fanatic for Saluki football

By Gus Bode

Winning season helping to boost attendance and pride among fans, alumni and faculty

Almost every SIUC student and community member has hopped on the bandwagon of the Saluki football team. But not all of them are riding the wagon to home games.

Some students such as Darren Ellison admitted being guilty of hopping on the wagon. He said that although the team has caught his attention and he has kept up with its progress, he does not often attend games.

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While Dan Beguin has attended every home game, he said his record of perfect attendance could be partially attributed to the fact that he works in the stadium. Otherwise, he could only promise he “would probably go.”

The Salukis, who have had a less-than-stellar past, are 10-0 this season and ranked No. 2 in the nation. While the Dawgs’ marked improvement has not encouraged everyone to attend games, attendance has significantly increased.

Amanda Judkins said that although she is dedicated enough this season to attend the games “even if it’s snowing outside,” prior to this year, she simply kept up with the team through reading about it in the paper.

But like any team, the Salukis have their fair-weather fans.

Larry Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, said that while being undefeated alone is not quite enough to cause an enrollment increase, the feat may lead to a boost in the number of applications to the University.

More so than increasing interest in SIU, however, Dietz said he is simply gratified to see the team and its coaches experiencing the season they deserve.

“Early on, Coach [Jerry] Kill brought in some solid young men with the strong characteristics and ability an athlete should have,” Dietz said. “I knew that if they reached down and tried harder they would do better and succeed.

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“He also inherited some good players and it’s good to see him reaping on the harvest he sowed three years ago.”

Most students agree that the team will conquer Northern Iowa and end the season undefeated. However, this is not enough to bring even those fans who make it as far as the parking lot tailgate functions but never quite make it into the actual game.

“I’m always at the tailgate rooting for the team,” said Chuck Stoffel, a senior in marketing from Mundelein. “I made it in to watch two games, but mostly I just watch the game from the parking lot. I can see the score from there.”

While in previous years, tailgating seemed the popular if not the preferred alternative to games, this year has certainly been different for the team. Though some fans such as Stoffel do not consider game attendance a requirement of fans, many students are taking it upon themselves to show their support from the stands, something players have noticed.

“It’s good to see people here in the stands,” said junior right tackle Brian Akins, who has been on the team since 2000. “It’s good to have people come out to cheer and support us.”

As far as next year and expectations for next season, Akins said everyone would simply wait and see. With many of the Salukis’ top players being seniors, there is some concern this season may not be a sample of those to come.

‘If we have a good season next year, we’ll gain the respect we deserved this year. Otherwise, it’s going to be looked at as Cinderella season,” said Greg Pangarzio, a senior in electrical engineering from Wauconda. “It’s great that we’re conference champs, but I don’t really care about championships and polls. Those are just a popularity contests anyway. It’s good enough for me just to come and see good football.”

Though both Pangarzio and Dietz have both regularly attended games while at SIUC, they are not upset by the presence of fair-weather fans. Pangarzio said he was thankful to have others in the stands cheering with him. Dietz shared this sentiment, saying that while the great season was much deserved by players and coaches, it is also great for fans.

“It’s great to see all the alums, family and friends out their taking pride in the team.”

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