet seem to disappear before the game is over. Most of the students who do come leave before the start of the 2nd half, and very few stay to the end. I’ve never seen Madison Square Garden empty out before the end of a Knicks game. I’ve never seen Giants Stadium empty out before the end of a Giants game.

In my opinion, it has gotten to the point where it’s just downright disrespectful. Being a small school with a large Division-I sports program, about 22-24% of students at Colgate are varsity athletes. Odds are that you take classes with athletes, live with them in your dorm, and run into them pretty much all the time. You’re certainly going to know varsity athletes at Colgate. On the flip-side, I’m sure many students are also involved in their own activities, such as singing in an a capella group, fundraising, or running lectures for a political or cultural group. I’m sure those students expect many people to come to their events, including athletes. On game day, however, those students don’t show up to sports games. If you don’t go to any basketball games, football games, soccer games, whatever…why would you expect any athletes to show up at the events you run?

I don’t think students realize what it means to be a Division-I varsity athlete. This isn’t an extra-curricular activity; it’s a full-time job. Athletes spend the first part of their day in class like the rest of us, go to practice for two to three hours, eat dinner, and then have to do the same homework as the rest of us while they are still sore and exhausted from practice. This doesn’t include the countless days and hours spent traveling to away games. Athletes give up their seasonal breaks, dedicate their free time, and are expected to do the same amount of school work as the rest of us.

Finally, these athletes sacrifice their bodies for Colgate. I shiver when I hear about the injuries that they suffer out on the field. One of my close friends has torn ligaments in his foot, making it hard for him to walk. Stan Dakosty ’05 had three surgeries on his right ACL. Kelly Niland ’07 tore her ACL before her junior year and went to every practice and every away game to watch her teammates play without her.

These athletes do what they do because they love playing, but also because they love their school. They sacrifice so much of their own lives so you can have pride in your school. How can you say that you support Colgate athletics and take pride in your school if you don’t go to sports games? It’s disrespectful to your school and to your classmates.

This Saturday is the first home football game. Roll out of bed before game time, get down to the field, and cheer your school on. Don’t do it because I told you to and don’t do it because “it’s what everyone else is doing.” Do it because you should and want to. I’ll see you at the game. Go ‘gate!