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Fans: Where are they?

By Bruce Garlinghouse
On February 8, 2012

Everybody lost last Saturday. You lost. I lost. The school lost. And we lost even before the final buzzer sounded in the Pilots' 79-60 loss to BYU.

That loss was disappointing, and I mean really disappointing on so many levels.

First, I must concede that I was raised in Salt Lake City, grew up a Utah Ute fan, and thus simply cannot stand the Cougars. The only victory for "The School Down South" I am not envious of is their as expected, "Driest Campus in the Country Award."

But what happened was a damn shame. It wasn't the fact that the Pilots had a chance to pull off the upset until about eight minutes left and blew it after a string of turnovers and poor foul shooting. They shot an embarrassing 43 percent from the charity stripe and the 24 turnovers they committed was a season high. Even the officiating, which sent BYU to the line 53 times compared to the Pilots' 23 attempts did not come close to being the reason why Saturday's game was the worst showing I have seen in my three years covering UP's athletics.

Their fans embarrassed you. They embarrassed the community. They were louder, more enthusiastic and there may have been more of them.

According to Ticket Sales Associate Andy Rygg, approximately 740 student tickets were distributed. While I have a feeling only a fraction of that number actually attended, let's pretend they did.

Do you know how much noise 740 students can make? A lot –and Public Safety can't even shut you down!

The most glaring example of apathy came midway through the second half. Freshman Kevin Bailey, our star recruit who sparked a key offensive run and kept the game close, threw up a rushed three-pointer as the shot clock expired and missed the rim badly.

With no hesitation, the BYU faithful, adults and kids alike, erupted into an "Air ball!" chant, which exceeded the three-repetition limit, simply because they knew they could. As expected, the UP student section remained quiet, aside from a few souls who screamed expletives at the BYU crowd. Yeah you tell ‘em guys!

Are you kidding me?

This was your chance to do what every fan wants: have some sort of positive affect on the outcome of the game. Instead you sat idly by, wondering if that guy or girl from your sociology class was going to be at the Dance of the Decades later.

The relationship between the crowd and team in college basketball is a symbiotic one.

"We always hope there will be a level of excitement at the games. That's part of the game, that's one of the great things about college basketball is the atmosphere the fans create," Associate Athletic Director Buzz Stroud said.

Right you are, Buzz. It's why my younger brother and his friends watch YouTube videos of college basketball's great student sections such as the Cameron Crazies of Duke or, dare I say, The Kennel Club of our rivals up north, generating ideas for their own student sections.

That is by far the greatest part.

Yes, a good team brings bigger crowds. But a bigger crowd helps produce a better effort. It is a symbiotic relationship in which both parties can benefit from each other. And while it can be argued that the men's basketball team haven't held up their end of the deal, only winning 30 percent of games, Pilots fans letting opposing teams' fans come into the Chiles Center and embarrass you, the team and the school isn't holding up your end either and it sure does not provide any extra motivation.

Before you continue on to your next class or third chicken wrap of the day, I want to leave you with an image. One so disrespectful I begged my editor to let me write this instead of game coverage.

After the game, as UP players and coaches began wandering out of the locker room, nursing their wounds after their seventh loss in eight games, they could hear cheers and laughs coming from the belly of the arena.

A man with a microphone, which I was told was brought by BYU fans, stood in front of a sea of blue, and ran a Q & A with BYU players. This went on for nearly 40 minutes until Stroud had to ask them to leave.

To be fair, Stroud told me BYU had asked if they could have an area for a "meet and greet" in which fans could talk to the players and autographs could be signed. BYU took full advantage of that gracious accommodation.

But can you blame them? After that showing, they probably felt as if they were entitled to anything.

After interviewing Coach Reveno, I noticed two assistant coaches peering through the glass windows of the door, their faces wrought with anger. One coach looked at the other and said, "Can you believe this sh*t?"

I can't.


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