Column: It’s all in the game

By Gus Bode

If you were to ask students why they chose to attend SIU, I’m sure they would offer a variety of answers such as it’s affordable, it’s close to home or that they offer a specific major or program that they were interested in. All it took for me, on the other hand, was an SIU basketball game on TV.

To this day, I still think that the SIU-Hawaii Bracketbuster game that tipped off at 11:01 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2004 was one of the best games I have ever seen on TV in a long time. The game matched the 20th-ranked Salukis who had started the season 17-0 against a tough Hawaii team that sat atop of their conference with a 17-6 record.

Talk about a home court advantage. That night you could have matched the Dawg Pound up against any of our student counterparts from universities across the nation. You could tell the students were charged up for the nationally televised game on ESPN from the very beginning, and the best part of it was it never stopped. The whole game the announcers wouldn’t stop talking about what a great environment the SIU Arena had and how great the fans were in southern Illinois.


SIU went on to win the game 66-62 after being down three at halftime. The Salukis were led that night by Darren Brooks who had 18 points and three steals. The game also featured solid contributions as from current seniors Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum freshman. Tony had nine points and three steals and Jamaal chipped in with a 3-pointer and two steals.

I remember leaving my friend’s house that night thinking that SIU basketball was something special. The game was awesome, the fans were great and the atmosphere of the Arena that night was something that you don’t see at other universities.

The game I saw on ESPN that night was what made me seriously look into transferring here after I was done at community college back home. Prior to the game, I had never thought about SIU as one of my college choices and probably couldn’t have found Carbondale on an Illinois map. It took one visit about a month later and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to come to Southern.

If that game wouldn’t have been televised to a national audience that night, who knows where I would have been going to college right now, let alone graduating from as I plan to do this spring. I can’t help but think how many other students were sold on SIU the way that I was and how many others could be hooked into our university in similar ways.

Athletics is our bread and butter here at Southern Illinois University. We dominate the Gateway and Missouri Valley Conferences year in and year out. Several of our programs are nationally ranked. What better marketing tool can we ask for than to have the Salukis highlights on SportsCenter or games televised live on CBS? We are in a position that other schools can only dream about, so we need to be using every ounce of this exposure to our advantage to recruit new students.

We all know enrollment is down. We all know that SIU wants to get away from being a party school and become a top research institution. I think our academic goals for the university are great, but we need to realize that we aren’t quite there yet. I think the university is too focused on what we are trying to become and not focused enough on what we already have going for us. Successful athletic programs can be a great selling point for the university. I mean if all it took was one basketball game on TV to influence my college decision, I wonder how many other prospective students out there would buy into the program just like I did.

The game’s on the line and the ball is in your court SIU administrators, so put your game face on, run the offense and take it to the hoop and score so we can finally win the game against declining enrollment.


Fruth is a senior studying history.