In case you haven’t heard, the North Carolina basketball program is pretty prestigious. Five National championships. Eighteen Final Fours. Seventeen ACC Tournament Titles. Twenty-eight regular season ACC titles. You get the picture.
The players are beloved by their fellow students. They are easily recognized around campus and are adored. Essentially, they’re celebrities (if not gods). Turns out these guys are really cool too.
The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about how the Tar Heel players have been playing pickup basketball all-around campus with those same students who paint their face and cheer on the team at the Dean Dome. And we’re not talking just one game to 5. The team said they’d play at “every residency hall that has a court with two backboards” and that games “usually last two hours.” Plus, they Tweet when and where they’re planning on playing to give students a heads up. Let me just be frank- that is AWESOME. These are future NBA first round picks! Can you imagine trying to guard Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland or Harrison Barnes? So much for letting their deity status go to their heads.
Which brings me to my alma mater, Boston College. BC hoops has a bit of an attendance problem currently and it’s been that way for the past couple of years. Besides games against the Tobacco Road tandem, empty seats are all around and the Conte Forum unfortunately lives up to its nickname – the “Conte Morgue.” I don’t know what’s worse: seeing the crowd in person or on TV.
There has been evidence in the past suggesting a correlation between game attendance and team success. Tourney teams are generally used to playing in front of good crowds. Poor teams, not so much. And the most disappointing group of fans in BC’s attendance numbers? The students. They barely show up! And this year their attendance was horrendous. Aside from ironically the UNC game, no more than a couple hundred students showed up to any game. This was a bubble NCAA Tournament team with new head coach Steve Donahue, a much more exciting brand of basketball, and an All-ACC star in Reggie Jackson. But it didn’t matter, Superfans were consistently no-shows.
It’s not like BC’s marketing department isn’t trying. BC held its first version of Midnight Madness this year and students’ inboxes are filled with deals to upcoming games. But maybe it’s something the players themselves have to do – use UNC’s playful pickup idea as a way of interacting with the students and building up their students. I’m sure the BC players might have to use other means of communication other than Twitter, but what if students knew that the BC players were taking on all challengers on Upper Campus’s outdoor court on a sunny day early next fall. And with the 2011-2012 Eagles, that might not be a far walk for most of the team. Maybe even have Donahue ref? Have a three-on-three tournament in the Plex?
Maybe players at basketball powerhouses can attract good crowds because they have a lot of fans already. And I know UNC’s players are doing this just for fun and not promotion. But BC has had problems attracting students and maybe just playing pickup with the some guys from CLXF and Fitzaga can help build a loyal student fanbase. It certainly can’t hurt.
What do you all think?