Then $10,000 was gone, just like that, drained into novelty checks to be dispensed at center court of the Liacouras Center during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Charlotte last Wednesday.
Lewis Katz, a 1963 Temple graduate and current Board of Trustees member, offered the money for the best student suggestions for a problem he would like solved, as The Temple News first reported in January. Why does Temple Athletics, among the most competitive in the nation, have such meager fan support?
“That’s the $5,000 question,” said Michael Reilly, a junior actuarial science major and one of the contest’s six finalists, describing the first-place prize. His suggestion, to create a one-credit seminar class for freshmen students on athletic enthusiasm, wasn’t the $5,000 answer, though, at least in the minds of the competition’s nine judges. Reilly received $500 and an honorable mention, as The Temple News reported last week.
First place and the big money went to Rachel Eschenbach, a senior sculpture major and herself an athlete whose sport is little appreciated among general fans. The fencer’s plan was a swipe card system that would allow students to earn points for attending athletic events. The points could be used for discounts for Temple merchandise.
But, if you pay someone to volunteer, it isn’t volunteering anymore. I don’t think we want that kind of fan at our games.
She further suggested that students get a bandanna when entering an athletic event, to wear around campus, in order to raise fan awareness.
“You could tie them to your backpack,” she told the crowd and panel of judges. “It would start a movement.”
Seems a stretch. What’s more is that she seemed to ignore bringing in alumni, a more consistent source of support than fickle students.
Beyond smaller sports like volleyball, field hockey, soccer and baseball, the last two of which play a 40-minute shuttle ride away in Ambler, the real focus is on attendance at football, men’s basketball and even, with its recent success and legend-in-the-making coach, women’s basketball. All of those three programs seem to be on the rise.
The issue goes beyond that, though. Temple is only now in extended pursuit of its alumni. For decades, we have lost connection with those who have walked North Broad Street before us. They won’t be fighting over seats in the Liacouras Center just yet. Because of that, more than most schools, Temple needs to win. Student turnout is hot and cold, but graduates should be a steadier pool of viewers. We are suddenly asking for friendship with past Owls, so we have to give them something in return, like pride with victory.
So, it was either patently ironic or distressing that Katz, who is by all accounts an important and busy man, couldn’t be in attendance himself at the finals of his event, meant to increase attendance. He is just one of Temple’s 240,000 alumni in the region who had something else to do.
Christopher Wink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.