Women’s basketball deserves more support

By Gus Bode

College sports, particularly football and basketball, are known for their loyal and often rabid fans.

Students paint their entire faces with a school’s colors, paint slogans on their chests even in the worst of elements and generally threaten to bring down the mightiest of structures with ear-shattering roars of applause and cheers.

SIU is no stranger to such bizarre activities.

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The Dawg Pound likely strikes fear in opponents of the men’s basketball team. Fueled by ungodly amounts of Big Macs – which card-carrying members of the section receive with their membership card – the maniacal pound members rant and heckle the opposition unmercifully. They also support the Salukis with incredible fervor.

Go to a game and it is impossible to miss the Dawg Pound. Well, that is unless you go to an SIU women’s basketball game.

In the course of eight home games thus far, the Salukis are bringing in a paltry average of only 306 people. Oh wait, there is also .375 of a person on average. While 300 people may sound like a lot, compare it with Southwest Missouri State’s attendance and things make themselves apparent.

SMS, the Missouri Valley Conference leaders in women’s basketball, usually has around 6,000 to 8,000 people attend their home games. Granted, people often rally behind a team experiencing phenomenal success.

But teams that have faltered – like the Salukis in recent years – also need the kind of support only rabid, arguably insane fans can provide. Athletes don’t just win games for their reputations or to improve a record, but also to give back to those who follow them.

SIU head coach Dana Eikenberg said one of her goals as a first-year coach is to instill the sense of pride that brings fans into the games. Most often, this involves winning.

Unfortunately, the Salukis have done little of that this year. With a 2-14 record, SIU is burdened with the stigma of being the only team in the MVC without a conference victory.

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That almost changed Saturday afternoon in a heartbreaking loss to Evansville. In the 54-53 loss, the Salukis took the game down to the wire. Eikenberg credited the SIU fans with being a sixth person out on the court.

Although there were only around 250 people in the SIU Arena that afternoon, their passion for the women Salukis seemed much larger. Scrambling to their feet on several occasions and screaming wildly as the final minutes wore on, those few fans provided the Dawgs with something they haven’t gotten much of lately – support.

Why should a team have to win in order to get attention from the community it represents? Why aren’t more people venturing out to the SIU Arena when the women hit the court?

There is essentially no justifiable reason why more maroon isn’t showing up in the stands. Perhaps more support from students and the community would bolster the women Salukis. Maybe a Dawg Pound for them would give them the motivation to stay in a game when all seems lost.

The members of the Pound for the men’s team paid $10 for a T-shirt, rally towel and a card providing 99-cent Big Macs. Even if it takes a gimmick like a corporate sponsorship to get people to the women’s games, so be it. As long as people fill those usually vacant seats, the Salukis will see a different picture as they run onto the court.

But to be honest, cheap food shouldn’t be necessary. Those calling themselves Saluki fans shouldn’t pick and choose what teams to back.

Maroon is the color of every team at SIU, and there are no varying degrees of that hue. As such, there shouldn’t be a varying degree of support for the teams sporting the proud colors of the Salukis.

Reporter Gabe House can be reached at [email protected]

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