The SIU Arena has proved to be very advantageous to the Salukis over the years, but it’s far from perfect. There are some things that could be done – some easier than others – to improve its home-court advantage and possibly give us the nation’s longest home-court winning streak.

By Gus Bode

SIU crowds are somewhat lethargic and cheerleaders aren’t doing much to improve this. It seems quite obvious that cheerleaders should be leading some cheers. But our cheerleaders rarely lead cheers, and they never do so during timeouts. Timeouts are when the crowd’s energy should be kept up and carried over to the rest of the game.

But this doesn’t happen at SIU games. The crowd relaxes and loses its energy during the timeouts while cheerleaders are doing their repetitive and mind-numbingly boring stunts or dances. And this isn’t a localized problem, according to Suzanne Martin, assistant director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

“Many cheerleaders are not leading cheers, they’re performing,” Martin said in an article in Education Week in 2000. “Performing is not what their objective should be, and it is not what the crowd wants.”


I’m not attempting to insult their performance skills, but they should be exciting and energizing the crowd, especially during timeouts late in close games. Signs could be used to incite the crowd, especially the old fogies in the chair seats who seem glued to their seats. What little cheerleading they do now seems hard to follow and directed only toward their corner of the arena. Much of the crowd is just waiting to be led in cheers for their Salukis, and our cheerleaders should be the ones to do that.

But fan indifference can’t be blamed only on cheerleaders. Fans should take note of head coach Bruce Weber’s style of play and cheer for defense rather than offense. Maybe it’s a carryover from the offensive-minded teams under former coach Rich Herrin, but whatever the problem, fans need to realize that noise is much more advantageous when the Salukis are on defense.

Another way to increase crowd noise and enthusiasm would be to make more seating in general admission. I’d like to see the entire arena made general admission, but we all know there’s no chance of that happening with the money that drives college athletics.

But we could at least have the bleacher seats be made general admission. Student seats will be general admission starting tonight. Why can’t we do this with all bleachers?

General admission seating makes sure the fans that are the most interested in the game get there first to claim seats closest to the action.

And a more long-term goal with seating should be to make our arena more like others. Most other colleges have their band and student seating areas placed next to the opponent’s bench.

We could place the benches on the opposite side of the court, so that the visiting bench faces where the SIU bench is now. If the visiting bench were placed on the northwest corner of the court, adjacent to the pep band, visiting team members would have to scream at each other over the music and the student section just to converse in their huddles.


This would also be favorable to students, as they would have many more opportunities to taunt Kyle Korver and other hated opponents.

The SIU Arena is also lacking in its presentation of history. SIU basketball has a very strong tradition over the years, but visitors hardly know it.

The newly hung banners are a start, but we shouldn’t stop there. Benton High School has three different Doug Collins jerseys. Why can’t we hang a Walt Frazier jersey or two?

But don’t stop there. Other than a few trophies hidden behind tables in the lobby, there isn’t much in the way of history. There should be newspaper clippings, old jerseys, photos and other information in those cases so that visitors can learn about some of the great teams and players in Saluki history.

The new banners are a definite improvement, but there should be individual banners for each NCAA team like the Sweet 16 banner commemorating last season’s success.

While SIU has a good home-court advantage now, the administration and fans should do everything in their power to improve that and make sure that Saluki basketball is known for its excellence for years to come.

Ethan is a senior in journalism. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Egyptian.