100 years of Mount Royal, but still no sports loyalty
by Bryce Forbes
In a school of 13,000 students and a city of a million people, why does Mount Royal have trouble drawing fans to its sports games?
It doesn’t matter if it’s basketball, volleyball or even hockey, players still compete in front of crowds that average between 100 for women’s hockey up to 400 for men’s basketball.
Players feed off the energy from the crowd. Men’s basketball guard Jerome Makasiar points to a Jan. 14 contest against Kings University College as one of those games.
“It was packed in the stands. It was our first game back after the break and we all played very well,” said Makasiar of the Cougars’ 108-69 domination.
But for some Cougars’ events, they play in front of small crowds. It’s not just Mount Royal either, as Makasiar played for both NAIT and SAIT in front of similar crowds. He said the crowds are typically composed of students, parents, friends and fans from the community. Playing on campus helps the turnout from students living in residence taking in the action.
When you look at college sports down in the United States, it is often a completely different story. I spent last semester down at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, a town of around 65,000 that inflates to 90,000 during the school year. Athletes, especially football players, are treated like gods on the campus. In a city of 90,000 people, they somehow manage to sell out a stadium of 70,585 with thousands of other screaming fans still tailgating outside or down a few blocks in the bars.
It’s not only football that brings in the fans. The Carver-Hawkeye Arena holds 15,500 and while it doesn’t sell out, there are still a few thousand diehard fans at nearly event.
Some might point to the fact Iowa City doesn’t have a professional sports team as to why they can bring in so many fans. But what matters is students are proud of where they go to school.
Can you say the same?
“The reasons (U.S. college athletics are successful) are regional, historical and economic,” said Dave Schwartz, sports journalism professor from the University of Iowa in an email. “The roots of devotion to a college can run centuries deep. Harvard and Yale began playing each other in football in 1875, for example.
“Fans are invested emotionally. The Los Angeles Lakers began as the Minneapolis Lakers, the Calgary Flames began as the Atlanta Flames, and the Kansas City Chiefs began as the Dallas Texans, but the University of Michigan has always been the University of Michigan,” he continued.
“Tradition breeds loyalty. Plus, college sports are fun. It’s entertainment. When you combine history, loyalty, entertainment and the ever-growing American media machine, you get what has become the modern landscape of American college sports.”
On the other hand, it’s harder to pinpoint the exact reason fans don’t come to the Cougars’ games.
“We’ve found that one of the major challenges in the past has been with students spending short amounts of time at Mount Royal,” said Heather Szpecht, marketing coordinator for the Cougars in an email. “Students enrolled in degree transfer, diploma and other similar programs were only spending one to two years on campus, and we found they weren’t getting invested in the Cougars.
“We also find that in a large sports market like Calgary, there are lots of options that compete for fans’ attention, including professional sports teams, club teams and teams at other post-secondary institutions, including the University of Calgary Dinos and the SAIT Trojans,” she continued.
So fellow students, with only a few months left in the school year, try to take in a Cougars’ game.
Show your pride.