I’ve received several e-mails this week regarding the column I wrote after basically no one … well, just 1,596 showed up … to see the Fairfield men’s basketball team defeat Marist to clinch its first outright MAAC regular season championship since the 1985-86 season – 25 years ago – at the Webster Bank Arena.
Several of those e-mails were in agreement with the feeling that the student turnout was horrible and aside from the Iona game, has basically been terrible all season. Others were upset that I also singled out the Fairfield “die-hards” in that brush stroke of disappointment. Some of those long-time Fairfield fans said that they were at the game. Point taken. I apologize for that.
But there isn’t any excuse for this lack of student turnout. None. I’m sorry, but don’t say it was because Marist stunk or it was a Wednesday night or that you had to watch TV or go bowling or anything like that. Head coach Ed Cooley and the team deserves the support of its student body. Period. Nothing anyone can say will change my mind about that.
Roy Brown, the head of marketing at Fairfield, has busted his butt to try and make it easy for students to get to and from the game. There are free buses, free t-shirts, free food vouchers. What more do these kids want?
This team is 22-5 and to look up at all those empty sections in the Arena and to see all those empty seats in the new section that Gene Doris finally got the Arena to set up behind the basket, it’s EMBARRASSING!!
And don’t blame the Connecticut Post for its coverage. I have written columns this season about Fred Barakat, Greg Nero, Derek Needham, the Connecticut 6, the Sacred Heart game and the Loyola game (ripping Patsos), among others. I have gone on the road to Rutgers and Manhattan to write game stories and have been to 15 of the Stags games so far this season. And Bill Paxton has covered every home game except one (Army on New Year’s Eve)
The Post has also written a MAAC preview story, a Taryn Johnson feature, we did a game story on the women versus Marist… Yes, we should do more of Joe Frager’s team, I agree, but the coverage on this year’s Fairfield team is probably better than it’s been in several years.
It’s not our fault that the students don’t show up. But if I can light a fire under some of them to try and make them show up and support their basketball teams, then so be it.
As for those e-mails:
Here’s one from Henry,
I agree with your article entitled: “ELSBERRY On historic night, Stags crowd an embarrassment,” except for one thing. Your inclusion of the diehards in your scathing remarks was totally out of line. We diehards were at the game. I am a major contributor to the FU basketball blog. The bloggers are very disturbed by your inclusion of them in your comments. If you read the blog, you already know this. You were totally out of line and owe the diehards an apology!!!
It’s funny how the school hands out shirts to the kids that say “Fear the Deer”. Perhaps they should print some that say “Where’s the Deer.” Kidding aside, did you ever stop to think about how the school has changed over the years? In the past, Fairfield’s student body (which had been all male), was still dominated by men, while today the student body is 60 percent female. There was a time when students were playing basketball on every available court on campus (inside and out) and you had to wait for “next”. Walk around campus now and tell me what you see?
I enjoyed your article about Fairfield University basketball and Webster Bank Arena. If you have visited the campus, as I have with students from my school, and viewed the student body, you would quickly see that these are the most “perfect” looking kids on a college campus, with plenty of financial backing from parents in the tri-state area. It’s a lot different from the Fairfield University that I knew growing up in the 60′s, when my mother worked as the secretary in the Campus Center. These are not the type of students who are going to venture into downtown Bridgeport on a winter night in the middle of the week. I think this fact has been proven over the years since Fairfield started playing in Bridgeport. Fairfield University officials refuse to admit that they’ve made a mistake in playing at Harbor Yard. You might have tied in a bit of history in your article, since Fairfield honored Fred Barakat on Saturday at the Austin Peay game. Ironically, one of the reasons that Barakat left Fairfield in the early 1980′s was the lack of support from the university in building an on-campus facility to play their basketball games. He had come off several successful seasons as the Stags coach, and it was the perfect time to build a field house. But, the Fairfield hierarchy did not support it. Ed Cooley is seeing for himself that this Webster Bank Arena arrangement is not working, and it will ultimately lead to him leaving for greener pastures, like Fred Barakat did.
And Kkofwh (e-mail address)
Although I agree with your comments on the lack of crowds at the Arena on Wednesday and for the majority of the games, I take insult to your last sentence “Too bad no one was there to see it”.
I have been attending the games for 39 years. No, I am or was never a student, but grew up off of Mill Plain Rd in Fairfield and walked to the games at 15 years old. I am now 54 years old and have faithfully attended the games. I sit in the front row and have had season tickets for years.
And guess what, Chris, I was there Wednesday night. I guess you consider long time loyal fans “nobody”.
Chris, Great coverage today on Stags. I especially agree on your comments about the pathetic attendance. I graduated in ’66 and came back in Fairfield in ’72. I’ve devoted a lot of time to my alma mater and seen a lot of b-ball. Yesterday I sent a letter to the Mirror on campus chiding the students on their lack of support of a great team. They just don’t get it. Basketball, especially winning b-ball, can be a terrific part of your college experience. It also raises the visibility and national prestige of a regional school like Fairfield. The present generation of students have too many mindless distractions like Facebook, reality tv, etc. Now that we’re on a roll, the thought of an arena on campus should be given serious re-evaluation, but that’s another topic I know you’ve addressed before. Continue the Stag coverage.
And salernodw (e-mail address)
What is so hard to understand? It has been proven over and over again! No one wants to go to Harbor Yard. It is simple.
And RFord (e-mail address)
I agree that the attendance at the Stag game Sat night was pathetic. The Team and Coach Cooley deserve better. I don’t think the problem is solvable as long as they play in the Arena. I wouldn’t go there. The place is just too big and too remote. I attended the New Year’s Eve game at Alumni Hall vs. West Point. Standing room only. The place was alive. Better the old gym than the Arena. A new gym would be good. Until then boost the old one.
And this from Andrew, head of “Stags in the Stands”
In regards to your article about the student and fan apathy of Fairfield Basketball, I am pretty insulted. I am the co-president of the group you made an effort to call out in Stags in the Stands. The time and effort my co-president and myself have put in this year to making students even aware of games has been above and beyond. You made several points of calling out Stags in the Stands for not showing up to games but there have definitely been more fans at games this year than in recent past. If you can recall, a lowly Manhattan team drew a lot of fan support from the students and Iona was a very successful turn out as well. UConn is a state school in the Big East who has a history of winning and will draw support because of their conference, strength of schedule, and size of their student body. We are in the MAAC, have no history of winning and don’t even have a fourth of the student body UConn has. While I was in attendance to watch the Stags clinch the regular season title and was too embarrassed to see no one cheering them on you have to look at the bigger picture. It was a Wednesday night against a bad Marist team. It’s a hard sell no matter how you look at it, even if they clinched a number one seed. Rather than bash the fans for not coming out, why not encourage them and tell the average fan about the teams amazing accomplishments this year and the great program Coach Cooley has built here at Fairfield. I’m not a brain washer and I cannot force students to go to games but I have honestly done my best in giving Fairfield Basketball the hype it deserves and I have seen results. While I’m not making excuses for anyone, I am pointing out that success will not happen over night but we are truly doing our best to expedite this process. With all due respect, I really hope you are wrong about Friday night and i hope to see the largest crowd of the year cheer on their very good basketball team.