We Have Spirit—DU?

University of Denver Cheerleaders attempt to rally support for DU Basketball Players

Every year, hundreds of talented athletes come to The University of Denver to become Denver Pioneers, and it’s easy to see why. Over the years, DU athletes have won 26 NCAA National Championships, 100 Individual National Championships, appeared at 92 NCAA Tournaments, attended 33 Conference Championships, earned 36 Conference Coach of the Year honors and 3 National Coach of the Year honors, had 265 All-Americans, had 377 All-Conference honors, and had 53 Olympians and 1 Hobey Baker Award winner. If that’s not enough, we have some of the best sports facilities around.

Even if you are not an athlete, school spirit is essential on all college campuses. Sports bring students with different interests, friends, and majors together, and give us a better sense of belonging, unity and community on campus.

One would think that these impressive statistics and DU’s incredible state-of-the-art facilities would draw hundreds of undergraduate students to sporting events that take place on campus each week. In addition, all sports facilities are well within walking distance for students living in the resident halls, and most games are free for students to attend with their student ID card; DU even bribes students with free gear and other prizes through a variety of incentive programs. Plenty of alumni and community members attend sporting events loyally. However, at the University of Denver, on any given game day, there is always plenty of room in the student section.

So why does DU struggle to draw students to sporting events?

USG President Sam Gerk and Vice President Olivia Hails have made it their mission to increase student attendance at sporting events. They have targeted what they believe to be the main reasons students do not attend sporting events, and come up with several issues that they hope to solve.

Community Standards and Underage Drinking at DU sponsored Events

“It’s sad—but students want to tailgate their way, and this includes drinking. Students want to be able to socialize with their friends before games, but fear harsh punishments for underage drinking enforced by the community standards board. Students know that the punishment is not worth the risk, so in the end they just don’t go” explains Hails.

Underage drinking is not an issue administration is willing to overlook to increase student attendance at sporting events for obvious reasons, but Gerk and Hails are working to make tailgates more student-friendly. One way they are doing so is by allowing students to tailgate out of their own vehicles so they can park next to friends and socialize with whom they want.

Student Organizations Role

“I am on the board of DUPB, a member of STD, and in a sorority on campus, so I’m pretty involved. I attend some sporting events, but not a lot. My friends go about as much as I do, which isn’t very often,” says Anna Farnsworth, a senior at DU.

“If there were a group of us, say girls in my sorority going, I would definatly be more likely to go with them.”

Hails says USG has made a great effort to get student organizations on campus involved in the tailgates as much as possible. For example, DUGS, the University of Denver Grilling Society, has been brought in to cater the tailgates. Members of the Greek Community are encouraged to attend and wear their letters to promote Greek life on campus, and other student organizations are given tables and tents to promote themselves to other students.

“Student Spirit initiative Committee”

A DU student takes a shot at half time in hopes of winning a prize

Senior Annie Daniel admits that she too rarely attends sporting events, but the reason she doesn’t is quite simple:

“I just never know when they are. I feel like they aren’t well advertised.”

And like many things in college, a lot of what she does in her free time has to do with what her peers are doing.

“My friends never know either so we don’t plan to go to games together. I’m not going to go alone…what if I go and don’t know anyone?”

The lack of communication between the students and USG and the DU Athletics Administrative Board is a major issue. One large step that Hails and Gerk have taken is by forming a partnership with the Assistant AD of In-Event Production and Strategic Partnerships, Angel Field, to form the new “Student Spirit initiative Committee”. This student-run committee will help encourage non-student athletes to become more involved in the athletic community, and help to bridge the gap between the Athletic Administration and the students.

Going Straight to the Source

USG is trying hard to get to the bottom of these issues in a way that administration has failed to do in the past and go directly to the source—the students themselves.

“We have been reaching out to get student input by doing this such as visiting resident halls, taking with students and actually listening to their suggestions and trying to work with them. We are trying to figure out what we need to do to get them motivated”
says Hails.

They hope that by listening to student suggestions and taking action to make these suggestions reality for students will be enough to motivate students to regularly attend sporting events and increase overall Pioneer Spirit.

One Response to We Have Spirit—DU?

  • shoad
    shoad says:

    I really thought this story was relevant to colleges like DU that aren’t big Division I sports schools. It’s interesting to hear why people don’t want to go, and even more important to hear about student initiatives to address the issue.

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