By Chris Derrett
Jan. 29 was a sad day for Baylor basketball. I’m not talking about the scoreboard, which showed a 70-66 win over Colorado, nor am I talking about how the Bears’ 17-point comeback transpired on the court.
I’m talking about the black-and-gold striped individuals cheering on the Bears, or more specifically, the lack thereof, at the Ferrell Center that day.
We’ve had letters to the editor earlier this week about overall student basketball game attendance, but I’m specifically calling out the students who signed up for the student organization whose soul purpose is showing up and being loud.
A proud member of the Bear Pit when I’m not covering the men’s games for the Lariat, I love everything the Bear Pit stands for. As a sports fan, few feelings of euphoria match that of going ballistic after a huge win, like the 80-78 victory I witnessed in Austin last year with the Pit.
The display I saw against Colorado was deflating. It was so bad that Internet message board posters were able to count the Bear Pit members one by one, a paltry 51. In one of the three sections designated for the Bear Pit, each using a quarter of the space on the arena floor behind the baskets, there were five fans.
The Buffaloes came in like they owned the place, and they had every reason to do so. In the eerily silent Ferrell Center, they jumped out to a 35-21 lead by halftime.
After lamenting the fact that the Bear Pit did so little to defend Baylor’s home floor, very important given the winning percentage of home teams in Big 12 games (nearly 70 percent) and the Bears’ desperate need for conference wins, I tried to figure out where the problem was.
There’s not much more the Bear Pit officers can do to publicize their organization. The deal the group offers isn’t bad, either, totaling $35 over four years. Game tickets are also free as always.
Baylor doesn’t make much effort other than a few short weekly e-mails, and some fliers around campus. But still, students would have to make an incredible effort to not know it’s basketball season, and finding tipoff times is as easy as updating a Facebook status.
This all leaves us with the same question: Why has Bear Pit attendance been so generally low at men’s basketball games?
A lot of people point to the product on the court. Even coach Scott Drew and the players admit the turnovers and sloppy play have been frustrating at times. Against Colorado, the crowd even booed the Bears when they conceded back-to-back offensive rebounds that led to an easy layup.
Maybe, as a school, we just don’t generally have a big sports following. I’ve loved sports since my childhood, but I didn’t sign up for Baylor thinking about the athletic excellence I would get to watch on the field/court. I don’t think much of my fellow class of 2012 thought much it, either, in choosing Baylor.
But fans in general have shown they appreciate success, as evidenced by the 7,832 average Ferrell Center crowd for the No. 3 ranked Lady Bears against conference opponents.
Earlier in the season, the turnout for the men’s conference opener against Oklahoma was high both in the student section seats and the Bear Pit.
Simply put, we’ve shown the capability to fill the Ferrell Center with students.
One of two things will happen Saturday when ESPN visits Waco to broadcast the Bears’ matchup with Texas. Either it’ll look like every other ESPN Saturday night game, with students visible as far as the camera can reach, or we’ll have three rows of Bear Pit members in each section and ugly, empty risers behind them.
I think we’re better than that.
Chris Derrett is a junior from Katy and is a journalism major.