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November 11, 1999 - Image 28

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-11

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Thursday, November 11, 1999 -Tipoff

4B - The Michigan Daily - Tipoff'99 - Thursday, November 11, 1999

Edited and managed by
students atth e
University of Michigan

UMig A~t a Dafi

HEATHER KAMINS
Editor in Chief

JEFFREY KOSSEFF
DAVID WALLACE
Editorial Page Editors

Coach:J

ena e D'Crispin brothers main act for Nitta

420 Maynard
Ann Arbor, MI

Street
48109

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the
majority of the Daily's editorial board. All of her articles, letters and
cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily

Last season: 5-11 Big Ten (T-9th),
13-14 overall
Key returners: Sr. F Jarrett
Stephens, Jr. G Titus Ivory,;Jr. G Joe
Crispin, Jr. F Gyasi Cline-Heard

mag ine the Wolverine and Spartan
basketball teams going down to the
wire in a close game. The building rocks
and sways as cheers reverberate off the
walls. Studentssit so close to the action
their chants and cheers pound the
opposing players' ears. They're almost
on the court, and maybe they have the
power of a sixth man. Now think where
they're playing. The Breslin Center in
East Lansing? Probably. But with a few
seating changes, Crisler Arena could
provide the same winning atmosphere.
It certainly doesn't now.
On the short list of worst college
sports venues, Crisler Arena ranks near
the top. Seats keep fans too far away
from the court - especially behind the
baskets. Shallow terracing lets would-be
crowd noise drift to the darkened rafters
high above the court. Until a recent
whitewashing of the inside walls,
Crisler used natural cement hues to off-
set the upper bowl's vomit-yellow ring
of chairs. Perhaps these problems went
unnoticed because Crisler's dim lighting
scheme fits more with a playhouse than
a college basketball arena.
But how does anyone know this is a
collegiate sports arena? College stu-
dents certainly play the game on the
court, but where are they in the stands?
On television, the students appear to
surround the court, but this is simply an
illusion the Michigan Athletic Ticket
office creates. This season, the 944 stu-
dent season ticket holders sit in the
three sections behind Michigan's bench:
two. three and 59. Instead of the more
desirable center court, a majority of
these seats fall behind the Michigan

The sixth man
Students call flagrant foul on Crisler seating

bench and extend upward toward the
upper bowl. Even when ticket sales were
'booming, much of the student seating
extended back from the action rather
than across the length of the court. This
is Crisler Arena's greatest problem.
Students shouldsit along most of the
court - they provide the greatest
excitement in any arena. Just ask the
players.
"A couple of years ago we only had
like 150 students (around the court), but
they expanded it to almost 1,000. You
can barely even hear yourself talking,"
said Michigan State University senior
forward Morris Peterson. "I think it was
great. It was like a sixth man for us."
At Big Ten media day on Oct. 31,
many of the conference's marquis play-
ers echoed Peterson's sentiment. Having
students surround the court, they say,
impacts the game while creating a fun
atmosphere.
"Nothing to take away from the
alumni, because I love them, but they
just sit there. They'll clap and they'll get
excited, but it's not the same as when
you've got students students standing on
the sides," Penn State University guard
Joe Crispin said. "Students want to go
to games and get crazy."
But the student seating issue goes
deeper than college students "getting
crazy." Students deserve to sit nearest
their peers on the court. Michigan

prides itself on academic and athletic
armony. Why should the Athletic
Department indirectly bar current stu-
dents from best supporting current stu-
dent athletes?
Crisler Arena can and must physical-
ly change to improve student seating.
Giving priority to current students will
create a deservedly entertaining atmos-
phere for fans and a supportive and spir-
ited environment for the team.
At the moment, sections two, three,
six, nine, 26, 29, 32, 33, 36, 39, 40, 56
and 59 contain seven rows of retractable
seating flanking either sideline of the
court. Athletic officials must work to
place student seating in each of these
areas. Of course, there are certain prob-
lems that must be addressed. First, the
administration must stand up to and
relocate alumni season ticket holders.
Second, students tend to stand during
the game, obstructing the view for many
fans.
On the latter point, Crisler Arena's
structure facilitates a change. General
admission bleachers, purposely set
lower than the current arrangement,
should replace the retractable seats and
conquer the problem of obstructed
views. Much like Duke University's
Cameron Indoor Stadium, students
could then stand wherever they want in
the bleacher section without affecting
other fans' views. Crisler's current

design already provides cement parti-
tions separating these sections from
assigned seating.
On the former, only the Athletic
Department can choose to face moving
alumni further from the court. Penn
State University recently dealt with the
same problem: When the Nittany Lions
moved to their new facility in 1995, stu-
dents initially occupied the best seating.
But their tendency to stand outraged
alumni, and the following season stu-
dents found themselves moved to the
corners. But recently, Penn State
Athletic Director Tim Curley success-
fully lobbied to return students to the
best seats. Upset alumni received seat-
ing on the floor in front of the student
section, at no additional cost. Strong
voices within the Athletic Department
can make changes to benefit students
while keeping alumni satisfied.
Similar plans gaiving the best seating
to students have been executed, though
not often. "We're one of the few arenas
where students have the lower, lower
bowl around the wholetcourt," Michigan
State basketball coach Tom Izzo said.
"Most of the coaches I've talked to
would like to see it get that way in their
arena.
"I foveour administrationa lot cred-
it for having the courage to stand up for
the students rather than for the money,
because that's about what it amounts
to."
University students should demand
the same courage from the Athletic
Department. That's the first step in
putting the words "collegiate" and "bas-
ketball" back together.

Losses:,
3

G Dan Earl,
C Calvin Booth (41,5 per-
cent of offense)

If any college basketball team knows a
way to fuel up for the season, it's the
Nittany Lions. Penn State opened its
exhibition season against Marathon Oil
this past Tuesday, but coach Jerry Dunn's
squad will be hard-pressed not to run out
of gas when the Big Ten season rolls
around.
The Lions' have enough big men on
campus to closely resemble a basketball
roster, in 6-10 Marcus Banta and 7-0
Scott Witkowsky, but they lost 41.5 per-
cent of last year's scoring punch in guard
Dan Earl and center Calvin Booth. Penn
State also lost guard Greg Grays, who
transferred to Detroit.
"I don't think this is a year where we
should set low expectations," said Dunn,
always the optimist. "We're a more ath-
letic team than we've been in a while, so

we're going to take advantage of that and
do things that should give us easier bas-
kets."
To Dunn's credit, powerful forward
Jarrett Stephens from Ferndale will roar
again in Happy Valley this season.
Stephens redshirted last year after scor-
ing 13.9 points and grabbing 5.8
rebounds per game as a junior, when
Penn State went to the NIT champi-

onship game.
Joe Crispin is the other Nittany Lion
who has proven he can score. The sopho-
more guard hit for 14.3 points per game
last season and became the first Penn
State player in a decade to score 25
points in consecutive games, splitting the
backcourt with All-Big Ten guard Dan
Earl.
Bringing the ball up the court this year

i
re!
dr
ftc

Non-conference tests: Clemson
Dec. 1, at Temple Dec. 22
Make or break: Where will Penn
State go without a clear-cut leader
like the ones the Nittany Lions have
had in the past, like Dan Earl, Calvin
Booth and Pete Lisicky?

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I f you attend a men's basketball game,
you can expect Crisler Arena to have
a significant number of empty seats.
The average ticket sale rate is 76 per-
cent per game, but attendance is much
lower because manyaticketholders don't
show up. This is pathetic for a school
with 12 Big Ten basketball champi-
onships. To increase game attendance,
the Athletic Department must focus on
the core of the University community-
the students. Byoffering free tickets to
every student on a first-come, first-
serve basis, the Athletic Department
would spark interest in a sport that
receives inadequate student attention.
Michigan is 10th in the Big Ten in bas-
ketball attendance per game. This is the
same school that has the largest football
stadium in the country - one that sells out
every game. As of press time, only 944
students applied for basketball tickets -- a
far cry from the 6,000-plus student appli-
cants in the heyday of the Fab Five. Even
the 1997-98 season had 2,200 student tick-
et applicants.
Granted, the basketball program has
changed. The Ed Martin booster scandal
tainted the public perception of the bas-
ketball program, with scandalous head-
lines dominating local sports sections.
Anddthe basketball team's perfor-
mance doesn't compare to the Fab Five's
near-perfect record. Last year's record
was 12-19.
At best, the team's situation to date
has been mediocre.
But there'sogreat potential. Brian
Ellerbe replaced Steve Fisher, who was
coach throughout many of the alleged

Drop the charges
Free student tickets would spark interest

scandalous incidents. Our basketball
team has new leadership with his first
recruiting class - a group of five out-
standing freshmen. This could recreate
the basketball game as a center of cam-
pus social life. The first step the
Athletic Department should take in this
recreation is offering free basketball
tickets to students.
The $100 charge for student tickets is
an unnecessary obstacle. It discourages
students from becoming interested in
basketball. Current students weren't
around for the Fab Five - Ed Martin is
one of the only basketball-related names
they've heard. For most students, $100
is tough to scrape together, so why
should they spend it on basketball tick-
ets?
Looking at the other side of the bal-
ance sheet, the ticket charge doesn't
matter much to the Athletic
Department's financial well-being. This
year, it-will collect $94,400 from stu-
dent season ticket fees. That's peanuts to
a department with a budget of about $50
million.
Student involvement is far more
important than a paltry amount of
money.
The department would reap some
financial benefits from the increased
amount of attendees. The highly-priced

concession sales would surely rise,
along with attendance.
Students already a the University
tens of thousands o fdollars in tuition
and Housing fees. While their tuition
doesn't go to the Athletic Department,
why should they have to pay to see their
classmates play basketball? Given cur-
rent attendance rates, the Athletic
Department simply cannot justify the
student charge.
Student attendance could help the
team improve its performance. There
are few things that improve a team's
spirit more than an arena filled with
screaming fans. And few fans are more
enthusiastic than students. Imagine
what would happen to the football team
if they played in a half-empty and quiet
Big House.
Basketball games are scheduled
throughout the week, making it difficult
for students to block out timetto attend
every game.
Transportation is scarce after the
night games -- most buses have already
stopped running. Season tickets often
seem like a waste of money. If a student
only attends seven games, she's spent
about $14 a game. If the University
dropped the ticket charge, students
wouldn't be as concerned about attend-
ing every game.

Other universities provide free stu-
dent tickets, and their basketball pro-
grams haven't collapsed. Duke
University, which has one of the best
basketball programs in the country,
doesn't charge it'sstudents to attend
basketball games. There's been excess
demand for tickets, with students wait-
ing in line for days.
We would welcome that problem. We
can't picture someone waiting three
minutes, let alone three days, to pay
$100 for Michigan basketball tickets. If
the free tickets created excess demand,
there would be many ways to handle it.
Students could give priority to the
games they'd like 'to attend most, and
class ranking would decide who
received tickets to the most demanded
games.
But excess demand isn't a big con-
cern right now. The Athletic Department
should concentrate on lack of student
demand. The Michigan basketball pro-
gram is a student sport. The key word is
"student." When only 944 .students out
of more than 37,000 buy tickets to bas-
ketball games, we begin to question the
importance of basketball to the student
body. To reclaim its identity as a student
sport, the basketball program must do
all it can to attract students. Increased
student attendance is the best way to
motivate the basketball team. Basketball
could once again be a focal point of
campus life: Dropping the charges
would be one of the most effective ways
to bring students into the House that
Cazzie Built.

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